Escape from Reality
In Sia Figiel’s novel, Those Who Do Not Grieve, the protagonist, Malu, leads an extremely difficult life. She lives with her abusive grandmother, children tease her that her father was a devil, her mother is consistently defamed, and she works as a maid for a pompous white family. Because of this awful life, Malu needs to free herself at times. Malu says, “The present is full of uncertainty. Full of questions. Full of misery, confusion. Silent anger” (5) For Malu, the only form of accessible escape from reality is through travel of the mind. Since Malu cannot physically travel, she gets away through visions and dreams. In the chapter entitled, “Into the Dream of the Forest of Life”, She describes her life-like visions of meeting the Siamese twins, the guardians of tattoo, and the nose-flute player, who she falls in love with and has a child with. Her vivid descriptions are so real that it makes the reader question if she is truly dreaming. However, it soon becomes clear that her visions are a form of escaping the terrible reality around her. The nose-flute player makes her feel “naked, stripped of the principles, the voices that ruled my waking hour…I was overwhelmed with joy. It was a liberating experience” (46). Although the nose-flute player and their daughter Lulu are figments of Malu’s imagination, they still teach her lessons, transform her true being, and make her happy. When her grandmother is again ridiculing her, Malu thinks to herself, “Maybe you don’t know this, but I gave birth in my own reality. Unlike you, who has never been pregnant from the love of a man… You will never experience anything but despair” (67-68). Malu is able to use the happiness from her dreams to comfort her in the midst of her horrible reality. This form of escapist travel may not be necessarily “reality”, but it gives Malu hope, freedom, and feelings far more real than anything many people experience in reality.
As I read about Malu and her imaginary travel, I began to think about one of the students I work with at Tunbridge. The student, Carlos, is an 8-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder. Like many other children with autism, Carlos “scripts” and “stims”. Scripting refers to the echolalia of movies, TV shows, and real-life conversations, while stimming refers to self-soothing behaviors, such as flapping, rubbing, and rocking. Both of these phenomena comfort the children, but are frequently looked down upon because the children are not in “reality” when scripting or stimming. Most educators and therapists attempt to stop children when they script or stim and bring them back to the present moment. However, Tunbridge has a different approach. When Carlos scripts and stims, my teacher usually gives him a few minutes before attempting to regain his attention. Instead of deriding these occurrences, she refers to them a “brain breaks” She explains that Carlos is trying to comfort himself through the use of these devices because the present reality is too overwhelming. If we try to stop him from soothing himself, he will become even more frustrated and inattentive. After hearing this, it was hard not to compare these comfort methods to the way in which Malu escapes her tragic reality through visions and dreams. Both Carlos and Malu are facing adversities and frustrations that they simply need a break from. These breaks alleviate the tension of reality and give them a chance to escape to something comforting. However, these breaks are only temporary, since we all must come back to reality at some point. When we bring Carlos back to reality, he is slightly agitated at first but then is able to regroup and attend to the lesson. Carlos and Malu both show the importance for all of us to sometimes escape from a dark or complicated reality and comfort ourselves in dreams so that we can recuperate and come back stronger to face reality.