- That one girl totally wants you to hit on her at the bar. It is a bar, isn’t it? If not, maybe we can meet up at the cafe?
- Non-writers just don’t get it, am I right?
- Everyone drinks and does drugs. Everyone.
- Road trips, man. They teach you shit.
- Don’t worry, Mother will protect you…after she eats you, that is!
- Women writers do exist. In abundance. Maybe you should consider publishing them?
- There are some stories with non-white characters. There are next to no stories about queer characters (in all the time I’ve been reading submissions, I don’t think I’ve seen a single same-sex relationship).
- Less words, more imagination.
- Read, write, read, write.
It’s been pouring and I don’t have a problem. Endless summer can wait.
Working full-time has affected both my sense of time and my appetite. I eat all of the time now, and wonder if that’s because the days seem to stretch out before me, and I itch to fill myself and the space that comes with this new length. I’ve had little left over for things like Tumblr, and it has forced me to sever the fat and focus more clearly on what I need to do. Dare I say I’m more content with this new structure that has forced its way in my life. It’s paring itself down, while all the fat from before is going to my stomach.
One of the “perks” of my job is that I’m constantly learning about new music releases. For one, I know you guys are really loving Vampire Weekend and Daft Punk and The National right now. I can see the numbers.
On top of my job, I’m also now a reader for Keyhole Press. I was referred from my position at Hobart. Even though there is such a ridiculous backlog for the next print issue of the magazine, I’m actually really excited to have a more direct role in putting it together. For the first time ever, I’ve been given the power to reject writers outright. I should probably feel worse about hitting that “decline” button so quickly, since I know what it’s like to be on the other end of it. But we’ve got a lot of work to do, dammit. If you’d like to submit something for the new online issue, you can do that, although I don’t handle the reading for that.
I also have a few things that are going to be published soon. One of these things that I am most proud of is my piece, “Princess for Neither, Castle for None,” which is going to appear in the first themed issue of Sundog Lit. The theme is video games. The piece is collaged nonfiction (something like a “segmented essay”) that is probably the most personal, experimental thing I’ve done. It’s a coming of age story that plays with form and point of view and gets pretty messy. There are scenes of childhood mixed in with tidbits about adventure games and boss battles. There is sexuality confusion and alienation and games as a form of escape. The guest editor, Brian Oliu, said it was beautiful and sad in just the right moments and a wonderful love letter to video games. I’m excited and hope to share it with you soon.
Life got a speed boost and I’ve been pretty dizzy. My new full-time job, my 26th birthday, my sister’s graduation from high school. I am trying to process what has happened, but the happening is still happening.
I did not know full-time jobs were so draining. How do people do anything else? Nine hours a day, five days a week. I come home and collapse. How do people go back to school? I just want to sleep and eat. I’m pretty sure I’ve gained some weight.
I’ve been given my own nameplate for my desk. I placed it in front of the girl’s name who is on leave. I’m assuming she is having a baby. I often think I’m hallucinating while working. Like how the girl next to my cubicle has different hair every other day or so. Or how people say “good night” in the office when it’s only one in the afternoon. Maybe it’s the mind-numbing effect of looking up and down at the number-filled screen for so long. I try to daydream and write down notes for stories on my yellow lined paper whenever I have a moment.
On the surface, my 26th birthday was just another day of plugging in numbers and filling envelopes. But I’ve also felt a change, which is not something I can say for most birthdays. I felt like I’ve grown and I’ve experienced. I felt like this is an actual marker, a chapter complete or beginning, I’m not sure. But there is bold print and a fresh smell of new book that you want to breathe in.
I’ve been reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This is really my second time reading it, but the first time really doesn’t count. I first read it when I was in middle school, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t like it at all. But what middle schooler could appreciate a book about marginalization, poverty, and child abuse? I’m halfway through and I think the best way to describe this reading experience is seamless. The language is simple and beautiful. It has lines like: “I sensed a wrongness around me, like an alarm clock that had gone off without being set,” and “He closed in upon himself like a pond swallowing a stone.” The characters’ struggles are so palpable and carefully rendered, and there were several moments so far where I actually laughed out loud. It is what the grandmother calls “tender-hearted.”
