Tar & Turpentine

Recently upon waking in the morning I have been lying in bed with my thoughts. Some days I feel like I’m bound to my mattress, and others I feel like I’m being pulled by my ankles. Sometimes I feel completely lost even though I know right where I lay.

Today I was feeling crushed, and I was thinking about the old folktale of Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

The gist of the story goes something like this: Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear construct a doll out of tar and turpentine. They intend to trap Br’er Rabbit with it. Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear set the Tar Baby up alongside the road, and then they hide behind a bush and wait for Br’er Rabbit to pass.

When Br’er Rabbit comes down the road, he addresses the “baby”, which of course offers no response. Br’er Rabbit becomes offended and he punches the Tar Baby. In doing so, he gets stuck to it. The more he struggles, the more entangled he becomes.

In modern usage, “tar baby” refers to any “sticky situation” that is only aggravated by additional contact. The only way to solve such a situation is by separation.

I’m very confused lately. It’s as though I hugged the Tar Baby, and each time my body shifts the more entangled I become. Yet at the same time, I enjoy the debilitating embrace. With every move I make in its arms it is harder to separate myself, but most days my ruin seems worth the feeling I get from adjusting to touch its hair or kiss its cheek.

I’m afraid of what will happen to me if I do remove myself, and I’m afraid of what will happen to me if I don’t. Maybe the Tar Baby is just as stuck to me as I am to it. Or maybe I’m just too weak to pull away.

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