Pandemic Prophecies, Lessons, and Anything Else In-between
I recently read a piece put out by The New Yorker, “The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals New York at its Best and Worst” by Adam Gopnik. I didn’t read the whole thing, I mainly skimmed it to find reasoning in this unreasonable situation. What I did find were morsels of truth that nestled their way appropriately into this global phenomenon. Plagues only happen to people… Gopnik writes, only people put mental brackets around a phenomenon like the coronavirus pandemic and attempt to give it a name and historical perspective, some sense of precedence and possibility. The coronavirus, indifferent to individuals, has no creed or moral purpose, but it becomes human when it hits us. Gopnik goes on to reference Albert Camus and his book The Plague quoting this line: the microbe has no meaning; we seek to create one in the chaos it brings. Suddenly it hit me – this moment in history feels much more familiar to me by the ways in which I search for meaning in my everyday life. If I am unable to seek chaos, I simply create it for myself and go from there. This is where I really start to feel the selfish stab of guilt; when I try to relate this virus and its social, economic, or worse, physical impacts to my own desire of making myself unhappy in such a shrewd manner.
I have been selfish lately when watching the news and reading articles about this global pandemic. It’s not that I don’t care, I just have grown tired of both the emotional and physical unrest I’ve been experiencing. I’m still working and encountering an assortment of individuals that have taken up residency on two opposing sides of the fence. I have begun to assemble a journal of sorts to help me keep track of the days in which I feel locked away with my thoughts for much longer than I would like to admit. A journal to have and to hold in the future when I can look back and see where my seams started to fray and come loose. It’s unnerving how these seams would have come undone, even without the virus. The fact that I am now required to wear a mask when out in public feels like some cruel joke now, because when I think back to my life before all of this, I was wearing a mask of a different kind very willingly. It was one that was invisible to others besides myself, acting as a filter that could block out my deepest truths from the outside world.
The present does not exist.
Nothing exists until it’s on the page.
(somewhat)Calm Before the Storm
I imagine a place that doesn’t make me sick to my stomach. In that place I can sleep without fucking him. I imagine a bed that is solely mine and a window nearby with a ledge where I can place cups of coffee while I binge Gilmore Girls for the hundredth time.
This is a place I’m commonly comfortable to write in – but my most insightful work typically comes from places of anxiety and more often than not, the leftover anger I have for people and events that have come and gone.
Sometimes, I use my pen like a weapon when I want to let all the hurt drain out from me and bury all my transgressors with the weight of my anxieties. I write for these people.
I think I’m hardest on myself because I know I’m out of chances. If I can’t write well, then why am I even bothering? I like to keep my head down and judgment harsh so that I can keep writing until there is nothing left to say. I’ll let all the ones who doubt me grab a trash bag on the way out to fill with what’s left of me.
Why is this so important?
I want to make something out of myself – I want to be heard and not forgotten. Perhaps forgotten is the wrong way to put it. I want to be heard in a way that validates my way of thinking and being. The gaps of information I want to leave out are the ones that are too perfect, and I only want them for myself. I want to keep my happiest most cherished moments in which I feel as if nothing bad could ever catch up to me for myself. Those are also bullshit because they aren’t real to me anymore – so why bother writing something that personal, that bares not a single shred of truth anymore? Those things happened to a different person.
I am a different person now. It’s not really that I’m harsh, it’s just that I’m really tired of disappointing myself. No matter how many chocolates I eat, the little prophecies they print on the wrappers never come true.
I have worked so hard to complete my degree and finally have something to show for myself after years of derailment. I want to take back what I squandered away. I remember the last night of school, leaving campus around 10:30pm, my head cracked and overflowed with film aesthetic terms and ways to identify them in the movie, Her. The night was quite eerie when I think back to it. As I lit a cigarette and started on my hour commute back home, I noticed the shift. Parents and students were frantically packing vehicles with belongings, what a strange way to begin spring break. The virus didn’t seem real yet, or even here yet. I drove home, 695 was unbearably quiet. Not even the headlights and taillights that reminded me of diamonds and coals could help me escape from the uncomfortable darkness. I kept thinking maybe this was a blessing in disguise. I was in way over my head with schoolwork. I took too many credits, wanting to push myself to the absolute extreme in order to finally graduate. I didn’t care what the obstacles would be, I was forewarned.