My sister’s graduation was last night and it was bizarre. Not only because my younger sister was graduating from the high school I graduated from and transitioning to a new part of her life, but because of the ceremony itself. The band started out by playing songs from video games, one of which was definitely this one from the Kirby games. I wonder if anyone else caught it. Getting down to the speeches, one of the girls definitely stole stuff from “This is Water” and Daria’s graduation speech. I was kind of pissed off at the overt plagiarism, because it’s not like she was quoting it; she was using it as if it were her own material. She even ended it with: “And there’s no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can’t be improved with pizza.” I was so mad. Was this the valedictorian? I sure hope not. I bet she thought she was so slick and clever, but you were caught red-handed, miss! I told my sister about it, and she said she didn’t even know any of the girls that got up to do speeches. The diplomas were handed out, lots of them, and when my sister walked across the stage, I couldn’t seem to find my voice. I told my family I was gonna boo her, but I couldn’t do that either. I just clapped instead. When she came out of the theater, I tried to make up for it with a good hug.
It’s a long weekend and I need it. I will use it to write until I finish something.
Jane Kerkovich-Williams (Happy Endings), Ellie Torres (Cougar Town), and the love child of April Ludgate and Leslie Knope (Parks and Rec). Literally these people in a scary way.
Daria Morgendorffer (Daria) + Simon Amstell (Grandma’s House) + bits and pieces of Hannah Horvath (Girls).
Let it be known that on the night of May 8th, 2013, Joseph thought for the first time of how nice it would be to draw a hot bath. He is suddenly no longer a boy. After a long day, he eases his wrinkles in.
Today was my first day of work, a real full-time job. I’ve never had one of those. But I went for an interview this week and I was hired that same day. I don’t know what to make of it all so far, since they’ll be training me for a while. It’s mostly plugging things into computers and office work. The company is quite large, a huge office with little cubicles. It’s very mixed, with people my age and other older people who have been there quite a long time. Everyone was very nice to me.
I’m going to be 26 soon, which is unbelievable. My brain stopped counting after 18. I am both 18 and 80. Whatever, numbers. I don’t have to think about numbers anymore. I have a degree in English to prove it. (Incidentally, I was always really good at math in school, so go figure…)
My sister’s graduation is also approaching. She was whining about how bored she’s going to be this summer now that I have a job. I promised her we would go shopping sometimes, but just for me, now that I’m making money.
My aunt started texting me. She wanted to know how my day was. My family is more excited for me than I am.
I have emotional bulimia. My face reads nothing until I have a moment to get it all out. You wouldn’t know I’ve had terrible issues with anxiety because it doesn’t show. And, despite what you might expect, I don’t think I’ve shed a single tear in maybe over a year. My psychologist says I’m so expressive and emotional in my writing, and it is quite a contrast to see. I’m blank, but the pages never are. They get filled easily and quickly. It gushes out in a flood, and the water settles until the next time I need to get rid of something.
I guess these analogies are appropriate, since I’ve been so immersed in the world of self-injury and just finished A Bright Red Scream. Body issues came up, eating disorders. My mom used to think I had anorexia because I was skinny and wouldn’t eat. I don’t think I was, but I am good at controlling what I need to control. I like being in control of something. At least, the one thing I can control: myself. It’s funny though, more and more, I have less and less interest in power fantasies. People are always talking about superheros now, and watching movies about superheroes, and pretending they have other kinds of identities and superhuman abilities. But I always want to write about weakness and passivity, I want paralysis and flailing and maybe, the end will either be tiny kicks or getting on your feet. That type of victory is sweeter and more personal.
I have been given even more control now because I’ve been going on job interviews these past few weeks. I don’t know what on earth I’d do with money other than try to live and maybe eat sometimes. There is less disillusionment now anyway, and more forward momentum. There’s the desire to feel useful and step outside. It’s been raining quite heavily, but that hasn’t stopped me. I really want to go bowling. Who wants to come?
“You know she has to assume the identity of everyone she’s dating.”
That’s a good friend of mine talking about his sister. She has certainly come far. I remember her going from long black pants and dangling chains to wearing camo and shooting off guns. Her skin doesn’t just shed away, it’s like a chameleon reassembling in a completely different environment. It’s really quite something and even surreal when you take a seat and look through journals and trace the lines. Here’s where we came from and here’s where we are now.
