“My family is angry, dismissive, and cruel.” That’s what it says on the notecard on the other side of this plate glass window. “I am a spoiled lion or a pack of hyenas, dragging my own carcass by the neck across the savannah.”
Saturday night I got blackout drunk and I hate myself for it. It is the pettiest disappointment, like I’m a kind of worm that admonishes itself instead of leaving its burrow for sustenance. Today the attorney general sent me a letter and the letter went to the wrong house so I called my mom to ask the details. “I’m angry at you,” I blurted out, midway through the conversation. It was something I had held inside me a long time. “My work is more important than yours.” But the person to whom I should really direct my anger is in town and called me on Sunday morning while I was on the toilet.
“Hey dad,” I answered, cheerfully.
The bathroom has no door. I woke up waving my arms around the lack, into consciousness, like a faerie confused by her ability to dispell reality. “Where am I?” I wondered. The dim blue hall, with a faerie-stranger advancing up the stairs. “Whoa,” it said, its voice identifying itself, not without kindness, as my roommate, a pink shape moving to cover his eyes. “Sorry about that, ha ha.” A bad dream that I found was true. Since I remembered none but that moment, I worried that some great wave in me had sprung out and tore the door off its hinges. Had my dreams reached out and crumpled reality?
No. I’d only passed out and the door had been knocked down because of the water pouring downstairs.
I swear to god I hate myself worse than any man ever has before. But hate is cheap and gets you nothing. What of me is left? I look at my own hand, held in front of my body, as if it belonged to anyone else… I tell the same story every morning and every evening, without variation, and I can’t be sure that any of what I say is true.
Meow Meow Meow Meow
I stopped writing journals to myself because I was making the same marks on the page every time. Acting as if the new marks were different. I know this is wrong, but many days it seems worse to me to be something than it does to be a kind nothing. To pass frictionless through crowds and life, without giving offense. The most selfish kind of life, not the least.
Have I killed something in me? A sensitivity, maybe? Gertrude Stein, in conversation with a forgotten Canadian writer in the pages of The Atlantic, said that Hemingway was so ashamed of his sensitivity that he spent his whole life covering it up with a false masculinity, a cheap brutality, and that in this way he destroyed his talent. He could have written brutality well, she said, if he were really brutal—but he was not, and so he didn’t.
If I’ve killed my sensitivity it is with silence and pixels and cold intelligence. By crushing what I feel and acting haphazardly when it is time to act. I don’t know if I want to be the person that goes about baring his soul to everyone he meets—no, I’m certain I don’t want to be that—but neither do I want to choke to death on half-kindnesses and obscure word puzzles. By taking no action, by skirting the middle ground, I think I actually become both.
Wow So Scare
In Midnight in Paris (a movie that Woody Allen probably shouldn’t have been allowed to make, but which was made, and is worth watching) Gertrude Stein gives Owen Wilson’s sentimental lead some writing advice:
Unfortunately your book lapses into easy pessimism. […] It’s the artist’s job not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence. I find your voice clear and lively—don’t be such a defeatist.
We all fear death, and being too afraid can rob you of the possibility of finding an antidote. Midnight in Paris ends cheaply, easily, on a bridge in the rain, with a woman who provides a kind of easy and comforting mystery to Wilson after the too hot 1920s “mistress” and the too cold modern fiancé (Wilson, as Allen’s proxy, is (as usual) Goldilocks).
The other famous writers and artists in Midnight in Paris speak like their books or their works. Stein is helpful but weirdly sterile. Her advice, though, feels like hers. Whether it is, or it is Allen’s, the lesson is a good one—one I feel like I am relearning again and again. Or on the verge of learning. I hope I have learned it this time.