“Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and, in this, hasn’t change since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.”—John Berger
My breath smells like Oreos and I know there are chocolate trails in the corners of my lips, but I’m beyond caring because your fingers are cupped around my mouth blowing smoke into it, and I watch your eyes crinkle around the edges, like you’d be smiling if the feeling could reach your mouth. There is something massively fucked up about this, I think my mother would say in clean housewife language, that we don’t have better things to do, better things to bring us joy and happiness and all those things that are talked about in family cookbooks and Smiths records. I exhale smoothly back into your mouth, and some part of me is distant from time and space, and I don’t think it’s the drugs talking. I love you, and I love August, and I love this moment in your upstairs bathroom at three in the afternoon, when you aren’t expected to feel impressive emotions but sometimes find that to be exactly what you’re doing.
And I guess what I’m saying is is that this is when I stopped thinking about expiration dates. I know that doesn’t sound particularly romantic for you, but in terms of me it was kind of earth-shaking. I stopped wondering when you would lose your specialness for me and when I would lose my specialness for you and suddenly there was no milk to put out with the garbage or maybe I just stopped minding that someday this would become all curdled and sour because everything was good all at once. And after all those days I spent asking as I sat on the plaid sofa and we barely made the rent, is this a life? it kind of hit me that it could be, if I let it, and maybe we were wasted creative geniuses (surely we were) but I could be content for now in a job where I was underutilized and underappreciated, pouring coffee for people that thought they were better than me because they’d climbed the ladder (that I could climb, if I tried, if I wanted to—but I didn’t want to) and they say that everybody settles, everybody sacrifices their idealism for realism, but I find myself deeply in love with my uncomfortable life where I’ll never be as successful as I’d hoped (as I deserve?) but sometimes it’s allowed, it’s more than that, it’s alright to put your brain in a jar for a bit and be a sort of lesser being and let your heart and your mind and your soul be fed solely by kisses and pizzas with all the toppings.
I feel so disconnected lately, and I haven’t been doing anything productive and I find myself crying a lot because it’s stupid and I know everyone feels this way but I just feel like I’m missing out on something when it comes to people. I have people I can talk to but nobody that’s really on my wavelength and I don’t know aren’t there supposed to be people out there that can reach me like that? And shouldn’t I have found some of them by now? I feel like I’ve gotten way too old to still be this isolated in my way of thinking. I’m not limited to my block anymore, or even my classes at school, but it’s still like I haven’t met anybody that I can be truly genuine around without liquid courage or sleep deprivation and that’s so dumb. I keep aiming and aiming to be genuine around people but it’s always like I’m putting on some show, like I’m in a movie and following a script, saying things just to say them and then people think I’m this person because of the things I say and do and I don’t know how to say that I’ve done it all wrong, I’ve interpreted the character all wrong and she’s just sitting inside me, bleeding her heart out, wanting nothing else but to be genuine. But maybe it’s not just me, maybe it’s just plain impossible to be genuine around anybody. Maybe you’re only yourself when you’re alone, and maybe everyone tries to pretend otherwise so they don’t feel as sad.
Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”
Here is a breathing body With a heartbeat and A quick glance in the mirror above the stove And eyes swollen but I swear it’s just allergies Because I have nothing to be sad about
(There’s just this boredom that starts deep In my stomach, like hunger but with a staler taste)
Sometimes I think life is only a Rorschach inkblot test Splotches that are supposed to represent limitless possibility For our brains to chew on, shapes to see that could be there But the thing about those inkblots is that while we pretend There’s a world to see inside them In the end, we want a simple answer—do you see a vase, or two faces? And that tells you what you are, accordingly
But I must be going crazy (Or maybe I was drawn that way) ‘Cause in those inkblots, I’m seeing things Things I’m not supposed to see And I guess, while I don’t think I’m meant to do anything big I wasn’t meant for a life this small
In my inkblots I see horses and mountains And bathtubs and rain But I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to ‘Doing things’
I think along the way I was supposed to learn To hold onto a man And find meaning with him and stop Trying to hold my own hand But I guess I’m a cynical bitch— You’ll call me that anyway— When I tell you that while love is…nice, I’m sure, I’m never going to look for it, Or be left wanting without it
And when I embrace myself tight enough Tighter than anyone else could hold me You’ll say I might as well be wearing a straitjacket But I don’t mind because I sure as hell feel free
Do the inkblots allow that? People to not choose love? Or is it supposed to be a realm of endless choice that Boils down to love now or love later?
Maybe I am crazy. Maybe that straitjacket’s more necessary than you thought.
