by Tova Kardonne
The process of blowing one’s nose is fairly magical. Or maybe it seems to be so to me, because of what I like to call my Vortex Zone. Bring anything too close to my head, like a tissue, and it disappears into an unobserved void. I have this whole elaborate faith requiring that the tissues and things are still there, even when the evidence is merely inferential— the same goes for my neck. I have only indirect evidence of my neck. As my fingers approach the spot where I believe my neck to be, THEY disappear, too. Very convenient, no? I should rather say my reputed neck. My alleged neck. Sure, mirrors are interesting devices. But why insist that only the flat ones tell true? New-fangled demontoys. They can be conned. I’ll never know what’s really down there.
One goes through one’s day—tum-te-tum-te-tum— seeing everyone else with their nicely attached head, no obvious Vortex Zone in sight. I could be the only one with a discontinuous bit from the mid-chest on up.
Beauty and beauty-concealing modesty have a similar quality of fictitiousness to me, yet there is this one thing that makes immediate sense about covering the hair, parts of the face and back; it prevents other people from seeing more of me than I see of myself. I like that idea. Knowing that other people are more familiar with those parts than I am, I can’t help but feel a little sad. O! Dear cheek, with whom I will spend my life in intimate contact, thou shalt remain forever a relative stranger. I may write lovelorn epistles to my adam’s apple, as we are never destined to meet.
I sincerely hope we are never destined to meet.
Bodies are such long-suffering bystanders. Twisted personalities can, and often do, inhabit otherwise perfectly well-meaning elbows, scalps, and buttocks. Sometimes, I see a fist about to come down upon some object or person and I think, such loyalty from all those fingers. They stick together; they toe the line. The agitated goon inside says, “punch!” and they, the working-class digits, all unknowing of the consequences, do as they’re told. After all, that’s their job. But they do it out of love, more than anything. That, and an implicit trust that it’s for the greater good. The very skin cells that hold us together each have their own little legs. It’s true! Each individual skin cell on your hide could just up and walk away, if it really wanted to (and was relatively close to the surface, or had the consent of the skin cells which might hinder its exit). The rest of your body would be up the creek without them, but skin cells, given some rare-but-not-impossible conditions, could go la-de-da and wiggle merrily away with never a backward glance.
Frankly I don’t know why they don’t. It’s not a democracy in here, inside a human body. Sure, back room deals are made, and various parts have more say than they’d ever let on, but it’s hardly “one wiggly-bit, one vote”. This is, for all intents and purposes, a
dictatorship. If the Brain says suicide, it’s suicide for all, no matter how delighted with life some out-of-the-way, back-woods mole might be feeling. Only love can explain the solidarity, the committed togetherness of all the billions of independent wiggly-bits who clearly have very few common interests.
But to return to my original point: the Vortex Zone. I conjecture that the Vortex Zone is all the fault of the eyes. Obviously, this is another matter of faith. The Eye Hypothesis, though sketchy, allows me to go on believing so many other things I hold dear—the belief that I can tell when other people see me, for example, simply by observing their eyes; a belief that is moreover completely unprovable— that I cling to it with a blindness and a passion to rival the zealots of the late Roman period. Weak though the evidence may be, I believe that the reason the Zone is located just where it is has to do with the fact that I, like several other people whom I have properly observed, have eyes, and that the location of my eyes in my head blocks them from observing some bits that are so intimately tied to my identity; like my mouth, or the reputed source of my hair… even my eyes themselves. I fervently believe. The real source of my visual field, whatever it truly is, feels like a centre. The Vortex Zone feels—I apologize for all the intolerably fuzzy language—like the central location of me.
From whence I must need trespass into the political.
Does it not strike you as massively unfair? How DARE they? The hubris, the incorrigible pride of eyes. How dare that one measly organ fancy-shmancily set itself up as the locus of my own dear self? A famously elusive person. But what a muddled creature I am! To invent a mythical being, My Eyes, and then get mad at it for the characteristics I insist it have!
There must be another way. Can I not keep my Myth figure, but re-invent the mythology?
It almost never succeeds. Except for in Mythology.
Once upon a time, I had Eyes, located in the Vortex Zone probably known to others as my head, but of which I myself have no direct experience. These Eyes had no greater influence on my sense of presence than any other, less Mythic part. They would regularly consult with my fingers, for example, in ascertaining the shape of objects, and their distance from the rest of my body. As helpful-but-not-tyrannical organs, I liked them very much, and I inferred that any information they pass me about other people must similarly not be allowed to have too much importance.
There. That’s better.