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Spatial Relations

March 25, 2010

When it comes to space management, my skills rank less-than-gifted. Navigation, perception, a sense of location, how to become located someplace else: left to me, these subtleties get mangled. I do not move smoothly; I do not boast grace.


Searching for the right pair of jeans, I load up on clothes that drape like curtains, chucking garments over the dressing room door and calling the clerk for “something, I dunno, maybe one or three sizes smaller, please?”

I realise I am tiny, but imagine my calves filling knee-high boots that in fact gape like I’ve stepped into matching pails, my bum straining against much-too-massive pants, my shoulders propping up extra yards of t-shirt.

Once, I lay on top of a friend and said, “Pretend that I am an anvil. Sooooooo very heavvvvvvvvvvvvy!” She laughed so hard I crushed her sincerely, but had to concede it was the weight of my wit rather than my body that did the trick.


This year, I am learning to drive. Brave friends and family members strap themselves into the passenger seat and I take the wheel, determined to master this fucking skill. I’ve been terrified to drive since I was small. Where is the car on the road? How do I know if I’m about to jump the curb or collide with an oncoming lane? People explain signs and signals of alignment, and how to grip the wheel in an appropriate style.

Last weekend, one hand clutching the door handle and the other braced against the dash, my mother described her concern when I was a toddler, that I had a learning disability related to orientation. “I’d throw a ball for you to catch and your face…it wouldn’t even register comprehension of what had occurred and what you should do in response.”

She paused.

“This driving thing. Do you think it’s a good idea after all? You drive a car the way you catch a ball.”


Preparing for a one-night camp-out, a friend and I made a list of essential items: tent, cooler, air mattress, tent fly, tent poles, tent stakes, casual pants, water, matches, toothbrushes, fresh underwear, blankets and pillows, and a random assortment of frankly non-essential things.

I never thought to ask after his tent dimensions, assuming these things were…you know…standardised or something. Like nuts and bolts, screwdrivers, or noodles (spaghetti is always this big, fettuccini this big, and so on). Hardly a grave mistake, this oversight did make for a tight fit once we zipped ourselves into the tent, my squeaky-new air mattress bulging then curving into a tube, our bodies mashing things tight against the tent walls. 

We passed the night nearly sleepless, smothered in a nylon burrito. Each time one of us needed to pee (which was often, due to a steady evening intake of water and warm beer), we had to wake the other, grab the mattress edge and count to three then yank it away from the zippered door-flap. Then, the pee-er had to quickly slip out, the pressure of the mattress narrowing the door to a dangerously serrated hatch. 

In the morning, we lay furled in blankets, and watched bugs dry their wings in the sun.

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