The “blessing” turned into something larger and more unmanageable than I could have even imagined. I lost my part time gig waiting tables which hurt. Now, I no longer make the extra money I need for bills and paying my debts. I saw my independence slipping from my grasp as the days passed and the governor continued to shut down the state. Thankfully, my menial cashier job at the local Mercedes Benz dealership is considered essential and I can continue to work one week on, one week off. Still, I feel the anxiety to get my work done and push myself further beginning to take root. On the weeks that I have off, I lose track of the time. Each passing day feeling increasingly useless. How in the hell will I even graduate? My film festival internship is cancelled. My one small chance of working in the film industry is gone with nothing to be learned from actually working the festival. Sure, I helped plan a bit, and I became the official poster girl of Annapolis, soliciting businesses every afternoon to allow me to hang posters in their front windows. I prepared and submitted dozens of applications for internships in New York. I was beginning to feel excitement when thinking about where I could end up over the summer. Every single one is cancelled. I feel cancelled. My entire year feels cancelled. I have fallen into a rut, nothing I write has mattered much. Afterall, what will I do with a piece of paper that says I have a degree in Film Studies? It seems to be a stupid and futile gesture after all. My mother’s incessant comments on my going to school for a “hobby” resurface to haunt me. I am withdrawing into my past and allowing myself to go back to the one person I swore off at the beginning of the new year.
Shit, for a minute there I must have lost myself. This is what I get when I fuck with him.
I’ve already begun to untie the mess of ties between the past and now. It’s my own fault. I left them all tangled up in a ball in the corner on New Year’s Day. Of course, now that I’m finding myself with too much alone time, it’s all I can think of. It was harder before, but at least my mind was occupied. I started missing the comfort of sharing a bed again. It came at night. Of course, these kinds of feelings come at bedtime. I caved.
It rained yesterday. Terrible storms that always invite intimacy. I started with the soft ties – they weren’t so hard to untangle and wrap around myself. So naturally I called him up. I went back for an afternoon special. It’s only sex of course. The longer you stay in these moments the harder it gets to leave. There are little things though, that tug around the corners. Soft ties not quite covering you – sharing the afghan that is just too small to keep two people warm. The closeness kept me warm for a good while, it always does. The evening rolled around, and the headache was beginning to set in, but only enough of one that a bowl wouldn’t cure. Dinner was normal. After, however, the panic was starting to grip around the edges. I untied deeper as the evening wore on, till I realized or maybe I was just remembering, that I was caught in a spider’s web the entire time. Lucky for me the small beast was still in a lullabied state from the afternoon’s rendezvous. I saw my chance and leapt for it. As soon as I got back in my car, I realized how foolish this mistake was. I guiltily drove home singing Laura Marling songs about being an eagle and being smarter and stronger than this. What a fraud I am.
I snuck back in the door while my mother slept on the couch, Property Brothers was on and I watched as a young couple sledgehammered away on an old kitchen. God did that look satisfying to do. I was grateful for my mother’s slumber as I tiptoed to bed. I laid there in the dark for about an hour. My mom turned the light on while I pretended to be asleep. She saw right through it. It must have been the look on my face that I couldn’t hide. She was mad that I took the good pieces of the Easter ham. I completely forgot I brought that fool leftovers. I laughed, and the whole ordeal seemed too stupid not to smirk at. Some things never change.
There was some point where I fell off the wagon. What was strange about the affair that afternoon was the way it made me feel like some adulterous, desired woman. In that moment I didn’t necessarily need to be told I was beautiful. I was just there for a fuck it and forget it. Only that in the month I had left him and moved back home, I had stopped taking birth control. All of a sudden, I was seventeen again and scared to death of getting pregnant. I secretly looked up ovulation charts only to grow even more maddened. I never did keep track of my period so now there was nothing but another plan to prevent this. I didn’t want my mother knowing I had stooped back down to his level, even if it was just for sex. Although I must admit, the sex was always worth it in the moment.
So, there I was, embarrassingly standing in line at CVS; apparently, they kept Plan B up front. I already had to ask the pharmacist only to be given a once over and told I have to get it at the front register. I hid behind my quarantine mask and handed the cashier a $10 off coupon before shamefully paying and leaving. Like a down and out teen I hid in my car while I took my emergency contraceptive pill and washed it down with the warm Gatorade I had sitting on the passenger seat. I felt lower than ever. But not low enough to make the exact same mistake three weeks later.
I don’t speak to my father anymore. I think the last time I saw him I was eighteen or nineteen years old and I was on the verge of getting arrested for disorderly conduct. My mother was there that day. It wasn’t the first nor the last time she had been arrested. It was however the first, but alas not the last time I had to pick her up from jail. The other time was after a night of listening to my sister’s band play at a local bar. We went our separate ways after quite a few drinks. It was that night, after my lonesome walk home, that I got a call to come pick her up. My mother had gotten her first DUI. Both of my parents, when I think about it, were functioning alcoholics. My mother still is, but with the addition of a recent heart attack. My father, who knows? He likes to drink and pop pills, I guess.
I’m close with my mother but it comes with great difficulty. If I showed her this she would be pissed – and then get piss drunk and cry. Lately I’ve taken notice of my own drinking habits, just from being in the same household as her. Now with the virus circumstances, I find myself finding reason to have a glass of wine before noon. At first it didn’t seem like much, until I found myself at the bottom of the bottle by the early afternoon. I sleep it off until my mother gets home from work and we start the process all over again. I guess I’m still functioning. That’s what concerns me.
Do you want to know how things appear, or how they are?
I wear a wraparound ladybug ring on my left pointer finger. Today while I walked from my car to the shop at work, I noticed a real ladybug had landed on my other hand. I watched her survey my skin as she crawled around and between my fingers. I always thought ladybugs were good luck. At least that’s what I remember from when I was young, and it always has stuck with me. Just like butterflies. My mother always said that when you see a butterfly, it’s your mom visiting. I always thought it was corny, but I’ll be damned if that’s not the first thing I think of when I see a butterfly, hoping it’s there to greet me. Well I thought this ladybug was trying to say hello to me or maybe offer me some sort of relief during this worldly panic.
I was wrong. I felt a pinch between my ring and pinky finger and then watched the ladybug fly away. I didn’t know they could bite. The entire day at my desk I felt a throbbing itch and began to think the bite was a warning of some sort. Not really one in regard to the virus but something different perhaps.
On my drive home I noticed a sticker stuck to the back of a red convertible bug. I thought it read Beware but on second glance I realized it read Be aware. I like to think there are messages for all of us out there, day to day, on our grueling paths. Some to reassure us, and some to force us into being.
Damn, I was cute.
If I could show you the scenes that unfold in my head, I think I could explain myself more clearly. My jaunt. My reasoning. My manifesto. It’s not really that serious, but if I could just show a snippet of the way I see things it wouldn’t be so hard to express myself appropriately anymore. I’ve learned that the most honest reality is what makes films great. I just like to make a sharp left when I’m writing, and I get too close to the bone with some things. I’m starting to think that maybe I must suffer a little – just to get my point across. It seems to be the only way. At least, I’ve tested it with a few problems of my own. The results still come back in a muddled mess of confusion and “who the fuck was I?” moments of judgment. It still hurts to go back to this type of relationship. Even if for a few hours. The burn is still blistered raw – but somehow, I get distracted from it – probably with my old familiar haunts of family, or maybe it’s time to get a job after wasting money on a film degree. I don’t know if it’s a waste. Even if I wind up teaching, wouldn’t I like to teach something I love? Not the production. I hate being on set. I hate building the camera and hauling the gear, but I can. Film production classes mean group work. I always get burnt when I’m forced to rely on others.
Well I’m fucking burnt out. Burnt to the point that graduation means nothing. It means I made a mistake – how am I going to find a job? Why would I stay an extra semester?
To get a film internship maybe. All the ones offered require you to still be a student pursuing a degree. But honestly, the thought of one more semester kills me. I’ve never been a patient person. And I’m selfish. And I’m sad. (thanks Joni) And I did lose the best baby that I’ve ever had – my drive, my passion to continue writing scripts, poems, essays, all of this –
I do better when I work at things.
I’ve starved myself at two periods in my life – I’m not saying it was healthy. However, I’d be lying if I don’t look at old skinny photos and think “damn I was cute” of course then the usual guilt of “fuck, I still thought I was fat when those photos were taken” washes in, and then I see other photos where I was a little heavier and I still think “damn I was cute”. Now it’s just “fuck, this is the fattest I’ve ever been”. Eating disorders are cruel and dumb. Even if it’s just a fad for a year or two. Side note– I keep trying to get back on one, but it just gets harder each time because coming home from work on a Friday night with a large cheese pizza and nowhere to be is a very close second to the feeling of skinny. Marginally, really, which is crazy because I only feel the effects later. Like years later.
Except for that one time in Forever 21 when every single item I had in my dressing room looked amazing on me. Seriously, I’ve always been one to grab a mound of clothing and be happy if one or two things fit me and looked good. I’m telling you – 10 dresses fit me like the cutest glove that day. I was seventeen – but in my dumb bitch phase. It was a fun phase – I wish I held onto it longer, I’d probably hold my liquor better if I did. But I was seventeen and pretty and skinny and dumb. I was so excited for it to finally be my moment.
And I squandered it.
Silver screen dream.
