The Space Within
My second-grade teacher was a second-rate poet. For one of our elementary school's semiannual pageants, our class was supposed to represent colored pencils. Definitely silly, but we were much better off than the kindergartners, who had to portray paste. All we had to do was wear different colored outfits and recite the little verses our teacher had written for us, one pertaining to each color. I was black. My stanza went something like this: "Black is the color of night,/And of the pupils in our eyes,/And our eyes are the windows to our souls." Not exactly earth-shattering poetry. I still remember it, though, because at the time it set me wondering. It was the last line, ...view middle of the document...
"I want you to look at the people in the movie. Look in their eyes," she said. "Look very closely. See if you can tell me what they're thinking." I did my very best, watching intently as set after set of two-foot eyes fluttered across the screen. I was surprised at how easy it was. I even found myself knowing exactly what everyone would do next. To this day, all I really remember about that movie is one pair of eyes, inhumanly large and impossibly blue. When it was over, I told my mother about my fabulous psychic revelation. She listened with unnerving serenity. She was so calm! Didn't she realize she had a phenomenon on her hands? When we got home, I asked her what we were going to do about me and my gift.
She smiled knowingly. "We're not going to do anything, Rebequita," she said.
Nothing! I was shocked. "But Mami, I'm gifted!" I exploded. "Don't you believe me?"
"Honey, don't you realize what just happened?" she asked. I shook my head. "Those people in that movie weren't people at all. They were characters, played by actors. You're a smart girl, you know about actors. They pretend. They put on different clothes and become different people. When you were reading minds in there, what you were really doing was understanding the characters, and how the director was using them. That's a very good thing to be able to do, but it's not telepathic. You can't tell me what the actor was really thinking when those scenes were being filmed, can you?"
I bit my lip and stared at the floor. I was bitterly disappointed. I had been so sure that I could see beneath the surface of people, and as it turned out, all I could see was another aspect of the surface, something that had been laid out on purpose, to be seen.
"So I'm not gifted, then?" I asked sadly.
"Of course you are," my mother re-lied decidedly. "You just have to learn to think in layers. And don't worry. People may be actors, but most of them aren't very talented. In time, you'll learn to see. Now, why don't you show me what you can do with that palmistry book?"
I showed her, all right. In the course of three years, I learned and actively practiced palmistry, handwriting analysis, Chinese face reading, and a hundred other things. If there was any way that the external could shed light on the internal, no matter how incredible or unscientific, I wanted to know about it. The idea of actors on a screen still fascinated me. I was determined to find a way to see through them, and understand who they really were, in spite of their skill. To me, they were like Mrs. Whatsit, in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, so swathed in coats, cloaks, kerchiefs and scarves that their shapes were almost impossible to determine. And I was a girl with very large scissors. I figured, if I could cut through the disguises of people who had to fool me for a living, regular people wouldn't stand a chance. The major problem at this point was the camera. It created angles, deceptive shadows that could,...