Short Fiction - Representing Me

Benjamin Britworth

I existed. Of that I was certain. Yet the validity of my existence was in debate. I was a political void, hollowed by discontent. The world shuddered when I was born and raged each day I continued to be. My “being” was an igniting cause. It ground out a steady stream of misgivings; fuel for liberal tongues to dash me with. But hate is better than apathetic nothingness. I am not nothing. I am, was, and will be.
            I was born of words to a poor family in the southern-most tip of the African continent. You know this because it was written here and read by you. My family became impoverished only when established on this page. Before the sentence describing them as such was written they were the contrast to being: they were nothing. My family was dredged from the inverse world into this one. As was I. My body is tempered as you imagine it. Your thinking gives me lungs. You see me as “black-skinned” and as a “young boy” because you read, absorb and create that form of me. By these means, the words may not originate from my mouth, but they are of my thoughts. The fabula of this work fuels my being as your beating heart sustains yours. I breath through this paper, and I feed on it, suckled in your imagination like a babe.
            When I say “race war” you envision it. When the page screams “starve” you picture my family whither and fold. When you read “the policeman cut my pa's throat” you see the slice made through his thin skin and watch the hot blood spray in an arc. You observe my scared eyes, cast in the African sun, and smell fear oozing from my sweat.
            The policeman laughed as I mewled in terror, confined to a puddle of my own piss. My legs were weak. My heart thrummed. I held my hand high, pleading mercy from the foul dog. He spits, and leaves.
            Pa was “delivered injustice” and “treated as dirt”. He was killed “as a blacky robber” and “as scum”. Our family “deserved” what we got, and we mourned our “evil” pa. It was a lie, masked in quotation. We suffered ostracisation from our gemeente as punishment for his crime. Every sentence and word and paragraph about that cruelty jack-hammers new images into your mind. I existed. I know I did. As you now know too. Nonetheless, you must recognise the glaring contention of my world: that these are words I speak, but not words I write down.
            My creator was not from the southern-most tip of Africa. He is not from Africa at all, nor is he dead, as I am now. He is from the Western world: the “white” world, the world of policeman – dogs. He is alive. He scribed these words, using my mouth to speak. Now you observe him, and not me. He sits at his computer, typing away, with a wealth of heritage guarding him from the cold. You accept his privilege and his worth, and you wonder why he wrote what he did. You question why his words found my voice and lied, using me as as transmitter for his text. My representation is what boils in your blood, the blood of the world, and rises bile in your throat. My presentation on this page is an insult to existence – I was a constructed mutilation: a representation born of sick deception.
            What right did he have to flesh out my bones in writing? He had no place, no defence, and no honest reason to appropriate my world. Yet, he wrote me all the same. It was a fallacy, all leading to great irony. He created a scornful paradox, by which I might have made falseness too. I am illusion: a construct plucked and assembled from the many images and memories of his life, and laid out on this paper to feed you the represented image of me. He said he had no choice: that to write was plague to his thoughts and fingers. I was there, in that mind, and I had no right to be there, as none of the others did either – whether they were white, or black, or defined as Asian, or Malay, or alien. He was but one! A most single being, individual in every way. He might not have spoken for any of the others: not woman or man, or fish or fowl, save none at all. He could only have spoken for himself, and even in that he was yet constrained. How might that “singleness” ever be defined? Where would his being end and all the rest begin?
            It might be seen that even his representation was yet a lie on this page, for it was through my mouth and your mind that he, the “advantaged” writer, was first described. His writing about me gave birth in your thoughts to my construct of him, and you saw through my eyes the anger of the appropriated skin. “He” was hollowed, as was I, and slithered into and contained. He became the falsehood and the anger that I am too. An appropriated form, made not by the writer but instead by reader. You. It is your imagination that makes the representation what it is. You are the catalyst that sets fire to the page and all within. In this plum thought we might define you too, and stamp you into being on this work. You are tall, bald, and your fingers are long. Your eyes might be tight and watery, tired from pouring over print no thicker than your littlest nail. Your neck is rough with a black hair and slick with ugly grease. I might see you as you see me, or as the writer, or maybe not at all? Existence is a question of being, and my being was naught but a lie. Could it be possible that you do not exist either? That this is taking place somewhere beyond all our imagining?
            Curse the writer for scratching shadows on the wall! He chose to represent something, anything, that might not be his own, and in that he has committed a grievous act. Nevertheless, I was that act, and you filled it with purpose. We are complicit in our performances. Without him representing me I would not have existed. You would know less than you do now, and my being would be a cavity yet to be filled. In that, I reiterate: I know I existed. I exist. I will exist. And I will exist again. For my being is retold and retold, regardless of contentions formed.

            How about you?

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without the prior permission in writing of the Author. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, organizations and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.