Empathy – By George Angel




Call me Smudge. Not sure when exactly, I became yet another current in the watery world. Circulating far beyond spleen or regulation, I have become a damp drizzle. Stepping out into the street, I would just as soon knock people’s hats off as embrace them.

If I take one step back, it is only because I don’t want my crappy soul all over your shoes. Although I realize it may seem unnatural for me to so abruptly interrupt our fond embrace. When I refer to my soul as crappy, I guess I mean disposable, run of the mill. Most people won’t get a gander at the weave and woof of their alma excelsior.

Maybe I am wrong. I am going by my own surprise at one morning finding myself become a leaky package, metaphysically speaking, of course. Physical filtrations are now so common that they have almost ceased to be embarrassing.

To leak sensibility however, to find droplets of yearning and malaise on the tiles, that is a sieve of an entirely different caliber. Daydreams, mourning, regret, sudden bucketfuls of joy, and insidious parasitical expectations stain my friends, my streets, my hovel. Damned spot! A refrain that must ring true to all those that suffer from such emotional incontinence.

Where is the diaper of indifference? I try to act demure. Got to go now, and then whisper to my closest and dearest, had a little accident, see you soon.  Uncontainable, I feel as if I were being colored by a four year old. Imagine a spillwreck, like a shipwreck but backwards, with all of the sea pouring out of the ship.

I am the struggling dictatorship at your side. So numerous as to have become a tide, my aspirations and affections are even now leaving my shores en route to flood your borders. Luckily, you seem sewn up tight. While I have become as porous as a cloud. I have spread so much that sometimes I am no longer most of me. I am my own harpoon.

Floating far away then near, a haze alight with feeling fraught, like dawn or dusk,  I wander as a lonely smear, continuous both day and night, along the never-ending margin.

A silhouette that amoebically disrespects its own line. Amorously amorphous, it seeps, is smuggled into foreign territories. From one day to the next, an inadvertent mingler.

Rivulets where I have dribbled over. I am now broth, that substance cajoled from dissolution. Like the broken armature of a levee, spongy bones collapse after bursting, and before I know it, everything around me is submerged. Your voice thickens into intentions, poses, strategies for wading through me. I get the urge to push up tent poles, so that you may pass with ease.

All my christmas lights hover, suspended about you in mid air. It is another way of watching, listening to, smelling, tasting, touching what is happening within you. I can feel you calving into silence. You are unbearably remote.

As a broken father, my heart is a cradle. As the bed of a dry river, I dread the warmth just before the rain. Is there an embracing place, a caress of shelter, a swaddling away where breathing can hide from the sudden deluge? Or must I thread the downpour and burst toward you in waves?

Now that I pour into and across you, do I love you as more me? Those I love are difficult and still. They are jutting rocks, unfriendly to embraces. They resist my movement all around them. I am the sea, a middle tonality. They will be awash if not afloat in me for centuries to come, or more. Tomorrow there will be yet another possibility of tenderness. No one is misled in the rushing spread after distance has burst between us.

Blue crabs tunnel laterally and undermine the ground beneath our feet, while wrens pierce our dreams with their bills and suck out the substance. Everywhere the egg is broken. So finding myself athwart you can hardly be called our intimacy, can it? The gourd is hollowed and is filled again.

And yet mingling out amongst you is punctuated with back at the ranch moments, of ear-yanking calls to that topple affectionately remembered as the control tower, rushing back to experience the teetering of that botch of mine, the body.

My adjustments in posture are a constant commentary, a kind of scrotal scholia, on the disaster and imminent collapse of the edifice that is my physical self, as cantilevered shudder up top over the suspension ballet of dangling bulges all along the drop, held by splintering wisps of hips resting on the splayed and swollen squid that is my loins.

I have changed. I do not know why. I have hunches. I am subject to intuitions that effervesce and warm certain areas within me. I have no idea, though, what makes me move in tides. I suppose it could be the moon, but that sounds like something I made up. I only know that I move in, slowly, in layers, and then later recede in the same manner. I deposit, I withdraw. I surround, I wear away. Yet it is inescapable to me that I embrace.  When I come upon you there before me, I churn.

