TC Tolbert :: from The Outside that is Gathered

 

In To be Human is to be a Conversation, Andrea Rexilius denies us all the details of her childhood. She said we won’t believe her. At sea level, every bit of the atmosphere is above us. The body can’t help what it is breathing. In Colorado, one is always sitting at a pond. She said, we’ll make metaphors of all the wrong things. At sea level, the atmosphere weighs 14.7 pounds per square inch.

There was nothing about his need for her that was secret. They loved the “baby game.” They would each take turns crying then he would hit her. To practice a belief in bodies shaped and of receivers. His hands would take her hands and then her throat.

Displacement can be defined as the shortest path between the final point and initial point of a body. S killed himself by breathing in nitrogen. One can see the wind on the water before one can feel it. It creates a shimmer. Everything was neater than it should have been. As though light lives best at the bottom. It’s only the effects that we notice. The plainness of his whole body intact. As though whatever isn’t light will get pulled up.

 

 

The thing about a fear is its particular.
Let’s assume, for once, that language is immaterial.
That one can say anything.
That one can say one wants a baby but one should never have one.
That one wants not to breathe but to be breathing.
That one wants a body. Suddenly, and at no speed other than suddenly.
El shaddaddadaei shaddaddadaei tsa tsa
And haggard sizz our radar sweetened big will simmering.
Whole mar belie once kindled bitten tongue.

 

 

Breathing is an activity automatically regulated by the nervous system. Between seventeen and twenty thousand times a day the intercostal muscles elevate the ribs. The diaphragm contracts, enlarging the thoracic cavity enough to create a suction that draws air into the lungs.

He remembers a time he went running on a sidewalk. The sidewalk cut through a shopping district, passed a school, turned up a hill by some apartments (or condos, he could never tell the difference), and then the sidewalk ended at a park. He took a picture of himself in his new jacket in the rain and sent it to the woman he loved. He didn’t wish she were running with him but she was there anyway. She was there with him in the rain and so he sent her a picture. He wanted her to know where she was.

The next day, he would sit on her bed and check email. After they had fucked all morning. What was gentle at first became hard, then fairly reckless. He was stronger than her. It was unusual. She could fight but she would give, often quickly. How cleanly his palm could cup her jaw. When he needed her, he didn’t call her from the kitchen. Air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of water vapor. She sat on the bed beside him and read the email. He didn’t cry. 17-20,000 times a day. He didn’t know her. To be alive is to be a product of repetition. What is intimate if not repulsion that turns the body on.

 

 

How to wake up to this moment.
Start here, start slowly, with the body.
With the wind.
Wherever there is air.
There are hands.
Wherever outside.
Wherever pressure.
The difference between
what is outside and what is breath.
It is warm.
A bottle is missing.
Babies.
She was a baby once.
To walk in the woods.
The intercostal muscles.
The diaphragm.
Dried blood on a finger.
A water bottle.
A long, smooth rope.
What is forgiveness without permission.
Babies.
She was a baby once.
One wants breathing.
Not to breathe.
What bodies are made by pressure.
A deer folded in sunlight.
To pull the ribs apart.
A hard on.
A water bottle lying in the rocks.

 

 

Agoraphobia is often mischaracterized as a fear of crowded places. One time, he went running on a sidewalk. The sidewalk cut through a shopping district, passed a school, turned up a hill by some apartments (or condos, he never could tell the difference), and then the sidewalk ended at a park. The sidewalk went in many directions before it actually ended at the park. He followed her map but her map had been backwards. He wanted to believe her so he folded it and hid it in his shirt. He put his new jacket on. He took a picture of himself in his new jacket, in the rain, in the park.

When they played the “baby game” he would tell her, you’re my favorite. He would say, I’m your daddy. I made you so I could touch you. I love you. She would sit on top of him then and she would let him remove her small shirt. In Ancient Greece, the agora was the place where words and goods and money were exchanged. To not be afraid of what one has to offer. As she sat on top of him, his hands would find her hands and then her throat. There was no more secret. He wanted kids. For the pictures. For the rain. For the park.

 

 

They talked so little about breathing but they were breathing. He was sitting on her bed checking email. He wasn’t exactly sure what he had shown her. His hands had touched her hands and then. What he never saw but could never stop seeing. Glasses waiting on the table and folded. His hands would find her hands and. When they made love again, their bodies would both stay and then they would leave them. A plastic bag over the head and a tube carrying nitrogen. He didn’t cry. He was checking email. He needed a baby. What is suicide if not a break in repetition. A body he could crush, he could love.

 

 

Is the body inside the memory or is it otherwise? Breathing at sea level is easy. This isn’t a metaphor. When 100% of the atmosphere is above you, the air weighs 14.7 pounds per square inch. The traumatic, by definition, resists absorption. The plastic bag, the pond, the atmosphere. Everything was neater than it should have been. A knot ties two ends of a rope together or connects the end of one rope back onto itself. Someone, sometimes I think my grandfather, sexually abused my sister and me when we were little kids. Cheyne-Stokes is a type of breathing common at altitude. It happens when a climber is sleeping or has just laid down to rest. It begins with shallow breaths and then increases to sighing respirations. Breathing may then stop for just a few seconds. It’s considered normal to wake suddenly to the feeling of suffocation. Where is god in this. What is the difference between what is outside and what is breath. Today is Father’s Day. Suicide is more common at altitude. What I wanted was not to breathe but to be breathing. How a thing can stop but not end.


 

additional work by tc tolbert can be found in the print version of issue 6