Philip Shepherd On The Brain In Our Belly
Our story insists that our thinking happens exclusively in the head. And so we are stuck in the cranium, unable to open the door to the body and join its thinking. The best we can do is put our ear to the imaginary wall separating us from it and “listen to the body,” a phrase that means well but actually keeps us in the head, gathering information from the outside.
When I pull up to my house after work, my friend Eppie is standing in the middle of our shared driveway, clutching her green canvas shopping bag. Her face shows relief and then worry as I get out of my car. “I hate to bother you,” she says, “but would you mind taking me home?”
For all you women out there, as the song goes (there must be a song that goes like that), this is how it is when you leave us: We wake up at midnight in our mother’s house, in our childhood room, in our childhood bed, and we think to ourselves, What am I doing lying here while, in New York, in my apartment, in my real room, in my adult bed, my wife is leaving me? Then we think that she is probably not alone in that bed. Then we get up.
Basia watches her granddaughter, Lalka. No matter what else she does — digs in the garden, pulls weeds in the greenhouse, peels the potatoes — always she watches her granddaughter, who has a reddish-purple birthmark over her neck and jaw and part of her cheek. Her husband, Zbigniew, watches Lalka too.
He drapes one hand over the wheel, reaches the other out to her, palm up, like he’s trying to make a point, like he’s trying to come to the point — but she’s not listening. We don’t even have to say that. You can see it in the way her gaze has gone as flat and vacant as these plains. See the sunburnt angle of her jaw? That quick tremble of her lip? For her sake let’s say that, finally, he shuts up.