Equilibrium

“Spotting is the process of delaying the rotation of the head, relative to the body’s rotational speed, by way of visual focus on one or more fixed points in space”

Lucy Mason was always going to be a ballerina. An encounter with Swan Lake at four, the lessons that followed in an octogenarian’s garage – these were the first landmarks on the map of what she would become. She followed the path one perfected step at a time.

The finest of lines exists between fascination and obsession, and no-one crosses it better than children. By her 10th birthday Lucy was dancing every day. Feet turned out, shifting from first through fifth in the course of a conversation, her arms conducting silent music. This is how she met the world.

Lucy loved the sinew and strain of a dancer’s body, the strength concealed as grace. She would even come to love the pain this body could endure – the bleeding toes, the torn muscle, every ripple of hunger from the inside out. She knew just how much the body could tolerate when it ached for perfection.

Most promising – this was the refrain she danced to through-out her teenage years. Promising. A vow made by the ones best fit to offer it – teachers, competition judges, the modelling agent who liked her frame. Lucy came to consider it no less than a prophecy, a notion of a future where she was already accepting flowers and applause. She need only keep her eyes fixed ahead to get there.

With such focus, Lucy made the lightest impression on the present. She let life glance off her movements and ignored the chaos of life waiting offstage. There would be no high school parties or fumbling romance, no office job or savings plan; should life present an alternative she would simply steady her centre and rehearse even harder for the life that was waiting.

And when she fell in love it would be set to music. Falling in to arms that would lift and catch. Touched by hands that would open before her and never clench. Not into a fist as it slammed against her cheek. Not wrapped around her throat as she was forced against the wall. Not turning the skin at her wrists a deep and spreading blue as they tightened their grip around her. This was not part of the prophecy. This was not the promise and the plan.

When a dancer learns the art of turns she is told to fix her eyes on point in the distance. With each turn the body is in constant motion but her vision remains set. At the last moment she will whip her head around to catch up with her body and there is a split second when all elements are in synch – a moment of pause – before she returns to her spot and continues to spin.

This is how she remains oriented, how she understands the location of her body in the space she occupies. If she stops focusing on this point in the distance her equilibrium is lost, she will tilt out of this delicate balance and her body can no longer support the motion. It is likely she will fall.

What does the muscle remember? How long can it hold the memory of dancing? When you have lost your balance and find yourself on the ground does your body remember how you turned out your feet, how you used to move from first through fifth, your arms conducting silent music? If you can just fix your sights on a point in the distance, the place where the future is waiting, can you pick yourself up and regain your momentum?

Can you keep on spinning when everything conspires to pull you out of the dance?

Degas Ballerina at body, remember
Danseuse, Degas

Note: Lucy is the second female character in body, remember – the woman that Mack steps in to save on that fateful morning by the river. She grew out of the piece above that I free-wrote a few months back, and it wasn’t until I was done that I realised that I had known her all along.

Where Maggie is constantly looking back, Lucy has spent her life focusing on the future – and both have done this at the expense of engaging in the world. They are essentially my equal and opposite forces, and their relationship will be the real catalyst to change as the story plays out.

Thanks for reading this very rough-draft introduction to Lucy!!

Due North

Are we each born with an inbuilt moral compass? Does it start pointing due north and waver through-out our lives, swinging back toward the centre in our best moments, spinning furiously at our worst?

Your god tells you that we’re born in sin, that we climb out of the darkness and head toward the light. I am inclined to think the opposite. That we are pristine and shiny when we meet this life, that the fall comes from living. We are all capable of the worst deception, you know. We lie to ourselves and each other in a hundred ways every day and we get better at it the deeper we go. So little of what we know for sure ever goes untested.

We did try in our best moments to change our course, to go our separate ways. We tried to live by your commandment. But the needle would not stay fixed, it would jump and start every time we turned back. Tracking our bearings against each other’s cardinal points, we would again follow the directions of our desire. Until no further navigation was required.

Pulled in by our magnetic force, finding our way back to our own due north, we so often left the compass spinning.

Moral Compass at body, remember

Chemistry

The chemistry of love. They study it in laboratories. We experiment every day.

There is a nerve that runs from the stem of the brain all the way down the neck, through the chest and deep into the abdominal cavity. It has been named Vagus, the wandering nerve – for the way it meanders through the upper body, the way it passes behind the ear and traverses the nape, before it roams across an aching breast, and lodges in our depths.

This winding nerve connects a watching mind with waiting matter, innervating skin and viscera on a current that carries pure sensation back to the brain. It exists as the darkest blue river on the map of the human heart.

Because it also traffics the most potent of drugs through our system: oxytocin – the love molecule. When we touch, when we arouse, the Vagus nerve fires and releases this chemical through-out. It works to solidify the experience in our memory, to soak the brain with feelings of trust and devotion toward the object of our stimulation.

