Streets still and silent, wet with morning dew, black pavement mass and expansive, stretched out in a sterile grid pattern, hulking and intimidating. A red brick schoolhouse, sunk into the background, matte silver flagpole outstretched to God, the fields lining the ditch beyond its play yard littered with dusty silt and hopping tumbleweeds. As the sun stretches over the horizon, bodies hum to life with mechanical intensity, their minds packaged in little boxes, wrapped in bows by sycophantic affability, the drive for middle-class dreams, life caged inside of a short picket fence. Children play, their smiles naïve and banal, unaware that the deck is stacked against them. “Life’s a stage!” they say with sugary sweet smiles dripping in patronizing delight; all of the minutiae, roll calling and times tables, mark the torrid beginnings of life’s prosaic rehearsal.
There are no happy endings.
I have been teetering on the edge of the diving board, my feet dangling in the water, hands tucked underneath my legs, with a crooked grin revealing more than I dare ought to - the sick compulsion to dive regardless of consequence, to kick my feet and stir up waves, to leap or tumble - it does not matter - right into the midst of indifference and anger and hurt and so many other negative emotions that have become my pool, my life. I have spent years building little life rafts for myself to cling onto when I cannot hold back the floodgates, when the grey ocean tide threatens to churn me under current and force water into my lungs. And I have been strong, no doubt.
This time it’s different. This time I am taken back to the twelve year old who had absolutely no coping mechanisms and couldn’t understand why stressful situations were so hard for me that I wanted to hurt myself. I am a bit wiser, sure, and confrontations no longer send me into a tailspin, and I can walk with confidence and a smile plastered on eight layers thick, thick enough that the spots where the jagged edges bleed into my face have become unquestioningly believable. Everything I do is constructed, some sham to represent the calm underneath the surface, so no one suspects, but it’s really taking up all of the energy I have.
My lungs bear a burdensome weight in the morning, and the first breath is always the hardest. Shit, I woke up again. And I stare and blink back the emotion under my lower lids and fall back into the pillows, pulling my knees to my chest because I am totally unsure if I can get up today. As I gather the blankets towards me, I notice I am shivering - not because I am cold, but because I have become so anxious that my teeth chatter at the thought of how exhausting it will be to get through the next four hours. I think about all of the blessings in my life, all of the people who love me, and whom I love deeply, and I could never bring myself to suicide, but that does not stop me from laying there at times hoping that God will take me in the night, begging in raw desperation.
And yeah, the good does seem fucking cheap, like a consolation prize in a box of Cracker Jacks or a cheap metal toy made in China that falls apart before you can enjoy it. It makes me feel guilty for being given something that will prove so futile, for taking up some cosmic energy ray of positivity that I did not deserve, while at the same time fully cognizant of the fact that I move through the world unnoticed, with no one to share in the highs or lows as they happen. In many ways, that fact doesn’t really sadden me anymore; it makes me feel even less, like a salve applied to a wound to prevent infection.
I have heard people say that their depression is numbing, that they no longer feel, that their mind has rejected the ability to process any more blows and has simply shut down. But mine, whether it is depression or some other demon, has brought everything to the forefront. All of my soldiers are lined and ready for the firing squad. I feel everything, too much, all at once. I cannot shut off the constant barrage of emotion that suffocates me everywhere. I am not lying when I say that I am exhausted. I am just..so tired.
My world is color and light and beauty and promise and hope and dreams, a glass half full for the taking, but I see through a veil of black, my eyes cloaked in a dim twilight, struggling to focus on the fine outlines of the shapes and figures that move through my day. So I drink, or push it away, or release it tiny bit by tiny bit, but it does not make it lift. I have often been told that I can think myself out of it, will what is necessary into materialization, but what a cheap way to tell somebody that this is all a fabrication. With little doubt, I’ll be the first to say that it’s all my head. But… everything starts in the mind, and that does not make it any less real.
I am drowning and I just want someone to help me. To hug me. To tell me that they love me. What a foolish wish. All on my own, all on my own now..
