In Sequence In Memory A Short Term Effect

By Xochitl Vinaja

A moment is the smallest unit of time. Indivisible as a prime number - a human moment lasts 1/18 of a second. Time passes, recognizable only in the extended stretch of past or future tense because I cannot count in eighteen-tenths of seconds but only in minutes and days, weeks and years. I find myself a chronophobiac, terrified by the passage of time: by the loss of the past and the potential of the present. Terrified because it is always with me: holding me by the hand, and chasing behind me as I run to catch up with it and to leave it behind. I blink my eyes. My eyes blink. I don't know which comes first (recognition is only a series of tiny impulses between neurons). Sensory impulse, sensory receptor, nerve impulse, muscle response, a circle - action completed. My eyes blink in time with my thoughts - thoughts that are a barricade to emotions, that fly through my head intangibly, leaving my feelings jumbled in irreconcilable impulses of speed and complexity. I isolate their movements; break them down into flashes 1/18 of a second long so that I can see what exactly it is I think when I am with you.

I squeeze your hand. I gasp, desperate for a break from the relentless struggle with time. My fingers close around fingers they have touched before. My skin recognizes yours. I know you only in memory. The moment elusive, fleeting, gone - with each movement I remember the last time as I compile a scrapbook for the next. I lay down next to you and your hand covers my shoulder blade, barely the size of your palm, and massages my back, "You're so tense." I begin to relax with the reallocation of your finger tips. This is not the first massage. You are always gentle. I am always tense.


Memory is in your muscles - aerobic respiration wearing long and hard on cells too small to recognize the solitude of their existence; each designated for a special task, incapable of defining its relationship to its compatriots, as I am unable to define my relationship with you. The rational mind is merely an amalgamation of simple, bestial, cells lacking any sense of self. Men unable to grasp the intricacy of their existence, the simplicity of which essence is constituted - a naturalist perspective on evolution leads somewhere back to fungus. My brother is a mushroom, and I am only a matter of phylogenetic steps from a small, primitive crustacean. "We're friends, right?" you ask. "Yeah," I hesitate, "its complicated." What am I doing here? My motivations are reproductive. I am trying to pass on my genetic sequence. My cells find your DNA evolutionarily compatible, natural selection stripped down to its barest element - intuition. I let go of your hand, mine slides down to your knee. Consciousness exists after the fact. The true actions of the human mind are as unconscious as those of the cells which compose it. Command is an afterthought. Control, a waste of time. It is absurd to challenge nature with desire.

I want to show you all the things I have seen, take you everywhere I have been. My thoughts pass through organs - your skin accepting my memories and dreams. Your flesh responding with yours: "What a lovely inflorescence," I think. "Look at the huge flower. It's really beautiful." your skin replies. I don't want to tell you that what you see is no flower, that it is a modified leaf and what you think is pollen is really a million tiny flowers packed together in a tight spadex. I don't want to ruin your moment. In the 3/18 of a second it will take me to explain it to you, the beauty will be lost on you. You will remember only "huge flower", maybe, if at all. I don't want to confuse the memory. I wish that you would remember "beautiful". I forget the transparency of our tissues, how our souls are united when we touch. For a moment you draw close, breathe with your body next to mine and then pull away - reactionary.

I love you - a drug addict. Your world moves in slow motion, capturing images and thoughts only in multiples of days. Your minute is slower than mine because less happens. I envy your waste of time, it takes up less of your life. I pull you back in. I love you from distances...1/18 of a mile apart. Separated only by doors and steps that do not welcome me, and welcome you only in reverse. In the three years that we have known each other, I have seen you naked three times. Touched you only twice more. My skin remembers what my muscles tell it it knows. The receptor to your impulses, I respond to your cells as I respond to mine. Unsure of the control or origin of impulse, aware only afterwards of the response. I wish I could feel this in slow motion. I expect my body to forget you, but without my conscious recognition, my responses are more acute every time, as are yours. I worry that I waste what is left of your brain cells. Do your muscles even perceive the difference between me and Ketamine? Is there one? Can one suffice for the other, or is it linear, vertical and affected by gravity - Ketamine at the center of your universe.

