Days I’ve Watched Myself Move

Days I’ve Watched Myself Move

It’s a Saturday afternoon around 3:15 pm.  I had arrived promptly at 2:45 to begin my nine-hour shift at the restaurant.  Table 24 looks at me; it’s apparent they’re ready to order, which would make sense since they’ve likely been waiting for their hungover brunch for two hours now.  I waddle sheepishly toward the young pair, who are accordingly outfitted in last night’s trousers and bundled from naval to throat in fleece armor.  The female’s hair rests atop her head in perfect asymmetry between coordinates A and B: two glossy pearl earrings.  I am forced to bear witness to this same sort of disheveled beauty that plagued my teenage interactions and left me handicapped and shrunken at the sight of starry-eyed softball players in sweatpants.  Still, she speaks sweetly, her bumbling beau the less attentive of the two.  I speak softly and calculated: but my speech, as usual, is delayed.  I am leaning to the right then fidgeting with my hands behind my back, yet also tucking my hair behind my ear.  But maybe—maybe I should move back to center.  “For our brunch special today we have—“ I can’t seem to say the word “eggs,” mostly because they’re both staring into my eyes and I’m just sort of blinking and turning away in response.  Sometimes when I do get the words out—“How would you like your eggs cooked?”  They happen like this: “owwoo lie eggs?”  They stare in confusion, I’m just happy I said anything, and I have time to recover with a smart-sounding excuse like “sorry, the acoustics in here are sometimes a bit screwy.”  They believe me and each let out a sympathy laugh that is more like a grumble and I walk away with the left foot first:  step, together, step, together.  Hands hang at my sides, until I decide I can’t have them just hang there, so I clasp them tightly behind my back—fingers laced, or maybe just hands cupped…

My hands are the least and most awkward part of me because I can make them do the most and occupy them often, yet I am also forced to deal with them when there is nothing there to hold, touch, move, or place.  I must make them mean something when they are not performing their regulatory tasks.  I suppose when not in use, they still engage in the most menial of nerve responses.  For instance, my fingers touch each other when they’re nervous, which is often because I’m not good in my body.  What I mean by not good is I feel intensely uncomfortable with the idea of being inside this body that I’m supposed to control and move with grace, appendices in tow, immediate frame moving subtly and communicating presence, womanhood, sexual prowess.  Despite the ways in which my hands deter from my executing elegance in movement, I can still engage them more than any other part of myself, contorting them in all sort of ways without incurrence of stress fractures or muscular wreckage or even mere humiliation at my inability to pose, exact perfect stationary position or flawless inertia.

My whole body is not unlike my hands.  I fine that I am often viewing my stance and positioning as awkward when I am ultra aware of my actions.  The questions stands, though, as to whether my heightened sense of consciousness actually limits or expands and increases my ability to enact intentional self-oriented movement.  It is seemingly a silly question, and even as a religious critical thinker and dissector, the question of calculated and rehearsed movement only came to the fore of my mind when the superficial functions of my job as a restaurant sever seemed to come down to me moving and others watching my movements.  I started thinking more about my movements, signs, signals, and motions once I’d moved to DC in June.  Increased time spent alone, which is exactly what happened to me as I started work at a restaurant and friends started work that revolved more so around a daily grind—the typical metro riding, morning grogginess, late afternoon angst—sort of schedule.  All of it gave me time to saunter slowly down busy streets and those more quiet and examine all the physical nuances of my walk—the curves of my hips, how much I chose to allow my arms to swing—the way in which the wind blew my hair and whether I shirked back, viciously forced my hair to remain tucked behind my ear, or spread my arms delicately in an attempt to just exist, to just be with the wind.  I’d start thinking about my decision to stunt cognition, disallowing my hair from its involuntary movement through employing a well-calculated transaction of hand reaching into air and grasping onto something that was moving at no one’s will, really.

capturing-motion-in-photography

In Carl Ginsberg’s essay, “Body Movement, Image and Consciousness,” the thinker and subscriber to the Feldenkrais method of awareness through movement discusses the development of movement and awareness working in tandem with one another to create a seamless sort of cura personalis in which persons can nourish themselves simply by injecting critical thought and deduction into menial motion.  C. Ginsberg writes:

When I erect myself in gravity, I normally direct myself to do so.  I might on the other hand be in a somnambulistic state. […] I can stand up without paying mind to my action and act habitually and probably inefficiently.  On the other hand I can develop my awareness in such a way that my experience of my acting is rich with knowing my self-orientation, my relation to space and gravity, my sense of timing, and I will stand elegantly using a minimum of muscular effort.

