I think you could fall in love with anyone if you saw the parts of them no one else gets to see. Like if you followed them around invisibly for a day and saw them crying in their bed at night or singing in the shower or humming quietly to themselves as they make a sandwich or even just walking along the street. And even if they were really weird and had no friends at school, I think, after seeing them at their most vulnerable, you wouldn’t be able to help falling in love with them.
“Some days I woke up and got out of bed and brushed my teeth like any normal human being; some days I woke up and lay in bed and looked at the ceiling and wondered what the hell the point was of getting out of bed and brushing my teeth like any normal human being.”—Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story
and my stories are distant, always, and my figurative language is just nauseating at times, and i don’t think anything that anybody hasn’t already (so why bother straining myself? i imagine that my mind is something like orange juice, but all i’m left with now is pulp), and none of my characters have a breath of life anymore, especially myself…and i wish i could explain why everything is so damn unsatisfying lately
chalk it up to plain old writer’s block, my plateau of the past few months, or maybe the cold medicine i’m taking has been putting my brain in a haze. it’s not even that i’m tired, i’m exhausted. maybe i wasn’t meant to do this. it’s not practical. maybe i’m getting old enough to realize that, finally. i’m not a natural talent and i should stop trying to be. i’m not tough enough, mentally. i haven’t experienced anything at all, maybe that’s it, maybe once things happen to me i’ll be able to write about them, or maybe i’m just getting worse at this, as i get older, slowly slowly bit by bit i lose all the traces of originality and creativity i was born with. maybe the best writers are just children, because even though they may not have the best vocabulary, they sure know how they feel, how they wish their life would go (and that’s all a story is, isn’t it?)
this is me going back to when i would sit on the porch swing in the morning, when my hair was tangled with free verse and my eyes glowed with stories that i could find in every place, when i was a child straight out of a fantasy slash adventure novel, when i knew that too, when i waited…this is me going back to when my heart was in it rather than my mind…perhaps the world is better backwards. maybe it would be for the best if we got younger as the years went on rather than older, because i think we were smarter then, more in touch with our world, earthy and mysterious. children don’t force out beauty the way adults can (try). i don’t know. i miss when my whole world shimmered like a gasoline rainbow, when inevitabilities didn’t choke me around the midsection. grass stained knees and muddy hands that held the universe—and god, the words that my tiny soul could create! (time travel would be worth any paradox or cataclysm if i meant i could go back and hug that tiny girl).
is there a number i can call, a person i can meet, someone i can apologize to for getting older?
Last night I had a dream that Gene Kelly gave my dog rabies. I was really upset because we were going to have to put him down and I was just sitting outside in the rain crying while Gene Kelly danced around in the streetlights, foaming at the mouth.
"dear samantha i’m sorry we have to get a divorce i know that seems like an odd way to start a love letter but let me explain: it’s not you it sure as hell isn’t me it’s just human beings don’t love as well as insects do i love you.. far too much to let what we have be ruined by the failings of our species
i saw the way you looked at the waiter last night i know you would never DO anything, you never do but.. i saw the way you looked at the waiter last night
did you know that when a female fly accepts the pheromones put off by a male fly, it re-writes her brain, destroys the receptors that receive pheromones, sensing the change, the male fly does the same. when two flies love each other they do it so hard, they will never love anything else ever again. if either one of them dies before procreation can happen both sets of genetic code are lost forever. now that… is dedication.
after Elizabeth and i broke up we spent three days dividing everything we had bought together like if i knew what pots were mine like if i knew which drapes were mine somehow the pain would go away
this is not true
after two praying mantises mate, the nervous system of the male begins to shut down while he still has control over his motor functions he flops onto his back, exposing his soft underbelly up to his lover like a gift she then proceeds to lovingly dice him into tiny cubes spooning every morsel into her mouth she wastes nothing even the exoskeleton goes she does this so that once their children are born she has something to regurgitate to feed them now that.. is selflessness
i could never do that for you
so i have a new plan i’m gonna leave you now i’m gonna spend the rest of my life committing petty injustices i hope you do the same i will jay walk at every opportunity i will steal things i could easily afford i will be rude to strangers i hope you do the same i hope reincarnation is real i hope our petty crimes are enough to cause us to be reborn as lesser creatures i hope we are reborn as flies so that we can love each other as hard as we were meant to.”