We like to think we don’t change, but we do. We sometimes feel stuck, but we’re never really cohesive. I’ve only been around Scott for a week, but I’ve already noticed how my voice has taken on new qualities. It’s picked up some of his mannerisms. My sister called attention to the hard “k” sounds in my “likes.” I hadn’t noticed. I’m slowly absorbing his power.
I’ve been congratulated for sticking to my own colors. Being a beige blot in purple. Not copying or adapting when I’m thrown into a new pattern. I’m not sure at which age we start to become more like mosaics and quilt our own patches, but I wish it were soon.
I haven’t been writing much, but I have been reading a psychology book on self-mutilation, A Bright Red Scream. I was browsing my boyfriend’s bookshelves and it caught my eye immediately. He said I could bring it home. I’ve always been curious about cutters and why they injure themselves. Although I have known some of their issues, I don’t know the intimate relationship with self-inflicted pain like they do. I’ve never had a desire to self-injure, even on my darkest days. Suicidal thoughts seem to come from a different place, where you just want complete erasure, not stability and reintegration. It seems to me more about catharsis, and trying to articulate things which can’t be articulated.
In the book, is this quote: “For most people, tears, not blood, are the language of the body.”
When tears are gone and the pain still remains, blood is the next step up. I was not so sure about all this though - I am only one person with my own particular feelings. I am glad there are books to help us understand.
I woke up to an acceptance letter today. A story of mine will be published in the forthcoming issue of PANK. I really love them, so this is quite exciting. It is also timely, since my story is, incidentally, about quiet self-destruction. Self-destruction and family dynamics. From all the trauma I’ve been reading about, I wanted to supply an unsung story where the trauma isn’t so evident.
Maybe I’ll try to write a happy story next.
I feel stranded in this internet wasteland. There used to be places where I could go to get away. Sail on a sea of quiet conversation on a boat with fellow usernames. The life. But now, everything penetrates everything else. It feels like a tentacular apocalypse. And I can’t hear anything because everyone is always screaming.
People just don’t know when to stop. Taking pictures of their lunch, telling Twitter where they are at every exact moment. Their feed is a factory. Look at me! I don’t care if you stalk me, really; in fact, you probably should!
When I met Chuck Wendig, he wouldn’t stop tweeting. This annoyed me. Do people really have to be connected at all times? What is so important that it can’t wait until later? When I took my trip to Houston, I was more than happy to detach from all devices and just observe everything around me. When I came home, my mom was upset that I didn’t take any pictures. I wanted to observe, I said. I wanted to experience for the moment. No filters, no devices, no looking back on it as it’s already happening. The present as present, the present as not already past.
I wish people were more selective. Stop thinking in terms of audience. Thoughts can exist by themselves and they can be happy. They can have intimate gatherings with just a few people and it can be worthwhile. They can even be alone and quiet sometimes. Slap yourself and recognize what’s truly important with your words. You’re a writer. It shouldn’t be hard.
Let’s just take a moment to mourn the loss of thinking for thinking’s sake. Just a quiet moment of reflection. Ignore the tentacles coming in through the windows.
Hold on, I should really tweet about this first though…
I finally finished reading Frankenstein with my sister. As most of you probably already know, my sister is not a reader like I am, but for some reason, she really liked Mary Shelley’s classic. I was curious as to why that was, and since I never got a chance to read it for school myself, I decided to read it alongside her. Most of it, truthfully, was pretty tedious for me. It felt like work. Particularly the middle: lots of fluff, mostly about Frankenstein’s travels that weren’t all that interesting. To Geneva! Now, to Scotland apparently! Now back to Geneva! However, what was most interesting, by far, were the last twenty pages or so. When all of the meta-stories were finally pulling back and everything burst wide open and all these great questions about evil and existence came to a head. It was really exuberant. I can imagine English teachers having a field day with those last twenty pages, assigning all sorts of topics for papers. Who is the real monster here? The monster as a part of Frankenstein? The descriptions of nature (what is natural) versus the descriptions of the unnatural (the monster). Illness (mental, physical) as isolation. Who is lonelier? And those are just a few off the top of my head that I just thought of in ten minutes or so.
