The Difference Between Being Checked Out and Being Clocked

Most of the time I can tell fairly quickly, the same way I’d tell apart two distinct methods of unpeeling a particularly plump grapefruit. I once read (some time ago—I can’t remember where) that the eye is the most complex organ in the human body, which makes me think of the industrial revolution, and of steel-wrought machines whirring themselves into steam, and of Big Ben towering—which reminds me of a computer game I played when I was much smaller, which depicts a Big Ben filled to the brim with cogs and stairs and pistons, all moving, or pulsing, rather, back and forth, which means that a single off-slant gear could bring the whole chain of time-telling to a standstill. Sometimes even now I think of myself as that gear—sticking out, wanting, broken, pointed to by a rusted arrow, here.

That is all to say that my conscious thought does not acknowledge looking as a tool which others wield, though my subconscious does, and it can tell (because it must) the difference between a gaze which undresses with love, and a gaze which undresses while lacking it, two gazes which, though they appear nearly the same to the eye, my unconscious registers as perfect opposites, so I suppose I should thank God for making this a world I can shrug my way through, somehow or other.

LILIA MARIE ELLIS (they/she) is a trans writer. Their chapbook Love and Endless Love was published by giallo lit. Follow them on Twitter/Instagram @LiliaMarieEllis.