For the ball, it’s the glove. For a woodpecker, my house’s siding. For Augusten Burroughs, its’ furry arms on a muscular torso. For a dog, it’s a dog with a really smelly ass. For a magnet, it’s another magnet, but only the side that doesn’t make it feel like there’s a rubber ball in between. For some people, it’s people who think like them. For some people, it’s themselves. For a big-ass planet, it’s smaller planets and asteroids and space stuff and I admit I’m comforted by the idea that large bodies attract smaller ones.
We understand the attraction of gravity today based in part on the concept of a curvature in the space/time continuum. That means I do not understand, and probably never will, the fundamental attraction of my feet to the ground. Even if I don’t understand why, though, I’m also comforted by the related truth that dispersed matter tends to coalesce, that things are attracted inward toward solidity. Taken one more step, it means I might someday get my shit entirely together.
But what is it that attracts people to each other? We seem to really focus on looks, especially men. Blondes or brunettes. Junk in the trunk or no. My grandfather passed down to me the worn adage that you’re “a breast man or a leg man” (not his actual phrase). We are somewhat victim to genetics here, but also to the need to simplify. Something deep and mysterious happens when we are attracted, only one small part of which relies on the visual. Who hasn’t been physically attracted, just to have that attraction dissolve in the appearance of an ugly attitude? Looks lead us in, but the real tractor beam pulls from somewhere else.
The lush roll of language from the articulate, courageousness, power. The bundle of qualities that elicits our quickening heartbeats constantly changes and appears in new, surprising combinations. I swear I can smell sunlight in my wife’s hair, and while this couldn’t have been part of my initial attraction (we met at night, for one thing) and happens without effort, it seems to reinforce the good judgments of my other senses. No need to understand. This may also underscore another element of gravity: that it strengthens as bodies near each other.
Maybe that explains why I don’t leave the house voluntarily much these days.
I stay in close orbit to a few, specific bodies. I struggle to leave my daughter’s warm, sighing side as she falls asleep, and to push back the attraction of unconsciousness at 8:00 pm. A hollow, plastic solar system glows against the ceiling, strung from tacks and rotating slightly from the fan, each small orb reaching out blindly to the trajectory of the others.
“The Body’s Hymn,” a poem by Jonathan Callies, speaks of youthful attraction made more strange and compelling by the Church’s presence. The poem tumbles down the page in short, quiet bursts, and, well, sings.
The way attraction, sometimes despite ourselves, can cut through intellect and pretense lies at the heart of “The Performance Artist,” by Patricia Petelin. Petelin’s strong, assured prose carries the reader to equal parts surprise and inevitability.
Jerry Gabriel’s story, “Panic,” centers on the protagonist’s desperate attraction to a married Korean woman he is tutoring in English. This one student represents his only source of income and his story rambles with the joy and angst of a day unemployed. The character’s small lurch toward self-understanding entertains and still humanizes.
Photo by Gary Brown