31 December 2019

0 october: a reuve

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

31 October 2013

'cancun solidified my fuck fish thing.'

'i love how hooters is your starbucks.'

'you look like the wizard of oz, except you're in venice.'

'i'm not even saying you need to go into great detail about the rivulets in its forearms...'

'definitely call him "lord whatever the fuck"...'

'it looks so much like a picture, i can't believe it's thread!'

'the only reason to work out is to attract people to have sex with, but if you work out to the point where you're falling asleep on dates, that doesn't work.'

'you look like ross perot.'

30 December 2019

0 beauty-full

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

17 April 2015

sister joanne pronounces beautiful as "beauty-full." it is a word she uses a lot. it makes me happy and i tell my mother, who reminds me that this is how my grandmother ruth used to pronounce this word as well. a reminder that hurts as it is a reminder of something i do not remember and a reminder that i also do not remember my grandmother's voice.

29 December 2019

0 confession

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

2 February 2015

there's this folder in amongst my jackie folders called "FINALE". i don't know why it's all in caps but it is. probably because whenever i create a new folder on this damn thing, in the heat of the moment of creating that folder, it always feels like that folder represents an Event and so i put it in caps and then what i want up with is more folders with capped names than uncapped which, in turn, overwhelms me because THAT IS TOO MANY EVENTS.

i should mention now that a friend and i at school spent quite literally 20 minutes at a cocktail party talking about how our word files are managed on our computers and our shared fear that we will die before completion and no one will know how to retrieve them all. he has everything noted on an index card. i have nothing but folders named FINALE and "*DECEMBER*" and "*****JANUARY******" and "AMERICAN" (a folder, btw, that is empty and whose meaning i no longer know).

anyway. this was about EVENTS. and file names.

the FINALE folder has been around since last winter. or last june. i'm not sure which, but it's been awhile. since i sat next to N in a particular lecture theatre and jotted down what i imagined would be the last paragraph of my book and which i later typed up. and which i haven't looked at since.

today, that file (bizarrely titled "I'm twelve") was joined by the file "next to the last." apparently, given the capitalization, these beginnings of the end failed to be qualify as EVENTS.

you know what i'm doing here? in the post, i'm circling around the thing that i'm circling around in the book. namely, this:

0 confession

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

14 January 2015

i have not yet unpacked my bags from christmas.

i'm torn between thinking this is totally acceptable and indicative of an apartment organizational crisis that is slowly coming to a head and thinking it is an appalling failure to be an adult.

today i bought a bathroom organizer and a kitchen organizer. neither of which, obviously, alleviate the luggage situation, which maybe continues to not feel pressing because whenever the luggage is unpacked then i'll be left to confront the reality that there are currently five suitcases in my home. a reality that is unpleasant at best. deeply excessive at worst.

28 December 2019

0 here is what i'm realizing

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

15 November 2013

i dated an alcoholic.

and that alcoholic died.

0 remember the yellow shoes?

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

24 January 2015

remember? remember how the yellow shoes were so so cute and i so so loved them and every time i- idiot- would think this time it's going to be different and then every time i put them on they would destroy my feet? 

yeah, i'm pretty sure these orange shoes are their evil cousin. 

dear makers of cute brightly-colored pointy-toed shoes, COME ON. 

27 December 2019

27 June 2016

from the time i was eleven, people were asking why i wasn't married, debo tells me.

this is not exactly news nor is it encouraging.

0 the structure of the YA novel of my life = 'manufacture your own drama'

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

10 september 2013

debo is coming to visit!!!!!

we are going to here:

which is maybe kind of the english equivalent of a thomas kincaide painting.

because i'm a diligent worker (read: someone who panics about the possibility of future panics and so works an average of 2 months ahead), all i've got to get done during this week is a really freaking well-written one paragraph on US violence of the mid-60s.

so as we're marauding about the big houses of england, i'll be mulling riots. which seems about right.

debo's coming is an excuse for many things. big houses, for one. but also, little things. like a foam mattress topper.

you guys, my mattress is a nightmare. like, a legitimate tim burton nightmare. there are actual coils poking out. for reals. and because i'm a spendthrift with luxuries and a tightwad about essentials, i've done nothing to rectify this. despite the fact that i've spent the last six months sleeping in a very specific spot, in one position, hugging a pillow to prevent a coil from piercing my breast.

but debo's coming! and debo can't live like that! so at last i've an excuse to purchase a foam mattress topper. huzzah! problem solved.

i'm not sure what it says about me that i'm this stupid. and that the reasoning behind this has, for the last six months, seemed entirely logical. it obviously points to my need for easily controlled manufactured dramas. but perhaps less explicable is the fact that, in these last six months, i've been sleeping better than at any other point in my life.

26 December 2019

0 an interruption from the present time

garebear, debo, and i have all been marveling about how christmas seems so wonderful this year, we're all so cozy and relaxed. i was actually happy to come to memphis! (can you even believe??!)

for the first time in a long time, it's almost like we're not walking across a bed of nails.

EL has this theory that your body holds onto stuff until you're ready to deal with it and then it lets loose. our bodies are unloosing, people! ready or not, we're ready.

they say time heals. i think sometimes it just lets you remember in a way that's incrementally less crushing.

the deep hellishness of the two weeks that burvil lived with us in september 2018 is perhaps best captured by the fact that garebear looked at me yesterday and, in all sincerity said: you really missed it. it was the worst. we barely survived. 

and it took me a hot second to realize that he was talking about something i was, in fact, there for.

his brain, in processing this ordeal, had felt the need to delete me from it.

this is sweet, in its way. i appreciate the care involved in mentally sparing me that experience. but, all the same, i want full credit.

i was there. i saw. i, too, am haunted.

a year later, it takes little to no effort to throw myself right back into and fully emotionally inhabit a moment where i was curled in a ball on the floor of my bedroom, crying, while my grandmother stood outside in the hall, screaming expletives at my mother for forty-five minutes.

she wasn't well, she didn't know what she was doing, she wasn't herself. but the explosion's effect was the same as if she had. witnesses to the violence of her own immense fear, we are all three still, in many ways, trembling and singed.

