I spend my days suffocating,
my well-fed body starving.
We sit together and alone; I watch you
watch the television, face blue in its eerie glow.
I wish you would hold me. I think
of how important it is, holding,
tying a person to yourself as they do the same,
stakes in the ground.
You can’t float away if someone is holding you.
A person can be a home. (Are you mine? I’m scared to try…)
I think like this again when I smell unwashed bodies, scruffy on the streets with their cardboard signs and pleading voices and shopping carts.
The homeless are always alone,
because it’s not the house that matters.
Sometimes when I’m with you, it feels as if my heart is steaming. It’s not quite as dramatic as fire, it’s more of a slow boiling from inside out, the warmth concentrating in my torso. Sometimes I wonder, do I love you? I can’t. I don’t. I won’t.
Sleep deprivation pulls me into a thousand pieces; it’s like all coherent thought is coming from the end of a tube making odd sucking noises, distorting everything. I can’t see straight. I never see straight. It’s stumblingly difficult to exist sometimes. I mean this even when I’m not tired. But when am I not tired, anyway.
The ugly librarian sat behind the desk, tapped her keyboard gently, watched the people milling about, grabbing at colorful spines off the shelves, studying in the back of the Religion section (the quietest place in the library, as per usual). She was thinking of people she’d met only once. The genius novelist living in the Middle East, who’d vowed to never publish again because it was too arduous and annoying a process; the acrobat in the Parisian circus who confessed her fear of solid ground, who kissed the librarian long and hard, just once, after she had cried and spoke of her nightmares; the foster child who would never impress but tried anyway.
She thought of these people, and their tragedies. They were lovely tragedies, beautiful, demure tragedies that almost held your hand in their odd perfection. And she thought of her own, as a journalist who’d seen the world as a transparent eyeball and now sat in a quiet chair, of a person who never accepted love because she thought she deserved none.
She thought of this again as she walked home, past a farmer’s pumpkin patch; sunset orange, bloated, vines entangled, molding around the earth and each other. She’d never learned that, she realized. How to tangle with someone else’s vines. She used to think she didn’t want to but now she isn’t so sure. Loneliness is dispiriting, it rolls and kneads preconcieved notions like dough. People need people. She’s finally learned that, after all the books she’s read. But she has no one to need, and in return no one needs her, and all she has to hold onto of others are fleeting conversations that meant nothing and the world.
“-You still felt that life was passing you by?
-Sort of. I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere, as far ahead of me as the seniors at Rye when I was in sixth grade; people who knew everything instinctively, who made their lives work out the way they wanted without even trying, who never had to make the best of a bad job because it never occurred to them to do anything less than perfectly the first time. Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I’d suddenly know that I belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I’d been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in the meantime had been a mistake; and they’d know it too. I’d be like the ugly duckling among the swans.”—Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road
I’m just so bad at being me. At being anybody. I don’t know how to feel happy, and I don’t know how to feel sad, and God, if the feeling I get, the one that starts in the pit of my stomach and crawls through my body, if that feeling would just go away, I feel like I could accomplish anything. But it won’t. It’s been here for years. I can almost remember before it, how I used to be, but not really. …I think about suicide every time I wake up. Is that normal? It’s not like, serious, I just sort of think about how nice it would be to be blown out like a candle, to be nothing. It’s kind of scary to think how little is actually holding me here. I was thinking, what I really want is just to be frozen in some ice box, like I was in a dream recently. I was frozen for years, and then when I was defrosted everything was better and I didn’t have to go to high school anymore and fight for and stress about things I don’t even care about. So that would be the best solution, I think. Freeze me, just wake me up in a couple years so I can actually be a person rather than existing for other people and for a time that is coming but not here yet.