I went to a fashionable London nightclub on Saturday. Not the sort of sentence I get to write very often, because I enjoy nightclubs less than I enjoy eating wool. But a glamorous friend of mine was there to “do a PA”, and she’d invited me and some curious friends along because we wanted to see precisely what “doing a PA” consists of. Turns out doing a public appearance largely entails sitting around drinking free champagne and generally just “being there”.
Obviously, at 36, I was more than a decade older than almost everyone else, and subsequently may as well have been smeared head to toe with pus. People regarded me with a combination of pity and disgust. To complete the circuit, I spent the night wearing the expression of a man waking up to Christmas in a prison cell.
“I’m too old to enjoy this,” I thought. And then remembered I’ve always felt this way about clubs. And I mean all clubs - from the cheesiest downmarket sickbucket to the coolest cutting-edge hark-at-us poncehole. I hated them when I was 19 and I hate them today. I just don’t have to pretend any more.
I’m convinced no one actually likes clubs. It’s a conspiracy. We’ve been told they’re cool and fun; that only “saddoes” dislike them. And no one in our pathetic little pre-apocalyptic timebubble wants to be labelled “sad” - it’s like being officially declared worthless by the state. So we muster a grin and go out on the town in our millions.
Clubs are despicable. Cramped, overpriced furnaces with sticky walls and the latest idiot theme tunes thumping through the humid air so loud you can’t hold a conversation, just bellow inanities at megaphone-level. And since the smoking ban, the masking aroma of cigarette smoke has been replaced by the overbearing stench of crotch sweat and hair wax.
Clubs are such insufferable dungeons of misery, the inmates have to take mood-altering substances to make their ordeal seem halfway tolerable. This leads them to believe they “enjoy” clubbing. They don’t. No one does. They just enjoy drugs.
Drugs render location meaningless. Neck enough ketamine and you could have the best night of your life squatting in a shed rolling corks across the floor. And no one’s going to search you on the way in. Why bother with clubs?
“Because you might get a shag,” is the usual response. Really? If that’s the only way you can find a partner - preening and jigging about like a desperate animal - you shouldn’t be attempting to breed in the first place. What’s your next trick? Inventing fire? People like you are going to spin civilisation into reverse. You’re a moron, and so is that haircut you’re trying to impress. Any offspring you eventually blast out should be drowned in a pan before they can do any harm. Or open any more nightclubs.
Even if you somehow avoid reproducing, isn’t it a lot of hard work for very little reward? Seven hours hopping about in a hellish, reverberating bunker in exchange for sharing 64 febrile, panting pelvic thrusts with someone who’ll snore and dribble into your pillow till 11 o’clock in the morning, before waking up beside you with their hair in a mess, blinking like a dizzy cat and smelling vaguely like a ham baguette? Really, why bother? Why not just stay at home punching yourself in the face? Invite a few friends round and make a night of it. It’ll be more fun than a club.
Anyway, back to Saturday night, and apart from the age gap, two other things stuck me. Firstly, everyone had clearly spent far too long perfecting their appearance. I used to feel intimidated by people like this; now I see them as walking insecurity beacons, slaves to the perceived judgment of others, trapped within a self- perpetuating circle of crushing status anxiety. I’d still secretly like to be them, of course, but at least these days I can temporarily erect a veneer of defensive, sneering superiority. I’ve progressed that far.
The second thing that struck me was frightening. They were all photographing themselves. In fact, that’s all they seemed to be doing. Standing around in expensive clothes, snapping away with phones and cameras. One pose after another, as though they needed to prove their own existence, right there, in the moment. Crucially, this seemed to be the reason they were there in the first place. There was very little dancing. Just pouting and flashbulbs.
Surely this is a new development. Clubs have always been vapid and awful and boring and blah - but I can’t remember clubbers documenting their every moment before. Not to this demented extent. It’s not enough to pretend you’re having fun in the club any more - you’ve got to pretend you’re having fun in your Flickr gallery, and your friends’ Flickr galleries. An unending exhibition in which a million terrified, try-too-hard imbeciles attempt to out-cool each other.
Mind you, since in about 20 years’ time these same people will be standing waist-deep in skeletons, in an arid post-nuclear wasteland, clubbing each other to death in a fight for the last remaining glass of water, perhaps they’re wise to enjoy these carefree moments while they last. Even if they’re only pretending.
It is difficult to capture all of the emotions and passions that I hold and encapsulate them in a stifling paragraph but I think it is important to identify that I cherish the concept of love and the heart the most. If there is anything I truly desire, it is to give the love I know I am capable of and share it to the utmost, truly reaching beyond myself to extend what has been so fortunately given to me. It saddens me that many people stunt their hopes and dreams, believing their insignificance to be synonymous with meaninglessness. On that vein, one of the many things that I really strive for is to break down the concept of the “other” and acknowledge my judgments and preconceived notions so I may be better equipped to turn those into positive behaviors rather than negative, futile hatred. It is easy to become lost and focused on the self, now more than ever, but we are a neighborly world and we build the structures in place that divide us. On a community and personal level, we can begin to break down the walls that hold us separately. To really continuously force oneself outside of their comfort zone, as I try to do, is an enriching and enlightening experience. It doesn’t have to be much; any small change I see as positive.
A couple of other things running through my head:
To foster personal growth and flourish
To rid myself of the idea of “success” and build my own notion of personal achievement
To practice the idea of relativity, to not judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree
Literacy, education, perpetual lifelong learning, passing on the joy of reading to younger children, and enriching our lives with the imagination
Art and creative movement, whether is it expressed through the hands, mind, body, or eyes
To die having let at least one other person know that their life meant something tremendous and was worth it, and to add to it in such a way that was fulfilling to them
In the present moment, however, I am consumed with the dream of traveling the world. Maybe I’ll start with backpacking through India.
Your quick, snippy jokes are becoming worn, their dullness parenthetically encased within your trite, pathetic humourlessness. We quietly notice as you root yourself in place, cartoonishly flailing your limbs about in a display of childish outrage; your empassioned disgust over a machine in disrepair that we cannot control, nor fix, becomes fodder for post-work mockery, but we aren’t laughing - only weary. Your wet, slimy lips move in command, demanding with greed “I need!” “I need!” “I NEED!” while we gaze at you with hollow eyes and a blank stare; why must we acknowledge and humanize you if we cannot even be granted the simple respect of someone knowing our own humanity? The mere fact that we exist? Instead, orders are barked at us as if we are trained circus animals, and I, well, I mindlessly obey because I sold my soul for an apron and a paycheck. Watch closely, the way your mouth muscles get to working, splitting with the cracks encrusted with spittle, to spew vitriol and wanton selfishness, as you villify those who have wronged you, although their only crime is that, for once, you have been told “No.”
Choking on a dry throat irritated from too much talking, I pardon myself and step away, and you glare at me, even after you have received your purchases, because in this global consumer economy, I am evil and you are to be revered. And we’ll work our underpaid lower class to the bone until they realize they are everything wrong with our society. That’ll show ‘em, the ungrateful little fuckers.
I lost myself somewhere back in Texas, and I’m not sure where my heart belongs. It feels more like an empty crevasse most days, the edges cracked and worn thin like the hollow echo of a bleating lamb. My insignificance is vast and profound; I am comfortable accepting the mediocrity that defines my reality. It is the call for stagnancy that grows an itch, festers an open sore from the pressure of a limb left to waste. If only my hopes were more attainable, something reasonable within the relative confines of my being, because this life is uncomfortable as it stands and I’m not sure how much longer I can take. Wouldn’t it be silly to depart this earth having left nothing for yourself, to speak for the dreams you held and the hope you fostered long after you are gone? Far too few bother to leave a legacy, whatever that may be, and the hardest questions are the ones that are rarely asked.
But my love, it flourishes. All I have ever wanted to be was a good person. And the day my spirit slips away, I wish for just one person to smile, having known my truth.
