Frank Ocean sings and mutters to me.
Where, I ask you, is this sound? Well, it's right here, in this room. Sure, it comes from the living room but, as everyone knows, sound travels. And so what emanates from the living room is not just in this room, it's winding into my ears, into my body.
Now what about that piece of cardboard? My instinct is to say it's over there. But if it's over there, how come it feels so close, impossibly close, like it's in my eye, in my head, in my body?
Vision is strange. It eliminates distance, folding the horizon into my body — and, I suppose, folding my body into the ocean (pace Merleau-Ponty and his erotic chiasm).
When I see something, I take it up — with my eyes. It's tempting to imagine seeing as distant, as not touching. But to see is to grasp — in the words of Merleau-Ponty, to palpate. I love that: to see is to handle, to finger, to touch, to grasp, to molest, to fiddle and fondle. Vision happens at a remove but, super hero like, is able to bring that thing that's three feet away, 1000 yards away, 90 million miles way right here!
But it's not just that the thing sits there and I, with my super sticky eyes, grasp it. It, that thing, traverses all the space to come to me. In fact, even if I don't want to take it up, have it enter my body, it hurls itself at me across the room or across the cosmos.
Space, then, is not empty. That cardboard and I are not sitting in empty space. No, we are sitting in an infinitely dense space, a space filled with all these things — desk, screen, pen, pad, books, dust, phone, glass of gin — traversing space, becoming elongated, stretching themselves to me. I am a focal point thanks to my eyes — my eyes which are as much fingers as they are ears, able to reach but also at the mercy of what presents itself.
One of my favorite things is watching a dog's ears move — they are literally feeling their way through and amongst sounds. I can't do that. My ears just sit there and all the noise of the world pours in. I filter somewhat, tuning out this and that. But all that sound pours right on in.
The same is true of sight. I filter, even closing my eyes now and again. But so much, impossibly much, pours into my body through my eyes.
So then I look around my apartment, my bachelor apartment that is sometimes co-inhabited by an eight year old boy. There is stuff everywhere — legos, wads of tape, scraps of paper, socks, crumbs, stray lettuce. These things ricochet through this space creating a cacophony until, one day, I can't stand the sound and begin picking up the scraps, vacuuming the dust, tossing the lettuce in the compost, putting 4,327 lego pieces in a bucket.
Sometimes — nay, usually — I think to myself: that cardboard is over there so what do I care? It's not like it's really in my space. But that's not right. That piece of cardboard — what the heck is it? Oh, it's from a clothes hangar — sits there and emanates, like Frank Ocean, pouring into my eyes, into my body, filling this space between me and it with itself.