EL and i were talking about another trauma last night-- the one from college-- and she made the point that there are things you never get over and that life isn't a project of fixing those things but of surfacing them and living with them.

sensei and i used to bang on about how the south is a haunted house, but we are all of us, in our own ways, haunted houses, no? this is not a particularly original thought, but it's one worth holding.

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

10 May 2016

garebear and i are talking about a friend of his who has cancer. concluding this portion of our discussion, i note, life is hard.

YOU MUSTN'T BE SO CYNICAL! garebear exclaims.

a bizarre statement given that the idea that life is hard is far from revolutionary, particularly in the context of discussing the health of someone who is, possibly, mortally ill.

but also because this is garebear.

the man who, two weeks ago, initiated a conversation about assisted living with absolutely no preamble, saying simply: i think your mother's finally coming around to the idea that my time left on earth may be very short.

the man who, since i was twelve, initiated an annual family meeting so that he and my mother might discuss with me the specifics of their DNR and wills.

because i have known my parents' stances on feeding tubes and cremation since i was fifteen, it is hard to comprehend that such knowledge and discussions are not the norm.

i've largely assumed it was an only child thing. in discussing it with N, who is also an only child, i've been reminded that it is not. it is a my family thing.

there was probably no way i wasn't going to become who i am- obsessed with taxidermy and cemeteries and lives and constantly reminding everyone around me that we're all going to, one day die- given the house i grew up in and the parents i have.

we may not be the best at dealing with death in reality but man are we adept at planning for it in the abstract.

when i was twenty, my parents set up an elaborate trust, with different scenarios should my mother predecease my father, my father predecease my mother, or if they both died at once. it was set up to disburse payments at five year intervals, which were staggered so that they would fall when it was assumed i would marry (25), when i would want to buy a house (30), and then some other thing i can't remember which was maybe start my own business or buy another house (35).

i remember sitting with them in my father's library and discussing this plan. this was early days yet. the annual meetings didn't begin in earnest until i moved to chicago and was in my mid-twenties, so i was still rather sensitive to the prospect of planning for the eventuality of my parents' death and hearing them bicker over the feeding tube. (debo = yay; garebear = nay [though, if debo's in charge, garebear's gonna get one {same for cremation}].)

YOU MUSTN'T BE SO CYNICAL! garebear exclaims, because i have said that life is hard. and i wonder what alien must be inhabiting his body that this admission of a truth would equate to cynicism.

five minutes later, we're discussing his upcoming birthday. and he says, 69 sucks but i'm looking forward to 70 because that just means i'm closer to death.

something that sounds so terribly grim written there but which fills me with relief, because this is my father, back to his old self. this is the man i grew up with. the man who, in wanting to fix everything, in wanting to secure my future and spare me hard choices, has been stage managing the aftermath of his own death for upwards of 20 years.

and i say, see! you call me cynical and won't let me say life is hard but then you go all grim and talk about your death!

0 mmmmwhahahahahahahaha

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

14 April 2014

today i read an article that mentioned a friend of jackie's i'd forgotten about. so i googled her name, which led to an article by a woman who does something for a sports channel in chicago who'd once written a thing about this friend of jackie's. and so i emailed a chicago biographer friend i have who used to have a chicago sports website to see if he had the email address of the woman who wrote about the woman who was jackie's friend. he did. i wrote her, she wrote me, and then i wrote the woman she'd written about who was jackie's friend.

this afternoon, after reading more articles and confronting what a very big deal it was when her book was published, for the zillionth time, i googled the name of a woman who used to work for jackie. still, i got nowhere. so tonight, on a whim, on twitter, i messaged a FLOTUS expert whose jackie book i cannot live without and whose hand, several years ago, i shook in l.a. i messaged him and asked if he had any idea if this woman is still living (it is STUNNING how many people whose deaths cannot be determined on the internet), he wrote back with a suggestion for the round-about route by which i might try getting in touch with her, a description of his current project, and his phone number. because we have a mutual friend.

the friend of a friend, ya'll. because, MY GOD. and now i come riding in on my friend of a friend pony and the doors come flying open. but it's important in such times as these- when things seem to be falling together so easily with what feels like terribly little effort on my part- to pause and take stock and remember how far this whole circus has come. to recall how, four years ago, no one would speak to me. and, upon hearing about my project, THEY ROLLED THEIR EYES.

24 December 2019

0 sunday afternoon

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

2 July 2016

i have only twice in my life ever fallen head over heels in platonic love with a woman.

(burvil, of course, precedes consciousness.)

with k(hopeless romantic, enchanted by the power of hairdressing).lo, at that church mixer where we were seated next to one another and discovered a shared love of the film the painted veil and a belief that to die of cholera is an intensely romantic way to end.

few people find romanticism in violent/fatal diarrhea. k.lo did. i thought, omg, i need this woman in my life. 

with olive, it was different. she'd been friends with the woman i walk to church and, since i'd been walking her to church and sitting with her during the service, olive came over each week to tell her hello. she would acknowledge me but we didn't speak. until a quiet day at a convent.

when olive entered the room, i felt tugged towards her like a magnet. no lie, that evening, i called debo and breathed into the phone, mummy, i've met someone. as though i'd returned from a really excellent date. when, in reality, i'd spent the day at a convent chatting with the bird-like hard-of-hearing 87-year-old woman next to me and being shushed by the vicar. because the day was meant to be quiet, after all.

