2cyberwhelm 2019



It couldn't be more obvious: I need better banter. Breezier things to say between
the things I say, or beneath them, the carrier wave or groundswell that tells you
when to laugh or leave. Be forewarned I was a profoundly lonely child. That's
the context of every joke, like the one about how I became a student of irony at
the very moment my mother was washing my mouth out with soap for flipping my
brother the bird, and I, mouth filled with that sensation that was not a flavor --
soap was different then, and never named after food -- was thinking, Shouldn't
she be washing my hand? This is a good place to laugh. Take your time. Not long
after that she left. I didn't know what the bird meant but thought, still think, it's
an appropriate response to someone being an asshole. If children weren't intuitive
there's no chance we'd have survived this long as a species. So profound was my
loneliness as a child that it's still with me. Not intuitively, not as memory. It's a
wave, up and down the shore, and only goes away when it's about to come roaring
back, like in the movie about the family torn from one another by the tsunami:
the son wanders the devastated world searching for his mother, and I watched
this with my son, who is the same age I was when she left, because I am a moron.
The event is a matter of record, the film a representation, the devastation real.
I feel it now. As in, I've studied it my whole life, and everything it took with it, and
I am feeling it right now, like it was yesterday, like it’s every today from now on.

Benjamin Paloff

published in the new york review of books
12.20.18 vol LXV Number 20 page 81
holiday issue


2cyberwhelm / further back in time