The snail shell’s quickening curl spiraling inside all spinning, coriolus, the engulfing current of flow and tow, an indifferent reflex upwelling into passion, blessing which bleeds bubbles and foam.

What it is to take in, to soak over the gashes and the wounds, to inundate the darkest sockets with salty tears, to cover vast exposure with density and slow movement.

We are left in the grasp of intimacies, gesturing like bodies in freefall, suddenly still, porcelain figurines, the print, that the compulsion to reach for, leaves in space.

It as if the fingertips of one of my hands trace the coordinates of a melody across the space between us, and upon reaching your face translate this melody into a caress. Now my other hand begins a similar journey, but it is surer, deeper  and more rooted in its movements, since it is following the melodic precedent of the first, and its task is to anchor, to accompany the intention of the other. And while at first this hand only cradles your cheek, you sense the moment when the caprice, the light-fingered impulsive capering, the very articulation of the joy brought by your presence, passes from that other hand to this one. It now, in turn, lightly prances away across arpeggios of empty air and longing, leaving the other to linger, warm and sentimental, to lift off in hesitating chords that show a certain attachment to the fundaments of the fading strain that brought it.

The air plays itself about you, is parted and reunited, sounding in voices like children racing about after each other, spread about, floating these things upon it, sustaining these things within it, wafting together as broadcloth,  yearning in wisps, cumulus in its splashing, deep and nimbus in its reclaiming. A dark heaped rushing topples and extends out over everything. The unfolding of errant scents, flowers as they open so. The blur that deepens around you.

Hours brimming with overfill, I try to sift you. It never occurred to me that time would wean me off isolation. No one connects hoses anymore. It’s all gush now. And so today our quandaries are matters of leaks and seeping, and we feel occasional revulsion at having been only moistened. We no longer hold back; we no longer rupture. Instead, today we burst from our banks and even across our beaches to pound the vertical world, to rot its roots, muddying and mingling all the refuse we carry with us. Happy to dissolve into each other all across the horizon, we froth. Sirens far away can sound like gurgling.

We are tributaries hurtling into and braiding about each other, and the resulting tangle heaves and dredges, pushing forth its storms and surges that splinter and mortar everything before it. Laying down again what it has dug up, the turbulent knotting spends its violence and suddenly drops its mass of bits run through with each other. The stench of fecundity clings to the resulting stagnation, but for the time being everything is sopping and heavy. Stuck is still, at first.

Can the vastness of energy be spent? In rage and reacting? By cluttering and clogging? Or did it bud for just one bloom? Are these the days of wilting, and we, who were its pollen, who, in its magnitude, were its integers of desire, have we been reduced to embers, flecks of color along a dried stem? We have sullied the prayer-bowl of darkness with a momentary, glimmering constellation, a floating connected burning, forever inconstant and blurred with movement.

Perhaps we are already a memory. And so I rise to recollect you. Floating scraps tied together to fix their relation. To flood the separation, to ford the distance, at first by turns, you, then I, poured out feelings, thoughts, sensations until we were immersed in what had begun as each one’s reaching out, and then became entanglements, until at last all we had been to each other became the color of the sea, and you and I ceased to be the punctuation of our exchanges. Today there are no remnants of those anchors thus dissolved. All that is left of us are our feelings shed, our thoughts released, and the fading rumor of our bodily contortions.

Now the only subjects that can initiate are actions. Touch and friction jostle each other. Imagination and reflection stroll together through the undulating park, while the tango danced by rage and tenderness illuminates the mountain ridge. The play will finish itself, and there will be neither applause nor bowing at the end.


About the Author

The son of Colombian parents, George Mario Angel Quintero was born in 1964 in San Francisco, California, where he spent his first thirty years. He studied literature at the University of California, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Under the name George Angel, he has published poetry, fiction, and essays in English. Since 1995, he has lived in Medellin, Colombia, authoring seven books of poetry, and three books of theater plays all in Spanish under the name Mario Angel Quintero. He continues to write and publish in both English and Spanish. He is also a musician, a visual artist, and a theater director.