I scurry around like a frightened little mouse some days, jumpy and unsure, guilt-ridden for little reason and ashamed enough to slink into corners. Other days are better, the dim morning glow through the stubborn layer of relentless cloud cover bringing a glimmer of opalescence to an otherwise bleak beginning. Yet I tell myself, the loneliness is merely symptomatic; if only false promises were enough hope to lean on.
Where do I get off? There are things that shouldn’t matter, yet they seep into the porous spots of your self-esteem and worm themselves deeply, cementing their own roots, and pretty soon a shitty statistics grade turns into the embodiment of your self-loathing. Seems silly doesn’t it? I can assure you it is. I look at medical students, graduate students, and wonder in awe at their successes, truly believing I am an terrible pupil and will never know such achievement. Pray I am not slinging bagels and taking other people’s money for the rest of my life.
I stood on the roof of a fort perched on a mountaintop and looked out over the San Juan islands, and marveled at the expanse of greatness, that which was there before me and will continue to be so long after I am gone. …and at once I knew I was not magnificent/high above the highway aisle/(jagged vacance, thick with ice)/I could see for miles, miles, miles
So, let me get this straight. You’re feeling the same suffering, loss of identity, irrevocable removal of rights, and anguishing hopelessness, among so many other incomprehensible realities, that your ancestors did as slaves because you had a bad day at work?
Yet, if I bring this up, or calmly call to attention how fucking absurd that statement is, I’m racist. When will the racial entitlement and appropriation end? Take all that you can from your cultural identity and mold it into something you feel comfortable proclaiming as your ipseity. But do not, for one fucking second, tell me that have felt the profound impact of slavery. Not only is it patronizing towards your ancestors, it cheapens their lifestory and further perpetuates negative stereotypes.
How truly audacious.
to live in a world where p!nk exists?
I love the casual Summer Heights High reference.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m beyond exhausted, but the thought of seeing my dad next week actually excites me. For a man who never uttered it to me before, he’s begun to say “I love you” the very few times we say goodbye on the phone and there’s a part of me that believes that he really means it. And you know, in thinking about it, he’s growing older and I can’t find one picture of just myself with him that isn’t the one that is my icon, and I can’t think of any happy memories except for the ones very early in my life and the ones we’re making now. I wish I hadn’t jeopardized so much of the time I could have spent with him, and I wish he hadn’t jeopardized the time he could have had with me. Sitting here, bawling, five states away, and I actually miss him. Why did I have to wait twenty years for this moment? It may be my biggest regret that I let pass such a wide berth time before getting to know him.
I’m willing and ready to forgive you, dad. I know you’re flawed, and you’re kind of prone to being a Disney Dad. But you mean well, even if you’re sometimes blinded and misguided. Hi, I’m your daughter. Nice to finally meet you.
Oh, shit. I’m confronting my daddy issues. Fuck me.
I can’t hate my body the way I have been anymore. Enough is enough, especially of the raw gnawing doubt that creeps into the corners of my day, no fail. Whether or not I believe it now, I will continue to tell myself that I am beautiful, and that my poor self-image is not, in fact, correlated directly to my self-worth.
I need to stop procrastinating. The manner in which I increasingly put off simple tasks until they become horrifically daunting is alarming, at best, and needs to change. I am not quitter and will never NOT do something with a deadline, but I am definitely sick of adding all of this pressure and stress.
Houston is actually kind of cool. I like the inner-city; it is full of life and character. The home-grown restaurants and the badass locally owned shops alongside the conglomeration of store fronts and homes and varying architectures from regal Victorian, to high-end, sleek façades, to 50s vintage porch fronts mashed together make it an urban metropolis that keeps you on your toes, eyes feasting for more.
Think I’m considering moving to the east coast for school. Regions drenched in history wassup y’all? I’ll miss progressive California and my family in the northwest, though.
My accent is shifting.
Masturbation’s lost its fun, but I’m not fucking jaded.