Thursday, November 11, 2010

A lack of focus

Since I joined the faction of those who sell their minds to moneymaking ventures, I have felt, organically, my brain contract. And a strange propensity has taken over me, one that I had previously recognized in my working-world friends, but which I thought would have no claim on me: the sin of lassitude. I must have postulated that I was made of a different material, perhaps, that I was far too intellectually-engaged to be conquered, or even tempted, by idleness. How haughty must I have been.

The cruelest part, I find, is that I am fully cognizant of what is happening to me, yet I am unable to curb it. I cower before forces I no longer understand, and my control over myself, over the things that happen to me, dwindles. Mondays segue into Fridays, and the weekend catches me in a stupor. Overwhelmed by too many choices and the terror of limited time that flies, I sit in complete paralysis at the kitchen table, wondering what to eat. This seems to be my most dominant concern. Food gives you an illusion of activity and a prosaic impression of fullness. I am lured into the notion that I am doing something that justifies the time, and the neglect that I’ve shown to writing and aesthetics. And still, although the fridge is perpetually packed, and the seductive smells of your cooking never lacking, I feel empty. E-mails remain unwritten, photographs unshot, books unread. The more these undone things are piling on me, the more I cower, the sicker I get, the stiller I stand, at the kitchen table.

I can’t explain, really, why it’s not easy to simply get off my ass and do something. I marvel at my own brain sometimes, how intractable it is, how resistant to discipline. The strategies I used to employ in college to make myself study or read are inadequate now for this much larger monster that’s challenging me. That this is real life, no longer its dumbed-down replica that was college, lends my lassitude additional significance. For anything bad that happened in college, any shameful behavior, any destructive tendency, could be forgotten in the afterlife. The real world is when we start over, leaving college and its frivolousness behind. But in my case, the evolution is backward. If in college I was studious and diligent, obsessed with good time management and personal conquests -- usually intellectual ones -- it is only now, in the real world, that I’ve become prey to shopping online, reading celebrity gossip and preferring the indoors to the outdoors. That these preferences are even on my list, that I even considered them, shames me. There is no need for a greater penance than the contempt I sometimes feel for myself, the betrayal I’ve committed of what I could do as an artist, as a writer, and the time that’s stolen every day from these possibilities.

I recently received in the mail a copy of a magazine that published my photography. My hands stroked the glossy cover, also one of my photographs, and the contrast between past and present saddened me to no end. The sensible aspiration is to be on an ascending curve where experience and knowledge and value increase with time and age. A parabola, not a hyperbola. And while I am fully aware that lethargy is poisoning me, that it was some time in the past, not the present, that I best approached my desired version of myself, I see no exit from this specious argument. Hours spent at work, office chit-chat and computer nonsense, talk of operating systems and corporate tools to learn and master, lay ravenous claim on my saddlebags of energy. Evenings, I sit at the kitchen table and we play cards, because I cannot decide to whom I should reply first, whom to call, where to begin a blog entry. Too much energy is necessary for anything of value. And I fall asleep at 9 p.m. because my eyes can’t stay open long enough to read a full chapter of East of Eden. If I feel brave, we’ll watch a movie and I’ll be sure to fall asleep, without you even noticing, and at the end I’ll force my eyes open, to save face. The next day is probably Friday, or any other day of the week that looks, from my point of view, just like Friday. And once again, I’ll contemplate myriad options, and choose none.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Frightened Rabbit

Hours pass and no books are read, no pages written, no bike mounted. Today, for the first time, the kitchen sink is dry. Have you made pizza, she asks, and I hide flooding eyes behind a guilty smile. My failure’s well hidden. I could walk the streets and look like a real person, not the specter I am. Only the walls know, having kept me secluded for the past three days. They’re sick of me too, as I am of them. There’s a crowd outside the building waiting to stone me, chanting my name with acrimony, someone who promised and never delivered. I almost hope there is.

Leave it to me to write about depression while depression’s trying to write me off. It’s only the respite that affords contemplation, in the end. There’s too much bedlam here, enough to preclude any explanatory effort. I can’t share something I don’t understand myself. Wounds keep cracking, oozing, hurting. No healing happens. The phone is mute, pokerfaced and cruel. I’ve no pride left for self-persuasion, for silent wars. I stare at the little thing and plead, drops tickling my neck as they roll down, wondering what I’ve done to deserve this. It’s overdue, this self-flagellation, and so is all your advice, years too late, poisoning those phone calls that would otherwise speak of concern and friendship. Stop asking what I am doing. I am sinking. Once the Titanic was hit, what could you have done to keep it from going down?

It would be better if you didn’t have to watch. I’ve half a mind to elope somewhere where nobody knows me, and bleed my failures there. My vocabulary, once a cornucopia, is now a tribute to contingency: could, would, should and should have. I was once told that I was the most brilliant person on campus. I thought it was a joke, but by her face I saw it wasn’t. Today I unearthed my wide black and white prints and looked at them, marveled at the things I used to make. Yes, apparently. I used to make things. And write things. And win things. I think of myself as a discontinued person, like a page break, where a “brilliant” one ends and a failed one takes off, with nothing to link them, save for a name. Had I known that school was the only thing I was good at, I would have stayed there.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The devil you know

Somebody flushes in the apartment upstairs. I jump in my seat, silence the online radio. The carpet feels soft and warm under my feet, like a freshly dead animal. A wood splinter from a certain sunny deck in Macon has left my heel tender. I walk like a thief. Behind the door I expect to find somebody and I prepare my vocal chords for dramatic yelling, no less. In my dreams, someone is chasing me, and I try to scream, my mouth open, taut, but nothing comes out. Nobody saves me. I stand there silent, waiting to be killed over and over.

When I look at people, I wonder if they’re smarter than me. I lose at chess twenty times every day and I come back for more each morning. I’m thrilled by being humbled by a novice computer. The plight of being intellectually less equipped than the majority of the population consoles me, like the empathic hand of fate fondling the rough edges of my head. I’ve succeeded to deceive everyone. It is entirely possible that my infrequent accomplishments have been the result of the fortuitous alignment of chaotic elements, the same kind of alignment that now stubbornly refuses to occur. Is it not possible that an otherwise second-rate person to appear, under certain contextual light arrangements, exceptional? Such an inference depends as much on the onlooker as it does on the subject, and with society defining common interpretations according to a variety of signs, it is likely that several onlookers will infer similar conclusions when looking at the same thing. And they could be wrong.

If I were to receive an award each time I am told that my resume is “impressive,” my very resume would expand exponentially. With all the career advice I am reading these days, instructing me to translate my pedestrian projects into coming-of-age experiences, I feel virtually pulled by the sleeve to be original, outrageously original. Chances are that others will find my originality outrageous. Fortunately, I can write to Yahoo and complain about being screwed over by their advice. They will fondle the rough edges of my head.

These days, I imagine myself ever more often in Bucharest. Places have a familiarity to them, although really in this city I am more of a stranger than I’ve ever been. In this barroom I’ve landed, there’s a guy who feels like family. Every single thing about him reminds me of someone I know. His face, of my grandfather, a young version. Light skin and reddish around his blue eyes, the nostrils and along the edges of his ears. His hair reminds me of my librarian benefactor, light blond and grey. His peaches-and-cream shirt, of my grandmother working in the garden at the countryside. His running shoes, well, of someone I know who wears running shoes in all the wrong places. His walk, of Katherine’s lopsided gait.

People are so much alike that it scares me. But collectivities are different. People negotiating coexistence, giving and gambling, playing, strategizing, compromising. In these practices, people are remotely dissimilar. I like the collective American, rather than the individual. As to the Romanian, I like neither the collective nor the individual. Come to think of it, I am not so crazy about myself. Especially not right now.

But I, at least, am a devil I know.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A world without zero

Three minutes until ten, the digital clock alleges. How many resumes have I sent today? I won’t even ask the other question. How many replies...? I won’t do this to myself. The number of times I went out of the cave: zero. The number of things I burned on the stove: zero. As it turns out, zero can also be a good thing. The number of movies I watched today: zero. Most often, however, it’s a bad thing. I wish the zeroes in my life, these impostor digits, were replaced by real numbers made of flesh and blood, real numbers that laugh and cry and hurt, like me. Zero is a travesty.

One is a lonely number. Dave Matthews sings “Two’s a perfect number, but one, well...” One’s imperfect. Like me. It stands in want of completion, of closure, of a twist. One has no twist. But two, well...

Father taught me arithmetic before I went to school. We went over the entire first grade curriculum the summer before I enrolled. This is why, unlike the other kids, I loved numbers. Scholastic tedium hadn’t gotten to me before the magic of mathematics had. It caught up fast, however, and left the latter eating dust. Now, scholastic tedium is indomitable, as any pupil and student can testify.

I should not say I am in the most confessional state of mind, nor in the most verbose. I count my thoughts on one hand’s fingers, and I’ve some to spare. But I sat myself down, perhaps unwisely, to write this soliloquy. I did it to arm myself against solitude. Surrounded by your thoughts, you’re never alone. And so resolute was I to mark off another blog entry for the elusive June, that I started to count my posts, as a sort of scale for my achievement, as if it could be something I could boast. I counted them, as I would apples at the market, thoughts measured by the kilo. So I stopped. I was doing myself a disservice.

If it were for me, I’d write every day. But my new rule is to bar myself from dreams, and especially from the image of me acting them out, which haunts me. When I come to, disillusioned, it’s unbearable. Until I get to act out my dreams, I will just write, but not about the dreams at all. In fact, I’ll make every effort to overlook them. I’ll write instead about ennui, and about the strain and the leap. What happens when there is nothing more to aspire to? Is it called happiness or... clinical death?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Necessary places

It was around five in the afternoon yesterday when I decided to peel my ass off the chair and peer out of the cave. Through the barricaded window came a luring breeze, the hot but playful air of heavy Georgia summer. I’d spent a good part of the morning braiding bread and burning some dead animal on the stove, and the better part of my afternoon pushing down shovelfuls of job applications down the Internet funnel. My head rang with a dull ache and my legs longed for hard asphalt. With difficulty, guilt pressing down heavily, I rose from my cubicle and shouldered my bag and camera. With closed eyes I locked the door behind me, lest I entertain thoughts of going back.

Down Johnson road, past the liquor store which I’ve bookmarked for my following nights of unemployed desperation, houses rise like mushrooms. On a Saturday like this, I thought, nobody is home. So I stopped to contemplate the edifices at length, like an architect planning his new project, scouting for ideas. No wonder people call houses “homes” in this country. Personality abounds. There’s a perpetual competition of design and colors, a rivalry for originality. When I was young, Eva and I received a gingerbread house as a Christmas present from France. It came in parts, and we built it as we fancied, an absurd, brazen structure that didn’t care for physics. It looked wonderful. And it remained so, wonderful, something to look at, not something to eat. It was months before we could bring ourselves to eat the gingerbread house, and by then it was hard and chewy, and hardly as enjoyable to our mouths as the sight of it had been to our eyes. So as I walked down Johnson road looking right and left at the houses, I thought of them as gingerbread houses. Expressions in aesthetics, rather than dwellings made to last.

The big Southern mansions with their solemn columns, like Greek temples, have a forbidding air. There’s something royal in the way they stand. A footpath extends from the street to the house entrance, dividing the trimmed lawn right down the middle. It has the expectation of a red carpet, this path. I halted before one of these houses and waited, as if any moment Gwyneth Paltrow were to come out of the house, laughing, her head thrown back in a guffaw, and I was to take her picture. I waited, until I saw a curtain pushed to the side and somebody looking at me from the upstairs floor.

Other houses are like trees, negotiating their position with the slope of the land. Some are perched up on the hill that rises along each side of the street. They seem secluded up there, like mountain cabins protected from the eyes and ears of curious people. One of these aloof establishments had a fence that girded it all the way to the street, and along the fence stood seven or eight mock-antique lanterns with fire burning inside, in the middle of the day. The house itself was farther from the street, with a roundabout before the entrance, and an artesian in the middle. The dark walls and black frames, and the overall dubious countenance of the place, reminded me of the location of the Hieros gamos fanatics in Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.” I shivered, and walked on.

And in this parade of designs, there are some houses that keep a low profile, built below ground level in a sort of pit. You have to look down from the street to see them, as if gaping down from a bridge. One of these houses made me stop and look more closely. It was all wood, the blue-black color of overburnt cinders, and British red window frames, with wooden window covers opened to the side. It lay obscured by trees with full crowns, sunlight sprinkled over it as if through a strainer. This is where I would like to live, I thought. A dark house, a haven, a little tree burrow that leads to a subterranean passage, where badgers like me dwell and plan their lives.

Now, when I’ve nothing concrete to call home, I look at houses as I would at fossils in a museum, with little personal interest. They are objects of utility, no longer repositories for memories. My concern is now, where would I find a quiet place to write, to think, maybe at Starbucks, maybe the park, maybe our morgue-apartment that I’ve already killed with my dreary thoughts. Henry Miller writes: “It’s hard to know, when you’re in such a jam, which is worse – not having a place to sleep or not having a place to work. One can sleep almost anywhere, but one must have a place to work. Even if it’s not a masterpiece you’re doing. Even a bad novel requires a chair to sit on and a bit of privacy.” As for me, today I have both. Tomorrow, well, who knows?

Monday, May 31, 2010


Past Freedom Parkway, past the streets with names of pioneers, and the skyscrapers, is the Interstate. It cuts right through the heart of the city, dividing it, like a pulsing vein with blood running on energy drinks. Once you reach the Interstate, you know where you are. North or South, it’s hard to get it wrong. As we drive down 14th street, over the Interstate and into the industrial quarters, I notice signs that announce, I-75 South. But there are no signs for North. The road pulls you by the sleeve to drive South. It is the place to go.

This time, we are not going South. Like all city folk, we are going shopping. It seems that there are few fulfilling activities save for that. I remember Thoreau at this point, and I cringe, for he’s been crying bitter tears ever since I’ve been infected with consumerism. I think of him warmly, remorsefully. But the light turns green and on we go, away from the luxurious Starbucks and the fancy Waffle House of downtown, toward the secluded place where Wal-Mart is. After all, we have a list to satisfy.

There is no silence in the car. We’re both making ourselves guilty of the garrulousness typical of old people who’ve nobody to talk to. And now, finally, someone. I don’t know if our talk is trivial, if we’re making inane comments that I’d otherwise roll my eyes to. Right now, we’re just talking. Times are good.
On the way home, she reminds me to take a left on Piedmont, and I rejoin with a pretentious formulation that means Duh! Again, a redundant comment. It is nice to have somebody to make redundant commentary to, even if it serves no purpose. It’s a way to say “Hey, I’m still alive.” Under the numbing effect of the repetitive motions of life, I welcome any occasion to say it.

“Have you ever been to a gay bar before?” she asks me as we pull into a patio barroom where the multicolored flag flutters in the wind. And I remember Synergy back in Macon, where we went to cavort under neon lights and demented music with all the topless gay boys. How easy it was to not worry about some guy’s palm evaluating your butt. How liberating to not be afraid that it would happen. The girls in Synergy, the gay girls, well, they’d never do such a thing. They have a radar, I’m told. They know we don’t play for the same team. So it’s peaceful and exhilarating at Synergy, this crossroads of divergent targets that coexist so well, and half-forget themselves in that drugging music.

“So, have you?” she brings me back from the reminiscing lapse. “Many times.” So we sit there feeling weird, among so many eccentrically-dressed people with all kinds of agendas, and we’re wondering if they’re feeing weird sitting next to us. I am sure they don’t. And, as far as we’re concerned, we feign we don’t either. We have cake, the American portions, I forget that we should have split one, because we are in supersize country, and we are normally-sized people. I almost finish the monster. She merely contemplates hers. As we walk back to the blazing car, where the sun has made our very own Hades, we carry our to-go boxes and admire their design. What a pleasure to feed an entire conversation with such trivial things.

Back home, she discovers that her chocolate’s melted in the car and throws a tantrum. I’m a little scared, mind you. I retreat on the floor, where the hurricane will hit me the least. Under the pretense of checking my e-mail, my fingers tap relentlessly on the keyboard. Tomorrow I will buy new chocolate, I promise myself. Under my eyebrows, I watch her feet entering the room. Even her walk is irritated. She sits down at the computer and sighs. She’s begun a conversation on Skype, the one she really wanted to have. I can almost imagine what she’s writing, a word from him will make her smile, and as I snap my fingers she’ll metamorphose, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. In fifteen minutes she’ll emerge in here, where I am, and, with all gall dissolved, she’ll ask ingenuously, What should we eat? That’s the thing about us, computer-huggers. Somehow, we always end up wishing that we were somewhere else.

Friday, May 21, 2010

No goodbyes

Sylvie est apathique. Not without reason, no. One could say that the stifling Georgia heat would beset me enough as it is, but as it turns out it wasn’t the only factor in my pitiful deflation. The last few blows I received from The Institution were formidably petty, and it was the shock of them, rather than the implications, that shook me into slow-motion. I have not shaken it off yet. I suppose time heals everything. So I wait for the mighty Chronos to deliver me.

An excuse for why I haven’t been writing. I ought to try to persuade myself that it’s not laziness, a decidedly unflattering motivation for any writer, however minor. So this is what I tell myself: it has nothing to do with being lazy. And in fact, it’s almost true.

But now it’s time for departure, and I’ve no last words, no goodbyes. Yesterday we went to play trivia, the last time for me, I suspect, and I didn’t even look back at the place, measure it with a ceremonious look, as I’d have done in another time. Perhaps if I had, the memory of the place would condense into that last view of it. The high ceilings with fans whirling insanely, people carousing down below, rubbing their potbellies full of beer, a rosy-cheeked Dargan hollering undecipherable things into the mic. A small town barroom, and yet, a place of returning, of affection born of habitude, a place where eventually people know your name, and fear you as you grab the pencil and the trivia sheets. Ah, moments. Moments make so much more of places than they really are.