0 yore

23 December 2019


the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

26 April 2016

a certain person has entered my life who feels the need to head every email with: "URGENT!"

my inbox has been deluged with urgencies. it is a veritable depot of urgencies. i go to my inbox and my first thought is OH NO!

it is like getting a phone call in the dead of night. you know something has happened. you assume someone has died. you know nothing good will come of this.

or else someone has dialed the wrong number.

seeing URGENT! in your inbox is like that. it could go either way. either there's $1 million waiting for you in turkmenistan if you only wire $500 to your long-lost cousin jimmye eaton's brother to pay his legal fees or some time-sensitive disaster in which you are directly affected is unfolding and responding to it is going to consume the rest of your afternoon.

except, no. not in this case. because every one of these urgencies is a question about literature. every one of these urgencies is, really- if we're being honest- not actually urgent.

to be "urgent" implies time sensitivity. it demands immediate attention. these urgencies are neither particularly time sensitive nor immediately demanding. they are, in reality, general inquiries conveyed as though they were pressing. questions misleadingly framed as though the stakes were life or death.

fyi, the enforced state of heightened emotional alarm prompted by repeatedly confronting situations characterized as "urgent!" brings out the absolute worst of my contrary streak- a personal characteristic in which i do not take pride, which i have worked hard to overcome (outside of its creative usefulness), and which academia seems dead set on worsening.

it has also forced a confrontation with my own understanding of literature. because all of the questions involved in these emails relate to literature. and, much as i love literature, i honestly do not think that i think there is any problem in all of literature that can be characterized as "urgent."

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

6 July 2016

in america, i watched A LOT of kardashians. because america is the only time when i have access to the kardashians as a tv phenomenon. otherwise, they are a daily mail phenomenon. and there's something about watching hours of reality which is rather calming, in that way that watching hour upon hour of the real world was calming when MTV aired all those real world marathons during exam season. and each episode would seamlessly segue into the next so you were never quite sure where one ended and the other began and suddenly NINE HOURS had passed and you've got david's "come on be my baby tonight" stuck in your head for a month.

so there is an element of that, in my watching the kardashians.

it was surprisingly deep into my kardashian viewing before garebear and debo realized that this is something to which i do not have access in the UK. and then they were more forgiving.

their hatred of the kardashians, however, did not keep them from the room. particularly debo, who sat through hours of kardashian viewing while playing on her phone.

i would've assumed she wasn't paying any attention except occasionally she would look up and say, now which daughter is that? i was surprised when my admission that i rather like kris was backed up her agreement. more shocking, through an episode during which she'd been particularly engrossed in her phone, was when she looked up and said, where's scott? why isn't he in this one?

it is, perhaps, one of my unacknowledged aims in life to lower our family entertainment standards as low as they can possibly go.

i took grief for this. there was a lot of rolling of eyes and exclamations of oh not them, don't they ever go off? but something must've stuck.

yesterday, debo emailed me this:

even though she didn't understand it (because, really, the stories about these people are so convoluted who can?), it warms my heart that she tried.

22 December 2019

0 stray bits

EL is on a sleeper train from edinburgh to london and i'm in my flat in DC and we're talking on the phone.

i'm keenly aware that this is a world that my grandparents probably never imagined. though, also, they imagined a world of flying cars, so i guess you win some, you lose some.


i'm whining to her about how i'm not writing. because this is the sweet spot, the period of not teaching, when i should be writing.

though this is not entirely accurate, because this sweet spot where i'm not teaching is also a moment in which i should be making all the syllabi, because academic winter break isn't really a thing.

so there is that.


instead of writing, i'm reading two books a day and drinking fortnum & mason's gin and tonic tea like it's some cheap thing that's easily procurable and not something i have to wait for people to go to the uk and send back to me.

this isn't the limits of my activities. i'm also experimenting with footwear, having worn silver glitter boots to brunch.


i should be writing.

i actually want to be writing.

well, that's a bit of a lie. i do but i don't but i should because i need to, you know?

(can't you just hear the ghost of carrie bradshaw chiming in here with faux naïveté to say: i couldn't help but wonder, why are we shoulding all over ourselves?)


i was reminded the other day, over the course of a prolonged conversation about them, of how much i hate the word morsel. and yet, i also appreciate that it's a word with a certain whimsy.


i'm returning to memphis with two empty suitcases and a bag of dirty clothes.

a large suitcase with a smaller suitcase inside it, inside of which is the bag of dirty clothes.

I AM UNASHAMED. both, by my inability to navigate doing laundry in a building that has no laundry facilities and by taking my dirty laundry across state lines.

this matryoshka situation is quite literally the least and lightest baggage i have had in the last seven months/eight years.

also, given the ever-deepening of my trust issues, let's acknowledge the level of trust involved in assuming-- nay, believing!-- that my memphis closet will provide.


the other day, jmills asked how, after the last two years of upheaval and displacement and horrible shit, it feels to be settled at long last. and, while i'm not sure i'm exactly settled-- because there's that whole fact that i no longer believe in stability or that anything (aside from friendships with women) can ever endure-- i will say this: i do finally, at least for the moment, feel free. and that's a pretty fucking amazing fact. 

0 on the perils of elaborate costuming

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

6 May 2016

N and i went to a gatsby-themed literary event last night, in the middle of which one of the beads on my bag became braided into my fishnets, necessitating that the pair of us hobble from the banquet hall and that she kneel before me and extricate my beads from my tights so that i was, once again, at liberty to move.

