09 May Laura Broadbent
ON SEEING (FROM INTERVIEWS)
As science has ascertained, certain babies get hit on the head with a stone on their way down from the black hole and these babies are called empaths—a somewhat mystical deformity wherein the senses get both heightened and confused. The mix and amplitude and distortion of the empath’s sensory experience varies from empath to empath. Empaths are best recognized due to their innate staring problem.
We the babies who did not get hit on the head with a stone on our way down have likely called the empaths names. They are easy targets, easy to ridicule, because they don’t fight back, or they do so in a baffling way wherein they wind up wounded by their own hand. We who did not get hit on the head with a stone might demand of the empaths, Do you have a staring problem? And the empaths will look over their own shoulders, wondering who you are talking to, for empaths stare so hard their sense of physical body is totally erased, and, as if they have no self, they become what it is they are looking at. They are surprised when others call them out as physical beings.
Emotional is their geography, emotional is their memory and proper nouns and borders are water through their fin- gers; for them, it is not the name but the feeling of the name. For this reason, I decided to interview my twin brother who is an empath. I used to call him many names, I beat him up often, and now I feel guilty and wish to know more of what goes on behind his disconcerting stare, since science has now ascertained that he got hit on the head with a stone on the way down while I didn’t. What follows is a transcription of our interview.
Why do empaths have staring problems?
Sleeping is a way of staring. Sex is a way of staring. Taking off your socks is a way of staring. Opening your nostrils is a way of having your eyes open. Listening with your eyes closed is a way of staring. Crying comes with remarkable force and it too is a way of staring. Solitude is a way of staring at everything you picked up from the day and then solitude is for releasing it all as one shakes out a dusty mat over a railing because as I said, sleeping is a way of staring and you have to prepare for that. I used to have night- terrors until I learned to shake off the day’s staring. Night terrors means waking in the middle of the night screaming at the top of your lungs then promptly falling back asleep. Contrary to general assumption, being in a room of people is bad for staring—everyone’s emotional information just blasts at me hard as a herd of bulls unceasing—it is impor- tant to dumb down the senses in such situations, and here alcohol is one solution, the best being abstinence from such places.
With such an onslaught of sensory material, how do you make room for yourself, how do you define yourself?
My high school friend Candice was shy and and considered a nerd. At age 25 she started a charity and moved to Zam- bia and became a nurse. My ex-girlfriend’s roommate Dion and his band mate Jeff, they are both dating lady-doctors [Liz and Meredith] and they are all only 23. Gina Davis is an Olympic level archer. You became a banker, our parents are in love with God. Marie is a saint in the soul and has excel- lent taste and a rich boyfriend who flies her to NY every weekend. Johnny has a rich father and two homes in BC. Tom studies geology and squatted in New Orleans for awhile and now he’s in Toronto. There are conspiracy theo- rists, there are Marxists, there are moms. My friend Jen from highschool became Christian, argued for creation vs evolution, and is now married with a baby—she posts about God on facebook, she married her swim coach. Many of my friends from highschool are married with children and houses—they run marathons and go on Pinterest. David Lynch loves the weather. Dawn’s mom came out as a lesbian when Dawn was in highschool. Once my friend Jeremy was just my normal friend Jeremy and now he has become famous—a number of my friends have also done so in variations. Becka can go to Morocco for a week and get her pictures taken and make eighty thousand dollars for example, for modeling. It has happens repeatedly where gunmen go into buildings and just start shooting. After Chris’ mom died he bought a motorcycle, started eating meat, and drove across the United States. My friend Alex is a single mom who overworks but being in her presence in definitely like being on a tropical beach—everything is turquoise, slower, and more sexual. Men and women in my neighbourhood often walk under my window muttering things or screaming things in grave voices. Brad works for an IT company and hates it, he dreams about making music. June lives in Paris, with a very organized and radically-inclined mind. Max had a nanny growing up, and so did Rena—both in Toronto, but didn’t know each other. Viktor’s uncle shot himself. Our dad had a pet crow. He got his teeth punched out for not speak- ing French. Liz is never lacking money. Brenda lost her mind and lives in Texas. Georgia lost her mind then got it back then had a baby. That girl who used to flirt with me became a celebrated architect and stage designer and also has a health food Pinterest. There’s that Weiner politician who got in trouble for sending penis pictures. I dunno. This is how I make room for myself. By pushing myself out.
