What is this current, what is it. Its course through my body is selective and thorough. It’s electric and careful. The current is light, electricity, and its bones are my bones. Our hairs stand on end.
The machine makes its way with tender clicks. The gears slide over each other, into and around.
Components invisible; all mechanics ghosts—clear—unseen.
I rub lotion on the space behind my knees and my skin glistens.
The current pulses like a clock, sways like a pendulum, slides like a brand new wheel.
There’s a hum in my brain that never ceases.
Jo’s hair shortened into something clean. It was black-blue like an insect. Her eyes, too, dark and sharp. When she turned sixteen she developed an exoskeleton, an outer frame made up of limbs and eyes and skin. Her hair trimmed straight along the jaw. Nails stopped at the quick.
She reflected on her mind’s operations, how it went from one thing to another. She looked up logic, systems, circuits and kept a journal. Which was she more like? What was a machine?
Or an insect. She felt like she had more than two eyes, but the others were impossible to locate. They weren’t on her body at all, not like a fly or a spider. She studied her own weights and measures. Seeing is understanding. Her vision was in development. The other eyes expanded and retracted. What was this body?
Jo would be a machine. She saw it in the mirror. Her hair’s color, its sheen.
In the kitchen, she practiced repetitive motion. She held a bowl and stirred a batter. She aimed for economy.
In her bedroom, she folded tight corners, rubbed her palms together like a mantis.
What would you like to be, her school counselor asked.
The hallways were always crowded, and she and her friends had a running joke that they were all tiny fish. When they saw each other in the hall, they made swimming motions, puckered up their lips into fish-faces.
Why did I become a human being and not something else? I would like to be two people.
The counselor frowned. I mean for a profession, she said.
Jo practiced having visions. In her room she made repetitive motions, turning her wrist and ankle in circles. She imagined the bones inside as ball joints, or something like a marionette. She thought she might will them to take other shapes. She cut short bangs and became more angular.
In becoming a woman there were things she ought to consider, she thought.
An entomologist, she answered. Or an engineer.
Great, great, said the counselor.
Her friends each had hobbies like band or a sport. When school let out, Jo walked its perimeter, on the outside of the fence. Her fingers grazed the chainlink, sometimes catching. She had taken to wearing tighter clothing.
She hadn’t meant to say two people, but two things, two separate ideas. She clacked her teeth together. Her body was mostly quiet.
Has anyone talked to you about your weight?
Her locker combination was out of reach. If she formed into the mechanism itself…
Jo’s friends took her down to the creek. You’ve been distant, they said.
Her skin was becoming softer, not harder. What skeleton was this? A worm-skin, soft, pinkwhite. An engineer would have control. An engineer would calculate the length of time it took for her blood to pump, for her period to ever arrive, to make transformation more efficient.
She was always a girl, and it stung.
When she awoke, her parents were leaning over her and each held a hand to a part of her body. Jo tried to sit up.
They had had to remove her right leg below the knee, her right arm below the elbow.
There, they said, pressing her back into the bed.
Whatever electricity may be, it is a fact that it behaves like an incompressible fluid, and the Earth may be looked upon as an immense reservoir of electricity.
The blood had been wiped clean, but still she felt it pooling beneath her in the impression her body made on the mattress.
Her new limbs were gray and flesh-colored, and they suctioned onto her old limbs’ tapered ends. Hands fastened straps and tested the joints.
What is this current, what is it.
The system had to be practiced through repetitive motions.
We must not too hastily assume that she is, or is not, a substance, or that she is, or is not, a form of energy, or that she belongs to any known category.
The girl is like the block of becoming that remains contemporaneous.
1. “What is this current, what is it.” Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (lines not continuous)
2. “Becoming-woman.” Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus
3. “Why did I become a human being and not something else?” Baladine Klossowska (mother of Balthus), quoted in Sabine Rewald, Balthus: Cats and Girls
4. “I would like to be two people.” Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland actually reads: “‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!’”
5. “She was always a girl.” Mark Twain, Joan of Arc
6. “Whatever electricity may be, it is a fact that it behaves like an incompressible fluid, and the Earth may be looked upon as an immense reservoir of electricity.” Nikola Tesla, The Problem of Increasing Human Energy
7. “We must not too hastily assume that she is, or is not, a substance, or that she is, or is not, a form of energy, or that she belongs to any known category.” James Clerk Maxwell, A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (altered to read “she” where the original said “it,” meaning “electricity”)
8. “The girl is like the block of becoming that remains contemporaneous.” Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus