Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
[Since the dawn of humanity, we have communicated primarily through ideas. Cultures established themselves, stories and religions unraveled, governments formed and philosophies reigned. People gathered themselves with hieroglyphics before they developed written languages. Anthropologists use the example of the some of the cave paintings, many of which are at least forty thousand years old, to further this idea. Early humans drew their truths into reality. Whether or not they were writing history or simply telling stories is completely undetectable. A few thousand years ago, official linguistic historical records were actually separated from pure stories, but we have no evidence of prior separation. In the 1890's, people began to popularize the invention of an early camera- prototypes to the Kinetoscope. Movies were simple in those days, lasting only seconds at a time, and being only of common things that people did. Everything was very exciting for the viewers, but all they were doing was looking at themselves do things that they commonly already did. Perhaps those early cave paintings were truthful afterall, since the ancient brain surgeons were excited enough about their truths to litter everything they built with them, and since the factory-working women of the early 1900's fainted with joy upon watching videos of themselves.]
Photographs have long been an excellent means of my self expression. When I was a sick, feathery thing, I used photographs to track my progress. I could show you vivid images of everything that went into me, everything that was under my clothes, everything that I wanted to look like, and other fun things. There were nights that I loathed to dwell in where I photographed every ounce of flesh that my cryptic core could communicate. I painted infamous cherry stalks into myself and took pictures with a cell phone. I sent them to my boyfriend. I thought they all were beautiful, but he was ill-responsive of my thoughts.
A year, at least a year, before that, photographs had hand-walked me into death and despair. I spent hours researching images of slender, beautiful girls. Their gaunt faces, their tiny arms, bones like holy shelves that twinkled out of transparent flesh- I was hypnotized by them.
"Thinspiration" or "Thinspo" were words of familiarity. I rolled them around on my tongue but never wanted to speak them. They were quiet little butterflies to stay buried in my dark parts. They were pictures on my laptop screen, hidden in deleted history incase eyes were truly everywhere that they seemed to be. I was a picture on my phone. We were all just pictures.
I learned it all from pictures, or at least I learned most of it from pictures. I learned that 3500 calories equals one pound of evil fat. I learned that having an open bag of chips next to you while you watch television implies that you are eating. I learned that if you can fit your hands around one of your thighs, then you were within the ballpark of tolerably fat. Pictures and experiences taught me.
Nobody took pictures of purging, but I liked to do it on occasion. Sometimes, I'd eat rainbow blobs of happy sugary things like gummy bears. All of the red, then green, then blue, then yellow. When they came back up, they'd be yellow, then blue, then green, then red. The colors were appealing to see, little strands of rainbow success. I would take pictures with my cell phone and admire them for days, sometimes even weeks there after. Eventually, I would always become too scared to keep them. I didn't want anyone to know just how twisted that I had become. It was fine that they knew I liked to throw up, fine that they knew that some days I liked to eat nothing, nothing, nothing and exercise until my heart, which at the time was beating strong and well, was excited enough to pop. I couldn't let them see the darkest parts. I wanted to harbor all of it in for myself. I wanted to keep the fact that my successes were photographed for nobody's knowledge but my own, and if I kept those dirty pictures on my phone and somebody found them, my precious secrets would spill into humiliation.
That's all that the pictures were for me. They served as little golden star stickers on the first grade spelling test of Sage doing something that nobody wants her to do. That's all that thinness was to me, as well. If I could be thin enough, if I could cut the ugly fat away, then I wouldn't just be capable of misbehaving, I would be an example of misbehaviour. The thought of walking around the beach in swimwear with angularity jutting out of my hips and chestplate was desirable for me (until it actually happened and some jerk called me "Skeletor").
Pictures gave me lessons that will never, ever fade. There's this type of picture that you can have taken of you if you visit a cardiologist- it's called an ultrasound. I remember when I had my first ultrasound done.
Tha-thump, tha-thump, the car ride was to some shoddy place in the northern city of my suburban county. The doctors didn't speak English, just Spanish, but they tried their best to communicate to Charla, who very obnoxiously complained about their ethnicities. When the time came around for them to examine me, several formal doctors had me sit on a bed. They tried to ask questions about casual things, however the process was thoroughly awkward for all of us. It didn't help that I was upset and worried about the condition of my health. Right before I went to the appointment, I had binged, nearly purposefully, to raise my blood pressure high enough to keep me out of the hospital.
