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Emergence of Self - Click here to read the Artist's Statememt
© 2013 Preston Palmer

1. Reminiscence

Today, I rode my bike as the
spring sun set slowly into a bed of wispy clouds.
I watched people's faces as I passed by;
serene, calm like the water and the
bare birch trees that line the shore. Two men
walking a dog, stopped in heated discussion,
raising their hands and widening
their eyes. Another man walking his dog nearby
tugged harder at the leash.
I peddled on.
A woman, finished tying her shoe, stood up and
continued walking, staring straight ahead
her arms punching the sky, as a
group of young men walking in the opposite direction approached.
Two of the men turned to look at her
as she passed,
and I peddled on.
A teenage boy with long brown hair
draped over his eyes held a skateboard upright
by the drinking fountain, smiling as he waited
for a girl down the path on rollerblades to arrive,
cars drove past on the road behind him.
I peddled on.

But with each face, each recognition, each smile and jeer, I
felt a connection,
as if the last few rays of sun connected each body.
The smell of the air twisting in and out of our lungs
as we share in the spirit of spring.

Without a single word spoken, the sun sank
below the trees and silhouette-black building blocks as
I thought about a young boy from a long time ago,
who looked up at the world with
bright and curious eyes, hungry for the
light of knowledge. The knowledge that hid behind
closed doors and around dark corners.
The knowledge that danced in people's eyes, that
twisted and twirled around the edges of words and sentences;
giving life to meaning and
singing soft melodies of the here-and-now,
music that never quite made it
all the way into the ears, but instead drifted invisibly
on murmurs and molecules until it wrapped itself
around the strings of the heart and mind,
like cottonwood seeds in June.

I thought about this boy, the only boy I've ever known and
what it must have been like to,
at once,
be nothing and then
experience somethingness for the very first time.
The thought reminded me of sitting on the green grass in summer,
down at the bottom of the hill
on a cloudless new-moon night, and
listen to the sounds of the guitar vibrate slow chords,
notes that cry tears the way that boy must once have cried
before he knew what somethingness was; before he
had seen his mother's eyes and learned what warmth was; before he
fell off his bike for the very first time and learned
what pain was; before he had
walked to school with the boy who lived next door and
learned what friendship was; before
he had left a note in someone else's locker and
learned what regret was;
before the night he and another boy embraced by the river
and he learned what love was.
Before all this;
when there was
nothing but the void,
before there was a boy at all.

2. Light

I awake.
All around the darkness sings of possibilities and preclusions,
tiny dots of light like raindrops that might not fall on the
foreheads and eyelashes of the people who swim through consciousness,
never rising to the surface for air,
the air I now breathe for the first time.

I exhale and feel deeply into the lungs as they
relax like snow landing softly on a
tall, thin blade of yellow grass. The dim unknown
that encapsulates me is tranquil and
quiet, there is the voice of one mind and it is the only mind.
The voice says nothing. There is
nothing, nothing to say, nothing except for the soft hum of
existence and the gentle drumming of the blood rushing through
the veins.

But the dimness gets brighter, flashes of light rush at me like
needles as I am poked and prodded.
Something here is being pressed,
another flash of light.
Something here is breathing,
another swath of light molds me,
pushes me.
Something here exists,
now I am enveloped in shards of painful
like broken glass cutting at every edge of my being.

I am alone, singular,
even in the fullness of light I can feel emptiness struggling to hold
on to the dim nothingness in which it once rested, but
that is no longer. This is a world of light, light that
I cannot escape from, no matter how cold or painful it feels.
Noises, colors, feelings of pressure, of being held,
touched, kissed,
each new sensation like a ripple
on the surface of a lake.

Until suddenly the light takes on a different hue. I breath in
warmth from a new source, it fills
all of my being with overwhelming comfort and tranquility, the
warmth is soft; it blunts the light as it continues to flash
over my being.
The skin of my face
that I realize now is mine
touches something soft. I can hear;
it too hums of existence, the feeling is so bright I can hardly see.
I don't understand. Something is here.
I open my eyes just the slightest and I see a blur,
blotches of darkness and lightness,
pinks and blues and greens and yellows, all to make up
this image before me. This is the other, she is bright.
I will know her as my mother,
I look up again and I can see now, my mother's eyes
looking into my own,
making them my own.

Preston, she says. You are Preston.

3. Existence

If I cannot see myself, how do I know that I exist?

This is the question of the young boy,
who sat on the grass in the backyard and looked out with wonder
as the white sun sat remotely above the trees,
the boy who waited for his mother's eyes to remember that
there he was,
sitting on the grass, feeling the cool blades press
into his palms all the way down to the moist soil
that got pebbles stuck in between his finger-nails.

The boy looks out and sees two hands beside him but
where do they begin? Without his mother to tickle his backside, how would
he know it's there?

Mother, do I exist?

Yes, my darling.

Then it must be true.

Years later, the boys and girls at school must choose a partner for
gym class. Nobody picks me, I am weak. They think of me
as weak, I think of myself as weak. They do not see
boys who are weak.
Does the boy no longer exist?

Gay. The boy is gay. Now they see a boy who is gay. He is
strange. I am very strange. I am a queer.
I have a dream that everyone in my class except me is
wearing a suit and a tie, the boys have their hair glossed up
so that it shines under the fluorescent lights like sun off water.

But the sun has set, time has passed and they
are long gone now.
I peddle harder now, the first warm wind of
the season pushes at my ears, the sleeves of my shirt flutter chaotically
as the space ahead greets my presence
and releases it almost instantly.
I am back on my bike, a young father holds his son's hand as they
wait for me to pass.
I exist. I take up space and time.
I do not look at my hands, I do not look down at my feet. The
pavement bows and bends before me without pause, I feel as
though the wind is moving through me; I exhale hard as my
left foot rises and my
right foot falls,
and with each movement emotion passes
through me in waves,
I look into these faces of strangers and I see how
we are all connected by these strands of light. The two men
arguing, the man walking his dog,
the woman tying her shoe, the group of men walking by.
Interconnected in the most peculiar ways, like raindrops
all sharing the same cloud. We cross paths, we share spaces,
our own existences humming along quietly in the background.

Between us, I can start to see the strands of light, some dim and
some strong. The more I see it the brighter it gets. The sun has
set and the streetlights flicker,
but I can hardly see them anyhow.

I begin to wonder,
if underneath we are nothing. And this light is what fills all of space,
then this light
is life itself.

It is the boy named Preston, it is being gay,
it is the changing of the seasons, the call of the robin
in May, it is the first bud to emerge
on the first tree
and the last leaf to fall
from the last tree,
it is the leash on the dog and the words of the angry men. It is
the heavy bounce in the step of the men
staring at the woman, and the expression of panic on her face.
It is the smile of the boy
by the drinking fountain, the hair in his eyes, the exasperation
of the girl as she collides with him and they
fall on the grass.

This is the light that fills all of the space between people,
what makes them people at all. It is the space around the edges and
in between these words, the sound of my fingers tapping the keys.

I cannot call it myself because it is everything; this light.
The light that embodied me into being, the light that
I felt when I first touched my mother's breast. The light that
I saw when I first looked into her eyes. The light of love and
warmth, which we swim through unwittingly
every day.

Today, I see that light reverberate through my life,
through-out the world that I have come to know,
so as the final moments of twilight twinkle away,
I dismount my bike and sit down
on the dry green grass

and exist.