She stood huddled in the corner, concentrating intently in the way one can only achieve when one’s trying their hardest not to look vaguely lost or pathetic. She was swirling her Diet Pepsi, wishing she wasn’t so emotionally dependent on the attention of others, wishing she had a Coke. She didn’t really want to be here, by any stretch of the imagination; but, as in regards to most events in her life, she just was. A wallflower, she thought grimly, or perhaps, more accurately, a piece of driftwood on a current. None of her actions held meaning, but she supposes that’s better than not acting at all—maybe not.
When she’s bored or feeling trapped in her inability to, like, act, she fantasizes about doing rude and obscene things. What would happen if…I smashed my glass on the back of the tall man with bad posture’s neck, and then watched the weirdly unsweet soda trickle down his neck past his collar, soaking his curving, hunched shoulders with sticky sweat…what would happen if…I tore off all my clothes and ran to the nearest library and checked out all of the books on modern agrarian culture…And sometimes, her hands and feet are tingling with the almost of it, because she’s always so oddly close to doing these random things that come to mind, if only to prove that she could—because why couldn’t she—but then, of course, the repercussions of such behavior come in a rush, and she smooths her skirt and swirls her Diet Pepsi with her straw, wishing that something or someone would happen to her. Soon. Because she cannot be trusted to lift herself out of her own bleakness, and maybe it’s because each day she’s just another varying degree of frightened. Perhaps that’s all she comes down to, and all that people like her come down to, in the end, people who stand in the corners at parties where there’s more talk about literacy in Afghanistan than sex, people whose tongues are stuck to the roofs of their mouths and are, to put it simply, waiting.
“Whatever happened to me in my life, happened to me as a writer of plays. I’d fall in love, or fall in lust. And at the height of my passion, I would think, “So this is how it feels,” and I would tie it up in pretty words. I watched my life as if it were happening to someone else. My son died. And I was hurt, but I watched my hurt, and even relished it, a little, for now I could write a real death, a true loss.”—Neil Gaiman
I start and stop…constantly…staccato…thoughts…because I’m afraid to open the floodgates of what I feel and let it all hang out, my shining dirty laundry. Maybe it’s because I constantly, obsessively want to identify with people. I dissect them as they simultaneously dissect me (perhaps to a lesser extent, due to their lack of obsession) and find out exactly what it is they want to hear, or what would make them laugh, and hold that there in my pocket, to use if need be, you know, just if I feel like looking at their dessicated bug eyes looking up at me, saying yes that’s exactly how I feel, how did you know. I’m almost psychically aware of flaws, including my own, and I’m well-adjusted. I know how to only allow the things I want to see (and, when I’m with others I care about, what they want to see) to fill my line of vision.
And it’s like I worship this ability within myself, and I hate it, I hate hate hate how I do this. I hate seeming knowledgable, when it’s really just that I know how to direct conversation like some bizarre form of a fluorescent-coated traffic guard. And I think about this obsessively, and I wish I could stop because all it does is make me feel like a fraud, a fake, like one of those girls with whitened teeth and showy sports-playing boyfriends and expensive-made-to-look-cheap clothes, girls that I firmly separate myself from, that I consider so deeply other—we’re just…the same. And it scares me half to death that I’m just as trivial in my thought processes, just as pathetic and ordinary in my longings.
I AM NOT ORDINARY—I want to scream it from the roof tops, tattoo it across my forehead. It’s like I’m some freaky exhibitionist who likes to dance around naked exposing every freaky aspect of myself just so I can show people that I’m not afraid, that I’m not like them, look at how I’m different, I’m a goddamn black sheep, let me prove it through this and this, here and here.
But—the squelchingly true fact of the matter is I’m so ordinary you could look right through me. I’m nothing and nobody. I’m boring, I’m a cliche, and it terrifies me. I’m completely uninteresting, even by today’s standards. I am and will be forgotten—constantly—sometimes in less than a heartbeat because, you know, I’ve not only ”got one of those faces” but also one of those souls.
