Friday, March 07, 2014

The intimate register

Crippled Wolf and Hubby Jim are sitting at Tenbucks on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for the dryers at their favorite "aging hippie" run laundromat to finish their cycles.

Field hockey, by Mike ShellAs they watch the people on the plaza outside, a toddler runs away from his dad, laughing gleefully.

“Escaped cultivation,” Crippled Wolf intones.

JimJim laughs.

“Huh?”  A friend sitting with them looks from one to another in puzzlement.

“It’s a long story,” Crippled Wolf explains.

Cytisus scoparius kz1A couple decades ago when they were hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Crippled Wolf and Jim had stumbled on the phrase in the Audubon Field Guide to North American Wildflowers.

They were trying to identify what turned out to be Scotch Broom and discovered that it had been brought to America by gardeners and then…escaped cultivation.

Now, almost anything which manages to get “out of place” might find itself so labeled in their private banter.

Sociolinguists use the term intimate register to refer to the informal language used among family members and close friends.

Technically, the intimate register is the private vocabulary and nonverbal cues exclusive to a pair or group.  However, it can be said to include the whole private lore of those people—whatever allusions, punch lines, etc., have historical reference within their tiny circle.

Crippled Wolf can be grasping for a word, and Jim will say, “…thing.”

Or Jim can start to murmur, "No, I can't forget the evening...," and Crippled Wolf will run away screaming.

Ever single person shares intimate registers with someone: a lover, a co-worker, a group of friends.  It's part of what connects us a social animals, the ability to evoke a whole shared memory—and attendant emotions—with a trivial cue no one outside the intimacy would recognize.

It's not all that different from people privately wincing in their pews when the preacher calls for "Almost Persuaded."

[Haha! Got you, Jim, if you're reading this.]

So why has Crippled Wolf become so fixated on the intimate register recently?

Anticipatory grief.

Another day, a different evening.

Crippled Wolf and Jim are at their favorite sushi cafe, sharing a moment of "baby madness" as a couple sit down next to them with their eleven-week-old infant and the daddy gets all mushy—as new daddies tend to do.

In the midst of enjoying the moment, watching Jim grin and googoo at the kid, Crippled Wolf feels a spike in his heart.

"This won't always be here," he thinks.  "He won't always be here...or I won't."

And then what will happen to the intimate register?

It will be like the death of a sun, a solar system, a galaxy.

Such cold and emptiness.


It takes a moment for Crippled Wolf to get back into the present moment.

He's getting better at this. So much practice from escorting first his mother and then his father to their deaths.

But how does one practice losing the other half of one's heart?  

And so it is.

Bless├Ęd Be,
Michael Bright Crow


Baby madness is that momentary "Awwww....I wanna baaabie" feeling one getsjust before the kid bawls and cures you of it.

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