Certain acts, even if they are real, are also merely gestures. He was saying, ‘What if I did?’ And she was saying, ‘Go ahead.’
"The Flamethrowers" by Rachel
Kushner

END FREEWAY

In case you are among the wise people not tuned into the melodramatic saga of my life, I live in a new place now. I have finally embraced the fact that I am truly a hipster (my friends have apparently known this all along and I suppose I should have too—see for reference: growing up just outside of Asheville and spending my latter two college years living in Carrboro) and moved to Echo Park. I think I’ll always have a special affection for Hollywood, but this is really much more my style. It’s quieter. The streets are populated with microbreweries, indie coffee shops, and used bookstores. In the place of flashy marquees are strings of twinkly lights—and I love twinkly lights. It’s better for me. I feel better.

Part of that feeling better is finally—finally!—having the quiet time that I’ve been craving for so long. I can’t say how nice it is to be able to think (or not, depending on how I feel) and sift through everything that’s happened over the last year and organize it so that it can all just rest in my mind. This is not a task that will be done quickly, but in time it will be done.

So I had to reroute my drive to and from work, which has actually been another huge plus about my new space. Ten minute commute, anyone? In the mornings, I hop right on the 2 (see? I’m such a Californian) and it’s a straight shot of glorious, barely populated freeway. Same in the evenings. It’s lovely. You’re surrounded by the mountains and the sun is just thinking about calling it quits for the evening. You realize how beautiful Los Angeles really is when you’re not being chewed up by bedbugs or trying to find stree parking or crying at the state of your bank account. There’s a handful of cars on the road with you, so you can actually drive at an appropriate speed for being on the freeway. You push the gas pedal a little more and you get up to 70, 75. Your music’s playing and the windows are rolled down and you feel like you could probably drive on like this forever and then suddenly the speed limit’s 35 and your lane is disappearing. You’ve reached Echo Park and the freeway has ended.

This took me by surprise the first time I drove home from work. It ended so abruptly! I had to slam on my breaks and take a minute to realize where I was and how I had gotten there so quickly. I kept thinking about it for the rest of that evening. I don’t believe I have ever encountered the end of a freeway before. Do they end? Driving 75 or gridlocked in traffic, they have always seemed to me to be infinite things. The next day I paid more attention and realized that there are, of course, big yellow flashing signs warning of the 2’s finality. “END OF FREEWAY APPROACHING.” It’s not even just one sign. It’s multiple. And then just as you take the curve, the punctuating “END FREEWAY” is there. The signs are always there, but when you’re distracted by the speed and the air and the beauty of the land, they are easily overlooked.

It’s like that with people, too.

But it’s fine. I know now that freeways do, in fact, end. I know that the warnings are there. I know to keep an eye out for them.

And I know also that, when left to my own devices, I really do manage quite nicely. I think people forget that. Or maybe I forgot it until recently.

Because when I don’t have someone in the passenger seat making comments like, “Oh my god, do you REALLY use a GPS? Don’t you have ANY sense of direction??” I can get to where I’m going pretty easily most of the time. I smile and laugh a lot more when no one is nagging at me to “be happy” or “look on the bright side” or evoke “positive vibes.” I can whip up some pretty delicious stuff when I don’t have anyone insisting that I follow a certain recipe down to the last pinch of salt. My writing process doesn’t fail me when there’s no one around insisting that “not outlining is suicide” or bludgeoning me with recycled quotes from “How To” books. When I don’t have to strain my voice just to keep people from talking over me or cutting me off—and then when I’m not expected to back up every word that comes out of my mouth with some vague “article”—I actually have interesting things to say. When I’m not boiling with anger over being called a “bitch” or a “cunt” or a “feminazi,” I’m really a fairly cool person to be around (if I do say so myself).

So yes, 75 on the freeway is nice. But I think I’ll take the streets for a while.

Clarissa thinks of a little girl dragging home a stray dog, all ribs and discolored teeth: a pathetic and ultimately dangerous creature who ostensibly needs a good home but whose hunger in fact runs so deep it cannot be touched by any display of love or bounty. The dog will just keep eating and eating. It will never be satisfied; it will never be tame.

