Jamais Vu

 by Adrian Ioniţă (USA)

Edited by Robert Fenhagen


    “What is wrong with this baby?”

    Thank you, Doctor.

    “He’s watching us. He is!”

    Thank you, bitch-nurse.

    “Slap him!” ordered the Doctor.

     Thank you, again, you righteous bastard


           I got slapped across the face—an open sadistic slap, not an ass whacked to get my tiny lungs pumped for action. Someone slapped me. Someone else said, “Slap him again. Slap the bastard!” Normally, I like that word. It reminds me of things Irish. There are a great number of people I wouldn’t mind knee-capping, but I am not Irish. I am a fucking Romanian mutt. A bloody bastard. OK? Am I special? Yes, for sure. I’m so special that I’m writing this bit about the day I was born as if it were a special occurrence. And it was. It was a bloody, violent, and cruel day. One would expect such a moment of glory to begin with a loud cry. That is usually taken as a good sign, inasmuch as it acknowledges the birth of our vocal cords. However, my entry was marked with a blue moon silence. Careful! It seems that I was looking ghastly and frightening when the doctor stepped back in horror.

“He has an attitude.”

Fuck you again, Doc.

“Is he catatonic or just intense?“

Are you done, bitch-nurse?

“What’s going on?” asks my mother. Mom, you stay away from this… Rationally, I know that babies—probably too many of them—are born, but how many have memories of getting slapped with an open palm across the face?! There’s the rub. I am ordinary, yet I am extraordinary! I love me. I think.

”I panicked”

C’mon Mom, it’s over. The cord was cut , the baby has grown.

“See? You were always a bit milk brained. What do you expect? With that Buster Keaton paleness and morbidly curious look in your eyes, no smile , no response at all…”

You know what ? I thought that we stepped out of the delivery room.

“Yes. But you stayed like that for months and months. Papa tried everything to pull something out of you. He painted the walls pink; he did the Chu-Chu train; tried all the mega-super-giga-gagas you can imagine. Nevertheless, you hid whatever you were thinking. “

Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble deep,

 Papa don’t preach, I’ve been loosing sleep,

 La, la la la laa, la la, pa bam, pabam, oh ho ho ho oooh…

“Listen. One day, God be blessed, Papa came home with a beautiful rabbit named Swampy. A miracle happened. When Swampy disappeared in the bathroom and hid out of your sight, you cried out: “Hey Ilici, what’s going on? Where’s the rabbit gone?”

Are you sure these were my first words? Such a vocabulary spurt, clearly begs for some explanation. It’s not mah-ma, dada, bubba or any of that linguistic mambo-jumbo. It is a long sentence for god’s sake, not just a pithy potty-whispering act. Mom, Mooom?

“Granted, the words weren’t expressed clearly, but your father swore beyond any doubt that he knew exactly what you were trying to say. And he was right. Mostly.”

To be exact, Mom, I know exactly what happened. I actually said, “Where a fuck is the rabbit?” I didn’t use a contraction. But he was close enough. Most importantly, he heard me, and so he brought back the bunny. After that, I didn’t say anything for a couple of years. This wasn’t because I had any agenda or an exploding Broca’s Area. I simply had nothing to say. Maybe, maybeee, that’s, because, I, always, had, my, rabbit !

“You had my ass. I am listening to you two, and I wonder if anybody seems to understand that birth is a big illusion. The biggest illusion. An amniotic film, if you will.”

Pa , I assume that each of us has a story to tell.

“You have no idea. For instance, I can remember reading a news article about a young woman who gave birth to a child as she sat on the toilet.”

Oh, no, this is gross.

“Rather bizarrely, upon releasing her child into the world, she didn’t bother to immediately remove the infant from the bowels of the big bowl beneath her. Yes, she left it in the commode!”

Thank you Dad.

“According to the police officer investigating the case, she left her newborn baby “submerged in the commode” for an undetermined duration. I gather that she did not cut the umbilical cord, although the newspaper didn’t say as much”

Fucking bitch!

“Now, with a beginning like that, one can only guess as to the ending. Still, one is forced to admit, this birth was a thing of wonder as much as any. For most people, the rest of the story is probably of little concern. The details of the delivery would be quite enough, and you may think the same. However, for me, a very small, seemingly insignificant detail, as the description of something very peculiar lying on the bathroom floor, was something miraculous. No, it wasn’t a picture of Jesus in a burned tortilla, or anything of the sort. According to the news article, the investigators found a broken glass-rabbit on the floor. It had a label from the Collection of the Tampere Museum. This was no illusion. This was real.”

You just made this up!

“Your father never ever lied. I imagine the child’d mother must have been looking at the rabbit as she gave birth. I also imagine that she then looked back into the commode. I cannot help but wonder what she saw or else hoped to see, if anything? Did she spy her own reflection? Did the sight of this little symbol frustrate or soothe her? Did she interpret it as an artifact of guilt, panic, or shame? Or, did it evoke some other glimpse of the past? Then again, who knows–maybe she experienced some sort of commode-like divination. I don’t mean to mock the woman. I suppose that if we look long enough and hard enough, we’d see the future everywhere. Even in a swirling spiral of potty water.”

Dear, Someone Else,

I hope we meet again in more interesting circumstances than my birth. I hope we meet again soon.


The Romanian Baby.

As for me –  since this seems to be  the moment of truth — coming out from the womb, was largely a matter of neo-natal geometry. I was playing a whole new game of restrictions and limitations. I might have been quiet on the surface, but inside, I was clanging and banging away with life, as well as wondering what all the clanging and banging was about. The only thing that was self-evident to me—quite literally—was the endless opposing vibrations of strong and weak forces of every kind, that were forging a whole new me. Does this make sense to you? I was being continually made, unmade, and remade. But throughout this stormy period time, and even before I emerged, I know that I possessed a mind filled with mental representations, as well as complex emotions and moods. Some would even say, I came out with an attitude. In any event, I ought to know. I was there. I can still feel the smell of amniotic fluid in the nostrils. I have a more difficult time feeling the answer as to why I have this feeling. Also, while I can remember how I once called out for my rabbit, I’m still puzzled as to why that moment prompted me to such an exceptional outburst. This question haunted me so much that I did several “formal” regressions in time to find out the meaning of my perplexity when crying out for Swampy.

None of these things became clear until December 22, 1989, when I understood that the answer, the answers to these questions were not to be found in the past. They were in the future. And the future was to be found in every birth. Of course, that brings me around this particular moment, namely, the very moment at which I sit writing this. You might be interested to know that there is no glass rabbit lying on the ground in front of me. You’re probably less interested in knowing that I’m not sitting on a commode while Mom and Pa are rushing the toilet paper. Nonetheless, if at this particular moment, were you to ask me, “Why did you write all of this?” I might find it difficult to give an answer. However, at least for now, I’d say this: ”Whenever you take a poop, don’t expect a jamais vu.” You don’t know what it means? Who gives a shit, it happened twenty years ago! We’re different.

Jamais Vu

7 thoughts on “Jamais Vu

  1. i don’t get what has the title to do with the content
    anyway, great story! kudos!

  2. Thanks Gennaro. The piece went through several editing stages on a “stream of consciousness” frame. The picture with the hammer and sickle morphed into a rabbit is a part of a larger collage done in 2005 in Italy, the time when I defected from Romania. Wikipedia has a short explanation of the term:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamais_vu . There are situations when you can see (with your mind’s eye ) something unseen, something you do not have a memory of. Initially the piece was titled “Infected Unseen” but I felt that “Jamais vu” goes better. For now.
    Best wishes, Adrian Ionita

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