My cat is wailing. He’s been doing this lately and I do not know the cause. Perhaps he is filling our otherwise empty quiet space with the noise of his own insistent conversation. My cat doesn’t seem to appreciate the noises of the city as much as I do: the industrial laziness of the cicadas; the whoosh of the express trains and the rhythm of the red line trains; the CTA announcements behind the cicadas and whoosh and car alarms and street traffic; the rustle of leaves from the very large tree outside my window; the saxophone player at the el stop who plays my summer theme songs through purple night air; the jangling of dog tags and the clatter of shopping carts; slamming of doors and running down stairs; the pulsing atonal siren of the cicadas; the yelling, the talking, the drunken mariachi outside my bathroom at 2 in the morning: this is my soundtrack.
I’ve discussed this with some people before and I do think I am not wrong. Other people have other ways of classifying types of people; I have my own. There are two sorts of people: amoebas and pencils. Amoebas are shapeless and shifting, taking on this shape, no this one, no this one, no this one. An amoeba’s behind sometimes precedes its in-front which may be at odds with its behind. The shape of the amoeba is most noteworthy when it resembles something else: a cloud! an ink blob! a horse head!
A pencil’s behind always follows its in-front. A pencil comes to—and has—a point. A pencil can in fact be used as a pointer, can be waved or shaken—much like a knife—for emphasis. A pencil knows precisely where it is going and why: toward the end of the sentence. A pencil loves nothing so much as the terminal period.
An amoeba is unaware of its own direction or purpose. An amoeba, attempting movement, may find itself distracted or repelled or impelled or compelled and find itself someplace very different than it (thought it might have) intended.
A pencil carries with it only a ghost of a past. Mistakes can be unmade. All evidence erased. A worn-down eraser is the only indication that perhaps the pencil has committed some error. The eraser, however, is silent, unable to tell any tales, voiceless, a mute servant.
An amoeba can hardly hide. It is very simple. Wears its metaphorical heart on its metaphorical sleeve.
A pencil, though pointed, grows dull and must continually resharpen itself. Eventually it dwindles and must be discarded.
An amoeba divides itself and divides itselves and divides itselveses and divides itselveseses and divides itselveseseses.
A pencil is singular. An amoeba becomes community.
If there is a problem with my classification, it is because I have a disproportionate amount of sympathy for the amoeba. I wish I could be more of a pencil. I wish I had a point, a direction, a purpose and an eraser. The usefulness of a pencil is immediately clear. The usefulness of an amoeba much less so.