Michael Cunningham, “The Hours”

Perfect.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

"Adam’s Curse" William Butler Yeats

I don’t know if sweeter words have ever been written.

Split Ends

If I take nothing else away from 2014 (assuming I survive it), it will be this: low points make you appreciate—crave is probably even a better word—the small things. A cup of coffee. A functioning car radio. A comfortable place to sleep. A door that closes and locks. A space that is quiet.

I think I crave quiet most of all. As this month has progressed, my thoughts have become increasingly like split ends—they run on and on until suddenly they fray and then break altogether. This is what happens, I guess, when you’ve got a year’s worth of shit to process and you’ve had to put it on the back burner so that you can survive the next round of shit currently being thrown at you. You have to turn your mind off so that you don’t start hysterically crying in the wine aisle at Trader Joe’s and so you can make yourself get up and go to work in the morning and so you don’t say unnecessarily mean things to your friends. And you keep moving, and everything and everyone around you keeps moving, and you hold on as tightly as you can until you can find quiet.

When I find quiet, I am going to close my door and lock it. I am going to take a deep breath, and I am going to thaw out my mind, and I am going to sift through everything that’s swirling around in there. And maybe after that happens, I’ll be able to tie together my split-end thoughts and write something that makes sense. Because I know that somewhere in the swirl is a connection—something resembling coherence. At least something with (mostly) complete sentences.

It has something to do with this city, with it being a place that is beautiful but also cruel. It has something to do with breaking points and being at the end of your rope and the always present promise of being able to get in your car at any moment and leave it all behind. It has something to do with the question of how much you can stand, of when you decide that you’ve actually had enough, and of whether or not a handful of golden moments can compensate for a year’s worth of first class attempts to tear you apart. It has something to do with how all of this applies not only to the city, but the people floundering around in it. It has something to do with opening yourself up to people and to opportunity and to happenstance, and when to know that you have to close back up in order to take care of yourself. It has something to do with the noise and the elusive quiet.

Here is the world, and you live in it, and are grateful. You try to be grateful.
Michael Cunningham, “The Hours”

On repeat.

"Two Weeks" FKA twigs

You say you want me

I say you’ll live without it

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
Pablo Neruda
She could have gone on with the men like that for a long time. It was like any sport, letting them go, pulling them back; letting them think they were in control but really you were in control the entire time, your coffee can bursting with cash and buried in darkness by the riverbank.
"The Orchardist," Amanda Coplin
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
"One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop

Packing

My mother has always told me that I didn’t inherit the Packing Gene. I have accepted this as truth. Every once in a while, if I don’t have too many items at Trader Joe’s and I have remembered to bring my reusable bags, I am able to fit everything in a way that is functional and maybe even efficient. These times are flukes, I assure you; while they are satisfying, they do not override the necessities crammed into my backpack every time I go to the airport, the number of extra boxes required whenever I move because they are filled haphazardly, or the countless glazed-over looks that I wore when I had to put out new stock at the toy store. My brain doesn’t work that way, unfortunately, which is a real bitch when you’re trying to pack up your belongings—though they are few—for yet another move.

I hate packing. I hate that it has to be a process. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to do it, but if you start too early, you’re going to be pilfering through the little bit of order your just achieved because you still need those one or two things. And either way, you become suddenly aware of how much stuff you have. You find things folded up in corners or shoved into boxes you thought you threw out a long time ago. As someone who is a bit of a hoarder and who attaches some sentimental value to just about everything, this triggers a debate about whether or not to keep it. You’d forgotten about it up to this point, so will you really miss it? On the other hand, now you do remember it, so maybe you might…But regardless of what you keep or throw out, at some point you will have to look at the space you have occupied and filled up with trinkets and trash and whatever for the last x amount of time exactly as it was when you first saw it: empty. Other than a few scuffs in the floorboards, what’s to say you were there at all?

