The trick here is finding an edge
. The body
being notoriously smooth to the touch. Edges like hangnail
into long spears if you peel them back. Edges like mouth
only fold over to reveal more skin. Nothing internal is exposed here, and so we are safe from our own plotting
, prodding hands
You know when you are small, and you fall down if not harder, then at least more frequently, and your skin turns shades uncharacteristic of skin
, and then you learn. Of your white blood cells
, that are your warriors
, or your gluttons
that eat up the waste
, like tiny slivers of wood, and carry them away.
And your nails grow long. In hopes of finding an edge. In hopes of hanging onto the intangible
by the incrimental
growth of calcium
from the plain surface of hands.
And then you cut
yourself, and see deep into your skin, and the edges, for the moment, go white
from that underneath you would look so pale
, and the edges pull apart like great rolls of paper. And then you learn. That blood contains iron
, turns red because of oxygen
, tastes like salt
. And you learn that it cleans. Flows so hard from your pale edges to take away the dirt
in its torrent.
Time goes on and the blood clots
and you begin to learn about scabs and their ferocity. Their unevenness and their unwillingless to give in to your prying fingernails, your plotting hands.
And one day the scab
gives in, and you learn that underneath is pink like you didn't expect, and smooth in this new way, in this pure way, and your fingernails skid across it, can't grab hold of it, and you learn that this is your body's protection
against finding that edge.
And later on, after you've forgotten if not how you got that scar
, then at least how it healed, much later you learn about red
. About the color
and its difficulty. The pigment comes from iron-oxide
, and it's painstaking to extract. The navy
knows it, painting their ships the second time with red-death
, careful not to breathe too much of the toxic paint
because the second coat will kill
you, as sure as a submarine missle, as sure as the sea
It's tedious work. finding a good, true red. It's the longest wavelength
in the visible spectrum
, and therefore elusive
. The cartographers
of major arteries brighter than the topographic brown
, the flat blue
of the lakes and the winding, spreading riverbeds.
It smells different in paint, gives you a different buzz when you paint
your room with a roller. The sailors know it, painting their plimoll lines red, and the bouyancy of the ship will be etched in red and salt, visible from far distances in the grey of the sky and the greasy
Nature knows it, streaking bellies red, painting nightshade red, making red mean poison
Red tastes different. And it's weaker, breaks easily when you sharpen your pencil, lead falling away like over-cooked fish.
Red is important. Called primary
, called royalty
, called flame
. And it's more expensive. True red costs. But this you already know.
And you think of true red. The one you own. The one lying under nets of iron and calcium, cages of bone
. Unreachable for lack of an edge. And it's your record
, you see. The physical tally of names, times, dates, numbers, references, preferences, dislikes kept in long ongoing lists by the pounding counting heartbeat
. Your record of still being alive
And today you learned about the human heart
. Made of plastic
this time, by scientist
, not god or nature.
And they made an edge, curled their fingers around it and stretched it open. And you would have thought that the body would reject such a stone cold heart
, kept in motion
only by electrical shocks
through the skin. That the colorless metal and transparent
plastic would be incompatible with the deep red of internal
But today you learned that you can live without that weakness. That true red muscle
. You can't live very long without it, but you can live without it.