I see you reading and studying all the time, you were always better than me in school, yet when you speak it’s like you don’t remember anything. Why?
Among the many things, I have extensively researched the prison system in the United States of America for example and the information turns my brain into a blizzard of dead black animals of all sorts falling from the sky turning every- thing that was once distinguishable into dark matter. Of course if you asked me for facts about the prison system I couldn’t give you any but I know the best way to articulate the whole ordeal probably is to fall down in a seizure right here in front of you.
*At this point, his eyes glazed over and he stared off to the left and I ask what he is thinking.
I’m whirled and drowned in maelstroms of rhododendrons! Full flowers! Round eyes! Rush upward! Rapture! Space!
How are you with the girls?
Girls have gotten jealous because I am as interested in dead leaves on the sidewalk as much as I am interested in them, and because of this I just never can commit. Even pylons fascinate me. When partners are gone from my bed I do not notice because the presence of the sheets and the mattress below me and the feel of the room and maybe the breeze if there is a window feels just like a lover but a gentler one, and less demanding. I feel like everyone is my sweetheart and I don’t even need them to touch me or talk to me. I pre- fer to watch them do the things they do to each other, sometimes with horror, though I do often feel left out but wouldn’t have it any other way. How is it that one can never do enough for one’s mother? All the world’s tulips would just be excessive, yet still hardly enough. Growing up, I’d never notice a mess until you saw it—otherwise I was one with it. I sleep beneath a mountain of books but nothing re- mains distinct in my brain so my mind is this syrupy swamp water but I don’t know—if you swam around in there it is probably mineral-rich and makes your skin soft or you might get a rash or you might drown, I don’t know. I know people are doing things in all the downtown buildings but I cannot fathom what, or how, or why. New York is paralyz- ing. My dream job is to be a keeper of sheep but I have no idea how to get there.
You are notoriously bad at keeping jobs. I basically know why now, but I’d like you to explain.
I get fired from all my jobs because I am so happy to just walk along and listen to so much music but never remem- ber the name of it—it all just moves right through me and I experience it but I do not want to hold onto any of it. I am basically already dead, empaths are friendly ghosts and we will never remember your name. So yeah, I just forget to go to work on the way to work. While it is a problem that my brain lacks organization whatsoever I also intuit that it may be a great freedom. Some people remember everything— they are the ones with their feet on the ground, they will be the ones who are celebrated and win awards, and cure dis- eases, and we are the ones with our feet firmly and decid- edly off the ground because science has now proven we got hit on the head with a stone on our way down. I’ve spent hours in galleries and looking at books of art and artists and I cannot remember any name or date at all but the experi- ence was always as wonderful as I could ever wish an expe- rience to be. When people gossip about me I wonder who they are talking about—the words are neon pink and blare like an air-strike warning and I fall to my knees and cover my head. I’ve read Paul Bowles and Wittgenstein and Doris Lessing and Dorothy Parker and Basho and Celan and O’Hara and maybe four hundred or four thousand more and I couldn’t tell you a thing about them except they each of- fered an experience and that’s it. My feelings are always both hurt and elated. I am amazed at how so many people work to make the world appear solid, or that their world may in fact be solid. All the things in the dollar store, all those key-chains that are squishy plastic little pigs—a lot of work went into getting those to the till at the Dollarama in Montreal. It dazzles me and I stare. People have all these opinions and ideas and I just listen. I watch them have am- bitions. That’s all I can say on the matter, I’d rather we hold hands and say nothing at all.