0 it feels like something is ending

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

25 April 2014

it feels like something is ending and i know not what.

i do not know. and yet it's there. this feeling.

it's something to do with returning to america after a five month absence.

something to do with the ending of a season that has been involved a crazy wonderful jackie something nearly every single day.

and the fact that i'm very nearly halfway through.

and the reality that, as of 19 may, this whole jackie business will have officially been TWENTY YEARS LONG.

can it be that twenty years after her death i've finally begun to mourn?

isn't that bizarre? but i kind of think there's some validity to it. i'mma be in new york on the day. twenty years removed from sitting in mrs. watson's science class wearing that green long sleeved shirt and those white shorts, shivering in the AC as the cheerleaders blabbered in the background so that all i could see was the images, i am going to be in new york.

i see stories as kaleidoscopes and time as an accordion. suddenly, within the last day and a half, the accordion has contacted. suddenly my twelve year old self feels SO CLOSE. something about writing on the moon landing and optimism and jackie's 40th birthday, which everybody at the time saw as a new beginning, which i know meant she only had 24 years left to live, somewhere in all of this...

i don't even know how to finish the sentence. only that it makes me sad.

maybe this is what i've been trying to avoid all along by only writing a partial life, only focusing on a specific set of years at mid-life so i wouldn't have to kill her off at the end.

this is personal.

because she freed me.

which sounds bonkers. that an 80-whatever dead woman could do such a thing. but it is her life that i've spent the last 10 years writing, her life that has brought me her. she has done so much for me since i sat on our front lawn, legs propped against The Collie of My Life, reading in time magazine how she handed a surgeon a piece of her brain.

a moment which at once seems SOCLOSE and also light years away.

she has died. that dog has died. i live in london because of her.

in writing about her, i am every single day at once 12 and 32.

on may 19, it will have been 20 years since i heard about her when was 12.

time is an accordion. stories are kaleidoscopes.

the accordion collapses. the particles of the kaleidoscope slide into focus.

for the past 36 hours i have felt something is ending. a season? a story? a phase of this ridiculous adventure?

i know not what.

21 December 2019

0 just be safe

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder (fyi, no idea what "the word" was)...

5 August 2016

garebear's enthusiasm over this word almost equals his pride in not having asked if i was involved in the knife attack in russell square the other evening. 

when, mid-way through our conversation i mention it, he interrupts to ask, did you notice how i said nothing? did you notice how i didn't ask? 

and i applaud this restraint, knowing full well i'd texted debo first thing and she would've relayed this information immediately. so likely, from first hearing about the knife attack in russell square the night before, he'd known i was not involved. 

and yet the accomplishment comes in not mentioning it, in having played it cool. 

because my family are extremely not cool. they are all always braced for something to happen, waiting for me to be knifed or blown up. so they can be pleasantly surprised when i am not. because this is who they are and what they do.  

you know it could happen in mantachie, burvil warns me, like a character in a greek chorus, in every conversation where she reminds me: just be safe

0 two things

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

12 november 2016 

Two boats set sail in those prewar years a century ago: the boat that sailed on and the boat that sank. Olympic or Titanic? Which is ours? It is, perhaps, essential to life to think that we know where we’re going when we set out—our politics and plans alike depend on the illusion that someone knows where we’re going. The cold-water truth that the past provides, though, may be that we can’t. To be a passenger in history is to be unsure until we get to port—or the lifeboats—and, looking back at the prow of our ship, discover the name, invisible to our deck-bound eyes, that it possessed all along.

Everything is new, every minute is new. It means re-examining. Life changes every minute. The world is being created every minute and the world is falling to pieces every minute. Death is present every where, as soon as we are born and it is a very beautiful thing the tragic, le tragic de la vie – what is tragic in life – ’cause there is always two poles and one cannot exist without the other one. It is these tensions I am always moved by. [...] I love life, I love human beings, I hate people also. I enjoy shooting a picture, being present and it’s a way of saying yes, yes, yes. [...] It's yes, yes, yes. And there is no maybe.

20 December 2019

3 if i were a rich man

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

19 August 2011

there's this fellowship. i first applied three years ago against the wishes of my parents, who thought it would have dire effects upon the man i was dating and my romantic life. i disobeyed them.

i didn't get the fellowship.

i didn't speak to my parents for a month.

the man i was dating dumped me shortly thereafter.

(there's a blog post, should you feel the need to revisit the immortal one time when my mother argued from the perspective of a gender she is not.)

ever one to pick the path of most resistance, i'm applying for that fellowship again. this time, my parents are gung-ho and it's the biographers who are shoulding all over me.

they've said i shouldn't waste my time. i should be less insouciant. i should be less academic. repeatedly they have told me that there are far more interesting books i should write.

to all of this, i have politely responded with nods and smiles and blithely carried on. i've often doubted myself, but never my writing.

which brings us to last week, when i was told that i should write like other biographers. that i should practice the art of biography by reading other biographies and i should imitate the way they wrote. never mind that i am a woman writing about a woman, all the biographies i should read to prepare me to do this are by men writing about men. 

hearing this, i smiled and nodded. politely, i listened to this person i don't know tell me i don't know how to write. only later did i crawl into a deep, dark mental hole.

but i'm out now. and my answer is this: no fucking way, man. no fucking way.

0 truly

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

3 July 2016

my heart breaks a little every time the HRC campaign writes and tells me i am one of their most committed supporters. i have committed a whopping grand total of $10 to the campaign, so this is clearly a lie.

0 "exciting"

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder (aka. a little show apparently called ALL THE THINGS I DIDN'T POST AT THE END OF MY PHD)...

