Prosopagnosia: a neurological condition characterized by the inability to recognize the faces of familiar people. [Prosopagnosia is a spectrum rather than a binary condition.]
– [Source: Google]
Silence holds a humming I can never put a note to when I’m lost within the ocean-bottom plains of your cheeks, within the craters and valleys of your nose, eye, other eye, and lips. I have been here before, time and time again. I am never drowning yet I never know where I am. Fish are stupid like that, you know.
Silence roars as you catch me. It’s eye contact that strikes–hooks into me and I’m a wide-eyed fish and you swing the rod backward, lifting me from a long wandering. With a raised eyebrow, you hold my gaze up against the palm of your hand and I drip anxiously with saltwater, death, maybe a little bit of cold blood. I laugh, lungs shaking with every breath: Sorry, I zoned out. You smile and unhook me from metal. It was a stupid lie.
The truth is that your ocean-bottom plains are a deep indigo, but then the truth is also that if I really focus, I see the entirety of the sea in the reflections of your indigo: playful teals, serene midnight-blues, and gentle periwinkles of each person I miss.
No really, the truth is that if I really focus, I can see your face in each person I love: my childhood best friend with her choppy bangs, my no-longer-so-baby baby brother, my favorite sixth-grade teacher with his painted ukulele, the neighbor who used to bring us homemade cookies each Christmas, and everyone in between. It’s not that I see you all as the same person. Rather, I like to think that I see the sea’s shades of blue, in return for being perpetually lost within its oceanic landforms.
That might be the only thing I truly love about prosopagnosia. Unhooked, I lay on the body of your boat, flopping until I find myself on the edge. I throw myself back into the ocean head-first: the way everything is.
YOU, ME, MORNINGS.
You’ve always liked to have control is quite a defiant way to admit that control has always liked to have you. Control possesses you with the need to micromanage your own time, your emotions, your thoughts, your productivity. Control is your puppeteer, but you comply because how else would you have gotten all the way here? You don’t have an answer, so you even thank control; you yield as it scrapes fingers through your scalp. Still, control is helpless to What you are unable to do. That Something possesses control, confuses control, controls control, cannot control—which freaks you out more than you think it does.
You stare at the mirror a bit too long and your heart starts to hammer at your ears, tumbles through your stomach, claws its way back up your esophagus and croaks at your uvula, begging to be vomited. In this moment, control becomes a lost myth. You don’t know what is Right and you don’t remember if you’ve ever been Right, if you’d lost Right at some point in your development—but ever since you learned that This is not Right, you are sure it is Wrong.
You always look Right into the mirror, but you are always lost. Wrong. You can never see more than one feature at a time. An eye. Another eye. Nose. Lips. A mole on your cheek. Each time your gaze shifts, you forget the last feature entirely. You close your eyes and recall absolutely nothing. Again, your heart begs, again.
At last. In your late high school years, you realized that you need not recall anything if you create it all. Each morning, you rock on the university-provided chair in front of your desk, one ankle held captive under the opposite leg’s thigh. Sliding your small vanity mirror closer, you open the smaller compartment of your desk for a not-so-carefully dedicated, thinly spread pile that consists of eyeliner, mascara, lip tint, maybe 56,000 hair ties, two claw clips, and still more.
And so, every morning, (still admittedly sometimes in a toxic-patriarchal-beauty-standard-pursuing way instead of a self-expression way) you draw your eyes with eyeliner, determining exactly where each eye starts and where it ends. You draw your eyelashes with mascara, draw your lips, conceal exactly what you want to be concealed. When you finish painting, you perceive your work through the tiny mirror, part by part.
You look Right into the mirror and recognize what you’ve drawn, part by part. Then you blink and completely forget what you’d seen, where you’d been—or rather, you can’t really tell whether you had ever seen anything in the first place.
THE THINGS YOU SEA
- Apology is a constant in your life. You’re sorry for not recognizing her, it’s just that she was wearing glasses last time you two met. You’re sorry if you didn’t say hi. You do say hi or smile at people you recognize, but you also do this to people who make eye contact with you. Better safe than sorry.
- Chuck Close, face blind. 86th Street Subway Station. Dreaded winter gust to treasured summer breeze just four times. Pixelated portraits. Chuck Sienna. Chuck Zhang. Move closer. Eyes divert between pink trapezoids, blue ovals, diamonds, pixels, angles, tiles. Staccato. Wrong yet Right. What we see.
- Sometimes, smiles and frowns can be too small for you to see. Instead, you see pauses of thought, fingers tapping quietly in annoyance, closed shoulders, postures tilting towards and away from, endearing eye contact. You might be overthinking this. Doubt, doubt again.
- Attractiveness is surely a social construct. You usually see one feature at a time, and everyone is a little unique, a little beautiful. Your younger self could not see what it was that made one celebrity the most gorgeous woman on the planet, while another comedian cracked self-deprecating jokes about her supposedly objective undesirability. Confusion stemmed into curiosity. You studied what attractiveness meant, what you did not see. Apparently desired features are a little different in different cultures, but facial symmetry is a generally constant factor.
- You want to tell me something. What is it? What you’d actually learned from symmetry is that people occupy multiple planes. There’s Point A, for example. Lines of points make vectors just to direct themselves towards Point A. People love A. They laugh with its mediocre jokes, want to talk to it, smile at it.
- Then, there’s Point B. Point B is on an entirely different plane from A. While vectors span across multiple planes to point towards A, vectors span across multiple planes just to point away from B. People don’t hate B, but they don’t quite want to actively talk to it, laugh with its jokes, smile at it. You realize parallelism doesn’t exist in these.
- Films with several characters are your favorite soap operas; they keep changing outfits and there are too many for you to track. Your friends laugh with the Anderson film playing as you try to keep up. The porter becomes the bus driver; the millionaire’s wife becomes the prison guard; and the child becomes a criminal, loved yet running from society yet back again in her family’s arms then back alone yet cut to the next scene and she’s still with everyone else.
POOL OF DREAMS
In your dreams, everyone is faceless but not headless. You’d never really thought about it too deeply, but when you think about seeing in your dreams, you see round, blank slates of skin. Hair sprouts from the top and bodies are attached below.
Silence is comfortable, holding a steady hum as you float peacefully; you need not swim to survive in the lukewarm temperature of an indoor pool as you do within the thrashing waves of an ocean. Tiles repeat themselves throughout the flat, unvarying floor of the pool. The neon exit sign is a distinguishable bright red. Silence, inside you, innately, subconsciously, passively, speaks in names. Silence controls everything and everything is dead, peaceful, Right. You do not think because you simply are Right. You believe it.
Slowly floating upright, you wade towards the exit. The tips of your feet compress against smooth tiles with each push off the ground. You need not look down, for nothing exists there.
You open the door. A gust of wind dries the chlorine on your skin, crackling it into white specks. It all waits in the distance. As you walk, sand digs into your toes and the palms of your feet, swollen with water. At last the sea wakes, roars, wraps itself around your ankles and pulls you back towards it. You throw yourself back into the ocean head-first: the way everything is.