“In a way, literature is truer than life,” he said to himself. “On paper, you say exactly and completely what you feel. How easy it is to break things off on paper! You hate, you shout, you kill, you commit suicide; you carry things to the very end. And that’s why it’s false. But it’s damned satisfying. In life, you’re constantly denying yourself, and others are always contradicting you. On paper, I make time stand still and I impose my convictions on the whole world; they become the only reality.”—Simone de Beauvoir, The Mandarins
Sometimes I think I can live off of other people’s love—even the love of people who don’t exist, people who are only in books or movies or TV or something. It’s like, if I can watch people long enough and know that they’re happy together I don’t care at all if I’m not happy together with someone. I mean, I’ve never really cared all that much. I think what’s always been more important to me is love in some abstract sense, just knowing people feel it at all rather than feeling it myself. I guess it’s because I don’t want that kind of thing for a while. It sort of makes me sick to my stomach, thinking about romance in a first-person type of view. (Does that make me really, really mature or really, really immature?)
My father plays these audiobooks on long car rides So we don’t have to talk to each other And I pretend to sleep because I’m supposed to be above mindless crime thrillers I always yell at him that those mass-market paperbacks are The death of real literature But secretly I close my eyes and enjoy them And when we stop for gas I count the seconds under my breath
And I suppose my relationship with him can be summed up In a few anecdotes like these Because I convince myself that I should be his exact opposite But some stupid part of me doesn’t want to be.
Watching somebody else sleep is so weird, especially when you wake up in the middle of the night and just look over at them, at 3 a.m. when he/she is unconscious and should be free from any prying glances from another human being and it’s just so strange, it’s like an invasion of privacy. I hate when people see me when I’m asleep, but I love watching other people.
I wish I knew people that did things, you know? Didn’t let high school get in their way of living these big, insane, extraordinary lives. I wish there was a group of kids—Freaks, or somebody like Nikki Reed from Thirteen—who just would grab me and initiate me into their fold for no particular reason besides the fact that I seemed genuine or brave or something, and take me along for some crazy, fucked up ride where I could live life first and be a high school kid second but there’s nobody around here like that, no weird-ass artist teenagers wearing trench coats in the middle of July (or maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough).
In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial, Who, squatting upon the ground, Held his heart in his hands, And ate of it. I said: “Is it good, friend?” "It is bitter - bitter," he answered; "But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my heart.”
I am drinking flat soda but I think It’s getting me drunk You’re a pliant person, and I’ve used you enough You’re the type that sleeps on floors And waits around for me to stop being so immature ‘Cause I like shiny things, flashy things Stupid things (but you’d never tell me so)
I’m the type to check my face in the reflection of the toaster Just to make sure I’m still there I’m so selfish, so haughty But you know it’s just because I’m unsure
And you used to wear this knitted wool hat until I made fun of you for it I’m sorry I made fun of you for it You’ve never really understood how a person’s supposed to act But I think you’re a better person for being so I hate social behavior, the sway of the crowd But I can’t shake it off, and you smile You know I try to, sometimes And that makes up for it all
You’re like a statue in the middle of my life And it’s good, because I don’t want you to change The pigeons and I, we talk to you, peck at you But you know me, with my clumsy words They sound good but I have nothing to say But your eyes are disturbingly clear They never rust over when you’re looking at me I’m always the one to break the glance
And your plaque beside you, It reads, ‘She knew what I could never figure out What this never-ending story was even about’ And I swear, you’re the only one that Even has a chance to make it to the end
And I wish I could spin my eyes back around into my head And watch the stories we’ve shared rise and fall like the tides Because memories aren’t that different from filmstrips If you know which pieces only belong in the space Between the slides
(I remember everything though)
To you, I bet all of us are like one giant Rubik’s cube And you were born with the solved puzzle in your head But you still see us through Until we’re all locked firmly in place, colors coordinated You wait, and you watch, And you care You care so fucking much
I don’t know: perhaps it’s a dream, all a dream. (That would surprise me.) I’ll wake, in the silence, and never sleep again. (It will be I?) Or dream (dream again), dream of a silence, a dream silence, full of murmurs (I don’t know, that’s all words), never wake (all words, there’s nothing else).
You must go on, that’s all I know.
They’re going to stop, I know that well: I can feel it. They’re going to abandon me. It will be the silence, for a moment (a good few moments). Or it will be mine? The lasting one, that didn’t last, that still lasts? It will be I?
You must go on.
I can’t go on.
You must go on.
I’ll go on. You must say words, as long as there are any - until they find me, until they say me. (Strange pain, strange sin!) You must go on. Perhaps it’s done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.)
It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don’t know, I’ll never know: in the silence you don’t know.
“The truth is I’ve never fooled anyone. I’ve let people fool themselves. They didn’t bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn’t argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t.”—Marilyn Monroe
Tonight I sit on Mars all by myself. I am drinking wine by candlelight in a black dress and my lipstick leaves red rings on the glass. I try to ignore the dull ache, try to forget that this will only ever be a party for one.
