Verb: To See
By Brianna Clarke-Arias
This piece is about the process of reconnecting with our past selves and how the way we see things changes as we age.
The rain falls into Object’s thin hair, across the faint pale scar on their cheek, and down the curve of their head before it continues down the hill. A bus waits in the dark, the white of its hood bright under the streetlights. Object continues forward, gravel of the street pressed into the soles of their shoes. Their face is slick with water, but pulled taut as if by tears. They feel the headlights of the bus against the side of their face and a low rumbling that vibrates into their ears.
Water is pooling in the dirt patch beside the sidewalk and Object tracks it into the bus. At the top of the steps, they lie across a pair of seats as the wheels release and start forward. Object rocks with the movement and the fibers of the seat pull in the wetness and the salt until the pungent smell of the sea wafts throughout the aisles. The bus is steady against the sounds of cars skidding outside, and the prickling of the streetlights into Object’s corneas.
The bus continues on into the city until it reaches the large stone structure of the Forty-Second Street Library. Object steps down into the street. Their clothes are covered in a stale wetness until the rain bursts out again and the activity outside resumes. They wait in a glass bus stop across from the library. A small girl waits beside them, her hair long and pulled tightly into high pigtails, dressed completely in a tart pink that looks sweet and tastes bitter and strong. She turns to Object. “Are you hungry?” Her eyes are curious, large with what Object does not think is innocence, but something more perceptive. The rest of her is abrasive: she has lost several teeth recently and the gaps that sit in her gums make her look younger but sore. She’s young and vibrating with color like a molecule of light.
“I’m cold,” Object replies, and sits still, save for their hands flexing and their eyes darting about. The neon yellow of their sweater has soaked through and become translucent. The color sticks to their body and spreads up their neck.
“I want to eat.” The color still creeps up.
“You should have eaten dinner.” Object can feel the brightness flood their cheeks and wave up their temples.
“I hate to eat meals. And I hate so many foods. I have to go to the biggest place where I can find exactly what I want.”
“You’re a picky eater.” The neon pulses in Object’s eyes. They close them. “I’m selective because I’m too sensitive.”
“I’ll eat, but only to see how hungry I am. What’s your name?”
“Macula. My mom named me Macular Pigment.”
“What’s that, a muscle?”
“It’s in your eyes.” Object looks around at the sharp yellow that filters the night and supposes that they are right. They walk with the girl toward the library.
Everything about the library is large: its doors, its ceilings, its echoes. The girl takes Object’s hand and leads them down the stone stairs. They are sturdy, but under her feet Object can feel the floor shake and the walls rumble very softly. She reminds them nothing of themself. Object supposes they should go home, caught in the feeling that they should leave early enough to go home, but they want to sleep in this dark building, a small crook in a large empty space. The feeling of being outside is half the sensation and half the memory that they will return to after leaving, even as it forms between their eyes and their brain.
At the foot of the stairs, in a basement, Macula brings them into a children’s library and, despite looking so young, Object feels them stick out sorely. The pink of her clothes are bright and girly and should make her fit in among the concealing and innocent children’s books, but instead she seems too strong, too demanding. Her hair seems shorter, but the pink brighter. She picks a book from the shelf in earnest and Object is curious. They pad slowly over and look over Macula’s shoulder. The cover looks familiar.
They open the book and Object brings it closer to their eyes. The language is incomprehensible.
Macula speaks clearly. It feels just like rumbling.
“That was my favorite book,” Object says. Macula’s face turns up at that, the neon of Object’s vision bringing out the scar on her cheek. They had not noticed that before. At the dip in her skin across her cheek, Object notices the brightness of the room becoming darker with shadow.
Object takes the book and moves to the corner. They flip through the pages, they cannot make out a word. Macula must be reciting the story but it sounds alien.
“How come you can read it,” Object starts, “—how come you can read it and I can’t?” They know the story, they do, but they cannot remember it. They look into Macula’s big eyes and sees themself refracted in their irises; Macula sits in the reflection. The room is sharp with neon highlights but for Macula’s dark eyes. As Object moves their mouth, they see the image of Macula move its mouth as well.
“That was mine.”
Brianna Clarke-Arias is a poet and essayist who primarily explores history as a legacy of power through her writing. Most of her works act as personal genealogies of imperialism as a Dominican-American. As an adult, she wants to build national labor unions to protect Black rights, women’s rights, and immigrant rights. Brianna has gotten five bee stings in her left hand and does not want you to feel guilty for your anger but to listen to it.