Updated: Sep 13, 2021
Prompt: atmospheric playlist. flowers blooming outside. assignments and hours fly by. depression, school, heartbreak, Hope. The array of feelings and activities keeping you up.
The walls are saturated with a timid red glow. My thoughts travel the distance of the room carried by the reverb of my late night playlist. Something new is bothering me which is unfortunate because I’ve hardly gotten through every other worry impaling my mind.
After graduating I had these precious few hours where I was genuinely looking forward to this next chapter in my life. I told all my new friends about it and I was literally shaking with excitement for all the choices I would finally get to make for myself. Of course, that’s not what happened. Instead, my ex, peaking on acid, decided to text me--violating my evening of reprieve--an evening I had earned. Of course this led to an inefficacious emotional exercise that amounted to little more than a painful reminder of why I told her not to speak to me again.
It’s unsettling watching someone continue to perpetuate the same manipulative, attention-seeking, selfish pattern of abuse you promised yourself to leave behind. I say unsettling because it’s just so obvious. I mean, how did I not see it before? It wasn’t particularly difficult to forgive her for taking advantage of me but there are nights where it’s all too evident that I haven’t forgiven myself for being so naïve. Her “can we be friends?” was in poor taste and the response was as cathartic as it was unnecessarily callous and contumely.
“We are right back to where we were in September. You are not in a place where you can support me in the way that I need emotionally. Nor does it sound like you’ve addressed what’s at the root of what strips you of your control around me. Those anxious shakes are back and I haven’t had them since we were fighting in December. It's surreal being on this call because I don’t like you. All the good times are so overshadowed in my memories that looking back is either funny in a morbid way or just disappointing. I don’t think there is a point in the past year and a half that I can point to and say “that’s what I want to build to.” It’s like every good moment was just the eye of a hurricane, a momentary respite from a death spiral. I think there was a point, briefly, when I hated you. It’s surreal being on this call because when I asked all those questions to see what you were doing to actually be different this time, I realized that I don’t care. It’s surreal being on this call because for the first time, I have no interest in having you in my life. These two days have been awful for me when I should have been doing absolutely nothing and thinking of absolutely nothing. You forced yourself back in the picture and my life is worse now. For that reason I don’t want to be friends.”
Melodramatic and a touch petty to lay her out like that? Possibly, but it was important to know that I could cut her off whenever I needed to--it’s part of that promise.
Do you love me like you say you do?
Think it over, take a day or two
-Sean Leon on By Myself 9:11pm EST
The Sunken Place
Is there some German franken-word for feeling as though you are passively observing your own existence? Obviously it's not true passivity because I made the most of the choices that brought my body to this intersection of time and space. That being said, those choices were made so long ago that I’ve since just been watching them play out. Days, months, trying to recall the past two years is akin to remembering a film that was played in another room at a house you’ve never returned to. I vividly remember a few events but can no longer temporally order them. At this point, it may as well have happened to someone else. When did I become best friends with _____? when did I...
I have a list of stories to tell people and others that I think are worth writing out but only until two years ago. I know a lot’s happened since, I’m sure of it. I just can’t remember what.
On the 20th of September I was with friends and we’d decided to do acid about our boredom. The trip started with a panic attack but I sorted that out by pacing around the block for about an hour ‘til I felt well enough to go inside and enjoy the company. While staring at the Persian rug as a collective and giggling at absolutely nothing, I’d begun enjoying myself again. The endlessly complex floral motif repeated across the rug had become much more vibrant in my stupor. The striking contrast between the predominant reds and white appeared as a three dimensional illusion. The static white negative space grounded the pulsating petals which were loosely wound around the stigmas. Each flower stood upright swaying gently in the currents of our breaths. It was like finding a gap to sit in a flower bed--a majestic experience that feels tangible to this day.
Beautiful right? I watched the person I most loved in the world, almost Amy Winehouse herself on the living room floor of a then-friend--who would later try to seduce my ex immediately after the end of that relationship.
Life is an indefinite quest to satisfy and re-satisfy our needs and inclinations on a temporary basis. Happiness, in some form or another, is frequently cited as the core component of a philosophical “good life.” Nothing keeps us happy forever so to what extent is it hedonistic to focus on satisfying our short term desires?
People projects peace
only keep us content for so long before we, and they, must adapt and be adapted as we do. How much suffering can I justify today to possibly be happy in 5 months, years, decades? I fully intend on being a different person as time elapses. I seem destined to value my past pain for future gains in a similar fashion to me giving the pain and stress I feel today value because it will, in theory, bring happiness tomorrow. This isn't about the meaning of life in a grandiose sense. I don’t care why we’re--as in “humanity”--here. I’m wondering why we’re expected to want to stick around. I don’t want extrinsic validation for my existence. People exist because over billions of years, our atoms came together in a way that allows us to be self aware. Whether there’s some benevolent creator or white-jesus at the heart of that is irrelevant.
I’m asking myself: to what extent is this life, however good or bad it is now, however promising or full of despair the future appears, to what extent is this life worth living simply because I already exist? Life neither a gift nor a curse, it merely is and I don’t know why I’m expected to cherish something I would never ask for knowing what I do now, in only my twenty-first year. I have no interest in killing myself because that transforms my existence into the pain and trauma of my loved ones but given the chance to hit a button that would cause me to never have existed (thus eliminating the element of passing pain to others) I would sit there and have a serious think about it.
This however, is extrinsic validation. If this truly is the case, I live not for myself but for others. Rather than genuine intrigue in what comes next driving my life decisions, it becomes minimizing my discomfort while I minimize the discomfort of my loved ones. Naturally, I can presume that I provide some good to them--how could I not? I’m an excellent being--as they do for me but that leaves the line in the sand on whose happiness trumps whose. Surely mine should be preeminent in a life that I, to a certain extent, am in control of.
