Brilliant Jarvis was born, of course, brilliant. The doctor agreed—he’s just brilliant, Mrs and Mr Henry, just brilliant—and there was no other comparison to make. His brilliance shone from his forehead not as a shining light, but as if the shiniest light was reflecting off him, and that there was no one else it would ever have chosen to shine off. He was chosen, not by someone or something, but just chosen.
Later in life, when casually-dressed people gather to protest a supermarket, Brilliant Jarvis will be the one to call them radicals. The papers pick it up, and, of course, the rest is history (albeit in a future tense). When there is no more room left in the car to put a lush rendition of a particularly lovable Olympic mascot, it is Jarvis who brilliantly suggests the use of suction cups.
No one else looks out that window, he observes, as if answering an inner monologue (which is, of course, how he speaks), and his parents can not help but agree that yes, no one does look out that window, and that yes, the plush rendition of the mascot would fit very well with suction cups attached (—and that way, everyone can see it when we’re driving!— his mother will say).
Brilliant Jarvis began his life among the angle grinder ankles of professional carers. He saluted a flag whenever he saw one, even though no one had told him to do so, and no one could remember ever showing him anyone doing it. His professional carers commented on his alertness, his politeness and, of course, his brilliance. The only problems were the disappearances. Jarvis would go missing. He would tell his parents, of course, that it was a societal problem, that fifty years ago no one would have minded, that it wasn’t his fault that the private fears of our collective consciousness had not only caught up with society but had indeed overtaken it. His parents told him he was so brilliant that they were worried someone else might want him. He showed them an article from The Bulletin on date rape.
Later, Jarvis will lecture about such matters. He will say a normal person can’t guiltlessly fathom having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with them. There’s no pleasure, he will argue. It’s the sexual repression early in the life of an individual, he will contend, that really matters. Jarvis will always prefer prevention to the cure.
Brilliant Jarvis was so brilliant he was given a video camera for his first birthday. He would make nature documentaries in his parents’ extensive backyard. He was not yet tall enough to explore the heights of trees, so he instead focused on ground level. He observed, through his diamond-grinded lens, the lives of bugs and worms. Although after a day or so of filming, he became inexorably drawn to the lives of ants; he loved their faceless toils and struggles, their strength and unquestioning industrial drive. Jarvis would lament, later in those days, as the wide sheets of sunlight began to shrink, drawing back, contracting like water down a plughole, disappearing between fractal cracks between black-shadow branches (becoming, as always, the soft nerves of night). Jarvis begged his parents for a television, and he began to watch his films after dark, drawn from sleep by ants crawling complex paths: indecipherable to him, intrinsic to them.
Many years on, Jarvis will meet the love of his life in an identity parade. Only moments after leaving the police station, Jarvis will reflect on ideas of attractive symmetry. The police officer waiting in the room with them will step hesitantly on the balls of her feet, so that when she walks it always seems as if she is about to fall over. Jarvis will walk more confidently immediately afterwards, assured of his correct posture, meticulously honed by the cheese-grater knuckles of childhood professional carers.
Although he had many carers through his early years, and although he respected them all, Brilliant Jarvis would love only one: not a homely Balkan, nor acerbic Hebridean: she was, of course, his mother. After many perceived failings on the part of hired carers, Jarvis’ mother assumed responsibility for her son’s welfare, which, she told herself, she perhaps should have done a long time ago. But rather than appear in her normal role, Jarvis’s mother assumed the guise of another faceless carer, hoping her son would not notice. She dressed as plainly as she could, wore too much make-up, and a wig. Jarvis, of course, did recognise her, but he was brilliant enough to realise that if he stayed quiet about it, he would spend more time with his mother in one day then he had in the entire previous span of his life. So he didn’t stay anything, and they were both happy. In time, he began to convince himself that his mother was a professional carer, someone who had trained to be what they were now as an extension of a previous, mysterious life, someone who would go home to another bed at night. His greatest joy in his forgetfulness was the little leap his heart would make when he saw his carer at the entrance to his bedroom door, a familiar face couched in a stranger’s clothes, and he would know it was someone he was excited to see.
Jarvis next applied his brilliant mind to street numbers. He was perplexed as to why odd numbers ran up one side of his street, and even numbers the other. He was often bothered by wondering who decided which side would be which. His house was number 62, and said HENRY in large letters along one side, in yellow writing. He used to pretend that the letterbox was called Henry, and that it wasn’t just his family name printed up to let the postman and other people know who lived there.
He was, in short, brilliant.