The trickle turns to flood when we make love. We make love. We construct it through every caress, through the contact of skin against skin, the fix and lock of eyes when we coalesce. Fight and flight give way, we want to stay right where we are, suspending the heart in a liquefied chest. We have always been the creators.

You are both the source and the flow for me. You have traveled my pathways, wandered all through my terrain, trapped in this nerve from the first time we touched. The feel of my own skin is now the memory of yours.

I feel and I remember. An alchemy wrought each time we lay down.

Oxytocin and The Wandering Nerve at body, remember

Intoxication

There we are. We look like any other couple. Ordering midnight pizza in a too lit hole in the wall. Double vodkas needing mitigation, your hunger insistent after my attempts at distraction. Our order has moved to seventh on the list as this rainy night gives way to morning.

I have my hands under your shirt – blue-check, you never stray too far. I love the smooth of your skin under cotton but more than this I love how you don’t resist, how you lean into my touch. I asked you once – do you mind how I have to touch you?  You said – not at all and paused –  but it takes some getting used to. So now you are used to this. The way I bite at your ear, the way I do not allow for space between us. I wonder just how far you’ll let me go right here, while others watch and roll their eyes. We have just moved up to number three on the list.

I slide my hands around and down, press myself against you. Hip to hip, an invitation. You sway a little closer and I steal a kiss. I am a thief in these moments, trying my luck against your lips. Emboldened with every territory won, I place your hand under my shirt, offering my landscape in return. I love the dark in your eyes when I test your caution like this. And the slow circles you make before pulling your hand away. Outside the rain comes down just as softly.

There we are. In our last moments. Ordering midnight pizza in a too lit hole in the wall. We won’t know what we’re losing until this night is done. When everything shifts, it will only take a second. A breach that will never repair. But here and now as my hands play under your shirt we can only feel our mutual hunger  – and our intoxication.

I miss you

I want to pick up the phone and say hey it’s me. I want to listen to you roll every syllable together in that funny, rushed way I loved. To hear the safety of your voice down the line and not think about anything at all. To spin a story about my day where you’re still the one I want to tell.

The bitter has been sweetened by wine and time; when I heard your name just now it made me smile. I think this might be what they mean by the end. When the hurts and the pain have gone away, how it really just comes down to this:

The sudden desire to say hey it’s me – and how I keep the phone in my pocket.

 

I miss you at body, remember

Compromise

Compromise. We all do it, to small or large degrees. We all move away from the things we want, tell ourselves that the reasonable thing to do is give a little, give up a little. The people who hold out, who reserve a part of themselves for something more, even in the face of less – they really are the foolish ones,  intractable, and staying put.

Because the world keeps on spinning without them, and this challenge to gravity leaves them behind. Feet refusing to touch the ground, heads always tilted to change the view – no-one ever gets ahead this way. Better to find a less lofty vantage point from which to conduct this life, a more sensible way to steer the course. Or the race gets run without you.

And so people give a little, give up a little. Piece by piece they extract their more difficult parts. They lance the longing and the desire, they drain it from the day so it can’t obstruct when there’s work to be done. Even when it finds them at night, even when it revives in dreams. They get used to waking with a morning ache. Concession is required for an easier life.

Of course there is the other side. Words are rarely accidental. It can also mean to jeopardise. To endanger and to weaken. You have to be careful of how much you lose, what you give up to get where you’re going. The wasteland of that middle ground. A vast expanse of feeling nothing.

The removal of your vital signs – was this how you compromised? Was your spirit already gone when I tried to bring you back to life?

Rock at body, remember

(I never did learn the art)

Submission

“Most people think the best way to live is to run from pain. But a much more joyful life embraces the entire spectrum of human feeling.” – Lee Holloway, Secretary

I gave you a copy of Secretary. Said you were my E Edward Grey. You watched and said I’m not sure how I feel about that because you thought I meant your kinks, when what I really meant was how you feared them.

I recognised the concerted effort, the slight tremble that comes with pushing it down. The hardened surface, the closing off. And the way it would all suddenly crack apart when it became too much – this strange tenderness that grew in the dark, and found its light in my provocation.

You were my E Edward Grey. Battling the force of my submission. Watching how it changed your course. Only a fool would think it wasn’t brave – laying down, baring all. The way you said it’s different with you and I could finally get you to make a sound. The ragged breath and cry of release – an arrival announced, your retreat to come. Just where did my surrender take you?

I kept my hands flat on the table for as long as I could, you know. Like the fierce and determined Lee I was completely sure of my love. I thought it could play in the shadows, give off a different kind of light. The hardest thing I ever did was finally lift my hands.

It remains my one act of true submission.

Maggie Gyllenhaal Secretary