Done with Genres

Memories are so unreliable. I can’t remember how I learned about travel destinations, or about diseases before the internet. How did I get through high school or college and what exactly did access mean then? Was there a time when I knew how to read a map?

My reading then was indiscriminate. Scholastic book club picks, swap-meet bin grabs, the Fireside Theater play-of-the-month. Tally’s Terra Nova still sits on my shelf. As does Hayes’ Gift of Joy. Smithsonian magazine had the most incredible photographs. National Geographic, haunting articles. The man who lived in our garage paid me to clean his room. He had Playboy magazines scattered over the floor. So there was that, too. My influences were unintentionally post-modern, which I believe actually means nothing more than un-curated.

I had no idea what I wanted to be. No singular passion. I have no singular passion.

We’d move and then we’d move and I would have a new name. Like a new book that never quite takes hold of the imagination, this little narrative gets tossed aside. Break a new spine. Nothing fits inside the lines once it takes on a life of its own. I mean, life itself is transgressive, right?

Sometimes I wonder if when we breathe in, bits of the world gets lost in our bodies and move us around like ghosts under bed sheets. And we rationalize sometimes.

We can glide.

Mr. Shannon told me to put the pencil on the paper and then never look down again. Draw exactly what you see. He never explained himself. But I still believe sensitivity of the line is far more interesting than the perceived gesture. I think of Schiele and how he stripped his work of the ornamental influence of his teacher Klimt. I’m not considering Schiele’s narrative, mind you, but his lines which are a translation of sensation. Touch – with the eyes opened and closed at the same time. Much later, in college, a professor told me that the trouble with my drawings were that the parts didn’t work together to create a whole.

Maybe that was my unconscious goal. Parts are potentials and prompts and promise, the whole is as inescapable as a closed circle.

When I run, sometimes I close my eyes for dangerous seconds. I listen to the soft snap of twigs on the trail. How would one draw that? How would one translate the sensation that is simultaneously a drop in the pelvis and a rise in the chest? And a hatch-working of browns. And there is a smell in the foreground. Moss-greens, sticky translucent sweets.

That things can smell sweet may be the first order of synesthesia.

Yesterday, the air temperature barely above freezing, and a fat bumble bee attempted to fly. It sounded like death and I will argue that is synesthesia not simile.

There is pleasure in the unfocused life. There is discovery.

I have been thinking this morning that the internet is actually a closed circle. That my influences are more curated than ever, shaped by algorithms and consumer-economy necessity. My thousands of connections intelligently whittled down to a dozen or so assumptions that I don’t understand, and like even less.

I am Narcissus staring at my reflection, not liking it, and not able to walk away because if I can’t see myself, who will see me? And how will I know if what they see is accurate? Have you seen the flipped perspective of your face? There is no right answer, I’m afraid. But then: why look?

Is change even possible in a closed-form?

I watch the people pass by on the train platform. At 7 a.m. At 2 p.m. on my way to the doctor’s office, I may as well be in another country. Faces pass by. Context or content?

One more headline presupposing causation over correlation. A website wants to know if I am a “health professional” before allowing me to access information. Twelve more influencers slipped into my feed for me to measure myself against. A 91 year-old woman pulls the loose skin backward from her face and says she hasn’t had surgery but would love to be rid of this. And yes, pulled taut, she is freakishly youthful in the video clip. I have never looked that young.

But part of me really does wonder why that would be/should be something I would desire. I used to want to look as mature as I felt. Here is a rabbit hole of unavoidable self-loathing and self-denial. A young colleague dumps the details his CV into every conversation. Something in my gut swells with unlabeled feelings, like bed sheet ghosts moving me through the rest of the day.

I think I should write another book. A series of proper essays for publication. Shape things for a demographic that might give a shit. See themselves, in a niche.

But what I have here is a notebook of lines that I have been drawing with my eyes closed. And in certain contexts they look like words.


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