This One Time, 69

This one time, just after the close of a recitation on stage, the stadium was roaring and flashing with applause. I had been half-concentrating on the show — my spawn was down there on the stage — but also distracted, in the way that I get sometimes when I think too much, by how the world shrinks to just the tiny part in your view that is changing. The stage was so far away, despite my relationship to one of the performers — I had arrived late — but in a darkened theater, as in other places and situations, what you see fills your being instead of your eye. The overwhelming surrounding darkness fades to insignificance. The light expands to fill everything.

That’s the magic of attention. It’s a magnifying glass, a microscope, a telescope. It zooms in to the boundaries of the action. Which was why, when the applause started, it was like the world exploded. Suddenly the world was full of action and movement and flashing lights. As I reeled I pulled back in my imagination, and pictured all the tiny actions in this theater as it would be from a giant’s perspective — a tiny box full of excitement in the murky darkness and quiet of night in this town, hardly noticeable in the woven trails of light in the main thoroughfares. And from farther still, this whole city would be a quiet glimmer on a background of nothing, and even our giants would be invisible.

I had been working hard all day. My arms were raw and sore and throbbing, and I was wrecked. Maybe that was why I was wandering, having trouble maintaining focus. The crowd had settled down, the theater was dark, and the next piece had begun. And I was lost, staring at the end of my arm as if it were a foreign thing — foreign the way a word or phrase turns to gibberish when it’s repeated too many times. My arms, overused and abused, were long floppy noodles, barely able to lift and twitch the fan on a stick we had all been issued at the door so we could keep from suffocating in the heat in the upper rows, from breathing one another’s exhaust.

There was a pocket of cool underneath my perch, where I’d placed my bag. I reached under as far as I could to carry out as much as the coolness in my bloodstream as possible. I crouched further to put skin in contact with the stone floor. After a moment I could feel it begin to revive me.

And that’s when the vision struck in full. At the end of my arm was a broad pad that branched out into five more tentacles, like someone had nailed on a starfish. The tentacle-armlets moved strangely, bending only in fixed places — like a slender crab was inside me, wearing my flesh and skin. The only thing that kept the growing panic at bay was that the crab felt like it was asleep inside me and I was still in control of my motion and volition.

I was covered in fine cilia. I was truncated. The internal dead-crab structure that would prevent me getting through the passage into my home, unless I could shed it somehow, apparently replaced half of my arms. I felt my top, and it was like I was covered up there in a fine-stranded jellyfish, dead and fibrous. All of the suckers on my arms were gone, even the stretched and torn ones from the day’s work. I couldn’t beat back the terror anymore. I flushed red and bright with distress and slumped to the cool stone floor beneath my perch.

When I regained consciousness, some kind people had stretched me out across a number of seats so I could lay down. I noted that someone had taken care to arrange my skirt for proper coverage and modesty. Someone was going through my purse, looking for my wallet and driver’s license, but I didn’t care. I could feel an enormous nausea retreating. All I could think of was that was my daughter down there on the stage, giving her recital, and I had shown up late and sick and apparently was ruining her show.

But then I noticed that the lights had never come up, and that was her unmistakable masterful attack on the violin below on the stage. I gestured for my purse, and when the man gave it to me, I clutched it to my chest in my hands and breathed as deep as I could, enormously relieved, feeling the rest of the nausea washing away.


March 10, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


Leave a Reply