Sensory Deprivation, by Julie Hart

You walk 25 blocks in the slashing sleet. You peel off your soggy down coat and roll it up, stuff it in a little locker, along with your wallet and glasses. You sign a waiver. You will, in fact, allow them to take webcam video and post stills from it on Tumblr. You think: why not. You present yourself to be kitted out for the experience. You allow a young woman to tie a black knit band over your eyes. You let her place noise-canceling headphones over your ears. They are quite heavy. They almost work. She takes your right hand with her right, and cups your left shoulder with her left. She leads you and holds you back at the same time. You enter a room you have not seen. She releases you into this room. You are marooned. If you open your eyes, you can see two triangles of light, one on either side of your nose. Not interesting. You close your eyes. Your breathing seems loud, stentorian. You begin to notice things that are usually overridden by sight and sound. Your knees are clammy with the rain your coat did not repel. Your shoes feel heavy with water even though they are not soaked through. You can feel the muscles of your back holding you upright, their slight twinges as you turn and flex. You decide to walk forward. You raise your hands, as if to push saloon doors open, and take a step. Then another. Though not actually afraid that you will bang into a wall, you don’t want to smack into another gallery-goer. You do not want to be smacked into either. You continue forward at the slow and dreamy pace you were taught in that short introduction to the mysterious space. You walk on. Ten, twenty steps. When will you reach a boundary, any boundary. A wall. A pillar. You don’t know. You have no way of knowing. You stop. You re-evaluate. You breathe and count your breaths. You lower your arms. Why do you want to find a boundary. You turn in place. Ninety degrees. You wait. You think. You turn again. In just five minutes, objectivity has been stripped from you, and who are you without that. Just another body in space. A comet, a meteor, a planet, a star. You are in Plato’s cave without benefit of flickering shadows. You are pure consciousness. You don’t know what to do with this, but you want more of it. You feel your shoulders drop and stress you didn’t know you were carrying fall away. You are only yourself and not what anyone may see or assume about you. You are free. You want to live like this forever. You turn another ninety degrees. You chuckle softly to yourself. You do live like this all the time. If you forget that long enough to get tense shoulders, whose fault is that. You turn again. You sail for the wall, hands raised, soul fluttering like a colorful banner behind. You find the wall. You trail your fingers along its pebbly surface, aware that its bumps are most likely infinitesimal. You feel like a sailing ship riding the wind. You touch someone who seems to be leaning on the wall. What are they doing there, impeding your flow. You back up. You wait. You try to go around them. But either they have moved or there are two of them. You notice for the first time that the building is a hollow drum. Banging, talking, boxes sliding along the floor. Not enough noise is cancelled by the headphones. Your meaning-making machine goes into high gear. How to interpret these partial messages from above. Now that you have noticed them, you can not shut them out. You wait. Perhaps they will go away. Now your body in space is demanding your attention. Bladder tells you its usual secret message. You raise your hand straight in the air, like the eager student who knows the right answer, but rarely gets called on anymore, know-it-all. A slim cold hand takes yours and leads you out at the same stately pace you entered. Now it’s over, you want to do it again. But then you remember, you know how to do this.

Originally from Minnesota, Julie Hart has lived in London, Zurich and Tokyo and now in Brooklyn Heights. Her work can be found in PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Poets Anthology and at juliehartwrites.com. She is a founder with Mirielle Clifford and Emily Blair of the poetry collective Sweet Action.

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