The Minty Gel / 5 March 2002

G is applying a minty gel to my scalp and in the fogged mirror of the medicine cabinet I write: YOUR FINGERS : MY FINGERS :: THE JAVELIN : THE COCKTAIL WIENER. Remember when she used to smile wistfully at my ratios? Those days have been gutted and buried in burlap sacks. Those days knock on the floorboards late at night with rotting hands, bony knuckles. We can still be friends, they say in that awful zombie voice, the vowels drawn out way too long, the dry coughing spells, and I have to turn up my white noise maker so the house shudders under the weight of chirping crickets and burbling brooks.

G asks if I can feel it working and I say no even though the distinctive tingling began like five minutes ago. You have dendrites that connect the various components of your brain and when you’re a baby these dendrites are plentiful and tightly interconnected, making it easy for them to learn things. This is why you should start French lessons at an early age or else not bother. But as you learn, certain dendrites are used more and more frequently, while the unused ones wither, shrivel up, eventually disappearing forever. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you’ll never be able to make those connections again. E.g., for me, the pathway between backstretching and pleasure — vanished.

The gel alleges to forge new dendrites. The odds are slim that you’ll get something familiar. More likely it’ll be something brand new, something random, the flavor of mustard branching off into the texture of fingerprints, that sort of thing. It’s always interesting and I really shouldn’t try to fight it but I do, I sweat with the concentration, my ulcer flaring, the nights hot and dense, trying to force those days back to the present, G in all her glory, lifting weights, circling errors in the World Books, me carving runes in her back, making deadly filaments from blown glass. Kicking each other’s shins at the Embers, never laughing because things were so serious, rewiring the birds to sing in harmony, the grass clippings, the false book, the wind-up vibrators, the porcelain piñatas—

My lack of focus is interfering with my work but I need to keep the connections alive, no matter how false, no matter how distant, just on the off chance that the gel will pick up on it, find an easy pathway, flowing smoothly downward as if it that route had been there all along.

Joshua Green Allen

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