18 August 2016

an austrian colleague is reviewing the draft of my corrections before i send it to the examiner to discover whether it is wildly off-base. in his reply regarding how quickly he planned to respond with edits, this colleague noted that it looked "exciting."

i'm prone to exaggeration for story-telling purposes but it is actually an accurate statement to say that this is the most effusive praise regarding my work in the last three years and eight months.

i'm trying to savor it. trying to allay the anxiety that, if what i have produced this summer is not what the examiners wanted, then i've absolutely no words left to give.

while i thrive on impossibility and operate best in a realm where i'm doing things people have repeatedly told me cannot be done, i also realize the ways in which my own process is abusive. and how it fails to take into account the other part of me that needs to be coddled and repeatedly told i'm a genius.

when i went back to therapy last summer, with all of my "narrative problems," i used the word "blistering."

and the therapist reeled back. a vivid word, she called it. an accurate one, i said.

because there has been, always, in this process, an ebb and flow, a rise and fall, wherein i am told everything i produce is awful, and leaning into that critique, i go against the advice offered and do the awful thing in the extreme, in the hopes that, in the end, someone will come along who can reel me in. someday, someone will see what i'm doing for what it is, see the potential within it for working, and show me how to make it better.

(and yes, i can see the other side of this equation and how this has probably made me the most frustrating person to work with if you're the one giving the advice.)

at some point in my life, i had a professor who was obsessed with how we lived in an age where everyone expects to be "spoon-fed." perhaps it was clyde williams. it sounds like clyde williams. the man responsible for all the scholarships i won as an undergrad and yet who never once gave me an A on a paper. a man who, in some cruel twist of fate, the mississippi state english department seemed to always assign to the class that i was required to take for graduation, ensuring that he and i were stuck together for the full four years.

i remember, when applying for graduate school, very deliberately asking for recommendation letters from him only for the lesser tier schools- the ones i didn't really want- for fear that he'd hold forth with an indictment of my dangling participles and i'd be denied entry.

but it is not that i want to be spoon-fed. in spite of significant insecurities, my out-sized ego regarding my ability to write and debo's constant assurances that i am a goddess genius are adequately sustaining. but it would be nice to have a bit more confidence on the other end.

the last response to the draft was that it was "readable and seems thorough."

oh man, that seems. it's hostile. the expanse between something seeming thorough and actually being thorough is vast and treacherous. they difference between well done, and no actually perhaps you should write 20,000 more words. hey now, go do it again.

i have written so many words. laughably many words. 20,000 words since may, 95% new.

N and i were sitting in the sun at the BL yesterday afternoon and she let out a long low whistle.

AV and i've joked that we're going to write a daily mail exposé when this is all over, on the critical/creative PhD. we won't. because one cannot burn a bridge, but oh my god.

we've made a list of things to tell our students if we ever get a proper teaching job. never do a critical/creative PhD is at the top.

and then, if they've the nerve to continue, bully for them, we'll wish them the best and lavish them with encouragement.

how many of the things we do would we still do if we knew their full difficulty at the outset?

i am reminded that women's shoes fit so poorly that an entire industry has arisen around blister relief.

19 December 2019

0 last night

as a very frequent wearer of scarves i've long been haunted by the story of isadora duncan.

so it was with HORROR yesterday that, while doing the vacuuming that is the final stage of closing the bookshop, i felt a tightening around my neck.

and i thought, briefly, so this is how i die: in the dark, wearing a fur coat, my bubblegum pink scarf sucked up into the broken vacuum we're not supposed to use because it makes a horrible wailing sound but which i can't forsake because i am especially resistant to change right now.

spoiler: i survived! but it's bizarre to me that my greatest concern in this moment (other than freeing myself) was that, if i were to die, in death, i might be penalized for breaking the rules and using the wrong machine. like people would be nodding at my funeral, all she had it coming because i was contrary and didn't use the new one, because i'd become accustomed to the old one's wail. 

0 in masochistic things

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

13 October 2016

i've resurrected the horrible, awful, no good, very bad thing. what i once called the "horrible bitch of a blasted exorcism/writing thing" and which we worked over for a solid year in the naked lady bar writing group.

today, i opened the file to see if it might somehow look different in the light of five years later and be somehow salvageable. if, at the very least, there might be a shorter short story within the horrible mess of it.

oh, the irony! that a piece on being born again is completely without life. 

circa may 2011, i apparently hated this thing so much that, after soliciting croftie's editorial comments, i did nothing to enact them. instead, the file just sat there for five years with her comments for how to improve it. 

this may be a good sign. for i've repeatedly solicited croftie's comments on something, given up on it after receiving them, then returned to it again maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaany moons later to find that it suddenly works. 

or it may be a sign that this is truly irredeemable and it is time to let it go. 

because my process is one of prolixity, i am a frequent murderer of darlings, but this would seem to go beyond that. i think it's something to do about how, as a writer, it's hard to accept there are things you write only for yourself. a difficulty because so much of writing occurs in the tension between writing and the knowledge that what you write will be read. 

and yet there are things that are of a particular time and place and which arise from particular experiences, and they maybe don't require anything more than being written down and worked over for awhile. they are timely in that they do something in that moment when you write them, but they are of that moment only. 

if all writing is self-centered this would seem to be the most self-centered sort. 

18 December 2019

0 let them bake bread

since this started in earnest last month, i've repeatedly paired watching the impeachment stories with baking bread.

the vindman testimony and that of fiona hill the following week were banana.

that weird judiciary committee hearing where the lawyers from the intelligence committee hearing were witnesses before the judiciary was chocolate peppermint.

today's judiciary committee vote is, appropriately, gingerbread. my favorite food in all the world.

before i was "a latch-key kid" (a term that is sooooooo 1990s, non?), pre-6th grade, i attended an after school care place called "children's world" (garebear, for the record, has historically referred to this as "chicken's world"), where one of the after-school snacks was gingerbread.

everyone else seemed to hate gingerbread. i looooooooooooooooooved it.

like a love beyond any other i have experienced, at least for a food.

