What They Never Tell You Is

The sweet soft air of springtime slides in through my open bedroom window and I sit up to inhale a deep drag of it, hoping secretly it will come inside my body and heal it. All my bad decisions. All the ways I wanted nothing but to obliterate myself entirely. The little tiny kills spread out across a day, an evening which picks at your skin like pock marks on the face, shameful, obvious, but even that doesn’t stop you from the gouging.

Maybe I wanted help as much as I wanted to be left the fuck alone. The little tiny kills that happen and happen and happen and accumulate over a lifetime, only the life is still happening while the time, well, the time is anybody’s guess, except to say it’s moving on with or without you.

Rising from my bed and taking a few steps into the light of morning, I am surrounded by rays of silent sunshine and the glowing flecks of dust which hang suspended in the air like pollen hovering, waiting, static impregnation, it feels alien to be among this brightness. I am remembering what it is to want this. For so long the darkness was the only thing I could trust.

I do not reach for the cigarette which burns in the front of my mind. I swallow gulps of the late March breeze, and water. Lots and lots of water these days. I raise my hand to touch my face, to reach for the drink, to reach for the self-loathing I know and love so much, and stop. Beyond the sickness and the shaking, beyond the bones in the river by the houses lining the bend in the street, there is something heading toward me and I want to welcome it in.

There is something already inside. What they never tell you about is the quiet. They only tell you about the noise, which is easier to deal with because noise is something which has to be dealt with. But the quiet, well, the quiet, it just stays as long as you can stand it. And once it’s got you, you and it are all there is.

.

Photo by Darius Marshall

Might Delete This Later

I used to have this professor back in college the other kids would call ‘tough but fair.’ You know the type. Stoic. Snide. Red slashes all over your precious prose jabbed with some kind of confusing comment in the margins like, “Allison, DESCRIPTION!”

I thought he was just an asshole but no one asked my thoughts nor did any of it matter when it came time for him to grade our papers so I guess it’s better left in the past. Suffice it to say that in general, a male teacher was ‘tough but fair’ and a female teacher was an ‘arrogant bitch’ but truth be told there was no difference between the two except probably in salary but don’t get me started.

Have you ever wanted to erase your past and simply start over fresh? Like an Instagram grid just delete, delete, delete. Maybe that’s why the young kids, whatever they call themselves or don’t, their posts only last a few seconds, a few days at most. It all just disappears. The ridiculous smiles, the bad, the sad, the wasted, along with the beautiful. Fading, fading, all into nothingness as though none of it is real. Or if it is, it’s only real in the moment and then it’s anybody’s guess, anybody’s game.

Fumbling in my cluttered bag for a cigarette, I accidentally set off my car alarm which startles only me because the parking lot is nearly empty and fully deserted. No one smokes anymore, not like they used to back in the day. As I watch a large dark cloud move in over the factory buildings, the cold wind picks up and shoves my long strawberry hair into my mouth.

There is always something pushing back against us even as we try our best to make our way in a world which would soon enough take us or leave us just the same.

But in the pit of my stomach, I know I still believe in something I cannot name. And even after all these years I can’t decide if that makes me silly or if that makes me strong.

 

.

Photo by Mathilde Langevin

 

 

Untouchable

You’re afraid you’re losing it all to them.

To the young. To the rich. To the beautiful.

It happens so fast you are shocked by the jerk of the rug being yanked out from under you. When did the crumbling begin? When did the circles ring your eyes like saucers.

Like a punch in the face of the pale precious moon who orbits your shy little life. Lets her dark eye seep all over you. Lights up against the fears you try to escape in the dark. Lights them up like a mute scream in a dream in which the ground races beneath your feet but you can’t move.

You could be nicer and quit ruining things for everybody else, you know. You could sit quietly and do as they ask of you and do as you are told to do, so they wouldn’t have to waste so much time keeping you in line. Inside the lines.