As someone who undertook several trial runs of popular childhood sports and recreational activities (and ultimately, failed), I can faintly remember early experiences of learning and adapting to the inevitable marriage of cognition and movement in a less oblique sense than the harmonious cause-and-effect relationship of head and hand which I now experience while walking, standing or sitting still.  In sport, the relationship seemed more elementary, more within grasp.  For instance, I’d cradle my lacrosse stick, amplifying my capabilities, in a desperate unspoken plea of capability, then, all at once I’d say to myself: I will now, in one fell swoop, slow my pace, turn my net to face my partner, throw-catch, throw-catch, and the ball will sail briskly through the milky autumn sky.  Now I have applied the banal, yet fruitful lessons of adolescence to daily activity, which I, by my own will, have hoped to convert from arbitrary to intentional: I will now, in one fell swoop, swing my backpack over my achy right shoulder, furrow my brow, and not just clomp my boots, but really stomp them, out of this small café, because not only do I use their internet, but I use their floors to make sounds and noises that make me feel like one authoritative bitch.

 

I can either spin my awareness as intentionality or dangerous hyperconsciousness.  When aware of the way in which I fold my hands behind my back when walking briskly by flocks of gluttonous tourists I am almost crippled by my attention to every subtle twitch and turn of my inelegant body.  But, when I decide that my steps, the way I open my eyes, the way I motion for a taxi are not just mere means, but are rather standalone, substantial acts and proclamations, I have injected my perceptively miniscule actions with meaning and direction.  Suddenly, I’m walking and motioning with grace and poise, and not really because it even appears as poised movement, but because I believe it to be beautiful, and so it is.

 

Recently, I discovered the redemptive qualities, despite the overuse of cellular data, of listening to podcasts while transporting myself around DC.  As my mind has felt unusually malnourished as of late, it helps to be able to learn about an interesting topic or two while moving myself from here to there.  I’ve become particularly interested in NPR’s new Ted Radio Hour show, in which the host, Guy Rozz, plays segments of several TED Talks, which culminate under a selective umbrella topic.  Rozz, takes a moment to sit with each speaker for a personal interview, in which he instigates a bit deeper into the promoting factors for and their desire to give each respective talk.  As I have possessed a longstanding interest in language and communication, I downloaded the Ted Radio Hour podcast entitled “Spoken and Unspoken” on a whim and found myself beguiled by each speaker’s very personalized and well-crafted hypothesis on everything from alienation and unity through language, foreign dialects, texting, and even a real life application of the subjunctive mood.  And then—the very last speaker’s talk almost serendipitously emphasized the “unspoken” component of language.

Amy Cuddy’s talk, “Does Body Language Shape Who You Are?” may at first seem to accentuate the ideals reaped from overpriced group therapy sessions or freshman year orientation.  But, throughout my second, third, and fourth times listening to Rozz’s interview with Cuddy, I’ve kept my interest in conscious movement at the forefront of my thoughts and it has proven to allow me to intake Cuddy’s thesis on body language and evocation of self.

Rozz introduced Cuddy and her talk: Up until this point the kind of communication we’ve been hearing about is language […], basically things we have near complete control over, but the thing is you don’t have complete control over how you communicate because a big part of it happens unconsciously.

Rozz continues, discussing how Cuddy studies nonverbal communication.  Quite literally, this woman received her Ph.D. in the scrutiny of that which makes me cringe at my own existence.  Cuddy was listed Number One on Time Magazine’s list of Game Changers.  She studies body language in regards to something she calls “power poses,” discovering that after two minutes of high power posing (ie: standing like wonder woman or a reclining CEO), testosterone levels actually go up in individuals assuming self-assured stances.  Ultimately Cuddy, though a psychologist, is a modern day Philosopher and student of the Feldenkrais method: a savant and pioneer of conscious movement and attentiveness to the body.

I’d imagine, though the pressure is more overt when one is placed in an occupation in which her or she is constantly being watched, that being conscious of one’s movements is more difficult when sitting desk-side, in a barometric pressured nightmare of an office, where no one can see you.  There is no accountability for slouching; there is no one to even silently penalize you when you’ve become a lidless, typing machine.  To be watchful when alone is wholly learned: half beautiful, half rigorous.

