Dispatch From The Mundane 027
Dislocation or In Which Her Name Is A Flashing Reminder
I’m in the throes the “back to work” fatigue. Wake up at 5:15 am and put my bones to the grind on wet cement - walk to train to bus to walk to sit. I am someone who relies on ritual to self-soothe and since starting this job I haven’t found the balance. I feel unnatural. I’m a plastic bag in the wind— man-made chaos submitting to the elements. miss my friends— I miss living close to them. I miss them popping up at my house to shine a bright light into the fog of my mind. I was thinking about how far and fuller my life has been because of their presence. I leave you with an older mundane essay about a road trip to Chicago.
Travel is on my mind. I want to put my face out the window and feel motion on my tongue; the sun and exhaust mixing as I move up a coastline without a destination. My commute feels unnatural but my desire to eat fruit from the trees in Hawaii or to see Berlin at sunrise does not. I remember sleeping on the desert floor with Maya & the gang of poetry tour in 2018 and awaking naked in a hot spring and feeling a certain peace I knew wouldn’t come easily again. My friend Teresa edited the following essay and published it on This Recording in 2014. Cherish the memory of working so closely with her and her earnest review of my early work. What I miss the most about friends these days is a bit of that Peter Pan magic— believe in me, and I exist. My belief in you will keep us young, forever, in memory.
Thank you for reading &
Alexa asked me months ago if I wanted to go to Chicago. It starts with a “yo girl, so you tryna” and a nervous giggle traveling from Bel Air, Maryland to Catonsville, Maryland over satellite. She’s in her tiny childhood bedroom that’s covered wall-to-wall with posters like a Warped Tour Hall of Fame. It’s the sort of bedroom where you want to put your checkered vans on, maybe tighten your studded belt before entering. There is a collection of porcelain unicorns and stacks of CDs and movies that I am sure I rented at some point my life at Blockbuster.
It’s 3 a.m., maybe 4 a.m. and she’s probably in a Taco Bell drive-thru after a show. We’ve been here time and time again. Her long black hair with a slight part in the middle is down and if it were 2008 I would definitely be able to say some of it’s caught in her Armor for Sleep hoodie. Her finely plucked eyebrows knitted together as she propositions me like a Ryan Gosling meme.
“Yo, girl, so you tryna go to Chicago?"
Hesitation curbs enthusiasm. Her call comes the day before or after someone scorned, scolded and reminded me that I am hard to rely on, I am inconsistent and that I have very little follow-through. You know I can take criticism, hoard it even, but I have no idea what to do with it. I go through the mental labor of storing it — naturally I use compliments immediately before they spoil. I smoke and salt criticisms, complaints and insults. I consider how much more tender and savory they’ll be after marinating. I can’t wait to chew the fat and become wiser. I will be more punctual, less needy, open up more and overshare less.
So vengeful to live well but hopeful to change. I promise to get back to her later and later becomes months. Her name is a flashing reminder of my flakiness: “So you still down?” It’s a day before the trip.
“Yeah, I guess.”
There's nothing like doing something spontaneous to remind you that you are alive, you know? Apparently all the involuntary work that my body does everyday without fail isn’t enough for me. Spontaneity comes like a stranger that stops and jumpstarts you, no questions asked, even offering to wait with you until AAA comes. Sometimes spontaneity just reminds you of the ways in which you are limited and trapped — you’re helpless, alone with that stranger, unsure of danger. You notice your phone has 10% and a weak signal. Did you know the only difference between hope and desperation is how much you’re willing to sweat for change? I didn’t. I just made that up.
Pack everything the night before, which seems very strange and ominous. I've never packed the day before anything. I often pretend I am going to, even fantasize about myself getting ready (a montage sequence set to Solange’s “Losing You”) and it’s all a really joyous process. I make a to-do list (both on paper and using an app) then I tweet about making a to-do list and the tediousness of it and then I Instagram the to-do list to further share with the world that I have, in fact, a life worth leading. I set several alarms and tell at least six friends and/or several hundred via Facebook.
It is with little surprise that I wake up on Friday, the marked day of voyage and change my mind: I needed new outfits, suddenly feared looking too fat (because I am too fat) or too frumpy (I’m practically a gigantic living wrinkle) and it is necessary for me to do one more load of laundry to explore my options.
Look at my savings. Not online but the crumpled folds in my wallet and humility is a lump in my throat. There is a panic induced by the fear of your friends finding out just how little money you have and that you are not actually the safest bet. If Luck be a lady, then it’s definitely not me. It is best to ignore that telltale claustrophobia. Fake it til you make it. Can’t worry myself with what’s responsible or healthy. With a mixture of terror and delight (a byproduct of reckleness) I spend the morning repacking and unpacking and repacking. The rhythm of it is pacifying like rocking myself or sucking my thumb.
If you strip me of self-importance, illusions of grandeur, and a keen attraction to disaster... I’m just a Gatsby in coal mines, an Aladdin with a candle. I’m Sisyphus just kicking rocks. I try to detach myself from these yearnings, these cravings for more. I see skyscrapers in my bowl of cheerios. I try to shake it every day. I try to remind myself of what's my reality, but the thing is that I haven't a clue because I'm so far removed it'd be legal to marry myself in an alternate universe.
