Surrealscape # 7

A strangeness reflected. It happens to me some mornings. Every morning I go to the bathroom to perform my ablutions. Every morning I look at myself, positively puffy from sleep, in the bathroom mirror. I wash my face, I brush my teeth. I lather on a thick lotion layer. Next comes the eyeliner. It is at this time that some days, the fluctuations in reality begin. As I’m lining my lids with khol extra black, my reflection in the mirror moves. Jerkily it shifts, over to the right, the space across from my face showing only wall behind. By now accustomed, I continue filling in the thick black lines, rolling my eyeballs and slitting my lids so as to see the right-shifted image. But then my reflection gets churlish. It gets antsy, it gets whirly…the puppeteers, concealed and far above, munch a bit of speed and fling the strings hooked to its wrists and knees. It bounces up and down and spins around. At these moments I feel lucky – thankful for a solid body, and no impetuous puppeteers on this side of the mirror. Chaos sets in when I whip out the lipstick. My reflection multiplies, into three, five, seven. A funhouse mirror trick, except my bathroom is nothing like a funhouse. Reflections move in and out, above and under. They overlap with grace, laughter spilling from their open, unrouged mouths. When the giggles pop like fire crackers, I give up hope of finishing my makeup routine. On those days, I pretend the ‘nude lips’ look was my plan all along.

Other bathroom-mirror mornings, as I line my lids with khol extra black, I think about how I’d write a certain story. The story has a complex geometry, but despite the complexity, its shapes are indisputably angular and concrete – too sharp for ambiguity. Perhaps this is part of my quiet protest. See, the reflections could not follow me into that story: they are too finicky and fluid. I cannot get to it yet, however. I know it exists already in one of the parallel worlds, written by my parallel-world equal, and its ghost (negative-imaged) sits tantalizingly on my lids. If I squint I see hexagons. One per lid, drawn in thin purple lines. I am not naïve; I understand they are gross oversimplifications of the story’s true form. And as such, the hexagons are worthless. See: the reflections appear and laugh harder. My dreams are their amusement.

Shadows play tricks on me, likewise. No, not any shadows…just those that belong to me. I am haunted by my lesser selves – the ones that creep and dance through every parallel world, always just beyond my control. They are continually bored. They follow me, making a nuisance of themselves. And more and more often, they whisk me away to the desert. Imagine! I live in a temperate zone; I need my deciduous trees, my four seasons. Extremes are anathema to me. In the desert, heat is the Grand King, and my reflections and shadows are his belligerent, triumphant minions. They are not faithful to my form. Amoeba-like, they gleefully morph, mimicking my shape only when they want to mock me hardest. They shimmer as mirages over the distance of sun and sand. They wink about in the heat. They are so very bored.

I am here now, plagued by monotony and heat.

First, monotony. Monotony, because: in this desert, there is nothing. Just dunes of sand as far as the eye can see. I walk slowly, because there is nothing else to do. Sun-bleached groupings of shrubs or succulents greet me every few hours – it is the only visual relief. I say hello, and always make friends. My hands and feet develop personalities of their own. I befriend them as well, since it pays to have friends in the desert (boredom becomes a disease, and conversation the vaccine). After a third trip here, I introduced myself to the horizon. See, in the absence of stimuli, one takes what little is offered. The horizon is a he. His name is Mo, and every evening he glows bright red, as if embarrassed.

Then, heat. Heat, because: the morning air is white-hot, the mid-day air is yellow-melty, the night air is blueblack-broiled. I dream of frying the colours of air heat, spreading them on toast like an egg over-easy. The dream is a nightmare, involuntary…but I think it anyway. It adds to my sweat dropping hissss! on the sand. For I roast like a suckling pig on a spit. My skin crackles, absorbing rays, masochistically defying my poor brain’s pleas. In the past, after being whisked back home, I could slip out of my crispy surface skin like a snake, molting. Depending on my dexterity, it often fell away in only one or two pieces. The layer underneath would be soft and pinky-pale, like normal. I was always thankful not to have permanent damage. This time though, I’m not quite sure what will happen. This time, the shadows have kept me here for days.

I walk, more parched and sweaty than ever before, thinking…what is that shape? The complex geometry of my unwritten story. Those purple hexagons – such cheap, seductive bullshit. They appear now, mirages in the desert heat. They wink just like my shadows. Assholes. As if I wasn’t suffering enough. And I need, I need to find the tunnel into its form. I need to escape. Dodecahedrons are too simple; fractals too complex. Or are they? Can they be described by traditional Euclidean equations? I was never very good at math. Sucking on my saliva, I ask, out loud: “can a fractal be my premeditated aesthetic?” Of course the shadows intrude.

