One of the problems with young children of pre-school age is that of communication. The vocabulary of such children is limited and variable. The child may call a bird a chicken, or a jeep a car, etc. Thus, the examiner must discriminate between the child who cannot see, and the child who offers an unexpected word for what he sees. In youth, the focusing lenses of the eyes are very elastic; most children can focus objects even three inches from their nose. As we grow older, the focusing lenses gradually lose their elasticity and at 35 to 38 years of age, difficulty is experienced in increasing lens curvatures to enable us to focus at near; this condition is called PRESBYOPIA. There are six muscles attached to the outside of each eyeball to accomplish turning the eyes. The supply of nervous energy to these muscles determines the balance, or parallelism, of the visual axes. Worth noting is the importance of having multiple eyes, which must be manipulated, by the brain, time, technology, or other therapies, in order to function in concert. If a person can maintain balance, HETEROPHORIA exists. If imbalance becomes manifest, HETEROTROPIA exists.
The airplane moved at a huge number of mph and in her seat it felt relatively motionless. Between motion and stillness are vibrations. Her fingers tittered along the grid of buttons on her tiny computer. When the man across the aisle looked at her hand moving, even though he also had a computer, and they worked in the same language, and they were both trained typers, he couldn't tell from watching her fingers what she was writing. Maybe if he'd been a lip reader. All the codes were the same, and still, the aisle was only this side of infinite. Maybe if he'd been a mind reader. These two were meant for each other. Her fingers moved like marionettes, with invisible strings into the ceiling. His did too. They each had their own puppeteers hunched near the thick ceiling, chatting together, in their own world. What else.
The plane moved around the world and the world moved too, but the plane seemed still. His mind moved to memories of watching video depictions of the solar system, and he placed himself as a stick figure on Jupiter within the machine. When the plane lurched and hovered for a moment in an air pocket he mistook the moment for imagining his stick-figure-self experiencing an animated demonstration of centrifugal force. Across the aisle the eyes of the woman zigzagged like cartoon wariness, following the motion of the accumulating text he couldn't see, which in her mind moved forward only, one word after another, but on her screen moved like methodical paint filling in a wall, and what else:
She was writing about imaginary people moving within houses on a planet. A boy in her head moved a plastic airplane through the water in his bathtub, the airplane's windows almost completely rubbed away from use, action, friction, motion. The people in the writing moved according to the laws of physics as she's learned them. They moved, she hoped, truthfully. Then she paused, taking a conscious breath. In her mind was a remembered idea of the future (think Jetsons but personal, and probably something about handsome/wedding from when she was six). She wriggled her hand into her lap under the tray table and adjusted the pinching seatbelt buckle. As if nudged, she looked across the aisle, but the man was facing his computer. Because of her angle, she couldn't see his eyes moving. He was reading or he was looking. If you looked at their eyes from the aisle, if you could take in so many eyes at once while following their gazes (which you couldn't see) then you could see, if your rhythm was right, in a chance of one in just-this-side-of-infinite, their eyes do a bounce across the aisle:
she'd look at her computer and then look at him three times, and he'd do the same to her but in reverse; and not only that but the kicker is they were thinking exactly the same thing (about ponies) and they were meaning exactly the same thing by it (secret of the universe); if you were fantastic and mathematical, and if you were the space between them, in front of them and slightly above them and a little inside them, then you could see with whatever your eyes would be in that situation that this really happened, no fucking joke. But you will have to take my word for it. I'm so sorry, because it was so tragic and beautiful, not to be missed. Tragedy, tragedy, everything is like this, there's never anything else. It's a goddamn miracle that I live to tell.
Footnote. The adjustment of the Project-O-Chart for proper character size should be made in the usual manner as indicated in P.O.C. Instruction manual using the 20/200 "E."
A lot of things are happening around the world, and happening in patterns that if you read a book, the book will point out to you, chapter by chapter, the exact way. You can feel like you're learning something for a while but then as soon as you catch on, you think, if I keep reading this book is it just going to be more examples? Then as the book is rising and falling on your belly you see the light from the window, leafy dapples, so pretty. You feel a little lonely but then you remember that you really felt like you were onto something, and that's why you picked up the book. You pick it back up and the book takes a turn for a paragraph into a sort of rhetoric that pisses you off, and that seems to give rise to another sort of tension connected to loneliness because you're afraid you might abandon the book and all your hopes for what it might teach you—and that just makes you masturbate.
