body talk 8

amusement park
Certain memories are buried deep in flesh. Some are nice–dormant seeds waiting to be awakened–while others are more like caged creatures, pacing the floor and gnashing teeth. There’s something to be said about the power of unfettered freedom but there’s also something to say about confinement.

Days go by in a series of repetitive motions. Up at 7:00, drink two cups of tea, pack the lunches, brush the hair, convey the two small bodies to school. I stand at the kitchen sink, atop the rug I bought to cover the patch my feet have worn in the floor, washing the same dishes I have washed countless times. The cushions of my writing chair are imprinted with the shape of my body; that chair has been sculpted into a lifelike creature with a personality of its own, my flabby, dogged chum. I make the same meals, always using this knife to crush the garlic and that lustrous cast-iron pan to cook the meat; the daily tidal ebb and flow of laundry, toys, and books is steady and timeless as a river.

I could do this in my sleep. Sometimes I wonder if I am asleep.

But still, my routine allows me to lose myself. When I’m sitting in that chair, my imagination roams far, far away.

I love to dance. I used to even do it on stage. I remember the musty smell of the studio, how light from the skylight would filter down through air thick with dust and how black the soles of my feet would be by the end of class. I’d dance until I was dizzy and drenched with sweat. I danced alone in my bedroom with the music turned up, to Prince’s Purple Rain in the passenger seat of my friend’s Bronco, in huge warehouses in masses of sweaty bodies. I danced in my pajamas in a hotel nightclub in Shanghai with an Australian girl named Rochelle. I haven’t danced like that in years but I often dance in my sleep and when I do, I wake up happy.

In a hospital I lay shut tight in a florescent, airless room made of linoleum, plastic, metal, and synthetic fabrics, flanked by strangers wearing scrubs, tied to the bed with wires and tubes and monitors, and the weight of my soon-to-be-born daughter pressing down on my tailbone: I have never felt so trapped, ever. The need to escape welled up in me like a tsunami of frustration. “Get me out of here,” I yelled. “Get this thing out of me!” And then, moments later, she was in my arms and everything else dissolved like fluff.

Was it opium or travel fatigue or some parasite that had me glued to the hard cot in a plain room in a cheap hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand?  I lay there  for hours without moving. Sunlight seeped in under the door but I was afraid to move because I didn’t want to stop having the thought I was having, a thought like a dream, a dream like a snake, a snake with the tip of its own tail clamped in its mouth. The snake spoke to me out of the side of its mouth and the words went around and around in my head, growing bigger, fugue, a widening gyre of understanding.

In a corner of our bedroom behind the bureau, pressed up under the eaves, stands my spin bike. It looks like the antithesis of freedom:  heavy and immobile, and when I sit on it I have to bend over slightly to avoid hitting my head, but it doesn’t matter. I stuff my feet in the pedal cages and earphones in my ears, turn the music way up, and I’m off, pushing hard and singing dizzy, taking deep breaths and wailing (because nobody can hear me), beating imaginary drums in the air (nobody’s watching), swinging my arms until they turn into wings, legs pumping into pistons and even the sweat feels good, as clean as an ablution, everything liquifies and I have to close my eyes because I’m bubbling over.

I’m wearing my old Levis and the sweater I’ve worn three days straight. To look at me, you’d never know. The past isn’t gone, it’s inside me: memories, trips, travels, thoughts, emotions, and dreams, I carry it all with me to he grocery store where I fondle mangos, feeling like a fruit myself, a heavy melon rolling along down the aisle. I smile and nod at strangers and look into their eyes for a second and then blink away, touched by the knowledge that that we all have something amazing hiding just under the surface, that we’re all trapped in these weird bodies: trapped and freed.

How do you escape?

This is the 8th entry of my series called “body talk.” To read more, go to  my home page to select.

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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.

35 comments

  1. This is amazingly raw, real and beautiful – I am wondering how you got into my head – and can write what I feel – wow.

  2. thank you … a delight to step inside your – inner world ; a treasure you share so very well .

