You’ve been tasked with ghostwriting a memoir for an extremely unusual person. You come up with many opening lines to the book, but one of them you write as a joke just to amuse yourself at how absurd the person’s story is. But now that person wants you to use that line. Share it below.
Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.565
For a long time, I didn’t exist.
This sounds like an oxymoron, because if I didn’t exist, I shouldn’t have been able to think I didn’t exist. Rene Descartes once said, “I think, therefore I am.” Therefore if you’re a sentient “nothing”, you’re still… something, right?
I was born on the day the chicken scratched its leg and laid an egg. What I mean is, I was born without a legal document certifying my birth and so I could not go to school. Neither could I work in the city to make a living for my family, however old I could get. So basically my entire life, my entire fate has been tied to the village I was born in. I hate it.
One of my earliest memories was starting a fire for cooking. Nowadays people just turn on the stove and there is fire. My youth didn’t offer such a privilege. We had to buy dry wood from a vendor whose grey goatee was long enough to droop along its sides. Not that he was unkind, but I never heard him say anything. Everybody seemed comfortable with him not saying anything. Somehow this man saw my little body wobbling its way towards his wooden house one day, and then he led me into his kitchen. After that I was never the same again.
I just know that every time I did as he showed me before the incident, mingling firewood and coals in the lower opening in our stove, I cried. When I threw a lit match into the opening to set fire to the wood, I cried. My mother noticed my sobbing whenever I was tasked with starting the fire, but never said anything. It was as if they never cared about me. Neither did the man with a goatee apologise in any way.
There was, however, another way to set up a fire. That was kerosene. We had kerosene lamps at the back of the house, and little wicks stuck out around its circumference on the cover. We dared not light those wicks with a match directly as the result would be catastrophic. Instead, we would first bring the lamp into a clearing, on top of which we would have hung a pot for boiling water, for example. We would light a splinter, a long, thin strip of firewood, and then touch one of the wicks with the small burning end. The fire would slowly spread to its nearest two wicks, then the next two, until the entire circumference lit up.
When I found out I had menstruation, the village paired me with the man with a goatee, although he already had many wives. That night I put coals and firewood all around the house, with a kerosene lamp next to me just in case. I set fire quickly and the man came out chasing me. With all my strength I hurled the kerosene at him.
I escaped and got my existence back: I went to jail.