The last time I saw, truly saw, with my heart and not my eyes, I was nine years old and held prisoner in parochial school.
I was at the age where one instinctively knows that certain moments in life should be plucked and placed into storage.
One needs such memories for comfort or revenge.
So there I was, a reluctant prisoner of education in Sister Juanita’s fourth grade classroom, sitting in the back row with the end of the alphabet, writing another insipid essay about mortal sin and the fires of hell.
That’s when I decided that I’d rather go fishing.
Mind you now, I was an urban child with neither pole nor lake.
But I was armed with a malnourished imagination, a case of ill-fitting conformity, and a lunchbox full of cookies and metaphors.
I was desperate to escape…if only in my mind.
I opened the student dictionary, set my sights on a spectacular adjective, and pinned one down on my paper.
It was exhilirating – the thrill of the hunt and the catch.
I had gone deep-sea fishing with a fountain pen while the rest of my peers were hooking sunnies with pencils from on shore.
A pile of carp pales in comparison to a barracuda.
I can still sense the excitement of that first haul, impressive really for an amateur angler.
The trapped word wiggled with life beneath the nib of my pen but I held fast.
The adjective and I were one in the struggle – and I, yes I, emerged the victor.
The flow of filler black ink made the mounting effortless.
My catch was multi-syllabic, melodious, and magnificent.
I taxidermied it in perfect Palmer penmanship.
Even Sister Juanita was impressed.
I was at the top of a new game.
It wasn’t until three days later, when my triumph was posted on the refrigerator door with a funeral home magnet, that I was forced to face reality cold in the face.
My piscine prize, my majestic modifier, my astonishing adjective, had mummified into a mere ordinary word.
Life had dehydrated out of its resplendent body with use and the passage of time.
What was once monumental was now merely mundane.
That’s when I saw, truly saw, with my heart and not my eyes, that I was the one ironically hooked.
The sport of words lies in the hunt, not the haul…and the life of a writer is continually measured by the ones that get away.