Nothing has been easy, not for a long time. You want to write a story but it seems all the people you can think of are colorless. Human experience is so limited, you realize. So many people live the same story, and the ones deviating from the control are too busy living to write any of it down. So you don’t begin because you already know how it will end.
Rub your beleaguered eyes, shift your weight from one foot to another. Try to make some sense of this. 'What's that you have there, crossed out' she asks and you try to think of words for your desperation, words for your vague, fuzzy endings, how you tune people in and out like a radio signal, cleanly and calmly but never completely. You don’t want her to know how nothing you do is quite defined, like those rough sketches of animation, jerkily moving pencil outlines, a mouse steering a tugboat and whistling again and again; you know she deserves a better story. That is probably what she expects; forbidden fruit forbidden love repressed and glorious lines of inked through narrative rather than the neverending litany of a person who sees excitement as akin to maybe soup, you like a bowl once in a while but usually it burns your tongue. You still tend to keep cans on the basement shelves indefinitely. You think maybe the reason she—and people in general—expects you to be interesting or at the very least a conversationalist is because you’re a writer. You don’t think they understand how unromantic and unsexy and unintriguing the whole business is. You spend a lot of time in your bed asleep when you should be awake and awake when you should be asleep, and also drinking [coffee, alcohol, and/or chocolate milk].
When you were in high school, you had a ‘problem’ with painkillers. You would overdo it, just a little bit, so you still remained sleepily aware. You were good at swallowing pills. It was like a sleight of hand with you, you would hold them under the too long sleeves of your sweatshirts, and then poof they were gone, free-falling down your itchy throat. Your body would shiver and you would take flight on those snowy mornings at the bus stop, the ones where you’d go outside and feel like you were swallowing lungfuls of something that was more than life, that tasted like fire and smelled like ice. You would hold toast in your gloved hands and just breathe and breathe. You are reminded of the night your head hit the pier, and the black water claimed you, and in your almost unconscious haze you thought drowning made you feel more alive than you had in a long while. Your shrink says it was the adrenaline. You know it was something more, different, but you can’t explain what it was, it was almost like being held, you think, and the waves of the harbor lapped around you like wind glancing through the pages of a suicide note.
Poetry is an art of beginnings and ends. You want middles, read novels. You want happy endings, read cookbooks. Not closure, word filched from self-help fuzzing the argument. The ever-grudge of love and endsville. I believe in scars and making scars shine. Kaput. Form is the shape of the selecting intelligence because time is running out. Form enacts fatality. To pretend otherwise is obfuscation, philosophical hubbub. A lie. We die. We go to art to learn the unlearnable, experience the unexperienceable. Art reports back. Form is the connect, primal haunt, carbon chain end-stopped. You can tell it’s late because we prefer the songs of Orpheus after he’s torn apart.
“I do not love; I do not love anybody except myself. That is a rather shocking thing to admit. I have none of the selfless love of my mother. I have none of the plodding, practical love…I am, to be blunt and concise, in love only with myself, my puny being with its small inadequate breasts and meager, thin talents. I am capable of affection for those who reflect my own world. How much of my solicitude for other human beings is real and honest, how much is a feigned lacquer painted on by society, I do not know. I am afraid to face myself. Tonight I am trying to do so. I heartily wish there were some absolute knowledge, some person whom I could trust to evaluate me and tell me the truth.”—The unabridged journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962
Please write about something you are ashamed of... and find a way of revealing it that is artistic, rather than purely confessional. I offer this challenge because I think you can rise to it.
'Nothing holds you back.’
My mother told me this once, and I was horrified. How could she misunderstand my nature so entirely? How could she look at me and not see someone that is bound and ruled by her restraints? I am fine-grained, I assume now. I am less precise than either my mother or I thought. An illusion, or perhaps, more adequately, an elusion.
I am trying to explain shame. Its ruling power…you spend so much time carefully placing it outside your mind, but sometimes it returns. You are lying at night on your bed, and the lights are on and something prickles, like a pin, deep in your stomach, except you cannot decide if it is more like a prickle or an ache, or a combination of the two. Perhaps next you feel it in the corners of your eyes. A tightening, like cloth stretched and taut across a line. You’re somehow conscious of all the holes in your body at this moment, and you realize you’re overflowing and the tears spout from every pore in your body. Waterfalling. You cannot describe this feeling as sad, because you don’t cry you don’t crinkle and smudge like this when you’re sad. Sadness is more stagnant, more like drowning, peaceful and lethal, why would you bother to cry underwater?