“A very beautiful and somewhat haughty woman once called my brother in the middle of the night. This was not long after he had broken things off with her. She was having a panic attack. She felt like she couldn’t breathe. He recognized this as a possible response to heartbreak and was as kind as he knew how to be as he tried to talk her through it. He said, “I’m here,” even though — in virtually any way that statement could be interpreted — it wasn’t true. Once the worst of it had passed, she told him, “I’m the saddest clown in the circus. I hold this remark, this scene, so close to me. The wretched beauty of it, the useless intimacy. I want to put it in a story.”—Elissa Wald
I. ‘Start from the beginning,’ you say And your voice is a trance ‘I want you to trust me.’ It’s not that simple but You’re the kind of person who Knows what to do with your hands When you’re just sitting still So I decide to try.
II. “I remember being born. I know— My mother always told me it was impossible To see that far back into ourselves, Said I must’ve found the home movie, Or something. But I remember it. I remember, it hurt. Like the world was too much, Right away.”
III. “I had this weird obsession with Green Eggs and Ham. I must’ve been Three or so. I developed this religion Around it, almost. I would chant all of Sam-I-Am’s requests ‘Would you eat them in a car a train a boat…’ And I remember my dad found this Tremendously funny. So he saved this ham and these eggs For so long that, you know, They grew mold and turned green The eggs looked pond scum And the ham had patches of weird translucent-looking skin. And he made me eat it. Every last bite. I was hospitalized for the food poisoning For almost three weeks.”
IV. “I was diagnosed when I was ten After I went to the beach Near our house in the middle of the night And collected 2,385 perfect clam shells.”
V. “Last summer I lived in India. I’d been saving for it like, Since forever. I waited tables All through high school which wasn’t as bad as it may sound Because I really had nothing better to do And I couldn’t bear to be at my house. India was great. I volunteered at this orphanage Near Calcutta and my living quarters were filthy But I’d never been so happy in all my life. I don’t know how much you know about Buddhism, But they’re always talking about transcending the self And extinguishing all desire. And I like that stuff I like it because while I was there I would forget who I was For days at a time—do you know what I mean, by that? I guess it wasn’t so much that I forgot who I was, But I forgot why it mattered.”
VI. “He called me last week to say that He found a huge clump of my hair in his shower drain. Who fucking does that? And then he started crying and apologizing But I hung up before he could finish. That’s brave, right? I’m strong? It’s weird because we knew each other For so long, but he never really knew me. We like, couldn’t talk. There are complete strangers that know me better. It’s like he was fucking a faceless cartoon, Which is completely stupid because It’s not even like I have tits like Jessica Rabbit’s.”
VII. “You know what I’ve been thinking, lately? Why do people get shit for wanting to be alone? It’s fucking stupid. I like being alone. I just do. I don’t like the idea of being somebody’s something. It’s not weak or strong It’s just a matter of—preference.”
VIII. “So I guess what I’m trying to say is I want to die for a lot of reasons. The list is probably just as long and as complex As your reasons for wanting to live, I bet. I wish I could explain my reasons, Erase my reasons, but in a lot of ways They’re beyond anything I am. It’s the world vs. me And I mean, come on. We know I’m going to lose.”
There’s nothing in here. It’s wide and echoey and I’m so far removed from feelings I can’t even make any up. I haven’t really written in a week and it’s weird and I feel dizzy and there should be something I need to say but I’m out of practice and I forget how to find it, let alone how to say it. I guess that’s a pattern recently because I can’t seem to say any of what I mean lately, which is dumb because I’m supposed to be the blunt one who lays it all out but I’ve been sparing people’s feelings at every turn and I need to stop before I turn into some wobbly, gooey doormat of a person. I kind of just want to scream but I’ve become too polite to do it in public so I settle for being a zombie who doesn’t change anything she needs to change. I’m a bad zombie too, actually, because there are loads of people I should have eaten by now.
“If you grew up in a house where you weren’t loved, you didn’t know there was an alternative. If you grew up with emotionally stunted parents, who were unhappy in their marriage and prone to visit that unhappiness on their children, you didn’t know they were doing this. It was just your life. If you had an accident, at the age of four, when you were supposed to be a big boy, and were later served a plate of feces at the dinner table—if you were told to eat it because you liked it, didn’t you, you must like it or you wouldn’t have so many accidents—you didn’t know that this wasn’t happening in the other houses in your neighborhood. If your father left your family, and disappeared, never to return, and your mother seemed to resent you, as you grew older, for being the same sex as your father, you had no one to turn to. In all these cases, the damage was done before you knew you were damaged. The worst part was that, as the years passed, these memories became, in the way you kept them in a secret box in your head, taking them out every so often to turn them over and over, something like dear possessions. They were the key to your unhappiness. The were the evidence that life wasn’t fair. If you weren’t a lucky child, you didn’t know you weren’t lucky until you got older. And then it was all you ever thought about.”—Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot