sensitivity, the left leg, and the words of the prophets being written on my thighs
When I wake up, there’s writing on my thighs. It’s not the first time I’ve written something on myself in the middle of the night, but it is the first time it’s been on my legs, and I think it’s also the first time it’s been in blue.
Scrawled on my left thigh: inanimate=impersonal—depersonification of the divine → ANGELS pylons wires electric impersonal, inhuman but still alive THEY MUST HAVE A SPARK! metallic?
On my right thigh: walls— brick/concrete in the middle of a highway cleanliness is godliness list → angels ←→ self-mirrors→ abstraction divinity in the impersonal? impersonality of sleep— fingers theory DREAMS is the DMV heaven?
The common theme between this and all of the other writing I’ve found on myself is that I have no idea how it got there, and it’s about angels. I don’t know if it’s the Lyme disease or the medication or what, but it happens at least once every two weeks— I go to bed with clean skin, and then when I wake up, there’s an almost illegible scribble of divine output on my arms. Now, my legs too.
When asked my parents if they believed in angels, my mother reminded me to take my medication, and my father asked if I have strange dreams. When I said sometimes (and took my morning meds), he told me I should give my grandmother a call. I did.
“You’ve been having dreams?” she says. No hello. No greeting. This isn’t out of the blue. She always does this.
“Yeah, but I’m more worried about the writing.”
“Waking up with writing on yourself?”
“Yeah,” I say.
“Describe your dream,” she says. Her voice is rough from sawdust and smoking when she was younger. The Chicago accent is thick, and it scrapes over the r’s like chalk on the patio. I can hear her take a sip of her herbal tea— it’s about 11 a.m. where she is, so it’s probably mint.
“There’s more than one,” I say.
“Not at once. And they’re very similar, aren’t they?” She knows something I don’t, clearly.
And so I tell her. I’ve been having something of a recurring dream since I was about five years old. When I was five, it was me— not me, me as someone else— running through the jungle from something. I had to cross a river, I tripped, something bit off my left leg from mid-thigh down. Died. When I was eight, it changed to my left leg withering away from polio. Died.
Thirteen. I was an aviation radioman in World War II. My plane went down over some French beach, and the way it crashed ripped off my left leg. Died.
Fifteen. I was trapped under labyrinth of everything— newpapers, bones, books, trash— because I stepped in the wrong place trying to get to someone else stuck in the labyrinth. Rats ate off my left leg once I died.
And now, at seventeen, it’s changed again. A car crash into a lake in the middle of the summer. Old car, from the 70s or 80s, smelling like hairspray and cigarette smoke. I was in the passenger seat. Left leg had to get amputated. Bled out. Died.
“Sounds like you’re sensitive, sister,” my grandmother says. “Your Nonni’s got it. I got it. A few of your cousins, too, and some of their daughters.”
“Sensitive,” I say.
“You seen the weird stuff, too, huh?”
“Ghosts. Energies. Demons. You seen it.”
“When I was little, I think.” My parents weren’t thrilled when I kept insisting there was a girl with wet hair in my closet. Or the animals in the front yard. Or the thing that would run around and slam the doors. Chalked it up to the wind and an active imagination.
“I know. You told me when you was a little kid. Chooch has got the sight right now. Scares the bejeezus out of Anne when she starts hiding behind people because she sees something after her.” Chooch is my second cousin, 6 years old, blonde and blue eyed like a cherub. “Bri thinks she’s Satan, but everybody knows that she’s off her head on crack. She’s not sensitive, either, so she don’t get it.”
I hum noncommitally.
“Nonni, fanatic that she is, thinks it’s the angels talking to us. Says we was chosen for something or whatever. She’s seen a lot of people ‘bout it. Her Father at her church says it’s a gift from God.”
“An angel as the abstract version of the self,” I say. I took a photo of the writing on my legs before I scrubbed it off, and I look at it like it’ll tell me more. Sensitive. I can work with sensitive.
“You gonna have to speak in smaller words, sister.”
“The writing on my legs. It’s about angels,” I say. She takes another sip of her tea, and it ricochets down the line like static.
“Nonni’s gonna have a field day with you,” she says. “Next time you come down south, she’s gonna drag you to her church. Try and see if she can get a vision out of you."
“I know. I don’t think it really works like that, but we both know that God is the only one that could ever stop her,” I say.
“God’s just getting her started,” my grandmother says.
