things that can't be understood

March 31, 2010
By Alexandra Guy BRONZE, Denver, Colorado
Alexandra Guy BRONZE, Denver, Colorado
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

It’s only after nearly a decade that I’ve finally realized the moment of my life when I was most afraid. 9/11 and the countless other tragedies that swarmed my childhood never really struck home; I was always safe behind the Sunday paper or news channel, completely captivated but unharmed. There were pink walls in my room and presents at Christmas and for a while those seemed to be some of the only things that mattered.

Throughout elementary school I always loved going to the library. I only looked at each book for a few minutes, then pulled out a different one, sometimes just looking at the pictures. It must have been some sort of encyclopedia, but the illustration I found in one of the books startled and fascinated and disgusted me all at once. But over all of these things I felt strangely scared. I stared at it for several minutes, then put the book back and memorized its place on the shelf.

I kept coming back to the book, pulling it out and flipping through it until I found the illustration again, then staring and staring until the lines blurred and I could almost convince myself they were just ink marks on a white page that had become mistakenly aligned. It seems ridiculous that it had such an impact on me now, but I had never seen anything so disturbing. It was some sort of extra-terrestrial experimenting with a human, pushing needles through various parts of the man’s body from a machine. The illustrator had made it evident that the man was in pain and there was something about portraying a live human as the specimen of some gruesome vivisection that completely freaked me out. I’d never seen something as grotesquely unmerciful and dehumanizing as this image I’d found in some random volume in my elementary school library. I’d lived my whole life until then with PG movies and childish conflicts and adults’ hands around my eyes. So I kept coming back every few days to look at it again as if seeing it over and over would bring some sort of understanding.

I’ve seen images now ten times as gory, ten times as heartbreaking, ten times as fear inciting. I’m not sure what that alien and his instruments might have symbolized, but I was left wondering if the needles every stopped and I understand now that I am afraid of stories I will never know the ending to, afraid of knowing that sympathy doesn’t always come prepackaged with the natural senses, that these types of situations are like pictures in a book; sometimes there’s never a way to understand the motives except to stare at the lines and hope.

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