Slumber Citizens (the part about tutoring deviant citizen)

(Note: An added excerpt that I don’t know quite yet where it will fit….a footnote? An appendix?)

After several years passed of Deviant Citizen 166601’s incarceration in the Institution with only mild success, his parents, who could no longer afford the expense or the trauma brought on to their family, hired Citizen 013654 as his private tutor. By this time, she was seeking early retirement considering extreme self-discipline and a stringent schedule had begun to take its toll. However, she found she could not refuse this unique offer.

Our son is soothed, they insisted, by simple conversation and discussion of literature. The instructors in charge at the Institution were not well versed in literature and so could not address this need. Somehow exposure to various fictional personas makes our son more tolerable. Perhaps these literary characters become so real to his imagination that he begins to believe he is each one of them. Whatever it takes, they begged. Just don’t read to him anything to do with deviants or crazies. Other than that, the world of literature is yours.

Entrusted with Deviant’s care, Citizen 013654, well versed and well read in various genres of literature, began with her favorite author – Jorge Luis Borges.

The challenge with Borges is that he is an author of ideas more than an author of character. Still, characters are ultimately ideas, and so Citizen went with her instincts. She started by tackling Borges’ “Nightmares.”

This fact she did not reveal to his parents – for they would have wondered – why begin with a nonfiction essay that is not about people but ideas? Citizen was clever in her choice in that Deviant’s real issue was that as a child, he could not distinguish between waking and dream. This is quite possibly the explanation for why his treatment in the Institution failed. They tried to stimulate more pleasant dreams in him, with the hopes these would produce more tolerable selves. But when awake he often believed he was dreaming. Often these delusions of dreaming were nightmarish – once when he managed to behave like a gentleman with delicate manners and etiquette, it felt so fake and freakish and different from his core self so that he pinched himself to wake from the nightmare – which was really a waking reality.

Of course, the opposite would happen too. His dream would feel like waking so that when he would really wake up and remember everything, it would feel like he hadn’t slept at all. And so he would, like most children, arrive at the day’s duties with lethargy and the desire to return to sleep.

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