Liminal

by Amara Johnson

It was 2 am and sleep was far away. A summer-like warmth pressed against the windows, despite it being mid-January. On this day, on this hour, twenty years ago, my mother went into labor, she thought.

She pictured her mother going into labor, standing in the door’s threshold and clutching her belly, just like her father had described. She pictured the blood, slipping down her mother’s legs like sap, but she could not picture herself being inside that belly or being the cause to her mother’s pains.

Her parents had told her the story of her birth many times, and it played through her mind as if she were remembering scenes from a movie. The mad drive to the hospital, the snow, the tension of waiting, and then the increased heart beat, the epidural, and finally the pushing until she was born at the bright hour of 10:30 in the morning. She watched it all like the Omniscient. She wondered if her mother was scared, if her father was scared. She wondered if she would be the same person she was now if any second of that day had gone differently.

She ran the story through her mind again and changed one thing. The baby that was born was not herself. It was her ideal self. She watched her ideal self grow up, achieve everything that she could not achieve, and then once that self began to reach the exosphere of her imagination, she let the self slip, slip, slip down—like a match being extinguished—into obscurity.

My mind is slipping, she thought.

She stared at her microwave’s clock. 2:05. 2:06. She was scared. Something was being born today, something beyond the many thousands of births and deaths. That something was the birth of a new nation. She had been blocking this moment from her mind ever since the election, and here it was, staring at her through the bright green digits of her microwave’s clock. It was this fact that prevented her from sleeping.

“I never wanted to have you,” her mother had whispered to her on her fifteenth birthday.

She whispered this after the candle was blown and the cake was eaten. After the relatives left and the dishes washed and the president was inaugurated for a second time. After the songs had been sung and the articles written and the history made, when the moon was at it’s highest, and the day was little more than a memory, she whispered her confession.

“I never wanted to have you, Ava.”

I am slipping she thought.

She got out of bed and lied on the floor. She could feel the earth turning and turning. She stared at the ceiling and could see everything shift to the left a little after each passing second.

I am slipping like the plates of the Earth.

A memory came to her instead of sleep.  She was in her geology class, and it was a Monday afternoon lab. Everyone was out of their seats, and grabbing various minerals out of unmarked yellow boxes. Their task was to name the minerals based off of their color, hardness, and luster. Many students had formed groups or had formed pairs, and like rival tribes, bickered to each other about what group should have what mineral.

She had separated herself from the madness and was examining the canyons within a shred of muscovite with a hand lens. She had decided on the very first day of class that she would do the least amount of work possible to pass. She disdained the rationale of modern geology which said that one studied the motions and behaviors of the Earth only to destroy her features to extract oil, coal, and other resources.

She found pleasure in this aspect of geology, though—examining the minerals. She loved the minute details of each mineral—how each crack and striation was unique to every piece of the stone, yet each piece was the exact replica of the whole. She enjoyed using the hand lens, and would frequently use it to see the patterns in her skin and fingers. She thought that her skin resembled the dunes in the Sahara, and that each sprouting hair was a lone, bare, tree—a symbol of what life once was or could become.

Professor Atlas was explaining convergent boundaries to an inquiring student, and somehow his answer remained in her memory.

A convergent boundary is one in which plates move toward one another. For example, the San Andreas fault is a convergence boundary, as it moves toward the North American plate.

His voice stopped. She heard the pair beside her, two gregarious girls in pink, debate about whether the mineral in their hands was quartz or calcite. Their voices—along with the shuffling sound of feet, the tinkling sound of glass, and the murmur of the other tribes debating the identity of the minerals—was Muzak for the frozen desert of her finger prints.

She did not look up from her examinations, but she could picture everything around her. She knew Professor Atlas was poking the map, outlining with his calloused fingers where the San Andreas boundary was. That was why he had stopped talking. He spoke more with his hands.

Suddenly, his voice started up again.

Its slipping. And because of it slipping Los Angeles and San Francisco will be right beside each other one day. Los Angeles, which is on the Pacific plate will move toward San Francisco, which is on the North American plate. Dont worry, though. It wont happen in our life time. The plates move at a rate of about 5 centimeters per year, so it would take around 13 million years for the two cities to become neighbors.

His voice stopped again. His hands were on the map again, tracing a thread between the two cities. She thought her fingerprints resembled the curves of seashells. She was amazed by the pinkness of her flesh, and marveled that such pinkness came from the blood that flowed beneath the patterned skin. The honey-color of her skin came from cubes of brown that stained her flesh—cubes that she could see with the hand lens and that fit together like shards in a mosaic.

The browns began to meld into one brown, and the sounds into one sound, and the memory faded from her eyes.

She was in her room again, on the floor again. She still felt the Earth turning under her, with her. The ceiling stared back at her, unchanged. Los Angeles and San Francisco lingered in her mind. Their fate, like that of preordained lovers.

The Earth is moving towards itself, while we move away from ourselves, she thought, We are dividing ourselves, killing ourselves, while the Earth is only reuniting with itself. This election proves the strength of our prejudices.

In this world, the biological clock had no influence, students learned about the Earth to destroy it, world leaders preached hope but created despair. Hope and love were words that lead to illusion. The true face of the world hid behind a reflective mask.

Soon the mask would be torn off, reality will be too powerful to be ignored. Privacy, autonomy, and individuality will be destroyed.

She got up and returned to her bed. She stared at the tiny fluorescent lights that were strung around the bed frame.

For now, though, the world is the same, she thought.

She trembled at the thought that in just a few hours, the world would be different. A new head would wear the crown—a head blind and deaf to the ones who bestowed the crown to him.

Soon Trump would be president.

Soon, soon, the world would change. Tides would shift—preferring costal cities to sand-beds. Society’s progressive mind would become alzheimeric and regress and regress to a past that the social eye considered golden. Gold would become no more valuable than copper. Technology born from modernity would commit parenticide. Future would mirror a misunderstood Past. It would all change.

But for now, it was the same. It would change incrementally, like the plates slipping under the Earth; like the winter warming into spring.

This is how everything happens, she thought, slowly. So slowly that no one notices the change until its too late, until everything is completely unrecognizable.

She turned on her side. Blue light was seeping in through the cracks of the blinds. The day was beginning.


Amara Johnson is a sophomore from Hernando, MS. She is an English major and has interests in Art and Philosophy.

 

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