Entries: November 2005

Beautiful Malady

My friend returned from her vacation with skin the color of apricot honey. “Wow,” I said, and proceeded to ignore her recounting of exotic locales and leisure pursuits. The change in her complexion was profound, but more than that, her countenance glowed with a vitality that made her seem more real. She was transformed, and I couldn’t help but to comment again. “I can’t get over how healthy you look. I guess that’s it.”

She said, “You’re talking about my skin, aren’t you?”

“Hard not to notice,” I said. “I’d gotten used to you being a pasty pale thing, and even though I’ve never been one to equate tans with health—I’m proud of my ghost-flesh—I can’t deny that… it complements you. If I may be so bold.”

She laughed, “You are the saucy one. But in my case it actually isn’t healthy. When I’m in the sun too long—on those rare occasions—I get these really weird blotches. You can’t normally see them, but my face is actually one big blotch. I swear, it ends around my neck.”

Was this modesty? I wasn’t sure.

“Really,” she said, and leaned forward, tugging her collar down so I could see her right shoulder. “See there, where it ends? It’s red where my shoulder meets my neck, and there’s this ragged intersection that goes all the way down my back.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Well then, it’s true.” The red of her burn wasn’t nearly as impressive as the other shade she wore. “But actually, it’s kind of cool too,” I said. “I’ve always thought there should be more people with spots. Stripes too.”

“And people compliment me when I have a tan, but they don’t know that they’re only seeing the brown patch.”

“Right,” I said. “If it were just a single spot on your forehead then the compliments might not flow as easily.”

“My affliction is convenient,” she said.

I wondered if there were other traits people exhibited that were accepted as fashionable while actually belying illness. An obvious example might be steroid users, who looked good up to a certain point. But what if beauty were itself a malady, nothing more than a pleasing mutation that tricked us into acceptance, and even attraction?

Intelligence and creativity might be two particularly desirable forms of insanity. Certainly these things are advantageous to us as a species, but only by sheer chance. Skin blotches might be the next step forward, natural camouflage that might benefit us in the contexts of our modern existence. Imagine being able to disappear among the cubicles in order to evade a pesky supervisor. A heady thought, to be sure.

My friend poked me in the shoulder.

“Hey!” I threatened her back with my own poking-finger.

“Sorry,” she said, “you had that look you get. Dead air.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “It’s the ADD.”

“Zat so?” she said.

I nodded. “It’s my super power.”

archived page comment [0]

Grown Up

I’m lying on the floor, languid as a corpse. I practice not breathing, and can feel my heart slowing. Slowing. Then I feel the need to stretch, and I stretch so violently that my molars click against each other like one of those wind-up dentures. The feeling of unmitigated sloth is delicious. I’ve always enjoyed a good stretch on the floor. It’s convenient, it’s flat, and the low viewpoint provides a most favorable perspective of a room. As a matter of personal aesthetic, I’ve preferred an inferior perspective since I was quite young. My adolescent height gains only made me more conspicuous, and allowed me to see over everything at will. Where’s the adventure in that? When one is small, everything is a potential maze, which is one reason why, every now and again, I appreciate a return to a more grounded point of view.

I roll onto my chest, and support myself on my elbows, looking down the carpeted hall. This is how varmints see the world, I think. Varmints and critters, bugs and babies. I wonder how quickly I could pull myself down the hall using only my elbows. What if that were my only means of locomotion? Properly motivated, I suppose I could get moving pretty quickly, but this is an untested theory. It might also cause undue strain to the tissue of my elbows, for example. There’s no way to accurately anticipate the outcome, so naturally I must commit to the task.

I need a trigger though, something to set me off. There must be something from which to flee. And it comes to me: K. is in the bathroom behind me. When she emerges and notices me there on the floor, that will be my cue to move. I’ll gallop down the hall on my elbows, pulling my useless body after me. How far will I get? I decide that if I can make it as far as the cat food bowls, that will be considered safe. Is it an unrealistic goal? I’ll just have to find out by trying, as I would if my life depended on it.

I am completely still on my elbows, waiting for the click of the door. I am poised to start. I’m looking at the cat food bowls at the other end of the hall, and visualizing my eventual progress toward them. I’m noticing bits of cat food on the carpet. I see a piece of something beneath the refrigerator. My forearms are beginning to tingle.

K. is taking longer in the bathroom than I’d anticipated. But all the more reason to be aware of the click of the door knob. It’s imperative that I pull myself to safety before she can catch me. And in thinking it over, I realize I’m not in the right position to start. One elbow should be slightly in front of the other, and my back should be in a natural position, but stiff. There, now, for the first time in three minutes, I’m truly ready to crawl to freedom. It’s a good thing I had this extra moment to get into the correct starting position. A luxury, some might deem it, but I’ll take what I can get.

It suddenly occurs to me that I’m 36. What does that mean? Other than the fact that it’s not too far from 40, I am preparing to make my escape by pulling myself down my hallway on my elbows. Is this okay? Is it normal? Do my 36 year old friends do the same thing? They certainly don’t talk about it if they do. But what is normal? I have one friend who regularly plays golf. Surely crawling down a hallway on one’s elbows compares favorably to that banal pursuit. Still, how would this rate in terms of life accomplishments?

My friend Ed just bought a house, so maybe I should be doing that instead of lying prone in the hallway. Or, maybe one of the criteria for my friend’s home selection was hallways that he could easily negotiate if incapacitated from the waist down. Give me a house with low friction hallways.

I have another friend of my age who just had her second child, which to my mind is a far more irrational act than the one I’m now contemplating. By the time I’m 50 it may not even be possible for me to pull off such a maneuver, at least not with the same cold determination or brutal efficiency. No, it seems to me that I’m at the perfect age to accomplish this feat. I’ve never been healthier, physically or mentally. So homes and children be damned.

As far as whether such behavior is common, I have no real basis for reference. I never imagined it would come to this though. It never seemed plausible to me as a child that someone of my advanced age would participate in activities unless they specifically contributed to soul-obliterating boredom. On the other hand, I would hesitate to call my endeavor frivolous. Pushing the limits can be illuminating. Seeing things from another perspective broadens one’s appreciation for…

Where is she anyway? I wring my hands, which are now prickling from lack of circulation. This puts me at a great disadvantage. I’m liable to break my bones during my escape and not even realize it. I imagine lying at the safe point panting, sleeves ripped, with open fractures at each bloody elbow. Those stakes are too high, yet I feel a surge of adrenaline at the same time.

And there’s the click of the door. I wait for her to notice. That will be my starting gun. I wait for it. Then: “Sweetie?”

Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! I’m already half way down the hall, but moving at far less efficient a pace than I’d hoped for. There is much exertion for not so much locomotion. But I think I can make it to the cat food bowls with time to spare.

archived page comment [1]


Scamper Labs is a top drawer design boutique. The right-brained corporate parent to this humble grotto.

ScamperFilter has a Flipboard zine.