The secretary brings me hot coffee without a sleeve. I grab a hold of the cup and rotate it like S. used to do. It slow-burns. I am most sensitive to the smallness of gestures, the majesty of what is supposed to escape our notice, the way the past can be summoned in a single act.
I drink the blond roast black like Dad taught me to. I know it’ll stain my teeth, but Dad never cared even when he got those peptic ulcers. S. never cared either because S. seldom smiled. That was our point of intersection. In every photo, we are there, lips sealed. Thin limits, a boundary between air and voice. Never blending. Smoke in our throats, we two slow-burning.
Every introvert alive knows the exquisite pleasure of stepping from the clamor of a party into the bathroom and closing the door.
Sophia Dembling - The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World (via dianekrugers)
A day of noise, and I am tired from hearing the bouncing echoes of dialogues. A question or two will surprise me like messages in a bottle that happen to float my way. I cling to them, these little gems from someone who seems perhaps invested in another life other than his own. A brief exchange, a parting with a few sips to wait out the awkwardness. I’m not interested in playing wallflower anymore either, I adjust my scarf and the collar of my sweater and plunge into the welcome of the night. Door closes, and the 90s hits fade behind me. The silence of Delancey at three in the morning. I sing my way back to the apartment. A lunar jam now that things are finally quiet.
..becoming more and more oneself—the actual experience of it is a shrinking, in that very often it’s a dehydration, a loss of inflations, a loss of illusions [..] Shedding is a beautiful thing. It’s of course not what consumerism tells you, but shedding feels good. It’s a lightening up [..] Shedding pseudoskins, crusted stuff that you’ve accumulated [..] Things that don’t work anymore, things that don’t keep you—keep you alive. Sets of ideas that you’ve had too long. People that you don’t really like to be with, habits of thought, habits of sexuality [..] Or put it another way: Growth is always loss. Anytime you’re gonna grow you’re gonna lose something. You’re losing what you’re hanging onto to keep safe. You’re losing habits that you’re comfortable with, you’re losing familiarity.
James Hillman (via theprobable)
K. and I have a powerful session in which I talk about this productive loss in my life, which only recently have I begun to understand as necessary growing pains. My compulsions to resist being unmoored, to gravitate to even the shakiest of buoys that float my way. I don’t think I have yet settled into a place where the shedding feels good, for I am just now becoming aware of its processes, of its slow removal of sedimentation, pseudoskins, and crusted stuff. Infernal little habits and fantastical prostheses that my narrative of self depends upon. Loss of inflations and illusions — the way he’s supposed to put his hand on my face, the way I’m supposed to tell my stories, the way I feel like a failure for still not having checked off these items written in red on my to-do list. Molting is also wriggling a bit in between skins.
Pain was everywhere. Sprang out of everything
Spread everywhere. Into everything-
And then lay on top of me.
—Else Lasker-Schüler, from “In the Evening,” The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Ecco, 2010)
Subterranean, relative. How it resists, shatters language, worlds. I always return to Scarry’s work whenever I think about pain. Pain as simultaneously certainty and doubt — I am sure of my pain but not of your own. I find myself wholly disagreeing — what emerges is proliferation, a spilling forth of language. Pain was everywhere. Sprang out of everything. Spread everywhere. In my journal are passages and passages of these attempts at description. This is not unsharability but a desire to share, a desire to invent a means of expressing that which seems to lack a vocabulary. I wonder all the time with Scarry’s work whether or not there is too much invested in the relationship between pain and language — how is the psychosomatic experience of pain flattened into simply the destruction of language or the reversion into a pre-lingual state? And as BDSM culture has made clear, there can be pleasure in pain, which challenges directly Scarry’s assumption that human innovation, that creativity is about reworlding in the wake of and in the face of pain. What might it mean to rethink how pain lay on top of me?
The moving parts circulate. The grey currents and the clouds that move too quickly for my liking. I feel what surges from the Atlantic, so I throw a bit of salt over my shoulder for them as they take to the skies westward. Premonitory thinking, prophecies that you find on page seventy-eight because you happen upon them, the ice that falls out of your plastic cup during turbulence. My dreams are so full these days, and I try so hard not to overflow because he might find it unbecoming of a man. If just I could stand up straight. I might look him in the eyes like I dared to do once. Gateways that close their doors behind me — I wonder if this might all be a trap.
