Before she was gone, she turned and said, “Don’t you play at Simon Says. The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. You’re not going to slide into complete unconsciousness, are you? Like those slave children in the American South who pretended to auction each other off.”
I was going to retort that in Haiti, the neighbor, my brother, and I once played at Maître Paul, our school principal and the minister at our church. He had only one arm. Our parents claimed a shark had torn off the other when he’d been swimming. With one arm tucked in their shirts, the boys took turns climbing on a crate, pretending to preach and conduct the choir. I guess I must have been the lone faithful congregant, a lace mantilla on my head. Right, that’s why I never played again and never wanted to go to the neighbor’s house after this . . . When we were home alone, my brother, our dog, and I understood each other without games, almost without speaking. That’s what I was thinking, but I didn’t say a word.
So she went on, “As for keeping dumb, you should know that your silence will not protect you.” Then, right before closing the door, she added, “And don’t forget about pleasure! Yes, you have to love what your body loves, as Mary Oliver says so pithily. Obviously. Otherwise, your light will go out.” And then she left.