making the bed, reverse harems, and robert mapplethorpe as a rock
This post is a recording of my thoughts yesterday morning, fragmented and nonsensical as they are, from time of waking (approximately 8:02 a.m.) to when I took a nap (approximately 1:47 p.m.).
I’ve been out past midnight for three nights in a row. Still haven’t washed my face.
The sheets were the kind of dirty that comes with tracking fine-particulate sand into the bed— the pockets of the jeans I took to the beach in August were chock full of it, gray everywhere, little grains clinging to the cotton like fish about to hatch. Sand went from pockets to the floor, from the floor to the bed. Swear it wasn’t too bad, though, just some grime near the foot. There was some soil in there from a plant I tipped over, too— natural occurrences, nothing bad enough for me to notice the sensation of our coexistence or to color the sheets. I’m sure if I had looked closer at the pillows I could find the remnants of eyeliner or lipstick, but I didn’t. Not worth the effort. It all got washed, anyways, with no special attention paid to anything.
It was 6 pm. My best friend sat on the floor below the window as I stripped the bed. She was still in her work shirt. In the beginning of fall the light gets thicker, and it stretched in through the glass like taffy, caramelizing the flyaway hairs on her head into ruddy needles. I said a quiet goodbye to the dirt— more of a see you later, really. We both know it’ll be back. Them’s the digs.
The light was on— not the collapsed star of fairy lights by my bed, but the main overhead light. The funny thing is, I didn’t notice it. I wasn’t thinking about it. And I was disemboweling the bed, hands and knees on the mattress, picking up all the books and bullshit I’ve thrown on it and laying them on the bench to the right, careful as everyone is with the things they love too much to be sweet to. It’s not a lack of kindness, just the anticipation of needing preparation for roughness. Something in the way I was raised tells me that sweetness rots, so I am rarely sweet.
After it all was sorted— laundry started, floor clean— we went into the store for popsicles and ginger ale. She led us through the aisles, past bulk foods and frozen dinners, and I followed like a duckling. It’s an unspoken agreement that we have. Ultimately, I am not a submissive person except when it comes to the people I love, and I love her very much— I am her guard dog, and she’ll never put me down, even though I’m a little too quick to bite. We don’t talk about it because we don’t need to. It’s known.
We watched Brokeback Mountain in the dark of the basement. I think of E.E. Cumming’s I Carry Your Heart With Me when Ennis finds the shirt— i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart), I carry your shirt within mine. Sometimes we do things because it’s all we can do. What else could he have done; put Jack down? No. The only condition that the dead have for the living is that we must carry them with us.
I saw her out with all the informality of two people who know they’ll be seeing each other soon, but that didn’t stop me from holding the door open to listen to the rattle of her keys as she walked to her car. I waited until the headlights turn on. She drove around the corner and disappeared, and only then did I close the door. Only so much I can do.
I’m not an anxious person, but I am a worrier. There is no doubt in my mind that the first wrinkles to develop on my face will be the ones between my eyebrows— I always have a slight frown, like I’m trying to look at something on the horizon. I worry for my friends. I worry for my loved ones. I worry for myself. But there’s really only so much I can do, so I have my little frown and I keep it to myself.
There are little things I’m worried about, like how my favorite lipstick is running low, and there are bigger things. I’m terrified of love— not the subject or thought, but the act— I cannot let it warp my eyes and turn someone into a belonging or a possession— terrified to harm someone through a misguided lens, make them into something they aren’t, to put them into a box which is to make them less. I allow myself to remain expansive and I do not want my love to deny someone the right to their own multitudes. Terrible things have been done in the name of love. I do not want to be the killer here. I am always worried I am the killer.
Let me tell you what I am seeing. Three curtains, two navy blue faux velvet (windows) and one transparent sheet of gauze that separates my bed from the bedroom door. The light comes through the window in four quadrants and the laminate is shiny enough that it reflects into my eyes if I really sit up. Gray light— cool toned because it’s the morning and still weak and there’s enough cloud coverage to turn it crisp. Two Fender Jazzmasters, one Taylor acoustic. Box fan on the floor. Bench full of books and journals and figurines and CDs beside me. Laptop screen. Every pixel is an angel. Pens, Jenny Holzer quote on the wall, wool blanket that was a wedding gift for my parents, bathrobe, raccoon pelt, two rabbit pelts, sheepskin, buffalo skin, mink fur, raccoon tail, fox tail. Water bottle full of ginger ale. Empty mug. Plastic basket full of clean clothes— laundry done yesterday evening. Many Mother Marys taped to the ceiling. A red tie on a stool.
