Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Confessions of a Bored Depressive

Inspiration: fleeting. Last night I went to a screening of a rarely released Saint Etienne film, What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day. It was lovely and full of lush sunshine and meadows and worn down abandoned things. My heart ached for London. It was dreadful then, but now it seems wonderful, full of English charm, memories I barely considered at the time, but which haunt me now, filled with nostalgia. I walked to First Avenue and the M15 bus to visit Joey at the hospital, as I had for the past few days. That timeless space of healing and pain and death, where conversations occur with stifled joy, where machines and measurements and repetition take over the colors of life. Only the nurses, ever changing yet always familiar, with their enthusiasm and friendly comments a change. The windows safely prohibiting the outside world from seeping in. The bed, the curtains. The voices from the television on the other side of the room.

It became late and I said my goodnight for the walk that still frightens me down First Avenue alone. The last few days it was pouring when I left, and I could justify the cost of a cab. But not then. I didn't know which side of the street seemed safer: the coroner, the hospitals, the homeless men, or the lonely, looming shadows of the project housing on the other side. Stopped in for a too salty hot dog before a long wait for the subway home.

Today, though it is like summer outside, and the burst of fresh green leaves on the trees was a shocking sight, I stayed mostly in bed, in my perpetually cold room. Empty thoughts and empty gestures. A to-do list that I half heartedly checked off, put off. Clicking through websites with nothing in mind. Not even a faint twinge of desire. A vague shadowy guilt that manifests itself in a reiteration of this nothing. I am thinking of Francisco Pessoa's Book of Disquiet, his bleak, beautiful journal entries of a life lived in boredom, in his tortured head. Someone I had gone on a few dates with and slept with, someone who lived in a dreadful, mostly empty apartment, who always wore black and was so uncertain, whose mattress had made my back uncomfortable had recommended it.

Perhaps I just like too much the way these words sound in my head. I am crippling myself, forcing inertia, stability, this slow, spreading dread. It sounds much worse than it is. It is not glamorous and glorified artisanship but pathetic actually, despicable and pathetic. Uncertainty is my disease, stasis its symptom. I am prone of exaggeration, to being in love with the sounds of my pretty, petty words. Maybe it's just a role I play, easily solved with a walk in the sun, a smile exchanged. For now I stay in this dim light, under the forcefully cheerful duvets, staring fixedly at the window, and the light outside.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Show Your Knee Socks

Britney Spears - How I Roll

Sometimes you get obsessed with songs. Sometimes you want to dance while you walk. Sometimes you wish you that it is already summer. Sometimes you need a spark, a flare, a lipstick kiss, a high heeled shoe. Sometimes every day is just not enough. Sometimes you want to drop your clothes piece by piece in a big open room, watch your smile spread in a big mirror above the bed. Sometimes you just want things to be simple and dazzling and bright.

Britney does just that. Throw away the irony and the condescending masks. Give in to the sugary sweetness of tequila on the rocks and the seduction of a snare drum, a melody, a line that stays in your head. Put on your lightest dress and flipped lashes and strut down the street. Take a boy home and watch the way he laughs. Kiss the tips of your fingers and remember the last time you felt so light, this good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Spring, Another Love

It has been a very long winter. One night, in the depth of the never ending cold, Joe and I watched An Education, and all I could think of during the lovely scene where Jenny and David lay bathing on the grass in Paris beneath the sunshine was how long it'd been since I've worn short sleeves.

But, yesterday. I finished an econ exam early and walked the quiet, gray streets around Washington Square Park, in a coat and sweater that felt too heavy for the pleasant warm pull in the air. Bursts of yellow daffodils sprung in clusters, and pale pink blossoms dotted eager trees in the distance. I watched the streets stir to life, a fruit cart merchant piling boxes, students lined up for their morning coffee. For the first time in a very long time, I didn't have to escape to a windowed room for comfort. I took off my coat and found a seat at a bench to watch the people passing. A policeman on horseback trotted past, and the horse's hooves made fresh, clear clicks on the asphalt street.

By lunch time it was bright and sunny and felt like summer. I caught glimpses of bare legs everywhere, a shock after so long of cover beneath heavy coats and thick tights. Everyone talked of the weather. The flimsy floral dresses that had already crowded the racks of stores months ago suddenly carried a new allure. I could almost believe that it was summer.

It was a marvelous feeling. In the evening, Joe and I went to Chinatown for dinner, and to walk the often forgotten streets off Canal after. The winding narrow alleys were mostly deserted, and beautiful, with the closed shutters of stores and signs bearing names of restaurants. Now and then we came across men sitting and talking on a stoop, or a group of kids in faintly oriental masks and costumes, having a photoshoot. We came to Doyers Street and the Nom Wah Tea Parlour, the backdrop to a recent Sartorialist photo I adored. At night, it felt like a complete transformation, of time and place. It was easy to believe that we were in 1920s China, arranging secret rendezvous in between games of cards and a haze of smoke.

