Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I wake up in a new body

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Arnoldo García (bowing to the spontaneity of the dreaming movement):

I wake up with a new body.
My tattoos are gone, not even a scratch from my horrendous bicycle racing accident. Freddie and I were racing around the house. He decided to change directions because I was beating him. His laughter betrayed his loss in a simple kid’s race. Then around the corner, boom! Head on collision. He went flying and I went flying over our locked handlebars. A spoke from his rear wheel that sprung out in the crash gashed my left cheekbone.
My eye went black. The red was a sign that something was broken or at least ripped.
In one night, my violent past became past. No fingerprints, no chains, handcuffs, no prison depressing solitudes. I almost cried. I looked at my body, tender again.
I could fly again. I could walk into a store and not be followed. I could say hello and smile at the white girls. I could smile with the black and brown girls. And they would turn their bodies toward me, beckoning, lifting their skirts or lowering their blouses in a secret signal.
My lips were no longer blue. My stomach a plains, flatlands, inviting touch, inviting endless embrace.
I was monolingual. Spoke English only. Thoughts were almost a hissing radio, whose antenna was bent, broken, lost in a digital world. The tongue was plainer, rejected the old spices, the old needs to sing and blow kisses at the delight of strange foods. Chocolate sauces, dripping over chicken? Not anymore. Chocolate shakes, yes. Green chiles cut and diced into the beans? Neither was in my monolingual vocabulary or pastas, salads and burgers. My body rejected thoughts that bad tildes and double l’s, double RR’s and vowels that were stoic, unchanging.
In jeans or in a business suit, I was the man that rejected me, put false gods and obstacles in my way. I was the man that said I was mediocre and too ambitious and should be satisfied with my station in the valley.

I became the man who had cheated my grandfathers out of their lands. I became the man who harassed my sisters, my mothers, my aunts. Yes, my body was lustworthy and even these women I despised were attracted to me. But I only did what I did to them to keep them in their place and insult their men. I had their men under my boots and their women in my pants, my slim waist, taunt, taunting.
In my new body, I was what I never wished to be and now had no choice.
I fit in. I passed because I didn’t have to pass any more. I could apply for jobs that before had always been off limits. I could enter the neighborhoods and no one would call the police on me. I could do with my new body what my old body would have landed me in police custody just for entering the wrong, read white, part of town.
White is white. Brown is brown. Skin is not kin. White man over all. If I doubted myself, I was doing them a favor. If I didn’t push hard, I would be falling all over their twisted shadows, mistaking holes for steps, stumbling for achieving heights, smiles for smirks. My new body was both freedom and imprisonment. I was free to do to others as I felt free to do. I knew what would happen to this body, open to drugs, suburbs, long commutes, failed marriages, childless, growing old and being taken care of by my old body. Would they, the old me’s, really take care of me when all this time I made sure to take every advantage of them to put them down, to make them pay thrice over for something that had no value?

My new body was my new fear of decay. My new body was my horizon filled with the sunset glow of carbon monoxide. My new body was no better than my old body. I was possessed by the anxiety of becoming a victim of robbery or homicide. My new body had access to more guns than a terrorist threat. My new body had access to vacations, getaways, women, food, cars, desserts, services, trust funds, cash, credit, assets, land, houses.
You name it. My new body was the old one that in my previous body I had organized against, had protested, had carried hunger strikes, picket lines — anything to embarrass the new body. Even some of my older bodies had organized guerrilla armies, little wars of liberation, bodies barely able to put down their words and feelings into manifestos. But they were old bodies that knew that the new body would only emerge from their old bodies through a big struggle. Many would die, many of the old bodies. And if I was able to, many of the new bodies of the new type.

I emerged from the old body a new mummy. I emerged rotting already. I only knew this because I still had the DNA memory of the old body, the body that was old because of the those bodies that were parasites with PhDs and nukes, prisons and police at their disposal.
My new body was naked, red under the sun, pink under the artificial light of photoshop. My new body was new only to those who were stuck in the same body as the new me. My new body was an old decrepit German that stole my grandfather’s land and knowledge of seeds to become rich and impoverished us. My old body spoke the language of the moist, fertile soil. My new body spoke the language of the banks and debtor’s prisons. My old body spoke the language of bees, seasons and guttural winds that carried ancestral dusts and rivers to the edge of glaciers and sunken cities. My new body spoke of progress and prostitutes. My new body could buy anything except its dignity. Everything had a price in the new body. Everyone had a name, a story and love in the old body.
My new body beat my old body not just into shape. My new body pistol-whipped, enslaved, branded, forced labor, stole even the sweetness of my perspiration to sell it back to me as the aroma of peasant memories. My new body was my old master, my old slave-driver, my old tormentor that drive me off my lands and out of my mind. My new body was only new to those who were not like my old body. My old body, hunchbacked, honeyed, bronzed, was the topography of tenderness after a 18 hour workday. My old body was the rush of the harvest season and the slow cooking pot of winter beans and steaming coffee. My new body was 24/7 neon lights, two weeks here, two weeks there, coitus on the clock, routines, 2000 hour work years. My new body was the precise mathematics of interest rates and retirement funds, sex and disposable laughter, good only for the buck and the bang of the moment. Nothing lasts in the new body as long as the wallet doesn’t get fat.

The new body killed the old body in a war for possession. The new body was born sick with the sickness of private property in land, in men and women, in children for a childless future, in housing, in health, in air, water and soil. The new body owns or wants to own everyone and everything. Everything and everyone is for sale or else worthless.
The new body makes people fail. The new body is the only human that exists. Everyone else is on a shelf at the mall, waiting to be purchased or leased to be owned.
The new body — everyone wants one. Everyone wants to touch me. I am the holy water of the faithful who have no vision, no will, no ideas and parrot even my mistakes. My new body makes the old body believe that God has failed them or that they need to bow even further down into the deepest and raunchiest of prayer. The new body owns the holy words; they are available for rent by soul.
My new body is already embalmed, laid out in designer suits and with aged champagnes waiting to be uncorked in the bubble of delight. The new body is already DOA. Kept alive by the old bodies, the people who still smell of roots and manured soils, whose ancestors were carried by ants out of our mass grave and the ruins of our temples.
My new body is split in three:
The man who has nothing except threats and bank accounts
The man who loves no one and confuses the lover with an armored truck
The man who behaves as if the old bodies and the women must bathe and adore him so that each night aging results in casting off more old bodies.
The new body sleeps in the old me. The old body suffocates and convulses at the sight of the new skin. The new body has no pores, glistening in the air conditioned limelight that only money makes believe. The new body flays the old body, prays through my skull, screeches into my throat, masturbates over the pigment of the old body.

The new body is trembles at the darkness at the ends of his fists. No rage here. Politicians, philosophers, physicists, police, senators, soldiers, generals, warships, submarines, drones, voters, do his bidding. The new body sleeps soundly; someone else gets to worry for him someone else loses their job and future if he fails. The new body is perfect for destroying civilizations and rendering the natural world inhabitable. Not for him but for the old bodies. The new body has a slim nose, oxygen tanks, swimming pools and DNA patents to stay fresh.
I woke up this morning in this new body that craves silk and fresh milk. I woke up crazy.


All photographs by Arnoldo García, from the Katrina series, 2005.

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