5.18.2007

Essay 2

Actually this one came before the essay I posted previously, but we can pretend.

With Vision

I don’t know how many people remember what they were learning in the third grade. I do. I was learning about human biology. I remember that I was learning about human biology because I remember the day I realized that I was composed of human biology.

My family drove a minivan and I sat directly behind the driver’s seat. We lived in a somewhat rural area of northern California. My favorite dress was a pale pink, with long sleeves and a simple skirt. There is a funny perspective achieved when you look at your own torso from the position of your own eyeballs: everything appears foreshortened, too intimate, and every time I view myself in this manner I’m reminded of the fact that no camera could ever capture this oddness. So at the age of nine, sitting behind my mother in the minivan in northern California, I looked down at my stomach and was caught for the longest moment of my life up to that point. My skin peeled back from my stunted solar plexus and flattened thighs and chest and I could suddenly see a world of infinite smallness, the most bafflingly complex unity of sparks and cells imaginable, all captive and trembling beneath my exterior. Blood pulsed and DNA replicated and waste shifted and I was growing and my nerves were shooting memos faster than lightning and my grey, slushy brain awoke to the alarming notion that there is no end to the number of miniscule connections that could go wrong at any time for no reason at all. When I was nine, my mother’s olive skin was reflected in my complexion and against the peach pink gown my blood pooled beneath my skin, marbling me.

I moved into an apartment when I was seventeen and the closet doors would break a lot. I had three roommates and our house had two closets and my roommates had too many clothes. The doors were mirrored and the closet was in the living room, and whenever they broke I took it upon myself to fix them because I knew how. My father had installed similar doors in front of the closets of my brother and I, and I used to watch him, silently, as he labored to re-fix the wheels and sliders together. On one occasion my roommate Joe completely removed the doors out of frustration and propped them, facing each other, in the passage between kitchen and living room. They remained in this position for some time before I returned them to their sliders, and during that period each trip from one room to another, between the doors, opened a portal into one billion alternate dimensions. Should you stop and turn inside the reflected space, it became suddenly exhausting to find your way out again. Back from the mirror peered not only yourself, but you, and again, and also behind that. Should you crane sideways to see yourself around yourself, your images, all of them, likewise gestured. You caught glimpses of yourself in pairs, dancing this way and that to see just a little farther, but not one of you was successful. Effectively blind and wondering just what I was hiding from myself, spending too much time in between the kitchen and living room would lose me and I forgot several times, in those days, which doorway I was in, exactly.

I am stumbling into these traps of spectacle constantly. I do not know weather they hunt me out or if I knowingly seek them but I’m inclined to believe both. My torso has never again opened below my eyeballs but like most I am intimately familiar with its soft wrapping. How many times can one person stare into his or her own irises, reflected, in an attempt to analyze the musculature of revelation? The muscles under the skin of arms and legs are straightforward.

I would like to know how much beauty resides in perception as opposed to execution. When a particular figure model stands bare and the lines of his body ripple together, and against, able to create a sea or a solar system with the energy residing in one pose, it is easy as the artist to move an inch to the left and lose inspiration. I attended the Circus Center in San Francisco the year after I moved away from home and learned the hard way how difficult it is to be an acrobat. Most fascinating were the professionals who revealed to me, while I stretched, the failure and pain that go into amazing grace. I watched sinuous bodies stand in unnatural ways, and leap from great heights, and climb poles with their elbows, and all of these bodies would fall over and over again. The ease with which the completed feat appeared to unfurl was one polished stone among a pit of craggy jewels and I wonder now how much beauty is in neither the execution, nor perception, but inspiration.

Is there a limit to the number of times one human can stare into its own eyes? I will never get tired of willing my eyelids to peel back and forehead to fall away, like my ribs gave entrance one day behind the driver's seat, and allow one last glimpse beneath my skin. To be trapped, again; with vision.

2 comments:

  1. anne18:43

    Memo to self: always beware of the quiet kids. This kind of reminds me of that creepy exhibit of corpses from China, remember that? I felt nauseated the entire time, and we had to walk the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral to get right again. Somewhere between the two poles, there is a happy medium of how much we should know about what our insides look like.

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