I rolled out of bed--landed on my feet, barely--and sauntered, off balance, to the kitchen. Oddly-shaped, worn linoleum countertop, four gas burners. I was briefly blinded by the light of the barren fridge as I pretended to search for ingredients. I knew I was out of everything but pretending to make choices brought me some small comfort. I ‘settled’ on two strips of bacon, two eggs, and two slices of sourdough as my midnight meal. I never used the main kitchen light late at night, my face was lit only by the fading incandescent bulb on the kitchen hood. Carefully laid across the pan was the bacon on medium heat. The heavenly smell emanating from below graced my nostrils and soothed my anxieties. I’m being dramatic of course--bacon smells good but heavenly? Nah. Soothed is the wrong word as well but being comforted by food is relatable to the reader. This meal, much like the paragraph describing it, is little more than a distraction from the substance of the hours between final and first lights of another forgettable day. As I removed the bacon, I pushed the rendered fat across the Teflon skillet to make space for the eggs and a knob of butter.
They met the pan with a familiar sizzle. I made a brief trip around the island as whites set. The nutty aroma of the butter browning drew me back to the stove. I gently place my bread in the brackish mixture of butter and bacon fat. These were the final slices of the loaf I’d baked earlier in the week and it sparked an idea in my head that I quickly extinguished. No, you can't make a French loaf at 2 am because you don’t want to think about it. I seasoned the eggs with a pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper and flipped the toast before reaching for the last of the white plates. You eat with your eyes, after all. I ate it all. I don’t particularly enjoy eating, barring a handful of spectacular meals. This one brought me no joy so I washed my dishes and returned to my thoughts.
I’m acutely aware that it is my privilege that affords me the opportunity to spend my nights pondering such abstract and, ultimately, unproductive thought. I don’t live hand to mouth and that makes my life better. Rather, I have the liberty to exist as a haze of pulsating yearning: in a constant state of longing for a “more” that evades description. There must be more to life and I want it; I’ll get it and repeat this process.
I’ve distanced myself from a few people recently. Some actively undermining me and others who I just don’t like anymore. Not that I dislike them, it’s just that they add nothing to my life. I mean really, how could I call someone a friend who didn’t check in on me because they assumed I just didn’t care that much? I didn’t hit them up either but really I had a much better set of excuses on account of being broken up with the day after Christmas in my family home. Then the six courses to finish school plus work while somehow nursing my stress and depression addled mind back to health.
I saved this section a while ago because I figured my graduation--sans the ceremony--would make for some intriguing bit of speech to really tie this whole thing together before the final act. It
did not. At least not in the way I’d first anticipated. My graduation came two weeks after the date of my cancelled convocation.
There I was, on acid, with this girl I’d met an hour prior. We had lunch together, then it was off to the races.
this trip had a fair amount of anxiety around it and I’d just figured it was because I’d been almost completely sober since the whole ketamine incident but there was a feature film’s worth of back story behind that apprehension and I pushed through it. It was an excellent trip. I had sex with said girl. My nut was exquisite, thank you for asking. And that is what brings us
the tail end of this monologue. I broke celibacy and sobriety that night and it all came to a head with this image:
it is 4:55am, on the twenty-seventh of june, two thousand and twenty; i am sitting on the backrest of a bright yellow folding chair in the middle of my room, Triumphant; I have a satisfied grin on my face because I created a memory tonight; the walls are saturated with the golden glow of the sunrise creeping through my window; my thoughts travel the distance of the room carried by the reverb of my atmospheric playlist. nothing is bothering me which is new because the last nine months
have been hell.
Thank you to everyone that helped with this project. I'm proud of the results but mostly relieved to be rid of it.
Some time ago, myself and a close friend were driving up a winding road on the island blasting the oldies. It was a beautiful leisurely drive but it’s the company that made it. I teared up when we were singing along to L. C. Cooke’s “I Love You (for Sentimental Reasons)” so stuck my head out the window. I was thinking about love and that feeling of singing to someone special even when they’re not around. I thought about how maybe that random burst of joy is someone somewhere singing to you.
Now I’m on a bus listening to „Goodbye, Stranger,“ the playlist I made for my ex detailing our story together. I’m only a few songs in but I remember singing all these songs to her whether or not she was around to hear them. I know I’m not in love with her anymore because now I sing all these songs to myself. I know I’m not in love because I can enjoy this whole playlist without the anxiety that all the lyrics used to me loaded with. I know don’t love her anymore because I cut all avenues of contact on a leisurely stroll under a waning gibbous.
When you get around to reading this, I know I said I was done writing about you but I was not so here is that empty promise you were looking for to justify all the nonsense you put me through. I now have the wonderful privilege of saying I don’t care how you feel about the project.
Since you said you wanted to get back into poetry, here's my parting gift:
"A Perfume Called Nostalgia"
Sometimes I catch myself dwelling
—on all the plans we made.
There were so many.
In my head
Id built a whole life with you.
Yet after a year of trying to forget,
I couldn’t quite sever the connective tissue.
The full moon was fun.
once more in your perfume called nostalgia.
Three birthdays we’ve known each other
and the only gift you’ve given me
was some other nigga’s hoodie.
But now our story is over.
Twin flame extinguished,
I thought the end would be more—
explosive… but I suppose peace is boring.
So thank you for my 22nd—
A birthday without worry.
Also if anyone knows any art gallery people I have a whole exhibit in mind for this that would really enhance the experience.