The Human Data Recorder

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I.  A Person

My summer padawan. He’s just a child, three years old, at the peak of innocence, itching to explore the world that exists beyond the safety of home. His proportions are still off in the way they are with children, little hands and a large head, with a tan that’s the envy of angels and a smile like kryptonite. He’s always moving, swaying from side to side with energy too great for his tiny body. His amusement comes in bursts, expressed through high-pitch shrieks, often over inside jokes at random and polite requests for picnics at the park. Constantly underestimated because of his size, few remember how he’s constantly learning, absorbing, retaining. Growing up.

Distance separates, but never severs. Hawaii. Arizona. Oregon. Texts. Calls. Skype. Love. Blood. Memories. I shouldn’t be surprise that he remembers, but I am, when I hear his squirrely voice over the phone for the first time in too long.

“McKayla Maroney, Jesshy-ca!”

II. An Object

Animal crackers. Bite-size nostalgia. Grainy to the touch. Sweet to the taste. Details subtle, but never vague. Too small to savor and too few in a single bag. Bite. Crunch. Gone.

III.  A Location

New York City in the summertime. Subway stations transform into cheap, public saunas. The heat sneaks up and wraps its arms around packs of people at a time, tourists squinting at metro maps, men in ties and women in pencil skirts, all eager to get from point A to point B. Deep underground, the fluorescent lights flicker as trains glide by in noisy blurs. A transient stop, it exists in the in-between. People come and go and no one is meant to stay, except for those who chose to, hands out, palms up, pleading for food and compassion, dollars and dimes. With empty stomachs and vacant eyes, they shuffle by. Ignored. Denied. They join the blur.

IV. An Environment (a.k.a. Life with Summer Insomnia)

The end of the day, children already tucked in bed, leaving the house strangely empty, but never silent. The TV is on. Its projected light dances across the curtains with each changing scene. The newscaster drones on, his monotone voice nearly nonexistent, reduced to white noise. The clock strikes twelve. Infomercials come out to play. The fan on the ceiling spins and spins, creating one uniform, almost comforting hum.

Heavy feet drag across the wooden floorboards, one and then the other, again and again until it stops. Plastic rustles and lips smack—a midnight snack. A door squeaks and slams shut. Empty again, but still so noisy. The ceiling fan continues its song, loud and steady, for no one to hear.

V.  An Activity

It seems so simple. Wax on paper. The imagination does the rest. Fingers curl around a blue crayon, pressing the tip to a blank sheet. She presses hard as her hand travels across the void, leaving deep, dark lines behind. There’s an image in her head that needs to be seen. Words travel between her head and her heart, but get trapped in her throat and search for another means of release. She abandons the blue on a whim and takes the green, pressing just as hard with every stroke. Her eyes show her focus, whether realized or not. A picture starts to take shape. Nothing slowly becomes something. An idea made tangible. An activity. To kill time. To emote. Art.

(Therapy.)

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