They took me into a dark room. Charla, uninvited, accompanied me. In that dark room, I was demanded to remove my shirt. The thought made me shudder. Most fearfully, I didn't want to have to pull anything off from over my head-- to give any unwanted viewers even a second of my chest without my permission. Thankfully, the shirt I had dressed in that day was a long button down, borrowed from a school friend for that specific purpose. It was suited for a man, and it was obviously too large for me, but none of that mattered.
Each button was a year of me. Pop- one, I go from birth to babbles. Pop- two, from babbles to demands. Pop- three, from demands to questions. Pop- four, from questions to answers. Pop- five from answers to frustration. Pop- six, from frustration to divorce. Pop- seven, from divorce to depression. Pop- eight, half-way there and hungry. Pop- nine, still hungry, but slowly learning to love to write. Pop- ten, my chest and tummy were exposed to unfamiliar strangers. I let the fabric fall onto my elbows, my breasts then exposed to their doctor brains.
Everything went white again, and I was something divine and angelic, struggling desperately to fit into the very human plastic chair. I laid down, flat on my back, my ribs more obvious than my nudity, each one carefully defined with shadow and chill bumps. For a moment, this thing was just a body, just a house for my divinity to reside within. These ribs were no good sign, but a symptom of malnutrition, and I promised myself that I would take care of this all and heal and live and breathe once again with the very strength that I deserved. I struggled when the cardiologist spread cold blue jelly onto my intimacy, how her gloved hands caressed my unwilling breasts, struggled to keep from bucking against the stethoscopes and sticky things that kept track of my beats. A camera in the corner showed my organ twitching around. It sucked in and exhaled like lungs in a radical fashion. As it shimmied, we all watched in terror. The pulse washed blood in no specific direction. Halfway, liquid life moved forward, into tunnels to fuel my brain with oxygen, but half of it swam backwards.
Charla folded her hands and crossed her legs, arched her back and cleared her throat. She pretended to be content and understanding, but she had no idea what was going on. I couldn't tell how desperate she was. Perhaps this all truly startled her, and she was upset and worried for my health. I couldn't let myself believe something like that.
Several weeks after that appointment, I returned to the cardiologist with ample complications. They locked me into a heart monitor which was designed to track not only my heart rate, but also my blood pressure. The same naked me faced the same gloved doctor, only this time, I was not divine and white, I was sick and very much in love. They hammered me into the contraption, little polka dots with wires stuck all around by chest plate and lungs, extending as high up as my collarbones and as low as the bridge of by rib cage. How devastating, I felt confined and restrained and abused.
As someone who thoroughly disliked to be restrained in any sort of manner, I took the heart monitor as a prime tool to abuse the system of my parents' hierarchy. That being said, I employed a means of me to commit to the most licentious possible action. I had sex with my then-boyfriend. The damn thing beeped the whole way through, counting the pulses of every time my back arched with pleasure. Each sigh and moan was accounted for, the rise of blood pressure describing nearing climax. It was awkward. We took pictures of it. We sent one picture of us together, sticking our tongues out and laughing to a playful friend.
I have a friend named Luna, the only permanent and continuing aspect of me. When Luna and I were little girls, we ran away from home on bicycles and decided to rule the world. Luna took her father's camera and filmed us doing goofy things. I was filthy, she was scruffy, and together we were invincible to all that was of the Earth and all that ever would be. Luna moved in a choppy way, the same way that I moved, and she spoke her mind in the same way that I spoke my mind, but we were very different in appearance. I was a small little thing, a bit weak, but muscular nonetheless to keep up with the fight that was my mother's apartment. Luna was rounder and taller. We never noticed one another in such a form of bodies because we were too busy having fun with cameras and planning out our futures.
But as I said, Luna deserves a chapter of her very own, and thus I'll write next about her.
Most importantly, though, it is to mention that I've this obsession with documentation. I'm not sure from where it branches, but it has followed every part of my identity for as long as forever can strech. As a baby, they used to film me- as a baby, before the world soured and my father ran to adultery with the bottles of booze hanging out of his mouth.
"Baby Sagie!" they'd giggle at me. I'd smile back, wide and proud to be a film star. I wanted to be known and strong spoken and to speak eternally on their archaic video camera. Small infantile fingers would reach up to the screen of the camcorder and turn it to face me so that I could watch myself act and dance and play. Most of those videos were silly and trivial. I just moved from place to place, cautiously explaining my actions and course of thought in the most elevated and poised diction that a child of my age could muster up. Everything was like a science experiment. Sagie drew, Sagie ate her big white baby crackers, Sagie took a bath in just-right water, because if it weren't just right, she'd cry and cry until it was. What would happen next? The pending adventure made every day deeply exciting. Baby Sagie ate her Thanksgiving dinner, watching Daddy scoop extra fruity cranberry sauce on her plate and picking it up in a fist to deliver to little rose-petal lips. Sagie was outside, swinging on a rope swing that hung from a high avocado tree in her back yard, going as fast as she could pull herself. Sagie was in a kiddie pool, and excitedly so. Life was obviously easier for those two short years- years two to three, years of exploration and documentation and thoughtless survival.