Speaking of visual memory, I ought to snap a photo of the many boxes that surround me. But I don’t like to remember this sort of circumstance. Moving is a time that makes me wary. Packing is an activity that makes me nauseous. In our Brownian movement through the topography of this continent, a lot of energy is expended. Energy from fear, while so inevitable it is to fear uncertainty, to find yourself at the mercy of an American law that counts freedom in days, like an hourglass, pouring and pouring sand, ominous and hostile. Personally, I find it frightening. I seek a little bit of balance and, when I find it, I sleep, as if to make up for the three sleepless years at The Institution, where I’ve bargained my life and my health for some promised distinction that in the end I didn’t even receive. It’s shaming how much we are ready to sacrifice for a travesty. And even I, who so resolutely advocated content over form, eventually fell for the form, and cried for it. I cried as I buried fairness once more. Remember Battleship Potemkin, dear communists? Dignity is to not be given food with worms in it. As to me, I’ve a worm stuck between my teeth.

I eventually took a photo of the boxes, because this moment must be documented. Another departure rings its bells, but luckily there won’t be anybody here when I leave, to see me lament. I’ll go silently, just as I arrived. As I back out of the driveway with my overweight car I’ll make sure to have Kleenex handy. So, this is it, Macon. No goodbyes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Life goes easy on me, most of the time

And so it is, April will be remembered as the month that allowed me only one entry. Allowed, I say, because it’s not about crumbs of time, here and there, to get another paragraph down, and at the end of the day collage them onto a webpage. It’s a state of mind, this writing affair. Affair, I say, because it’s like a fling, on and off, today I’m brilliant, as somebody says, tomorrow I’m lazy and rambling, another’s words. Cut the fat, he says. Well if I cut the fat, I have but an empty page. And so it comes that in April this page is barren, like Saskatchewan in December, like my head after red wine straight from the bottle.

And so it is. April, the month of frenetic, intrepid applications. "Apply," my new voodoo word, like “Voldemort.” Life’s galloping along and I’m standing still, my computer and I, cheated by inertia, applying, applying madly, relentlessly. A life of applications. And it was breezy until here, she says. Now you’ll see how it gets tough.

What is this tough we’re headed toward, blindfolded? They lure us with all sorts of promises. An education, they say, opens doors. So I twist the knob. But the doors are firmly shut, so I’m knocking now, applying again, as I’ve done three years ago, as I promised myself, for the last time. How seldom we keep the promises we make to ourselves.

It occurred to me today that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who build, and people who demolish. You can write false dichotomy on my cross, if you will, but I’ll say it either way. I don’t find that there is anybody in between. There is such incongruence between the two that they polarize into mutually exclusive characters. One who builds cannot demolish, for in sabotaging another builder, he vicariously sabotages himself. The one who demolishes does it because he is incapable of building and, since he exists in the world like everybody else, he has to find something to do. So he demolishes what others build, or prevents things from being built at all.

To be clear, to demolish is utterly necessary. If nature needs creatures to eat other creatures for the world to keep running, who are we to take issue with nature? People who demolish are necessary, no doubt. Often times, they demolish things that are redundant or noxious. I praise them, really. They complete the food chain of our creative operations, which are ever so fecund, ever so postmodernist. But demolish is what they do, so they do it with all that exists in the world, not just what is superfluous. So many builders are buried in this way, thwarted beyond recovery, interred together with their inchoate creations, or under them. Tant pis, you’ll say. You’ve got to toughen up. Strong people succeed, weak people cry.

Yes, I know. And yet, what’s life like for softies, I wonder. I bet it’s not so bad?

Friday, April 9, 2010

A synonym for loneliness

I slither back here, a prodigal daughter. I’m afraid real-time confessions with human listeners will never parallel the kind and patient ear of this cave of mine. So I return, time and again, and one day I’ll raze this page and conjure another, with another name, different chromatics, but still a monument of distress, just like this. It’s just like I wrote once: bloggers are not happy people.

Perhaps I should be flattered by occasional comments shaped like compliments, that indicate, possibly, a popularity I never intended. I will tell you, though, it is the first spam that lands on this page that changes things, quite irreversibly, because spam means traffic. If my manifesto was ever some claptrap about writing for myself, for catharsis, not giving a damn if anybody read it, or some such sanctimonious thing like that, well, it was a lie. It’s something all writers do: trying to preempt failure. Popularity tickles a writer, but he declares he has no wish for it, no use for it, and that’s just in case he doesn’t get it. A writer doesn’t want to look like a fool. So he sits there, perched on his intellectual throne, and pontificates: I am an artist. You can’t understand me, because your minds are simple. I’ve no use for your heed or your comments. Leave me to carry my genius in solitude.