Over the weekend, I went with Melissa to meet writer Chuck Wendig. We drove to Las Olas and it was raining heavily when we arrived. Only in Florida will you sweat profusely in the downpour. Chuck showed up and gave out books when we asked him questions. He signed them and wrote in them how we would die (Melissa: death by plague in a retirement community; seems legit). He doesn’t write what I write, but it was fun to hear him talk. We went to a hotel afterward for lunch and I had delicious vegetarian flatbread. People bought Chuck drinks at the bar. Oh writers.
The Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday. I don’t really have much to say about that, simply because I haven’t read any of the books. I was aware of Snow Child though. What about you? What do you think?
I was thinking about how, as a child, I didn’t really identify with “writer.” I wrote, but I didn’t think of it in terms of an art or a business. Instead, it was just an essential; I needed it because I needed. There were no potential readers, no audience in my mind because I wasn’t looking for any. It’s funny how adults are the ones to call it magic.
How do you use your words now? Do you dip them in a thick batter? Do you pickle them in opaque jars? Do you throw them in with the rest of the laundry just so they’ll bleed? Do you sharpen them?
I’ve returned from my trip to see my boyfriend. The flight back home was very sad. It already feels strange not waking up in my makeshift bed anymore, with his cat purring on the coffee table or nuzzling my luggage. Even stranger is the fact that we won’t be able to spend time anymore in real life, for now.
This was my first time travelling alone and without my family. Going to another state, going to see a boy I can actually put up with. But it all went smoothly. I arrived in Houston on time, unscathed. It was rainy the first night there, but the weather was cool and fair and pleasant for the rest of the trip. Scott picked me up and was dressed nicely in a vest and tie. He told me I wasn’t as short as he thought I would be. I told him that is the first time anyone has ever said that to me.
I spent nearly a week away. We ate both at fast food places I don’t have at home for the simple novelty (oh my god, Sonic actually exists!!!) and dined at nicer restaurants downtown. Scott introduced me to Kobe beef burgers, which was probably the best burger I’ve had (says the pseudo-vegetarian). Scott and I are a lot alike in ways, but his diet is different. Chicken, beef, seafood. I consumed a lot of flesh. I joked that I probably put on a lot of weight because of it. I came home and Nana was pleased to see me plumper than usual. “Healthy.”
Immediate observations: Cool weather is not so damp and deep to the bone like in Florida. Not as extreme and violent. Houston is, believe it or not, more multicultural too. I hear Spanish everywhere still, but there are more people of Asian descent too. Surprisingly, very few white people, and practically no Southern accents. The roads and highways are sprawling like Florida though. There is traffic. But there is also city and places with some color and culture. There are signs that say NOW HIRING.
We didn’t get to everything we wanted to do, but we tried. We played some video games, watched a movie, and he taught me how to play chess. We gave each other massages. We went to the Galleria Mall, which is one of the biggest in the country. It had an ice rink in the middle of it. There was every designer store imaginable and Scott kept touching everything but I was scared to even breathe. Suits went up in the thousands. Who would buy such things? We did try on some clothes though for ourselves. Some actual clothes we bought and would wear.
It is always a unique experience transitioning from internet real life to realer real life. I met my boyfriend online and we spent practically a week living together. I learned that he is sometimes inscrutable and difficult to read and he learned that I am not as articulate as he probably imagined. Despite being a writer, words sometimes don’t come to me naturally. They leap to my fingers, not to my mouth. I also learned that it is difficult making decisions on things when we are both so indifferent or indecisive (I’m more of the latter, of course). Sometimes we would pick things arbitrarily. Mostly he made the decisions though.
I liked being on my own too. I haven’t done this yet. I want to now, more than ever. I realized this especially when I came back home. I don’t want to be tied up with my family, I don’t want to be in Florida. The starkest, most immediate contrast was not going from Houston back to Florida, but going from Scott’s quiet apartment to my family’s high-energy dramatics. Going from an appreciation of silence to a desperate dread of ever shutting up.
I was reading and Cixous was talking about how her name is ugly and how she considered using her grandmother’s maiden name just so that it wasn’t something so prominent and excessive, something that got so deformed over the years that no one knows what it originally looked like. It is a name with no distinct origins, much like my own. Although I know both sides of my family come from Italy, my name is still very un-Italian, by all accounts. Everyone gets it wrong and I’ve always hated that. No one knows what to do with it. But unlike Cixous, I did finally drop it when I started publishing my writing. I chose something easy, but still with a literary inflection: Dante. My middle name and my namesake. From four rocky syllables that people stumble over to two smooth sounds that skate across the page. It’s a flourish.
