Between the Bones: Fragments of language and story extracted from the body. A physical reckoning in pieces. Expressions of aliveness quilted imprecisely along the seam where skin contacts air. An effort to make a story from all these breaths.
A new monthly column, by Temim Fruchter
On The Bottom
“Feet are alien, like a hoof or a wing. They are more like tools or furniture than like flesh, they are so sturdy and well-crafted and so serviceable. Maybe they are a little too far away from the heart to befriend though at one time I could put my big toe in my mouth, and I aspire to do it again, though without much hope.” – Shelley Jackson, My Body: A Wunderkammer
Before we met, I was afraid of my own feet. So afraid I sometimes couldn’t look. I admit that I even tried to forget them sometimes. To forget the very things that held me up.
When I was eight, I had pink plastic slip-on shoes that I loved because they shimmered and they were all I could see when I looked down, which made it seem like I just tapered there, pointed and glittered, like I could make up a new name starting from the bottom. The shoes did not grow alongside me, though my feet did, as did a low-hanging shame that waxed with each fattening moon. My blunt grown-up pancake feet, with their no arches, my feet with their chipped red polish, my feet like a golem’s – ungraceful stones, impostors in shoes.
Like no one else ever, you glinted handsome mischief and sliced me through the emerald Irish countryside on your motorcycle. When we got stranded in the rain and had to leave the bike and get into a cab, and when, even after the driver turned the heat on, my circulation wouldn’t work, you – gentle, smile-eyed – pulled off my waterlogged shoes, peeled off my socks and rubbed my feet back to life like they were godly, like they pointed and glittered, like they were beautiful.
The word beating in my forehead then was How. The still, hot shock of No opening its mouth wider into Yes. My body numb and un-numb like crushing pins. Slow long heat, a reluctant waterfall. The faces of my roots to the soft lips of your palms. An involuntary kind of almost unafraid.
There’s a story you always tell me about the beginning:
On the bottom of the ocean, right in the middle where there might be a drain, there is a dance’s worth of green sways. They, pre-shape, flip a constant sort of arrival, circling and becoming the water, circling and becoming the water.
Once, we were those green sways at the bottom of the ocean, you and I, you tell me. Before the centuries. Before we had feet. Or legs. Or shape. We were tendrils of light and salt and water and the fibers of words we had yet to string together. We were not subject to the laws of form.
And then? I say. Every time, right before, my breath skips.
And then, one day, two green sways found their shapes and grew slow, limber legs. Decided into feet. Floated to the surface. Found balance. Breathed. Walk together away, holding tight.
This morning, in promising light, we kiss and we stretch our arms and our legs together. We creak a little, our unyoung bones. Where our skin brushes our skin, though, soft water grows. I wish that we could travel past centuries and straight down through oceans. I wish that we were not subject to the laws of form, still.
Night then. Candlelit. Please, you say.
I put my palms to your soles. Your roots. I feel their contour, their certain pointed pulse, their cushion. I never knew there was so much written here on the bottom. I never quite believed there could be such muscled and abundant beauty.
You are a sudden dancer in our ocean, circling and becoming the water, circling and becoming the water. My right foot points and arches for the first time. The rest of me follows suit, as bones give way to curve. Our shapes always ever becoming our shapes, as everything tight comes loose.
A secret? In hundreds of years, our ocean spins wild here still. It is not subject to the laws of time. Dazzling green sways become and then rise to its surface and pick patches of sky toward which to walk, dizzy with first air and possibility.
And we, our first steps always still bright to packed sand, and our second steps, always pointed toward unbecoming the water and slowly, together, becoming the ground.