The Silence of the Mime

It's not really silence--that's the first thing.

Mind you, I'm not a mime but a ventriloquist. You could easily say that I don't know anything about mimes, that I couldn't possibly understand one--even one I've spent so much time with. And perhaps you'd be right. But don't be too sure: isn't it just as likely that no one knows him as well as I? Couldn't you just as easily say my very distance, I mean my professional distance, allows a better perspective? And as for physical proximity--well, aren't we always together now? And isn't that just what he wanted?

Of course he's far too cunning for anyone to ever really know him. If you'd felt his eyes on you, burning into you, as I have--well, you'd know that, at least.

But listen to me going on like this, to you, as if you really could say something, as if you really could be here, when we all know the truth: that I'm the only one speaking, that it's always been me speaking, that it always will be me. There won't be any other voice, not here. Not yours, and certainly not his--he's already made his decision. Even if he wanted to, he couldn't tell.

Sometimes I wonder if he ever could, at least as I've imagined.

Has he ever even seen himself, apart from someone's shadow?

But enough of that. It's my word or none, that's the gist of it. My word or none. You needn't fret about me, though, I only want to put things in their places, their proper places. He's the one with all the fancy tricks.

So. He's a vicious little bastard--that's the first thing. They all are, in fact. It's a vile business, all that mimicry. To say nothing of the silence. I know, I know, you think of mimes and you think of some mysterious and magical rite, seen with a child's wide, astonished eyes. Perhaps they were your eyes once, some long summer evening when you stood in the square with the others, captivated, entranced by his routine. Of course, you wouldn't have know it was a routine, not then. And then he always seemed so grand in performance, tall and majestic, as from another world. Even his simplest gesture, an extension of a forefinger or the turn of a palm, seems magical, let alone when he transmutes empty air into some object, some implement: an umbrella or a broom, or perhaps something smaller, a hammer he brandishes or a razor he sharpens with grand, sweeping gestures--something dull and heavy in your own hands, but now sharp and light and wondrous in his....

- excerpt from "The Silence of the Mime," in Line of Flight (Toronto: shuffaloff books).

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