Some kind of white paint spatter stretches out across the pavement like a horribly broken

The line is supposed to read “Some kind of white paint spatter stretches out across the pavement like a horribly broken spine,” but in my haste I have elided the last word, thereby doubling its vitality.

Some kind of white paint spatter stretches out across the pavement like a horribly broken spine. Or is it pink? I walk past it again in different light, and maybe it’s pink.

There are others like it, gray, banal and pedestrian, flung across the pavements by where the workmen from the ladder company smoke. Actually, no, come to think of it, mostly they’re not smoking. Maybe one or two sometimes, but mostly they are staring straight across the street, as though each one were all alone.

It’s clearly paint from some sort of reckless paint job, the kind that gets done fast without a lot of supervision or consequence. Thing is…ok, the ladder company building is gray and the paint spatters are gray, so they you are, sloppy exterior paint job. But there’s nothing I can see by this white (or possibly pink) spatter that’s painted white (or possibly pink).

The auto museum’s right there. I really like that little corner. Went by there around the 4th of July, and there was a sign up about being closed for a couple of days, and that they were sorry for any inconvenience. And then you think about the people who are inconvenienced by the temporary closure of automobile museum in observance of a national holiday, and then you really thrill at the variety of people upon this creation.

It is maybe that my mind extends these images too far because my imagination is peculiarly unbounded. I like to think I am imbued by my creator with an ability to see things just a little bit in between, or at least certainly askance. I like to think of Jesus going to warp speed and God’s eye rising over a moon of Saturn. I get that some people probably think that’s blasphemous or at least inexcusably weird, but thing is I don’t care anymore.

There’s a lot of amazing things to see, even on that one corner alone. I am in love with the burned-out shell of the factory just opposite the auto museum, yes I am. I did not realize for a while that it was burned out because from three sides it just looks normal abandoned, but once I kept going up the other side I realized it wasn’t there, and that half the bricks of the walls that still were there were buttressed by wooden beams coming up from the grass where the building should have been. I also love this building’s notice of condemnation, even if that’s a little corny. At the top it says “CONDEMNED as DANGEROUS AND UNSAFE” and I took a picture of me with this sign at eye level and posted it online with the caption “Same.” I also love the not very artful portraits of historical local notables painted by local schoolchildren on panels along the building’s façade. I have not yet read the hand-written plaque well enough to ascertain if the portraits were painted before or after the building was condemned.

When Star Trek was digitally remastered, they discovered the spatters of coffee stains and other such things hidden from the cameras of the time on the actors’ costumes. A joke I misunderstood as a child ended with a spatter of brains of a relative who was actually fine. Well, dead, but not of any spatter-related causes.

Another relative it turns out never existed lost the tip of her tongue while licking the edge of a serrated knife. My family could be very inventive in such matters.

I went out of my way on my walk this morning to go past the spatter again, but I forgot to look down. I must have marched straight across the breadth of its broken back, but I never stopped, as I meant, to consider it. I started to wonder at some point if there weren’t some technical difference between “spatter” and “splatter,” but it feels like I’m kind of in too deep for that, you know?

At times I become obsessed with the idea of breaking my neck. Not obsessed with. Fixed on. There is a horrible knot in my neck that I and even others work on every day, without any lasting results. I wonder at times if I fell and broke my neck just right if the knot would finally go, if the bubble would pop. I know that’s not how such things work, but our bodies can make our minds trump themselves sometimes.

I once played the Brodsky Quartet recording of Björk’s “Hyperballad” for my dad, age ~12. He declared it “well a bit melodramatic,” and I felt sore ashamed. In the song, Björk and unnamed second person live at the top of a mountain, and Björk contemplates the cliff face and the drop down while the other person sleeps:

There’s a beautiful view
From the top of the mountain
Every morning I walk towards the edge
And throw little things off
Like car-parts, bottles and cutlery
Or whatever I find lying around

She explains:

I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you

Later, Björk imagines herself as a proxy for the thrown objects:

I’m back at my cliff
Still throwing things off
I listen to the sounds they make
On their way down
I follow with my eyes ’til they crash
Imagine what my body would sound like
Slamming against those rocks
When it lands
Will my eyes
Be closed or open?

I don’t think Björk is saying like “graphically contemplating your own suicide is a reasonable response to relationship problems,” but how do you explain that to your dad? I just wanted to play him the pretty music. To show him that his discerning taste in music was rubbing off on me.

Somehow we all want love for the art we love. It is good to have good taste, and the best way to know you have good taste is to have your own taste reflected happily back at you.

But there is something more than this. The art we like illuminates the happy and tragic corridors we most treasure in our own minds, and someone accepting, and not just accepting but maybe even loving something that we love is a sign that they can understand the snaking, branching secret corridor this work took through your brain.

They can’t, though. That’s not what’s happening. At best that work is snaking a new course through the other person’s mind, whizzing around the corners of corridors your friend is thrilled to remember she contains. At worst, she is just smiling, which isn’t so awful bad.

I’ll never be able to make you feel like knit-up discrete panic I felt when I saw that white, or possibly pink paint spatter. It came with a kind of squelching noise and ill-defined jamais vu. I cannot trace the root of this panic for you, or myself, though the attempt is as necessary as dying. I hope instead that this uncomfortable feeling you’re left with will make its own kind of memory for you.  

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