Tag Archives: hands

When I was a little kid, I used to love to close my eyes and press the palms of my hands to my eyelids

When I was a little kid, I used to love to close my eyes and press the palms of my hands to my eyelids. I found that if I kept applying pressure, I’d see all of these colors and patterns. They’d emerge slowly at first, but after a few seconds it would be like wave after wave of interesting shapes and designs. Of course, just as things got cool, my eyes would start to hurt, the pressure of my hands on my eyeballs would build until I’d have to let go, so I’d wait a few seconds and start all over again.


I just tried doing it right now, but it’s not nearly as fun as I remember it being when I was much younger. It began similarly enough, I leaned my elbows on my desk and pressed my face into the bottom part of my palms. The darkness of my closed eyes gave way to a deep yellow, glowing slightly, with a round circle of black in the middle.

After a second or so, the yellow started breaking up into rectangles. I couldn’t really focus on any single rectangle in particular, but if I didn’t try too hard, if I stared straight ahead, I could see the various lines and ninety degree angles constantly shifting, almost like a living plaid on the inside of my head.

But then it kind of fizzled out, back to the regular black that I see when I shut my eyes and go to bed at night, a few red squiggles in the periphery of my vision. When I was a kid, I remember it used to be so much more vivid, it would almost look like a fireworks show, coming at me, like moving toward my face.

I didn’t want to give up, so I increased the pressure on my face, it started to hurt, but I wanted to see something else. And yeah, the colors picked up a little bit. This time it was royal blue lighting strikes spreading from the center outwards. This was cool, it was like they were moving. But it was still that same dark background. I couldn’t replicate the neon reds and greens that I remember being able to get to if I could only hang on a little longer.

But I couldn’t. The pain was starting to spread past the back on my eye sockets, I imagined all of this irreparable harm that I was causing to my eyes. What if I cut out the circulation for too long? What if I did some serious damage? What would I tell the ophthalmologist?

OK, I just tried it one last time, I really didn’t want to give up on making my eyes do for me what they once did for me when I was much younger. I really pressed down hard this time, right away, and I saw the plaid, I got to the blue lighting, and then, yeah, I guess I did get to the next level. Everything turned a sort of beige, almost like a really whitened mud color. It looked like it was pixelated, even though it was mostly solid, but I stared at it for the few seconds that it revealed itself to me. I thought, OK, I’m definitely seeing a color, and there’s clearly a texture that I’m making out.

Was this real? I mean, I know it’s not real, real. But am I really seeing something? Or is this just me imagining what should be there? I held it for way too long, and when I finally let go of my eyes, the blood rushed back all at once, it was almost like I could feel it charge toward the eye and bounce off the lining of my eyelid. And yeah, that hurt. Now I couldn’t really focus my eyes. And there’s this weird shape in the center of my vision, almost like a pineapple ring, and it’s sort of making whatever I’m directly looking at look a little discolored.

It’s like, you know when you’re looking out a window, and you can see those little translucent stringy things right outside the center of your vision? They’re almost floating in there, like I’m imagining whatever is in my eye to be a fishbowl full of these things. When I move my eyes from side to side, they move too, they’re three dimensional. If I circle my eyes around, they’ll respond accordingly, almost like I’m shaking up a snow globe.

But I can never get them to fall right in the center. I’ll try to get one to fall just so, so I inspect these things floating around I know that they’re there, I know that the colors are there when I put pressure on my eyes, but I can never get a close look. So much of what I’m describing has to be clouded by imagination, right?

I think about my grandfather, how he suffered from macular degeneration during the last ten or so years of his life. I’ve read about that disease, it’s always described as a sort of blind spot that develops from the center of the vision outward. So by the end, it’s like you only have peripheral vision. How terrible that has to be, everywhere you look, the whole world is just a little further to the left or the right, and you have to make your eyes stop chasing the visible. Like if you want to watch TV, I guess you’ve got to cock your head at a forty-five degree angle, you’ve got to stare at the wall and hope that those little jelly things in your head might stop moving so you can just chill out and watch some Jeopardy uninterrupted.

Some urban legends are true

Did you know that when a person dies, their hair and nails will continue to grow? It’s true, long after that last breath is drawn, the hair keeps coming out, the fingernails and toenails keep get longer and longer. I always tell this to people and everyone’s like, “That’s not true, that’s just a myth.” One time some serious looking guy tried telling me that it was about the body shriveling up, thus giving the illusion of more hair and nails.


But that guy clearly never saw a real dead person. I remember when my grandfather passed away, he died on a Tuesday, and they took him to the morgue and my parents met with the funeral home director. Friday rolled around and all of the family members had to show up early for the wake. At first, we walked in and we were like, are we at the wrong place? Because the guy in the coffin, he had a beard. And this wasn’t just a little stubble either, I’m talking a full-on beard.

It was only after covering up the bottom part of the guy’s face could we even recognize it as the body of our grandfather. “Sorry folks,” the director came in with a pair of clippers, “You know how it is, right? The hair and nails, they just keep on growing. I just shaved him an hour ago, but, well, just take a look.” And that’s when I noticed the nails too, they were like half an inch past the fingertips.

While he was busy making grandpa look nice, one of my aunts told my brothers and me, “I hope you kids know to save all of your nail clippings when you’re done.” And we were like, what? “Why should we save them?” my brother asked, and my aunt replied, “Because if you have any enemies out there, an easy way to get revenge is to collect all of your old nail clippings. They can take them to a lab, sequence your genome, and depending on how much they’re willing to spend, they can manufacture all sorts of personalized poisons that would only be toxic to you.”

And right as I was about to object, the funeral guy came over, “You’d be surprised how many bodies I have to deal with that met exactly that fate.” I’m telling you, I know it sounds unbelievable, but the director told us that it’s virtually impossible to distinguish homemade fingernail poisons from more natural causes. “Why don’t you go to the police?” I asked, but he dismissed my suggestion, telling me that there wasn’t enough hard evidence to go on. And besides, what if the police were in on it?

“So what are you supposed to do with all of those old nails?” my brother asked. “I used to save them in a jar, and when that jar got full, I’d take it deep into the woods and bury it. But I haven’t done that in a while, because the last time I was out there, I was almost attacked by a bear.”

One of my uncles was at the periphery of the conversation, but mention of the bear was enough to get him involved. “You know what you’re supposed to do if you run into a bear, right kids?” My uncle told us, “You lay on the floor and cover yourself up with leaves, and then you stay perfectly still, you don’t even move a muscle.”

“Exactly!” the funeral director told me, “And I was lucky enough to get away.” And I always thought that you were supposed to make loud noises or something, that if you stay still you’ll just get mauled. But apparently there was so much I didn’t know about bears. He continued, “Unfortunately, that trick only works once. After a bear is fooled into confusing your scent with the earth’s, he becomes immune to the deception in the future. That’s why I can’t go back.”

“Well what are you going to do with those nails that you just clipped from my grandfather?” I asked.

“I take them and I save them for future funerals. I’ve found that if you stuff lots of fingernails into the mouth cavity, it seems to slow the post-mortem growth that I was talking about earlier. Unfortunately for you folks, I was running low on clippings, so that’s why your granddad over there looked so unkempt this morning.”

So there it is, right from the funeral director’s mouth. Next time you hear some smarty-pants try to debunk the whole hair and nails thing, don’t believe them, because they do keep growing. Also, that whole business about not breathing when you drive past a cemetery? Keep holding your breath. While you’re not guaranteed to inhale a lost soul hanging around a graveyard, you might, it happens every once in a while. Better safe than sorry, right?