To Find Out How It Works

14 Jun

Katheryn Norris’s essay at Annalemma, “Natural Mechanics,” is at its heart an exercise in payoff. It centers around her brother, a tinkering schizophrenic, builds the conceit, that he takes things apart, puts them back together, always trying to dig into them and find out how things work. It shifts towards the end, makes you think it’s not going where its meant to go. I started to think, “Oh come on. You have to see the connection here. Why are you going that direction?”

Read on to the last line. You’ll find yourself in the same place, different paths.

David stayed all night working on the model and still took days to finish. Once he was done he had a plastic robot, eight to twelve inches tall. He showed me how it could move not just its arms and legs, but its torso, feet, and wrists, as well as that adjustable armor. Then it went on the shelf with the others, one orderly shelf, an oasis in his filthy room. He didn’t play with them. Their purpose was the process.

I call David my ‘little’ brother to be ironic. He’s 6′4” and over four hundred pounds. David’s younger than me, but not by much. We were born thirteen months apart, almost Irish twins, meaning I can’t remember a life without him.

We’ve always been close, but we’re not alike. He lives in a different world than me, and that predates his schizophrenia. Long before the onset of his illness he related to our surroundings differently. He looked at things and could figure out how they worked, or he would take them apart. He’d be able to put them together again, and after that he’d know how to fix them if they ever broke.

We were kids, in middle school maybe, when David took apart my tape deck. Broke it down to pieces of gray plastic and metal, its raw unrecognizable components.

Read the full story at Annalemma.

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