With the door shut the child sat in the closet
with his fingers pressed in his ears. Tell me
the truth, wasn’t it wisdom? Hadn’t he had
a sudden insight into the nature of the world?
One time my stepson in third grade stopped
taking tests. His reason? If you take one test,
they only give you another. Better call a halt
right now. He had caught on to the grown-ups’
stratagem to drag him into adulthood. What
was in it for him? he asked. Nothing nice.
Likewise the boy in the closet had become
temporarily resistant to the blandishments
of the world. Two hours later, his own body
turned against him and he crept downstairs
to dinner. But when his parents pointed out
the joys of growing up, he remained in doubt.
Who knew how the thought had come to him?
TV, a friend’s chatter? Perhaps he had seen
a picture of a conveyor belt. Click, click—
so he’d go through life until he was dumped
on a trash heap. Or perhaps he had deduced
what he was leaving behind, the shift from
innocence to consequence, from protection
to fragility. Fortunately, stories like the boy
shutting himself up in the closet are scarce,
and his parents joked about it to their friends.
By now, I don’t know, he’s on his second or
third marriage, has a job that’s made him rich,
but that time in the closet, five years old and
calculating what life was destined to deal out,
how different it must have seemed from what
he had ever imagined, so he made his decision
and crept into the closet, wasn’t it wisdom?