This week they are discussing feelings in Adam’s class. Feelings are represented by faces, drawn on the board. One face is labeled sick. Its eyes are closed and its tongue is hanging out. It sticks out from the scale of other feelings in as much as we probably think of being sick as a physiological rather than an emotional feeling. As always, though, emotional talk is fraught with a certain categorial precarity, since, after all, all emotional feelings, we also feel, are physiological states.
Another face shows a gaping mouth, and is labeled surprise. Another shows a frown and a lowering brow, and is labeled anger. Another is a smily face, and is labeled happy. Still another shows tears, and is labeled sad.
The faces are drawn by one of the teachers, who has a knack for caricature. You would say,at first glance, that the faces were boys. But in fact, there are no real clues to the sex of each face, save for the fact that the conventions of showing girls in childworld are absent. No flowing hair.
Adam seems to have taken the lesson here to mean that, just as one recites the alphabet, one rehearses the emotions exemplified in each face. When I came to pick him up yesterday, he decided to represent anger. He told me to “go away”. Taking him home, he continued to bear a frown and to use a lot of negatives, until I asked him if he was angry. Yes, he told me. Why, I asked. I’m mad for me, he replied.
Oh, the onto-genesis of the novelistic impulse! Or at least the thespian one. Adam soon stopped being mad when he got home. “Being” here is, of course, sous rature –playing is more like it. Although playing at some point became being. That point, that cursed point, is forever shifting, forever under disguise, forever a thing that one can’t grasp one’s whole life long, really.