Sex therapists are fond of saying that size isn’t everything. They’re right: size isn’t everything. Size is the only thing.

Seeing the world through your everyday eyes, at 1x magnification, you take it all for granted:

  • The dust in the utility room that never goes away.
  • The dingy white baseboards, peeling and cracked.
  • The armchair you pilfered from your parents for your first apartment and never returned.
  • The book of mediocre photography that an ex-boyfriend gave you two weeks after you’d met, five months before you broke up.
  • The people at work, on the sidewalk, in your bed, who circle you like electrons, reliably invisible.

Every time you see these, your eyes slather them in a thin layer of varnish. Every time, they become fuzzier, until the world looks like the edges of a Doris Day movie: vague, shadowy, unremarkable.

But zoom in and observe the magnificent horror of the dust mite under an electron microscope, the chaotic fibers that make up the pages of every book on every shelf in every house. The arms of that chair, at very close range, reveal long-dead cells of trees — trees that might’ve lived for centuries, and could’ve lived for centuries more if some average-looking lumberjack hadn’t risen from his breakfast table and decided, screw the sickness he could feel coming on, screw the allergies and the lack of sleep, he was going in to work that day because he needed money for rent, food, his wife, a baby crib, some meds. Witness the skin of your lover, constantly shedding, renewing itself, as if he is saying, “I’m remaking myself for you”.

Or zoom out, see your house from 10,000 feet, as the roof that badly needs patching joins a patchwork of roofs, the crazy quilt of your block, with highlights of blue swimming pools, green oaks, little red Corvettes. Go higher, until all you see is the lights of your street snaking their way to the edge of the city, then zig-zagging around hills, beside rivers, across dirt roads that dead-end like faint capillaries overwhelmed by trees.

Higher still, the picture is obliterated by clouds, feathers of moisture that will eventually fall on your roof and perhaps leak into the attic, onto the old steamer trunk you bought at Goodwill a decade ago, stuffed with high school memorabilia, and will never look at again. Float farther out, and farther still, until the blue marble becomes just another reflection of the sun in a universe of bodies creating and reflecting light, playing catch with luminescence across billions and trillions of airless miles.

And somewhere out there, in some cozy corner of the dark, is a couple caught in the first blush of love, looking up at the sky, our planet, your house, sharing secrets, exchanging alien kisses, weeping alien tears beside a methane sea because they have not yet begun to ignore one another and realize that it is all overwhelmingly beautiful.

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