Girl/Body as Theory of Space-Time
F. Rowan Waters
To recontextualize the violence of the body (this is especially the case with bodies called ‘girl’) is a difficult task requiring strong legs, loose hips, and feet capable of side-stepping across time. But here’s the thing with feet: they land in place. As the body ‘girl’ ostensibly has one, a place in which it is.
A new context is most palatable en scene, as we would like to taste the sour burst of insight one often experiences after getting some blood drawn. So there is a miasmatic imperative to describe: the trees, grass stuck in bruised grids to bare thighs, the weight of sunlight balancing on a shiny forehead. These textures are necessary if we are to do the work. The ‘work’ in question is called ‘good,’ so the descriptions must also be so.
The problem is that, unlike grass (which occurs in specific parks at a specific intersection of streets located in specific spatiotemporal arrangements of the afternoon) a body keeps losing its name. ‘Losing’ is perhaps the wrong word for what has happened. See, it’s like this: the grass, which for our purposes here is a brilliant April green, cannot leave the park, which we will call Wallace Park in Greenwood Village, Colorado and runs along the Goldsmith Gulch on Yosemite Street (jokingly pronounced, on occasion, as “Yo Semite” by 3rd generation Jews on their way to King Soopers).
The grass cannot make its way out of the park, cannot cross the street, walk up Yosemite to where it intersects with Union and walk along the reservoir’s edge to catch the train at the Dayton station. The grass’ spatiotemporal contingency limits its range of movement — it cannot take the train, it cannot call its Dad and in a moment of unprecedented vulnerability say if I don’t leave this place now I’m afraid I’m going to die. It remains in its specificity and is held, metaphysically speaking, together by a lack of agency. Place inflicts upon park, park inflicts upon grass — so really, even if it didn’t particularly like its name, even if it tried to cast it off like a discarded pistachio shell, there’d be no place else for it to go. Grass settles in grass. It remains itself and goes on being grass. It has consistency. Doesn’t that sound nice?
It sounds nice to a body called ‘girl’ who cannot say the same about herself. See, she was able to board the train — which now runs all the way up to Denver International Airport— and leave the place she’d been ‘girl’ in. She definitely remembered packing it in one of the side pockets of her carry-on, swore she’d had it with her at the gate, and could recall toying with it in her coat pocket while waiting at the taxi loop at the SFO arrivals terminal. It wasn’t until she was picking out lampshades at IKEA that the body realized she had left herself somewhere. But when she attempted to mentally retrace her steps, it seemed, in retrospect, as if she had in fact been picking off little flecks of ‘girl’ and absentmindedly tossing them aside for some time. She had not ‘lost’ herself, per se, so much as she seemed to have accidentally left it scattered haphazardly in her wake. It’s not like she could simply return to Wallace Park and find it sitting in the grass beside a bench.
Or maybe it was the opposite? That ‘girl’ had lost her body? The distinction made by locating an agent is only important if we care about the cogency afforded by ontological hierarchies, which, to be fair, many do. But whether a mind — call it a name, a self, a subjectivity, a superstructure of gendered declensions, etc… — loses a body or a body loses its mind and forgets the self it’s meant to be attached to…the sudden shock & realization of having become untethered, in either case, is equally disconcerting.
F. Rowan Waters is a Guest Contributor for Panorama