30 May 2016

0 going south

there's a tension to being in america. and by "america," i mean the south, which is and always will be "america" to me.

i bang on about how we can never know other people because we can never know ourselves. this is the problem of being in america: i know.

in sitting amid breakfast conversations that make me intensely uncomfortable. in being at lunch and attempting to relay facts about what happened at chappaquiddick in the face of burvil's total conviction that the way she believes it happened is the way it was. in hearing my uncle express thoughts with which i do not agree and in such a way that i cannot engage in discussion of them because to do so would leave burvil believing i'm a hard-lining atheist.

there are so many ways in which one feels shut up. so many moments when my soul contracts in revulsion with the realization that the horrible thing casually uttered is a part of why i am the way i am. because i grew up here, in all that.

steeped in all these conversations punctuated with reminders that it is so easy to be a whore and a sinner and to disappoint everyone. in this stew of conviction and conspiracy theories and states' rights and literality. all this chatter in which no one listens to anyone else.

that sounds melodramatic.

this is why i hate writing about the south, why i said i would never write about the south. because it's impossible to write about the south without sounding melodramatic because melodrama is not just our natural register, it is the point from which we begin. it is our normal. seared into you along with the speech patterns and the biblical interpretations and that particular variety of heat that explodes out when you open the door of a car that's been sitting in a parking lot in memphis for twenty minutes in late july.

there is no room for nuance here. there is only one way.

it is not coincidental, i am nearly sure, that i constantly search for multiplicity. that i bristle when people suggest there is but one option. that i need to feel things are impossible to get anything done. and that i've a tendency to burrow into the places demanding the greatest possible nuance.

it is, i am nearly certain, an instinctive response to this sense i had of the environment i grew up in: that there are no alternatives and speaking is an impossibility, as is being heard when you do.

on my birthday, i wished i was in paris. i am where i am, but i wished it nonetheless.

there's a liberty in paris, unavailable here.

for that matter, there's a liberty anywhere else that is unavailable to me here.

there are these things called "spite houses." a building constructed to spite the neighbors or anyone with stakes in the land. the spite house is intended to block out light, to anger.

it is a defiant symbol. it is often very ugly, and it appears to be, primarily, an american phenomenon.

i realized the other night at dinner- with an equanimity more surprising to me than the realization itself- that donald trump will be our next president.

it has a second meaning in the south, "spite house." it refers to the custom of consigning a disgraced relative to a second, smaller home located on the family lands. there, this relative lives out her days alone as punishment for having brought the family into ill-repute.

writing about the south always carries with it the threat that this is how i'll wind up.

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