Summer’s ghost came for a visit today, so we chatted in the park over coffee cut with walnut milk. We watched together the colors blending, the layers separating. It was warm, and the day is ever perceptive — my eyes were sweating for sooth, and I hoped it would rob me blind. I sang for a moment with the guitarist by the benches, and we harmonized for that blessed second that splits hairs. I’m greying, and I’m proud. I am looking more and more like my father.
I laughed with her the other day when she asked me how old she was. I thought it was ridiculous that you could possibly forget your own age, but I was struck instantly with the thought that I will be turning 25 in February. It’s always the same back-and-forth whenever I think about my age — the not-yetness of my twenties, of all that I feel like I have yet to do with my life and the simultaneous reminder that I can’t bullshit people by saying I’m in my “early 20s” anymore.
I wake up this morning in pain, and I remember that I was at practice for four hours the other day. But I’m deeply scared of the fact that at 24, I’m already contemplating what it might mean to live in pain for the rest of my life. These flights of fancy into some future in which I might be entirely immobile or lose what little grace of form I have now. I haven’t treated my body well, I admit. I’ve never had the best relationship with it, which is perhaps why I’m so fixated on studying the history of the body. To find those unlikely connections, moments of empathy from over two centuries ago because it often feels harder to find them where I am now.
They used to tease me in the office for wearing my dark pinstripe suit to work. In the high humidity of the summer, all the men were in light-colored “cool biz,” while the only gaijin in the office looked like he was practically in mourning by comparison. Those walks to work were hell. A single JR stop away, but in that kind of heat with my briefcase, I needed to stop at least once at the Lawson’s to grab a lunch and a drink in order to make it.
I deliberately took different routes to work during those months. My process of cognitive mapping, of learning the terrain of but a fraction of this city that I might never really see again after this internship which was putting me into debt. But I wanted to really know my way from Sendagaya to Shinanomachi. I wanted to know at twenty that I could survive on my own even with a significant linguistic barrier. At the time, I just knew to double-knot my shoes and tighten my tie.
And four years later, my life looks entirely different. There are no cubicles, no company meetings, no reports to file. I am in my cable-knits and my scarves, my chukkas while my suit remains untouched. I fall into that “grass is greener” place and wonder what it might have been like to have continued that 9-5, where I effectively auto-piloted my day from start to finish. I knew rounds of beer and maybe a few good dishes would greet me at the end of the day, and that was really it. The delightful simplicity of a work day, of clocking in and clocking out.
Reminder to self: that pinstripe suit never looked good on you.
After a night of insomnia the body gets weaker,
Becomes dear but no one’s — not even your own.
Marina Tsvetaeva, 19 July 1916, from My Poems: Selected Poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva (via lifeinpoetry)
Relief is at first light. I am holding my knees because I have come from a vision. His parting: cinematic memory augmented by the fifth hour of embattled flotation in liquid space. I breathe into my core as I shake away the inertia, but my limbs resist. Dear but not my own, their will to sink. Like the time I had a ghost press upon me in the night. A kind of eros of paralysis when visions perform a kind of kinbaku. I have learned to find pleasure in these hours in waiting. A time and space before I am at the mercy of the day.
Next year I will not be the self of this year now. And that is why I laugh at the transient, the ephemeral; laugh, while clutching, holding, tenderly, like a fool his toy, cracked glass, water through fingers. For all the writing, for all the invention of engines to express & convey & capture life, it is the living of it that is the gimmick. It goes by, and whatever dream you use to dope up the pains and hurts, it goes. Delude yourself about printed islands of permanence. You’ve only got so long to live. You’re getting your dream. Things are working, blind forces, no personal spiritual beneficent ones except your own intelligence and the good will of a few other fools and fellow humans. So hit it while it’s hot.
Easily one of those passages you return to in times of crisis. One of those passages you pray you land on when you play games of bibliomancy or when the coin doesn’t land in the wishing well in the way you hoped it would. I find spaces for laughter and a little health at the bottom of a frosty mug. Here’s to our shared gimmick: what we’re all here laughing together at, laughing together about.
Sometimes, you force at the fabric, and though it chafes, you see the seams for a moment, when you are, for a moment, not blind to those forces that might otherwise settle over your eyes. Things are working. But most importantly, you are working with as much grace as your crooked spine can allow. So you lean on that good will of those fellow humans, those few that actually remind you that there are others who share your spheres of life suffused with vital heat.