Then I grew further. I always begged them for cameras for my birthdays. I thought it were somehow part of me. I used to think up in my mind these scary thoughts as to where that camcorder went by the time I was six or seven, why my mother never filmed me when we'd end up on the beach in the sun, or in the park where I'd dance around the wild orange trees. I wanted her to make me as real as I could be. I never got a camera so long as I lived in my mother, but I did get a cheap cell phone that had a built in camera. I could have taken better pictures with a toaster, but I was so excited to be able to document again. By the time this happened, I was in the 5th grade, so I was about ten years old. I took pictures of everything I passed. I snapped photos of my siamese kitty biting his toes, of my mother sleeping and anything else I could think of. When I got bored of what was apparent, I started to photograph things that I felt were more significant in life. I once stood outside in the back strip of grass, just outside of the porch of my apartment home, and faced dead north near a nautical twilight. The sky was an infamous purple blue, a hint of fire behind me. I held up the camera phone like it were some magical article and pressed the big red "OK" button dead in it's center. Though I hadn't been able to even moderately see the screen of the device when I took the picture (It had been much, much too dark to do something like that), I could see it now. A big Melaleuca tree was holding up the sky with sturdy paper branches and tiny minty leafs. It was breathtaking.
As I received that camera phone- a tool for EMERGENCIES only- I was still in visitation with my father. I saw him once a week, on Friday, and slept over at his house until Saturday, and by the afternoon or evening on Saturday, he'd drive me home. My father drove a big black truck that he had decorated with stickers of biker skulls and other violent things, and he was as man as he could be to keep his women satisfied. I leaned out of the window one day, my little camera phone firmly clenched in my grasp. We were driving in the day time, blue sky high above us, light trickling down through a canopy tunnel of trees in some expensive plaza. I took a picture of the above. When I leaned back into the car, I immediately looked at the photograph. It didn't look like anything at all, and yet it was one of my most proud moments.
The picture could best be described as something green and strange eating something blue and strange. It couldn't possibly be clear, and from what I thought of it, it's clarity had nothing to do with it's identity, so it didn't matter to me. Green blobs of tree surrounded little blue holes of sky patch in a distorted race. I cherished the picture deeply. That thing encompassed as much of me as I could describe. I had then agreed to myself that I could find beauty in most anything. I could find beauty in a siamese cat, in a twilight paper tree, in squishing cranberry sauce in between my fingers and making a sticky mess, and I could find beauty in a blurry, senseless, speed-lined picture of green and blue.
I was quite openly fascinated by the image, and I excitedly showed it to my father who was in the driver seat next to me. He was utterly unimpressed, called the thing ugly.
"It's a picture of nothing, Sagie."
Those were his exact words.
I had never truly been attached to my father, and to this day I find it hard to attach to a man who so effortlessly makes war on his planet, but at that moment, our brick dividend stacked up between us. There was nothing to look at him for anymore, because to him, I had taken a picture of nothing. It frustrated me. I was a hot-headed little girl. How could he not care at all? How could he not see the perfect coincidence of this picture? Yes, it wasn't airbrushed or glamorous, no skulls and crossbones to symbolize men, no phallic cigars or something of that, no booze or half-naked ladies strutting around with big flouncy hair. It didn't need that. My image, I swore, was cultureless and pure, was beautiful and as it were supposed to be, as everything were supposed to be.
I sat up in my bed in his home that night with the phone in my hand, eyes glued to the image, trying desperately to see the nothing. I wanted to disown this strangeness to me, this apparent curse that made me so stupid and immature. I didn't want to build any sort of big brick wall to divide me from my father, and I wanted to pull both he and my mother into a tight grip and make them fix one another. I couldn't decipher the nothingness. No matter how hard I drilled into the trees and sky, it was unfathomable and perfect. Images of savannah runners, of native nomads, ancient Egyptian rulers and medieval bakeries dominated my world. Those people had all looked to the sky and seen something like this, speeding through their lives. Why couldn't my father?
Or moreover, why could I?