(How do you admit to yourself you’re wholly unremarkable? Well, I just did…The question is, how do you convince yourself to believe in it?—especially when you clutch to your uniqueness as your creed, pray to it before you go to sleep rather than to a god or some greater concept of human goodness, like love or hope—what do you do when the greatest thing you know for sure about yourself is separation, detachment, different-ness? Well, you must stop trying to be different, then. Or at least being different only for that sake. And you must admit to yourself that you’ll never learn to believe in your ordinariness, however much you lecture yourself on it. Is that a sin or a blessing? Should you hate yourself for it?)
“Nothing was ever in tune. People just blindly grabbed at whatever there was: communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Back, Buddha, Christ, TM, H, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporated and fell apart. People had to find things to do while waiting to die. I guess it was nice to have a choice.”—Charles Bukowski
what i haven’t said is that i think that there are maybe two different ways my brain works, is it possible that people have different mindsets when speaking in a different language, i am more driven and focused in german and in english i am just everything else.
the problem is that i have thoughts, what can i say when my head is jumbled and wrong, because its always afterwards that i know what i need to say, i can’t make up my mind.
i really don’t know anything, that’s why i am slow, i try to figure out what’s going on, fully. i am too lazy to SHIFT right now so i won’t. i think trying to figure everything out is what gets me up until it becomes too much and nothing matters because nothing happens to me. i like to survive on crazy things that make it worthwhile, but they are hard to find, and not fulfilling enough to tide me over, must be why i take to snacking so much.
i am not a very interesting person most of the time, and i don’t have insights, sometimes i feel honored and scared at the same time, friends are strange, when i was little, i used to look at groups of people and wonder which person in that group would i like to be.now this stops me from saying. i feel small against these giant beautiful characters.
I feel like I live so much of my life as if I’m painting a self-portrait. I’ve seen these drawings and paintings, and photographs of the artists themselves, and I’ve noticed they usually fall into two categories; one, the artists that soften their features and rough edges, flatten the bump on their nose and widen their eyes, the ones that glaze themselves over to look appealing to everybody but probably mostly just themselves, to be pretty or handsome, or whatever that is, and two, the artists that paint themselves in vivid detail, the ones that see themselves as some horrific creature, some inexplanation, inexplicit, portraits weirdly ugly in their frankness. And I don’t know how, but I somehow paint myself into both categories. Honest to the point of ugliness and two-faced to the point of actually developing another head to sprout from my neck.
“You know what’s sad about reading books? It’s that you fall in love with the characters. They grow on you. And as you read, you start to feel what they feel - all of them - you become them. And when you’re done, you’re never the same. Sure you’re still you, you look the same, talk in the same manner, but something in you has changed. Something in the way you think, the way you choose, sometimes, even the things you say may differ. But it all comes down to the state you go to after a nice novel. The after-feeling. It’s amazing, but somehow, you feel left alone by that world you were once in. It’s overwhelming. But it makes you sad. Cause for once you were this, this otherworldly being in… Neverwhere, and then you suddenly have to say goodbye after a few weeks from when you read the last page. When you’ve recovered from that state. It’s just… quite sad.”—
People disconnect like electrical lines. It’s dark; I should be asleep, or studying, and it’s raining drainpipes. There’s a Dutch phrase for that, and I forget it. But I’m sitting here, back against the wall, smelling the thick almost musky smell of new paint, thinking about electrical lines. And how people are shaky and forgetful. How we make tidal waves and ripples and flat lines with no motion at all and because a butterfly fluttered its wings in Mexico a man in India dies in his sleep. I don’t know if it’s possible to believe in that, but I also don’t know if it’s possible not to.
It reminds me of that time we were holding hands—completely platonic—and I thought how strange it was that I could never really touch you, only your outsides when it was the insides that I loved. And that’s why it’s so easy to leave someone, or a group of people, or even the person you were, behind. Because we never really saw the insides of each other, did we? We just looked into each other’s eyes and thought we saw beyond them, thought the something beneath the eyeballs and sockets was reflecting back and revealing the roots of bodies and minds and hearts, the insides pulling and pushing, aching and crying for someone to just look and for once see. We thought so…we thought we had and that we would… But nature is never permanent and roots can be cut away and maybe the reflections we thought we saw were just tricks of light, or a mirage.
