After the endoscopy, Dr. W. tells me there are no immediate signs of sleep apnea. I selfishly ask about whether or not I have vocal damage, and he tells me there are no nodules. Without further invasive examination, there’s no way to tell if my vocal tissue has any scarring. He asks me why I’m so invested, and I’m too self-conscious to tell him about the stakes. My preoccupation with having a voice, with having one that can be heard. I deflect with curiosity as an excuse, but I am secretly relieved to know that I might still be able to hit notes like I used to. That my colicky days have indeed gone to die with my years spent in heavy pollution and with only one parent. I sing an old Disney tune on the drive back. The same one that got me the grade school prize, the same one that I sang to her when I thought it’d mean she might love me like in those myths of happiness. It shocks me how familiar it sounds.
What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.
Plath, Sylvia. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. (via wordsnquotes)
(Some days, I think this is the path I’ve chosen in pursuing anything like a future in academia.)
I think he had it out for me when he told me to simplify everything I was saying to him. He said to me after the fourth pint that he wasn’t enamored by the fact I was a thinker. It was precisely the same week that my advisor hinted that I should consider another profession. The same week that I bought him his last pint. The same week when another man in a floral print shirt decided to tell me what desire was. I balk at the handful of answers being thrust in my direction. Action, reaction. Force, resistance. I was raised never to eat out of someone’s hands even if I’m hungry. Hungry for more than this.
She asks me if I’m submitting to the journal, and I tell her I haven’t completed a single piece in months. There are just volumes of chicken scratch, collections of what I’ve written to keep the nausea at bay while I’m at 10,000 feet, notes to him that I still don’t have the heart to send. I’m ashamed to have so little to share. I’m ashamed to see how my studies have closed down certain ways of thinking, feeling. I regret most the loss of courage that I’ve seen in myself over the past 2 years. I’ve retreated from some of the most creative spaces in my life only because I’ve been so swallowed up in self-doubt. Lines and phrases erased before they even take a first breath, works that begin and die as seedlings. These hands are callused, sore from balling up the false starts, the jumped guns.
We agreed at one point that, at a 3/4ths profile, you look exactly like David Gandy. I received a Mark & Spencer catalog in the mail, and I swore it was you for a moment. He carries a cardigan like you do: a relaxed fit into the fabric as if you two became intimate over the weeks and years of usage.
I used to do my ironing with you over my shoulders, and I could feel your eyes on my shabby handiwork. My lack of patience and carelessness only amounted to burnt fingers and shirts more wrinkled than when they came out of the dryer. I still can’t iron for my life, and I almost sent my entire wardrobe to the dry cleaners near my place (I figured the 20% discount made it worth it.). I don’t even want to think about what you’d say. Or rather, what you won’t say. About the men I’ve let into my 800 square feet. About what I think and feel about myself these days.
H.’s wedding is in September, so I decided to take a page out of your lookbook and went with a polka-dotted bow tie to go with the suit I had fitted last Christmas. I’ll be channeling you in silver, invoking you in blue. Maybe you’ll find your way into my coat pocket as my pocket square. I’ve folded up and tucked away our fantasy of a home, the time you left me out by the curbside when the rains hit, the little one-liners you compose on the commute to work, the orchid you left on my face that night. I promise it’s here for safekeeping even though you told me to throw it away with the rest of your things. “You can always get another.”
Yeah, I guess.
I hold a stretch a bit too long today, and I remember what T. told me about what’s happening when the stretch begins to burn and tingle. Micro-tears, more scar tissue that’ll make this stretch even harder in the long run. Mom tells me about the worsening ache and tension in her hips, the little lump in the arch of her foot, the fact that she can no longer sleep on her side without proper cushioning. My spine reminds me of all I’ve inherited from her, and I see what my future pain will look like. I’ve always carried my stress on my shoulders, but I feel already the invisible weight mounting my back as if to crush me with its feet. The weight of the future conditional, of what all I want to make unreal.
I’m watching my former teacher perform, and I realize that this may be his last performance of such magnitude and gravity before his retirement. He’s playing for the victims of the Touhoku region, but he’s also playing for something greater than himself, greater than all of us in the theater. I look at my own bleeding hands, and I remember the day he made me hold a stance until I was no longer able to stand. I remember the days he made me run in the rain, he made me kiai until I lost my voice. Discipline, a commitment to an art form, a way of life. Nature polishes the spirit, he would say, for the taiko is a collision of natural elements that we interact with as a kind of spirit, one that challenges and invigorates our own. A meeting of living forces that changes both parties.
I needed to be shaken after this year. A kind of purifying shake-up of my assumptions, my sense of being, my orientation toward the world that has only worked like a lure for other demons. These days have been filled with inspiration, lots of breathing.
I’m dressed down: tank, athletic shorts, bare feet. I am here with my body among other bodies drawn together by a particular interest in how we might tailor our embodied experience as drummers and as those who must navigate ourselves through space and time. Taiko, for me, has been a series of lessons about phenomenology. Those parts of your body that fade into the background, what becomes muscle memory, what we shape and condition in terms of corporeal response. I forget in the six years I’ve been pursuing this how I’ve pushed my body in exciting yet equally dangerous directions. An overstretch, a pronation, a hyperextension. Tears and damage I will never see. To stand at the drum has been a constant reminder that I can persist in spite of my own body, yet I am left with doubts about whether or not this sustainable in the long run. This antagonism, this game of trying to one-up my body with my mind and spirit, every bit Descartes’ little game. If I am training myself to inhabit more fully moments, experiences, tension, difficulty, can I not also find the best means to inhabit my body truthfully, respectfully?
Denim jacket, khakis, and brogues. He’s reading Gide while trying to keep his balance as the train throttles forward. He’s folded the front cover behind the back, and I know exactly where he is in the plot. I feel like a voyeur witnessing his seduction by the text. We make brief eye contact and the energy transfers. He peels me away from my motion sickness and my dereliction, and I am held there in the density of his gaze. The meeting of two immoralists.
I slip into Dog Eared to pick up the fresh copies of Bolano and Calvino on sale. A fellow customer, too engrossed in Stein’s Tender Buttons bumps me with his elbow. There are quick apologies exchanged, and he teases me for being on my phone while being in the company of so many books. A religious experience, he calls it, whenever he comes in here after work. I fumble a response, and he merely laughs. I’m distracted by the tailoring of his suit, the way it hugs the body in the right ways. But these encounters of organic hesitancy when I fail to force word into sense and phrase happen all too often. The way the fog forces me down paths of construction and colloquialism that leave a bitter taste in my mouth, tongue in knots. Not an inability to make the words but a failure of execution because the words become matted into clumps that tumble and fall out of rhythm, meaning. Grade school teachers and ex-boyfriends used to call it poetry, but I think I’m getting too old for euphemisms. My little agon needs no more sugaring.