antibiotics, digital immortality, and being wanted
It’s a strange life that we’re living, friends.
When I wake, I stare out the window at the lilac tree outside. Late May is lilac season, so it’s just leaves right now, but it’s still beautiful when it’s painted yellow with sushine. There’s an inherent divinity in everything, I am reminded. I think about God to check how much brain fog I have, and then put on whatever album or playlist I need to convince myself to get out of bed. Dodge the pins on from the abandoned sewing projects and half baked ideas.
Everything is half baked right now. The lighting is half baked. The human race is half baked. I would love to be half baked, but it’s 6:30 a.m., my father is home, and I have no idea how it would mess with my medication. Distantly, I wonder if there have been any studies on Lyme disease and medicinal marijuana.
(Yes, it can be used for Lyme, but it’s only legal in Florida.)
I make tea and watch the school bus that I rode in middle school pass my house. It’s somehow about 8 a.m. now, and the sun is shining through the prism we keep on the kitchen windowsill, fragmenting and painting the walls and refrigerator with rainbows. Wisps of clouds pass over it, turning the light a creamy faded yellow. It’s not quite spring, not yet summer. It’s Monday. Antibiotic day.
(There’s a massive pillcase on the counter with all of my medication, separated into days, and the days separated into morning and night. There’s twelve pills total on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays— antibiotic days— there’s fifteen. I’ve learned to swallow ten in one go. I know I could do more, and I’m grateful that I haven’t had the chance to prove it.)
This new round of antibiotics is kicking my ass decidedly less than the previous ones. The only side effects are random heart palpatations, sensory sensitivity, and my skin peeling off my chest and arms like I’m a molting snake. It’s gross, but at least I’m not curled into a ball on the dining room floor and able to smell when someone turns on the electric stove.
(“It’s been worse” has become something of a mantra. I have to cut my nails because I obsessively clean them when they’re long? It’s been worse. Can’t walk more than a mile? It’s been worse. Can’t stomach specific seasonings and spices? It’s been worse. Constant feeling of someone watching me? It’s been much, much worse.)
Breakfast is a handful of sticky dates and ground beef— half baked, of course. That’s a consistent thing, the cravings for raw meat, and I like to try to sate the appetites I can recognize. Recently, I’ve been treating myself very softly, like life is a Mary Oliver poem. I grab my thighs, ass, stomach, forearms, press my fingers into the most soft bits like I’m a Bernini sculpture. I look at the indents. I could be held. I could be somebody that’s held. I could be somebody who satisfies their hungers. I’ll get there someday.
Almost the entirety of the rest of my day is spent thinking about love, both the type I see and the type I crave. My father goes to the grocery store and brings back plums and figs. I think about the fig-wasp sybiotic relationship. I think about the excerpt from Mary Karr’s Cherry where her father brings her plums when she’s sick. I wonder if my father has seen it. I think about movies and road trips and movies about road trips, and I think about moving on.
The thing is, we as a culture are attracted to road trip media. Especially me, I think— I grew up driving all over the west coast of the USA with surf culture and Van Life (the original one, not whatever aesthetic bullshit you find in the hashtags on social media), so it’s all very nostalgic for me. Maybe it’s because of those roots that I’m so fascinated with the idea of love in motion. There’s something magical about leaving everything behind except for your person. You leave, everything leaves, but they don’t. They love you, as strange as you are, and maybe it’s because they have no choice. You’re driving, after all, and they need a ride. But maybe it’s because you two are in charge of your own destinies, and you want them to be a part of your destiny.
Maybe being in a car with someone is as close as you can get to crawling inside of their body.
Deep down, there’s a desire to live in a beautiful way. This has only been exacerbated by social media and the idea that you, at any time, could be getting filmed. People think that if they dress cool enough, they’ll end up trending on TikTok, if their sadness is tragic and haunting, they’ll be an Instagram icon.
Here’s what I have to say to that— I’m alone a lot. Like, a lot. I haven’t gone to school in almost three months because of the Lyme. I am completely unobserved, except in the medical sense, in which I am definitely being observed.
(I did the math. I’m alone for about 22 hours daily, and the two hours of “socialization” I get are my parents. It’s less when my friends of sister visit, but not by much.)
Because of my separation from this idea of being looked at, I feel like I can confidently say that there’s still a strong desire to be looked at. Maybe it’s the loneliness, but I’m not actually that lonely most of the time. The thing is, I don’t want to be filmed without my permisson.
If we’re driving down a road together and I’m in the passenger seat, I want you to look at me. Briefly. But the risk is there, nonetheless. I’m not even asking for eye contact, I’m asking for you to look when I’m not looking. Who will take their eyes off the road for me, in a moment where I am not expecting to be looked at, and then keep it to themself? Who wants me to be just theirs? Who wants me humanized? Who wants to look at my bad side, and who will still be able to say they love me?
