Story written with both hands

(published in NXS #2, Synthetic Selves)

I don’t know how others deal with it, but I talk to the hand. All day long. And the hand is listening. Both of them are in fact. In perfect communion, they embrace my thoughts, giving shape to all the nonsense that flows between my ears…. Set free those two teams of pointy fingers, and I am able to reach out to things and call them mine: an extended version of the self that feels confounded with the air in my room, a barely legible writing that looks more like a time-varying signal, the sharp sound of the violin I haven’t played in ages.

I talk to the hands while washing the dishes, when they are both covered in soap. At the hairdresser, when they are hidden beneath the barber’s cape. While I’m outside wandering through the city, and my hands, tired from too much walking, rest in the pockets. I talk to the hands at my desk, when they are both, for once, uncovered. Imagine that! The left sits on the mouse, the right rests on the keyboard. Talking to each other, the hands are trying to shape the countless universes dawning upon me. One hundred billion neurons. Hundreds of trillions of synapses. Should be a fine match for the mere one billion websites. More or less.

I remember vividly my first seizure. It was the day when I reached my first million. Of websites. Viewed. On the screen, a spectacle of light. On the chair, an earthquake. I thought, naively: this must be what freedom feels like, away from personhood, the ecstasy of a world connected, a whole body shaking in synchrony.

I try to do my thing. Talk to the hand. To both of them, in fact. And not one of them is listening. Moving above in the air, my hands take a life of their own, scribbling a writing that does not look like mine.

It took another million websites to experience the second seizure. And then a thousand. After a year, I couldn’t load a new page without shaking.

The diagnostic: my brain has grown to be a replica of the internet. One idea links to ten, maps to a hundred, creates a thousand anew, which are, of course, better summarized by a million others. An ever-multiplying hydra. A rock falling off the tip of a mountain, taking down with it, one by one, blades of grass, trees, pieces of land, the whole mountain. All of that amounting to a predictable earth-shaking contraption.

The one and only solution: split. The two conjoined twins that live together inside my head. Break the avalanche in the middle. Cut away the corpus callosum, and leave each hemisphere on its own. The decision was made. The scissors cut through. Or so they say. I wasn’t there. I was asleep.

Earthquakes are now what they should be, rare, less intense. Thousands and thousands of pages coming alive in between my synapses, without a shake. It worked. But something else has also changed. I’m talking to the hands. And the left does not seem to be mine anymore. Fast forwarding through the never-ending flood of information, it swings lavishly on the hypnotic waves. It takes the shape of objects around me. It touches every button, clicks every link, drags and drops things around, according to its own imagination. When the left hand is not sitting on the mouse, its middle finger scrolls through the air, pages and pages of content from my mind. Whether I like it or not, it randomly streams the subconscious, jumping between distant corners of my memory.

And the right hand, well the right hand tries to give shape to the nonsense that flows between my ears. With all the fingers rolling down the keyboard, it lives to tell the story. Or, better off, to make it. Sometimes painting in the color of dreams, other times, looking for logic in the puzzle of distant memories. Yes, the right hand is rewriting the story of the gestures made by the left hand, creating, according to its own imagination, meaning.

Left Right
Looks around for something new.
Celebrity haircut. President tweet.
The last season. The newest series.
Conflict. Peace. Incoming. Outgoing.
Red carpet entrances. *exits.
I need to read some history.
The hand starts all over again.
History? News
At the intersection of all things moving,
I count the beginning of moments,
with only one finger.All the while, my other fingers,
are catching water drops still in the air,
before they get lost in the sea.

Distracted by every other liquid passer-by,
the eyes have also
become part of a flow,
with no memory,
no judgement,
no color of its own.

In between the falling droplets,
I sometimes grasp, still in the air,
a glimmer of the sea.

It’s all anew,
I think…
I don’t remember.
The past,
is obsolete.

Left Right
I can never remember the time,
when people were still collecting stamps,
tabulating the symbols,
of letters not yet sent,
never to be sent,
many of them,
duplicates.
In my time, in my book,
I’m collecting just names, and their faces,
the post office has moved, from downtown,
everywhere,
and the faces,
the names,
are still waiting for letters…

Strolling down my collection,
a lone finger sends waves to the crowd,
moving back, moving forth, till it stops,
pointing one name at random,

It’s the first on the list.

