Monday, August 23, 2004

the softest thing...

the international gestures for emergency situations interest me. they are international because they are supposed to be universally understood, right? they aren't. the gist maybe, but the earnestness, not so much. several years ago, i choked on a piece of pasta right in front of the sister. i put my hands around my throat in an attempt to secure help. she stared blankly. i managed to get one last inhalation and cough the offending matter out and away. jonah. ahoy. or something. "why didn't you help me?!!" "i didn't know." "but that's the internationally recognized sign for choking!" "i know." "then why didn't you help me?!" "because i didn't know you were choking. i thought you were joking."

where was i? soft things. that's where we're headed. stay with me.

so, i don't know if it is among the gestures of which i speak (most gestures of the sort have to do with emergency situations, i think) but when someone stands with their hands behind their back and paces it seems to indicate worry or deep thinking or preoccupation. this is how i used to walk when i was small. not because i was thinking deeply, necessarily, but because it was relaxing to cup my hands together and walk in that way. i still mop with one hand behind my back and sometimes write that way, too. there was a large field at my grammar school and i would walk back and forth examining the ground, hands cupped behind me. one day, i was thus engaged, and i half noticed something very soft between my fingers. i held it there for a long time, pacing back and forth, rolling it under my fingertips. it was the very softest thing i've ever touched. it sort of quivered. i liked it. but my mind really wasn't on the object in my hands. it was someplace else. just then, a group of three or four little girls, my friends, came running up to me. they were all chattering and telling me something. i began to bring my hands to my front and then i yelped. the other girls stared. i brought my hands out and looked into them and there was a honeybee. it was convulsing in one hand and the stinger was lodged in the middle-finger of the other. the poison sack was still intact. when i looked very closely i could see the tiny hairs on the stinger. i didn't cry. i just began shaking my hand and grinding my teeth. and a little girl went running for bee sting salve. and one of the other little girls said, "you're so brave! you're not even crying!" i thought that was funny. i wasn't brave. i was just astounded. bees are soft. really really soft.

what is the international gesture for tangent? or crazy lady? we could use both of those right now. there was a stream here that made sense to me. i'm just not doing it justice.


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