I don’t know anything about my family history. Just that somehow, blue eyes got in there that don’t produce hexes. But we still burn pretty easily like witches.
I’ve always imagined myself an androgynous animal, even as a boy, but I find that I’m now becoming more and more feminine as I get older. Or maybe just more interested in the idea of the feminine.
I come from a matriarchal lineage: mother, Nana, sister, sisters that are friends, the midnight girl gang, female mentors into feminist theory, male mentors into Virginia Woolf. I grew up hanging around the moms at family gatherings and shutting down whenever the boy cousins sat down to talk to the uncle figures. Sports have always bored me, but now, whenever people mention them in conversation, whenever posts go up on social media about who is winning or losing and why we should care, I become instantly irate. I don’t need this. I plug my ears. Explosions are exasperating because they have become meaningless. I don’t watch action films. I am no longer interested in violent video games; I only crave serene activities like rebuilding towns and exploring underwater ecosystems. I have never been interested in competition or competing. If there was to be a battle, it would be with myself. From these battles, I now only want confessional narratives, or creation. Two opposing forces giving birth.
These are the cravings: creativity, understanding, listening. There is no machismo or pride or politics or proving your worth to the world. I don’t care about Breaking Bad or Mad Men. I spend more time thinking about Heathers, My Mad Fat Diary, Girls, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. These are the stories that stick around to staple my thoughts together. Is youth considered feminine? Adolescence? Is there a reason women writers dominate young adult literature? I wonder if my own writing would be considered l’écriture féminine.
I never indulged in power fantasies, despite being marginalized. Despite having to grow a thick hide and having to assert myself and find my voice. Vulnerability and wounds have always seemed more appealing. Would you rather write with swords or blood?
INTERVIEWER: Were the sermons you delivered from the pulpit very carefully prepared, or were they absolutely off the top of your head?
BALDWIN: I would improvise from the texts, like a jazz musician improvises from a theme. I never wrote a sermon—I studied the texts. I’ve never written a speech. I can’t read a speech. It’s kind of give-and-take. You have to sense the people you’re talking to. You have to respond to what they hear.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have a reader in your mind when you write?
BALDWIN: No, you can’t have that.
INTERVIEWER: So it’s quite unlike preaching?
BALDWIN: Entirely. The two roles are completely unattached. When you are standing in the pulpit, you must sound as though you know what you’re talking about. When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know. The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out. But something forces you to anyway.
I was talking to a new friend about my virginity. He was asking me if that’s something that ever bothered me. I told him no, it never was, despite being a boy and being told how boys should be. I said how I’m still surprised that “virgin” is even an idea, considering all the religious, misogynist, heteronormative implications. I said, according to some people, I’d be a technical “virgin” forever. Nothing personal, just all based on the kind of sex I really don’t want at all. You could be a saint, he said. I found this especially amusing because yesterday was actually St. Joseph’s Day. I know this because I was a Catholic child and my mom still reminds me every year.
During my guilt-laden Catholic school days, the saints were like my Pokemon. I’d love learning about them. I’d love knowing all their history, strengths and weaknesses, and I collected all their cards. I guess you can say that Catholicism appeals to me more on an intellectual level because of the more emphatic strain of polytheism in it. Just like the Greek pantheon, there are human elements instead of only the ineffable, bloodthirsty Omnipotence that you always should look out for and never question, but he’ll always get you in the end anyway. And just like Pokemon, there are plenty of avatars to choose from. Plenty of icons to call your own, to hold to your chest like a talisman. It is a part of you, but it is also a part of something greater. Mosaics and stained glass seem appropriate in these places of worship.
Rejecting concepts people like to pin on you and birthing your own mythology is always more exciting and rewarding, I find.
I cannot write. This never happens. I am usually able to write through writer’s block and I don’t really have trouble running out of ideas, but this is neither of those problems. I just don’t want to do anything. I don’t see a point to work on anything, which is extraordinary, considering I’ve always been able to write, even without having some sense of direction or purpose. I wonder if this means depression is returning.