It’s strange to think about graduation. The whole fuss of it all. The enormous sense of relief I was hoping to wash over me. As I near my final week of undergrad, I can’t help but take notice that I would have been walking across the same stage I did when I received my high school diploma. For some reason my high school always held the graduation ceremony at Towson. It was seven years ago this spring that I anxiously made my way across the stage knowing I had completed the treacherous task of high school. If I could, I would warn seventeen-year-old me, of all the disappointment and struggle to come. I was happy then, thin then, and feeling as if life was right in front of me. Dangling like a forbidden fruit – ripe for plucking. At the start of my final semester, I felt traces of this pride, wonderment, anxiousness. I knew that soon, I too would complete the milestone of college. It took seven years. Seven years of missed connections and dropouts and tears for all the time wasted. But back before this all began, I felt hopeful. I felt the burning sensation in my stomach that meant I was ready to move on and finally start a career. Or maybe it was a life? Now, it feels like some faint dream, shattered by forces beyond my control.
All the internships, the film festival I managed to get hired for, all cancelled. The real kicker is the prospects of getting my foot in the door of the film and television world no longer applies to me. All the amazing opportunities to work for places like NBC, NPR, and other production companies are for students still currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree. What a fucking joke that is. Somehow, I missed my opportunity before even having a chance to fool someone into thinking I was qualified for work in my dream industry. Somehow, I moved too quickly. If only I didn’t force myself through the overload of courses – my college degree dangling in front of me. I, an eager rabbit chasing after the carrot. Now, I feel more enraged and hopeless and confused than ever. My so-called degree won’t help me now. Not at a time like this. No one is making movies or TV pilots. After delving deeper into my English minor, I have been able to find a new voice. An angrier voice. Once again, I will use my pen as a weapon. All the countless pages of film and television scripts, the rewrites. The little notes I would make myself, racing down I-695 on my commute home are useless. For some reason, I always felt like I fell short with those pages. Always so close – but no cigar. I’m known for the dialogues I craft in my head. All the conversations and characters I recreate from my own life – for a screen that will never show. No silver or shimmer or welcoming lights of Hollywood. I think what falls flat is that these characters are all exaggerated versions of myself. Each conversation paraphrased – so I can distance myself a bit. What I’m beginning to realize is that I write best when I tell the truth. Hollywood will forever be the silver lining to everyone’s truths. Instead, I’m stuck here at work listening to some shyster Mercedes Benz service advisor complain about not being able to golf. God how I wish that was my biggest problem. Instead, I’m struggling, my hours cut back. Being
so broke that all I can afford to spend is sixty measly dollars a week. No unemployment for me. No six hundred dollar check every week from that fucker Trump. What exactly does “essential” entail? Constantly living on the brink of poverty? I wish I could get paid to say home, to sit this one out. Now there’s no way to get out of this financial grave I dug myself long before this all began. I’m trapped in my mother’s one bedroom condo with nowhere to write. I sleep in the same goddamn bed as my mother. I’m not really complaining though because it’s a Tempur Pedic and the couch sucks. So, for the price of living rent free I am stuck with her incessant thoughts and worries. How I’m too fat, too lazy, and pursuing a degree in something she doesn’t understand. Something she calls a hobby. Her words haunt me on a daily basis because I know she’s right. But god do I hope she’s wrong. Everyone who doubts me, I want to prove wrong. Prove that I can make a living as a writer. A writer of what – who knows, that’s still up for debate. I just want to pay back all the debts, personal and financial, and sure the emotional ones would be nice too. I want to finally be free.
Post-it Note Prophecies
My desk is completely covered. Months’ worth of dates, phone numbers, small fates, and other normal life reminders. Is this really the new normal? On some days, I write these down, determined not to forget, the small but monumental moments of thought that come across me in-between customers, warranty claims, and the triplicate amounts of paperwork. In the mornings, business is usually slow. So, I try to write down what I experienced the evening before. These are what have come of this tiny unassuming ritual I try to take part in each day. My own little post-it prophecies.
“You look miserable”. Said my coworker as he held the door open for me. I said simply that it was “hot and a Monday”. Only deep down I knew there was more and that the look on my face gave me away. I was grateful for the burst of cold air-conditioning that embraced me. It froze away all the negative truths.
She said, (my mother) I don’t even write. That what she has read is a waste and just a decoy – or means or vehicle in which to receive a passing grade. Goddamn do I pray she’s wrong.
I sat with my sister last night. The night after a full moon. I watched as she cast a spell and read me tarot cards. I was desperately looking for any answers or solutions. I felt a comfortable humming in my chest as we focused ourselves on the matter at hand. Our faces glowing from the tealights and tiny cauldron as we sat on the Great Lawn on St. John’s campus, waiting for the dusty dusk to evaporate into night.