 

I often find my consciousness especially heightened when I perceive my own movement in congruence with that of others.  My obsession with synchronization is further realized whenever I walk behind or beside a pair of feet audibly hitting the ground on the offbeat of my own personal metronomic steps.  I am currently on the last hours of a week and a half spent in my hometown right outside of Philadelphia.  Before my arrival, my developmentally disabled aunt had just had a traumatic fall and suffered several compression fractures of the spine, and since she was essentially confined to the living room sofa for the course of her holiday season visit (which, incidentally began on my mother’s birthday), I felt inclined to sweetly and desperately plea, at the very last minute, for a transient stay at my childhood home and a heftier-than-usual time-off request from work.

There’s also a slight chance that I impulsively ran from my unfulfilled life in Washington, DC to seek temporary refuge in a place where I could maybe just feed my mind with a some familiar food, perhaps something that tasted, even the tiniest bit, like a pure and untainted version of myself—a self that really wanted something, something with which I’d been terribly out of touch.  My last night was a Sunday night is tonight, December 29th.  I’d already taken the Amtrak just two days ago from DC and back in a single day for an interview for a position with a nonprofit for which the impending victim, I mean “fellow,” was to be paid a stipend that amounted to not even three quarters of the poverty line minimum salary.  I have an interview with a staffing firm on the 31st  and am heading back for that and of course, get back to work again; but most of all, I need to start reconciling myself with the present condition of things and keep moving.

Anyways—synchronization of movement.

My last day home is today, a Sunday.  The weather was both persistent and static all day, robbing every bit of color from our immediate stratosphere.  It had, instead, affixed a perfect penumbra of elusive liquid casting itself into an arc-like pocket within the mostly hazy horizon.  My mother and I had gone to the movies to see Dame Judy Dench, as she gave voice to Philomena Lee, an elderly Irish woman searching for her son who’d been stolen from her while she was forced to perform expiation for her sin, which was plainly and simply, having sex out of wedlock, via performing chores, ruthlessly inflicted by nuns of the Rosecrea Abbey, for years of her young adult life.  Following the film, we fled through the marathon of mist to the grocery store in the pouring rain, where we acquired various ingredients for dinner.  My mom and I indulged in our regular bickering.  I, at my own confession, muttering endless provocations in the form of short, snippy insults akin to her various habits (ballooned, at my will, to a superlative degree), such as the briskness of her step, the sharpness of her speech, or inability to, in the manner of a mesmerized child, listen to one of my twice-told tales.

You see, my mother and I bear uncanny resemblance in regards to our strong-witted mentalities, superficially standoffish attitudes, marrow-deep care for our loved ones and those unknown to us, and our general way of being able to be picked up and set off, stretched between emotional and mental polarities at even the most minutely questionable stare or remark.  At the end of the grocery belt sat the paper bag filled with delicate components to my mother’s rainy day stew.  I lifted it, my hands still rain-sprinkled, my mind still fixed on Philomena and her rigorous journey, wrought on wholly by love, wonder, innocence.  Her movements, intensely intentional, wholly self conscious—each stride in the name of an unproved presence.

I wipe my right hand against my camel, swing coat, which, expectedly, is also wet.  Self-consciously I continue to stroke my hand against my coat while my mother grasps her receipt and folds it into unpretty fourths.  I spread my fingers, and I can’t help but notice how a finger fits in between each finger.  I want to fold my hands now, like I would at the restaurant, whenever I am awkwardly empty handed and blubberishly pleading “How is everything so far???”  Nodding and nodding, with lack of any genuinely interested-sounding response.  My fingertips curl beneath the brown paper handle and wrap around to meet the base of my palm, immediately above the tip of the palm’s triangle.  Scalene, I believe, it is.  The triangle of my own hand contains a right angle and two other angles of unequal measurements.  There is correctness and exactness of my hand, and there is also misalignment and incongruence.  I am enveloped in the 180 degree centerpiece of my least and most awkward appendage as I trudge, head down, un-power-posed, in the grey water parade.

