This piece is a part of a series called “Walking Tours of Your Home.” The physical component of this section is an accordion pamphlet advertising a series of tours (read the image description of the pamphlet here).
Press play to listen to the audio as you read along.
[A woman speaks] Hey there, hi, and hello. In that order: hey there, hi, and hello. I’m Sharon Mashihi. This piece is called “Wall.”
[in an electronic echo] W-a-l-l. Wall.
“Wall” is for listening to any time, but it is especially dedicated to you if you happen to be listening when you are a little bit sad.
[Feminine voice weeping in a small, echoey room.]
In this moment, I am a little bit sad. I’m lonely and I’m blaming myself for my loneliness. And I know that feeling this way sometimes is part of being human, but knowing that it’s normal doesn’t make it any easier.
You know that spot just above your lip, the little indent, underneath your nose? Your philtrum.
[in a dreamy, electronic voice] Philtrum: P-h-i-l-t-r-u-m.
In Judaism, it is said that when we are in our mother’s wombs, we know everything there is to know in the whole world. And just as we are about to be born, an angel comes and touches us, right there, in that spot underneath our nose. The angel touches us there and takes away all of that knowledge, so that we can have our whole lives to learn it all over again.
I love the idea that babies in the womb might know everything there is to know. I like to imagine that all the knowledge that we need might be stored in surprising places.
[whispering quickly] W-a-l-l. Wall.
For example, sometimes I get to staring at my walls, and I think about what they’ve seen, what they know, after all these years.
I mean, every wall in every home witnesses many lifetimes of memories. Memories, like the music played from the speakers on Sunday.
[Mozart plays in background, violins.]
[in a higher pitched voice] Can you do the dishes?
[in a deeper voice] No, you do the dishes.
Memories, like the stink of past relationships.
[in a higher pitched voice] Can you please just do the dishes?
[in a deeper voice] You do the dishes.
Memories that are stored deep in the fibers of their materials, waiting there, invisible but palpable, like God. Yes, I have brought up God. When I talk about God, I’m not talking about the man in the sky. When I talk about God, I’m talking about something more like an entity that is always with us, always looking after us, always available to help us connect with our own deepest inner knowing. I’m talking about—the God in the Wall.
[Whipping sound strikes against a wall.]
[A door creaks open, then a gong is struck, reverberating.]
And this is where the participatory section of “Wall” officially begins.
Start by finding a blank sliver of wall . It doesn’t have to be a big spot of wall. It should be at least two feet by two feet. I’ll wait for you to get to that piece of wall, and since I don’t know how big your home is, here’s a little waiting music while you get there.
If you’re already at your piece of wall, you can spend this transition time staring at it, perhaps noting its imperfections.
Okay. So hopefully now you are at your blank wall. You can either sit down next to it or stand. Whatever position is most comfortable for you. I am standing next to my wall. And my left hand is flat against it.
[Hand slaps a wall.]
I invite you to put your left hand flat against your wall.
[Another hand slap against hollow drywall.]
And leaving your hand there, start to rub it in a circular motion against your wall.
[A hand grazes the wall, the brushing sound satisfying and soft.]
Just feeling it. Feeling the surface.
Start to experiment with other ways of touching your wall. You can tap it lightly again and again [soft taps]. You can put the back of your hand to it, you can drum against it with your fingertips [clicking noises of nails on the wall]. Whatever feels right. Just spend some time having a tactile experience.
[Hand continues moving along the wall.]
This is your wall. It surrounds you every day. Your wall. And this is what it feels like.
As you get to know your wall, think about all the ways that your wall already knows you. What did this wall see you do yesterday? [Fingers racing, drumming along the wall.] Does your wall maybe appreciate things about you that you neglect to appreciate about yourself?
I do believe there’s wisdom in your wall. I believe that when you really take the time to be with your wall, your wall has things to offer you. I believe it is possible to use your mild-mannered, just-sitting-there-like-a-wall wall to do really special things. I believe it is possible to use your wall to meet yourself.
[reverberating in an echo, giving it great import] MEET YOURSELF.
Meet. Yourself. And by meet yourself, I mean meet the very best part of yourself.
[Woman sings dreamily as the narrator continues to speak.] Generous self. Humble self. Organized self. Self with the ability to make a little mistake once in a while and not turn it into a days-long drama about what a fuckup you are. Self of the hello. That’s it, just hello, I’m happy to be here. Just hello.
[In an electronic echo, accompanied by the dreamy singing.] HELLO.
[whispering] Keep touching your wall. Touch your wall with all the devotion you can muster.
[Slaps against the wall gradually become thoughtful, rhythmic. Slowly they take the shape of the Mozart played earlier, picking up speak, surety. The song itself is piped in, the slaps still a percussive accompaniment atop it, in a swell of energy.]
[The music and slaps stop abruptly. Narrator clears throat, sighs.]
Now let yourself just kind of lean against your wall. Put some of your weight against it, and be with it.
Sometimes when I’m alone with my wall, I look back on the things I’ve lost in my life, you know, the relationships. I have this ex-boyfriend. Let’s call him Jerry.
[in a deep voice] Hello, I’m Jerry, ex- boyfriend of Sharon. Jerry. I. Am definitely. Jerry.
Jerry and I, we used to fight a lot.
[Sharon] My sweatshirt is orange.
[Sharon as Jerry] Nah, it’s pink.
[Sharon] It’s orange.
[Sharon as Jerry] Pink.
[Sharon] My sweatshirt is orange, Jerry. Orange.
[Sharon as boyfriend] Pink.
[Sharon as Jerry] Pink
[Sharon] It’s orange, Jerry, orange.
[Sharon as Jerry] I’m leaving you.
Looking back on things, I can now say with near certainty that Jerry… sucked. But when I’m alone and thinking about him, I find myself regretting that I didn’t give the whole thing another chance. That I didn’t fight to keep him, that I didn’t beg him to take me back. Because if I had fought to keep him, I wouldn’t be alone in my house. My house would be populated by a relationship.
[Sappy romantic piano music plays, fades into an echoey daydream.]
[Sharon] I made you breakfast!
[Sharon as Jerry] Not hungry!
I mean, isn’t a relationship better than no relationship?
[Sharon] I bought you a new pair of sneakers!
[Sharon as Jerry] What do I look like to you, a marathon runner?
It’s not just that I let Jerry fall out of my life. It’s that I have dated a dozen Jerries.
[Sharon in masculine voices] Hi, I’m Jerry #2
I’m Jerry #3
And, one by one, [wet splats; deep-throatedowws andughhs] as my walls looked on, I let the Jerries drop. Like rotting fruit, falling onto the wet, muddy ground.
But the Jerries weren’t actually fruit, were they? They were people, and I loved them, and now they’re gone. Now you might have your own version of a Jerry, or even five Jerries, you know, someone or something you let go of in your life that you’re mad at yourself about. Someone or something you wish you’d held on to, whose absence you feel. Like me, you might feel regret even if objectively that thing you let go of actually wasn’t good for you.
But that’s where your wall comes in.
Your wall remembers why you made the choices that you made.
Your wall trusts you. You in the present. And you in the past.
If you aren’t already still touching your wall, go back to touching it. And now get as much of your body to touch the wall as you possibly can. Your torso. Your arms. Your hands. Really put your whole self up... against... the wall. And if it isn’t already there, put your cheek to the wall, tenderly.
This wall. This wall that you’re pressing yourself up against, right now. This wall has actually been holding you. All along. Take a deep breath [inhales, then exhales] and feel what it’s like to be held.
Your wall knows so, so many things. But the most important thing that it knows... is that it loves you. It just does. It loves you.
[A rising tone, culminating into a meditation bowl ringing.]
Sharon Mashihi makes movies, audio art, and performances. Her latest project is the podcast (a.k.a. audio mind-trip) Appearances.