In your eyes
[Herewith apologies to Peter Gabriel.]
Today I am screencapping your eyes, Mr. Armitage. Putting them all next to each other. Seeing all the things you can say with them. Trying to be rational, trying to create a taxonomy. There’s another anatomy post on the table. I write about how you move your muscles because I want to understand, put into words, control in my imagination these two things: What you do. What you do to me.
But, looking into your eyes, feeling overwhelms understanding, and I’ve come to grasp that this is why I look at you again and again. How it is, I don’t know, that the features of your face can remain perfectly still while with the briefest of eye movements, you say seven things. You signal an internal level of feeling, a cushion of internal emotional fuel on which all your characters run, no matter how much they say or don’t say, what they do or leave undone.
With your eyes, you make me believe that the real world has the potential to be as complex as I know it to be, that you understand this and accept it with mercy toward the personalities you create, the people you inhabit. You make me believe a human can be seven different things at once, think absolutely opposing thoughts and hold them in the mind and spirit at once and somehow live them out, and yet still be whole, still be worthy of respect, still be worthy of portrayal as human despite all the holes, all the terrible contradictions. The contradictions you say over and over and again that you love so much. Can your eyes teach me to love my own contradictions?
Your eyes make your characters dangerous, loving, contemplative, mournful, mischievous, calculating — resistant. Resistant to the demand that they be driven by one thing, obey one set of rules, conform to one rationality, see their end in one destiny. They seem incalculable, these combinations you show us in your eyes, as if each character might experience any conclusion up until the very end of the story. If you ever wonder why fanfic authors are so creative with your story lines — this is why. It’s not only because your beauty makes us eager to hold you in our imagination, or willing to consider, to immerse ourselves in, the pain your stories sometimes draw us through. It’s because even as you pursue one strand to its end, you leave the signals for us to see other endings for you, other fates, their shadows still visible in your luminous eyes.
Desire, pain, detachment, uncertainty, rage, resentment, hope, your eyes make sure they are all taking up their space in the personality of each character, mixing tones of darkness into the light and light into the darkness, as if your hopeful eyes always carry with them the knowledge of despair and destruction, never hidden very deep. If we watch closely we see them sweep across your eyes like a quiet storm. We pause, transfixed by a motion so subtle it almost stands still.
Your eyes are so present that when they are gone, when you hide them, they persist as an absence. You hide them in modesty, in pleasure, in humiliation, in amusement. I’m so tied to them that I can’t help but follow them — to look to see where they’ve gone, where you’ve gone, to see where you’re looking — not just when you look into the external scene, but also, perhaps particularly, when you use them to look deep inside yourself. When you look into your character and then look up I see the reflection of what you’ve seen in those eyes — a series of mirrors of different shades of feeling that leaves me breathtaken with the levels of perception you convey, and therefore must make your characters experience. The absence of your eyes constantly reminds us that the things humans don’t say, can’t say, are just as important as the things we do.
Your body is so large, your gestures so potentially grand, your movement so graceful and determined, that you have no problem conveying energy with your physicality. And yet you do so much more with your eyes — tenacity and belligerence and outrage and competition and jealousy and sheer will all unite and mingle in them. You never strike an enemy harder with your hands than you manage to do with your eyes alone. Before your hands can reach out to punish or to caress, your fellow actors are already trapped in a mesh of energy they don’t know how to escape. Mr. Thornton never grasped Margaret Hale any more firmly in his hands than he did when he cast his eyes down upon her.
Your eyes, the way you use them, they push me beyond all the words I could muster to describe them, they still my fingers, they make regulating my breath more important than auditing what’s happening in my brain. To push me outside of words, Mr. Armitage — I perforce can’t explain how that could happen — your eyes, your world of feelings, stronger than my brain, than my verbality? I can’t credit it. I can grasp the mechanics, explain the motions and the gestures, but that thing that you grasp with your eyes — how do you simultaneously hold it outside of the grasp of my ability to explain?
What is the thing behind your eyes, the thing I cannot touch? And if I cannot touch it, how do you consistently, regularly, show me it’s there before covering it up yet again? That thing that makes me think I know exactly who your character is — and then jerks that confidence away as I see another shade of feeling spark and fade away? However you do it, you consistently leave me reeling, as if you were spinning me around to leave me with a feeling of vertigo. You project an addictive dizziness of responsive emotion in me, and the only way to regain my balance is somehow to try to lock my own eyes with those of yours on the screen and hang on for dear life.
When I think about it, I can never resist the conclusion that you do this on purpose — that you laugh at me as I write — that you’re enjoying a delightful game of visual / verbal keepaway at my expensive. Not cruelly. I don’t get the feeling that you’re ever purposefully mean. But you laugh at me, all the same. Don’t you?