I got my haircut last Wednesday. I wanted it all cut off. I made sure to show the girl a picture of the berries and cream guy from the old Starbursts commercial. Under no circumstances could I get that type of cut again. It always happens. No bangs.
“Let me in, my thighs are on fire” I screamed as I banged on my sister’s door. Chub rub. God how I wish my thighs wouldn’t rub together so much.
Lost baggage – the emotional strife I choose to ignore until I can no longer see them – let alone feel, when larger, more concrete matters take hold.
I hate how rushed I feel as I ring these assholes up for the service done on their Mercedes Benz. In my nicest, loveliest, fakest, deranged voice, I try to croak out that the valet will be pulling their car through the lane. The ignorant sons of bitches ignore me and walk away. Then they come back demanding where their keys are. I smile with a grin that silently but adamantly reads, Have a nice day fucker! I’m thinking about writing a book, or a retelling. A recounting of my time with her. This year. This mess. My (no end in sight) year with Renee.
A few words on self-respect
It’s been a few months since I’ve sat down and tried to have this conversation again. It’s always one-sided, and for some reason I always expect another voice to hear me out and tell me what to do. I know it’s not going to happen, but for now, like I always have, I will continue to hope for new revelations.
What leads me to this moment, a delicious unraveling of sorts in which I have shed away my past self, is another man. Why is it that I only ever rely on the projections of myself to strangers to motivate myself to move forward? I think it boils down to my idealizations on self-worth, self-respect, and self-esteem. It is clear, at this point in my life, that I’ve never really had much of any of that. That when I try to get from point A to point B, I always am enticed by a hidden point C, and then the hidden point always guides me into new territories I was never even looking to go to.
This all began about a week ago. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into, but I longed for the thrill of the unknown. I felt like breathing fire again. And fire I did breathe as he slipped my dress and bra off with impressive ease. It didn’t feel wrong or right in the moment. It was like some strange extension of time in which we existed but we weren’t really the same people we were at work. The looks we shared were full of pure desire.
It wasn’t the best sex. But it was worth going back to for more. It all really came down to comfort I think. Slowly, I learned to let my guard down a bit. It all started over an innocent conversation about music. When I’m around a musician or another music enthusiast like myself, all bets are off. I melt. It’s just always been important for me to be with someone who shares the same passions and tastes as myself. Of course he impressed me. With his knowledge on Dali, obscure films, and music ranging from angsty punk stoner rock to classical. He also wanted to make sure I knew he was a well-read man despite never having gone to college.
We aren’t in a relationship. This is purely sex. At least that’s what he said, and I’m fine with it. I think this is where I have been reminded of my own self-worth and respect and in all honesty, class. I have never been one to have casual sex. I don’t have a Tinder, nor do I know the correct direction to swipe my finger. So for me, this was an extremely new occurrence.
The first night he fucked me, I was nervous and weird. It went alright. It was quick and casual, and the fact that I was still desired sexually somehow made me feel a little more at ease than usual, but not by much. I liked it though. I liked the way he kissed me goodnight after walking me back to my car.
The next time we fucked, we were both on our lunchbreak. It was bad, and sexy, and adventurous. I enjoyed going back to my desk all riled up. This is where the issue of classiness and self-respect plays into this scenario: He told me he would be away over the weekend, it was Labor Day, and that he would be out of reach, cellphone wise. It was fine. I did however decide, being greedy, and always wanting to get the very last drop of the orange I juice, decided to go back to my ex for the evening. I too let him take advantage of my body, I was nervous not because I thought what I was doing was wrong, but that this man that I had been with for so many years, this man that made me feel as if I divorced him – I was afraid that this man would sense that I was someone new. And I was. I let them each have their way with me and it felt as if they both empowered me. I’m concerned that this makes me dirty or unrespecting of myself. Is my body really a temple? If so, this is my way of committing to my own self-faith, I’ll continue to pray and meditate in my own personal church.
I’m not sure about what it really means to respect myself, or to know how to confide in my deepest version of self. I think Joan Didion said it best in her own essay on self-respect: “innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself…character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs”.
This, I think, is my moment to let go of all self-delusion and finally commit to my own responsibilities in terms of understanding my own self-worth.
the other woman/love spell, go to hell. drink my wine. everything’s fine.
He told me to bring a change of clothes when I came over. In case I wanted to spend the night. It was late on a Sunday – not late enough for an elusive fuck it and forget it – but late enough that it was just around my bedtime – a time when I’m often at my most honest.
