Pretend you are born in the dark of night in a cold room in the shadow of an overpass. Pretend there is a single naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Say your mother is always pulling the thin pink blanket over your shoulders with hands still shaking from delirium tremens. In the room next door, your father is yelling about what he will do to her if she tries to pack that battered blue suitcase she has underneath the bed. What would you learn to live without? The sound of cellos in a darkened concert hall? The smell of books in the library? The taste of sweet black grapes eaten on a blanket in the sun?
Or what if you were the son of busy parents who never had a moment’s interest in you. Say you spend hours, days, weeks, months, years, perfecting the magic trick of becoming completely invisible. Could you feel the atoms inside you spreading themselves apart? Could you walk through airports and shopping malls without ever being seen? Could you take enough pain-killers to turn back the clock? Many years later, lying in bed with your wife beside you, could she make herself big enough to ever fill up all the spaces inside of you?
Say you were once and ordinary kid in class, building frontier forts out of popsicle sticks and bringing in your Green Lantern comic book collection for show and tell. How about if you woke up one morning with voices inside your head, and everything in the world has become slightly off-kilter? What if you spent years of your life fighting off invisible demons in sterile waiting rooms? What if the most terrible sound in the universe was the sound of the doorbell ringing in the middle of the day, when you just cannot seem to find the energy to get out of bed?
What if your daughter’s great destiny is to decipher with a scalpel the mysteries of the human brain, or write the saddest love songs ever written, and yet she is born in a hut in the mountains, just as the bombs are released from planes overhead? What if this girl, whose hair you are brushing back, has ten seconds to live? If you lived then, if you walked away from the burning village, what choice would you make between vengeance and love?
Given these possibilities, who would you be?