The efficient orgasm is the most productive moment of the day, because, apocalyptically, it has wiped the slate clean, and no one will ever know about it. What are you going to do now? Most of the time you could go back to reading. Some of the time you fantasize about a rag-tag group of strangers thrown together by circumstance who go on a quest for orgasms big enough not only to wipe the slate clean but to leave you wanting something different than you wanted before.
Like what? Gross food? Ugly stuff? Feeling like crap? Not understanding anything?
All you do is lie in bed with no underwear doubting the book, trying to think of something better and better. In your next idea you are lying in moist dirt and leaves, in exactly the same position. In your next fantasy you are lying in hot sand. In your next fantasy, an old standby, you are running, you have a flag on a stick that means something, you are faster than all the animals, everything is burning in your wake, you're awake; you're truly awake, the flames are taking on the shapes of everyone you've ever heard of and forming a herd behind you, and then they are overtaking you. In a last gasp you've been engulfed. It's the kind of thing that leaves real people scarred for life, almost like a book that was worth it.
If she worries about the lint in her belly button she will look for it with her finger. As if her finger is a one-eyed monster of yore she'll look for the lint and scratch for it with the monster's one tooth (the tooth that covers its eye like a lid) and she'll be able to feel the link between her navel and her clitoris. When she's worried about lint in her belly button it's bad news, she only got there through deep neurotic space, and her skin is so hot and so sensitive that almost any sort of poking around can cause irritation. What a head up your ass, what a snake and tail, what navel gazing, rash, infection, lonely and unfortunate forms of creation. The world is an incubator. You can see its progeny working its way into her orifices. You can see her in her bathroom now, plugging herself with cotton, virile, viral, sterilizing. Take a look at yourself. Look inside. With the onset of nanotechnology the new frontier is in you, autobiography is the quest literature of our time, and almost everyone has begun to throw up, row after row, whether they know it or not. Luckily the throw-up is stop-motioned before it can get ugly.
I was in a play. I was sharing a role as part of the concept. We knew only that much at casting.
We'd had the script for a week, but as usual, I had not even started to memorize my lines even though I kept studying it. The other actress cast as me already knew them cold, was already making choices. I was there for rehearsal along with a spotty crowd. Who are these people already? During a break, standing in the audience, I had a face-to-face with the director.
"It's our first rehearsal," I said. "I think it's really unfair to let the public watch when we haven't even had a read-through as a cast." The director said no one else seemed to mind.
I put on my transatlantic and said, "But you know as well as I, it's an intimate thing, doing a first read." The other actress was up there on the wooden planks of the stage, a blond with a nice ordinary face, nothing fancy, and she was playing around with one of our monologues, mouthing and gesturing absently with her styrofoam coffee cup, a napkin stuffed in it, poking out over the lip. I was worried about sharing this role with her, because I could tell I was wearing my mother's face. The director was gazing into his own consciousness, maybe or maybe not in regard to the point I was trying to make. On impulse I said to him, "Does this face make me look old? Does it make me too old for this part?" Now he swung around to me like I was crossing a line, so I said, "Come on, I thought we were doing theater, here." He looked like someone famous, but I was actually more famous than he, in our circle. Now I was even thinking in transatlantic. He clapped his hands and everyone on the stage stopped what they were doing and turned to face the rest of us. Some of them were in the audience by this point, and some of the audience was wandering around on the stage. Everyone was in street clothes, and about half of us had the same cups.
