Second Happiness: Quake and Trace
Confined to one institutional room, held there under careful scrutiny by a team of trained watchers wearing inconsistent trained watcher garb, unmistakable bodies themselves irregular, asserting we must sit in the chairs provided, as sturdy as they are stiff, structures like the sorts of peoples Gulliver encountered, to us tiny or gigantic or positioned in so strange a direction that no matter our selection, small, medium or large, we find our legs dangling, or our knees pressed into bending so deeply they point like an arrow drawn horizontally by two right angulated lines, or the nearly bare bones of our bottom pushing harshly into the hard back of the chair, or the fleshy soft there overflowing the boundaries, impaled by sharp sides and paling from the loss of blood flowing within, so that we ache when we make an effort to fold our legs and sit up straight where anyway we find ourselves sideways, or high and above, or low and below.
Such discomforts disarrange, prohibiting kinetic transfer at the precise moment in which each of us encounters the unfamiliar stir, as vibration that passes through us and along the contour of us, trying to move from one body to the next as received communication, a charge sometimes met moved along by another just behind it and one just in front, against the statistical odds but possible in spite of the disarray, and much more often, because of the disarray, left hanging there at the limit of the body, its line severed, its correct conduct cut short.
Although its nature is motion, it lingers in a room saturated with it.
We were in jail when we first acknowledged, by saying or thinking (as ever it is difficult to make distinctions except, in retrospect the fact of it, as something which did indeed happen despite lack of material trace left behind, comes out clearer in the telling than in the mere thinking), that something about us shifted and that we were, afterwards, unmistakably different.
It happened to all of us equally and all at once, a slight quake whose only physical signs, the flash of brightness in our eyes and the static exciting the thick and thin hairs covering our bodies, especially those standing up on the backs of our necks, were practically imperceptible to any observer, but were also, at the same time, impossible to actually ignore so that even our (once) spongy guards, who’d been taught to resist our bodies (a key component of their job training was comprised of a series of simulations designed to build into them an immunity towards those sympathetic bodily gestures and vulnerable tremors that would normally evoke from the watcher a desire, to help) were again subject to the slight but inescapable perceivability (flies, landing lightly and momentarily). They became immediately more alert and suspicious of us in the tiny window, away from which we must move our heads out of sight, disenabling us from leaving a deposit for later recall, soon or far, in time: from now; close or distinct in setting: from here.
Because of the disarray, the saturation, the fact that it happened, the absent mark, unimpressed upon airy oral nor tidy textual surface, we cannot be sure (being all one way, at least until this very point) whether it indeed happened to each of us equally and all the same way.
We can however finally say for certain because of it existing now in written form, that we all think that it was a thing thought and only thought (no one recalls hearing anything, no words were extracted in the questioning) and that this in retrospect is a good thing.
Second Happiness: Penthouse
By way of spoken or written reports requested by us from each of us individually—we were thorough, we did not remove ourselves from the scientific methods of our times—it does now appear, for this was the information that emerged (and what did not, despite the facility’s refined eye and motion sensitive camera) from interviews and video (rocking gesticulations that failed to exist) we learned that we were thinking and perceiving simultaneously during the event, or ‘infragle’—the word for this moment eventually surfaced although had not yet then. The thing itself came to be known merely as Wrinkle (for among its other effects, it aged us) or more colloquially amongst us who were there then, Penthouse (the name of our elevated cell) as indication we were making progress in our efforts at understanding our world by being more intimately part of it whether it wanted us or not and at sticking out this intimacy through the discomfort of the agitation that it engendered.
We choose to continue to suffer and remain entwined in the brambles with this world which is so uncompromising in its ambivalence, carelessness and even hostility towards us, to say nothing about the guarded, concave, hesitant posture we wear in this world in order to be able to face frontally.
We reason that our stir—which was not related to shifts in our physical environment or special events, nor to the fact that we were in jail, for we’d been to jail before in nearly identical circumstance without such paroxysm—called out to us the presence of an emotion, a distinct and emotional emotion, for the very first time. As mysterious strangers to the emotions, our disbelief that we would be able to accurately recognize and label one was logical not disparaging of ourselves, the quality of our perception.
In times of intense desire but poor recognition we find ourselves least formed by language; most likely, with all our effort, to produce merely a grunt, or two, or a grunt and a hum and a gesture, if we are lucky. We did not like the grunting sounds nor the shared experience resulting out of them although we secretly believed in them as transitional regressions, depressions of language in which language subjected itself to being turned over and tilled, thereby making itself temporarily unavailable—and that on the other side there’d be a chance for a renewed spirit of words, and this secret belief emboldened us to refuse the clamoring assertions of our defeat.
The other times we found ourselves unable to produce anything but a grunt were those when we found ourselves confronted by inescapable opposition, as such we found ourselves at the moment of my accident.
Still for us a certain excitement accompanied these moments—the one in the jail was the first of several—excitement both over the fact that something was happening and that we could be confident that something was happening, because although about which emotion we were having we could not be absolutely sure, we were at least almost sure that an emotion had in fact occurred or was in fact occurring. Some of these (can I call them feelings?) were more fleeting than others (I prefer not to call them feelings). Most were at first overstimulating and therefore difficult to simply label as for example ‘happy’ but we could not imagine that such exuberance could indicate ‘sad’. Though lacking a map, dictionary or guide, we were on the look out for other emotions, a range, suspecting that like gender, the endless possibilities were culturally and linguistically constricted only by the interests of power, which seeks linearity and simplicity though it cannot actually be so or have it so, or have it be so. As one can tell from the expressions on faces when complexity is revealed, these polarities dominate the emotional field and most often prevail so that we would nearly universally agree on any particular face, to which side it belonged.
Take for example a smirk.
How is it so different from a shit-eating grin?
Rachel Levitsky‘s writing depends upon the inviolability of ideas and intense participation in the present. She is an adjunct at the Pratt Institute and itinerant instructor of poetry and poetics in a variety of places including Naropa, Bard Prison Initiative, The New School and Harvard’s January Intensive, which is where she is/what she is doing while she is writing this biographical note. She is a participating member of the Belladonna* Collaborative.