Your Smile is Mostly Gums

by Rachel Godin

All I pursue is some recognizable skin that bears no weight or friction upon my own. A thing that does not come in a paper bag creased at the top. Asking to be kissed on your open mouth, part your quivering lips and bare the tip your infant-pink tongue. There is nothing more binding than another knowing exactly what you need without you having to say; nothing more dismal. Find it on a shelf. Such is the essence of a dictator. With a hidden agenda, feign sanity and walk straight. Hum an off-tune harmony to the one their drummer’s beats. Spell their secrets out in permanent marker on ripped out sections of newspaper comic — tack them up in public. Gorge yourself on their branded health until you want nothing more than immersion into seething gluttony. Gorge yourself on pulsing sound until nothing but a wild string of Van Gogh-esque idolatry can transition your torture into silent movie bliss. When you are thoroughly drowned by all that you have gotten yourself into and as pathetic as a come-home run away, politely explain the necessity of you needing to be pulled back up for air via tufts of hair through rough fingers. Downsize. Unscrew your bolts. Feral youth, lick up whatever’s left.

Though land cannot reproduce itself; machines can. We are children existing in the technological revolution — a whirlwind of stimulus and addiction, arithmetical emotion and cataclysmic indifference. Folklore tells that the moon will spin high in a shade of blood red and numbers will replace the significance of our hand-written signatures. Digital, spiritual and political prophets alike shape social consciousness while those of us who prefer the outlook of an observer plead for few moments of sane peace devoid of riddling commercial interruption. Scientists accumulate data hinting at a human brain psychology geared more like a modernist computer hard-drive than the celestial ceilings hung with obese cherubs. Nothing can parallel the close-to-holy potential of a virgin imagination unhallowed by chemicals, screens, and life-sized objectifications walking the earth as proof of strange (r)evolution. In our most fruitless and unplugged hours of solitude, two hands wave a continuous goodbye as they ring their way around their golden cage. We began as children strategized to perform as smiling machines. 

Sticking my tongue out in the face of this mass, immortal information, I have found my self-significance turning to puddles under the great stretches and weight of sociocultural opinion, more overwhelmed and conscious than ever of my own meager, mortal attempts at changing anything. More than that though, my ability to rationalize it- a sickening growth I blame on this foolish pace at which we are trained to be satisfied.

At times I wish I could suddenly cry out! Out of recall from the entire encyclopedia of aches I have published within my chest! How I’ve wanted to taste whatever it is that has swallowed the past into its nostalgic belly! Oh, to be terrified of busyness and productivity for just a few organic moments. It is the paradox of living; we wish to understand everything but forsake any connection to the consequences this knowledge brings. We are the passive; the nodding generation. They were right all along. All eyes on anything but another pair of human eyes, the cynics whose eyeballs ached were right all along. It kills you, doesn't it?

Existing to exist for a feeling, we beg for the tapeworm when we are already starving. Existing to feel anything at all, we claim nothing as our own until we are slaves with a sure thing to fight for. It is possible that each one of us craves to be swallowed up entirely until the need to scream and claw outweighs the need to be understood. Life slumps over our shoulders like heavy leather. In turn, we find something or someone to shirk off the dead moment for us when we ought to feel the weight and bend back our own fingernails in attempts to skim off the illest layers of our ego. The objective is purely selfish, but I’ve watched some sick souls intentionally thrust ourselves into situations that set themselves up for the purest and holiest bouts of emotion that can be felt, consciously neglecting the inevitable let down: degradation, heartbreak, complete loss of self-control, entire reliance on impulse, motivation from lack of a padded fall. When emotion is available in granule, vapor, capsule, and purchase of a convenience-promising product, we must learn to reject the obvious tools if we hope to maintain our humanity. Struggle is the essence of growth, my friends. Struggle and some wide-eyed tip-toeing on the darkest edges. Invisible wrinkles taper off the edges of my eyelids and mouth by way of constant dissatisfaction. Bring me passion without the passing, substance without the use of.

We are the subtler figments of the monsters we assume must be hidden. Drooling machines, Strutting machines, a black box theatre for any fools play. 

Slaves, we clock in the sensible parts that entertain and pay, all the while hoarding the best parts of ourselves for clock-out. Once home, we sit and unwind in front of television screens, splitting between the role of individual and breadwinning cubicle zombie. Secret places always starve out into the crown molding. Fortune is the penny on the sidewalk. 

Golden minds turn to brass. Hands upturn in holy matrimony to the one and only dollar bill. These assets the world has told us we are obliged to give away due to genetic randomness, our sex. Beauty is bartered for. It scabs and swells until we submit to it and to the whims of the ones who expect some visual expectation met. The coffin of innocence closes with the first artificial light captured by the retina. 

Cackle at the expectations and return to growing old gracelessly, thrashing until the undertaker makes ashes of your bones. In a life punctuated with question marks, Grace is too meek a reaction. Hairs heavy with deteriorating hymns, burdening the heavens with our pliable voices, chords vibrating false thanks for the beauty injected into our mammal eggs. 

I want to believe in some light somewhere, some Narnia. I am leaning into the grit of it all with a passionate, unclear and undying devotion to the question marks. I smile but I don't show my teeth anymore, not for them. I wouldn't have it any other way.