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The Kid Naps
Every afternoon you’re asked to sleep at the same time, but you are not always able to do so. This was not a problem at first. Not really. Not for you. Not until the day you were told you cannot be a creative person who creates things if you do not get enough sleep. A person who wrote books said that, and while those are not his words exactly, those are some of them.
When it is time to sleep, part of you rejects being told what to do. Part of you rejects being told what you feel or what you think, what you can and can’t do, that you are tired and need a nap, that you are hungry, or are going to be. Part of you resents someone else getting to the thought before you, or presuming too. But when you are lying down on your mat, near one of the smelly kids - and they are almost all smelly kids - your eyelids drift nonetheless. Your mind is active but your body slowly disappears. There’s a spot of darkness. Your eyes must have closed. You think about how not tired you are, how hard it is going to be to get through the next half hour, unable to sleep. It is not easy to say exactly why you cannot sleep, but there is a reason. You’re sure of it. If the reason occurred in nature you could point at it, you could show anyone and everyone through a gesture outward. However it is not a thing that occurs in nature. You are resigned to say that there is a reason you do not sleep, not what the reason is. You do not because you cannot.
After the day of his visit, when you are asked to sleep, you think of the man who wrote books. You remember him and what he said about creative people who create things. You’re upset with yourself, more often than not, because you’re not tired enough to want to nap, which means you’re not tired enough to be a creative person who creates things. Worst of all, you’re unable to even think up why you don’t sleep. A creative person who creates things could maybe say why, more than likely because they’re well rested. Someone like that knows when it’s time to nap. To someone like that, it comes naturally.
The one who tells you to sleep, for example, she could be one of these people, maybe. But, to be honest, she often seems more tired than anyone, and she’s never once napped that you know of. She swallows pinches from a series of small plastic jars at her desk while clicking away at some card game on the computer. You tried to play the card game once, but the rules weren’t clear. She wasn’t mad when she found you there, but she asked you to join the rest of the class for naptime and not to use her computer again. When she talked to you she used a soft voice. She looked tired and a little like a cartoon version of something with a sad face. She did not look real but looked serious. Her voice was not like that of the man who wrote books, but what she said staid with you nonetheless. (Please Take a Moment to Consider Object One).
One afternoon you wake up and you feel you are that much closer to the man who wrote books. You did not expect to sleep but you slept, which means you are maybe a creative person who could create things, only you might not have known it yet.
Later, during Art and Crafts, you get in a fight, but it is not your fault. Another boy is bad with his words and scared of them and therefore takes your things without asking. You count three things - one, two, three - he takes without asking, one of them straight out of your hands. So you turn to him and yell three words, give it back. He doesn’t give it back and he pretends not to hear, so you hit him on the back of the head, but you are scared and so you soften the blow right before it makes contact. Still, he’s knocked forward a little. The paint water spills yellow and red on the table.
Watercolor fissures in the pale enamel work their way toward a wobbly house on a piece of paper opposite you and a polychromatic mess beside it. It is the painter of this picture, the mess, who yells first. Then the boy you hit starts to cry because he cries a lot, almost every day. Then the girl whose painted house is now melting yells too, for the teacher, and the teacher pulls you aside again and talks to you, but not with sad eyes, with mean eyes instead. She tells you what you’ve done is wrong. She tells you, you are a violent person and what you did was a mean thing to do. This is not the way you think of yourself. You are a creative person who will one day create things, maybe, and she does not understand this because she forces everyone to sleep at the same time and sometimes you fight the issue, sure, but sometimes you fall asleep, like that very day, so she probably definitely has the wrong idea about you.
You do not like being told you are a mean person. You do not like being told anything about yourself by anyone who is not you or the maybe the man who writes books. He was a nice man and he made it seem easy and fun to make things and you have always liked to make things, just ask anyone but the teacher. She says you are not listening and tells you you’ll have to sit out longer, for the rest of arts and crafts.
In time-out, you are not allowed to sleep and if you try, the teacher wakes you up and extends time-out. You wish she would let you sleep when you want to because then you would more likely be a creative person who creates thing and she would maybe see that if she let you. Instead, you have to sit quietly and not make things and not sleep and watch everyone else use your things and the teacher eats more pinches from her bottles.
After arts and crafts is story time. After story time you will be asked to sleep again. Every time it’s story time you think maybe the man who writes books will come back, because he came one day - it must have been a few months ago, you can’t be sure - and he read from a few books he wrote and showed a few pictures he drew and all of it was pretty great, except for one or two of the pictures were kind of boring or looked flat like your eyes wouldn’t stay on them, but just kind of slid off instead, like the pictures were covered with oil or ice, and then he told you that you cannot be a creative person who creates things if you do not get enough sleep.
After that, there was absolutely no hope for sleep. You really tried but couldn’t sleep because you were thinking about his stories. (Please Take a Moment to Consider Object Two).
The man read each story aloud, and, page by page, he showed you the pictures he made that went along with them. One was of a guy underwater in what looked like black underwear. You were laughing with a friend because you guys go swimming in your underwear too, and in the sprinkler as well, but for you it’s all fun and no one expects you to record what you found (Please Take a Moment to Consider Object Three).
