body talk

wart

I once had a small wart on the fleshy part of my right hand. No one could see it but I could feel it. And I did: whenever I felt nervous I’d press it with my thumb, worrying the wart.

What is a wart? A rebellious bit of flesh that won’t lie down, a little piece of you that refuses to conform. Warts are harmless but weird, mildly freakish, and difficult to ignore. It’s like your body is trying to tell you something, something you don’t want to hear.

I remember my mother bending over my little brother. He must have been about six years old, a grubby little kid with dirt behind his ears and ripped clothes, holding his hand out to her. She leaned over him, her long tangled hair hanging like a curtain while they both inspected the palm of his hand. It’s a wart, she told him. If you’re clear that it is unwelcome and you concentrate very, very hard and tell it to go away, then it will. You have to decide you want it gone and then stick with it. My mother had said the same thing about the ants in the kitchen and in fact they did eventually disappear, so my brother screwed up his face and leveled a death-stare at the palm of his hand.

His wart did go away, but mine was with me for more than twenty years. Nothing could remove it, not salicylic acid or liquid nitrogen or dirty looks. When I first noticed it I must have been about 20, still floundering in the failure of my first love, alone and adrift. But that wart stuck with me for more than twenty years, through various schools and careers and relationships, it was there every time I shook someone’s hand or waved goodbye: my faithful, steadfast companion. That wart was with me so long I almost forgot it was there. It had become normal, just another part of me, an intimate detail only I knew about, until one day I was just done with it. I scratched and scratched until it fell off and that was that.

Where did the wart come from and why did it go? I have no idea, but I can still point to the exact spot where it used to be.  It lingers nevertheless, like a phantom limb, just like my childhood memories, like every old fear and friend and boyfriend that visits in my dreams. It’s not there anymore but it might as well be.

*

There are things my body knows that my mind doesn’t; my conscious mind literally has no idea.

My man tosses the keys and I catch them before even registering what’s happening. He and I have been sleeping together for more than 20 years and sometimes we wake in the morning to discover we’ve had the same dream. When I ride a bike I move and shift subtly, imperceptibly, for balance, but if I had to tell my body what to do, I’d surely crash in a bloody heap. I have given birth, not once but twice, a fact that still baffles me, and I can’t tell you how it happened because my brain had to shut up and let my body take over. When I type, I watch the words grow like inchworms on the screen, letter by letter, but I never think about my fingers. If I stop typing for a moment to notice, I feel my lungs fill and fall and smell the faint scent of lavender wafting up from my sweater. The typing is miraculous; the scent and feel of cashmere against my arms is magical. How does this happen? Every day, every moment, my body is doing all kinds of things that my mind doesn’t notice.

But of course it’s not just my body, it’s everyone’s. Our bodies are amazing, unfathomable territories. We’ve traveled in them but we haven’t traveled in them. Our skin and flesh and guts and bones have secret lives we’ll never know about. Well, maybe not exactly secret, because our bodies whisper things to us all the time, murmurs we don’t hear or understand. Maybe we don’t speak the right tongue. My friend Lisa says that bodies are where we store the truths and memories we don’t deal with and that they have their own intelligence, one we could learn from.

Actually, I’m only imagining that Lisa said that, because I can’t get her on the phone right now to confirm. Lisa and I have been friends since preschool and when I close my eyes, I can see her face and hear her voice. I can only say that about a handful of people, perhaps because I’m a head-person, one who tends to think instead of feel, the type that is accustomed to searching for keys that they’re holding in their hand or finding bruises of mysterious origin or realizing at lunch that they’ve forgotten to eat breakfast or reading so long their limbs fall asleep. Have you seen the sci fi movie where the scientists keep a brain alive in a glass case? That could be me. So if anyone’s body has something it needs to get off its chest, it’s mine.

So if my body could talk, what it would it say? If I stopped to listen, what would I hear?

*

What do you think?

I think I have more to say about this so I hope you won’t mind if I continue this topic. 

For those who have been wondering, I have received 2 more rejections for my novel, What Would Water Do, which brings the total to 11 so far.  Although I have yet to hear from more than 20 other agents, I have given up on finding one.  No worries. My job search is taking all my attention.  If you know of any part-time jobs in the SF Bay Area, send them over here.  Who knew after all that school and work all I’d want in a job is a flexible schedule?   

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About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.

28 comments

  1. Beautiful. Keep writing. And don’t give up after 20 rejections, or 60. I met my agent after everybody turned me down.

    • Oh thank you, Chris. I am done with that novel but won’t give up on myself. Stories like yours are like warm blankets in ice storms. Thank you.

      • Are you SURE you want to give up on the novel? Not to belabor the point because of course you know what’s best for yourself and your work, but you write like a dream and I’m gnashing my teeth over here.