But you know something they don’t know and never can and never will. You know the fire in your bones burns from a place they don’t believe in even when you show them the scars.

You know the possibilities because you have been mapping your own desires your entire life. It scares you, the things you know about yourself. The things you hide that you wish you didn’t.

It was never about youth and it was never about beauty. It was always about pain and your endurance of it. Your craving for it. Your running from it. Your conversations with it. Inviting it in. Kicking it out. Chasing after it again.

It was always about the way you were stronger than they ever had to be.

It was always about the freedom to say the thing you need to say. To write the perverse, the meaningful, the crushing gasp of the truth they would not see.

You are losing it all at the hands of a time gone by that you can never get back. You are losing your grip on the things they told you to hold most dear. And the letting go feels just fine. And you laugh at the gods in the face of the sky as you drift higher and higher out of the body they stitched you into when you were small.

It was never about them; always about you. You as ageless, you as timeless, you as endless. You as some kind of impenetrable thing which can never be touched and never be held on to.

It was always about the way you can only be you and nobody else, and how that devastates and gratifies you all at once.

In the deep wells of your ancient soul, you know this.

Since the beginning of time, you always knew.

 

.

Photo by Hugo Tasca

 

Breaking Skin

My card doesn’t work and the wind cutting bitter against the skin on my hand is so fucking freezing it burns like hot pinpricks all over. Times are tough and the globe is melting into itself but at the moment I’m stuck cursing the gas pump card reader while foraging for another card to try so I can get the hell out of there before my coffee gets cold or my frostbitten digits fall off, which ever comes first.

If I had half my act together I would have filled the tank yesterday but I was tired of everything and the old familiar feeling of gloom had settled in by the time the red sun sank low into the naked nest of trees in the meadow across the street.

Wandering the back roads on the way to the office, I watch as a man emerges from the side door of his little cottage-like home with his dog on a leash wearing only pajamas and an overcoat. No, the man in the pajamas and overcoat, the dog wearing only the collar and leash and a grumbled look on its face as if it, too, thinks walking in this nasty cold is a bad idea indeed.

The man lights a cigarette, oblivious. Numb.

I shudder as I drive on by.

Listening to someone on the radio chatter on about whether or not to break off her engagement with some poor chap who spent a good portion of his meager salary to buy her a shit ring, I wince and laugh out loud as people call in to offer their advice which the girl listens to and debates as we secretly judge her and all the other strangers for having poor instincts and even less tact.

I shouldn’t judge, of course, but everybody does and I’m quite tired, in fact, of worrying about what I should and should not do or care about according to a society so completely and perfectly morally screwed up it has no business instructing anyone about anything.

Later on I’m back at home with a whiskey, re-reading Virginia Woolf’s “The Death of the Moth” and trying to warm my hollow bones. Woolf observes the helpless winged specimen as it flits and flutters erratically in her windowsill until finally it struggles its last with tiny legs wriggling against the empty air and perishes, as small and strange in fitful life as it is frozen stiff in death.

The essay was published a year after Virginia Woolf ended her own life by walking into the River Ouse at Lewes with stones in her coat pockets, weighing her down.

A deep tug of sorrow fills my heart for someone I admire but do not know.

I swallow hard and watch as a steady swath of white smoke trails from a chimney across the way, thin and pale, vanishing like a ghost.

.

Photo by Michele Seghieri

New Podcast Episode: How to 2020 at the End


This is my dear cousin Mark, seen here fearlessly representing the entirety of 2020 in a single breathtaking image.

We are both artists and writers and trying to make it through 2020 just like you.

We host a podcast called Spacetrash to help us smile and breathe while clinging to the last shreds of our sanity.

Our newest episode – in which we discuss mask etiquette, war with Swiss chocolate, why writers and artists have a hard time going over their previous works, what’s in my next book, Mark’s astonishing confession, the simple recipe for a stellar apple pie and/or essay collection, HBO’s hideous glamorous and cathartic “The Undoing”, and so much more – is on Spotify now.