I want a love in motion, I guess. I want to move and be moved with and move along with someone else. I want to go to a town where only one person knows me and they come with and they go with me. I want my music loud and I want to try on things from antique stores and I want to stop at all the kitschy roadside attractions. I want to be memorized but unphotographed eating in a diner. I want to sleep in someone else’s shirt, I want to wear someone else’s jacket, and I want to be the only person who knows that it’s someone else’s. I want a love of my own. I want to be a cowboy, but I want another gunslinger right by my side. I want to choose where I go and what happens, and I want to kiss someone in the Palisades.
I want no evidence to be left. I want to be a living archive of someone else. I want to have a life that lives and dies with someone else.
It’s a lot to ask, to be loved like that. But I know there are people who can do it. I know people who can do it.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just seventeen. Maybe I’ve just divorced myself from human society too much.
(Loved. Consumed. Devoured. Swallowed.)
I eat another plum. I eat some figs.
(Who’s going to drive for hours in the night? Who will be my wasp?)
I guess that in the end, it’s all about finding someone who never stops wanting you. I want to be wanted by one person, and I’m not sure who it is.
I go down to the drugstore to buy lipstick and hairdye. I went pink for a while, but now it’s faded to a orangey-peach color. It’s lovely, but it’s not what I’m going for. I pick up blue and purple dye and the same cheap, brownish blush lipstick I’ve worn for almost a year.
The blue and purple sits in my hair nicely. The stripes are a bit chunky, but the dark hair makes my eyes pop. My dad plays clown music when I walk into the office to show him and says I look like a no-good punk. He’s a bit confused when I say that that was what I wanted, but he goes with it. He listened to the Cocteau Twins and Riot Grrl music when he was my age. I’m not sure he’ll ever understand, but I’m sure he can sympathize.
(I don’t want to be lovely I want to be terrifying i want to be wanted even though i am terrifying o god please)
My sibling comes down, wanting my help for their photography project on teenagers. They photograph me in my room, in the tub, in our shoe closet, in the kitchen. I change clothes as they switch my makeup look. Thick, full-lid eyeliner with a black mini dress to garage door pink eyeshadow and denim shorts to a Twiggy look with heavy mascara and an oversized men’s t-shirt, lipliner with it all. I remember the photoshoots we were on as kids. I think about how when you google one of the brands, long gone out of business, sometimes you can still find a photo of my eight year old hips.
(I don’t want to be immortal. I will never die i want to disappear)
I turn my face away from the camera, briefly. Just for a few shots.
“You’re gorgeous,” my sibling says.
“I know,” I say. I try not to sound like I regret it.
(Later, I post one of the photos to tumblr along with a selfie. I’m already never going to die. Immortality might as well be on my terms.)
Afterwards, we drink our tea. The sun has gone down. Porkchops for dinner. Our Father who art in thee office is still working on a project for school. We talk about him, and we talk about our Mother who art in thee Grand Canyon on a rafting trip, and we talk about being on the road.
“I miss it all,” I say. “I miss the ocean. I miss the highway. I miss the smell of dead grass and gasoline. I miss going wherever, y’know?”
“I don’t,” they say. Anxious kid. Always wanting to settle into something, wanting comfort, wanting validation, wanting a place where the Wi-Fi automatically connects. They have never been unable to move like I have. “But of course you crave that.”
Me. Stoic girl. Wants to leave the party, wants something new, wants to feel something in a way that she’s never felt it before, wants to stomp her phone out like a cigarette butt. Youngest daughter, nothing to lose. Trapped in a cage like a dog by forces out of her control.
“‘Course I do,” I agree. It’s only natural, I suppose.
“It’s because you’re a Type 5,” they say.
I tell them to shut the fuck up, remind them that they’re not a psychologist yet, and that they want to stay in the same place all the time because they’re a Type 2. They tell me to shut the fuck up. We both drink our tea.
“What are your opinions on love? Like, what relationship in our media is the ideal image of romance to you,” I ask.
They think. “Howl’s Moving Castle,” they say. “I want to be Howl and Sophie, though. I want to be gross and dramatic and I want someone to love me like that, and I want someone to go and find me in the future.”
“You want to be wanted.”
“I— yeah. Yeah.”
They leave with no fanfare, mug in the sink and the sillage of the incense they burn hanging in the air. I’m still in the kitchen. It’s dark out. Looks like a full moon is rising. We never turned the main light on, and everything is washed in the small, static gold glow of the old lightbulb over the stove. It’s poetic, I think, for my day to start and end yellow. My heart starts beating faster and faster. I place a hand over it like I can soothe it. It slows in a few seconds, but the beat echoing through my veins waits to follow its lead and continues races through my fingertips. I imagine a little trail of medication going through my body and burning the bugs away, down to my toes and into my brain and through my arms.
I think about angels and martyrdom and Godliness. My hands are still purple with hair dye. It looks like I reached into the black-and-blueberry heart of summer and ripped it out. Chipped yellow nail polish that I got for $2 at the drugstore two months ago. Full circle.
(Dreams about two cowboys in valdaro their skeletons are curled together o let that be me let it be us)