I spent the day drinking and lounging by the pool, having been in touch with him pretty much the entire weekend. I thought I was maybe being annoying but he didn’t seem to simmer down over our rapid-fire texts – on all things books and music, and sex of course.
I’m thinking of this morning, and the types of feelings I was having as I laid in the dark next to him, starring up at the ceiling and pushing the snooze button on my cellphone alarm. I listened to his breathing and tried to decipher why I was so exhausted yet wide and wild eyed awake.
You see there were more things I noticed this time. Perhaps they were there last week and the time before that – but the thrill of the entanglement made me less inclined to take a knowing sweep of his apartment.
First, I noticed the women’s deodorant, and then the Olay face cream and Victoria’s Secret perfume on one corner of his dresser. Lovespell. I stared at them while he slipped my dress off, unclasped my bra and bent me over. Infact, it’s almost like I could see those objects in the pitch dark, calling over to me, haunting me. Me knowing full well they didn’t belong to me nor was the side of the bed I was sleeping on.
You see, he was honest with me. Maybe only after the first or second time – but to be fair, I never asked any questions – and let’s be honest, I have my own set of boy problems still waiting to be dealt with. I told him it was fine but that I didn’t know how to do this. He’s teaching me.
But what I want to talk about is the reason why I can’t fully wrap my head around his delicately firm grips on me. He’s so nice when he cums. He keeps eye contact. And lays his head on my chest for a few warm lingering moments afterwards. I like the way it feels. He said I was a bigger girl and that it was fine. He’s not shallow or superficial like that.
He had me fall asleep on his chest and we slept like that for a while – it feeling completely normal.
But I couldn’t help but think of this other woman. The woman who’s place and person I had overtaken during the night.
It’s not guilt I don’t think – but maybe it is. Maybe it is that small niggling piece that my subconscious won’t let go of. She’s not the other woman.
He told me she was dumber than a bag of rocks, but a “nice girl”. He also said he was thirty-one and wanted to get married in four years. I didn’t ask if he meant to her.
After all, it’s just a game. And he knows just how much to ignore me – and how to keep me in this frenzied state. I know I’m playing with fire, but the heat of the burn is all too enticing for me to step away from.
Lately, I haven’t been sleeping in my bed. I’m now in the habit of waking up with a quick jolt elsewhere, usually around five or six o’clock in the morning. The pale of the unfamiliar ceiling, glowing, as I stare up and try to remember where exactly it was that I decided to lay my head down. Whose bed did I share last night? When I say unfamiliar, I don’t know if I really mean it. You see, I wake up in places I’ve been, and at some points, those places have truly felt like mine, but the recent changing of circumstances has made all places strange and distant to me in a way that can only be best described as a cheap mirage.
The past, I don’t even know anymore, weeks, months, half a year perhaps, I have been sharing beds with my mother, my sister, my childhood best friend, my impossibly difficult to fully cut ties with ex-boyfriend, and now some terrifyingly new sexual acquaintance. You see, all of this time I’ve been on a downward wander that has turned into somewhat of an inward spiral. I can’t even remember the way it feels to have my own bed. My own space. Well, it’s at least been seven years or so. Back when I so badly wanted to be an adult. But that’s a cop out. It wasn’t that I wanted to be an adult – but just able to freely explore and discover myself; without the backdrop of my disastrous fuck up of a family situation. You see, it really is the people and places we choose to surround ourselves with that ultimately shape us. There is no running away or denying the facts.
I’ve been reading a lot of Joan Didion. And I’m rereading Patti Smith’s Just Kids. These women define an era I have always been enthralled by, each in their own deliciously unique way. The freedom to drift off, and skillfully shed pasts and try on new lives for fit. Of course, in all of those moments, it’s the worry and the dread that things won’t work out, or the understanding that you’re at a point in time where you’re the lowest you’ve ever been or will be in your entire life, that haunt you the most. You can only comprehend these moments, these shifts in thought, from the rearview mirror, preferably one to two years after their occurrence. However, results can be learned as soon as six months after the fact. What I’m trying to say is that these women understood early on that they had a voice. It feels that only now, at the ripe age of twenty-four, almost twenty-five, am I starting to find mine. Or at least be able to hear it for a moment, long enough to write down what she said. I’m my own assistant with a Dictaphone, laboriously listening and furiously scratching down my thoughts onto the page. I’m always taking messages from my fast-talking fraudulent mind.
