Sometimes when I get too caught up with the weighty beauty of the physical world, becoming breathless, enamored, enraptured, I envision everyone around me as an animated skeleton. I strip away all their flesh and picture a gangly lattice of bones and cartilage walking around. Here is one skeleton on the climbing wall, spine curved and bunched up like a monkey. Neck arched, teeth slightly ajar. Here is a skeleton bouncing around enthusiastically on a motorcycle, helmet and all. Here is another one eating, expressing itself most vigorously between mouthfuls of Thai food, jabbering away, jaw chattering with quivering speed. These mental images are absolutely hilarious to me. Those comical masks, skulls laid bare in candid detail, always get me. It’s like they just told the punchline to a joke, and are waiting for your reaction.

Only when we pile on little curves of flesh like sculptors do things get serious. Move three pounds of fat from point A to point B and you have completely remade someone. The aesthetics are totally different. The underlying frame takes on blushing beauty when we layer additional shapes on top of it. You’re attracted to someone’s muscles and fat, to their skin and substance. The thicker the better, in this case.

Maybe one day, when the skeletons stop doing the trick, I’ll have to abstract further and envision the central nervous system, an alien brain and wispy nerve endings floating around like a jellyfish, or whipping its tendrils around in spasmodic action. That’s not as funny, though. I prefer to keep it on the human-but-not-too-human level. Give me my skeletons any day.

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