I get into a car with a stranger, Jay, who looks responsible and Alexa. Despite how long we’ve known each other, Alexa always retains the novelty of a missed connection found. Jay is doing the driving and he’s arrived with us after a morning of school, work. He’s well dressed, clean shaven and I’m a literal wrinkle in time. We’ve never spoken before or met.
On a road still in Maryland I dread chit-chat. Not because I don't love to talk. It is only that I do not want to have to pretend to know the answers to my own life. I’m an ostrich with my head in the sand; I like to think of it as a cheap way to exfoliate dead skin.
What do you do?
I try not to cry or reveal to complete strangers that I'm actually a husk.
What did you major in?
Parties and bullshitting. Jaywalking while juggling.
When do you finish?
Probably before Puerto Rico gets independence.
What are you going to do with that?
I'm going to set my G-chat status to "away" and refresh my gmail. Hope someone will talk to me while at work — I hope to be someone's daytime fling and we can get hot and heavy procrastinating until they have to do something real. They'll slowly move away from me and I will make like Pluto, which is actually still a planet when you get technical just as much as I am actually still a person.
It is gray and wet most of the drive through Pennsylvania until we're met by black horizons in Ohio five hours later. Jay turns off Michael Jackson's "Beat It" which is blasting on some oldie’s channel and puts in Death Cab's Transatlanticism. I scoff. I complain. I speculate openly about this guy's tastes, sucking my teeth until despite myself I’m singing along.
We’re singing along to it (start to finish) in near harmony. It’s an album I can tell you exactly where I was when I first heard it. If I were more honest I’d admit that I don’t know all the lyrics to “Beat It” but could probably win a contest lip-syncing Ben Gibbard.
After the album ended I wanted nothing more than to sign into my Livejournal:
I sang along to “Tiny Vessels” with a boy in a car in Chicago on a rainy day.
We didn’t hold hands but it felt like our fingers touched
when we were so close to harmony.
A fourteen-year-old girl’s dream of singing sad songs in enclosed spaces with almost lovers — our mouths so close we could die of carbon dioxide poisoning. It is all pretty stupid since there was nothing actually romantic about what we were doing and yet I would be lying if I said that I was not grateful for this particular pleasure, no, opportunity, using this stranger as a stand-in for juvenile fantasies while watching the clouds irrigate the farmlands in Dutch Country.
Somewhere in the dark of Ohio I request both to pee and to get a coffee. We stop in somewhere that looks like it would be home to the grossest bathroom — the epitome of being on the road — pancake houses and roach infested bathrooms. It emanates the only light for miles, a lighthouse in the sticks. I walk in and seek relief immediately. It is one of the nicest bathrooms I have used to date. Only when I'm coming out, reluctant to leave (considering staying in that bathroom and starting a new life), a young man around my age rocking on his heels as he refills cups says to me, "Hey there, stranger. How's it going?"
"It's all right. It's going as well as it can when you're driving from Baltimore to Chicago."
"Well, know that I'm happy you're here right now. It's gotta be great to just go somewhere new." I want to correct him and say that it isn't anywhere new, but I am stuck on his general sense of cheer when he tells me that there is only a ten cent difference in coffee sizes and that it totaled 96 cents. It isn't the best cup of coffee but it's warm; I am happy.
I crawl back into the car with mini donuts for the gang — Alexa's passed out in the back and Jay's eyes are focused on the road. I want to run back into the gas station and tell that guy “I’m going to write you down. I’m going to keep you forever.” I don’t. I just tell Jay, “Yeah, I’m good. I’m ready.”
We arrive in Chicago at 3 a.m. I am awake for 9 of the 11 hours and wake up to the Skyway Bridge. I crawl into a bed around 4 or so. I wake up to the banging of housekeeping at 7:30 a.m. I push myself out of the bed expecting fatigue to make my limbs heavy but instead they’re light and happy. I open the door but find no one except a vacuum cleaner. I look both ways before switching the sign to “Do Not Disturb.” I’ve always wanted to do that.
Everyone's asleep. Alexa planned, Jay drove, and I rode along. I tried to be useful answering texts and trying to provide amicable conversation. I'm not sure if I ever succeed in being quite useful but it's a fake it til you make it, until you arrive. Showering, quietly making myself up and creating a character who could be deemed “down-to-earth, comfortable in her skin.”
Have you been to Chicago? Did you enjoy it? Were you alone? I woke no one except to whisper a dream to Alexa that I was leaving, I'd see her later (later would be the next day,) and stroke her hair.
I ask everyone I meet that afternoon if experiencing Stendhal syndrome while viewing the downtown skyline from a small bridge on the southloop is normal.
Inquire for directions once and eagerly admit, "I'm not from here." A woman with a faint Eastern European accent says to me, "Good thing you're here right now. There was snow on the ground a few days ago." Good thing I’m here. Right now.
Make eye contact with the Sears Tower again after exiting the train on Division and Milwaukee. No matter where I go those enormous structures dwarf me, bullying me into honesty. I cry. I apologize for a decade of excuses and inertia. There is snot and smeared eyeliner. I take off my blazer and cry so hard into its fabric, which smells of the detergent I use in Baltimore. Five a.m. Monday I will be back in Baltimore and this would all seem but a dream, a pleasant escape from rapid cycles and hysteria.
Sitting on a bench for a moment to collect myself. In some ways I had absolutely no idea where I was in the world. I’m here, I thought, at the right time. I was experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity on Pluto where I could see the Earth: bright, blue, and happy.
alone in my room is a weekly dispatch sometimes.