When I was a man, the sources of power I drew were singular. Focused inside my chest, somewhere beneath my heart, pulsed an array of light, of sheet lightning that convulsed and pulled in tandem. Like a touchstone, I’d reach my hands deep into myself and ever so lightly, touch that Heart, beneath my heart. The jolt would be intense yet brief, as I disengaged my hands before the flesh could blister. Emboldened, enlivened, I would smile and continue down the street, into an office or with an exam. And the world parted before me. Unlike what you would expect, what the trope dictates, I wasn’t cruel. I had plenty of room in my life for others and I filled it gladly with a host of good and true friends, close to my actual heart. There’s no “but” either; I lived in rapport with my fellows, or what I thought was rapport.
Now that I am no longer a man, the sources of power I draw are displaced. Focused nowhere, they are a faintly luminescent grid that floats in some imagined space, hidden under nothing. The light it gives is weak but beautiful, possessed of the same somber air that a bent tree might hold or a distant horizon. It’s no longer a touchstone but rather an array that rotates without center, flooding my life and experiences with its fragile light. And most of all, it shines on people’s faces. What comes to light, literally in those rare moments of clarity, is as horrid as it is magnificent. All those gathered friends, and strangers too, are cast in wonderful shadow-play which summons their own shattered arrays: casting them in the role of liars, lovers, cowards, heroes, fools, scholars or whatever else strikes my fancy. The room I once had for people is now populated by something quite different yet eerily the same: the potentiality of them. The endless possibilities, the squirted cloud of probability, that surrounds them all, it too invented completely by my mind.
Now that I am no longer a center, my relationship with this construct, and, make no mistake, construct it is, is complex. At times, I am a mosquito, silently drawn to what light can be garnered from this slow-burn cloud. At times, I am the wild beast, discovering that this thing called man has made fire. I circle around the light and gaze in wonder and no small measure of fear at this miracle that has been borne from sticks and stones and lightning. And often, I am the darkness. I flee from the light, faint as it is, leaving behind my shadows. On the fast-retreat now, the double march of emotion, I huddle and I cry and I faintly lock the door so you won’t know in which room I’ve hidden. And so, mental blanket drawn all the way up to my nose, I sit sniveling and wait for your footsteps to pass from the corridor of experience.
And you know what? In that moment, I finally understand your empathy. In that moment, I understand rapport, I understand reciprocity. In that moment, I have a faint glimpse of how two (hell, three, four, five, a million!) arrays can dance with each other across a sky painted darkly. It passes quickly but it too, this understanding, leaves its shadows. Maybe that’s the course of action that presents itself to me: walking down that street, stepping into an office, taking that exam, I could reach into those shadows and remember that fleeting jolt, that intense blister when I