It’s funny how I can be two different people. It’s not so much that I am two separate people, but two halves of one. What I’m trying to say is my true self doesn’t always have the energy, or really, let’s be honest, the nerve, to fully take ownership of my body. Not really my body, but my entire sense of being. At least it feels that way right now, and I can’t remember when I was whole – or even if I truly ever was. I think at one point, I really was the other half of someone else. It can be a huge relief however, when you find things of yours that have long been forgotten and lost – a small blessing or token from the past to remind you that it’s okay to keep on going. I’ve been at the station of doubt and contemplation for far too long.
But this seems to be a moment in time, a place for me to get off. Distant memories fade past me like ads on a train. As I rise from my seat – the pleasure of stretching my legs after a long trip – I don’t hesitate to look back, for I will always be one to, it’s in my very essence, in my blood, because only when I look back can I see the possibility of looking forward. My eyes will never deceive me.
Now back to the matter at hand: beds. I can’t tell you how desperate I am for my own bed again. A safe place to lay down my thoughts for the night. A place in the middle of the mattress to sprawl across on my stomach with. No one to have to wake up to. Well, I think I’ll want to get a dog. A yorkie. And name her something elegant. Perhaps Lady, and I can call her Penny Lane on certain occasions. Penny Lane would understand where I am in this life. We have the same friends; they all still live at the record store. She’s fictious, of course, but Cameron Crowe is too famous to know.
I just want to wake up alone somewhere and know I only have myself to worry about that day.
I remember a time. Huddled and cold on a bathroom floor. Hair pasted to my damp forehead – flushed from the concoction of booze and coke and bad 90s alternative covers, from a band my sister dragged me to come see at some seedy bar off the highway near the airport. I must have been around 21. Or maybe this was just before – when I’d feel slick with an ID. Someone that wasn’t me, but an identity of one I could pass for. I don’t know how it happened. I must have been feeling sorry for myself. The existential dread of growing older, just in time for the party to soon be over. Maybe it was the foggy disappointment I allowed my love life to be, or perhaps just life in general, to grow into. Maybe I knew it was over then, but my selfishness and fear of being alone again outweighed any and all healthy motivations to pick myself up off the filthy floor and move on. What happened after doesn’t hold to me much. Murmuring. Moans. Falling in and out of some trance of consciousness; holed up in the bathroom stall. Spilling my guts into the toilet so violently I’d have a bruise on my chin for a week. A childish reminder that I’m terrible at holding my liquor, most especially when I’m drinking to forget my feelings. Somehow, someone, made sense of my ramblings and found my sister. Apparently I had been calling her name. With ease she lifted me up and drug me through the swinging door, back into the bar. The walk of shame that ensued as we were told by the bouncer that I had to leave. A boy from the band, whom apparently I had been talking to earlier in the night with, seemed concerned, as he tucked me into the passenger seat of my sister’s car, pulling the seat belt over me, acting as though it would save me from this night somehow. “We never did get to smoke that joint” he said. I watched from inside the fishbowl window as he packed his gear and guitar in the car. The bewildered sad sucker glare of his stare burned right through me. What exactly did I say to him to warrant this intensity? I lit a cigarette, just barely rolling the window down as I struggled to meet his gaze. I flicked the ash, and away into the past the whole incident disappeared into. I didn’t even think of looking back. I knew in that moment I was broken but I was either too stubborn or simply didn’t care enough to do something about it. This was a mere preview of the detachment I was to experience in the coming years.
It was a sign. I was playing with fire and something had to give already. We had been fucking since September except for that one week, two weeks ago when he said we should cut things off. It stung but I didn’t let it show. Thank god for the mask to hide behind, although my eyes often betray me.
He said he wanted me to read his tarot. I don’t have “the gift” as my sister would say. I was just telling him what my reading said, the one that was performed by my highly “gifted” sister. He knows I like witchy shit so I guess he was just humoring me. But why. He claims this is casual. I don’t know what the fuck that is. But I’m inexperienced and he’s casually brought up that he has a high body count.
I don’t know why I’m so entranced. We even have a joke about him secretly being a cult leader.
My readings haven’t been too good lately. Lots of despair is waiting for me apparently. Someone is lying to me. But I think I’m lying to myself. I’m caught between men and two very different scenarios. Bits and pieces of a blissfully perfected relationship are strewn across both acquaintances. It’s driving me to madness. At least a stranger, more incoherent and foggy existence in which I am now in.
The cards didn’t look so hot for him either. But I should mention here that I didn’t actually bring a real deck of tarot cards, I have this online tarot reading site I like to consult with each day. I know it sounds neurotic. But I like the hum in my chest that occurs when I read about my cosmic destinies. And anyhow, those and my horoscopes (Chinese and Sun Sign) are perfectly light reading material for a smoke break at work.