(sidenote... breaking news: how come people still cannot convincingly, confidently say quid pro quo?? we've been using this latin for months. come on.)

when i would walk into chicken's world after a long day of third grade, the fragrance would float on the wind and i'd know it was gingerbread day.

we were forbidden from having seconds until everyone had had firsts, so i'd linger like a vulture around the snack table, waiting for all those other freaks who hated gingerbread to access the table, grumble that it was gross, and then head out to the monkeybars. and then, reader, i would attack.

firsts, seconds, thirds (especially, if it was still warm). god, i'm getting hot just remembering it now.

when we were working at the BL and SH, N-- who was always frustrated by my inability to recap, in detail, the flavors involved in my meals eaten out-- eventually would deliberately try to work all our conversations back around to my gingerbread memories from chicken's world, because this was the only context in which she could get me to wax lyrical, at length and in detail, about food.

after, i'd be sitting there fanning myself, trying to recover my composure from the intensity of a food i consumed 30 years ago. and N would look at me, knowingly, and say the very true thing: it's like your madeleine. 

0 the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

25 August 2016

you finally figure it out and you get it and you tell people and they just don't want to hear it, garebear tells me, without even the slightest of trace of irony as he finishes telling me about his recent epiphanies regarding the 1960s.

about all of the things that, a year ago, i continually tried to engage him in conversation and about which he, at that time, said, ah, but that is the past, what does it matter? 

this is to do with stories in general. because you cannot make someone listen to the story you have, the story that you know will help them understand something about themselves, if they are not yet ready for it.

but i think it is also do with families.

there is some ugly, persecuted part of myself- one among many of the least attractive parts of my self- that wonders if one's family can ever appreciate that one is an expert in something.

not just jackie. jackie they'll give me. but even a slight pivot and we move into uncertain territory.

in the strange, scarring series of conversations that unfolded around my birthday there was discussion of chappaquiddick. a word which i am nearly absolutely certain that i alone within my family can accurately spell. and yet, they have opinions.

opinions versus knowledge. perhaps i'm just too easily cowed, but it seems opinions always win.

maybe we do not really want to hear anything beyond that which confirms what we think we already know.

it's far easier if ted kennedy killed some girl whose name we no longer remember.

far easier to arrive at the story when you're finally ready for it.

but then aren't we all being dragged against our will into the whatever is becoming in ways we do not understand?

i am pained by joygerale's exclamation in memphis that the one thing she's sick of seeing in recent literature is the use of the present tense.

and here i thought i'd been so unique when, really, i am a part of some literary trend to which i'm too close to see. the librarian sees a fuller picture while i sit here stubbornly glaring at the computer screen trying to will a book into being, trying to be innovative, trying to do something everyone else isn't doing when, really, everyone else who, with me, is trying to do something innovative in this same moment may wind up doing that same innovative thing and we are none of us innovating because our innovations will appear replications, copies.

my father wants someone to tell him what it all means. i think what he actually wants is for someone who shares his perspective to assemble the story in a way that differs from his and yet aligns just enough so that he can see his own within it.

perhaps this is all any of us want.

i've been thinking about voice and perspective and ventriloquism and silence and stories and experience.

my days are very full.

finishing the corrections and gearing up for the article for the volume that does not exist, i've been thinking about how much my reading, maybe even unbeknownst to me, is about recognizing pieces of my own experience within what i read. finding myself or some version of myself in someone else's story or voice.

and how much my writing is about leveraging a voice of my own out of that.

in the first grade, i was told to stop asking questions in class because it was more important that the boys should learn.

a date once told me that i sounded so different in writing. more confident, more interesting. and that he preferred me there.

after the viva, one of the examiners took issue with the fact that i use multiple voices, one for critical writing and another for creative. she said, you have to learn to merge them.

there is a part of me that thinks that may be true.

there is a significantly larger part of me that believes it is not. that you have to use whatever voice you have, whichever voice will get the job done and to which people will listen. all of the voices.

i'm just realizing that it may appear to this examiner incredibly spiteful that my corrections are all about polyphony. she encouraged unity. i seem to wind up always with fragmentation.

a protest of sorts. but it feels as though writing must remain evasive.

if you're to get away with it, you have to hide in plain sight.

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

16 january 2013

i've talked to my parents every day since i got here but one. i've mentioned to them that this may not be sustainable over the long-haul. we may need to miss a day here and there. to which my mother immediately pointed out, "there was that one day we didn't talk!!!" 

that one day. the day we all remember because it was the one day we didn't talk and, during that day, each of has had a moment of realization of "huh, we've not yet talked."

0 the snot monster

years ago now, i once attempted to arrange a date with a barrister who came down with a cold, referred to himself as "a snot monster" and was never heard from again. his lasting legacy to my life is that the phrase "snot monster" immediately entered the eaton family lexicon.

you're not a snot monster are you? debo asks, as i simultaneously attempt to make a cappuccino and prepare my neti pot. a horrendous idea as i very nearly pour cappuccino mix into the neti pot and the salt into my giant owl mug.

yes, i am a snot monster, i tell her.

17 December 2019

the decade is ending, let's clear out the OitC drafts folder...

1 August 2013

the problem is that it is now possible to be dismissed on multiple levels- both as a woman and an american.

this is a problem of very great privilege, i know, for there are so many other levels of dismissal i'm spared. but it's a problem nonetheless.

last night, a friend and i went out to dinner. in one of those teeny tiny crowded restaurants where the dining experience is not unlike that of riding the tube, and everyone is crowded together in close quarters and eavesdropping on everything.

because of the proximity and their frequent turning around to gawk at the pizza of the people sitting next to us, some random british men joined our conversation. as my friend tried to engage them in discussion of the subject we'd been discussing, they wound up in their heatedly arguing against her, a scene that culminated in these men literally turning their backs on us with an exclamation of 'typical americans.'

later, while i was in the bathroom, they apologized to my friend for having been so argumentative, but there was something bitter about the whole experience. because the implication was that she had been a typical assertive american woman, something that comes back to 'smart girl.'

i HATE 'smart girl.'

