On Cannibals, of the figurative and literal sorts

It’s been three or four days. Which is to say that this whole 30 days of Creativity thing is appearing to go the way of NaNoWriMo, which is to say, haltingly. By which I mean to say, Taperingly. And not too terribly well.

A melody with so many missed beats that they make their own kind of rhythm. Bump bump baa.

I confessed my failure to my roommate a few minutes ago as he was preparing to leave for the gym.

“How do you feel about that?” he asked.

“Indifferent,” I said. “Too many other things to do.”

It’s true. I’m drowning in work projects and family obligations and early summer festivities, and, oh yeah, training for a half-marathon, too.

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Many very important things on my plate. Like, for example, right now, it’s 8:04 p.m. at the end of an incredibly long and busy day, I’m terribly occupied with a glass of whiskey, baking cookies, and a gross movie about Jeffrey Dahmer.

But I’ll take a stab at a brief missive, for old time’s sake. Posterity, and the like.

It is often noted that we humans are creatures of routine. To my mind, it’s probably more accurate to say that we are creatures of shameless imitation.

I am, at the very least.

Since I was quite young, I’ve had this odd habit of subconsciously picking up the mannerisms and speech patterns of the people around me and adopting them as if they’d always been my own. I’m not sure if anyone has ever noticed, but I’ve always wanted to ask, because it’s a little weird, and definitely not something I am in overt control of.

I picked up my manner of waving – stiff, jerky, with the palm facing straight out and the arm held high – from Michael, a six-year-old boy I nannied for one summer right out of college.

I picked up the habit of clicking my tongue at the end of a sentence for emphasis or blowing air out of my mouth in a “Wheeeoooow” sound when something is particularly strange or wonderful from Krisjna, a Southeast Asian travel companion of many moons ago.

I picked up my way of drawling out “How’s it goooooin’?” to friends I call on the phone from Valerie, a high school classmate who called me exactly twice, ever.

I picked up my habit of calling raunchy or unexpected or over-the-top things “wild” from my friend Natalie.

I additionally accumulated an astonishingly vast and innumerable number of other mannerisms, tics, tocs, sideways mouth talkings and gesturings from my best friend of nearly 20 years, Lisa. At this point, we talk so similarly that we’re practically indistinguishable from one another. It drives my mother crazy.

“You’re talking like Lisa,” she’ll interrupt me as I wend my way through a particularly exhuberant story.

I know I am. And I swear to you all that I am powerless to stop it.

Powerless to stop it, at least, without denying some easy and integral part of my personality.

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There are too many other examples to count, inherited from vast cadre of friends and acquaintances, and it’s a repertoire I add to on a yearly basis, depending on whom I’m clocking time with. A long, clanking symbolic chain of everywhere I’ve been before landing here, in this moment.

This innate knack for imitation has served me well in certain ways: I pick up new languages easily, and I’m good at reading people. Koreans call it being a good reader of “kibun” – that is to say, having the ability to read face, mood, feelings as well as speech, to listen to what is not said as well as what is said, to hear between words.

It’s also vaguely bizarre and embarrassing and mysterious, even to me. Because every time I invoke these tics and gestures, I remember the people who gave them to me, and I wonder what they’d think if they knew that I’d carried a piece of them with me for so very long.

Finally, it’s fairly harmless, but I’ve got to ask: Have any of you ever noticed?

With that awkward question out of the way, I’ve really got to get back to this movie. It’s completely weird and irresistible. In the mean and futuretime: resolving to do better with this 30 days thing. Really, really resolving.


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