By: Elizabeth Fong
I saw you for the first time in a horribly lit fluorescent classroom. I was thirteen, and though I liked to look, I felt ashamed every time you caught me. A wonderful game of cat and mouse: how long could I stare at you without you noticing? How many times could I get caught and still glance back? Eight years later, I wake up next to you to watch you sleep, waiting for you to catch me looking. Eight years later, I am still playing this game.
Those moments when you caught me staring, those moments of shame belonged to you. How did it feel to look at a secret hidden in plain sight?
Light is a prerequisite for vision. Particles of light bounce off of objects in all directions; it is the job of the eye to translight these particles into images. Sight is instant and involuntary; I don’t have to think about the electrochemical communication between my eyes and my brain. I think only of the light peeking through your window, only of your eyes fluttering under closed lids, only of the muteness of desire.
I am grateful for all of the ways your body absorbs, reflects, bends, and emits light.
It is light, then, that connects me to you. I wonder how many others have looked at you with a similar adoration that I do. Did they also kiss the path between their eyes and your face? How is it that you seem to touch every particle of light in the room? Now I know I can say: to love you is to also love the light.
In 1962, Lou Tomoski and a group of his friends looked up to the sky to watch the solar eclipse. He remembers “seeing the flashing light.” And while he only looked “for 20 seconds or so” he was left with permanent blind spots in his right eye.
A dream I had last night: I was sitting in my mother’s garden. My skin bubbled then burst and beetles came crawling out. They crawled all over my body, they nibbled on my eyes. I felt exhilarated, almost hysterical, but I was not afraid. When they had eaten their fill, the bugs left. Looking down at my hands, I realized that the bugs left me with blind spots.
Like Lou, I was confronted with a terrible grace.
The beetles in my dreams exist in the waking world too; each summer six or seven beetles nestle themselves into dozens of roses on my mother’s rose bush. They devour the roses. Any attempt to keep the beetles away fails; damage control is our only option. My mother and I cut the bug infested flowers off, so that they won’t infect the other roses. One morning, I watch the bugs eat through the petals and feel a stinging desire. I peer through the tiny apertures they’ve created; the world looks different.
The rose bush is planted in dark brown mulch outside of my mother’s house. The mulch darkens when it is wet. If I stare at the mulch long enough, I start to see bugs scuttling in and out of dark crevices. The longer I stare the more I bugs I notice, until the whole ground is moving, pulsing like an organ.
Did you know that sensory cues literally rewire neurons in the brain, reshaping how they interact with one another? Memories start with a glance and end in new synapse connections. I am able to hold you in my mind because all of the cells and neurons of my optical system work to recreate you. You in the morning with matted down hair, you driving to the cities, you fucking me with your fingers in my mouth: these memories of you exist in my mind with no real beginning or end. I reach for you in the middle of the night and try to image how I will feel remembering this scene a few days from now.
Spending time with you meant something bright, something heavy.
What I mean to say: witnessing you has changed me. In early June, before the beetles ate the roses, I gathered a bouquet for you. Too nervous to give them to you, I filled a vase up with water and kept them in my room until they wilted. Now, as the sun slouches towards us and peeks through your window, I remember those roses. They too have changed me.
Elizabeth is a senior in college. She is majoring in gender and women’s studies.