Theadora Walsh | The Jellyfish

The Jellyfish

Yosa was doing all the usual things with his hands but I felt nothing. With the lack crept a doubt that anyone has ever felt arousal. The inclination found footing, assaulted memories. If I remembered any pleasure, I was remembering wrong, “rose-coloring”.

My head was in a faraway country writing letters back to my breasts and hips about the dreary weather and how the neighbors’ foreign language kept drifting through the walls. I tried to coax myself back from the distance.

If I could make myself go quiet, maybe something instinctual would take over. A different kind of thinking driven by another kind of longing, not the perfunctory desires of the body or the needs of the mind. Like death, but not quite. I wanted something animalistic and attune.

The poet H.D. had an idea like this. She called it an over-mind, or jelly-fish consciousness, or womb vision, and it was a way paying attention that was always sensual. When pressed to describe what it looked like, this consciousness she was making physical, H.D. reached underwater. Fingers holding tentacles, she surfaced an incandescent gossamer. Taking the long intuitive limbs of the transparent jellyfish, she sat it on her head. This was the over-mind and it worked through acute sensitivity.

Kissing Yosa, I felt aware of the mechanics of my jaw. Pictures of steam engines, hands on a factory line, gears performing beneath a clock face, they montaged through my head. I made the same clicks and turns with my face. Yosa didn’t seem to notice, or at least he didn’t say anything. He was getting farther away, into a mist. Alive without contours. Only his occasional utterances kept him from vanishing. Whenever he was quiet, it felt like a conversation on a telephone. I didn’t know what was on the other side of the silence.

Sometimes, if very carefully engaged, H.D.’s over mind can reach down and feed the brain to the physicality of love and attraction. It’s an all-consuming sensuality that turns any engagement into one of pure ecstasy. In this state of fused spirituality and sexuality you can fall in love with ordinary objects. A branch of a fruit tree, the sculpted ringlets of a statue’s hair, the bristles in a paint brush, each could be a means to happiness. And I know how to look at a thing until it becomes strange. So why not this person in my bed orbiting his movements around even the suggestion of my pleasure.

As Yosa moved down my body, I closed my eyes and imagined myself on the edge of the ocean. Coiled fronds unfurled over my forehead and a heavy liquid situated itself as I tried to sink into the over mind. Between imaginary pools of water, I pleaded with my rigidity, and asked it to erode. Get nice, I thought to myself, get nice. Swallow discomfort, all the time, forever. Head between my legs, Yosa was determined and repetitive. I felt nothing. The nothing sensuality had to be a deficiency in will power.

Eyes still shut, I brought a wind into the composition.

It’s easy to forget that wind is a type of weather until it throws itself across lakes and parking lots, carrying the sound of hacking coughs, and turning flowers into stems. The wind I made was strong, rushed across the water so forcefully that I couldn’t hear myself speak. As soon as words got made, they blew away. And in that landscape of after sound, language itself was gone.

Next a picture of the wake was drawn in. The effervescent white of an ocean’s collisions. Water disturbed is transformed into a texture more than a color. The impermeable blue becomes thousands of tiny bubbles forming and dissolving in concurrent frequencies. I thought about the suspended moments before a wave crashes. The attention enclosed me, crystalized. From inside the image I watched the suspended moments before a wave crashes, for less than seconds at a time, into an uncountable collection of radiant drops.  

“Is this all right?” Yosa asked, moving over me in anticipation.

I thought I might not have to respond. My distance paralyzed him and he lay his body next to mine, very carefully not touching. Who had he been with, I wondered, while I was so far away.

On a beach, adjacent to psychotic break, H.D. conceptualized herself back into living. She threw rocks into the water and wondered why it is we love so distinctly. Instead of building a myth around personality, we should consume bodies like we consume pictures. Rather than despair over lost love, the betrayal of cheated intimacy, why not remake the world for your pleasure. Why not treat a lover like a piece of coal? Energy to be had, warmth to be made, nothing sacrosanct.

“Hey.” Yosa’s voice brought me back to bed, “What are you thinking about?” and it didn’t feel so easy to treat a person like pure transmitted pleasure.

“Have you ever read the poet H.D.?” I hated the tremble that broke my voice whenever I tried to speak softly.

“No.”

“I was just thinking about how we need our bodies to see, or hear, or touch. And how mine sometimes feels like a problem.”

I let my eyes open slowly. The first thing I saw was Yosa’s searching look. It was begging me to recognize him distinctly.

I saw the room next, watching us with such a stillness. Black and white squares on an unremarkable pillow, plants with sun deprived leaves, and books of poetry on the shelf became accusing spectators. No longer bodies in motion, we registered like their peers. I imagined all the things in the room thinking how much better they’d be at consciousness, how much more they’d do.

I sighed. They only think that because they don’t have eyes. They don’t know what it feels like to be looked at and then have to meet that gaze.

Yosa looked at my gone face with earnest intention. I tried it softer and less important. He pressed his eyebrows together and scrutinized me like a spelling mistake. Then he went up to the chalk board and made his correction:

“Don’t be silly,” and he kissed my hand. It looked like someone else’s hand. I watched it get chosen, lifted, and brought to his lips.

“Don’t you ever feel trapped inside yourself?”

“My body is for fun, for pleasure,” Yosa said, “and yours, you should just enjoy it.”

“I think that’s easier for you than it is for me.”

“Why?” Yosa got defensive, “because I’m a man or something?”

“That’s not what I meant, but maybe.”

“I’m not like other men.” Yosa said, and he sounded like so many other men.

That was supposed to be true, he was supposed to be particular to me. There should be a reason that he is the lonely person I choose to meet in the dark.

I studied his face. It had a mathematical symmetry. Equations could be written about the distance between his left and right eye. The concavity of his cheeks was architectural and there were perfect ratios to be discovered in the length of each subsequent eyelash. He had perfect posture, could sit up through an entire film without slumping over.

I put my palms over Yosa’s eyes and pushed them shut. I’d like him better if he joined the objects in the room. Left me alone with the embarrassing problem of having eyes and on top of that a consciousness. Carefully, I kept one finger on each eyelid so my other hand could grope around the room. In the pocket of my discarded pants, I found what I was looking for. A penny to push into his forehead. Something I saw my grandmother do when we all watched her husband slip from sleep to a place outside himself.

Now I was the only one trying to turn the world into pleasure. I closed my eyes again, let myself go beneath language, beneath contact. The sun was just setting and I could hear birds outside. With their sound to guide me I went back to the imagined beach and got caught up in the incommunicable wind. The real sounds in the room mixed with the phantom harping of waves slapping each other in and out of one body. The harmony was obscenely attractive.

Pacing along the water’s break, where every footstep sunk into wet sand, H.D. rewrote her cheating husband into a small fragment of her own genius. She had made herself sensitive to his brilliance, and though she suffered for it, she alone got to keep it. Turn the one you love into a painting or a poem or a cell phone game. Make them into a moment.

In that state of attention, I felt it, the slipping away of body and mind. The presence of some other kind of impulse caught in the rhythm of a half-imagined symphony. I was moved by a desire to consume everything. Human loveliness correlates directly to how much of another we can take without breaking.  

We had sex quickly and maybe it was louder than usual. I kept my eyes closed the whole time and fell asleep not sure what I saw in Yosa.  

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Theadora Walsh‘s writing has been published in Apogee, Inpatient Press, Oral, After Image, Electronic Book Review, Unbag, and elsewhere. She’s pursuing an MFA at Brown University in Digital Language Arts and writing a book about work.
2017-12-01T01:01:07+00:00 November 29th, 2017|