Three More Things

Virginia Sciolino

Dayna Weissman

Dayna Weissman

I. like a scribble

Can you burn into nonexistence, rip into pieces, destroy the same way you crunch autumn leaves? Can you change something so much that it will never be what it used to, so that, if you mapped it, the first thing never was? So that the entire thing is only the last? Like a person who decides to change before you meet them, new relative to themselves, but to you, now, all they were and will ever be.

What if people are not autumn leaves but trees, so that our past is preserved within us in rings and layers? And so we never truly shed our skin.

Maybe, if the heat never vaulted over eighty degrees, I would not vividly remember home. Maybe, if the rain didn’t steep the wet grass like sweet tea, I would not feel like I was back. Maybe, if the last time I had a sunburn hadn’t been lake-visiting or school-graduating, I would not even think of my before-life, or the life before my now-life. The now-life is at once the only-life I had, the only-life I’ve ever and I’ll ever have. It is a life not mine but in belonging so wholly to only me, only now, is a stranger to my Home-life.

As it is, when I walk across my campus a thousand miles from Mississippi, I feel like a southerner because of the sunburn, the grass smell, the rain, the heat, and all my senses but sight tell me I am Home.

Not only Home-home, of people, brick, and pavement, but the home-away-from-home where I grew apart from and into myself. The secondary place that no one else could inhabit, where only I could visit because it was not outside but pressingly internal. The place where I became me, the person I was when I was geographically home. The intangible internality that I drag along to every tangible place, which lingers even now, unpacking itself out of and into every recess of the physical world, binding reality to abstraction.

The usable past opens like an animalmouth; It first swallows me down to the desolate stomachvoid. I paint it full of a past for which it did not ask, a future that will never be, with my now represented as fairly as inherently erroneous self-reflection may be. For present-tense me, my family never lived on their land, farmers following farmers following farmers.

The past, like sheep following sheep following sheep into a barn, almost unstoppably crowds the only gatekeeper between falsehood and truth. Only one person is the translator between outsider and in, or, rather, the self and the non-self. Only one person can close the turnstile before those animal thoughts of the past stop-up the door. But when that gatekeeper herself welcomes the past and loses count of the visitors, how can she escape from the creature’s mouth? She does not escape, but settles in. With arms wide-open for the homeplaces that begat me, I welcome and begin. Starting to remember, letting it sink in. And so we never fully shed our skin.

As I, the one person-translator-gatekeeper, drift into this familiar thought, the world grows increasingly claustrophobic. Ideas build, clogging unreality with the intangible. How does conceptual material come to physically impede reality? Like hordes of sheep.

Part of what we consider moulting is not really casting layers off but imitating the contemporaneous self, pretending not to be filled to the brim with other selves and self-comprehension. But maybe these past-selves are shackles to be broken in the development of true Self.

We learn to let the past confine us from an early age, when we are immured by the letters that constitute our names. Because this representation of your Self is externally and preemptively determined, your grasp on your Self begins as a weakness. I at once am and appear to be named a Name that rests weightlessly on me yet weighs heavily down, someone else’s assemblage of external-turned-internal definition; not self-selected, my name is not my own work, nor are the other references to me, which include: mine, me, her, she, who I am, was, and will be. Those are not unique to me. So any verbal reference to me is not a reference to me. When I use “me,” I mean the me of existence, in contrast to the me of reference. That I should have to specify a distinction exemplifies how the past imposes constraints on me, how the past is conceptual material which impedes the present. It binds me up against my will.

Yet, should I have a will, I could break these referents into their most naked symbols and rebuild myself. These histories? I could keep without discarding, milling them into flour before I mould my new body, allowing the past to become the dough of my limbs. They are then a new creation from aging remnants, so that, new while saturate with age, these limbs are finally capable of reaching out, across. In your own hand, deconstruct yourself to reconstruct yourself of these ghosts of other selves (and others’ selves). Use your hand, which loves you the most of any because it is yours that you are creating which creates you. You can start, in the complex process of sculpting yourself, to understand all of the ways you have been sculpted before.

Deconstruction is a tangible process, but not simply like burning something into nothingness. Not simply ripping something into pieces. Not simply the crunch of autumn leaves. Deconstructing yourself is about realizing that you cannot discard the past but reusing it without allowing it to shackle you. Deconstruction is adding arms and legs and lines and knots to the never-ending you-scribble. You don’t erase the past to build a future, but reconfigure, refresh.

Watching paper burn bright red, drippingly red and cherry sweet, to hold, hold, hold—I lose my words in simplicity—she holds, holds, holds and, suddenly, gives way. How I envy the partition between self self and other self.

Can ether return the candle that melted into it?

I am not like a candle, but in the middle of a game of being first, last, and in the center, all at once. A timeline blip, like a scribble that does not begin or end but ropes that interconnect and defy linear conception.