My sister made green mashed potatoes for dinner today and I cleaned out my closet to see what clothes I might be taking on my trip. I’m not really a fashion-conscious person at all, but I still want to have my good clothes. I put some of my older pants in a bag and my mom is going to give them to charity. My boyfriend says he likes to dress up sometimes and I hope he’s not going to overdo it at the airport, since I’ll probably be in jeans. Probably.
I’ve been reading Frankenstein with my sister. I never got to read it for school, since I was in advanced placement English and all we read was feminist texts because of my teacher. The same teacher that made us look for sexist language in a vocabulary book over the summer. Anyway, this book is nothing like I expected. What are all these letters? Why did Dr. Frankenstein decide to take a snooze right after he created life? Why did he not think to tie down the monster? Some genius, right? My sister says the movie adaptation has placentas in it. Or maybe she just likes using that word. PLACENTA and FETUS.
I also read The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, which is a surreal pornographic (?) novella that deals with over-the-top deviant behaviors, like having sex beside corpses and erotic obsessions with eggs, testicles, and eyeballs (because they are circular and symbolize life, juxtaposed with all the death?). It is so ridiculous that it is often laugh-out-loud hilarious. Or maybe I’m just a bit sick in the head. You can tell Bataille really reveled in the ideas of filth and obscenity. He seemed to especially like the idea of relating sexual thrill with shame and fear. Also he must have really loved Freud and Marquis de Sade.
I shouldn’t need reasons to write. But for now, I guess I wrote this.
I have been consuming more than creating. I’ve finished Heroines and now I’m moving on to reading Cixous and Bataille. I am definitely going to read more Woolf and McCullers this year too because I love them. More feminist theory, more women writers.
I was talking to people on Twitter about how my Tumblr is very anti-Tumblr. I am not here for moving images or reblogging. I don’t care! I am here to write what I want and for original content. Where else is there to go, really? Wherever I go, everything seems so detached and like a fortressed citadel in the sky. Don’t you see: I want to start conversations and I want to talk to you because I don’t have these things in real life and I am bad at these things in real life. I have always been about these things, no matter where I may migrate to next. This is an actual blog instead of a cave to cram useless junk into. Sorry. Maybe I’m becoming more egotistical or maybe this place has just lost its luster, but my Tumblr is my favorite Tumblr right now. I win and you all lose. Sorry.
Speaking of you all losing, I’ve booked my flight to Texas to see my boyfriend. I’m really excited and I’m trying to come up with what I should bring. I can only come up with “clothes” and “Playstation 2.” More evidence that I don’t know how to do real life.
My dad doesn’t know anything yet. Well, he does know that I’m going to Texas to see a good friend. Which isn’t an exact lie, I suppose. But he didn’t really question it further, even though this is definitely something out of the ordinary that I would hardly ever do. I’m so reclusive and have never done grown up things like travelling by myself. I’ve only really told people about my relationship whose opinions actually matter.
I received a letter from France from a pen pal today and it was really lovely. There was calligraphy and Celtic illuminated writing. You guys in the States need to step it up…I haven’t even received YOUR letters yet!
Anyway, a dear friend thinks I’m a sassy lad and I have to keep up that reputation, you know.
I have not been feeling my writing lately. This is troublesome because I can usually find something to work on and feel pretty good about doing it. Instead, I just keep writing in my notebook or scraps of paper or open new documents just to write two sentences.
A few weeks ago, I helped a friend go over her manuscript. I forgot to mention this: it’s a nonfiction book about asexuality, meant to be a sort of informal introduction and resource for those that are curious about the topic. I was happy to help and I really hope she finds a publisher.
I am working my way through Heroines by Kate Zambreno and it’s a lot of fun to read. Some people have called it a critical memoir, others have called it a manifesto, and Zambreno herself calls it a synthesis. It’s quite fiery and exciting. Part of it is an analysis about the lives of literary wives who were erased, stifled, or pathologized by their writer husbands, and part of it is a memoir about how the author finds kinship with these figures in her writing and personal life (in regards to her relationship with men, her own mental illness, etc.). I also really like the intertextuality of it; how literature is not only necessary to life, but life itself. Another aspect that fascinates me is how writers are Zambreno’s celebrities, and not just her sisters. She focuses on the mythology (or “demonology,” as she calls it) created around their personal lives and their “acting out” and “becoming a character” for the writers. I suppose this fascinates me most because I don’t usually approach literature this way. It reminds me of a great professor of mine. He’d constantly talk about the life of W.B. Yeats and his relationship to Maud Gonne. In stark contrast, I had another terrific professor who taught feminist theory and was more post-structuralist and delighted in the death of the author. Even though I appreciated both approaches as an undergrad, I now realize how I usually approach literature more as the latter. More formal, less biographical. Neither is wrong or less relevant, just different.
All of the people in the psychiatrist’s office speak Russian and the radio plays country music. I am still in South Florida, as far as I can tell. This isn’t the beginning of a short story. I’m very tired, having gotten very little sleep, and I feel like I’ve maybe drifted into a dream.
My psychiatrist asks me how my anxiety is, how I’m doing on my new medication. I tell her I never got the prescription filled for it because I wasn’t sure if I really needed it. My current meds seem to be sufficient—I haven’t had a panic attack in a very long time, after all. She asks if I’m still going to therapy, how I’m dealing with my other issues. I tell her I am, and I’m trying. I say how I have buckets of motivation but don’t know where to throw all my energy into. I say how I’m going to apply to the bookstore and maybe look into going back to school for psychology. She is delighted about this and makes a squee of approval. I say how I’m looking forward to my trip to see my boyfriend in a month, despite my allergies. You see, he has a cat with long hair. I bring it up to make sure I can take medicine for allergies while taking my regular meds. This is the first time I am alluding to my boyfriend as “my boyfriend” out loud and in real life. I know it’s just my psychiatrist, but I am still getting used to the sound of it. I say it without thinking, not missing a beat, and she doesn’t even inquire more into it. Instead, she asks about his cat, and I leave her office listening to her tell me about her new pet hedgehog.
One of the things my boyfriend says he likes most about me is that I’m a good hunter. I like unearthing all the hidden good things I can find and sharing them with everyone. Like a hipster Robin Hood.
One of those findings I shared with him recently is the movie Rabbit Hole, a drama based on a play that deals with the ways different people process grief and endure loss. One of the more interesting things about it is how the protagonist, a mother dealing with the loss of her child, finds consolation in the idea of parallel universes, as opposed to something more predictable like the idea of a god or the afterlife. She copes by imagining that her son is alive, somewhere, and stalks the teenage boy that killed him by accident. Perhaps imagining how her son could’ve grown up to be someone like him, going to school, reading comics, going to prom.
I fantasize about parallel worlds sometimes too. There are two, in particular, that preoccupy my mind:
- A different home. I do not like South Florida. Born and raised, but never felt very familiar. When I was a kid, I would whine about it: Mom, it is so boring here. Mom, why are there hurricanes? Mom, why is it sooo hot? My complaints haven’t changed much, except for the addition of having long commutes with bad drivers, no matter where you live or what job you have. My mom and dad are both from New York, so I often imagine growing up there instead. I know it would’ve been completely different. My sister and I, both creative people, may have found more friends and a place to belong. Maybe less misery, more outlets. Maybe I would have been more encouraged to pursue writing. Maybe I would’ve had more mentors to give me direction. Or maybe, ironically, I would have rebelled against these inclinations and been more practical than I realize.
- A different family. I wanted a sister when I was little. Growing up in a family with only boy cousins, I thought it would be a great adventure. That’s how I saw it. I was wide-eyed and eager, let’s get this baby out into the world already and let’s play video games. My sister and I have always gotten along pretty well, despite our differences. But what if I had a brother instead? Would he have had more similar interests? Could we talk about books? Would he look up to me? Or would he have hated me because he just saw me as competition? What if I had a dad who wasn’t so frustrating and detached? What if my mom and dad always got along and didn’t fight?
I am not sure if I find parallel universes consoling.
I’ve started watching My Mad Fat Diary because of a certain funny gif I found today while browsing Tumblr (true story) and there is a scene where the main character, Rae, is talking about doing affirmation exercises with her psychologist. At first, she is very upset with him for even suggesting it, laughing at the very idea of trying to find anything to like about herself while facing the mirror. But she warms up to the idea when he asks her to think about the good things her friends might say about her instead. This made me think of my own time in therapy, dealing with my own particular issues of self-loathing. It’s hard for me to keep up with this because I forget. And maybe because I don’t what to do it.