You suppose you are ashamed of a lot of things. You’re oversensitive. "You could fry an egg on your face!" people tell you sometimes, when you redden and heat up and try to disappear without exploding. Your first memory of real and true shame was in kindergarten class, when you were making origami butterflies, and you cut and colored yours into a chaotic mess, while—you know this memory can’t be correct, but this is how you remember it—all the other children’s butterflies flew around the classroom, neatly and beautifully. You crumpled yours into the bottom of your backpack, tried to hide it beneath the crumbs of your snack but your mother found it and you burst into tears. You were so inadequate in kindergarten, and all the other kids were flying. You flew eventually too, but by then it didn’t matter, no one cared, everyone else had moved onto greater things already. Two steps behind. Maybe three, you could never keep up.
You realize perhaps the root of your shame hasn’t changed much. You are still behind—it is irrevocable and constant—and you are still inundated by the tides of inadequacy it brings. It is not a butterfly today that you fail to construct, however; it is a desirable, beautiful body (and maybe even a mind and soul, too, if we’re admitting things to ourselves tonight). You envy the easy elegance of the other girls, how they can be a person worth wanting—or maybe worth is not the word, because what does worth matter?—I mean being a person that is just plain wanted, now this is what you are not; and vain and insidious as it is, this is your deepest shame. Because people respect you, are even awed by you, but never want you. And it burns horribly. It makes you cry.
You do not burst into tears in your mother’s arms anymore, though, you wait until long after she’s fallen asleep. You wait until you’re sure no one will hear, that there’s not even the slightest chance, because it’s only then that you’ll be sure you aren’t looking for comfort or pity, that you mean it, that you are leaving tear stains on your pillow because of what is, nothing more.
Sometimes I think I write just because I’m afraid of…not (writing, if that makes sense?) I’m afraid of silence. I’m afraid of losing this thing that has always feels slightly out of my grasp, this so-called ‘being a writer’—you know, me, little ol’ me, being a writer—why won’t I just let myself believe it, say it, describe myself as such? When someone asks me "what do you like to do?" like a teacher on the first day of school or some adult looking for a way to look into you (because only adults do these things, kids can tell who you are at first glance, practically) why is it so hard for me to just say, “I like to write,” why is that some exercise in staggering confidence? Even after all these years of dirty notebooks with the pulp leaking out and the endless grooves I’ve patterned into my computer keyboards—why is it so hard?
“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”—The Perks of Being a Wallflower
'I don't know. I thought it could be true. Maybe we're all just lying around in this second-rate civilization only reserved for the fucked up. Maybe the good people close themselves off from the rest of us shitheads and leave us entrapped to rot so they don't have to stand the smell of it.'
But there are good people in the world, you know there are.
'Truly fucking good people? I dunno. One in eight billion, maybe. I feel like everybody likes to think they're a good person because they're not the worst of the bad. Like it's subjective. It could be… But even the people that do all kinds of community service and shit, I dunno. I don't really believe them. They're frauds. Nobody cares about being good, they just care about being seen as good. And…there has to be more than that.'
'Who knows, who cares.'
Why do you say things like that?
Like, “who knows, who cares.” You care, don’t you?
'That's a complex question.'
You care, I know you do. You care about me, don’t you?
'Of course I fucking do, you stupid kid. Just…caring in general. About people and things other than you. That's more complicated. You're easy to love. It's like, all you are. You're so simple it's beautiful.'
I wouldn’t say that.
'I know you wouldn’t. Doesn’t make it not true.’
But how can caring be complicated? How can you not look at the world, at people and just love them all?
'Because I'm not a good person. I'm not even a halfway good person or even a person pretending to be. I don't know. I'm hollow and sad and…Christ, I need drugs.’
I wish you wouldn’t be so sad. I can’t understand it. Why does nothing make you better?
‘Well, you’ve only been sad because of something. You don’t know what it’s like to be sad for nothing. No reason. It’s like constantly being sick, except your whole body is. But it’s weird. It’s like, you’re fighting off the infection but you also are the infection.’