I am home again in a instant, and, in a moment, I am not—so never was.

II. Funny Dumb

The long, nervous, midnight walks, the cold, alone sleeping spots, the desperate nuzzled wishing wants click. You might one day find yourself staring at someone’s fairy lights as you try to fall asleep beside them. In that case, you might wonder what if the room catches on fire. When wake them up to ask (“What if the room catches on fire?”), they will tell you something so unbelievable (which I will not spell out for you) that you will question whether you know them at all. Inevitably, as most acts are mirrors, you will follow up with a question for yourself.

What do I understand of myself? Am I sweet only to insulate myself from the eternal wishwash of existential transience?

I, the I of love, literature, and reflection through similarity, always maintains the capacity to be woman, yet never reaches woman. As I inches along toward womanhood, the edging days inch along bodies and the spectral morbidity of yesterday inches along to tomorrow and tomorrow’s unattainable tomorrow. Perhaps that is an indication of the meaning “woman.” All thoughts enumerated, it is an interesting shift, woman as an aspiration.

That does not mean this I is man, although many creators hew themselves along parameters to croon,  “I am man, I am man.” Yet, thinking of a man is what a woman supposedly does. And, in the sense that it is within you, to think of something makes you it. But the literary I thinks of nothing, although it is composed of woman insofar as I advances toward her.

A nebulous, intangible concept, the I, but it is the abstraction onto which you breathe fantasy. It is nothing but the material that takes a plaster cast of your veiled desire. Eighteen years of plaster casting to finally learn that I of others is only an impression of yourself.

Hardened, hewn, softened, morphed. Nebulous. Even formed, intangible. Then, performing service within limits. It was a plan for it to BE A MAN, crooning I am man. And it did this in service to the literary whim, nothing but a replication of desire. How plaster is useless, funny dumb, when you see that it is your own echo chamber. It is agony to craft so painstakingly something you later find may as well have been a mirror.

Meanwhile, as I am staring at someone’s twinkling fairy-lights, wondering what if the room catches on fire, I do not know that I am placing the evasive, nebulous curvature aslant the craft-table. She groans under the blunt edges of MAN.

Or, perhaps, she hides within. Weathered by time, unearthed by seasons, freed by the slow, warm tremors of kisses and admissions, a familiar face: unmasked and, tearfully, unlimited. Scratching at the sculptural slip-fissures to pull the shell from the I flesh-body.

Something has become uncomfortable.

Some ill-fitting costume, for some reason, would prefer I be naked than wear it and croon (I am man), for she is not.

III. Please do not step on the worms, who love me when no one else will.

This summer, love wrote a song in the dirt with her hot footsteps so the worms could sing it. She whispered her lyric into air for birds to breathe it. She kissed shoulders like the sunlight so that sun would, when it reached them, know love was there. Her profound touch was so subtle that she couldn’t be appreciated until wintertime, when she vanished so that only the haunted sun and birds told the story. The worms leave traces of it on sidewalks that lead to the earliest morning classes.

A peopled place like a cafeteria even in all its chaos, cannot prevent a lonely thought from landing like a butterfly on dishes to hum a familiar bird-song-love-song-worm-song. Even in crowds, people are constantly, if secretly, listening to it. Not even water deep-sea-thick or Mississippi-quick washes the sound away. The melancholy siren, Loss, screams more loudly in the winter, when summer’s love has left you, and no noise is loud enough to drown out the urging of a little, love-sick death.

Your sister might say: Okay! That’s fine! It’s okay to lose someone! It’s okay to give up on them!

And something like: treat others the way you’d want to be treated; a musing that can’t help being copied and transmitted generationally but is meaningless in replication. Wanting to be loved swells within, putting pressure on the body from its core, a torrent which logical approaches, embracing the excessive capacities of the mind, try to quell. But bodies want to be loved as much as they want to love, so, although we briefly tame the current and momentarily feel the calm, our humanity makes us volatile. Logic is inevitably consumed by these primal waves of want want and/or hate hate, like primordial floods splashing against the inside of our bodies. These bubble up against us, begging to be exposed. So want. So hate.

So want to comfort someone who also hates and wants, not because you want to be comforted, but because you hurt like others hurt. You also have it within yourself to react volcanically. So don’t cross the street to avoid outbursts, but care because you are a child and animal, not because you are a saint. Caring is not about elevating yourself. Loving is sponging off the mud. So sit on the ground to be low with your love, to get lower than your love and remind yourself that you can be frightened, too. That you are an animal, too.

I watch the wishful pine trees and clouds that we, aiming to uphold the modern human lie of big-ness and power, challenge with skyscrapers and airplanes. But reality is not in distancing self from Earth or even reaching heaven. Peace is on the ground, as low as you can get, shamelessly and thoroughly conjoined with the worms. Please (please) do not step on the worms.