I, of course, am no different. I would love to have readers galore, but it’s not like I’m going to admit it like this, with my index finger and my thumb at a ninety-degree angle. The praise that comes my way, though, is like a paintball that defeats and smears. It’s not a sign of victory, but of loneliness. There are readers who admire my writing because it’s more skilled than theirs, and readers who dismiss my writing because they don’t understand it. An equal, however, a light beam at the same frequency, is hard to come by.

I’ve learned a new American idiom this week: to blow your own horn. She sat on a stool among easels and said “I’ll blow my own horn if nobody else does.” Stacy, sitting on another stool before a nascent canvas, approved wholeheartedly. I was bothered, not quite knowing why. I thought it was presumptuous to say a thing like that, even though, at times, I think very highly of myself as well. But at least I do it privately. I remember when Maria cautioned me last year that I “ought to learn some humility.” It was in the cafeteria, I know because I had an overpowering urge to throw edibles at her. And that was when I knew I’d told her too much and now I was vulnerable. Stupid of me. I took it as a betrayal of her, especially of her, the personification of conceit, I thought, to castigate me so. This token that oozed of hypocrisy I didn’t appreciate. You remember, perhaps. There were no more rides to the new mall after that. But you weren’t the only one who thought so, not by far.

So here it is, another day when humility’s absent. I recall a line from Tarkovsky’s Stalker:

"A man writes because he is tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he's worth something. And if I know for sure that I'm a genius? Why write then? What the hell for?"

I used to reason exactly like this. And you know what? I don’t know if anything’s changed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


My desk is a piece of art. That is because I see it every day. It is lithe, angular, white like marble. It stretches from one corner to another, a liaison between two walls, between two pieces of my life: the actual and the mediated. The former is growing scarcer, I’m loath to report, because school. I’m too afflicted with chronic vexation to elaborate on this sore topic. Suffice to say that it’s been some good weeks since I’ve left campus. Bill’s doesn’t count, though, since it’s still Forsyth and the presence of the College magnetizes, malevolent, even there.

No, one must be at least ten miles away to feel freedom. Freedom is felt chiefly with the ears, in case you didn’t know. It’s probably the legacy of our ancestors the dogs. When you’re rolling on a road, any godforsaken road, window down, ears flapping in the wind, and you’re moving
away and not toward, that’s the life. You feel yourself liberated, the shackles undone. You rub your wrists to alleviate the pain or to check if they’re still there. Yes, I have a body, you conclude exhilarated, a whole body not just an ass, not just flesh that sits but flesh that moves and runs, blood that flows with glee delivered from stagnation. You rediscover small organic weaknesses like panting and flushing from all the movement, and it’s like an epiphany.

You want to run and hug strangers on the street, tell them you’re so happy that legs hold you up, that there’s all this sinew that you’d forgotten about, and it’s still there, and you’d almost lost hope, thought you’d turned to stone sitting at your desk, probably your resting place too. You used to be Homo Erectus, but adapting to the circumstances had developed into Homo Sedentarius. What a bad dream, you shake it off at once. Then you come to, and your fingers are still typing, eyes narrowed into the incandescent screen. It was the escape that was the dream. You’re not going anywhere. Still Homo Sedentarius, wasting your time with callow daydreams. And in the meantime, there’s the desk.

Fifty pages of pompous poppycock, equals exactly two weeks of zombie-scribbling, equals coffee scent that’s so deep into my clothes, into my flesh, that I’ve resigned myself to making it permanent. But hold that razor – I think the end is near. Everybody hates their thesis, he tells me, and I nod. But no, wait a minute, actually, I wanted to like it. In fact I remember a time when I did, it seems an antediluvian time, it must have been before I plunged into the quagmire headfirst, thinking it was water. I couldn’t see well, it was dark. Now this slimy creature’s enslaved me and won’t let me go. He says his name’s Perfection, the bully, but I just call him Dick, since that’s what he is. The end is near, I whisper to quiet myself down. The end is near. The sobs are dying down. One more guileful promise like this and I’ll fall asleep.

Friends? I don’t know you anymore. I’m quite lost to the world, as the situation will have it, but there’s still hope left for you. So save yourselves. Just run, toward the light. I’ll just close these blinds to see the screen better, and I think I’ll seal them with tape too, since I don’t think I’m ever getting out of here. And you know what? get me some chocolate when you’re out, please.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Into the tunnel

Seven a.m. and Georgia rain says Good Morning, rapping relentlessly on my hood, seeping deep into my shoes. Yeah, well, fuck you too. Steam envelops my glasses and I greet this person I bump into, accidentally touch her breast to steady myself. Ha, ha, it’s all right, she says affectedly, and I’m sure she’s making unflattering remarks about me on the inside. Of course we can never say what we mean.

