Origin Story: “Aardvark”

Origin stories are fascinating to me, they always have been. In a mandated course (one mandated based on a survey I had to take as a fresh-faced 18-year old) from my freshman year of college, we learned all about origin stories. The Chumash Indian origin story. The Sun God, Morning Star, the Moon and the Great Eagle come together to create the new creatures, such as the lizard and the coyote. It’s a whole thing. Then they gave humans similar characteristics to the animals, such as hands like the lizards. I’ve got a paper on it. You probably don’t care. We studied the origin story of Nordic myth. Y’know, the rainbow bridge–the shit in Thor. It’s cool. Even Genesis 1. So I figured some of you readers (we have 50+ followers now!) might be asking: “Why an aardvark?”

The truth is that it was strictly an alphabetical thing. Initially, we wanted this to be a literary blog–one that took submissions from writers, poets, people like us. We figured if our work doesn’t get published, we might as well publish some work that we like. I remembered when I first started submitting and publishing my work, I scoured databases of lit mags–Poets & Writers, etc. Most of these were alphabetical. So the two A’s that lead aardvark seemed like they’d get us to the top of the list, we wouldn’t charge a submission fee, so naturally we’d get flooded with great literature. We have yet to test this theory. One Aardvark (the “one” was meant to be a “1,” to get us even higher up on databases, alphabetically) has become something entirely different. Part memoir, part snark, part re-hashed academia, part random (e.g. “Drinking. And Why I Love It“), part hockey-centric sports blog, part book-reviews, part music. Really not sure where this is gonna go.

But in reading the story of the name behind The Ringer (presented by Miller Lite!), which admittedly does stir up connotations of the Johnny Knoxville movie, I figured the aardvark needs something a little more interesting than “it has two a’s in it.”

Where does this leave us. We have “one” and we have “aardvark.” Let’s begin with the more interesting of the two. Aardvarks. What do we know? Arthur was an aardvark. They eat insects. They can get as big as 140 lbs. It’s not an anteater but is often confused as one, and some call it the “African ant-bear.” The word itself, aardvark, is derived from Afrikaans “erdvark” (by the way, thank you Wikipedia for all this information). These are all cool, but unrelated to me and the other writers here.

Stuff that we/I can relate to: It’s a nocturnal feeder. Eats its ants under the cover of darkness. They can live up to 23 years–I am currently 23, Patrick will be soon.

But I think the real thing I can run with here is eating ants at night, alone, under cover of darkness. I write a lot at night. I let the blue-light from my laptop screen completely fuck my sleep cycle eight ways to Sunday. And then when I finally go to bed I’m usually staring at my phone until I fall asleep–often with one finger still resting on my phone, usually open to Instagram, and I have a brief panic attack when I wake up, hoping that my finger didn’t accidentally double-tap somebody’s pictures from like 2014. Sometimes that happens.

The idea of eating ants is a lot like opening up a can of worms. Patrick and I have a running joke about when people ask us how we’re doing. When people try to get us to talk about some of our problems. Fuck-ups, women, how we’re feeling, etc. We often joke that it’d be opening up a real ugly can of worms, and we say “you don’t want these worms, dawg.”

In a similar vein, I think staying up late at night, alone, eating ants, is very much what we do. Metaphorically of course. We stay up at night and eat the little nagging insects in the back of our heads. We write about them. We write about things like why I hated California for four years, something I don’t really talk about openly. We write about things like why Pat left Scotland, why he might wish he’d stayed. I talk to Patrick every day, probably more than I talk to anybody else, and while there was an unspoken understanding between us–re what happened, how he might regret some things–I’ve never heard him vocalize it. But here, he stays up at night, addresses the nagging ants. He writes.

Because if we don’t eat these ants, all they’ll do is nag us, bite us, sting us, crawl around in our pants and make life hell. The aardvark is the outlet for us to eat these ants–it is the digestive system via which these ants are reckoned with. Alone, at night. Aardvarks.

Now for the “one.” There are three of us here, writers. But through this blog, we become a collective. Dealing with our ants, we share this understanding that things we write here may be published on the internet–for literally anybody to see–but they’re our most nagging ants. Together, we eat. I read Patrick’s post and I take on some of his ants. We share in the proverbial worms. I’m mixing my metaphors here, but you get it.

This is the venue which allows for reckoning. We write what we don’t say. I read what Pat or Uncle Doogs might never want to vocalize, and I understand. We never have to have the conversations, I just read. It’s better that way. Through this reading we are one–one single aardvark, rustling through the night, eating pesky ants.

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