We ducked into a Malaysian restaurant for dessert, and the moment we left for home giant rain drops fell upon us, slow but quickly increasing their frequency. We ran, laughing and cursing, to the subway, with damp hair and bag and clothes. It is finally spring.

(Need more convincing/to celebrate? This great compilation of Signs of Spring photos from around the world should satisfy even the most bitter skeptic.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


The rat was on the bottom step of the escalator going down, scampering up just in time as the escalator kept moving, running on an endless treadmill. Joe and I were on our way out of the subway and at first I thought it was cute. I thought that even about the ones I saw scurrying across train tracks, but this one was especially small and harmless looking. But the escalator kept moving and the rat kept running up and couldn't keep pace. We have to help, I said, probably in an abnormal high pitched voice, the voice people used to address cute small animals tinged with concern.

There was a small crowd gathered around the escalator watching and marveling, none who expressed any worry. The mouse ran into the edge of the escalator and struggled, panickedly to get away. We have to help, we have to help, I said, but I couldn't think of anything to do. Joe pressed the emergency stop button. The escalator stopped, but the rat's tail was trapped within the metal spaces of the escalator. The people around us crept closer, some crouching down to snap photos on the iPhone.

The rat began to chew his own tail. We have to help, I said, growing hysterical, panicked. I wondered if we could just cut the tail off. I didn't want to hurt him. I heard comments from voices without faces around us--"Call 311. Instead of you fucking assholes standing there taking pictures." A woman's voice retorting a mean response. "You see homeless men on the street all the time and no one wants to help. You're concerned about a rat." And all the while people with their phones and their gasps and no one who tried to help. I started to cry. "We just have to get the escalator to run the other way," Joe said. He squeezed me tight.

We told a subway worker. We went to the woman at the subway booth. We went to the J. C. Penny, where the men in cheap suits looked at us, oblivious, unhelpful with confused replies while we insisted on speaking to a manager, someone who could help. They said to ask upstairs, at the city mall. There was a small group at the top of the escalator, too, peering down at the helpless rat. A subway worker came with a dustpan and a broom, the same one we spoke to earlier.

"Please don't hurt him," I begged, still crying, voice uncontrolled. He looked at me, "Are you crazy?" He said. "I have to kill that thing."

I cried no, no! Voices around us, snippets I heard--"You better get out of here." I wanted to get out of there. I didn't want to know what he would do to the rat. Joe tried to get me to stay. But I couldn't stand the thought of being there, of having to watch one more person scoop down to laugh and snap a picture. I wish I hadn't paused to watch the rat in the first place.

I pulled Joe toward another exit. We reached another set of escalators leading to the street. Joe looked down toward where the rat was trapped and I told him, "Don't." "It's still alive," Joe told me. But that didn't help.

I was delirious and crying, still. The tears had stained my glasses so that I couldn't see at all,  and I walked with them held in my hand. He pulled me toward the direction of our destination and I didn't register the streets. The thought of the rat was so awful. I half sobbed half spoke. How could they just stand there and take pictures. No one even wanted to help. And the awful workers at the store, from the subway. It was the people most of all, the people who completely ignored that there was a living thing, suffering.

It wasn't really about the rat.

I realized that if I had really wanted to save its life I wouldn't have left. I could have screamed at the subway worker until he relented. We could have ran upstairs and found the manager of the Manhattan mall. I could have tried to pull out the rat's tail myself, a thought that passed through my head before. But I was scared. I was selfish and scared and it was too much and too awful.
What upset me so much was those people. That there, they were confronted with a pained creature, helpless, and instead of trying to help they heckled and found the source of a viral video. It seemed to wrap together and represent everything I despised about our society. When YouTube and Twitter replace human sympathy, when empty, ironic and mocking essays replace intelligent thought.

I wondered if the people who loved vintage things did it because they longed for the past, because they simply liked the aesthetic, or if it was possible that they did it out of an aversion for the present. To forget. I thought about deleting all my online profiles and blogs. I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with my fountain pens and paper. Secluded, safe. I never really thought that I was born in the wrong era, or could only like things that were old. But now I felt this immense disgust and hatred of the present. A despair.

I remember when I was trying to catch a flight leaving London in the snowstorm. I dragged two heavy suitcases through the sludgy snow to the tube, and then struggled to get on an overcrowded train. Again and again, trains passed and I didn't get on. I kept hoping the next one would be empty, the passengers sparse. I was guaranteed to be late to my flight. A vicious look from a woman on the last train I tried to get on broke me down. I cried, wretched sobs, hating myself, hating my luggage, hating the thought that I might be stuck. Those last few weeks of the semester I had so desperately looked forward to going home.

Then this old man next to me, in a funny fur muff hat and funny old clothes, who I had been watching before, who was reading a philisophy book, came to me and hugged me. A woman on the other side of me rubbed my shoulder and said soothing words. The old man took out a tissue and handed it to me. It made me cry more. He dragged my suitcase on to the next train. There, there, he said. I remember this so well.