Grab a drink and come hang out!

And remember, as someone wise whom I don’t know on Twitter once said:

P.S. Here is the link to the Astronomy Photo of the Day website which we reference at the end of this episode. Enjoy!

New Podcast Episode: How to Be a Prolific Writer, Thanksgiving Plans, and Harry Styles is Hot in a Dress

In this week’s episode, Mark and I chat about all manner of writing topics including what helps us stay prolific, what drives our creativity, and what it feels like to write from the depths of the soul.

We have a few very interesting Ah-Ha! moments with fresh insights into the secret to getting your work out there and busting through writer’s block.

We also, of course, get into the modern culture stuff: the nonsense that is Twitter fleets, the pure joy and deliciousness that is Harry Styles in a dress, and so much more.

It’s been A WEEK. Come relax, laugh, and be inspired with us!

Listen to our podcast Spacetrash on Spotify here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

.

Photo by Zino de Groot

Mind’s Eye

Crawling up close to me, he tries to pull me under the covers to fall back asleep but I want none of it so I get up quick and slide out of the bedroom, pulling the door closed softly behind me. There is another world which calls to me like a siren, and I need to get to her before she disappears out over the horizon with the first light of dawn.

It’s not him, it’s me. I can’t take the noise in my head and I can’t fold my body into sex anymore, it’s all just too loud. I’ve got too much on my mind. I know that sounds obnoxious, but I would hush the whole world if I could just to find some kind of quiet meaning in all of this.

I am drawn to the page even as the page causes me such terrible trouble. My system is a wreck of words and nerves, desires and dreams, and for some reason it’s the early morning hours that plunge me straight into the depths of my most favorite beautiful chaos.

The midnight ocean mind is where the real seduction is, imagination, fantasy, escape. The mind is the muscle of the soul, someone wise and luminous once said. To think for yourself is holy work. And perhaps it is. Perhaps what I am searching for is grace, enlightenment, some kind of profound answer to the questions I do not yet know how to ask in a way that would reveal me to myself.

As the full bright moon glows like a single light bulb up in an empty sky, I realize that so often my mind feels completely disconnected from my soul, and everything else in my life. I go through the motions like everyone else but inside is a whole other universe, a whole other story. One that begs to be told.

This is me. I am an attempt to touch that place, and touch it, and touch it alone.

 

.

Photo by Davide Ragusa

Flashing Lights (audio)

The screen of my laptop keeps flickering making it hard to write because all I see are black and white flashes in rapid succession, horizontal lines skewing up and down in distortion. Google tells me it’s some kind of ribbon in the hinge that’s malfunctioning but with the plague out there and my nerves eating the underside of my pale skin in here, I decide to wrestle with the laptop until I get it just so and the screen stabilizes for the time being.

Lazy I know, but these days it’s hard to tell what amount of effort placed in accomplishing anything is worth the time or the money.

He’s out running errands, so I ask him to pick me up a bottle of rose wine on his way home, something pretty, something he thinks I would like. There’s nothing to celebrate. It is no special occasion this evening but I decide the full moon energy is excuse enough to cheer myself from the well of clutching despair which I somehow manage to trip and slide deep down into in the afternoons.

Screen once again flickering, I sip my last now-cold swallow of tea and look out upon the thin gray rain. It is so thin I have to squint to see if it’s really there or if I am just imagining it, just willing it to be falling down into the dirty black street.

I don’t like the potential for a thing to be happening, I like the thing to just go ahead and happen, just get on with it, good, bad or indifferent. It’s the waiting, the watching, the wondering, the waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s the hesitation, that’s what kills you.

Glancing out the window into the garden I see that somehow the yellowish light behind the thick cloud cover makes the high trees appear a kind of unnatural electric green. 