Then the man who writes books told you it was time to sleep and suddenly you didn’t feel like laughing or thinking about the movies or his books or anything anymore because you really don’t like being told what to do or how you feel or that you’re tired when maybe you’re not or anything anywhere near it. So you were a little upset with him, and then he said you couldn’t be a creative person who creates things unless you get enough sleep. Then he asked you all to go find your mats. When you found your mat you were still a little uneasy with all of it but you kept thinking about what he said and how you would remake that movie and about the books he made and you worried you were maybe not a creative person who could create things (Please Take a Moment to Consider Object Four).
These problems kept you awake all through the period when you were supposed to be sleeping. You were awake, eyes closed, and you could hear the other kids sleeping. One kid was making little high-pitched whisper sounds with the front of his mouth because he was dreaming, probably about something that was making him scared or sad, though there was no way of telling exactly what it was. That was the kid you would later hit in the back of the head because he stole your things, but you didn’t know that then, when you were unable to sleep and thinking about how you were going to be a creative person who created creative things, even though you couldn’t, didn’t like to sleep, when you were told because hearing someone tell you over and over again what you think and feel and want and need is worse than having someone grab you by the wrists and spin you around or pick you up and shake you, when all you want to do is stand still for a moment and think. Then you fell asleep.
When you are sleeping, no one else is themselves but you are still you. That was what it was like to listen to the stories by the man who wrote books. You were still you, but suddenly everything else around you had changed, or seemed to change, or more importantly could change, until he stopped and told you it was time to go to sleep. Then you were you. The mat was the mat. And every day you’re asked at the same time, so the day was the day as it always was. But there was something different this time and you knew that much, but what it was you couldn’t say, and then he said you had to sleep in order to be a creative person and all of the sudden you weren’t you. At least not who you thought you were, who you now wanted to be. Lying down, you were no longer the you who had lain down all those days after days before, because that you, had it thought to, would have seen you as a creative person who could create things, but here you were and you couldn’t, didn’t want to sleep, so maybe you weren’t who you thought you were or who you would have thought you were, and (Please Take a Moment to Consider Object Five).
After you get out of time-out, the teacher reads you all a story and you listen but you don’t listen. You watch the boy you hit. He’s sitting across from you and he’s listening very much. He’s watching the teacher, and isn’t sad anymore. That makes you happy because you want to make things, but not bad things, and everyone seemed to think that what you made during Art and Crafts that day was bad. It was good to see they could forget or change their minds or maybe what you had done wasn’t that bad after all.
You listen more to the story then and sort of forget about the boy you hit, as he seems to have forgotten about you, but you still think how isn’t it kind of neat that the same thing is happening then and there to the both you?
In the story the teacher read, a boy refused to take baths because he didn’t like being told what to do. (Please Take a Moment to Consider Object Six).
You think maybe the teacher read that story on purpose because she knows how little you like being told what to do, and that you are trying to be a creative person who creates things as well as someone who gets along with others and is respectful of their minds and bodies, which is really hard sometimes, and you resent her reading such a bossy kind of story at story time when you do your best daydreaming and coming up with great ideas.
At naptime you close your eyes. You are actually pretty tired this time around, given the events of the afternoon, and almost immediately you start to dream about all kinds of things you can’t remember when you wake up as everyone is so loud and running around you because you slept a little later than usual and it is past time to put away your mats for recess.
At recess the kids are all running around and screaming and taking turns on the slide and the sun is really hot on your forearms and three girls are singing, row row row your boat gently down the stream merrily merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream and the teacher is sitting by them smiling and she just looks so sad, so you look away and walk away and are not expected to look back.
One of the girls singing is a blonde girl who one time let you touch a part of her she wouldn’t let you see. She made you close your eyes and told you to guess which part of her it was. You said, your ear, and she said no and left and never told you and doesn’t talk to you much anymore anyway. (Please Take a Moment to Consider Object Seven). You spot the slide, the steps to the slide, and you head that way.
You climb the steps of the ladder to the top of the jungle gym with the slide, and there, at the top by the slide, is the boy you hit. He doesn’t look sad or like he remembers really that you hit him. Instead he looks happy and excited about the slide. He’s yelling to a friend who just went down. You walk over to him to apologize for hitting him because you really do feel bad about it, or uneasy with it. Then he looks at you like he remembers, and it is not a good look.
You hear people say they’re sorry all the time, almost everyday, because people are always sorry for something even when they’re not sorry, and so the words just come right out as if someone else had said them, or like somebody kidnapped your brain for a second and drove it all down and around some old dark roads before dumping it off back where it started with you. It’s like the words happen to you, rather than it being you who says them, and when the words stop, you’re you again and the feeling of saying the words is gone and you don’t know why but you kind of feel like jumping forward. The boy you hit seems to think for a moment then steps aside to let you have a turn and you take it. So then you go down the slide and close your eyes and open them again and the wind is different each time, like you’re controlling it with your eyes, and it’s so fast and smooth and the wind picks up and you’re at the ground running and you can hear the girls singing and singing and singing, and maybe the blonde girl too, you think you can hear her too somewhere in there in their singing merrily merrily life to the quick of your running until they stop.
Then, some years later, you’re listening to someone read to you, as if from a list of feelings you might have felt or might have thought to feel or could think of feeling now, but the list is like a dream from which you can only remember parts, a little hook of feeling that falls like a piece of ice, rattling somewhere to a dark corner of linoleum where it will shrink, and you will think of the man in the restaurant, and that the fart wouldn’t have done much for the story, and then that you have to leave, because you’re a person now who does a number of things, and they are all of them miles away.