Of course, the one who is unavailable emotionally is always lurking at work. But the point I’m trying to make here is that I got a clear sign tonight.
My car got towed. $350. Goodbye to my cash stash. And I happened to drive by the very same tow lot earlier in the day and not on a route I would usually take. Highly unusual.
I didn’t know I was looking for a sign. I was however asking for help with my writing. I’ve been in a rut. But tonight, the tap has started to drip again. Perhaps I have a gift after all.
Perhaps this is the gift.
Isn’t it funny how you can find yourself idling mindlessly through the town you grew up in? When the reason for getting in the car was clear: Go. But from there on, you were at a loss. Destination unknown. That’s the thing with keys – once you jangle them from your pocket you’ve made the commitment to leave. To where, be damned. After all, wasn’t getting out of that detrimental town you once called home your biggest goal, not too long ago? Of course, it seems long enough because when you allow your pared down self – the self that survives on instinct none the less – but the self that relies on muscle memory alone – it’s this self that allows you to feel less and less each time you haunt the streets you once longed to never set foot on again. Nothing looks the same anyway. Not even the prison others called high school is gone. Demolished. Ashes to ashes. It feels much better this way.
Tonight, was one of those nights in which you have one of those arguments that are so trivial in the moment – but that the dynamic between you and your mother has surpassed its boiling point. Infact, the boiling over was the reason for this particular meltdown in the kitchen on a Wednesday night. You make a shepard’s pie – it’s the only dish you can make without following a recipe or measuring out ingredients for. The kind that’s muscle memory. (You see, we all abide by these motions we call everyday life, what makes us unique are the ways we perform our individual movements during each painful waking moment of mere existence.) Well, the mashed potatoes and sharp cheddar cheese oozed and bubbled over in the oven – of course it stuck to the very bottom and burnt.
Major infraction in your mother’s kitchen. You living in her one-bedroom condo is the single most debilitating and severe infraction you will ever receive in your life. You can’t ignore her binge drinking tendencies and insistence on taking Chantix, even though she’s been on and off it for over a year, and still smoking like a chimney, not to mention her vivid dreams, irritability, and violent mood swings. But she’s dead set on believing it’s helping her.
But that’s beside the point. It was one of those nights where everything is falling apart, and you find yourself in the place you used to live when you were young, destroying two joints because why not – your dick appointment got cancelled last minute, and nobody likes that. You’re freshly single and have been practicing casual sex for the past six months. What a strange experiment that will turn out to be. You were having that night that sticks with you. The sad ones you can’t help but hold onto because there’s always a lesson or revelation to be had. When you’re alone long enough – you start to make sense with yourself – you listen to yourself.
And then you find yourself back at the place you left when this conversation began. It’s an hour and a half later – the oven is on self-cleaning, the condo smells like burning plastic. But you slip in the door, as quietly as possible, and retire to the couch. The beast still fast asleep – perhaps it was an emotional night for the both of you.
And oh shit, she just woke up to take that unconscious middle of the night piss. Yes demon, go back to bed.
You sit down, you expel all this noisy chatter and revelation and succumb to a dead sleep – the kind that isn’t even worth it, but burns through you the next day, wires you up with exhaustion.
Perhaps this was worth it.
Why does everything I write sound so stupid when I go back and reread it? Why am I so obsessed with moments that happened seven years ago? I want so badly to get over not being able to stop myself from making the mistakes that have shaped my life thus far. Isn’t that ultimately what life is about? Trying to use your time wisely but to not dwell on the time you couldn’t keep? Nothing is forever. Thank fuck for that. Why is it though that I am so obsessed with myself at that age?
I’m hoping this is all part of a cycle. I’m really into astrological and Chinese horoscope shit. Maybe at some point, one morning during my smoke break I read somewhere that the Chinese zodiac cycles through every seven years?
That can’t be right, there are twelve zodiac signs.
I like sevens. Seven is such an ambiguous and alluring number for me. Especially when addressing time. Seven days is a full week. Seven weeks is when morning sickness sets in, I think. July is the seventh month and on July 11th it’s 7/11 which means it’s free Slurpee day. But this most recent seven year increment of time has been tugging at my sleeve like an infant.
I was seventeen seven years ago. This, I think, is the moment that has shaped me the most. I was in a relationship for seven years and for some strange reason the past seven years feel like they took place in a different lifetime. Too many things changed for me that summer. I know I was a different person. I hope I’m a different person now.
There’s no going back.
Liz Grier is an ambitious writer of all mediums that pertain to art and entertainment. She identifies with the role of a screenwriter, poet, and creative nonfiction writer, but most importantly with one of a storyteller.