0 impeachment in the city

i'm on my way to the post office to mail NOB's christmas present when a police officer stops me on the median. soon after, the presidential motorcade comes blazing through the intersection.

the road has been cleared to traffic and there's a car pulled over to the side of the road. as the motorcade goes by, the driver's side window rolls down. a hand comes out. and the middle finger of that hand goes up.

11 December 2019

0 and there was only one point at which i nearly died

while i am by no means saying i want to participate in a competition that involves seeing who can assemble ikea bookcases the fastest, fyi, i now feel prepared to do so if called upon. 

10 December 2019

0 today

i secured my third part-time job and made it back to the flat in time for the unreschedulable ikea delivery that was scheduled to occur in a window of time, 65% of which overlapped with my interview.

in light of these events, i proudly proclaimed to garebear: things are really coming together. 

it's a statement that really brings home how hysterically low the bar is.

07 December 2019

0 sofas & the city (part 3)

just looking at me you would probably have  no clue of my historically fraught relationship with sofas. nor that i have murdered two (uno, dos).

and yet, lo, i have birthed:

a circumstance which has given me a greater sense of my mortality and a recognition that, some day soon, my gameness to wholly ignore the instruction "ASSEMBLY REQUIRES TWO ADULTS" may contribute to my downfall. 

26 November 2019

0 yo


this was both THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER and also kind of not, because it is a home with nothing but a strategically selected small pile of books with good stories (this is my version of feng shui-- moving the hopeful, feminist stuff in first and leaving the harrowing sexual assault/gender studies/anti-racism piles for later). which, well, yay for strategically selected hopeful stories, but also, it is kind of depressing to stand alone in an empty, cold room.

i am not ashamed to admit that i wanted my mommy. conveniently, she arrives today so shit is about to get decorated. but still. it was an odd moment-- to finally have a home, nearly two years to the day after losing the last one and coming after six months of rootlessness. (reader, i moved seven times in the month of october alone!)

my imagination is strong but i'll admit, peering into the bathroom and beholding the shower curtain-less tub and the empty towel rack, i struggled to see a cozy future for myself.

it is coming, no doubt. hope springs eternal. we are about to get some textiles up in here.

in the meantime, in ways in which life is about to become so much more comfortable than it was for my last two years in london: BEHOLD! i have a bathroom door.

25 November 2019

0 violins

donovan always used to tell the story of how, hearing pearl jam's "jeremy," for years he thought the lyric "violence" was "violins." writing about violence now, i remember that.

it's like there are only so many stories you can hold back. my max is apparently one. so now the other one-- the one from college-- is bubbling up begging to be dealt with. and i don't wanna.

this isn't that story, but it's another, smaller one i'd nonetheless like to get out.

i had this bad date in august. the date version of the lobster in the pot, where there are all these weird things that happen that, individually, don't seem like deal breakers, but they add up to something from which, in retrospect, it clearly would have been wise to run.

i've been fortunate. i've not had a lot of dates where i leave grateful that i wasn't murdered. but this was one.

i told a few friends about it at the time, that very night even.

i immediately ghosted that man on tinder.

a week later, when i got a message from him, i deleted tinder from my phone.

but i've known for the last three months that that man knew my full name and where i worked and he knew my boss at the bookshop.

i've known for the last three months that, at any moment, he might come to my workplace.

yesterday was supposed to be about telling KBG about the thing i've been processing from college. we had a phone date scheduled for after i worked an event at the bookshop.

a poetry event. which i knew was dicey.

i'd told P this last week, that this weird thing happened with this guy who i knew knows our boss and that i really didn't want to be in a room with him again and i hoped he wouldn't be at this event but i thought the likelihood was high here because, from what i remember of our conversation that night, i suspected this type of event was the reason he knows our boss in the first place.

and lo! who walks in the door? that man.

i don't know what my face did. an eyebrow may have lifted, but i felt like i was in control of it for once. i felt like, in that moment, i somehow constructed the iciest version of my face that has ever existed. and i wore that face whenever i felt his eyes on me for the rest of the night.

let me tell you, it is actively exhausting to ice someone out whilst working retail and being paid to project warmth and enthusiasm.

when this man stood in front of the till and asked how i've been, i gave him the coldest, most brusque "fine" i could muster, then projected all of my warmth and enthusiasm into the project of printing a sign to dissuade customers from loudly opening the door during the poetry reading.

when this man repeatedly turned in his seat to make eye contact with me across the room, i projected warmth and enthusiasm vaguely into the distance, making it 1000% clear that warmth and enthusiasm did not extend to him.

when this man gave one last glance while leaving the shop, clearly trying to catch my eye, i projected warmth and enthusiasm at the customer standing in front of me, buying a book.

it wasn't until i got home and locked the door that i realized, since that man walked in the door of the bookshop three hours before, i'd been holding my breath.

14 November 2019

0 masks

i'm talking to P in the bookshop. she's stayed after her shift, into mine, and we start this amazing conversation in which we are incandescently ourselves, until someone walks into the shop, at which point we become these Other People.

it's a circumstance we don't acknowledge until about two hours in, when P mentions how hard it is to stay human when she spends so much time at work. a place where-- because it is retail and there is this annoying thing called the public-- it feels like one often is called upon to perform.

in the midst of this, a customer comes in who is on her phone. she throws her books on the counter, throws her card on the counter, picks her books up as soon as i scan them, then asks why i didn't ask her if she wants a bag.

in this whole interaction, i'm aware i'm performing a double-act: denying the customer the gift of my kindness, because she is clearly being an ass, while also deriving pleasure from the knowledge that P is watching this, she knows what is going on, and we will discuss it and laugh about it later-- a circumstance that will affirm our collective humanity.

which sounds overwrought and faintly ridiculous while also being entirely true. this is the power of other people: in small failures of generosity they can make you feel invisible, even as, in bearing witness to such small failures, someone else can make you feel more alive.

