And with that proclamation C reaches over and grabs my breasts. I explain to him that they are not shakers, not even maracas. I tell him that they are breasts, that they are part of my body, and that when he was a baby they made milk to nourish him.
He doesn’t care about that. “These are your shakers!” he says, and grabs them again. I gently remove his hands, I’m not sure where else I can go with this. He knows I pee sitting down, that he and daddy pee standing up. He doesn’t quite understand that I’m not a boy, but he knows something is different. He calls everyone “he,” and with all the gender confusion these days I don’t correct him. Plenty of boys don’t want to be called girls, and girls don’t typically want to be called boys, but it seems like bad business to go around judging gender on the subway, so I leave it alone.
When I was a little older than him I sat with my step mom on our blue patterned couch in our N Andover condo. I pressed my finger into the center of her breast. “Nipple!” I said, and giggled. “Yes,” she’d said, “that’s my nipple.” I did it again. “Nipple!” I pressed, and giggled. She explained to me about breasts, about how women have them, and men don’t, and that I would have them when I grew up. I squealed in horror; pressed, giggled. She asked me to stop, and I suppose I did.
I thought of this nipple moment when experiencing this morning’s shakers moment. I asked him to stop, and he didn’t. I reminded him that when a person says to stop, you must stop, like when I’m tickling him and he says stop and I stop. He understood that, and stopped right away. I’ve been careful about boundaries since before he was born. I called him Mr. Baby. I figured we were already invading enough of each other’s personal space and that the relationship could do with a moderate influx of formality. He was in my womb but we weren’t on a first name basis yet.
This has been a week about bodies. A good friend had crazy heart surgery a few days ago. Doctors cut open his chest, with what he and I suspected must be some kind of dremel tool, then diverted blood from his heart, repaired some malfunctioning valves, and put his chest back together. We’ve been on a first name basis for years, but are both big personal space kind of people. To know someone 20 years and not know their last name, or the color of their eyes, but to still know all the really important things.
We waited together for the operation to begin. We talked about those moments in life when it all seems disconnected, liminal yet illuminated, when life seems tenuous and unreal, when the rules don’t apply, when only the moment has weight, and all the air seems thick as dreams. These moments when you become so intimately and suddenly in touch with how false the security of being alive is, when the habits, ceremonies, and structures of daily life, of planning for tomorrow, of checking the time and going to bed and eating a meal and shopping for groceries all turn to ash in the face of the majesty of the sun itself beating down, and how impermanent the universe and all life really feels.
We got comfortable in that moment, Alex Arcadia and I, we agreed that those moments are some of the truest. Then we got hungry, and tortured ourselves by talking about food, which he couldn’t have before the surgery, and I didn’t have in solidarity. That was two days ago, and we’ve both eaten well since then.
The body is as sacred as it is profane. The body is a temple and a pleasure palace. The mind body split. The soul as a chemical manifestation of physical interactions. The self without the body. The self as the only reality. The body as the means to experience the natural world, the mind as a way to experience the self. The body as the machine that fuels consciousness. The chemical reactions that make consciousness manifest. Can a person be a human being without a body? Is a breathing, beating body alive if there’s no mind to rule it? Are we more than our bodies or are we only our bodies?
I feel like there’s more to me than my body, but it may be that what the body contains is much more infinite than consciousness can imagine.