        • I know, I know. But if I keep looking back, I can’t move on. The story was just not commercial enough and/or my writing was not sufficiently literary. It just fell in the crack between the two genres. And this is the second novel I’ve shelved. But still, I learn something new every time.

          • As my mentor told me on the completion of my first unpublished novel: It’s good enough, but it may not be the first one you publish. Keep your two books around. When you do get a novel out there, you’ll have two more ready to go, and they won’t say no so readily.

  2. i suspect that if we could listen to all of our bodies it would sound like the morning news

    • Ha. Jesus, I hope not. I can’t bear those histrionic mannikins talking in weird, brainless cadences. I know for sure your body would have something much more interesting to say.

  3. Oh how beautifully you write Anna.. it is always a pleasure.. and “all you need” is just one publisher.. not too much to ask is it 🙂

    and by the way, I’ve had more than my fair share of warts over the years 🙂

  4. Josette

    Hi Anna, long time ago I did the same thing with a wart appeared on my hand. Every day, I tried to pull it and one day I managed without any sequelae. Today I can say is that probably we can work on our body and order its some things but first we must have the conviction that all parts of our body are as smart as our brains! And I think your brother was right with the innocence of his age. And now I can tell you that I try not to find my six years, but the state of mind of a child of this age! And the Catholic religion says “become like all little children.” Full of beautiful things elude us because we have unconsciously formatted our brain to look like everyone else. I’m sure our body speaks us but in another language that our brains do not understand, can not understand or will not understand! Life is full of surprises so huge that we can not follow because we have not been accustomed to follow a different path. See you soon for tea!

  5. macdougalstreetbaby

    Averil is right. You do write like a dream. You should submit this post. It’s really, really good.

  6. Dang, I have a nasty and growing spreading wart on the bottom of my foot. I keep cutting the darn thing out with toenail clippers, but it comes back. Wish it would just vanish.

    How cool to have a friend whom you’ve known since preschool. You are both lucky.

    May that lucky streak continue so you soon find the job of your dreams.

  7. “Who knew after all that school and work all I’d want in a job is a flexible schedule?”

    Sing it sister.

  8. I’ve also reveled in all those things my body does without me having to think about them. Such marvelous things, most of them. Still, I’ve been wanting to forget all that for the last couple of years because it made my mind wander to the bad stuff, too. That ignoring was folly of course, especially at my age, but I’m hanging on to the fact that I’m luckier than so many others have been.

    I hope you really are taking those rejections as well you seem to be on the outside. I wish I could do that. I hope there’s a sharp, creative, adventurous soul among the next 20.

    • Every time I get a rejection, I get mad. Not sad but mad. Maybe that’s the Irish in me? I just want to punch someone. I guess that’s better than wanting to punch myself. (Can you see me punching myself? I don’t know why, but the idea makes me giggle.)

      But Re, I do have my low moments, too. And I try not to go there again. So part of what I’m doing is putting my fingers in my ears and singing la-la-la.

      Remember, it’s not personal. It’s anything but personal!
      xoox

  9. walk away. take a breath. put it down. take a breath. your novel will come back to you. you ever fall asleep on your arm and then wake up to find the entire thing, hand and all, completely numb? Freak out trying to get it to move, heave it forward from the shoulder to convince yourself you can do it only to watch it fall limp in your lap? Then suddenly, like from nowhere, your fingers start to move again and then suddenly your numb hand is scratching your nose. Like that.

  10. What a lovely piece of writing, here. I will have to drop by more often! Indeed, you’ve got plenty more potential agents to hear back from. All it takes is one. Best of luck!

  11. Hi my friend. Thanks for the mention, and really, for the public honoring of our long, long friendship. I cherish it and consider myself extremely lucky to have you as a companion on this life’s journey. And it just keeps getting better and better! 😉

    I love that you heard what you thought I’d say and then wrote it. It’s not far from the mark- All the ways that we ignore or override our feelings and desires build up in our system and create “noise.” I think that’s why it’s so hard for so many to just sit and meditate, to be with the silence, because it’s so goddamn noisy in there! And the noise tends to be uncomfortable. But, there is an intelligence to feelings and desires as felt in the body, their timing, where and what they’re pointing us to. I see them more and more as a map, a treasure map. But as my teacher reminds us, the map is not the territory, and the territory, when we slow down enough to look around and take in the utter beauty that surrounds us all along the way, is so very full of riches at every step…

    Love you, Sister.

  12. Our bodies are intelligent. I don’t look at the WordPress home page or whatever it is. Today I did and found your post (the 6th on the body?), don’t remember even though it was just moments ago. Now I am off to read the series. 🙂

  13. Very nicely written. Chapeau.

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