A Bird Singing Nonsense
It’s mid-day, hot enough to make you worry about the weather patterns. I’m out of town with you: you are a man I love, a man who used to be the you in all of my letters, but now only sometimes. A man struggling to admit that our lives don't link up.
We get to the museum 10 minutes after they stopped selling tickets. The grouchy old white guy at the counter scoffs at our request to pay extra, wrist bands in his hand. I make a smart remark. He lets us in on the condition that you keep me out of trouble. You say you couldn’t if you tried. You are proud of yourself. He is proud of himself. We each laugh for different reasons.
Scurrying inside, we allow ourselves the arrogance of youth, proclaiming that we had better sex that afternoon than he’s probably ever had. You talk me out of my feminist fever, remind me we only have so much time.
At the bottom of the winding stairway, I see it: a 20-foot tall structure of a DNA strand, brightly-colored wands ascend like a bean stock to heaven. We are small beside it. DNA looks just like a spiraling ladder, staircase to nothing, tracks with no train.
Seeing it there, I swallow the reminder that these strands form each fact of us, like a book we're not aware of writing. The shape of it draws me close to the parts of myself I don’t know and can’t know. I imagine myself as the puny hero at its base, just starting my quest with nothing but will and dumb courage. I've been whispering questions into the cold, wet chamber of history and hearing no response.
my whole life I have just been crawling rung by rung down this ladder leading in. Followed long enough, it would eventually take me back to the one common ancestor all living things share.
I wonder: could we ever remember that first sensation?
Is that memory still hidden somewhere in our bodies?
My cells tingle with recognition as I circle the massive model of it, surrounded by walls with glossy facts printed on them which some intern probably stayed late to hang while the visitors outstayed their welcome.
An all-female species of whip-tailed lizards reproduces without a mate. Reptile eggs become male or female depending on the temperature of the sand. There are 2,000 different genes that allow a finch to learn to sing – and the absence of just one results in a bird that can only sing nonsense.
What hidden history is still pulsing inside of me? Nearly every cell in your body contains your complete DNA code. What knowledge does my DNA have that I don’t?
You press your warm body up against me as we watch a video of DNA reproducing and say into my ear, this is happening in your body all the time. I believe it, but I can’t feel it. All I can feel is you pressed against my hip, the cum you left inside me two hours ago leaking out slowly, all your genetic material held back by a tiny copper wire in my cervix.
Is this the sensation of being alive?
I want to feel my way through the brail book of my body, the encyclopedia that every strand of hair holds. I want access to that process of printing and rearranging the words on the never-blank page, our microscopic interpretations of the world, groping for comfort, always learning.
I want to feel the knowledge in my cells, but I can’t. I can only feel you, this hunger, the cortisol leaving my bloodstream, and my weight tipping thoughtlessly into yours, muscles lunging forever toward sources of warmth, predictions of pleasure, seeking some sort of security.