Secret Pop

Jul 22, 2003

Inner Monologue

I was in the grocery store, passing an older woman in the aisle containing bar soap. She was reading from the packaging of a four-pack of Ensure Light she was holding in her hand. "Seven dollars? For this? Hm. French Vanilla. That might be good..." I never looked at her. Never saw her lips moving. I could just as easily have been in a movie, striding forward, into and out of the zone of her voiceover narration. She sounded like a nice lady.

I talk to myself. Not always out loud. But the words are almost always going. I wonder if -- when I get older -- I will also inadvertently speak my thoughts. If so, prepare to be bored. I burn a lot of brain fuel thinking about things that don't matter at all.

I also take note of the fact that I am nearly always running through things again in my head. Retracing the steps of conversations I've had. Looking for details in my memory as if feeling around in the dark with my hand outstretched, fingers taking on that tarantula-like movement that is the hallmark of cautious touch. Sometimes I find something I forgot. Sometimes it adds to my understanding. Sometimes it enables me to be furious in retrospect. Or to be amused. Frequently, I find the bases for making a better argument or for proving my point.

When I look at my hands, I notice that they don't ever really lie flat. And when I press them together, palm to palm, I can apply pressure so selectively, from muscle group to muscle group, that I feel as if I can count nearly every delicate bone. I never found my hands to be terribly delicate. They are small. But they are not dainty or graceful. They are not as elegant as I would have liked nor as dextrous. They have been hurt many times. Superficially. They are the front lines of my clumsy corporeal army. I stopped wearing fancy watches at one point, because I was always marring their faces by knocking them against door frames and the like. I allow my hands to flail out wildly. They knock into things. They get scratched. Or bruised. Or pinched. Or crushed momentarily. They get slammed in things. I have grown into the habit of not being careful with them.

But I am also keenly aware of them. And I use them constantly. I am always, always taking stock of tactile sensation. I touch things lightly. Lightly enough so I can feel the things touching me back. I touch my hands and ask the left hand what the right feels like and vice versa. I run my fingertips over the sensitive skin of my inner forearms. I like the way it feels to both my arm and my fingertips. And I wonder what it feels like for someone else. When I touch someone, I wonder what it is like. I wonder if my clumsiness is apparent. Or if the uncertainty seems somehow more delicate. I wonder if my hand feels particularly small when being held by another larger hand. I forget to think about it while it's in progress. I remember so much more in retrospect.

My hands look young to me. Looking at them right now, I wonder whether I will remember having this assessment when I am old and my skin is translucent and crepe-like. My mother had a friend who wore white gloves while driving. I never wanted to be old enough to find that a necessary or good idea. I never thought my hands would be old enough to display jewelry or to wear nail polish properly. My fingers are still unadorned, and nail polish is very infrequently on them. So there's still that. I think one's hands never look younger than when they are wearing mittens.

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