The Tongue of Attachment That Knows No Boundaries
Prompt: Describe the multiple languages spoken while drawing: memory, process andbody.
First Language: Memory
Childhood as a jarring dissonance between extreme fragility and a misguided sense of agency
Our living room had a strange shape. It was an awkward polygon with at least six corners, maybe eight, with uneven sides connecting them. My mom always hated it. She was sure that if we had a rectangular house, our luck would finally change. The kitchen corner had two windows; I’d sneak through one when I got back early from school.
Spitting contests on a hot summer day. Slow cooked beef with apricots. The way the lights of his car reflected on my window when he parked in the driveway at night. Dead moth in the flour bag. Eight pink and quivering hamster cubs cradled by their paranoid mom. Feet speckled with warts. Legs freckled with scratches of dry thorn. That time we broke into the construction site to steal some wood for the campfire. A headless viper snake. Questions in a broken hybrid of Arabic and French.
I got back early from school at least once a week. I had to let myself in through the kitchen window in the warped corner. I was just tall enough to be able to reach the edge of the blinds and push the shutters up.
I had to jump between the cacti to get in. One time, my left hand got covered with tiny, microscopic thorns. They tickled me for weeks. I walked on the counter like a circus girl and bounced off to the floor, and then I was in. I never bothered to ask my mom for a key. My house was never really locked; there was always some crack to get in through.
Where I come from, trauma is an almost mundane concept. It is the price of attachment that knows no boundaries. Personal and ancestral pain spill into each other; they are sometimes synonymous. Where I come from, maybe a kid played with a wild viper snake and got bitten. Maybe the snake was beheaded by a stray dog and the kid was saved. Where I come from, yellow spills into green, or into blue. The sun is at the center of the sky and there is no need for blankets knitted by your grandma, but she knits them anyway. Where I come from you mourn, and laugh, and smoke, and shoot, sometimes all in the same day.
Our house was like a train. It moved slowly, softly, imperceptibly. But to me, that movement was vividly overpowering. I could feel it even when I was kilometers away. As it was drifting away, the view from the window in the corner transformed from yellow to dirty green, to quick flashes of deep emerald. My body was never truly relaxed surrounded by green. It was flexibly stretched in childlike alertness.
Every movement contained miniature disasters along the ride. They were like checkpoints. An awkward silence, a strange realization, a neurotic fight. A checkpoint, and then another one.
Second Language: Process
Drawing as a repetitive whisper like the knitting of a blanket in summer
The tiny silver thimble flickered as she constructed millions of tiny loops of yarn that disappeared into the warp at a speed beyond my comprehension. A scent of cinnamon and naphthalene and sweet sweat wafted from her small hands and the edges of her thick hair. Too thick, and too black, for her age.
From some angles, her skin looked like the face of a wrinkly elephant. Thousands of creases, folds, and spots were spread all over it in an almost decorative arrangement. Her palms however, were smooth and oily. Only a subtle lace indicated the real number of stitches and loops they had manipulated over the years.
She whispered to herself words I couldn’t understand. Sometimes I thought she was casting a spell to save someone. Maybe my mom, or grandpa. Her shoulders were slumped like a dying moth’s wings but her arms were incredibly strong, an almost grotesque contrast to the multiple soft layers and folds of her body.
Knitting was like a fourth dialect, yet she couldn’t sit still while braiding the yarn into a blanket that will never be used under the desert sun. Her hands never stopped moving, padding on her thighs, on the table, on the armchair handles.
When she knitted, every dog around reclined at her feet. She did not pet them. Her frail body stored their pain. She had the presence of someone who has had countless dogs recline at their feet. She moved her gaze between the yarn and the front door. I couldn’t understand how she could leave her stitches unwatched for even one second. Her eyelids were so heavy, like two greasy flesh curtains that were held by a string above her big eyes with an invisible and fragile thread.
Third Language: Body
Body as a locus of experience, a carrier of mutated nuances, an indication of flesh
I make drawings, usually on paper, usually using graphite pencils, colored pencils, and charcoal. I’ve been carrying around the same box of pencils since I was 15. Somehow, despite the many lines I’ve drawn, I didn’t manage to squeeze every bit of powder from their wooden tubes. Recently, I got a new box of pencils of the same brand. There might be better pencils out there, higher quality pencils. Nevertheless, I am too attached to the dry and promiscuous body of these particular pencils, and how they always seem to crumble but never do.
I watched the skyline along the Hudson river through the train window. The symmetrical curly line of the hills and valleys reminded me of a body lying on its side. The gray weather blurred the corridors and aisles of the elongated wavy form and it looked like a world cut in two; bright foggy silver at the top half and black earth at the bottom, separated by the perfect curvy line of the horizon.
When I was younger I painted a line just like that on my bedroom wall. The top half was lemon yellow and the bottom peach orange and a bloody red curly horizon stroke separated them across. I used to paint my room every year, each time a different shade of orange. The sun scorched the walls through a big Western window. The orange echoed the heat, amplifying it, as if a violent fever baked the walls and they reverberated it. I sat in my room and let the magnificent heat bake me too.
In my dreams, I walk through mountains of overlapping flesh. There are hills and valleys of flopping, unrecognizable, pieces of body. I need to lift heavy pieces or duck under curvy tires to be able to cross. Some pieces are sweaty, some completely dry. Some are gelatin-filled pillows and others made of boney plaster that might crack at any second. And there is one point, where green is spilling into grey, or grey is spilling up to the sky.
I am sitting and looking at the wide white desert, trying to pour some meaning into it. Once in a while, a blue shape, or red, or yellow, appears. I want to be able to tell myself that those shapes, the cubes and curves, are flowers. Or little birds, filling the small but infinite world, struggling to survive. Holding on as waves are thrusting onto them.
I wonder - if they really are birds, and the empty glowing corners and curves are groves or beaches - how would they feel every time the sky becomes the ground and waves distort time? Would they forget how to migrate?