The Shapes Behind My Eyes by Maz Do

The Shapes Behind My Eyes

I close my eyes often. I close my eyes now.

I’m home.

They say California is warmer than New York.

That’s a lie. In New York, the heat is free and communal and landlords are not legally allowed to let the temperature dip below a sixty-eight degrees, which seems to be the only law they strictly abide by. The radiator clangs at all hours of the day (a little marching band, says my boyfriend, (I fell in love)), and I have often woken up naked on a frosty January morning with a layer of sweat slicked across my forehead.

The flat, ubiquitous Mediterranean-style homes of California are dark and drafty. Their cold stone surfaces seem to repel any warmth. These houses keep your toes cool. A phantom of a breeze trails you from room to room while you endure the ecstatic fever-dream, California. Additionally, if your mother’s anything like mine and refuses to turn on the heat (the whole point was to move to California so we’d never have to pay for heating again), you will, in fact, find California colder than New York.

The shape of my childhood home has never quite made sense to me. Its insides and outside seem incongruous. For example: how on earth does the living room appear so wide from the outside when inside there is hardly enough floorspace to perform a cartwheel? Also: how on earth does that sloping, small terracotta roof contain such a large ceiling, so many nightmares?

I ran away once, when I was eight, and waited at the top of a hill for my mother to come find me. She put my little sister on her shoulders and hollered, and still, she could not find me. As the sun began to set, I walked even further, but I could not escape it – my house was always in my range of vision – and it appeared to me both too-small and too-large.

When I recall the old home, I think about how flat it is. It’s one story tall and has a large wingspan; an arctic tern prepared for flight. When I was little, my dad used to perch my neck on his shoulders and walk me upside down across the ceiling. I could feel the ceiling against the soles of my feet — stucco, not smooth. The cream-colored paint coats a textured plaster, forming irregular shapes on the walls that look like cirrus clouds, or else those shapes I see when I close my eyes and rub them.

He left that house thirteen years ago. Who will walk me upside down?

I often spent — and still can spend — hours pressing my fingers against my eyelids, feeling through the membrane of my skin the two jellied spheres through which I perceive everything. I rub my eyes often to see the shapes and colors. 

Today, for example, the shapes behind my eyes appear as blue spinning squares. They move from the center of my vision to the periphery. I then have the feeling as though I’m entering a tunnel. I gain velocity and the shapes begin to fly past me, blurring the edges of my vision. Rub my eyes long enough and I’ll develop vertigo, a feeling like I’m falling.

I’m back home.

The clock clicks in the background. I am never the right temperature in that house. California is perpetually dry, and this dryness seems to exacerbate the cold. Today, the living room is freezing. I slowly, slowly lose circulation in my fingers. Everything around me smells of pavement and cold air. 

Maz Do is a writer living and working in New York. Her essays have been published in Aurelia Magazine, Popdust, and gal-dem Magazine, and her fiction has been published in Scoundrel Time, and of course, Jellyfish Review. She was a finalist for the 2020 Kundiman Fellowship and shortlisted for the 2020 Alpine Fellowship. You can find her on Twitter @_mazdo.

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