But here’s me doing one of Rae’s exercises right now.
- “Joey is unapologetic about being himself. He doesn’t need your approval. I respect him for it.”
- “Some may call him judgmental, but it does give him an edge in picking out the bad seeds in the bunch.”
- “He knows what to say, especially when he isn’t trying. Sometimes it’s funny.”
- “He might be sarcastic or inscrutable at times, but he’s never mean or does things out of spite.”
- “He will kick your ass at Pokemon.”
I don’t know if I ever was. I like to think it was never a thing that happened and that we can forget about it. I was always a diary first, before anything else. That is how it all started. But the concept of having an audience today though, is more than far-reaching, it is practically ubiquitous. Eyes are everywhere, even when you don’t think so. But even worse, of course, are the mouths that go with them.
I’ve been working on an essay/article about newer ways we tell stories. It is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, especially in relation to videogames and interactive fiction. It seems like there has been this craving for more personal narratives through newer media and naturally, videogames seem to make sense. Why not? Why should it all be Hollywood gun violence and bloodlust? In my search, I’ve come across great things like Depression Quest and dys4ia, which make me happy to actually be a part of this weird digital age of distribution and also validate my childhood of growing up more on games than books. I kind of want to make my own little interactive game now. Maybe it will be a coming of age story in the form of an internet adventure. Or maybe it will be about living in South Florida, except South Florida is divided up into nine circles like Dante’s Inferno.
I have stayed away from a lot of internet interaction lately though because it has been making me angry. Instead, I have spent some time with Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which feels like a nice hot bath. It has been purifying. I don’t need this noise, I just need Virginia telling me how women need independence and a space to write because they have been mostly dependent on men and not given such a space of their own.
I feel like more people need to allow themselves a space from the static. Creation doesn’t really happen when there is all this shouting and people pulling at our arms. Perhaps this is a bit Buddhist, but I really believe a bit of solitude away from not just people, but from all the aliases attached to people, all of the pinging, all of the nonchalant, ironic egoism, can do us all a bit of good.
- Read more women writers
- Goddamn extroverts
- Watch Daria
- A childhood friend of mine lost her father years and years ago. We were fairly young, perhaps in middle school. It was a freak boating accident. He was fishing and hit his head and tumbled overboard and got caught up in the blades. It was terribly sad because he was such a great father to her and a great person. I remember him being so soft-spoken and patient in comparison to all of the other obnoxious dads at the dinner table. Recently, she wrote about how she missed him so much, how it’s his birthday today. But, you gotta remember, everything happens for a reason. I more than winced at that sentiment; I felt grossed out. Normally I just get a little bit peeved when I hear this, but this is your father and that’s what you have to say about it after all these years? I know this is Facebook and the internet and maybe some people can overlook these things, but I wanted to cry for her. I wanted to watch sad movies to clean myself out from the inside. Sometimes, there are no reasons. Sometimes, a body hits blades by accident and there is pain that lingers and that is all.
- I don’t have a lot of friends who care very much about marriage. I’m glad I don’t because I honestly think there is a big rift between people who care so desperately and people who don’t care about it at all. So when I see the occasional friend lamenting singledom and how everyone is coupling up and having all these lavish and expensive ceremonies, how everything is beautiful and so tightly promised, I get confused. Maybe “confused” isn’t the right word here because it’s not as strong as I’d like it to be and it doesn’t incorporate the feeling of abject horror. But it never fails to remind me of my own priorities in terms of human interaction and the separation from another mind: how ritual and appearance indelibly becomes more significant than the feeling of warmth and intimacy in another human that could feel like another home.
- I have stumbled onto internet writing where there are books and video games and movies being talked about by men. Men who are saying how the obvious overlook and disproportional representation of female creators is a non-issue. I do not understand. I do not understand because my best friends are a part of this population, my most beloved family members and my favorite artists. There is talent in them and they are creating just as passionately. So far, this year, I’ve read only books by women writers, and it looks as if this will continue for some time. My boyfriend asks me why feminism has become such an integral part of my identity and I’m not sure where to start.