Three Weird Things
The experience of wearing clothes—smoothing a wrinkled shirt with your palm, inventing security from a pair of jeans because of the way they cover your body, covering your body, feeling someone’s hand on your shoulder or leg or back but knowing there is distance between the two of you, distancing yourself from nakedness and distancing yourself from touch—makes me feel good. I like the way bodies can be restricted by clothes, I like how they can be molded by clothes. It’s almost as if knowing me clothed is not knowing me at all.
Sometimes, when someone puts their hand on my skin, I feel too close to them. But if, instead of touching my wrist they brush my shoulder, covered by a sleeve, I think there is room for mystery, and I remember that anyone could be wearing my shirt. Touching the shirt is not quite touching me, it is touching something that touches me. Distance between them and me stretches with this necessarily tangible barrier so that we cannot be “us.” In this distance, I can breathe. I make a home out of the distance. I make a shell out of the clothes.
Nakedness reveals unbearably beautiful human forms with bumps and poking bones and protruding bellies, but through clothes those forms become figures, interrupted, near fluidity of flesh hindered by encapsulation. After I wake up, shuffle through drawers, pull my pants over my feet, knees, hips, the curvature of my lower back is muffled by belt loops. The paunch of my stomach is confined in a three dollar shirt. And people will see me in the shirt, but what they see of my almost two-decade-old body is a manipulation constructed in an instant. I hate clothes for that. When I dress, you don’t know what my body is like. It makes me less human and more of an object, I think. From flesh to cloth. From person to figure. There’s safety as much as there is terror in the distance between reality and distortion, and, in the gap, I am conflicted.
Dressing to establish distance is a form of art that, while enveloping body, accentuates the person whose subconscious is physically manifest for us to read from their skin—or their fabric. This is like writing about yourself, painting a self-portrait. What do you know about you? What will you, inevitably, overlook? How do you like to talk about yourself (to yourself)? How do you want people to talk about you? This is an interrogation with the resounding silent reply of red bandanas and short-sleeved shirts. When you dress, do you cover your body, do you want your skin to be seen—do you want it to be felt? Do you slide into a pair of shoes that none of your friends like? Is it purposeful—to make yourself uglier?
Are you extending your flesh or executing it? Maybe the latter because you feel with its bellies and bones your flesh is executing you, and you want to instill your arbitrary body with intention. In that sense, sometimes, clothing yourself is reclamation. My body is almost like a hand-me-down collage of many people I’ll never know, and I stamp this body with clothes to prove that I have the right. I wrap myself in colors that are mine. When people tell me, “you look like somebody else,” my reaction is to scream that I LOOK LIKE myself.
Distance. Distancing the body from comparison, from people, distancing it, at times, from itself. Trying to sculpt myself a home from the body I was given. Trying to learn whether the home exists in the clothes or the skin or the both, in the fear or the embrace or the balance. I am reclaiming myself from something I don’t quite know for a reason I haven’t quite heard, but it is whispered through these bones and muscles I’ve been towing—or which tow me.
The sensory experience of having a body—smoothing goosebumps with your hand, inventing security from palms because of the way they cover your body, covering your body, feeling someone’s hand on your fingers or spine or nose and knowing there is no distance between the two of you, distinguishing yourself from others and being beside them—makes me feel good. And I like the feeling of having a body buried in clothes.
Tell them what is yours, what belongs to you. Write your name on Your paper. Let them know. We live in a world structured by demarcation, constantly delineating substance-turned-possession; and thus all things are delineated. Let them know what you own.
I saw a name childishly scrawled at the upper margin of a flyer littered on a bathroom floor. “Kia” will never see it again; but it is hers. And, by now, probably in a landfill, her possession is in atrophy, not as a piece of paper decaying--although it is, but losing significance as her property.
Like this, all other things are related to us by name and description, painted proximal or distant, and we arrange shrines around us of things that echo ownership. Our pictures encircle us and our sheets and jewelry and clothes are worn by us and teachers speak to us, only to us, and our movies tell us, only us—and yet several thousand other people who are “me.” When it rains, I feel it. When I hurt, I hurt. When you hurt, you hurt, and tell yourself “I hurt”—yet I don’t. And I can never hurt because some alien body does, except for the way I hurt when I think it could have been me. In relation to myself, I understand pain.
