Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir
I"AS GREGOR SAMSA awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.
What has happened to me? he thought. It was no dream....."
From, "The Metamorphosis", written by Franz Kafka
It was the year 2000 and my existence as I knew it was about to take an extraordinary turn. As humans we are constructed of happenstance, the unexpected, we think that we possess full knowledge of the self, but it is the unknowable who laughs at our conceit with great belly busting agility. There is no end to what we can learn, it is our ego which bends us into the intractable. I was in search of Thor's Hammer to break my id, my superficial self, into billions of jagged pieces as I sought to deconstruct Occam's Razor: for I instinctively knew the truth was lurking in the hardest to reach places of my self.
Where do I begin the impossible task? Back to where it all started...Vermont.
Entering into the summer of 2000 we were touring Castleton, the town of my mother's birth searching for prospective wedding sites. I decided to go into the town clerk's office and pull her birth record, as I had never seen it before and thought that it would be nice to see if there was any identifying information on her record. Once again my anxiety filled my body and replaced any sense of confidence that I once had. The office was something out of "Chipping Cheddar, Mouseland (for you "Angelina Ballerina" fans)- a teeny tiny brick building, nestled on a sleepy Maple shaded road, in a teeny, tiny, room of wood and paper, and one desk with a friendly woman manning the old corded phone.
"How can I help you today?" she prodded.
Completely unnerved, I probably mumbled something that sounded like "kouble minkka mamma kesh bret." What I was trying to say was that I would like to search for my mother's birth record. I repeated the phrase and was far more intelligible than my previous effort and she pointed me to a stack of ledgers with years written on the binding. The ledgers read "Birth Records".
I went to the year and month and found the entry for my mother. Then the clerk had to pull it, and that's when I heard, "hmmm, this is weird.."
Now, that cannot be good. Things you don't want to hear a proctologist or an oncologist say: "hmmm, this is weird", but a town clerk? I had a 50-50 shot at coming out of this without having to call the volunteer rescue squad...
"Is THIS your mother?'
"Let me see.. that's her name, birth date, wait, there's more?"
As fate guided me, I felt like the obstetrician who is announcing the surprise of multiple live births to the unsuspecting parents.
"your mother has three birth records."
Ugh. I just haaad to go in here, didn't I?
"Well, let's take a look at what we are dealing with. One birth record she does not have a surname, and there's something else missing, but both of her parents are listed.. The second one she has a surname, and her parents are both listed, so it seems fine. So why the third? Ohhh, she is listed as illegitimate, huh, it is redacted on the other two. Wait, race is redacted on the other two (with some sort of white out agent) as well...." My body shook and my heart was stabbing my breast plate in a metallic thrash-like attack.
I stared at the line that listed my grandfather's race... "Negro"....
".....holy FUCK, I am black!!???"