Parts of the skeleton

I tried to draw your ribs, but the words on the screen distracted me. I miss your bones–the weight and the diameter; I wished I missed the fleshy bits in your skull. I wish I missed something more tied to you. Something more substantial. More of you.

“Think for yourself. You have to be willing to cut against the grain and get the distance from your peer groups; and not only that, but you have to have a habitual vision of greatness”

Who am I to call out your flaws? Who am I to hold you accountable? How do I know you don’t already know what’s wrong with you? Why do I have to chip away? I chip at you to collect the bits. I want to remember the failings of humanity. I think that is our natural state. Despite whatever you achieve…I’m not sure those things really matter beyond our current state of understanding. I’m more interested in the failings you hide away. I will pull them out and let the sunlight catch the dust. No one thinks they’re perfect, Morales.

“Everything you ever did was strictly by design, but you got it wrong”

Pencil in hand, I go to trace your ribs. What is your favorite muscle? That which you most enjoy tearing and rebuilding? We have 233 bones and 460 to 501 muscles (many can be considered either as units or aggregates); they overlap each other and are arranged in layers or in planes. I’m not mocking you. I thought we existed in a different space…I always carry you away to those distant spaces before you’re ready.

“We can bury our ways in these songs we have sung, and we can bury our limbs underneath all these hands”

Maybe I should have clarified I was raised in wild nature. Maybe I should have made the distinction between your nature and my nature. You say outside; I mean wild. I mean that nature man has not tamed. I mean that nature man still fears at night when the moon is not enough to light your way. Where the unexplained is a common occurrence and you trust that feeling in your gut because you know it sees what your eyes cannot.

I am not ashamed to be afraid of nature.

I had a dream that you cut open the skin across my stomach. You cut it open and you stretched it up. You held it there with forceps. You pulled the top up and the bottom down and you displayed my guts. I couldn’t see what you were doing. It didn’t really hurt. You told me it would hurt for 15 minutes, and I imagined inexplicable breath-catching pain and I told you not to do any more. You were displeased; you corrected yourself. No more pain than what you’re feeling now. Oh, then carry on. You poked in and got your sample and I felt the tool in my gut, but I didn’t mind it. I guess you got what you needed because you stitched me up and I went on with my day. A little weak, but nothing unmanageable. I did it for you. The sample was for you.

I’ve never had a dream like that, where I was so physically invaded.

I wonder when you read what I write if I can be seen. I write to be seen, I think, in a sense. I wonder if the words I write show me; display me; open my guts to you. Or I wonder if I am doing it wrong. I’m creating more distance than closeness. Not providing any sense of connection or any place of vulnerability, but another space of ambiguous deception. When you read my work do you get a sense of who I am? My fear of the pain prevents the words I should be putting on the page. Keeps your microscope at bay.

I don’t want to deceive you. I am not here to deceive you.

Have you ever noticed that we are a cross? The clavicles and the vertebrae.

You feel dense to me. When I draw, I try to capture the density I felt in your bones.

 

 

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Navigator 

Morgan and I traversed the twin cities of Minnesota this weekend. And I was reminded again of my daring nonchalance when I am a stranger in a new place, my desire never to draw attention to myself, my cautiousness in unfamiliar places, my easy relationship with trees and the sun.

We drove across northern Wisconsin after work. Only stopping to fuel up once. Morgan has this great skill at turning the most mundane of actions into fun. Finding the adventure in every step. We stared in exhausted disbelief at one another when we arrived to our free accommodations, courtesy of Morgan’s friend from the salsa dance scene. A one-room at the top of an old building with easy access to a shared hallway bathroom. We lost it when we pulled out the futon to make our bed and laughed at all the worries we’d had prior to actually seeing where we would be sleeping. We chattered and hummed and danced our way to the Minnesota campus where Morgan began the day following a stranger to class and realizing that she is still not like all the rest. I wandered alone and realized again that I am still not like all the rest. I met her exuberant at the purple onion where we regrouped. We ate fries and bought t-shirts and walked in circles for hours. Criss-crossing the Minnesota campus until the street names became familiar. We searched the cities for fancy desserts and then drove just north to an older couple’s home whom Morgan met while tour guiding in Ecuador. We played with their pug and ate homemade pizzas and laughed at the story of how they met and the ongoing stories of their 22 year marriage. “Once you’re in your thirties and you’ve already been married, you know who you are and you know what you want.”

I drank 2 stouts and tried to stay awake and focused on the drive home.

Saturday we sat side by side in a booth so we could both look out onto the sunlit street. We walked for hours along the Mississippi River and found Indian burial mounds and admired dogs and she stated after every bike that rode past, “I love bikes.” I thought about how I had grown up among fields and woods and always strayed. I thought about jumping on iced over creek beds and running through decrepit country cemeteries and cutting my face on rogue tree branches. We sat in the sun until we were hot. We stretched out in the car for a bit of a rest and drew the attention of passers by.

We laughed until we choked in the Turkish restaurant after Morgan declared her attraction to our waiter. I ate dolma (grape leaves) and thought of other Turkish dinners I’ve had and all the lives I’ll never lead.

I thought of how when I opened my eyes and looked into your ear I could see your soul. A recognition there I cannot ever put into words because no words will bring it to life or make it right. A feeling far too advanced for my understanding.

