Wednesday, May 12, 2010


We twitch. It is a simple fact of being human. Sometimes the twitches are short-lived like when you blink to get an eyelash out of your actual eye. Or when you silently flick a spider off of your son's head before he even realizes it is there and is able to get out the first squeal of fear.
Then, you knew this was coming, there are the long lasting twitches born of years and years of repetition. Sometimes they can be charming; the shy batting of eyelashes, the hair toss, the quick childish smile. But these are rare, and usually only happen in movies and since we hate movie stars because they are so charming, these twitches don't count.
There are others, the not-so-charming ones which, and I may be alone on this, are much more fascinating and revealing and even dangerous depending on the twitch. It has been pointed out to me that my legs are always moving, especially my foot. Apparently I shake couches and even entire rooms with my crazy leg. Some may even venture to say that it's annoying. Do I know I'm doing it? Of course not. I also grind my teeth at night, supposedly. That would explain the occasional raw flesh lining the inside of my cheek, as well as the cramped jaw I have to unclamp before I take my first swig of coffee. And this uncharming list continues.
And it ain't just me.
My brother rolls his eyes back every other blink. My best friend puffs her cheeks out before she laughs, my son farts uncontrollably when he's done something wrong that I haven't discovered yet, my father sucks air through his teeth before he smokes his pipe. I had a history teacher, who, without fail, always got a nipple erection when he was pissed off.
My mother covers her mouth when she laughs out loud.
This little idiosyncrasies, odd as they are and quick as they are, are more substantial than a biography. Yes, all of those life details have their place, but you can still know a person, and know them well, by observing their habits and movements. I don't know your favorite color and I haven't memorized your birthday (haven't even tried) but I watch your eyes dart around when I look at you square in the face. I hear my own voice fall when I've reached a tough spot in a conversation, that hard laugh I hear tells me you're scared out of your mind and have been for awhile.
There is no shame in spasms. It may be your body's involuntary way of volunteering precious information. The ones who really know you, or want to know you, will pick up on these things right away and store them in a file marked "you". Of course, who knows when the file will be dragged out, and who knows what it will be used for. But just having one is a good start. It means somebody's been paying attention.
I saw a doctor yesterday whom I've never seen before. She listened to my lungs, checked my pulse, leaned in to hear my heart.
"Huh, something funny going on in there. Have you been having trouble again?"
I resisted the urge to laugh and ask her to define trouble.
"It's a little tight," I said.
"Well, I guess you need to loosen up. And soon."
See, tiny details, profound truths. I'm off to grind my teeth and raise my left eyebrow in suspicion of everything.

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