Open window,
And send:
Worried face,
A thumbs up,
Then a quick middle finger,
Laugh out loud on the side,
Zipper mouth, dollar eyes,
Throwing up,
Then an eye roll.
Goodbye!
The hand starts all over again,

Pointing one name at random.
It’s the second on the list.
I can never remember the time,
when I sent away my last letter.
The post office has moved, from downtown,
everywhere.Silent whisper,
has become our exchange.
With no words, only signs,
intertwined, disconnected,
by the beautiful,
grammar … of emotion.
Left Right
The hand feels the phone.
Presses the camera icon.
Turns on selfie mode.
Takes pic, pic, pic, pic x 100.
Browses through.
Deletes everything.
I need to eat.
The hand starts all over again.
Now takes selfies with food.
The untraceable shape of a room full of mirrors,
lures a light flashing from somewhere … from everywhere,
to multiply all the facets of my soul:
the pigments, the dark spots,
the light in the eyes, the shadows of the past,
into a hundred figures, all the same,
distorted pixels of each other.A voice, trapped to hear no one but the self,
searching in vain for its own complement,
calls into the hollow, glittering glass:
Mmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

The liquid sand, frozen, perhaps forever,
shatters with the sounds of an earthquake,
enclosed in a space too small,
playing back the fading echoes of an old underground melody:
Mmmeeeeee, Mmmeeee, Mmeee, Me.

In between two corners of the room,
I discover another light, a smile, a new muscle memory,
large enough to stretch onto the left and right,
in between bites of food,
munching away the vowels still reverberating everywhere:
Mmm,mm,mm,mm,m.

The curve sweeps into the past and the future,
a new image of who I was, the one I am becoming.

I am my own complement.

 

The right sits on the keyboard, the left covers the mouse. The eyes are closed, just resting for a while… In my head, I can see the hands moving away from each other. Like in a game of Snake, where both head and tail are growing at the same time. Speed levels 1,2, and 3: it takes an eternity to move from one corner to the other. I don’t want to grow old doing this! 4,5 and 6: the hands are swiftly avoiding each other, like people rushing quickly through a crowd during the rush hour. Crossing my fingers and jumping straight to level 10: my eyes, though closed, are spinning, following the mish mash of gestures. And then silence. They finally collided. In a forced embrace my hands have come together again…

I’ve trodden many hidden paths, and stepped into the unexplored. But this is new. I’m talking to the hands. For once, the right is quiet, and the left is speaking. I’m talking to the left. And it tells me back its own alien story. It’s beautiful. Grasping, reaching, drag & dropping, swiping, scrolling, touching, feeling. The story of the one who wanted to live outside her own mind. But it couldn’t. The right has always tried to figure out why. It’s about time the left gave it a try:

In epilepsy, neural networks are characterized by hyper-excitability.[1]

A simple stimulus can lead to seizures, periods of hyper-synchronous brain activity.[2]

During an epileptic seizure, one may experience convulsive body movements.[3]

When seizures occur often and the condition does not improve with pharmacological treatment, surgical intervention is advised.

This may involve the resection of the brain area that is the source of epileptic activity, typically the temporal lobe.[4]

Or the removal of the corpus callosum, a white matter structure comprising most of the connections between the two hemispheres. [5]

Side effects.

Sometimes, alien hand syndrome, typically affecting the left hand, where the person perceives the hand as acting on its own, reaching for objects according to their affordance, as opposed to acting according to the person’s intention.[6]

Confabulation: Visual processing is crossed, the left hemisphere processes stimuli in the right visual hemifield, the right hemisphere processes stimuli in the left visual hemifield. In patients without corpus callosum, a stimulus may reach the right hemisphere, and the person may act on it, even though the stimulus didn’t reach the other, left hemisphere. The left hemisphere is responsible for describing behavior verbally. If the left hemisphere sees the behavior, but doesn’t know the stimulus that caused it, it will just confabulate, it will make up a story. [7]

I’m talking to the hand. All day long. The hand, which gives shape to all the nonsense that flows between my ears.

I am … the hand.

The … hand.

[1] Basic mechanisms underlying seizures and epilepsy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2510/

[2] Reflex seizure https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflex_seizure

[3] Epilepsy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epilepsy

[4] Temporal lobe resection http://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/guide/temporal-lobe-resection#1

[5] Corpus callosotomy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_callosotomy

[6] Alien hand syndrome https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_hand_syndrome

[7] Confabulation https://www.edge.org/response-detail/11513

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