I watch my mother’s feet, the audible clomp of a stylish boot echoes through a parking lot of Honda CRVs and eager Sunday shoppers.  There is wild dissonance.  I watch my feet, as I take three steps then allow the fourth to soar ungracefully over each sidewalk crack.  Still watching our feet: 1. My mother’s first step, 2. Then my first, 3. Mother, 4. Mine.  I am uncomfortable with our disallowance of space and silence.  I come to a halt.  And our walk, then, even unbeknownst to my mother, becomes so much more.  The synchronization of movement is the unalloyed incarnation of Amy Cuddy’s thesis that the prevalence of unconscious communication near parallels the ultimacy of speech.  The synchronization of movement is the verbally unstated physical overstatement of desired togetherness, association, and communion.

 
This is my left foot.  It will now step, I will hear the sound of my boot—the small wooden heel—hitting the ground.  And the sound will not be alone.  I am swinging my left arm, and my right arm lays beside me, yet at elbow begins to hang several inches from my hip and thigh, hand holds bag handle firmly, as fingertips meet the crevices of my palm, angles alike and unalike.  This is my right foot.  It will musically join my mother’s in a fell swoop of sidewalk thrashing—music.  I am besotted with movement, with saying things I’m too afraid to forcibly shimmy from larynx to mouth, a mouth I can’t even move right.  I am bewitched by the communion formed by a step or stare.  I am entirely taken with the sublimity of my and your own ability to verbalize through our precious nonverbals.  Because not only do I walk just to walk; I walk to say a few things.  I walk to move.
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Rain & Ropes

I have had love for you like rain

like a violent rain,

once it even ruptured my insides;

that was before it poured

I have had love for you for years

it is a painful kind that curves in and out

sometimes I cant see it but I can touch it with

half-hearted fingertips.

It takes half of it to be twisted

half of it to be thrown around,

whipped about like a taut rope

that’s only really breaking strands as a form of movement.

Love like rain and ropes, my love:

this is how we love.

the things that end our lives make them whole,

like loving someone ‘till your swinging,

bound by wind, jumping ropes that emit

little stringed shards;

this is what my body does when I’m

dying for something that loves me so much

I fall apart.

Palm Reading and the Poets (A Poem)

Palm Reading and the Poets

Plath was right: these are my hands,

i am the only keeper of my limbs

Berryman was right: if we don’t travel in the direction of our fear

we’re not even moving at all

Bishop was right: the art of losing isn’t hard to master

i’ve done it ten times over

I could list it in plainer terms than Oxford Press:

I won’t produce indices on end

I won’t beat biographies into the ground

like the dead horse—

maybe I’m the dead horse.

Because the way they beat me

The way the great poets wake me up

is like waking on tundra,

Alive and surprised I didn’t die,

but transported to a new state of living—

Where I’m feeling cold, awake, perplexed,

strangely submissive.

They can tell me my thoughts,

they can write me into existence.

We Were Rosy

**Note: Thank you to the gods of inspiration, that bolt has finally hit me.  in the past couple week, this blog has hit 3,000 views and the views keep rising.  Hopefully one day I’ll be able to have a whole website.  In the meantime, I want to thank everyone who has shown genuine interest in my thoughts/beliefs and feelings about life and the world.  This next one is so extremely important to what I do and who I’ve become.  At this stage in the game, writing about love is writing about life.  To Paul: I love you, dude.**

We Were Rosy

We were rosy-cheek in love, listening to songs just to get back in one another’s head just in case one of us snuck out.  We used to talk about us before you and I, as if the components didn’t even exist.  We used to entwine ourselves with more ferocity as if we were slipping from one another.  I could paint a scene of love imperfect.  I could attempt to make it beautiful: the way literature makes a car crash perfect.  But perfect wasn’t right.

I can remember age eighteen with frightening clarity—meeting a man when men had formerly wreaked taboo.  I’d never chalked the world up to something celestial until I came face-to-face with the only worthwhile stuff of the universe.  Individuals: faces and eyes that make one understand why Zarathustra came down (I remember my Nietzsche professor couldn’t stress that enough—the guy came down!).  So, when I met him, he made the world more of a place for me to state my intent, to be myself, execute the deepest desires of my heart.

Time allegedly heals, but I find it likelier that it smears a coat of BIC brand white out over a wound’s surface.  Time wears and chips away the wood.  If a fine-crafted mahogany table is a sweet November stroll through the oaky, shaded-over neighborhoods of Roland Park circa 2009, then my four-year-long relationship is that same table after a number of moves across country in the back of a Uhaul, having incurred the stamina to handle vases and hideous cross-generational accoutrements, ranging from Lalique to Precious Moments.  We will continue to transport that table, keeping it close, despite its watermarks and chipped edges.