Morgan stopped the parking enforcement officer. We ate ice cream and wandered the busy street. We laughed at kids and danced around and jumped out of doorways. We lost track of time. The sun set and we got cold. We didn’t buy any impractical junk. We walked back to our home and I spilled her leftover breakfast. Hash browns smushed into gray thick carpet. We lay in the bed and watched YouTube videos of men in Trex costumes. How do you explain YouTube to someone who has never been on the Internet? We dream of Peru and we try to imagine who we will be in 6 months. Will we ever know more than we know now?

Morgan and I are different–everyone says so. She is positive and loud and present, noticeable, a force. I am quiet, reserved and lean back. I hesitate. A positive and a negative. But we work in tandem. I remind her to wait and she reminds me to move. We are able to laugh at the other and forgive the other and we don’t compromise our own characteristics or qualities to make the other happy. We trust that if we fall short or overstep that the other person will take notice and let us know, or the other person will give us the space necessary to be. I think what counts is that we’ve both found our space in the world. We’ve found how we prefer to navigate and succeed in that. We’re separate “but equal!” As Morgan shouted at the college boy who rang us up for our veggie platters at the Turkish restaurant. The one who is majoring in middle eastern and religious studies. Morgan: you have a lot in common! Me: why? Because we both like the Middle East? Cue nonsensical laughter.

Sister suffragette

The internet is on a roll this week. I’m feeling so feminist:

The same is valid for smaller details of everyday life. “He is looking for stuff. Have you seen my nail filer? He goes to the closet and says he cannot see it. It’s there. ‘Where do we keep the kitchen towels?’ He asks me time and time again. After the third or the fourth time, that shit needs to be learned.”

She continues: “It suggests to me that there is a detachment to home that I do not have the luxury of having. Because if I did, then our everyday life would be a nightmare. So I take on that role. That’s not my authentic self, but I have no choice,” she says.

So Thompson picks her battles (don’t we all?), and the question remains – if we are socialized from a young age to be this way, is it possible that we really are better at it, even if nature did not make us so? Should we just shut up and get on with it because the world would probably stop turning if we didn’t?

‘Women are just better at this stuff’: is emotional labor feminism’s next frontier?

I think this is why I purposely don’t take note of my colleague’s birthdays at work; why I don’t bother to buy a gift or send a card; why I don’t really care if my friend is or isn’t eating their vegetables. I spent 20 years of my life sharing the load of emotional labor in my  mother’s home, and I won’t fucking do it anymore. All the time I was helping with it, and I never got so much as a thank you. Instead, I got blamed when the recipient of all that emotional labor realized they didn’t really know how to function without someone carrying that burden for them. “That shit needs to be learned”– indeed. Sure, I was raised and shaped to be nurturing and caring and thoughtful, but so what? I don’t need to be that. You get on just fine without it. You get by without activating that part of your brain, so why can’t I? I’m not going to love anyone enough to make these kinds of quiet sacrifices, I’ve decided. Mutual, reciprocal work, that’s what I want.

agape

Art and literature are tried on. Reading a book, seeing a painting or a play or a film: Such encounters are fueled by affect as well as intelligence. Much “fleshing out” happens here: We invest the art with our own feelings, but the art comes to live inside us, adding to our own repertoire. Art obliges us to “first-personalize” the world. Our commerce with art makes us fellow travelers: to other cultures, other values, other selves. Some may think this both narcissistic and naïve, but ask yourself: What other means of propulsion can yield such encounters?

This humanistic model is sloppy. It has no bottom line. It is not geared for maximum productivity. It will not increase your arsenal of facts or data. But it rivals with rockets when it comes to flight and the visions it enables. And it will help create denser and more generous lives, lives aware that others are not only other, but are real. In this regard, it adds depth and resonance to what I regard as the shadowy, impalpable world of numbers and data: empirical notations that have no interest nor purchase in interiority, in values; notations that offer the heart no foothold.

We enter the bookstore, see the many volumes arrayed there, and think: so much to read, so little time. But books do not take time; they give time, they expand our resources of both heart and mind. It may sound paradoxical, but they are, in the last analysis, scientific, for they trace the far-flung route by which we come to understand our world and ourselves. They take our measure. And we are never through discovering who we are.

NY Times: Don’t turn away from the art of life

I want you to hear

You know…like when regular people are celebrated for doing regular things, like protecting children or having a conversation with an elderly person. Maybe if we stopped exalting kindness like it’s a rare precious gem, we would have more of it. Similarly, with ignorance–stop fucking recognizing it and it will go away. I mean, no it’s not that simple, you can’t banish it overnight, but maybe people will stop acting so ignorant just to get our attention. You’re not a hero, and you’re not a savage. Find some middle ground.

Navigating identity– that’s how it’s been. It’s not hard for me to see you reading your map because I am the keymaster. I collect the maps. I like being a half-breed with you because we don’t have to say the things we know our parents have said, our friends have said, we don’t have to live the experience that has been put upon us. In those moments together, we’re free. We’re empty; we’re undefined.

I know what you mean because it’s been told to me for centuries, but also because I’ve been living it.

I know what you mean because I’ve absorbed it.

I Wrote This For You: The Stupid Things I Need to Hear

I know this is my ego talking, so please forgive me, but I’m tired of telling you what you need to hear. I’m really fucking tired of it. I’m taking a break to say only [don’t split your infinitives] the things I want you to hear.