We talk for a few more minutes about our various health ailments and whatever family gossip there is— my Lyme, her recent hospital trip, how another one of the second cousins have started teething, the last time my one of my uncles got arrested. She hangs up when one of the cousins calls her into the kitchen to help make lunch, airkissing me through the phone. “You’ll be fine, cerbiatta,” she says.
(She hasn’t called me that for a long time. Fawn. Big eyes, skinny legs, brown all over, she had said when I was little. When I googled it, I found out it was also the Italian equivalent of dyke. God-given gift of prophecy, indeed.)
I call my sibling. “You hear about the sensitivity?”
“What? Have you been talking to Grandma?” they say.
“Your accent is a bit stronger.”
“Right. She tell you about being sensitive? Talking to angels and seeing ghosts and shit?” I ask.
They say something that I only get half of.
“Bad connection, sorry. I’m in the car. Putting you on speaker,” they say. “You mean, like, the visions and deja vu?”
“Sure,” I say.
“Yeah, I know about it. I got a bit of it, but it’s not so bad, just deja vu and the stuff in the house when we were younger and the dog-thing in the yard,” they reply. “Not like Nonni’s. She’s got the strange dreams and everything.”
“I’ve got the dreams. I’ve had them since I was about five,” I say.
“Congratulations, I guess,” they say.
“Good to know you also saw the dog-thing.”
“I’ll try to draw it to see if it’s the same one,” they say, and after saying our goodbyes, we hang up.
(It’s the same dog thing.)
All of that leaves me standing in front of my bedroom mirror in my underwear. The afternoon sunlight hits my body from the side, leaving half of it in shadows, hiding the freckles and assorted marks. I’m looking into my eyes and frowning.
“This body ain’t big enough for the both of us,” I say to myself. How many things are in my body that shouldn’t be there? The Lyme, and now an angel. Is there an angel in here?
Maybe the angel is in the mirror. Impersonal and inhuman, but still alive. Is a reflection a living being? I think of the friend who saw an angel in the moonlight on a river. Do the angels belong to the mirror world, something as sharp as glass and smooth as water?
If angels are found in light and reflection, does that mean they exist only when someone is there to see them?
I think about being a conduit. The copper wire of divinity. A pylon for God’s racing current. Inanimacy. A vessel. A bottle waiting for a message.
There was a film my teacher made us watch when I was taking Japanese about a princess found in a bamboo stalk. In the end, she was from the moon— a cold and impersonal place, absent of memory. I think about all of the impersonal places (is the DMV heaven?) angels could be.
Body neutrality at the finest, I suppose. It’s come to the point where my neutrality has expanded to the world. Nothing is beautiful or ugly to me anymore, because the concepts of beauty and ugliness don’t exist. The only thing that matters is if it exists.
I’m not a particularly religious person, despite being raised mostly Catholic, but I do consider myself to be pretty spiritual. I believe in angels and the saints, really, and that’s almost the extent of it, but sometimes you look at something— and I mean really look at it— and there it is. Proof of a God. Isn’t incredible that everything exists? Science is a God. Dirt is a God. The flowers, the sea, the roads, humans, the ugliest fish in the damn world. They’re all God. Like God is one big, breathing organism that we all play into the environment of. Fingers on a hand.
So what is an angel? Something inanimate, something dead, something alive. Electricity and water and light and the wind, all animated but inanimate. Impersonal as a wall across the highway, like Douglas Adams said.
If my Nonni is to be believed, if there really are angels that talk to our family, than it makes sense why they come in dreams. There is truly nothing more impersonal than sleep— you do it, I do it, I can make a computer do it, everything has a sleep mode. There’s a certain cleanliness to the impersonal, isn’t there? It’s not messy, no strings attached, nothing paticularly anything about it.
The sun’s heat is turning my biceps red. They’re not burnt, just warm, but I move out of the sun regardless and stare at the way it hits the fake wood panelling of my bedroom floor. That could be an angel. I look at myself in the mirror again. I look like a lump of meat to myself, but I know that everyone else takes me much more personally. People find this flesh ‘cool’ and ‘pretty’. People find the brain inside the flesh is ‘smart’. It’s dangerous when you see yourself as less than a person than other people do. Do people even exist? Fingers on a Godly hand— everything is the same.
It’s 3 p.m. My hair is shittily dyed. I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know if I’m the one that’s talking. I sit outside and get sunburnt. I go inside and get aloe vera. The cycle continues, the great Pattern the world moves in pulses like a heartbeat.
At night, I press my cheek to my bedroom floor and listen in.