I will carry the table; I will carry you.

I can recall the early fights: me muffling his voice anytime so much as a friendly confrontation came forth from his nervous lips.  I’d do anything to maintain our status as that flawlessly alluring couple that graced an otherwise Playboy campus brimming with modern day oligarchs in oxfords.  I’d mitigate, in efforts to brush the white out over the smeared pen, only to find that this would be my first go around at throwing non literal gasoline on the non literal fire of my relationship.  All I needed to do was let the fire crackle—perhaps blow it about a bit, so it could electrify and affect a chain reaction.  This is the stuff of the earth, the flames I must let go but can’t bear watch burn.  It would take awhile until I was good at this—using words, allowing love to arrive gradually out of strife, rather than quelling fighting words that make the times of peace more lit up: robust with pale brilliance.

I remember the first 9 months together, six of which were spent with him in Scotland. I’d write him long letters of how we’d one day counter the prototypical numbed middle-aged couple.  I’d talk about how lively we’d be—how innocently in love we’d find ourselves even after 10, 20, 60 years.  I’d loved him like a child: fully, but closed to any indication that I was wrong.  I would love, but I didn’t want to work, I didn’t want to turn my gaze toward the truth: that my inability to open myself to the possibility that I was wrong had created a one-way street—the kind one doesn’t automatically perceive and begins to turn down, only to realize its there, just barely executing a 7-point turn in the middle of the road, ashamed, confused, and unable to grasp how a smart, perceptive individual, would ever turn down this street.  For me, feigning euphoria seemed like a better choice than acknowledging what I’d later learn was life and realism disguised by my ballooned perceptions as a faulty relationship.

I first watched the flames flicker during a miniature Renaissance at the start of the Fall.  I was Michelangelo, furiously breaking my back, painting “I’m Sorry” on the ceiling like a heart-sleeved maniac.  Sitting by his door with my hands folded was “I’m sorry for saying that.”  My tears, the film’s epilogue, were “I’m sorry I did that.”  Using words without the words was the best thing I’d ever done.  Now, we’d each have our turn to start the fire: he’d be the gas-thrower, me: the extinguisher.  Then, like the best painters and artists we’d invent our love story with erratic brushstrokes and zigzagging chalk lines: this goes here and maybe that’ll come in way down there.  It had plenty of seams, but that was all right.

Now when I redden with frustration, he’ll likely shake his head and walk away, but it’s cold outside now, and we’ll take November walks, our cheeks rosy but mostly from the cold and our eyes lit up, knowing we wont be here forever.  I will not turn down that road again; I will not make 7-point turns.  Instead, before I blame him for my lost tube of chapstick, I will ask him about this constellation, and we will walk like careful giants, up the stairs of the Library of Congress, through this city, it could be any city really, but it’s this one and it’s ours.  They’ll put scaffolding up on the Capitol building soon, but we’ll have the night to remember when it was just another bit of the troposphere.  And that’s where we are too, frozen on earth, which is really the only celestial body for which we’ve got to live.  You’re the sky, I’m the sky, and so is this building.  And I don’t have to write sorry in the stars, not yet, not tonight.

Girl Story

I have wanted to feel pretty for a very long time.  This is how I’ve justified my bad days, because I am working toward beauty.  One more day of commiseration, please.  I cannot leave the house, because my hair, face, and body still await several more hours of primping. 

This is my girl story.  It mostly circulates around the concept of attempting to feel and be 6,000 things at once, to wear masks that didn’t fit, to go places I didn’t like.  I genuinely don’t know where it all begins.  When does one, whether silently to oneself or aloud, declare one’s sex?  Whether the gender declaration is a reality for some or not, I have no idea, but I can’t recall a day on which I parted my awkwardly long arms and squealed “I AM A GIRL!!!!”

In fact, I feel like I came to realize my girlhood more thoroughly and accurately through my revelations of boyhood.  I remember my first crash course in differences between my boyish counterparts and me.  It was Kindergarten.  Naptime arrived after lunch.  My nap buddy was a skinny, bleach blonde-haired boy named Alex.  As I attempted to fall asleep, Alex woke me: “Pssst.”  I looked at him.  He is no different than me.  His hair is short, yes but so is Gracie’s.  He and I play Star Wars together.  He continues, “Reach down my pants.  There’s something down there that girls don’t have.”  No, no there’s not and no I won’t.  My this-would-be-sexual-harassment-if-we-weren’t-in-Kindergarten experience seemed to impact me in a rather rudimentary way.

