Exquisite Corpse - Issue 3
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Making Sense
by D.T. Harris


"Grow up!" I could still hear her voice saying the words the first time, the day after my family moved into the house on Cranberry Bog Lane. I was twelve, she was eleven, and I'd just asked, "So what gender are you?"

"So what do you mean --" she was asking now, "you won't grow up at Harvard? 'Won't' means you refuse to grow up there, or it's not possible?" It was a warm, August evening the summer before my senior year at Dimsdale High, and I laid back on the cool grass under the oak tree in her parents' backyard and looked up in the fading light, focusing until I could see perspective -- the tunnel tree -- where focus alone can put your head in another world, thank you, Renaissance.


"It's not possible for it to be both," she said, lying back next to me, our bodies loose in old cut-offs and t-shirts, together but just barely not touching. She said feeling comfortable with people was like music -- a feeling for where things are in space.

"It's both," I said.

"Either you refuse to do something you can do, or you aren't able to do something. Refusing to do something you can't do anyway is only wasted refusal."

"Why, in making sense, can't more than one sense exist in the same idea at the same time?"

"When did they drop you on your head? Is this the linear relic thing -- logic is a . . ."

"Mummy of monophony -- how could you forget?"

"It wasn't hard. What I can't forget is how trying your senses can be."

"They never tried anything with you," I said.

"They never had to."

"And I've thanked you over and over in my diary. 'Dear Diary -- today Rebecca took me down by the brook and showed me how to fly fish. I never dreamed angling could be so much fun. Dear Diary -- tonight, under the stars, Julia-Louise and I laid in the dark in her backyard, listening to our parents' voices laughing and talking inside the house, and played "button, button, who's got the butt on?"'"

"Not me. Thanks again for keeping my name out of this."

"Nomen-shun it."

My older sister, the tight-bunned linguist, would later refer to these exchanges in a seminal paper called "Playful, Free-Association Homophony-Homonymy Between Precocious Adolescents." Thanks, sis -- glad to give your buns a seminal boost, even if it's only to curate butterfly tracings.

To us it was just a game called "making sense," and being in the middle of it, where everything connected naturally from one unformed moment to the next, was like opening your head and watching the cortex associate on its own. All updraft to a mind evolved to rise, it was a game we played a lot -- lying side-by-side, or head-to-head, looking up at clouds, ceilings, trees, the tops of the long grass by the river, the design in the roof panel in the back of the rusted Volvo station wagon, snow falling, stars, the clouds of our breath rising in winter air, and not looking away from away as we slowly talked and watched our words, weightless in free-association, create the shadow of a life that floated off the real.

"I've kept a list of all the names you've called me -- profane, neo-profane, sacred, post-modern literary allusional, illiterate delusional -- keeping track of all the categories was too much for my word processor. Thank god for spreadsheet software. I think it will save civilization."

"Or give it cellulite -- you're a straight-girl dream.

"I know, and thank you."

"What's the total?"

"Three thousand four hundred and twelve -- ballpark."

"The summer internship at Price Waterhouse Coopers has really paid off. Any favorites?"

"Last week at the neighborhood cook-out and t.v. talk-show marathon, asking 'Would you please pass the bread, Whore-all-dough,' was not you at your best. That's why the community association asked me to feel you out. So?"


"So, why not Harvard? You don't want to belong to any club that would have someone like you for a member?"

"Woodrow Allen -- famous southern New Yorker. What -- I can't have a reason that's original? I mean . . . are you saying that . . . that I'm stuck . . . stuck in the belly of some gigantic, social beast, or something? I mean, it . . . it just . . . boggles the imagination."

"Jo -- 'nah! and the Whale -- famous Bedford Falls seafood restaurant, known throughout New England for it's tongue-pierced, baleen fritters. You've lost your desire for being stuck in someone's belly?"

"It's a Wonderful Life Sentence -- holiday season, prison dining-hall allegory, where George, the bailee, is put away for tort reform and can't see anything on the menu that will get him past the concourse and out on the lamb. I've never been beastly to you, have I? Or is that what you've wanted all along?"

"And speaking of concourses, tonight on '20-180' we ask the tough question: Is it getting harder and harder, in the education banquet halls of the-business-of-America-is-business America, to find something besides the glazed, intellectual beefcake?"

"A search for meat you're looking forward to, Esmeralda? Or are you still planning to get thee to the Sisters of Chased-Titty? And what are you doing with my zipper?" I asked, lifting my head and looking down -- the first one to look back from away, and loser of the game. "Not fair."

"Not fair, but handsome. And at the moment," she continued, turning toward me on her side and sliding her long, spider fingers past the teeth of my fly, "I think I'll spend the rest of my life conducting experiments in creation science. Oh! Look what the hand of wad is creating here!"

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