Through Mannahatta’s streets I walking, these things gathering;
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots, steamboats wooding up;
And I, plunging at the hunters, corner’d and desperate;
in the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the countless
workmen working in their shops,
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof — and no less in myself than the
whole of the Mannahatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever united lands —
I wanted to write about performativity but I don’t think I have time… meeting a friend in an hour.
It’s been strange since M. left. He’s in Alaska now. I haven’t lived alone for five years… or really, ever. I always lived in houses crammed with housemates and random people crashing on the couch, or tiny apartments crammed with me, Eva, tons of cats, and whoever we were dating at the time. Or cars or vans or shitty motel rooms with evil men. Places where carving out a corner that was mine was my singular goal.
I used to crave time and space alone. When Brian and I moved into a bigger apartment in Thailand, it had this tiny little random room off to the side that I immediately claimed for myself. It was probably the only assertive thing I ever did against him. I would go in there, lock the door, and write, for hours. That little room saved my life. Sometimes he would bang on the door and yell. I just turned up my music louder.
But now when I’m alone in my apartment I have this feeling like, now what? If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound, and if I do stuff alone, is it really happening? I find I have almost no sense of identity without people around. Like my sense of self only exists defined in relation and opposition to other people.
I walk around the city a lot. It’s not really a city, but I can pretend. I kind of feel like I’m floating a lot of the time.
Performativity reminds me of this conversation I had with G. on Facebook yesterday. [For those of you not intimately acquainted with my life story, G. was that crazy Spaniard I was with through high school and on and off for years… that tortured first love. But you knew that.]
I was posting a bunch of old pictures from high school… one of them was of one of the exotic fruit picnics I used to have with G.’s sister. I was a grocery store cashier and I would use my discount to buy starfruit, guava, mango, kumquat, and so on. Anyway, it’s a photo of me holding a fig in my fingertips, looking at the camera with a quizzical, faraway look. Then this conversation ensued:
G: “Possible LSD day w weird fruit? U do have that look in yr eye.”
me: “Actually there was no LSD involved on this particular day. I just always had a crazed look… I still have a crazed look.”
G.: “the way you have of holding fruit w the tips of yr fingers, like crucial ontological readings are being taken”
me: “A lot of these pictures remind me that I was kind of living in a dreamworld, where ideas and archetypes and stories were much more real than reality, until I was in my early 20s.”
G.: “Yes. And i don’t think I was like that: obv. in my own world to some extent, but was mostly a kind of lunkhead materialist, clever enough to understand that I was participating, thru you, in a world of like, Platonic ideals, but generally as a kind of phantom visitor in that world. Not experiencing it firsthand, but thru your eyes.
You were living with a surplus of meanings/portends etc, and I was kind of struggling to find meaning anywhere. The stolid Beckett to your flaming Joyce or something. If that makes sense. And lordy, I hope you know how good that was for me.”
* * * * * * * * * *
I’ve been thinking about that exchange… wondering if I ever actually grew out of the archetypes and stories and dreaming the world alive.
Create the clues and the world follows.
Soon the clues will start to reappear and the new home will reveal itself.
I remember after Elliott Smith died, I read some big analytical article about how he was writing songs about drugs and addiction before he really fell into addiction in real life. They said it like he wrote himself into the story of being a drug addict.
I was barely a year into my own addiction at the time, but I recognized that in myself. In fact, listening to Elliott Smith songs like “Needle in the Hay” and “Good to Go” on repeat for years was the premise for my own fall. I remember feeling this sense of pulling, toward what I didn’t know. Eventually I found it.
Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she’s mine for life.
You write yourself into a story and then get stuck watching it turn into a nightmare. For years I wondered if the key to getting clean was to write myself out of the story. To give the story a twist, uncover a secret the main character didn’t know, find the turning point.
I tried getting clean the way other people did, but it never worked, because my storyteller kept writing myself back into my addiction. I needed a new story.
When I finally did it, it felt like conjuring a universe out of thin air. No wonder I feel like I’m floating.
* * *
but will be coming home again shortly
in the morning
i am the thing that goes on