There was something intrinsically (& outwardly) and fundamentally different between my naptime buddy and I and this would never go away, despite any half-hearted efforts to thwart differences.  I would never have a male best friend, I would never be able to successfully deal away physical or emotional traces of womanhood, I would never successful raise my voice to wild or unorthodox calls and whistles.  I’d always remain a starry-eyed napper, a little girl laying next to a different being, trying to convince herself that difference wasn’t there, and despite its incessant presence, I’d always try to make us all the same.

If there is a personal battle that is more strenuous than trying to equalize something that is not meant to be equal or the same in any way, it is mindlessly trying to perfect one’s physical appearance.  What I learned from the next phase of girlhood:  It is only an awkward phase if you allow others to define you as awkward.  The real problem with the awkward phase is that we have handed our existence over to someone else; we have handed over our freedom.  There are several ways in which my Philosophy education has made my perceptions of myself wholly a thing of the past.  I owe most of these warding off techniques to Albert Camus.  My girl story took form mostly throughout a number of depressing years in which I had zero ownership over a life, which I was neither creating nor living.  It begins when my looks and ways were only bad because I allowed them to become tangled in the world, which, if we are realistic (I say realistic and not cynical, for a reason), is an unfree one.  So here is unpretty me tangled within our unfree world.  And that’s when the hand that drew Sisyphus comes in and defines absurdist philosophy as an unlikely joyous reaction to the stagnant.  He says: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become to absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”  So if self-creation is rebellion in the face of the unfree world, then my girl story, my self-loathing begins with me in a very stationary state.

By now, hopefully, have a vision of me in a Catholic school girl uniform, sitting down, legs crossed at the ankle, with a swarm of manic, lip-glossed tweens shouting obscenities, making me feel worse and worse about myself by the minute.  This is an exaggerated picture of the goings-on of my adolescent years.  The whole picture is more complex.  The truth is, some kids really are mean.  A girl story is not simply a one-dimensional depiction of an awkward girl willingly being picked at.  In my girl story, I am pummeled on several occasions by mean boys who really did grow up to fight aggressively with cops and underage bars and girls who really did continue settled, content, and sort of sleeping while aware in their childhood suburban home.  People were mean to me, but the person who was meanest was me.  I was likely my biggest bully.  I did all the looking in the mirror, and the pseudo face painting and caking on of unrealistically shaded face makeup.  I did the stomach sucking and occasional dirty dancing.  A girl story is only right if a girl takes the time to sort it all out and realize she’s the one who’s in control.

But when she realizes it, she turns her shirts inside-out and paints her walls green, dyes her hair with a fatal outcome, goes to record stores, and selects her new favorite tunes from Urban Outfitters message boards.  By this time, by the time I’d made a whole slew of exterior alterations to myself, I’d deciphered more clearly the difference between men and me.  I’d redirected the prettiness ideal to something both unique and self satisfying, but also appealing to my male counterparts—friends that wouldn’t stay friends, and others I’d just stare at while making my way through a crowded mall or city street, on some sort of secret prowl for anything that would make even a semi-pithy attempt at garnering my attention.  All the while, I’d gloss my lips and line my eyes, like a little pretend beauty, then I’d burn my pretty curls with electricity and fire.  In my girl story, I thought I was a thing that could be played with and pulled at: a small child, a wind-up toy, a human heart.

One’s perceptions of humanity change and grow, just as mine did with age and education.  The world becomes smaller, one may travel more, one may consistently encounter those she serves food to in a restaurant setting while at a bar on a Friday night, one may care less about birthdays, take time for granted, find the neighborhood next door to be less breathtaking and more commonplace.  The world is smaller, people are both better and worse, and beauty hasn’t looked the same in years.  It doesn’t even smell the same anymore and it doesn’t wear its hair the same, either.  Perhaps it comes with suffering, watching the physically beautiful falter and completely screw me over, or perhaps it comes with genuinely feeling uncomfortable as a sheep in a wolf’s clothes (see what I did there?).  Whatever it is, though, whatever sort of strange guise or wrapping I’m cloaked in or whatever sorts of perceptions I’ve developed regarding others and their boy and girl stories, I know I’m ready to unbind others and myself.

