I didn't know any better, and that was the perfect excuse. Ignorance was the ultimate crutch whenever actual knowledge kept me from participating, or conversing, or what have you.

It wasn't that I'd lived in a bubble, or a vacuum. Quite the contrary. My parents had provided for me very well. A library stocked with all the essentials: great works of literature and books on the various sciences and magics of the world. I'd spent a lot of time there, in the years before the "official" schooling began, and had filled my head to the brim with information. But as with all recorded knowledge it was dead. Dead words on dead pages, snapshots of things that had been, and theories on things that might yet be. It had always been left up to me to synthesize new thoughts from the old ones that I'd read about, and sadly I lacked the requisite imagination.

My old gran had overseen me on many an afternoon, knitting and rocking in her chair near a warm stone hearth. The click-click of her knitting needles had been a metronome for my mind, each tick marking a certain number of words read, pages turned, and books consumed. The old woman had often extolled the virtues of reading and book learning. How the mind was the most amazing playground that anyone could ever hope to explore.

"Endless discovery awaits," she'd say, her rheumy eyes fixed on the woolen loops between her wrinkled and bony fingertips. "Great grey whales, roaring green dragons spouting fire from their fanged jaws, secret agents skulking in the shadows. Can't you just picture it, young Jack?"

No, I'd wanted to say. No I can't, gran. Is there something wrong with me? But I never did. I knew in my heart that it was a shameful thing, my lack of imagination. To not see with my mind's eye the words on the page made real. So I'd kept silent, reading the words with a stubborn plodding, a prisoner treading the same track around the exercise yard, marking the hours and days of my sentence.

My parents had left various creative tools for me, should I ever have felt the need to express myself. Clay and picks for sculpting, paints and brushes for painting, pastels and charcoals for sketching. I never touched them.

"Wouldn't you like to draw?" Gran would ask.

"Maybe later," I'd say, or "perhaps after this book."

2014.04.23 – 2023.01.07

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