04 November 2019

0 cunning conning

i'm working in the bookshop on a friday afternoon. it's that time towards the end of the shift when you're pretty much done and willing to entertain things you wouldn't were it earlier in the day.

there's a customer buying a book on the restaurant at the world trade center. we're talking about it and he mentions having worked at halston and i am all like TELL.ME.MOAR.

which is why i wind up being talked at by this customer for an hour and a half.

a FASCINATING hour and a half, mind you, and i goaded him and asked questions and was totally involved in the perpetuation of this conversation even as i realized i could probably be anyone in the world and he would be perfectly happy telling me about his time at studio 54.

it wasn't until i was walking home that i wondered something i know i never would have wondered two weeks ago. an idea i, once it occurred to me, cannot shake myself of now...

was it true? or was it an elaborate con?

this is suggestive of my current total lack of faith in humanity. this man was wearing a burberry cape on a friday afternoon in DC. if we're trying to conjure a character who may have worked at halston, he certainly fits the bill.

but i don't know that i know for certain that it was true.

30 October 2019

0 wah-wah

i'm in the shower, trying to have a think, trying to will myself to cry, to dispel the black cloud that's been over me all day.

because there's this shitshow going down in london, in which i am merely a bit player in an off-stage role. but it has nonetheless, temporarily, undone me-- destabilized so much of my sense of myself in the last three years.

and i want to tell everyone i know this story, because i cannot write about it because it is not mine.

so i text EL and i think i'll call AD and it isn't until 2 in the afternoon, when i take shower solely in the hope that maybe, in the shower, i'll be able to cry, that i realize, actually, the only person in my life i want to talk to in that moment is donovan.

isn't that funny?

isn't that so fucking tragic?

that he's been dead for seven years.

28 October 2019

0 there is this shitshow on another continent

of which i am on the periphery. it involves a shitty man.

my story intersects with it, overlaps; they are contiguous.

but it is not entirely my story to tell.

as someone whose primary means of emotional coping is writing stories, i deeply resent this. because, on some level, part of the infringement that has occurred here is that my story has been thieved away.

to compensate, i'm telling every straight man in my life this story. from beginning to end.

may i tell you a fucked up story? i ask them. because, first, i want their consent. then i want to see their faces fall. to see them shake their heads and laugh-- because, horrible as the story in its entirety is, we all agree that my role in it is both tragic and darkly funny. to see them struggle to find words to meet the horror i have just laid out. i want to watch them grapple.

this is not kind of me. but, right now, it seems fair.

it's been striking that each man i've asked this of-- when i ask, may i tell you a fucked up story?-- their first response, before they say yes, is are you ok? 

18 October 2019

0 the most DC thing to happen since i moved to DC

i'm at the hair cuttery when i hear her say hello, and the beautician says, heyyyy, d____, and i know it's who i think it is.

she's here because it rained earlier in the week and she needs to get her curls redone because the TV people screwed them up.

i am at a discount hair cut chain getting my hair cut two chairs over from d_____.

she tells us about her curls and what the combination of the rain and the TV people did to them. we talk hairsprays. i say the words "aqua net" and everyone laughs in glee because they've not thought of aqua net in years, decades even. they wonder if it still exists. i inform them, sagely, yes, it does. and it is as reliable as ever. 

i'm getting my hair professionally cut for the first time in a year and a half as a treat in the midst of grading undergrad essays. i did not expect to be an accidental spokesperson for aquanet in front of someone i've seen so regularly on TV. 

her skin GLOWS. like, RADIANTLY. presumably partly from the make-up but also from having really fucking good skin.

i wonder if she uses creme de la mer. i wonder if creme de la mer is worth it. i wonder if i will ever have enough money to buy a thimble-full of creme de la mer and find out.

her lashes were false but very well fitted. she says she didn't wear them until after 2016, because 2016 was so bad and now she's on the channel, they have to wear them. the channel demands it.

the stylist confesses to me that she has never tried fake lashes in her life but admires them on others.

i confide back that i have tried them but always fail to correctly situate them on my lash line so, instead of having amazing lashes, it looks like i have two eyelids.

but your lashes are really good already, she says, and i say, i know, before i realize that i have just met this person and this is kind of the rudest possible response. but also my lashes are really good and i do know this. it is like the only compliment i accept and trust.

d_______ engages the woman two chairs over on the other side in a discussion of allergies. "the revenge of the swamp" she calls them, as she tells us a story about the congestion she experienced after chasing down trash in her yard the night before because her neighbor didn't properly adhere their garbage bin lid.

the woman two chairs over on the other side suggests an allergist. she tells us the details of her visit to the allergist. how they prick you with all those allergens. how they pricked her and she blew up and was allergic to everything from cockroaches to cats to dill.

COCKROACHES! we all say in unison. d______ launches in to a story about growing up in the south, how the cockroaches were always around and how she and her brothers and sisters would name them and say, oh, there comes george now, in for the night.

i don't usually start the day with 7/11 coffee and a doughnut, she said. that was how she opened this whole conversation. fresh from the television, sitting in a beautician's chair, curls undone, a cup of 7/11 coffee and a doughnut beside her as she scrolled on her ipad.

but, really, hell of a way to start a friday.

0 the return of puff puff