“I like him.”

Excerpt from Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut, © 1982:

Haitians speak Creole, a French dialect which has only a present tense. I have lived in Haiti with my brother for the past six months, so I can speak it some. Felix and I are innkeepers now. We have bought the Grand Hotel Oloffson, a gingerbread palace at the base of a cliff in Port au Prince.

Imagine a language with only a present tense. Our headwaiter, Hippolyte Paul De Mille, who claims to be eighty and have fifty-nine descendants, asked me about my father.

“Is he dead?” he asked in Creole.

“He is dead,” I agreed. There could be no argument about that.

“What does he do?” he said.

“He paints,” I said.

“I like him,” he said.

There is something very appealing to me about a culture which ignores time.

As I get older, time seems to become less and less important.  I’m still a child playing on my grandfather’s floor, I’m already an old(er) man drawing his last breath, and here I sit, right now, at the keyboard; somehow and it’s all the same thing.


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