(Antichrist Television Blues) by Arcade Fire
[Been listening to this album and Funeral quite a bit lately, because it's hot outside in a way that reminds me of high school summers, which is when I first became sort of invested in Arcade Fire. These albums were released in 2004 and 2007. To contextualize that within my life—to think about how while I was learning how to draw stars in kindergarten, people in NYC were passing around burned copies of Funeral—is super strange. In 2007, I started third grade and my mom had cancer and Butler and Regine felt like the world was a nightmare come to life in the face of strenuous war/politics/probably other stuff. Imagine if they wrote Neon Bible, now, huh? I feel like it holds up very well... Obviously, Funeral is timeless, because it's not necessarily about anything happening contemporarily so much as it is about grief/growing up. Neon Bible is a little different, since it was anchored in the present. But it was extremely prescient, so it's still relevant. I think it also partly inspired the name of the TV show (Black Mirror is one of the songs—the "black mirror" in question being a screen; one of this album's main concerns was the growing ubiquity of technology. Is ubiquity a word? Omnipresence?). Anyway that's all. Just thinking about things.
LOL. I also just realized this album has the song "My Body is a Cage" on it, which I used to analyze the book Petey in 7th grade, and my English teacher said I had a natural affinity for writing.]
August 29, 2021 Sunday 5:29 PM
I don't know if I'm stupid or what, but on my way back from the cemetery, I was hit with a smell that reminded me instantly of Nicaragua. Whether it was a smell like Malpaisillo or León, I don't know—it's been about 10 years since I've been and I can't even place what the smell was exactly. Something—dry and curling. Maybe distantly-cooking food, maybe the sun-warmed sand of the side roads. So vague and light on the breeze that it dissipated before I could try to explain it. It was really nice.
Today marks 3 months that I've been running regularly! I can feel the slightly progress. I run my miles a couple minutes faster now, and I can run for longer, and the first 1.5 doesn't feel bad at all. I use my runs to listen to albums/playlists and think about writing.
I am so bad at short stories. I was thinking about my classmate today, and how he's so good at writing short stories. Ash keeps telling me about how he told her he writes 4-6 short stories a year. WTF??? I wrote basically 1 complete short story in my entire college career. And 1 in high school. That makes 2, but the high school one.... I am no longer proud of it.
I guess I also finished a short sci-fi story last year, but it was mostly a shitpost and I wouldn't really show anyone. I only really gave it to my sister and dad, because I figured they would like it (it was a comedy).
The only thing I wrote within the last year that felt "complete" was a short 2-page essay for my lit theory class, an assignment based around Virginia Woolf's essay on "Mrs. Brown" or whatever. The type of figure that inspires character-writing. Mine was, of course, boys, which was annoying. I was thinking of Isaac and Melvin and Dan, mainly. They're all pretty different people, but they all had a similar effect on me at some point. Isaac was very fascinating to me, as he was the closest thing I'd ever met to a character. He reminded me of Holden Caulfield, but I tried to resist that comparison because that was a super bad sign, lmao.
Dan was another point of fascination—I can't quite remember. I was thinking about him today, because last night I had the strangest dream that we were cuddling. I haven't thought about him in depth for a long time. In my dream, my pants ripped and he was impatiently waiting for me to be ready so we could get coffee with some friends. I felt bad for holding us up, because he was clearly annoyed, but I couldn't make myself speed up for some reason.
I slipped under a comforter completely naked, and then for some reason he joined me, and we were cuddling. Our conversation felt—stilted. I found it hard to talk to him in real life too, except for that SINGULAR time in our Fiction II class in, like... 2019. Every other time, I either wanted to kiss him or throttle him.
I was still sort of frustrated with him in the dream, but we were cuddling, and on one hand it felt good while on the other I felt— ashamed. I didn't want to be naked, I didn't want sex or any of that, and I was worried he'd come onto me and I wouldn't know how to say no. I just felt like I was accidentally being a caricature of sexiness. I felt so ugly. This is cheesy, but I feel like the closest thing to what I was feeling was that Mitski lyric in "Me and My Husband," where she's all "I am the idiot with the painted face/ in the corner taking up space."
Dan and I fell into comfy bantering and I met his family while naked under the comforter? I whispered to him, "You have a lot of people in your family," and he said, "Yeah, I do," and I said, "Is it nice?" and he said, "Sometimes," and I said, "I feel very awkward!" and he said, "Yeah, I probably would too. It can be a lot." Despite the short, dismissive replies, I felt that he was trying to comfort me, so I was happy.
I don't remember much else, except for that, for whatever reason, we had to part and I would stare at him wanting to touch him again, just to feel like he wouldn't leave or something. Just to be close, to be reminded of closeness. It was very weird and I have been reading too much romance.
But that's okay, because romance to me is a really comforting genre. This dream wasn't particularly comforting, though. Oddly enough, the Melvin one felt a lot more affirming/loving even though he vanished in a crowd, lol.
Wait, I meant to say. That I've been into boys for awhile now, as a writing concept, but I think (I hope) I'm beginning to phase out of it? I was always ashamed that I was interested in angsty middle-class white boys, as if they didn't already have a million stories written about them, better and more sensitive than something I could create anyways. But still, I've been so jealous this whole time, of the sort of sad they can afford to be. The way their shame operates differently from mine, mine which is inherently tied up with my femaleness, the act that was assigned to me and the act that I take advantage of.
