He’d noticed this compulsion before but he’d never though to analyze it. To suck an answer from the center of this inapposite bone. Odd, considering he overanalyzed everything around himself, often to the degree of social handicap. Odd, because it had struck him as such, and still he had only passively reminisced on this uncharacteristically benevolent behavior that he posessed.
What he wondered about was hy he could never seem to remove himself from a conversation. Why, when people gathered around the kitchen table or on a street corner or anywhere at all really, he never suffered from boredom and felt compulsed to walk away, never wanted the stories, the jokes, the complaints, the condolences, the wit to end.
And then it burst through the levees of his mind, flooding him with thoughts that flowed like rivers through landscapes of memory good and bad. He realized.
Realized why when he was younger and they would visit all those foreign houses and apartments of people whom he did not know and seemed to not care to know he would spend the entire visit nimbly rummaging through and observing everything. It was easy as a child, especially one as quiet and furtive as this little boy. He would roam the kitchens and the living rooms as if they were a country unexplored. Digging through cabinets at the first chance he received, carefully opening and shutting drawers to tables tucked between couches and fireplaces.
Old photographs, phonebooks (back when they still had them), envelopes, knick knacks, letters, newspaper clippings, chapbooks, vital records. He anthologized it all in his mind. A sort of anthropologist of domestic American adults.
Then the stairs of course. He loved the upstairs! First and foremost because he could be alone, away from wary eyes plump with the impulse for inquisition.
Bedrooms, bathrooms, attics, linen closets. Anything he could find, he studied. Paintings and where they were placed, choice of curtain, signs on doors, maybe a cat or a dog asleep on the carpet. This is how he introduced himself to people.
Realized why he bent over desks to lean in on intimate words passed between others. Why he eavesdropped on everybody within earshot.
Why he loved the way that girl Hillary had reprimanded his having referred to her as Hill one day in class and the way the ticketmaster on the train greeted familiar faces in his thick Irish accent.
How the guy at the bookstore or the girls at the bagel shop all know him. How he revisits old friends just to know how their past year went.
“Don’t you just looooooveeee just sitting around?” the girl said to him as they lay on the hot pavement in second grade.
The girl that showed up drunk in Latin class.
Waiting for the guy to print the receipt at 10 PM after his car had been towed.
The girl who whispered to herself “just keep swimming, just keep swimming” throughout the entire swim class.
Why he never understood not caring. Because it was all a lie when he said he didn’t care. Because every “How are you?”, every softspoken hey, every moment spent internalizing the people around him had been caring. He cared about their days and their months and their years and their whole lives and the lives of the people before them who were all food for worms now.
Why the first “grown up” literature he took to were memoirs. How he could step outside, ready to begin what he planned as a busy day of chore-like accomplishment, and have his intentions squashed simply because he could not pull himself from sitting with his neighbor on the stoop for the next two and half hours. It’s like a magnetic force.
Everytime he rolled his eyes he was deceiving himself. As if it were his niche to be “above that” or to sarcastically shrug off what anyone else had to say. Because really, he could never bring himself to hang his head above anyone else. Beyond a fleeting second of spoke-too-soon, he never believe that he was better than anyone else and never wanted to be better than anyone else. He was never fully disenchanted with humanity, never truly hated anyone. He was secretively but humbly in awe of everyone. No one that the light of his eyes cast upon escaped his fascination. No one elses words tired him or could be trivialized or forgotten. His did not possess the means inflate his own ego with the failures or faults of other people.
And he just couldn’t pull himself away again and again and again, his life’s truest addiction, his full throttle, high energy thrill, the most enlightening form of meditation and mediation of all thoughts, feelings, and dreams human which he encontered everyday.
He did not merely confess this new consciousness to himself but danced in its assauging, hair-raising charm the likes of which he had felt before in those earlier days overflowing with curiosity and appreciation, when he would discover some object of particular curiosity under the bed of some former stranger.
This time; however, he was looking under his own bed, and he came upon the enchanting, previously unseen philosophy: he loves people!
After great pain a formal feeling comes—
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions—was it He that bore?
And yesterday—or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow—
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.
You are red clay
and river water, Rodrigo.
This is your skin.
And from what
my hands and mouth
I could shape the myth
into the flutter of collar,
of ladders and spirals.
Collect the necessary
and bits of yellow stone.
Crumble them in my palm.
Here are your eyes.
I know by heart the salt
elixir of your neck and fingers-
my new intoxicant, my bitter liquor!
And could I tether a thousand
I would create the zoo of dreams
that you dream each night.
But where to find enough
an explosion of heliotropes
all the mutinies and revolutions,
an army of
25 dancing Lippizaners,
and one rare white Bengali,
to burn in the veins,
to march without end,
a dagger and
a silk heart. Oh my creul
my loveliest Caesar.
Let’s see, have you ever been just a little bit curious about beautiful or “you’re beautiful,” and specifically, how it might have meant something different to people in a different place in a different time.
Do you know what you look like? That’s how I started, knowing that I know what I look like and then considering the possibility of not knowing that information. Nearly impossible in todays day and age because of photography and video but what about even before most people could afford a mirror or to have their portraits done, but also in the years after language had developed to the point where you could verbalize to someone that you thought them beautiful. Unless you saw your reflection in a pool, then you never knew what your face looked like, or how your whole self appeared from someone elses vantage point.
Before beautiful was an industry and the word became so cheap you could purchase it in a convenience store, did it matter more to people? Back when life was a little bit harder, perhaps, and the people too. When being beautiful could not make you a good hunter, a good mother, a good weaver, a good farmer, a good chief, a good blacksmith. When all it meant was you would make a good husband or wife, and even then there were greater priorities such as wealth. Before feminism and self-empowerment. Before anyone needed or felt the need to call anyone beautiful, what did it mean to a person when someone did tell them they were beautiful?
Or does it matter more today? When you are exposed to one million times as many body and faces as the average person two thousand years ago, when beauty can be manufactured and sold and customized. When beauty is expected because if it’s not the norm, than at least you can buy it someplace. Does it mean more now to be called beautiful? And I do not mean in the context of the above, but when someone genuinely means what they say? Perhaps you will be hesitant in believing someone means it when they have already referred to their car, a photograph they just took, your earrings, a roast beef sandwhich, a photo of Kristen Stewart in a magazine, and a test score as beautiful but if you get to the point where you are convinced of their genuiness, does it mean that much more when you’re compared every moment with the all-pervading ‘beauty’?
Maybe it’s not that it mean more to either or the other, just something different of equal charm and weight. It’s interesting though to think about it. Yourself, a desert nomad who will encounter only one hundred different people in your lifetime. And you will never know your own face. “You’re beautiful.” Versus today, where you see yourself everywhere and your encounter several billion faces in the course of your lifetime, many many of which are prescribed as a beauty standard. “You’re beautiful.”