The seconds pass slowest when I am thinking about you. I wonder if you really thought that flower was beautiful. I wonder, would you have said the same about me. Would you remember only a girl? I want to feel each 1/18 second moment, but they pass too quickly to grasp, and I wait to look back as I sit on the verge of what will be. You know me only in this moment, it is not too fast for you. I think I should do drugs too. I have tried. The thought fades, and I am asleep in your arms. Opiates don't comfort me the way that you do. Tomorrow I will not speak to you. The day after you will not speak to me. And months from now we will speak to each other - an unheard, mutual verdict. In between these moments I will think of you. Wait for you. Wait for myself. Responses only ricochet off walls and fall flat. Deaf hardwood floors receive them and drown them out like stomping over the heads of those below. The words passed on to neighbors and friends but never to each other. I am left questioning myself, and then I question you, myself again - I am left with doubt and hope. Held together in unsound matrimony. I remember I love you. You remember the sex. There will be mascara staining my pillow tomorrow. Mascara never seems to wash out.

There is a spot, on the floor in your bathroom where we once sat. I rubbed your back, your head bowed over the toilet. "Everything will be ok." What will you do when I am not there to hold you? Do you need me at all? Do I need you? The questions resound unanswered in my skull. Absorbed by trenches of bone, warm beneath muscles, blood, and skin. My hair only an accessory.

Do you know how I listen attentively as you rehearse? The sound a regurgitation of memories through the floor boards and walls stained Navajo white by your hand only months ago. The bass resounds in 4/4 time, a testament to sexuality and the remains of a long forgotten favorite - like a childhood memory of ice cream that fell off the cone leaving only a cold, hard cock in it's wake. I hate you for playing the songs you've played to me, only the combination of our heights apart. For a series of moments I wish I had never quit smoking. You will walk past my door as you return to your room (clock it. 1/18 miles apart). I stand still and hold my breath and the dragging of your feet mingles with the tiled floor. Goosebumps. Time stands still for 1/18 seconds - I feel the moment pass, and you are gone. The anticipation of your final song...always the same, my favorite. An elaboration, I think, but I am willing to elaborate to believe that you love me.

Tomorrow I will wake up alone. I do not snore. You do sometimes. I cannot tell that you are not here. I feel only calm distortion of memory. Unsure whether that kiss was only a dream, you have told me many times that I am crazy. In the mornings I think you may be right, inaccurate releases of melatonin from my pineal gland possibly indicating schizophrenic tendencies, exemplified by my inability to distinguish between my dreaming state and the rest of my time. A shower and a cup of coffee later, I remember the truths of our relationship, it's complication, and I assure myself that I am not insane but maybe you are. An imbalance in the release of hormones in your cerebrum may be causing flashes of uncertainty in your emotional range. Incorrect release and absorption of serotonin causing the unnecessary anxiety attacks that characterize our relationship, resulting in outbursts of "I don't want to be your boyfriend!" and "You put so much pressure on me!" and "Why are you ignoring me?!" I wonder if this is you talking, or if it's just because you're fucked up right now.

Despite reassurance that I do not suffer from any mental abnormality, genetic or otherwise, I resent your accusations of my insanity. Each allegation of my psychosis accompanied by disparaging remarks about my social skills that are either insincere or at least fictitious. I can't stop thinking about you. I wait for time to force me to action, afraid to encourage or to dissuade you. My body lays still, perceptibly detached, next to you. Your hand falls from me. You leave the room. I stare.

I wonder what you were like before all of this. If I would still love a sober you that I have very rarely seen (except for in bed in the mornings or the day that we built a river and you taught me to sail leaves under my breath). You tell me that you do drugs to be more like me, to see the world the way that I do. I don't want you to see the world like me. I fear that the images reflect backwards off of my retina, and maybe I am seeing the world upside down, without the proper alteration in interpretation of my post central gyrus, where the retina mirrors the world in 1/18 second still shots of life. Still shots and profiles.

There is beauty without movement. That is the root of nostalgia - in memory there is no movement. There is only the imprint of movement that fossilizes into a solid past, a photograph, confirming only what was once, for 1/18 second, out of the context of hours and days, omitting the pressure of prediction and anticipation. It is impossible to live in the moment because it is liaison to the past, and always too close to the future. Time is an intersection, and you can't stand on the corner forever no matter what you want. I dance to forget. I drink. I attempt to find in sleep and dreams what I cannot find in the passage of time. I want something to happen. I want you to take the next step. I have measured time out to a standstill. Afraid to lose in motion what I can lose effortlessly with time, I give you up, let you go and decide to remain distracted. I wonder do I really even love you now. Maybe everything has changed in that 1/18 of a second it took me to blink.


2003 Underground Voices