So, what do I think about when I’m swimming? Nothing in particular. I move after dictation from the clock, a prepossessing supervisor really, more a foe than a friend. Speed is distance over time, I tell myself while wheeling my arms backwards in continuous motion. Whatever the result it’s not enough, so I smack my lips in dissatisfaction, spit the pool water out of my mouth and fasten my seatbelt for godspeed. The woman in the other lane is hefty and breathes hard. She smiles at me from a distance, I only see a fuzzy spot where her face would be, the pixels slightly shifting. I smile back half-heartedly. Maybe she wasn’t really smiling at me.

And as I amble to the cafeteria to be fed I can only think of one thing. A fifty page endeavor that’s still in embryo. I’ve foreshadowing promises of pride about it, as if from a child I’ve spawned. But not yet. Now there’s only the idea, like the potential energy of an object that has weight but doesn’t do anything. I predict nights of feverish writing in the night, the rush of caffeine already placebo to me, given that energy from ideas and prickly fingers on a keyboard is so much more nutritious than any energizing drink. This is me being positive. An angle I’m not used to.

Is this treatise going to be ready on time? The devil sits perked on my shoulder, the other shoulder angelless, and whispers all sorts of discouragements in my ear. His lips tickle, suck the sleep away until there’s no serenity left. Four in the morning comes, worries haunt me and I’m nowhere near action. I’ve potential energy, you’d argue. Thus hopelessly stuck at cathode, say, where’s that positive angle when I need it? Why doesn’t optimism visit more often? I’m not old and smelly. I don’t talk too much. I don’t understand. I crawl back into my cave and wait.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The rush or the patience

"I’ve been blinded by glitter and gold
My eyes need to rest from this light
And sleep well at night."

If I could get drunk every day, I’d forget a little. I’d loosen up, you’d say, but with loose not being my manner at all, I’m not entirely sure it would be a good thing.

Too many ideas and too human a body, not even fit to grapple with sleep deprivation anymore. Getting old, is this what you were talking about? Perhaps it’s abuse taking its toll, a visceral reaction to this Poker I’m playing with my future. “Going for a straight?” he asks tentatively, nudging me with his elbow. I’m not that lucky, I whisper to myself. “Come on, girl, play,” they beckon. “It’s a full house in here. “ Give me a minute, I can’t hear myself think, I plead, flushed. There’s too much noise here. Perhaps I should step outside, I whisper to myself between swift hands exchanged.

Perhaps I should step outside, I goad myself in the rear-view mirror as I sit in my car clasping the wheel. Ready to take off. Destination irrelevant. Into the real world, as she and I chuckle between bites at lunch. Our lives are makeshift, insubstantial like bubbles of soap. Only time is real and inclement, like an ice storm beating you up after you’re cold and wet and hunched with the weight on your shoulders. Target nowhere in sight. Or, maybe, somewhere beyond the fog, beyond the manic suspension, maybe it’s there. We’re creatures of hope, after all.

They say, life is what happens while we are busy making other plans. If this is life then what is living? Is it flurry, Brownian movement? Is it the rush or the patience?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

From the Calendar, with Love

Here is a January of more guilt, more crumpled sticky notes on the floor, items half-checked off to-do lists. Postponed. Everything postponed while I am trying to graduate from this beloved institution and off into the godforsaken land of no-jobs. Everybody complains about the future, while my future is now and I'm staring it right in the face. Wanna step outside, future? I say, brandishing my silver tongue.

If only there were more time, I grumble as afternoons segue into late nights and mea culpas, and futile questions like, why in the world would I take a whole hour for dinner? Did I really need to hear all that? To hear myself talk, to hear them babble? Why can't I be a hermit as befitting my career goals? And so on. I will eradicate meals, it's the only way.

So this is the last lunch we have together, I told her. February is my month, censorship of activities enabled, entertainment be damned. I'll be a Road Runner through the cafeteria, gone before you know it, too fast even for hellos. You'll see. February's for 50-page papers and more overnights in the dark room. It's all about timing, my dear, and you should understand since you sleep so little, too. So after I told her all this with a grave voice we stayed, nostalgic, in the cafeteria until dinnertime, for five hours or so just talking, with the surly staff cleaning around us, assuring us we're not in the way. We stayed, for the last time. Unless they have cookies tomorrow.