The girl story doesn’t extend, hopefully.  If time tells, it just goes away.  I recently closed my girl story at points of ellipses.  And it was at these points that the woman story began.  It’s here where the declarations occur.  I am not shy, as I was in my girl days.  Arms are parted, heart full, I am brimming with belief, excitement, and pride.  I know when I am different and when I am the same.  My gender is not my story, but it is what gets me from story to story, my catalyst, the recurring segue, my womanhood.

Stream of Consciousness: The Middle

It is an occasion when a diner will ask his or her server anything about herself.  Rarely, do they open a door and whistle, beckoning my humanity to come out.  Here humanity, here boy.  It is rarely fun: bearing the “can I get’s?” and the “give me’s,” but then, as if out of some discreet pocket of air, I’ll receive a “What do you do?” and the heavens split right down the middle and light befalls us—an aura covering table 23.  Somehow, someone knew to ask what I do or what I want, what my passions and dreams may happen to be.  It is so brilliant that it almost seems to cancel out the following interaction that occurred at table 44 about two and a half weeks ago.

Father and daughter talk amongst themselves…

Father: “Should we ask, I don’t know.”

Lowly server (me): “Everything alright over here.  Are you all finished?”

Father: “Yes.  May we ask you a question.”

NB: This is all occurring after the gentleman told me that I should inform management that we have to do something about the room temperature maple syrup that causes the piping hot French toast to lower in temperature when it is poured atop the texas toast-y delicacy.

 

Me: Sure

Father: Do you have another job?

Me: I freelance write, which is my passion, but this is the only job I make money doing.  Why?

Father: Because we were just talking amongst ourselves and wondering how you could possibly make enough money as a waitress to live in a city like Washington, DC.

So these things sometimes happen.  I almost rather they are outright into heir debasement of me rather than closeted, discreet, huffy breathed, and blaming me for an undercooked something or other.  That guy tipped me about 40%.  It was the worst I’d ever felt about an overtly extravagant tip.  So back to “Here humanity, here boy.”  There is something very important that comes forth from being thrown into a life state that allows for expression, only if it is stifled by the impetuous wants and needs of others.  And believe it or not, regardless of how one may read my general tone, that something important is not boundless heaps of cynicism.  No, it is an achy urge to devote one’s time and efforts to extracting and encouraging the revealing of others’ humanity.  I want to name every face, or better yet, allow every face to name itself to me.

Odd as it is that the very people who cause me grief each day have helped me to want to aid and assist others in feeling whole, it’s a backwards recipe that certainly works for me.  It was in feeling suffocated that my truest loves in life arose to the front of my mind, battling off ideas and goals that had once held precedence because perhaps they looked better or would help me to move on more swiftly to a better post graduate degree program.  It’s not that bad—the middle—the mental or even physical place in which everything is a maybe, every move is impermanent, and every waking hour comes with something unexpected, unwanted, or unplanned.  I like the middle, at least more than I thought I would.  Yes, it is in the middle that I have regular panic attacks over rent payments, bemoan my erratic work schedule, and fight with my mother on the phone, but it also here in the middle that I can take a long walk in trail of sunlight I’d otherwise not be able to bask in until it was well faded, within a clump of bustling, uniformed workers; it’s here that I can submit a poem to a journal, fingers crossed, wondering and hoping that maybe this is the middle’s end, at least before the next middle, the next time I decide to thin before I do, to consider, to stop somewhere between this and that—whatever this is, whatever that is, I don’t really know, not now.

All you need to know (seriously, though)…

Freckled

If you stick my white head in a balloon

it’ll look blue or red or happy birthday

but I’ll still be dotted;

i’ll still contain clusters of melanin

pricking, decorating my hairline.

And I wonder if I reveled in the occasional

sunlit hour within the womb,

if I was painted Dalmatian-like in stroke.

At eight I had myself made-up and clothed

as Cruella DeVille, seeking out living spots

so they could lay dead against me

because I’d have rather worn myself

than look, but to avoid the self-annihilation that

came with the costume,

I painted myself golden, tan,

So all of me was one distinguishing cluster of melanin

Seeping through nose cracks and eyeball corners

Loathing the transparency,

Loathing my spots.

I stuck my head in a balloon

and marked each saturated oval

with silver, so I could still see through the markings

because I wanted to see ovals still in darkness

to dance with each melanocyte in the rain

just like we did when we met

twenty years ago

somewhere between placenta and Pennsylvania

when one melanocyte first asked me

to dance

and instead

he tap-danced all over my face.