Tumbling by Stine An



Collage by Stine An
Collage by Stine An


This was that time in winter when I just wanted to spend hours tumbling with someone, anyone.

Well, not anyone.

Anyone must be a man or a boy who is slightly or more so taller than I am, with pretty teeth, fresh or neutral breath, a winning grin, dark curly hair, the promise of a five-o-clock shadow — with an inimitable voice, like the voice of a well-dressed statistician -– assured, sincere, thoughtful, intelligent, and most importantly, soft.

Anyone’s laugh must be distinctive, but not obnoxious; it must be recognizable in a dark theater even if Anyone and I were both there by coincidence and sitting several rows and columns apart. Anyone must never “shhhhhhh!” at anyone else, even if Anyone, if civic-minded, would never do anything to warrant a “shhhhhhh!”

At the theater, Anyone must never laugh before I laugh, but may laugh alone in the case of a comedic void or an emergency. In the case of a fire, Anyone must walk to the nearest exit. If I am unconscious from stress, Anyone may carry me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. If Anyone hits my head against the frame of the emergency exit door, he must keep this accident a secret forever.

If there is a dinner, for there must be a dinner, Anyone must chew with his mouth closed, although if the conversation begins to simmer, whatever the topic may be – astronauts, cauliflower, velvet wallpaper, the sorrows of childhood, a history of mental illness in the family (how alarming!), an exchange of do you’s and did you’s, bodily pains of mysterious origins – Anyone may talk while chewing at the rate of two food particles cannoning out per minute from his mouth.

Anyone may pay the check. Anyone may be watched as he pauses to calculate the tip and signs away the final amount of the evening.

Anyone must be invited for tumbling. Anyone must not ask. The invitation to tumbling is communicative, implicit.

Anyone must leave all keys and empty his pockets onto the shelf next to the door. Anyone must not have any forms of identification while tumbling.

Any clothing remains a non-issue while socks and shoes are another matter and will be subject to judgment. Shoes may not be introduced into the arena of tumbling. Socks may be kept on in the case of extreme cold or illness if the fabric is stimulating and the design appropriate for the arbitrary purposes of tumbling.

Anyone’s hands must be warm for keeping my hands and feet in the tumble, but the palms should not be overly moist.

Anyone may or may not have an absence of back acne or a presence of hair sprouting on shoulder or perhaps thigh.

Anyone’s pecs must have grip, and the associated nipples must be of a pleasing color and texture – nothing too pink or too shiny or scaly.

Anyone must not make deliberate eye contact. Corrective lenses, both liquid and hard, are forbidden as are other prosthetics and chemical aids.

Anyone may have any taste in music because tumbling calls for silence. The official soundtrack is the air looped through our lungs and the slow beating of our organs.

Only in moments of not tumbling may Anyone broach the topic of aesthetic taste. In moments of not tumbling, Anyone may discuss preferred scenes and motifs from preferred films. Anyone may ask about favorite musicians. Anyone may attempt to whistle Anyone’s favorite song, or “piece,” from the radio. Anyone must never make the admission that he does not know how to whistle.

Anyone must never make judgment on or call attention to the books on the shelves and the wall furnishings. Any remark will result in the seizure of all systems of tumbling.

Anyone must be a great kisser because kissing is three-fourths the fun of tumbling. I am already a great kisser and no amount of affection on my part could make up for Anyone’s lack in the subjective act of kissing.

Anyone must be funny so that we can laugh a lot while we’re not tumbling. Later when we look back, individually, not tumbling, not in some bed or closet, we’ll remember that we’d tumbled and laughed a lot, but over what, we’ll never know.

Anyone must have automatic knowledge of when to leave.

Anyone must have three folds of Kleenex on his person at all times. He may use only one for himself under any circumstance. During allergy season, he may use one and a half tissues.

Tumbling requires not anyone, but Anyone, and is largely an imaginary exercise, best completed before meals and after showers with the mind as tabula rasa.

Tumbling is the washing away of the slate to blankness with traces of chalk dust in the grooves.

For each tumbling there must be a new Anyone. Tumbling repeats itself, but each tumbling is new.

Tumbling is not so hard to do. Tumbling is easy. Tumbling is tumbling, and all you need is Anyone.


Stine An is a Korean-American writer, comedian, and artist based in Cambridge, Mass. who sometimes creates under the alias Gregor Spamsa, an intergalactic conduit for awesomeness. Check out her work and more here.