Something happens along the way. It seeps into you and there you go, you become unctuous. Sticking to your toes, your stride, once bouncy, turns wobbly. You become aware of the pendulum mayhem of your arms; why can’t they stand still?; must they sway so much from side to side? You park them in your pockets but why bother, it only adds to the sketchy effect.
It pervades the you that makes you you to others. There’s no smile to conceal it; there’s no outfit to embellish it; there’s no book to safeguard against it. The smile will turn into a smirk; the outfit, no matter how tasteful, into something garish; the book, a mere prop. For in their eyes you can never seem genuine, nothing can ever suit you, except something conspicuously tawdry - a scarlet sign of you.
The people in your building do not greet you. When you greet them in their language, they do not answer – your very presence renders them hearing impaired. They have become adept at stepping aside to let you through; they would rather hug walls than share the same breathing space with you.
Your polite manners are interpreted as weakness whereas your assurance is nothing more than impudent puffery. Leering, they sneer at you. There’s no subtlety in it. They want you to know it. And you do.
You walk into a store and your every turn is trailed. You go to the back to search for something and suddenly legs join in with serpentine eyes. You feel like you will snatch something against your will. For surely, everyone can tell you are a shoplifter: you must be.
You stroll down city streets, looking up at sculptures for they seem infinitely more human to you. You don’t look at real people at all. But you know they are looking at you. You can see them from the corner of your eye. They are staring, mouth either set or agape, distaste dribbling from their eyes, narrowing with it too. “Get out of our country! You’re not one of us! Don’t you know it?” Yup, I do.
You are always on display, encased in a glass front window that can only be seen from outside. A trinket curiosity at best. They appraise you, earnestly enough labeling “you’re so dark.” You wonder if instead of trying to teach them something, you just skip the effort and plant yourself instead as an anthropological curiosity in the local natural history museum.
You used to console yourself with Sylvia, Virginia, Clarice, and Frida – but now only Frida seems relevant. Bloomsbury circles, influential friends and husbands, irreverent parties with the foie gras of culture…what can all this mean to you now?
The palette is smudged with nothing but you.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008