Thursday, August 1, 2019

The snap

The gay vet tech wears a blue uniform; his graying hair is buzz cut, his beard short. Above his right elbow, tattoo of an anchor, and on the inside of his right arm--I see it as he reaches down to give Lilith a treat--is written, "This too shall pass." I say the words out loud.

"How does it help?" I ask. "Places," he responds. "Which places?" "Places."

The older man coming toward me is on the landscape crew. He wears a neon yellow vest, noise-blocking headphones, dark pants with knee pads. His legs are bent outward; he walks awkwardly, trying to avoid his knees, his ankles, his feet. I ask if they're about to cut a tree down. He responds, "trimming," but I cannot place his accent, or the word.

Tee dreams her apartment is filling with bugs. It's Trump, she says. B dreams he's in a mass shooting, the day before a shooting, which is also the day after. Our son's anger fills the house in the morning, but he's calm in the evening. Trump is the stick the gorilla pushes into an ant-hill; we come apart in armies. Sara Ahmed writes about the willful girl's arm, the one that pokes through the ground even after she's buried. Until the rod returns and mows it down.

I was in love with small violet flowers in a vacant part of the woods; I wanted to pull them out and plant them nearer me. Instead, I walked there day after day, having no idea why they so drew me, why I wanted to have them, nurse their violet. Beauty counters violence, except when it best describes it. Ocean Vuong crafts beautiful sentences of that shattering. Our cat knocked another cup off the counter--there's a lizard that lives on the other side of our kitchen screen--anger's company.

The moment of snap, Ahmed calls it, when history catches up to us and our filters fail. Moments in the blue bus rising and falling with the land's waves. Moments by a lake, in a tub, behind the mirror, at a church, with a friend (now dead) who simply came to sit. Moments embracing another's wave and another's, on a bed or at the counter. The way R sits with her brother when he hurts.

Another's snap scares us. So much need in the snap, so much lashing out or lashing in. Lashed to the masts, we witness the storm as it enters us through our skin. To witness is to see oneself as alien, apart from the snap even as we are in it. Lilith quivered at the vet, fear mitigated by little bone-shaped treats. We noticed her fear, but couldn't replace it with ease.

When I snapped it was not I that broke, but the world. Constant inner narration cracked in pieces; I could no longer read the passengers on the bus, leaning over to tie their shoes, nor could I sort out cause and effect. It was all loud noise and then silence, the busy-ness of insects, without their careful plans.

"You don't like beauty, do you?" my mother said, when I drifted off at the arboretum. I associated it with pain.

The intensity of youth is of stark emotions, all of them strong. The emotions don't abate, they simply mix, like paints, into what appears to be pastel but is the splash of loud colors consuming themselves until they grow light.

No gap between what we see and what we are. When others doubt me, I doubt myself, he said. Build that wall, but keep it moist, let flowers climb it and jump down. Asylum is a legal right.

No comments: