better, bad memories, brown university
"Seaface" by Lowertown [this is a crazy good song—something you might hear on Nightvale. Blackbird imagery is one of my favorites.]
i saw a flock of black birds
i saw a flock of black birds
looking down at me
evil beady eyes and sharp beaks
i don’t trust those stupid little beasts
they look like they want something deep inside that i can’t reach
crumple my fingers into fists
and keep them in my pockets
so i don’t lose my thumbs
i’ll keep my head down and my hood up
so i don’t lose my nose
keep my shoulders steady and my chin up turned so i look like i belong
September 10, 2021 Friday 11:01 AM
Par for the course: I didn't sleep well. This time, it was a bit self-inflicted because I let my cat (Barty, the fat one) sleep with me. It's just that he curled up and was so comfy that I didn't have the heart to move him. He didn't seem to mind my tossing and turning for awhile. I am an absurdly light sleeper, so any time he repositioned—with the sort of needy glee of a cat, trilling and kneading his paws—I'd surface a bit into consciousness and then slip out again.
My light was on again when I woke up at 5:20 this morning. Barty left for good, having finally gotten what for him, I guess, qualifies as a full night's nap, and he was probably super ready to go out and kill something. My light is just—on sometimes when I wake up. No one turns it on, but it's connected by Bluetooth to, idk, some app on my mom's phone. Sometimes when I turn it on, it's a regular yellow—other times it doesn't illuminate at all—other times it's a dim pink.
I had a hard time getting back to sleep, but out of sheer exhaustion—and probably an hour of painful effort—I made myself do it. I kept having to drag myself out of bad thoughts again. Something something about death, about Ethan, who I haven't thought about in forever. I remembered how big a part of our lives he was—how had I completely forgotten that?
Damn, being at home is a fucking curse, lmao. I keep remembering things!!!
Yesterday, while running, I actually saw a funeral. I know technically I run in a cemetery and not a public park, and I've seen fresh graves and I've seen the big stacked concrete containers they put caskets inside of—but I've never actually seen a funeral happening. I felt sort of bad. All I did was run through to get to the path in the woods, and I was pretty far away from the funeral itself, but still. I ran by a person sitting in their car—then another person sitting in the car. I don't know why they were idling there and not standing in the ceremony.
On the way back through the woods, I thought about how Ethan's sister died of cancer when she was 16. I think I was a freshman in high school. My only memory of her as a teenager was seeing her in the halls of our high school, laughing and riding piggyback on some guy. She had a blonde wig on and it looked nice. She was our neighbor, so I saw her a lot as a kid, but we never spoke because of our age difference.
I remember my sister asked if I was going to the funeral. She went with Ethan. I didn't go because it felt weird to go to the funeral of a stranger—like going to church with Grandma on Christmas. It always felt sort of like I shouldn't be there? Anyway, I felt bad about it later, because I thought maybe I was supposed to go for Ethan.
I didn't even remember that he was in our life at that time until I remembered he'd been hanging around since I was 12, and that he crashed our car into a telephone poll, that he visited me in the hospital when I "attempted," that I walked in on him and my sister having sex, that he asked me to go back inside one time when they were fighting, or that one time he made me upset by saying something derogatory about Catholocism (or so I thought—I don't know, he always had a way of offending people, of mocking them with intelligence, which is why so many people hated him; anyway, my mom is technically Catholic, so I felt offended on her behalf) and then he hugged me later and said sorry. And then my sister crying in the car with my whole family and we stopped talking to him after that.
He sometimes reached out to me after that, asking about me and about my sister and I didn't know what to do. I think he still likes my Instagram posts, actually, which is weird to think about, because I don't know him and I don't want to know him.
Kinda crazy how people can phase out of ur life so easily like that! I have so many other memories of him, half of them good and half of them bad. It makes me shudder to think of it lol. A lot of these resurgent memories remind me of how glad I am to be living in my current life and not back then. He may have been my "brother," but he was a shitty guy who did shitty things and I was too young and attached to see that.
This is what I was thinking about as I tried to get back to sleep.
I had dreams, too, somewhat negative but nowhere near as bad as yesterday. A man—a youtuber—with eyes and mouth crusted over, talking about how he used to be much angrier and he'd make videos with political commentary that made his editor cry out of worry or something. And I was thinking how horrible and painful it must be for your face to crack open and bleed like that every time you move. I wondered if he'd feel better if someone took out his eyes and sewed up the pockets, but then I made myself stop thinking about that, lmao.
The room was full of water. Lots of water in my dreams. I fell asleep in the water and it was so nice. And when I woke up I was carried by huge waves, which was less pleasant. I had a bad experience with this girl from my highschool telling me the rules of some game that was like a snowball fight but with sand; it was a 3 v 3 thing, but our team only had two people until a girl from the other side decided to take pity on us. The girl from my high school kept mansplaining the game to me, LOL. I decided to just let her do most of the work since she seemed to believe I was so incapable.
And then I was bleeding, on my period, even though I actually finished my period last week. Still, in real life I've been spotting here and there, which isn't common for me so I kind of think I'm dying. In general, I think I'm dying. I had some horrible pain a couple weeks ago that rendered me useless for like two days. Stomach pain and nausea and stiff muscles and diarrhea. I felt so bad I couldn't sleep. It was probably just food poisoning but I was like "what if I have lyme disease." And who knows? Maybe I do. I go into the woods a lot. Then I was like "maybe my kidneys are failing" for various reasons that I don't feel like listing (nevermind that it'd be more likely for me to have liver issues. And nevermind that I had a very thorough medical check just two months ago for my visa).
Life do be crazy, amirite.
I feel okay today, though—much better than yesterday. Yesterday I felt very bad and did my best to get the day over with. My date was canceled, which was a relief.
Later today, I'm driving to Cambridge. I'm excited to see Maria and Nadiya. But I am also—you know. I don't know. I did make an appointment with my psychiatrist for next week, which is good. I'll be okay!!! Everything is okay.
Oh, also—Ash called me randomly yesterday. It made me feel a lot better. She was sort of complaining a bit about the writing department and stuff, idk. She was like, "I guess I just expected Brown to be full of smart people, only to get here and realize all those people went to MIT," and I laughed so hard I had to slap my leg. She's kind of right, though. Brown doesn't have the same requirement systems as other schools—it has an "open curriculum" which basically means that, if you so chose, you wouldn't have to take a STEM course in your entire college career. The only requirement is that you take two writing courses so that bio majors will at least know how to arrange words in the proper order, lmao.
Anyway, for me, it was the ideal system. I hop around anyway, and it gave me a lot more leeway to do that. But for some people, idk. They get really up to their ass in their subject of choice...
Ash was like, "I think Brown can hold its own against Harvard or even Standford, but probably not MIT," and I was like, "True. Science," and she said, "They have to take PHYSICS," which sounds awful. Yeah, that was the most offputting thing about MIT to me—not that I'd've been able to get in, but the idea of having to devote so much time to STEM, even as a humanities major? Like, I'm pretty sure their creative writing department or whatever is still great, from what little I can remember, but that sounds like it fucking sucks. To me, the former STEM person. Lol.
Whatever, I was never so passionate. Lots of people at Brown juggle stem with humanities anyway. Ash does computer science and is really good at it. She already has a paid internship set up for next summer... CS majors really are a different breed, man...
Anyway, Ash was talking about how in a creative writing class she was shopping (that just means she's not registered yet), the professor asked, "What stops you from writing?" and she expected people to say things like, "Oh, I have a really hard time properly letting the action of the plot affect the character's personality and behavior," but one girl just said, "Imposter syndrome," and Ash said she felt kind of bad for finding that funny.
But it is sort of funny, because the girl was questioning whether her writing even deserved to exist.
(Ash was like, "I don't know if this is true, but I'm just saying none of my minority friends have ever said that about their writing. They've never questioned whether their voice deserves to be heard," and I am not sure that that's true—I think everyone goes through that at some point, wondering whether they're really conveying an idea well enough to be interesting—but I do see her point; it's probably not their most pressing concern. Because it's not like the world of media is inundated with their experiences anyway...)
I said, "But imposter syndrome is for when you achieve something but don't feel you deserve it.... what she's describing is just being... insecure..."
Ash laughed and was like, "So she wasn't even using the term right," (bruh these paraquotes don't sound like Ash at alllllll she's so hard to replicate)
I mean, we both agreed being insecure about one's writing is definitely a legitimate problem, but I'd probably be kind of annoyed if I heard that in class too. I mean, I'd feel bad for feeling annoyed, but all the same. Class is not therapy, and I don't think it's even very productive to discuss writing insecurity in such vague terms anyway—terms like "deserve."
Ash said she thinks some of the writers at Brown never go through that moment where they realize their writing is really not the best or most profound. "Most of the writers I respect have realized at some point that their writing isn't that great." And she described a girl in a class she had awhile ago that wrote something that, to Ash, felt like it demanded a lot of attention from the reader in an unproductive way. Because a lot of people aren't going to bother putting the effort into a piece of writing like that...
And that's fine. You can operate like that if you want, as a writer, but it's important to be aware that that's not how you get popular and widely read. Or if you do, it's going to take a longer time than if you write YA or something. It's just not as accessible. To believe that you're writing is so good and profound that a reader might be so inclined as to truly consider your piece...
It's a dangerous belief! Blinds you to the actual quality/merit of the work.
Bruh this is why I have such a deep respect for Fanfiction. As someone who has a bachelor's degree on the subject of writing, I have, obviously, read and written a *lot* of things, and many different kinds of things.
But Fanfiction is largely a very humble and straightforward environment, which is to my personal tastes. I've never been one for complicated treatises on language. I, like many people, make fun of literary theory that talks about accessibility using impossible-to-decipher terminology (immediately thought of the unit we did in Lit Theory on the "subaltern")... classes full of kids who didn't understand the readings and instead are using the same language in an attempt to fill the space of a discussion section...
Fanfiction is there for entertainment. And that doesn't make it shallow. I feel more reading fanfiction than I do struggling through Virginia Woolf, but maybe that's just me. I cry more to dramatic animes than I do to beautiful Tarkovsky movies. Etc. etc. Accessibility doesn't make a piece of media less profound at all. Before I watched anime, that's why I was so attracted to animated kids shows—because of the way they were able to distill complicated ideas into what feels like the contradictory space of a cartoon. Cartoons being silly, childish. They are, by definition, "accessible," and yet they manage to pull in ideas of death, meaning, love, etc. etc.
Sorry, I'm ranting, I just—really appreciate that kind of work and it's the sort of thing I want to make. A piece of work that is, first and foremost, entertaining—profundity and meaning come second.
I have no idea if any of this made sense. It would be kind of funny if it didn't, because I think that means I'm in the habit of being just as obscure as all the writers I complain about.
I actually think I might write a bit after this, because I feel rusty and vaguely motivated after reading a pretty good Fanfiction yesterday. It was Keith/Lance from Voltron (and now I have an urge to rewatch that show, even though it is soooo mediocre); the dialogue was awesome, and the scifi elements were pretty cool. The plot was also extremely solid. I can tell the writer is really experienced, and so I wasn't surprised when, at the end, they had a little note saying they didn't feel embarrassed to post their story because they'd just submitted an original work to a literary magazine and that was way more nerve-wracking, LMAO.
I haven't gotten that far yet. I hope I do someday.