As a little kid I lived in the grips of my imagination. One of my most terrifying fantasies - this besieged me at the onset of puberty, when I was 11, and returned a few years later - was of falling off the planet, into the stars, for lack of gravity. I felt at any minute I could become weightless. Later I learned I would burn up in space; I'd fall into a hole, my molecules would rip.
This made sleep very near impossible. Also, sometimes in class, I would get the image of the earth - shriking further and further away from me. It gave me sweats; I would grip the sides of my desk, for my life, as if to hoard the last little pieces of gravity.
When I was 14, I couldn't ride in a car; maybe after a summer doing battle in the Volvo, father screaming at the wheel, one terrying roadtrip after another, I couldn't help but believe that to take the passenger side, or the back seat (after I learned to drive, it was different), was to relinquish too much control: again I had the visions of floating, of being shred.
This still happens to me in planes.
I was thinking, last time, if I get a pilot's license, maybe, I will be OK. Maybe I need a sense of my bearings at all times, a sense that I was in control, that no engine could rattle and choke me.
I was looking for a sense of gravity, still.
But when I was young enough to make good use of my brain, I would force a counter fantasy: I am underwater, everything is moving slow. I distinctly recall turning my fifth-grade classroom into an ocean, if only in terms of pace, shifting my eyes about like an underwater camera, knowing, underwater, I was alive, and safe, contained in the earth. It was a way to learn not to fight, rather to accept, to move more slowly, to appreciate the thickness of the atmosphere.
When I am not reading, I have no perspective.
The air is thinner up here, and I need to learn to love my lungs and breathe. I need to find ways to make it register: the wrinkles, in which I wanted to disappear, the bluejay who wanted to dance with me, the storm of petals.
It's like being underwater, to pull myself into words and pages and walk away with a real appreciation for the texture of the air, with brighter eyes too: an underwater camera to see what I normally avoid, or at least dismiss.
So reading is then very intimate, very integral, even if I do not do enough of it.
When I foist a book onsomeone it's to say, This, this is my underwater camera; these are the glasses I was using to see. Look at them, maybe you, too, begin to see better. These are the poems I sing to go to sleep; take one under your tongue, please, and let it dissolve.
This is a story like a scab on a kneecap; I fell over and started bawling.
I give out lists of books to people for what I see behind their eyes, and I like to get lists too. I like to say, your turn now, I want you to feed my head.

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