I even explore the paradigm of myself through a paradigm of myself. My idiosyncrasies paint the way that I think about the way that I think. Even when I feel like an outsider, it is a painfully singular exploration of being. I—when I am not feeling myself—feel all the more like myself for the discontinuity of my presence, for the discontinuity of awareness heightens my capacity for awareness in the most personal way, making me more a person, but more fully unique in my privacy. Isn’t it funny how being fully a person does not denote being like other people? Personal experiences expose more differentiation than union with the rest of the people who call themselves “me.” Telling them what is yours, what belongs to you, becomes an exercise in telling them how your mind contorts when you fear, when you lust, when you lose touch with reality, because, while everyone experiences “now,” they can’t experience your loss of it.
What I possess is my sense of time; my surroundings are possessed by me, though they cannot know it, and even those I love seem to belong to me. Maybe, all I possess is all that I am, and by virtue of existing as myself, all else seems to exist, because when I see, because all that I see, I see through myself, and it is only through relation to me that substance exists “to me.” “For me.”
So, when they ask what belongs to me, I say, “I do.”
I live in the dimples, in the shallows, in the channels into which your eyes wrinkle when you’re squinting at me. I live there. I live in the cool water between me and you, in currents just before they break.
Hair is hair is hair, covering and growing and splitting me from you, and her fringe winks for you and my hair is not quite like it. And hands are hands are hands—your hands are your hands are your hands—briefly touching, never holding—impermanent gestures with indelible stains. In the waters, and out of depth. Your hands are your hands are not my hands, which are. My hands.
I want to be in the scratching dark, the pull of the parting of your lips and press, press, press of the cold on your shirt on my sweater on my skin. I want the trees and the ground to pause and the air to stop up and you and your eyes to latch on to me and mine the way tendrils of ivy sometimes stick on window-sills. I want to grow up into you and you into me, and us interlocking with time, aware even here at the inception of together-time. I want to curl up under two duvets, a quilt, three blankets, burrowed into pillows, and stare, my skin and your skin and your space and our space. Mostly, I want to stop up time at midnight and revel in your presence. But it passes, scratchingly.
When it is dark, the light gathers on your eyelids and crops your hair, and I like to look, and I look unreciprocated. My eyes, bigger now, bigger still to take it in, they live there, too, in the brief minutes of walking and walking and walking. And I don’t like walking, but walking and walking and walking, I like. The silence, to which I am not attuned, feels almost natural. I am so like flesh when it rains on me, I am so realistic when I feel cold. I know as you leave me by my door how we are a hanging threads against caustic night. I have your silence, but-
I am calling you, so like a person when we talk, so like a friend, though there is nothing in me but Velcro words flung out to cling some-place. It is better to be quiet, my acquaintances say, than to meaninglessly speak. I don’t care whether that is true, because it doesn’t matter. The speaking will happen to me even if I don’t enact. Speaking SUBSUMES ALL, AS I, in overlapping reality with words, WANT TO- SUBSUME.
My words are my hands on your body. I will only, in speaking, touch you, only push against your skin through clause. When you smell sweet breath from my mouth, know it is only conjunction. The most intimate I am, preserved, reduced, Reformatted, overlapping reality.
When I go to sleep, I miss you so heavily that—it breaks on my nose—it is hard to remember you are made of blood and bones like I am. Even so, I would rather look and want and obsess than really know you and hold and kiss you and, of course, not want you, suddenly, with your Dry Lips and you Crying On Me, into My Neck, telling me Not To Watch, and I tell you to Go Home, and we are strangers, Suddenly. I heard my heartbeat on your lip, and now we Don’t Talk. Isn’t it funny?
You are living two lives you don’t know: one is your own, and one is the life I invented to fill up the distance. A wisp of smoke. A disconnect. What breaks when your fever does, what breaks on your nose, like pieces, to pieces? Where do my words go, when I give them to you?
What I am, I was without you and will be. However, what I am anticipated and precipitated you. Remember being you from first-grade, my first Valentine, my first rejection? You from two months ago who drove me to the movies and velcroed and velcroed and velcroed ill-fated words like “feelings” and “long-distance.”
YOU wear the most masks but Are the same, every time. And, every time, I say it is not. I say he is not flesh and he is not blood and he is not Velcro and Velcro.