“It cannot!” they yell, “because aesthetics is human invention, neeeh?”

Of course the shadows see through to my plan, and will thwart every attempt, because they are evil. They wouldn’t let their play-thing go, oh no!

At the moment, in the near-distance, myriad reflections taunting. And the shadows on the sand, laughing and pointing. They enjoy my misery. But they’re not truly mean-spirited. They’re just bored to tears. They’re nice simple fellows at heart (no, I’m not sure, they may be little devils!). I almost don’t blame them (I blame them, I blame them!). How can they have hearts if they exist on the surface only? I dance around in the yellow-melty air…a belly dancer, a ballet dancer, a Barynya dancer (a crazy person!). My arms extend gracefully, my legs lift without effort…I flit, multipartite, in and out of existence as I please, since reality, for me, is no more than a carnival trick. No! What? This is absurd. Reality is just that – it is REAL. What nonsense, this ‘not existing’. What’s going on here?

But yes, I say, existence can be fickle. It is not tied to birth and death with one-way rope strings; there is no linear relationship as is usually believed. No one and everyone is my master puppeteer. That is the truth of the matter. Irreconcilable, these contradictions of existence may be, to such a sense-creating, pattern-making thing as the human brain, but that does not shave away even a fiber of their validity.

No! What? The sun is really getting to my head this time. Please, puppets, please, sweet, fickle shadows, take me back to my temperate home. I’ll send my saliva by way of thank you, since I have buckets of the stuff. (Why on earth was I dancing?) Listen: my saliva can be used for greasing the puppeteers’ twine. I am so very parched!

Then, stumbling, I fall upon a small oasis. My lips are already rounding in mock-drinking motion as I wobble toward the water. Inverted palms bend slightly toward their mirrored counterparts (no, wait – it’s the right-side up versions that are mirrored…whose side of reality are we on?) in the calm surface of the pool. Shrubs everywhere – so many friends! – fight for access to that precious liquid. There is a waterfall. So after sating my thirst at the pool’s edge, I plunk my crinkly burnt body under the sheet of water. Waist-deep in oasis magic, I feel the sweat finally peeling away. Relief. My reflection in the water’s surface moves as I move. Ripples undulate outward according to the laws of physics formed in a realty with which I am familiar. Desert mirages! Oh the horror.

Just then I hear giggling. Giggles and splashing. From eyes I fling hair, I fling water, and peek around the falls to spot the source of the squealing. There is a big stone fountain. Fat, affectionate palms hug it tightly on both sides, as if only the pressure of their embrace creates the high watery arc. Little girls chase each other around, over. Each one is doing her damndest to get the others sopping wet. My pool reflection is enticed into action by the ringing laughter. It divides into eight separate entities and skims over the water’s surface to the locus of fun. The reflections dance among girls and splashes as I sit under the fall, watching. I dance, multipartite, among girls and splashes as she sits under the fall, watching. No! What? What’s going on here? Strange things are happening here in the desert. I’ve grown accustomed to strangeness, but this is another thing altogether.

After I slip out of the mist and back into the heat (thirty seconds to bone-dryify once more), I notice a shedding of epidermal flakes on my elbows, knees, knuckles. My molting has never occurred in the desert before. It is a dangerous sign. I flick the flakes away – some bend into the breeze and some settle into the sand. But now there is more flaking: patches of dead skin are developing in widening circles around my bending points. Gingerly, I touch the patch on my left knee. As my fingers come into contact, a whole cup of desiccated tissue (imprinted with the particular pattern of my knee wrinkles) pops off and falls to the ground. Not to be outdone, the right knee drops its own skin cup a second later. My peeling has never proceeded in this way before. Soon the desiccation has spread so thoroughly that my entire head and body is a fragile, flakey shell. I’m peeling away to nothing. I give one last thought to my home, my beloved and fading rule-bound reality.

I have now peeled away to nothing, and it feels so good to be free! I had no idea. So glad she, I, didn’t escape through that secret entrance to the unwritten story. Euclidean geometry, bah! I’m now able to morph in and out of existence – also to slice myself into eighths, sixteenths, and still remain whole. There lies the pile of my dried-up skin, my shriveled muscles and organs, my cracked bones. Such a sorry little pile on the edge of the pool. I will not miss those parts, nor will I yearn for the regimented laws of physics. Goodbye lipstick, goodbye kohl extra black. Maybe I’ll return to the temperate zone, to zip around in the bathroom mirrors of others, but I think I’ll stay here most. I like the desert, with heat the Grand King.

~ by kingzoko on June 28, 2010.

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