26 February 2020

0 late december

there is a way in which the freest i felt in my twenties was those nights when donovan was driving from denver to jackson in late 2009.

(and i imagine the fact that i've referenced this period soooooo fucking many times on this blog means this will someday by the climactic scene in the tv movie of my life.)

i wasn't eating. every night, i drank a bottle of andrĂ© and watched bright star amid the fairy lights of my chicago apartment. and then he called and we talked on the phone.

this after what... three years of not speaking? (oh, i just checked the emails. it was actually maybe barely two.)

i always say we were friends for three years, dated for three years, didn't speak for three years, then were friends again for three more years. but that's twelve years and we only knew each other eleven, so already it's a lie.

at the time though we'd both recently been dumped and were both running head-first into new lives we did not yet know.

in retrospect this period of my life has assumed an importance that has somehow also made it seem much longer than it was.

in my head, there were many phone calls. in reality, it doesn't take more than a few days to make that drive, so i've probably made them more than they were with time.

but the thing i remember about those phone calls is that it felt like we were going to be ok.

this is maybe my main argument for the value of staying friends with exes. or at least cultivating relationships with exes when the dust has settled. you already know each other's mess. you don't have to pretend to be pretty.

we were both clearly, deeply messy at that point in time, but it was terribly clear, in a way it's maybe never been since-- and maybe this is just because i was drunk most of the time then-- but it was clear then that we were going to be ok.

i'm not sure whether that held true long-term. the fact that donovan died at 31 would suggest it didn't. but for a time there, we were ok.

maybe all i mean by that, upon reflection, is that we were friends again. and being friends again-- rather than being his girlfriend or his ex-- was freeing. it meant i was me with him, rather than his.

22 February 2020

0 resilience is bullshit

a therapist once said i have an amazingly high threshold for withstanding emotional discomfort.

at the time, i took this in the spirit in which it was given—as praise. apparently it didn't occur to either of us that this might be something we probably should have spent the remainder of our sessions working to unpack.

i'm meant to be writing a talk on anger and politics and women.

i can't afford therapy so this is a therapy of sorts. thinking through the anger i myself have at the moment. anger against men, myself, and the past.

it's funny how much we forget, how much we blot out.

i've been thinking about the thing that happened in college, trying to put it into context. only just last night, for some reason i don't fully understand, did another piece slid into place.

for years, i've made a joke out of how bad my freshman year of college was. i've laughed about how i had no friends and how i read 78 books instead.

it was a year that radically changed my relationship to reading. but i've not thought about how radically it might have changed my relationship to other people.

i was so fucking lonely. and yeah, the next year, first thing, i met KBG and fur and these amazing friendships bloomed, but for that first year, my freshman year, i was so fucking lonely.

outside of time spent in class, i was very nearly always alone.

much as i enjoy my own company, it was too much.

and yes, i had a thriving friend group stretched across the south at various universities and we were all in near constant touch, but i did not have a single friend at school.

there was a desperation in that isolation, which i've rather lost touch with.

a desperation in the way i would get dressed up and leave the dorm on sunday mornings during church time, and sit in the car in the church parking lot, reading a magazine, until the service was ended, at which point i went back home. a weird farce enacted because, while i did not feel at home in the first baptist church of starkville, mississippi, there was, nonetheless, a church shaped hole in my sunday mornings that needed to be filled. not going to church was a front on which i did not want to fail, at a time when it felt i was failing at everything else.

a desperation in the way i would hide a loaf of bread in my closet, only allowing myself the pleasure of eating a piece when i couldn't bear the hunger any longer, a pleasure diminished by my keen awareness of the calories involved.

a desperation in the way in which i looked forward to going to the subway in the student union for dinner every night. even though i would return to my dorm and eat in my room, picking up my nightly sandwich was an event i would dress for, because the guy working behind the counter-- the flirty guy who looked a little like jordan catalano, the guy i would later go on to date, the guy who would do so many of the things with which i'm now wrestling-- seemed to see me.

the desperation i felt on the nights he wasn't there was alarming. not straight-forwardly because i was attracted to him, but because it was an absence that meant i was robbed of one of the only moments of human contact in my day.

i always thought it was funny that the two men i went on dates with sophomore year were the only two people who paid any attention to me when i was a freshman. looking back now, that looks less coincidental than it did then.

i have hated myself plenty but i've never been suicidal. but there was a moment driving back to school from nashville, sometime in the fall of my freshman year-- when i was failing chemistry, and things with steven were unclear, and i did not know what would happen to me, and i was living on 12 grams of fat a day-- when i spent the entire drive avoiding the temptation to wreck the car.

i didn't want to die. i didn't even want to be hurt. i just did not want to go back. and i could not figure out how to communicate how bad things were. i knew how bad things were but i was too ashamed. and so i fashioned for myself a way of existing within that, within both the shame and the awful.

i went back.

and i sat on a hillside with a notebook watching the sunset-- which was a thing i did every night for a time there, because it gave me a routine task but also because it rendered my isolation somehow both romantic and more of a choice.

when one of my cousins transferred colleges after his horrible freshman year a few years ago, my family marveled at this. my parents had known my freshman year was difficult, though i concealed from them the details, the desperation described here. and yet it had never occurred to any of us that this might be an option.

yes, i got through. yes, in spite of being in a quite violent, abusive relationship for the remaining three years, i would still argue that college got better. it was never as bad as my freshman year again. but at what cost?

i have an amazingly high threshold for withstanding emotional discomfort. bully for me.

but that's not something one is born with. it's a thing developed through practice, over time. it's a way of being wrought by having been emotionally uncomfortable for a hell of a long time.

throughout the end of my phd and the year after, during the immigration disaster, i bragged about my high threshold for emotional discomfort, like it was a thing of pride. better yet-- a life skill. something for the CV!

but i wonder how things would be different, if anything would be different, if i could've seen then that this maybe wasn't the compliment i thought it was. that it was, in reality, a sign of how wrong things were, how wrong they'd been for nigh on decades.

i remember the sunsets though.

in chicago, later, and in london, later still, i would flip the equation, waking up early, instead, to watch the sun rise.

because i wanted to see something new. 

20 February 2020

0 is it spring break yet?

it's that time in the semester/season/life? when it feels like we have been doing this forrrrrrrevahhhhhh. we need summer, stat.

it's a disaster, but i'm ok, WRB says of his class today.

DL and i run into each other at the stoplight across the street from the building our classes are in. i ask how she is and she replies, well, nobody ever died from teaching comp 101.

i open class with the question, who else stayed up entirely too late watching the debate even though they knew they had to wake up at a 5 a.m.?

apparently i was alone in that, so i don't know why they were so tired today.

i'm standing at the stop waiting for the bus that will haul my tired ass across town for shows two and three, when i hear-- over the sound of the jeffrey epstein podcast i'm listening to-- a shout of I LOVE YOUR BACKPACK!!!!!

i look up and a man is 1/4 leaned out the window of his car two lanes over to tell me this.

the sentiment isn't all that surprising. my backback is entirely blue sequins. it is like walking around withe a disco ball. but he keeps talking and so i take the headphones out and hear him say: I LOVE YOUR BACKPACK!!!!! IT'S ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. IT JUST BROUGHT SO MUCH JOY TO MY DAY. 

the light changes, he waves, beaming at me, and drives on. and i'm left reflecting on the fact that, despite having to remove my headphones, that was a solidly lovely interaction with a man, and also, apparently, i spark joy.

15 February 2020

0 i've written a thing

about the thing that happened in college.

it is a short story from the perspective of the man i would write about were i to write about this. it is his reaction to the story i would tell, his imagined response to something i have not published in the new yorker.

however, as someone who writes about and researches the way we write stories of lives, i am intellectually fascinated that the way i am currently best able to tell this story is through a four-page monologue attacking myself in his voice.

it is easier to inhabit his version of me than my own.

13 February 2020

0 end times

someone from my high school died.

S relayed this information yesterday. in the form of a text that read: "do you remember this person? they have died."

we've spent the day since trying to remember.

i looked on facebook and have no clue.

S forwarded the obituary and we are still at a loss.