  3. loved this post ….my escape are stories, always stories. Books filled with other worlds, films flickering in enchantment and thoughts tugging at my soul, changing the mundane into the extraordinary. And sometimes in the quite a sunbeam brings some fairy-dust whisking me away on a magical trip of hidden moments

  4. Todd

    That was a good one. I think you’re right that memories stay in the flesh.
    Body then: mine used to drink and dance til 4, crash, go to classes, go to work, cram, do it again, easy.
    Body now: eat junk, booze it up, stop running = Wily Coyote after the train wreck.
    Body hers: so beautiful, younger than mine, puking, can’t eat, pregnant we just found out.
    Body mine: tears, shaking, wishing we could keep it, trying to keep my job, trying to find her one, doctor bills, finding a school without gangs for our son, trying to make it.
    Body it’s: dead tomorrow.
    Body ours: no escape, 2/20 day of infamy, knife through our hearts, memory lodged in our flesh forever.

  5. Anna, you just get better and better. Reading your work at its best makes me crave the act of writing like a starved person facing a large meal spread out on steaming white plates. My gosh, you’re a talent. Thanks for writing this piece.

    • Hey Courtenay. I think I’m thinking I have to get a full time job and so I’m worrying that this is my last hurrah but then of course I tell myself that most writers have day jobs, right, and that doesn’t mean anything has to end but still, I’m on the edge of something else and it probably shows in my writing. Thank you for reading!

  6. I love this free flow of thought. My guess is you did very little editing and it still shines! Beautiful. Our crazy imaginations, mingle with memories, hopes and dreams. No wonder I can’t remember what I went downstairs for…

  7. It’s exciting to think where these body talk things may end up. They feel to me like part of something big, something you may not even know you’re writing yet.
    The important thing is, instead of them seeming like something, they feel like something. Feel.
    And that’s what makes it great work.

    • I feel excited about them too, Harry. It seems to be a memoir of sorts although I can’t imagine it going on much longer (although I do keep on thinking up new chapters to add: hands! orgasm! dreams!). I’ll ride this wave as long as it will take me. (I love that thing you said about feeling.)

  8. Brilliantly painted sequences on release! Such a stunning blog!

  9. Anna. I just love this body talk series. Truly. I think I need to reference you in my blog shortly… You get inside my mind and I keep having to come back and revisit your posts. You’re talking a language I’m needing to hear…

    In fact, I was just saying the other day about how I’m tired of feeling trapped inside my body. It’s a thing. I only dream of dancing the way you just described. But that is going to change.

  10. macdougalstreetbaby

    I used to lay in my bed like you did in Thailand, wishing for time to stand still. I believed it would, even as my mother called my name over and over. Please, let me hold on, just a little longer. It was never long enough.

    You speak your truth beautifully, Anna. Thank you for sharing it.

  11. The quote about memories being buried in flesh was evocative to me — it reminds me of the memories (or sensations that I knew, by intuition, that I’d first felt many years ago) that would surface for me when I was receiving intense bodywork, like deep-tissue massage or Rolfing. So much can be learned by paying attention to the body as a whole, in my experience, and not just the thoughts in the head.

  12. Beautiful. I love this series of posts.

    I walk outdoors, but it never fails to rise to my attention that I am always walking in circles. Sometimes I try to disguise this fact by cutting back or retracing my steps, but the fact remains that I invariably return to where I started.

    There’s no physical escape for any of us. We are pinned in place by love and responsibility. But thank god for the force of our imaginations, a one-way rocket ride to parts unknown. Not everyone has that kind of jet fuel.

  13. Anna, the way you write – it’s intoxicating.
    This series is seductively addictive – keep going… It feels like unlocking little bits of each of us as readers; the repetition, the escapes, “the amazing hiding just under the surface”.

    Your amazing is overflowing.

  14. Nia, but I don’t think of it always as an escape, but it is definitely something that transports, helps, heals, . . . . with you and all your body talk and love of dance I thought you might be a Nia practitioner or teacher.

  15. wow.

    gosh.

    beauteous prose.

    (saw your comment on aubrey’s blog and came to visit)

    escapist moments? – bubble baths, walking up to the sunset strip to catch a movie in the afternoon, talking on the princess phone with friends back in europe or the Other Coast, jamming earbuds in and listening to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I8mWG6HlmU

    *wavingfromlosangeles*

    _teamgloria x

    • Greetings from Berkeley, TG– I love the Cult! *dance party happening* And I didn’t realize how much Johnny Depp’s pirate favors the lead. Or maybe they’re both channeling the Stones just a little?

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