As he shuffles in with the wine, I take a swig straight from the bottle and kiss him on the cheek. When the floral notes make their way down to warm my wild insides, the staleness of the day is so thin I feel it slip through my fingers and circle down the drain as I rinse our glasses in the sink. 

 

.

Photo by Ari He

Now More Than Ever

Meaning has lost all meaning, I come to this conclusion as I sit hovered over the page, pen in hand, empty, confused, wondering how exactly I got here. Not that here is anyplace particularly perplexing. I am a writer, the page, the screen, the pen, the keyboard, it’s all a home of sorts, just one that sucks me in only to kick me down and leave me feeling disconnected at times like these.

But we come back for the mistreatment. We always do. Writers are masochists.

I’ve taken an interest in researching carnal alchemy. BDSM and that. Always fascinating to me, mostly from a psychological perspective. Sadism. Marquis de Sade. I had read that the sadist is also the artist, which was an interesting concept.

“The Sadist is also the Artist. The insightful definition of Sadeanism offered by Gorer (“the pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the external world produced by the will of the observer”) is equally true of the Artist or Magician. In the work of all of these types something is imagined in the subjective universe and from there it is caused to come into being in the objective universe.” – Stephen E. Flowers

It has been said that Sade had an uncanny ability to be both outrageously grotesque while at the same time terribly boring. I’ve not read him so I cannot say, but just having this impression is somewhat amusing. Humans are so hellbent on pleasure they numb themselves to it all in the end.

We think there has to be something more. Is this all there is, we think to ourselves.

I get through the day to get through the day to get through the week. I try placing my faith in hope but the love, the trust, just isn’t there anymore. I reach out and my fingers stretch deep into the void.

I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know ‘how I am.’ I don’t know who I am. Or perhaps I should say it in this way: I don’t know who I am in relation to what is happening all around me.

Is it too much out there or too much in here?

My country is dying. It is in the fits and throws of gasping and grasping for breath. The fires are all consuming and we are trying to stand back and assess the risks of running in or running away.

I listen to a beautiful person speak about purpose. They mention God and I light up a cigarette as I watch their immaculate face illuminated by the light reflecting off of the ceiling as cars pass on the street below, flashing quickly by.

Purpose. Direction. Worth. Life and death and madness. Any sense of purpose or direction I felt before, I’m over that now. It’s all over. The way it was. Never even was.

 

.

Photo by Shadow Walker

Fixation

The world is awake. It is Tweeting and bleating and screaming and angry and jilted and fucked, abused, furious, offended, opinionated, angry, nervous, outraged. Stupid. Conflicted. Livid, pretty, petty, cruel, obstinate.

Already.

It is Sunday morning. 9:09am. I have my coffee and my notebook and the air coming in is a glorious sixty seven degrees and blustery, pushing the trees all around like leafy green rag dolls. The sky is pale blue, washed with thin wisps of white cloud.

My neighbor has fired up his ridiculous lawn equipment so he can make those perfectly obnoxious straight lines around the edges of his property on which appears a political sign in support of a lunatic whose name I cannot even bear to speak let alone read or write or repeat.

He thinks he is protecting himself. He prays to a god he made up, to be spared a fate he himself controls all on his own.

And the most powerful are the most afraid, how much they stole, how much they have amassed, how much they stand to lose, so they tighten their grip around the throats full of hunger and confusion.

*How are you today?

It will always be the ones who are most cruelly treated who rebel.

This is the way of it. There is no other way, you see.

So get your coffee and read your newsfeeds. Share something, say something, do something. Try a little harder to not think about normal so much, it’s exhausting searching for something that doesn’t exist.

A word, a savior, a cure, a fix.

*How are you feeling?

And the wind turns heavy and brutal, and the bough breaks as the hinges come off of everything that was once held together so neatly. We watch in horror, stationary, we watch, we watch.

The world is awake, wide awake, as it all happens.

They tell you to write it down.

Write it down so you don’t forget.

There was a time before.

And this is how it felt.

*Are you doing okay?

 

.