S has observed that this person looks like someone who hung out with sporty people (BREAKING NEWS: we did not hang out with sporty people) and who was probably in the other english class.

when i run into WRB on campus and confess to our assholery, he says, that sounds very high school. and he is not wrong.

the fact that we cannot remember this person seems to have shaken S deeply.

because we are 38.

because we are single.

because we are lonely.

maybe most crucially, because there are people from our high school who, surely, do not remember us. (our reunion has provided solid evidentiary support for this interpretation, though the number of times i was mistaken for S's non-alum wife would suggest i am at greater risk of being forgotten than him.)

because it is highly likely we will die without having touched all of humanity with our awesomeness.

because, when we die, there are people who will not have known us and they, as a result, will not care.

i wonder if he's forgotten how, when we were in high school, there was a horrible car crash involving two girls we knew. or maybe he didn't know them. i did.

one of the girls died. the other survived.

and then, about a week later (well, it felt like a week, it could have very well been a few days, but either way it was an entirely unreasonable amount of time for them to have made this mistake, they realized that the girl they thought was alive had actually died and the girl they thought had died was actually alive.

and so it went from being that someone from the other choir class who i didn't know had died to someone i'd talked to most every morning before school in the 10th grade had died.

we were seniors...? or was this 11th grade? either way, we'd drifted apart. i'd not spoken to her in awhile. but this was someone who was there when another friend came in and broke the news that ginger spice had left the spice girls. it was someone i did know, even though i no longer really knew her when she died.

it was a weird few weeks. was there a memorial? i don't remember. did i tell my parents? i don't think so. everyone knew this thing had happened, but i don't think i mentioned that i knew the girl.

i think it was autumn. i remember the girl who survived-- both of them were named tiffany? (i maybe had not even known the name of the girl i knew?)-- participated in the christmas caroling we did at a holiday bazar that year. but i don't remember there being an announcement or an assembly about any of this.

all i remember is the rumors in the hallway and how weird it was to hear our school being reported about on national TV. and debo saying how horrible that week must have been for those parents, thinking their child was alive when it was actually someone else's.

the takeaway for me then was, apparently, that we are all, to some extent, interchangeable. one of us could be gone just as easily as it could be another.

this is perhaps what S is wrestling with... the whole it was them this time, but it could just as easily be me thing

i write biography so i fancy i already know this. i've written a whole life in a year, so i know it goes fast and it is fragile. i know knowing this is different from knowing this, but still i have academic credentials in death, so i flatter myself this is some work i've already done. (even as i know, just in writing that, i'm being cockily naive.)

S worries that he will die alone and there will be no one to collect his wares.

i text back, honey, as long as i am alive, rest assured i will collect your wares. 

i wonder if this is actually consoling. it perhaps makes me sound more like a traveling vendor than a friend, but there we have it.

it's hard, when we are feeling lonely, to remember that we are not alone. that we are remarkable. that we are loved.

that, for every single one of us, there is this whole constellation of people rooting for us, loving us. people who will show up for us and, as long as they live, will never forget us.

is it everyone in the world? no. but it's multitudes. and it's probably more than we imagine.

12 February 2020

0 blurgh

P and i are talking about all the cool clothes we have that we don't wear at the bookshop because we know men would comment on them and make us feel gross.

i've long recognized that half the fun of being in a relationship is the clothes i wear.

i've only just realized that that i see that as exclusively a perk of a relationship because, without the context of a man at my side, a similar threat exists.  i am suddenly open to comment.

men in the general public will assume i have dressed for their pleasure. they will say things. they will make me feel gross.

it is only when i pretend to dress for a particular man that i can fully dress for myself.

i LOVE fashion. so how fucking sad is that?

it's not about feeling sexy; it's about feeling safe.

06 February 2020

05 February 2020

0 you cannot make this up

last night, two men with their faces covered came into the shop blasting rap on some small device with industrial strength speakers.

the manager told them to turn it the fuck down. they turned it the fuck down.

one of them approached the desk and brandished a pink box, opening it to display a rose gold watch in a dramatic manner more commonly seen on QVC.

i said 'no.'

they turned the music back up and left.

04 February 2020

0 god

i miss this person who was born on this day.