• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 06
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Keep Up With You

I could only recognise you out of the corner of my eye. In focus you were someone else.

I read somewhere that one’s direct vision is more easily fooled than one’s peripheral vision. When focussing one’s vision on a point, the brain simplifies the image, creating symmetries and parallels and perpendiculars where none exist; but when viewed off-centre, the brain sees the thing more as it really is.

When I sat next to you on the bus, at the front so you could stretch your legs out, my eyes took little snapshots of your profile, warts and all. Every stray hair, every bag under your eye, every uncooperative eyelash.

When we lay next to one another, close enough for our noses to touch, my eyes corrected for error, rounded all points to the nearest integer: erasing stray blemishes, softening your jawline, smoothing out the bridge of your nose.

My brain squeezed out, from whole cloth, a version of you it thought I’d find more attractive. But the real you, the one on your passport or your DNA: that was the one I saw when I wasn’t really looking.

The less you look, the better you see. The closer, the worse. Look close enough at something until all you can see are the electrons, and you’ll find that the electrons in a camel and those in a combine harvester look much the same. It’s only when you look a little less closely at something that you can see the thing as it is.

I tried to keep up with you.

An electron, whether in a camel or a combine harvester, is always an uncertain thing.


Keep Up With You

Your mood might swing like a pendulum, but try as I might I could never pinpoint the velocity.

I spent hours trying to observe the displacement of your passions, the positions of your idiosyncrasies, the acceleration of your sorrow. Mapping the coordinates of every quirk and idiosyncrasy.

(1, 3, 7.2) — cigarettes make you cough.
(-6.4, 9, 115) — you were born in San Francisco.
(14.2, -2, -45.8) — you feel a strange sense of competition with your niece.

But these points are all electrons hanging in the breeze. In the time it took me to learn that you rarely ate meat, and prepare you a curry of cauliflower, you’d become omnivorous all over again. I looked as closely as I could, but I couldn’t keep up.

The snapshot when I first met you was useless. Blurry, out of focus, poor composition, you’re hardly even the main subject — and in any case it’s long out of date.

Sometimes when I lay next to you, close enough for our noses to touch, I’d have to wonder about this distance between us.

Is this closeness, or just proximity?