And now, the February of guilt, staring me right in the face. Come on, February, wanna step outside with me?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the Shadows

“Aren’t you going to miss this place?” I remember asking her. “No,” she said looking right at me, almost defiantly. “I miss my family, Canada, everyone. I’m glad to go.” “Well,” I shrugged, “then I’m happy for you.” I lied. And I was sure she lied too. For how does one debar herself of nostalgia, I don’t figure. It’s always there, nostalgia, for me at least.

Through the mist that envelops my future I have to consider my present in context. So – will I miss it, I thought as I climbed the stairs two at a time. There are Nepali cooking on the second floor, one of their smelly dishes, surely, sticking their finger inside to taste, then licking it and sticking it right back. On the first floor are Koreans who giggle incessantly and barely mind me as I squeeze myself along the wall to bypass their flurry, their racket. The Chinese walk around in flip-flops unkempt and blank-faced, like androids. All irritates me, their obliviousness pressing hard on sore points, on years of loneliness. Will I miss it. It’s hard to imagine I will.

It’s hardly the first time I’ve asked myself this. Even though time’s not been kind to this memory I’m gleaning, there are good things here. Really, like what? I retorted. And to refute this skeptic intimation I took to taking photographs. Trying to prove something to myself. There is beauty alright. Plenty. But it is tainted, stained by what I know, the ugly side of the funfair, which doesn’t get printed in brochures and news announcements. The backwards of it, the pantomime, the energy that goes into appearances, all for form and in want of content. Well if it’s appearances I cherish, these tall trees and neatly-trimmed grass, red buildings and squirrels galore, the more the landscape dissolves into idyllic the more egregiously it deceives. If it’s only appearances I’ll miss then I’ll miss nothing, because there’s scarcely anything to miss underneath. I’m beginning to understand what she meant.

We watched Battleship Potemkin today. The sailors found worms in their meat and made a revolution for a decent meal. Women and children were killed but the insurgence held fast. Of course it was not food they were after. It was dignity. Dignity is to not be given food with worms in it.

Friday, January 15, 2010


The life of a writer is the life of a loner. I think it must be so. If I am to build a new world and make it believable it is imperative that I distance myself from the reality of the present. It distracts me, like a voice buzzing in my ear as I am trying to formulate speech. Stuttering is a symptom of distraction, of a mind preoccupied and thus unfocused. Writing with interruptions is like stuttering, thoughts that hiccup instead of flowing make for a story less credible. Bill tells me he cannot write, and although I’ll never say it to him, for better judgment, I’m more inclined to think that he is just distracted. Like most everybody else.

I was interrupted while composing this. Who knows what the hell I was going to write. All right. Start over.

We were walking down the street and I noticed that you looked different somehow, that pink scarf pulling the features of your face into more angular geometry and making your curly hair glow with a matte finish, like flashed photographic paper. You’ve grown up, I thought. It was only last year I saw you last, but the last time I really saw you, really looked at you, was long time ago. You will agree, I think. The shift we’ve undergone is to be expected, given that college is the time for action while high school is a time for dabbling. Nothing really happens in high school, or whatever happens has a passive quality rather than participatory. Things happen to you rather than with you. So in college you’ve gone out and did, and you were nobody’s fool, except maybe your own. And now you’re lost again, or perhaps found, but still a gambler, always a gambler. A gambler for dreams, you’ll say, and I’ll chuckle. It’s a wonder that you, a dreamer, and I, a skeptic, would ever be friends. And yet.

I asked you, apropos of my reason for snubbing you, if one day you discovered that the cup of coffee you’d been drinking every day contained poison, would you keep drinking. And you, instead of evincing some kind of outrage that I’d liken you to poison, said with naivety and stubborn benevolence that it’d depend on so many factors, like what kind of poison, or what damage it would do, clearly resisting the analogy with a feeble defense, but in a cute way. We are slaves to our perceptions, I fear, and yours is that I’m now the bad guy, and mine’s that I was right to cut you off.

You told me how there’s no more affection in your friendships, a deficit of caring between you and them, and you complained how she, whenever you talk, will only talk about herself. But there are too many who make themselves guilty of self-absorption. Truth be told, my intuition whispers that you’d do the same to me. This nostalgia born of habitude sometimes obscures realities which can seem blunt or insensitive, but they’re nevertheless in our faces, like an elephant in the room that nobody talks about. If I told you “this friendship’s done for” you’d probably console yourself accusing me of hostility, victimizing yourself, and since I’m the one who’s actually severed the connection, it’s clear who’s the evil one here. But you know, I don’t feel like the evil one. There has to be someone to say the emperor’s got no clothes. I merely called what was already there. And that’s all my defense.