I'm jealous of the way they're taught to posture and stand up straight, and the way I learned to smile and be a little stupid/vulnerable, so that people might find me open or they might want to help me. I don't even do it on purpose, just like they probably don't consciously lower their voices when they answer the phone, or straighten shoulders when they speak in class, forgoing the conditionals I necessarily tack onto my speech to soften their authority: no "I don't know if this makes sense" no "I feel like."
Obviously, I'm not saying every girl is like this, or every boy is like that. Things are changing and part of my own demure-ness is more about anxiety than it is about femininity. I learned a long time ago that if I smile and laugh and apologize through my awkwardness/lapses of stupidity, that people tend to be more forgiving. A girl in college looked at me once—she wasn't even my friend, a complete stranger who came into my work as I was cashiering, and I smiled and greeted her when she came in—she looked at me and said, "You have a beautiful smile!" And she was a beautiful girl and also she didn't even have to say that, so I was touched.
(That has to be one thing I've always liked about being a girl; I'm lucky enough to not have experienced much of the "two-facedness" that people talk about, and instead, I've been on the side of girlhood where we freely exchange compliments and hugs and hand-holding.)
A big part of me is just like that. Expressive and dramatic and sincere (earnest, is how Nadiya put it) ("You act like anime," says Maria when, after being on the receiving end of one of Niharika's jabs, I slide to the floor and say "Noooooo!"). So, again, people tend to be pretty nice to me. It's a huge privilege, I am aware, one that has little to do with societal conditioning.
And that's part of why it's very fascinating to me, to watch these types of boys who are much more reticent, and keep themselves quiet/hidden until the time comes to enact their male-authority, their god-given right to speak and be heard. I don't know how to fight or intimidate; I'm not that type of girl. There are girls who can easily reclaim what most guys are born with. I am not that.
Even these weak and hunched guys, like Melvin and Dan, raise their hands and speak. Do they know more than me or do they just have a faith in themselves that I don't have?
If I were a guy, how would that extra morsel of self-confidence factor into my low self-esteem?
Melvin and Dan have both clearly been through stuff. Isaac too but he's a completely different case—someone who has opted out of society—so I'm mostly not talking about him.
How does that confidence co-exist with their angst, I'm wondering?
Deep down in me, I am ashamed and humiliated, and it transforms every subsequent action and feeling into something petty—useless. Embarrassing and ugly.
The way I imagine their own sadness, it's something more transcendental than my own small struggles. Or, rather, it's disconnected from a concrete reality—I don't want to imply that their sadness is somehow less petty than mine, because I don't believe that. I have my own strain of "transcendent" angst and it's just as worthless as the shame I have connected to my body.
Only the worthlessness comes from a different place. It comes from the objective knowledge that this "transcendence"—the untraceable source of depression and anxiety, the kind of dark, bigger-than-a-body feeling—the heaviness, or at other times, the unceasing movement of it. The yawning gap between a panic attack and the internal monologue, the way my eyeballs can sometimes only perceive details and not broader images. The way I lie in bed wracked on repeat with a paralyzing sequence of images, over and over until they stop meaning anything.
All of that is almost religious in its ugliness, a secret peek into a fascinating world. Something precious and addictive. And then I feel ashamed of myself again, because yeah, that's a sort of seizing feeling. A glimpse at meaninglessness.
But it's also deeply impractical. It might reveal something about life or self, but ultimately, I have to keep living, filling out forms and calling customer service and putting reminders in my phone to pay the gas and electric. To call mom and my friends, clean my room, do my laundry. Go to work, go grocery shopping, smile at strangers and put away the leftovers.
When framed that way, the "meaninglessness" is a luxury. Especially for those of us who can power through it with a burst of strength. Which is how I imagine these guys, Melvin and Dan. It's how I imagine myself.
Whether that's true or not— I don't know. It's sort of a bitter and callous way to put it, I guess. I'm not trying to condemn myself or them for getting caught up in it. For seeing the beauty in it. It really does hurt and it's not easy to resist or battle.
It's just that, it's a very different pain from the other petty shame of mine. Which, you know, isn't any more practical than a transcendent sort of sadness, but is way more deeply ingrained in my behavior. After chemical intervention, my bouts of moodiness have a cap on them, but I still can't stop myself from feeling that frequent disgust towards myself.
I look at myself in the mirror before I take a shower, the way my boobs look and the way my waist pinches. I don't like how soft it is, or how short I am. But I wouldn't like it if I were taller, or man-shaped either, would I? Either way, I'd hate my body. I'd hate the hair and the sweat and the smells. If you touch me—I don't know. I'd just rather not. Other people are too warm. I don't like that I can be seen while I sleep.
My skin smells like cedarwood (from my tick spray) and sweat right now because I still haven't showered after my run LMAO. Because I need to stretch but instead I decided to write. I'm dumb.
Yeah so—um. In conclusion? Boys have been a fascination of mine. I was interested in the way they didn't seem to have the same type of shame/disgust I have, or the way they've that least learned to hide it (by way of boy-ness—I use my weakness as an outward-facing shield, and they hide theirs). The way that looks in them, the way they ignore it or grapple against it once life comes into contact with an exposed nerve.
I've become more interested in different sorts of lives, though. Starting with writing as girls. I'm not quite out of the habit—of immediately thinking of characters as boys, but I think it's getting better? I have to manually override myself, LOL.
Ok I should really stretch now bc mom's gonna get upset if I take a shower as soon as dinner's ready (I'm usually good about it, but I made that mistake earlier this week and she was pissed). She likes to eat together and I like to oblige her bc she is a lovely woman and cooks for us. <3