Mermaids of Venice

Novel Front Cover

7. Sesquipedaliophilia

Bernard had always been a curious child. Isolated from his classmates and needing an outlet, he turned to literature. Books didn't tolerate his attention; they thrived on it, and within those papered halls he uncovered a passion for sesquipedalia: a fancy and self-referential designation for "big words."

When it came to the tenacious search for linguistic treasures, Bernard was unstoppable, unflappable, indefatigable. He was a spelunker in the mines of belles-lettres, going agog with each discovery from aposiopesis to ziggurat. By twelve years old our onomatomaniac dispensed terms in absentia from his teacher's worn copy of Merriam's. By sixteen, Bernard could name the noise of your stomach when you're hungry (borborygmus), the liquid inside your eyeball (vitreous humor), the act of throwing someone out a window (defenestration), the belief that inanimate objects possess hostile intentions (Resistentialism), the proper label for a street performer (busker), the fear of his obsession (hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia) and the Latin for every part of a woman's anatomy (though by adulthood his hands-on experiences were less than noteworthy). He wasn't a virgin, for even the most socially inept can stumble into an imbroglio with someone else willing to substitute attention for affection, but Bernard's forays into the bar and online dating scenes were short, messy, and ultimately drew him further away.

The more he retreated, the less the world seemed to notice. He read. He worked. He stole insignificant items around him. The word for this is kleptomania and Bernard had a two pack a day habit. He never stole money or anything of sentimental value. The novelty of thievery had long dissipated, but the compulsion did not, eventually it became just one more thing to get done.

Bernard was a victim of Weltschmerz. He was taciturn with a case of the mulligrubs, an agelast, a knee-jerk floccinaucinihilipilificator. If his life imprimis was an open book, everything at present was a Hobson's choice.

It would be a tragedy if he continued on this path without peripeteia, but Bernard would soon be reminded of another word: ephemeral, a name for something that will not last, which is to say a name for everything.

Ephemeral came to Bernard on his thirtieth birthday, when he learned he was about to die.