What Makes One Shard Different from Another
What makes one Shard different from another is the language it starts out in. I’m a polyglot, you see, but I didn’t start out that way.
I started out with a speech impediment. I didn’t even coo right as a baby. My mother would say, “Coochi-coo!” and I’d go, “Urfghmpzit!” which wiped that loving smile right off her face. After a while she wouldn’t even look at me when she was changing my diaper.
My father took a more aggressive approach. “What kind of baby talk is that?” he’d say. “Christ, Sue, he can’t even talk baby talk!”
I know all this because I remember it. Besides being a polyglot, I have a photographic memory that goes back to day one. I remember being held upside-down by my ankles by a man wearing a green mask who kept slapping me on the butt until I cried. This seemed to satisfy him, and he handed me over to a nurse who took me to another room, stuck me in an incubator, lit a cigarette and left.
I’m getting a little off topic here. I spoke gibberish until I was two, and the first words I spoke that made sense to anyone were in Italian. I picked it up at the bakery where my mother was buying some bread.
“Nice tits!” the baker’s son said to his father in Italian, referring to my mother, and his father reached over and boxed his ears.
So there I am at the supper table when my mother butters a piece of bread and puts it on my plate, which triggers the memory from the bakery, and I blurt out: “Belle tette!”
My father didn’t even react, he’d become immune to my gibberish, but my mother realized it was Italian, and the next morning she dragged me down to the bakery and said, “Say it, young man. Say to Mr. Agostino what you said last night at the supper table.”
“Belle tette!” I sang out, happy that I was finally being taken seriously.
“What did he say?” my mother asked Mr. Agostino.
“Uhh, what he say is…uhh … what he say is the bread she is delicious!”
This was a long time ago in New York. We lived in a mixed ethnic neighborhood, and pretty soon I was walking around the house rattling off things in Italian, German, Greek and Polish. I got popular with the merchants on the street where all the shops were, and by the time I was five I was speaking five foreign languages, mostly slang and jokes at the expense of the people in the neighborhood who spoke only English. I didn’t start speaking English until they put me in school at the age of seven.
So there you have it. I try not to travel to foreign countries too often, because wherever I go I pick up the language lightning fast, almost by osmosis, and if I find myself in a high-stress situation, all these languages start blending into each other in my head and I slip back into the gibberish I spoke when I was just a baby. I guess you could say I’m a polyglot savant.
But here’s the thing: when I feel a Shard coming on, I never know which language it’s going to take shape in. It could be in Italian or German or sometimes in a language with a whole different alphabet, or worse yet, no alphabet at all, just a bunch of hieroglyphics; those Shards are the hardest because I have to rely on phonetics and my intuition to get them down on paper, and this has had a strong influence on how I see the world.
So I jot the Shards down phonetically as best I can in whatever language they surface in, and then the real work begins – I have to transform them into English. Yes, transform them. Translate doesn’t begin to cover it.
So go easy on me if some of these Shards seem a little out there. I go thru a lot to bring them to your doorstep.