How “Home Bodily Repair Kit” Came to be Written
January 27, 2015 § 2 Comments
I wrote “Home Bodily Repair Kit” before I found out I had cancer. Not that long ago, but still—a chasm between then and now. I wrote it back when I was steeped in the ordinary joy of aging, the wry pleasure of our shared experience, as women, of watching our bodies, our erstwhile temple of beauty, begin to collapse. I wrote it before I knew what real collapse was, and before I decided to let my hair go entirely gray.
Nonetheless, it still holds, the tension between trying to hold back gravity and our awareness that we can’t. I started with the hair because I find it fascinating, the secret techniques of the beauty shop. My former beautician in Delaware “invented” hair painting, at least as far as I know. I taught my current beautician how to do it. I highly recommend it to those of you who want to admit to only a portion of aging, not the whole shebang.
I looked up gray hair. I read about coloring hair, other people’s attitudes about that. Probably I found “Venus rings” (which I’d never heard of) by noticing some ad at the side of my screen. Those before and after pictures. This piece is essentially a study, but it’s true that no matter what I’m working on, I almost always approach the subject (the moment, the mood) by plowing into it, staying with the initial impulse to see where it wants to go. My mind meanders, using that impulse as its tether. Then I check myself, I look things up, because I don’t trust my memory. I looked up Mandelstam, “The Matrix,” black holes. It’s as if gravity, the subject, really, of the whole piece, pulled me into that complex centerless center. . .
I wasn’t much concerned with what the piece was “about.” It felt like pure play. Maybe it’s about writing, the need to strip away and hide at the same time. Maybe it’s about love, which seems to be of an entirely different register, but I think at last is exactly the same. The pulling against loss, the knowledge that we’ll lose, we’ll lose all that is near and dear to us.
I read this now, after emerging from the dark of chemo and radiation. I read it now, poised in a life that might or might not be gone much more quickly than I had thought, and the piece seems—not trivial, actually. It seems to me the essence of living, full of the funny, silly, tender, and absurd things we do to prop ourselves up because it’s all worth it, to be as alive as we can be.