C’mon, I know you have at least one person who makes you spark. I do.
You might as well ask nerds to try to explain the Force – it’s about as abstract and just as helpful. My friend Poppy calls it ‘a stepping away from the vehicle’ moment. Just for a moment Pop?
So what of those flickers, gleams, glints and sparkles? That delicious cacophony you have with someone. It’s rarely physical. Probably never will be. And that’s why it’s so goddamn palpable. I’ve got one word for you: rollercoasters. What makes them work isn’t the steep drops, the loops, corkscrews and hard banking turns. It’s the loooooong build-up before launching into the ride.
Amongst the hilarious words in Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine—a plotless, stream-of-consciousness examination that details the lunch-hour activities of a young office worker named Howie, whose meal (popcorn, hot dog, cookie and milk), and purchase of a new pair of shoelaces, are contrasted with his reading of a paperback edition of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations—there’s this gem:
‘Has anybody said publicly how nice it is to write on rubber with a ballpoint pen? The slow, fat, ink-rich line, rolled over a surface at once dense and yielding, makes for a multidimensional experience no single sheet of paper can offer.’
How do we understand tangible flying sparks, fireworks even? Why do they ignite so intensely with some? It doesn’t seem rational, even though science would have us believe that it’s all down to chemistry.
In Swiss zoologist Claus Wedekind’s famous lab experiment, participants were asked to wear a T-shirt for two days, sleeping and sweating in it. The shirts were then collected and placed in containers. Other participants of the opposite sex were asked to rank the shirts in order of which they thought smelled best. The data showed that people favored the shirts of the participants that had immune systems that were different from their own based on blood tests that had been taken prior to the experiment. Maybe we just don’t want a redundant mate for offspring, so, we can sense, in a way, their immunity?
The thing is, I’m not thinking (or wanting to think) about any of this when I’m in the moment of a spark. And maybe I defy physics and my chemicals aren’t either. I’m too lost in eye contact or a slight feeling akin to: is there a tiger in the bushes? Well maybe not a tiger, but you know what I mean.
Sparks are potent wizards. Is the fact that we may never act on them a reason they’re so incendiary, or would the heat be generated just the same if we did? It’s a question I’ve been pondering. In the way of glows and beams. And all that is seen and unseen. That’s my (chemical) spark (again and again) right there.
Or, as Diane Ackerman noted in A Natural History of the Senses:
‘Our skin is a kind of space suit in which we maneuver through the atmosphere of harsh gases, cosmic rays, radiation from the sun, and obstacles of all sorts.’
‘since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you.’