At the same time?
Did you hear those birds outside the windowsill yesterday?
'Yeah. Woke me up at the fucking crack of dawn.'
Don’t say that. They sounded beautiful.
'I hate beauty. It's a fucked up concept. It's a lie.'
'It always hides something ugly.'
'There's a lot of ugly in this world, believe me. You haven't seen it yet. But you will. I wish you wouldn't. But you will.’
When it comes to riding public transit, listen. Bodies hum, quiet and slightly off-pitch, tapping, different sucking mouths competing for the air, all rhythmic. Driven to distraction; the strange panic that bleeds and pools on the track, the way it can crush your chest in, the anonymity. Take it all in.
Hope you found something you could make yours in The Sun Also Rises. A clerk at Borders also warned me of Hemingway's prose when I bought my copy, now Borders is no more.. People tend to be fans of the fiction of dressings, of ugly things draped in similie and metaphor until they're made to look beautiful. I endorse a literature of roughness, of prose like daggers that can cut and bruise, writing that makes you numb and then teaches you how to feel again. Hope this finds you well young one.
I like this description. I did enjoy The Sun Also Rises, and books like it, books that can’t even be described as stereotypically as ‘novels’ even if they technically are because they aren’t neat & wrapped up or pretty but painful and almost emptying. Stuff that makes you think things you hadn’t thought before rather than arranging your own thoughts in a prettier way…I think that stuff is more important, and it’s the writing that matters.
There’s a certain ambiguity in cities, I’m sure you know what I mean. A hesitation, an insecurity in how to proceed—unless you live there, in which case you bypass it all because you move fast enough, skyrocketing and falling and splatting on the pavement on the yellow painted line that means you’re too close to the subway tracks, and you don’t mind because you’ve seen a hundred days like this happen before. And you stand outside tourist traps, feet in the snow, watch college students smoking cigarettes, shaking in the cold.
When you live in a city, you grow to the point of seeing past the grime, thin lines of it, that are left behind in each moment of star-eating capacity. The residue of magic, of connectedness, of gross raw human experience. I don’t know, I feel these things in cities. When I was a child, though, and lived in one myself, (not New York, mind you, one dirtier and even less pretentious but more historically-oriented than Boston, which is saying something,) I didn’t feel any of these things. I liked the park because of its greenness and my best friends were all black and Asian, and I don’t know. I didn’t think it was magic when people smashed the pumpkins we put outside on our step for Halloween and I didn’t think it was magic when my uncle nearly got knifed at gunpoint. (Perspective, perspective?) I had a blue bathtub and my next door neighbor was a blonde girl I called Allison Wonderland. But still—I’ve said it before—cities breathe, they sweat, they heave, they settle like dirt in the crevices of your skin.
Now I live in a whitewashed suburban housing development because we have more money these days and there’s grass but it’s so controlled and pocket-sized, like painted plastic outside a doll house. When I go to a city for the weekend, I remember how I used to live for the first couple years of my life. And I think I miss being scared at night. I miss smog. I miss…I miss…tugging, I miss mimicking birds in the morning, I miss my uncle’s pizza kitchen where he kept two guns beneath his apron. I miss the not-hesitating.
Alex here. I have been working up here in Carthage South Dakota for nearly two weeks now. I arrived up here three days after we parted in Grand Junction, Colorado. I hope that you made it back to Salton City wihtout too many problems. I enjoy working here and things are going well. The weather is not very badn and many days are surprisingly mild. Some of the farmers are even already going into their fields. It must be getting rather hot down there in Southern California by now. I wonder if you ever got a chance to get out an dsee how many people showed up for the March 20 Rainbow gathering there at the hotsprings. It sounds like it might have been a lot of fun, but I don’t think you really understand these kind of people very well.
I will not be here in South Dakota very much longer. My friend, Wayne, wants me to stay working at the grain elevator through May and then go combining with him the entire summer, but I have my soul set entirely on my Alaskan Odyssey and hope to be on my way no later than April 15. That means I will be leaving here before very long, so I need you to send any more mail I may have received to the return address listed below.
