On the Transparency of the Body


(CHINA, Macau) I'm told that this is my default face. (Photo stylized by the author.)

(CHINA, Macau) I’m told that this is my default face. (Photo stylized by the author.)

There’s a dull ache between my shoulder blades—a fairly reliable indicator that I’m beginning to feel just the slightest bit overwhelmed.

I’ve always had a poker face in moments of stress. When I was a youngster sent to competitions of various sorts (math olympiads, quiz bees, writing tilts and so on and so forth) my peers always remarked on how calm I looked. If anyone had bothered patting my back or holding my hand though, they would have noticed the rigid tension in my muscles and the insufficient circulation in my limbs.

At any rate, having a poker face helps in contests because it intimidates the competition. When you’re not competing though, it just means that you’re left to your own anxiety-ridden devices.

And now, the dull ache is radiating upwards and outwards—though my face in the mirror remains as stoic as ever.

In a way, it’s a reflection of the life-long dissonance between my mental fortitude and my emotional fragility. Managing a studio for the last two-and-half-years has stripped me of any illusions I might have had about my existential resilience. If anything, the last several months have revealed me to be surprisingly (and distressingly)…brittle, and if I’ve managed to hold myself together (for the most part), it’s solely due to the adhesive plastering provided by family, friends, poetry and practice.

And of course, the mental fortitude compensates somewhat. If you’re smart enough (in just about all the unhelpful ways), you can easily retreat to the safe and impregnable confines of any number of intellectual ivory towers.

It’s still not enough to fool the body though. Even in the dry, austere air of my castles in the sky, I can still feel the dull throb between my shoulder blades and the biting chill in my hands and feet.

Which simply shows that in any contest between the mind and the heart, the body will always side with the heart.

Poker faces notwithstanding.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

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