Multiplicity and Wounding
(spoilers for the the movie Us)
Low-watt light pools in the clustered beads of the lampshade across me: thumb-sized glass teardrops, dangling from a black metal lattice of diamonds. Clouds of bodily cumin-scent puff through the open window to my right, entwined with heat dense as bone. Late July in New York City in a climate crisis heat. Air conditioners breathe heavily as storming beasts. A distant siren sings its threat. In Death by Landscape, gold cover-text catching sun around a red rectangle, Elvia Wilk says of a fifteenth-century English manuscript devoted to Christ’s bleeding wounds, “What I do identify with is that claw mark on the page, left by a woman fervently trying to commune with someone else’s experience through a book.”
Trying to enter a beloved suffering body so violently as to leave an animalistic trace: hot. Late July in New York City in a climate crisis hot. Hot like my boyfriend tattooing at the base of my spine, “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt,” beneath an illustration of the Velveteen Rabbit, floppy and shadowy, un-hopping in wild grass. Hot: immediate red flush to my skin around the word hurt.
Up close, the glass tears show the black metal diamonds in miniature, and their own bodies shrinking and doubling too. I think of the beachy opening nightmare of Us, Addie standing back-to-back in the mirror with her tethered Other, her twin, the shadow self living out a blurry and unadorned parody (though nobody’s laughing, parody is scissor-sharp too) of Addie’s life. The one who will come to be named Addie instead, while the Addie who enters and does not yet exit the fun house will come to be known by closed captions as “Red.” Red like her jumpsuit; red like Christ’s blood, like hurt, like that which we long to enter in the name of devotion and lust.
Recently, a red glass vase toppled off the top of our fridge and shattered around my body. My fists flew up. My muscles stuck. For hours, I was scared to go near the fridge again. I have been writing about why shattering glass does this to me. I have been writing about the color red, and blood, and entering, in conjunction with the crash, the fragmentation. Walking back not to The Source, but one source, one spring of urine-hot fear flowing into a pool in which I can Narcissus the time away.
The Velveteen Rabbit tramp stamp was my most painful tattoo yet. To numb, I decided to visit a room in my mind that first showed up a few weeks ago while I was high by the water. High-ceiling and brightly lit, white-bricked. In my intoxication I could not cease visualizing myself wandering its length and screaming, “Is anybody here?” to no avail. Flat on our trash-picked black couch, wasp-sting needle activating my braided nerves, I returned to the light and the brick and this time somebody was there. My nineteen-year-old self in a tight dress, asking me why I had abandoned her. The same question that Red has for Addie but ultimately talks around, couching in daydreams where they both escaped from silent parody and walked onto the beach beneath the stars, hand-in-hand. Daydreams where there can be to next to each other, rather than an above and a below.
She and I put our hands up to one another’s, her left middle finger not yet blobby from pocket-knife mutilation, and attempted to melt the division of our fleshes. We did not fall into each other as if into a reflection in a pool of liquid or light, but I did feel something at the center of me shift. I told her, “We’ll watch Star Trek together sometime.” Sitting on the couch side-by-side and holding hands, lit by the TV as if by the stars. Leaving claw marks on the screen as if in a tome of wounds, desperately seeking communion. I will crawl into you I will crawl into you. And like Harper in Angels in America crawling into her imagined baby’s marsupial pouch, we’ll mend.
Today is my first official day of taking a medically motivated leave of absence from my job, and it feels a tentative step beyond coincidence that today I read Elvia Wilk’s description of complex PTSD as stemming from “a cluster of memories that were all lumped together,” with “a networked nature,” “not like a wound but like an infection.” I think of the origin of shattering-glass-as-freezing-catalyst, how this is to me a wound, something that seems isolated in its violence, but that truly does network in with other memories, digging deep its tendrils in search of the infection that was already there at eighteen, already locking up my body, sticky and inflamed. The deep pool of diseased water beneath the ground that burgeons into all these springs that I slurp down like grape juice in a Holy Communion shot glass.
My metaphors are tangling, lumping, losing their sharp distinct edges in the name of the network. My metaphors are holding hands on the beach, on the couch. Their forms are forbidden.
“When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt,” says the Skin Horse to the Velveteen Rabbit (in the nursery, everyone is defined by the material from which they are constructed, the What that touches the Other, meets the air). Hurt reminds me that I am Real, gives me something on which to float. Lights me up like the glow of a television screen marred by searching claws (it was the television that gave Red-Addie her vision for a world in which people remake the shape of everything by holding hands). Hurt in the right register makes me feel held and hot; hurt in another right register sends me to the place inside where I am waiting for me. “Why did you abandon me?” she asks me. I don’t lie and say I didn’t. But I’m here now; I’m ready; I press my face close to my reflection in the water, in the lamp.
I crawl into you I crawl into you I crawl into you. We’ll make a forbidden form.
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