“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say, “I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.”—Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
And there are no girls you can find with the sun in their eyes
You are a secret wrapped in bandages, too cold and too hungry, and you want to shrink, you’re trying, and you want everyone to know but at the same time you want no one to know because they won’t understand, they can’t understand, they think it’s wrong when it’s right. You know it is. And you want blue skin and skeleton breasts, you want to be breakable and oddly tractable and doll-like, porcelain breath, bird bones.
But fat birds don’t fly.
Your blood is like maple syrup, too thick; in the mornings when your mom smiles and says she made your favorite breakfast it feels like you’re pouring it over the pancakes. You wake up late and pop your acne even though it scars and don’t wear makeup because you already know you’re a lost cause.
You don’t smile in pictures so you can have an excuse for being ugly. “Look at my face,” you laugh. Look at my thighs. You dream of pencils, drumsticks.
But the hardest part isn’t you, the hardest part is them, and how people thrust you aside like frumpy curtains blocking the view. You are monochromatic, and they are shining, shining, shining.
Never, ever, distill what you feel! Don’t tear it down just to examine the pieces; you are a perfectly juxtaposed mess for a reason. You hurt because you’re supposed to. In a chemical way, you’re attached to it, even tacked to it, to an emotional roller coaster, a sea. Complexities. Learn to lean back in it and sink your head, like into a basin at a hair salon, find immersion in destruction. People travel for miles to see particularly beautiful ruins, you know.
The biting taste of smoke in your mouth, breathing shakily. You feel of a high-altitude, but it’s almost like you’re climbing down from your mountain. It’s disorienting, it’s lonely here. I wish there was someone I could bring with me.
You know what drives me crazy about being a girl? How it’s not ‘acceptable’ to get into fist fights—or maybe it’s more that a lot of girls have no interest in that kind of thing. I don’t know. When girls fight with each other they cry and yell and maybe slap, but there’s no full-on punch throwing, which is a damn shame when you think about it. Being angry and volatile and violent is important sometimes, and I think there’s this feral, desperate need inside us as humans to hit and be hit. That might sound crazy.
“Talent is its own expectation, Jim: you either live up to it or it waves a hankie, receding forever. Use it or lose it, he’d say over the newspaper. I’m…I’m just afraid of having a tombstone that says HERE LIES A PROMISING OLD MAN. It’s…potential may be worse than none, Jim. Than no talent to fritter in the first place, lying around guzzling because I haven’t the balls to…God, I’m I’m so sorry, Jim. You don’t deserve to see me like this. I’m so scared, Jim. I’m so scared of dying without ever really being seen.”—David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
My toenails are bruised and curled from shoes too small (but I can’t afford bigger ones right now) and I don’t know where I’m going to go—today, tomorrow, ten years from now. I don’t know where I’m going to go. "I’m directionless," I whisper in your ear when I know you’re asleep, beyond me, tenderly always so close and tangibly there, but fiercely off-limits and…and God, you’re madness incarnate. That’s how I feel when I look at you and you smile with your eyes hypnotically, glowingly…Don’t fall in love with the wrong person, people always say. They never tell you what to do if you fall in love with someone who is completely and utterly right…which is infinitely more frightening, and infinitely worse. I’ve slowed to a crawl, waiting for the world to adjust itself to me, but it never will, and I’ll always be stuck alone in the dark with bright eyes, waiting for people like you to twist who they are to match me. It’s not fair that I had to be different…but I think I’m glad that I am. And so I’ll open the windows, drink the sweet milk from my cereal bowl, and roll around in the feeling til my shoulders are muddy with it. And maybe someday I won’t clot and when that hemophiliac day comes I’ll bleed myself out until I’m dizzy and gasping and unafraid to love.