This, I realize, is what I hate about transitional periods. This is what makes me sad. This is why I can’t ever be completely excited to leave a place and get to a new one. In order to get through the transition, to get from point A to point B, I have to pack up. I have to distance myself from everything that has happened over the last x amount of time—like if Instagram had a filter that made the picture blurry. I always plan for it to be just for a little while, just long enough that I can fold up the memories with perfect, careful creases and stack them neatly in my suitcase until I get where I’m going. As a means of emotional survival, I have to temporarily shrink wrap those experiences so that they are mobile. This process is as grueling as trying to fit boxes in the trunk of my car.

But the saddest part, I think, is that when I finally get where I’m going, the things that I took such care to preserve have still changed. Once I unpack them, they feel like things taken out of a time capsule. They are from another life. Maybe they never happened at all.

But no, even that’s not the saddest part—it’s that I know I’ll get over it. I’ll sigh to myself as I examine these things in my new place. I’ll remember everything that affected me deeply and I’ll remember the intensity that I felt, but I won’t actually feel it anymore. Any heat that these gingerly packed items once carried will cool. Maybe there will be some residual warmth, but it won’t be the same. I will be saddened by this for a while, and then that too will fade. I will miss people fiercely for some time, but eventually that ferocity will die down and just be the way things are now.

I guess that’s a good thing. But I keep thinking of the empty space that begins in the corners and the closets and then spreads until the entire apartment/dorm/house/whatever is covered…

Like none of it ever happened. Like you were never there at all.

The 1975 “fallingforyou”

I think I would fall in love with the closest male in proximity if this song was playing.

Plate Tectonics

When I was in the process of moving to California, I was nervous about earthquakes.They are a rarity in North Carolina, and I can remember feeling only two definite tremors in my whole life there. So as I packed my things in preparation of heading west, I asked some people who were either native Californians or who had spent significant time there about what to do if the ground should start to shake beneath me. Mostly they shrugged about it. One person did have some real safety tips and I have forgotten most of them (good job, Rach). The usual response was something like, “Don’t worry about it. The plates are always shifting. Earthquakes happen all the time and we don’t even realize it.”

I think about it sometimes when I’m weaving around tourists on Hollywood Boulevard or creeping along the freeway. The plates are below me and they are moving. If there is a system or a language to their movement, I don’t know it. But it goes on. It’s a poetic thought—until it’s around 6am and the whole building is shaking and your cat’s freaking out and you’re like, “Fuck, am I supposed to stand in the doorway?!” For a few seconds (plus the time it takes for your heart to slow to normal afterward), you are very much aware of how not in control of things you are. And there’s poetry in that too, of course, but that’s scarier. Because movement is scary. Transition is scary.

I am very much aware of the movement of the plates in my life these days. Things are once again shifting and I feel the tremors in the small foundation I have scraped together over the last year and change. It makes me nervous. If I think long enough about finding a new apartment or going on another string of job interviews that may or may not turn into anything, there’s potential for paralysis, hyperventilating, and melodramatic text messages to my friends and family.

It’s the same conversation that people have with themselves about earthquakes. “Well, I survived the last one with nothing more than a few seconds of fright, didn’t I?” “Yes, but what if this next one’s bigger?” And then the conversation is pointless, because of course there’s nothing you can do regardless except press forward. Even if anxiety-induced paralysis sets in, it won’t stay because things must always move forward. The plates are never still.

But it would be nice to have a more solid foundation after the dust settles this time. I would like to dig my heels in deeper and stand strong, and maybe relax a little. What must it be like to not live as if you may have to flee at any moment…! I feel like I have earned that. My friends/fellow hayseeds have earned that. I was having this conversation with one of my closest hayseeds yesterday, and we agreed that it seems everything in our lives was leading up to see if we could survive this one year in this bizarre place—to see if we could remain standing while the ground shakes beneath us.

And so I go back to the same dialogue:

"Well, we’ve survived to this point, haven’t we?"

"Yes, but what if this is the part where its too much? What if this is where we lose our grasp on the little bit we’ve managed to scrape up?”

But all I can do is move forward.

"Mother and Father" - Broods

I don’t want to wake up lonely,

I don’t want to just be fine.

I don’t want to keep on hoping,

Forget what I had in mind.