Ron, I really enjoy all the help you have given me and the times we spent together. I hope that yo will not be too depressed by our parting. It may be a very long time before we see each other again. But providing that I get through ths Alaskan Deal in one piece you will be hearing form me again in the future. I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing or been to hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one piece of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to sch a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of Salton City and hit the Road. I guarantee you will be very glad you did. But I fear that you will ignore my advice. You think I am stubborn, but you are even more stubborn than me. You had a wonderful chance on your drive back to see one of the greatest sights on earth, the Grand Canyon, something every American should see at least once in his life. But for some reason incomprehensible to me you wanted nothing but to bolt for home as quickly as possible, right back to the same situation which you see day after day after day. I fear you will follow this same inclination in the future and thus fail to discover all the wonderful things that God has placed around us to discover. Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, Ron, and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.
You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.
My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.
Ron, I really hope that as soon as you can you will get out of Salton City, put a little camper on the back of your pickup, and start seeing some of the great work that God has done here in the American West. you will see things and meet people and there is much to learn from them. And you must do it economy style, no motels, do your own cooking, as a general rule spend as little as possible and you will enjoy it much more immensely. I hope that the next time I see you, you will be a new man with a vast array of new adventures and experiences behind you. Don’t hesitate or allow yourself to make excuses. Just get out and do it. Just get out and do it. You will be very, very glad that you did.
Take care Ron,
(Letter from McCandless to Ron Franz, Into the Wild)
I was thinking earlier, my writing is always stuck in this fucked up limbo: do I want it to seem clever and pointed, or lithe and pretty? But I suppose this the same limbo I’m stuck in, as a person, alternatively talking about the smell of old books and trying to think of the exact word to describe the dewy wetness of the grass in the morning, and discussing the foundations for Argentinian nationalism and Freudian theory.
“To hell, to hell with balance! I break glasses; I want to burn, even if I break myself. I want to live only for ecstasy. I’m neurotic, perverted, destructive, fiery, dangerous - lava, inflammable, unrestrained.”—Anaïs Nin
This Thanksgiving break, I’m going to read nearly nonstop. I haven’t been giving myself enough time lately; I’m lucky to get a half hour or an hour every day. I miss getting swallowed up by my books and shutting out the world.
A question, or actually, a statement—you are strange about your love. I mean it, and I can think of no other way in which to describe it. You are ever-changing. One day you claim to love, the next to have loved, and another to have never loved, or maybe not only to have never loved but also that you will never love, either, and I’m sorry, but I can’t keep up. All the days in which you are erumpent, bursting with supposed strength of will and heart are equally matched by the days you drown yourself in your coffee cup of despair, with your paints, your charcoals. And I don’t mean to be rude, but would you make up your mind already? Decide?
Maybe I’m asking too much. Maybe I’m too young, too inexperienced. Perhaps no one really knows who and why and how they love, and perhaps I’m only just realizing.
Here is a small story about shame; here is a girl wrapped in blankets, cocooned in comforts, here is a girl who will never have the heart nor the stomach of a king. Let me make a list: I’m good at hiding, I’m good at bleaching sinks, I can shrink on sight and I’m an expert at glazing—pots and cups, my eyes, you name it. But—there are so many stories I’ll never finish.
(It’s not a question of being or not being, but whether I can be anything of importance, psychologically speaking. I want to climb along a tree of infinite branches, because I’ve always been obsessed with choice even if I know there’s only one choice to take, in the end, but so far, it seems, the trunk is endless and wide and I’m struggling for foot holes).
Today is one of those self-confidence-is-in-the-toilet days. When I wonder why I even bothered to get out of bed, let alone try to write. It’s a feverish trance, an aching heavy head heavy hard day, and I can’t snap myself out of it. I always overheat when I’m feeling badly, and this makes everything even worse because I can’t sleep unless I’m cold. I honestly don’t think you care much, but I’m sorry there are so many things wrong with me, so many things that don’t add or subtract or multiple or divide. I’m sorry that I can’t push past all the ghosts in my head, and fight on anyway (I used to be able to…) and I’m sorry I use stupid metaphors like that. I can’t help it that they’re true.
I’m moping today—like everyday. Just let me. I’ve been erasing everything else I’ve written besides this for the last hour. I’m sorry I’m so egotistical while simultaneously being so self-conscious. It’s pathetic.