At seven, I broke my leg and saw the white splinter of bone. My mother
wrapped it in a wet cloth and we sped to the hospital. I stayed in the hospital
for a month, leafing through the diagrams in medical texts and books on
flowers, plants, stones. When I discovered the skeleton within, I refused
to believe it. I was not a tangle of meat and tubes; I was a thin tegument
stuffed with flowers. What kind? It grew on trees, had a yellow center,
a sweet-sharp scent. When crushed, it would dissolve into an oily scar.
Frangipani. Heavy-handed, my father once broke my fingernail with his fist.
Oleander is the other flower--poisonous, no-scent, the pollen blinds--I
would spend entire afternoons blind, a victim of stark pleasures, the uninstigated
rubbing of oleander pollen in my eyes. Staring at the sun, my eyes would
glaze, heal in the heat. I would throw aside my crutch, rise and walk.
My childhood was a long wilderness path of dangerous plants and magnified
aphids swarming into the crevices of my body to reach the flowers within.
Between my outspread legs, a caterpiller spun her gummy sac; two weeks later,
I sneezed: red spider droplets spilled out of a milky white pod, winking
caviar swarming. I sneezed again. My urine was bloody.
That is what I believed: that I was tightly stuffed with frangipani, an
inverted bouquet. I stopped looking in the mirror. I would see the skull
outlined beneath the tight skin. I began to bleed intermittently; I could
not explain my cuts or stains.
Finally, the idea of the flowers faded and I became meat and bones like
everyone else. Once you had handled the jawbone of a horse, realized that
the alternative was the chitonous armor of a beetle, it was not so bad.
It was reasonable. Martyrs were made of flesh and blood. I would be a monk,
At forty, I know we don't really have skeletons. We only have dead marrow,
flesh surrounding the marrow. What holds us up is the vacuousness of our
thoughts, the bubble in our skull. Just as fish regulate the airbladder
to rise up and down, we compress and decompress our thoughts. That is why
we cannot act and think at once.
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