"In this story," the director said, and everyone leaned in, "In addition to what you know already, we are all going to play each others' parts. We are all going to play each other as if we are each other, and we are going to play each other as if we are each other's parts. If you are still worried about being someone else too much, this will be a challenge for you. I want you all to keep in mind what I'm saying, but don't let it show. I want you to keep your own face, because we'll be working as a group." Suddenly the plain blond girl was one of many, and everyone in the cast was trying to look at everyone else at once. I was trying so hard I could feel my brain through my face. I wanted to do what he was asking. I was really inspired at the time. You remember what that's like, don't you? Not feeling in public at all? We forgot about the public entirely, even though they were mixed up with us; we just went for it. And all through the process I really tried to ditch my hang-ups the more we all got into the piece and into each other. But I kind of suspect the show sucked. My mother came, and she's not one to mince words. In fact, she came with my ex because they're still friends, in fact sometimes I think they might be more than friends, whatever that is, and people should be with the people that work for them I guess. It's about timing. There might have been a time when the people I love could watch me in a show like that, but I probably would have been too involved with them to do a good job in it. Now I think I did a good job, being and not being myself and others in a group. But I sure don't know how the rest of the cast felt about it.
This is a true story about a journalist and I don't care. A long time ago I was assisting a famous humanitarian-type professor in a course about literary and documentary ethics, and this guy Adam was enrolled. He wasn't in my discussion group—there were like eight groups and like two hundred people there to listen to the lectures, but somehow Adam decided he liked me of all people and started approaching me outside the beautifully renovated soda factory where the class met. He was handsome, I knew, but for some reason it didn't matter to me even though he was my age and had completed a degree at a fancy university I had once wanted to go to. I'd wanted to go to that university the same way you imagine you want to be a famous actress when what you mean is you want to feel important.
So we chatted a few times I found pretty boring and then he asked if I would like to, I don't remember, something, so I told him no, but I was walking home and if he wanted, he could walk with me and hang out in the yard while I was gardening. It's worth mentioning here that I was one of the only white people living in a neighborhood with a lot of black and Mexican people, and I was one of the only people in the neighborhood who had anything to do with the university. I have been told, by people in my neighborhood that I am very, very white. Adam, too, was white, white, white. So Adam took me up on my idea, walked along home with me, and he was cool with my dog and it turned out he knew a lot more than I did about plants. He'd watch me, and say this or that while I was poking around, and a pattern emerged. After class, he'd come up to me, I'd say, Well, I'm doing this or that, usually moving things around in my garden or taking the dog to the woods, come along if you want, and he started teaching me about plants we passed in the woods, wild white ginger, rattlesnake orchids. He brought me clippings from his place which he was having to sell because of the divorce he was going through and he was saddest of all to lose all his plants. One afternoon he kissed me in the hallway near the bathroom. I was really angry about that, but then I started wondering what my problem was. He showed me a picture of his parents in a Life magazine spread from the sixties. He said they were friends with the Kennedy's. He was always asking me if I thought he could be a good writer and I said I thought he could be a good journalist. He kept asking me and I kept saying the same thing in different ways. So after he kissed me and I was so mad about it, part of me started wanting him to kiss me again, maybe because of the handsome part, maybe because of the University part, maybe because of the Kennedy's, or maybe the knowledge of plants, and at that point the whole dynamic shifted because he was so fucked up about his divorce and I was just so fucked up in general.
Let's see where this is going. Shots rang out in the neighborhood one day while I was gardening in my yard with my dog watching, and my dog was killed. It was really crazy, caught on video, a total media event, and after I made a call across the country to this one person I used to be in love with, I called Adam. He's the one who lifted my dog into my truck and drove us to the woods, and he's the one who directed the bush-hog in the night to dig a hole and shine its headlamps while we moved the body, and he helped me cover the plot with rocks. The rocks were to keep it from getting dug up. Then I didn't hear from him, and then he told me, in our last telephone conversation, that he just couldn't take my level of pain, a phrase that stood out to me. But now he's a journalist. He has a nice place in the city and he flies all over the world and does stories about things like little black girls being sold into prostitution. He's one of those journalists who presents every story without any ambiguity at all, who finds stories to tell in which there is no way to locate more than one way to feel about anything.
LUCY CORIN's fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including Ploughshares, Tin House Magazine, The Southern Review, and Conjunctions. She has published a novel, Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls (FC2, 2004), and a collection of stories, The Entire Predicament (Tin House Books, 2007). Other apocalypses have been published in The Massachusetts Review, The Apocalypse Reader, Gulf Coast, West Branch, PEN America, and Diagram.