It all hurts very much, you know. The slowest knife in the world.
I reckon if I pushed hard enough on my ribs, I could get straight to my heart and squeeze that little wretch. I’m not mad at it. I just think a little pressure could be good for it— to hold it together and all that. Sometimes I think it’s coming apart inside me like a ripe fruit. Of course, with the ripening comes the rotting. It just suits me better to keep it together. My time to decompose isn’t here yet. I think.
1.) I do not like that I always have to pee. I want to drink as many beverages as I want without having to face the repercussions. If I’m in bed, I don’t want to have to leave my bed just because I’m having a little beverage. Irritating biological function.
2.) Being in the position I’m in now means that my shirt gets rucked up in the back. With the way my ceiling slopes, there are no other positions that have some form of back support, and I’m not getting out of bed just to have back support that doesn’t involve my shirt getting rucked up.
3.) I have laundry to fold. Brutal. Sisyphean.
4.) My room is clean now, but it won’t be in a few days. Brutal. Sisyphean. Them’s the digs, though.
5.) I have a green wingback chair in my room and I can never decide where to put it, so it floats around from corner to corner like a sun-bleached iceberg. I’d like to put it by the window, but then it blocks the view of the mirrors, and ultimately I am too vain for that. And that is five, so I’ll leave it there.
I am sitting in the wingback chair by the window. My shirt is not rucked up in the back.
When I was in my early teens (ages 12 through 15, I would say) I was obsessed with romance novels. Not YA or those thoughtful, contemporary romances— I was into the smutty, bodice ripping, reverse harem romance novels, especially the fantasy ones involving dragons or werewolves or something of that ilk. I used to suck them down like water, one, two books a day, filled to the brim with terrible sex scenes and worse characterization. I cannot begin to emphasize how bad these books were— truly, they were terrible. But I understand my enjoyment of them.
I didn’t care about the fucking or the werewolf packs or writing. I cared— on a political level— that they were reverse harem. It did a lot for me to see the center of the story be a woman, for the woman to have a beast that the man must see past, for the woman to be the one that goes to war and then comes home to a man to get her wounds cleaned. As crude as they were, it’s very good for a young girl to know that firstly, she is not the only person who feels like the world is always revolving around men; secondly, that she is not alone in wishing it would pay attention to her and love her; and thirdly, that somewhere out there is a person that would prioritize her— all essential elements of developing my self worth.
Recently, I read something about how the prevalence of kidnapping and rape fantasies stems from the shame of wanting something that’s seen as something women shouldn’t want— sex, leaving their homes, aggression. I was in a very similar boat, despite my family’s liberal views on sex and expression and independence, but my shame came from the desire to be whatever I wanted without being left. I didn’t want to feel like a mother or a tease or “the boy” of the relationship or any of the other boxes I was pushed into— I just wanted to be myself. It was good for me to see all the unique, gritty, thick-thighed women be shown as objects of desire for multiple people. Hopeful.
Besides, I could probably teach a class on the theoretical biology of mythical creatures at this point. I could put “comparing and contrasting vampire lore” on my resume. It’s a fun talent to have, if we discount the embarrassing backstory of it.
I’m not sure if I believe in death. I do as a physical phenomena— to deny that people die would be a level of delusion that I can’t reach. But in the cultural sense, I do not believe in death. The hard end. The idea of a person as an entirely finite thing is baffling to me. Do we not have atoms that can’t be destroyed? Are we not just recycled over and over again? We can’t eradicate ourselves even if we want to; we’d just be changing our mode of existence. So you see what I mean when I differentiate between societal death, which is the mathematical segment (line with a definitive beginning and end), and real death. It’s a matter of how you exist, not if you exist. And I don’t fucking like the “if”. Mainly because I’m terrified of it— I don’t want anyone to be able to decide if I am or aren’t something.
Here’s the thing. I read Just Kids back in February (or whenever my Patti Smith phase was happening— certainly during a colder month— and also because Johnny told me to and he’s got solid taste) and, because I had read almost all of Patti’s other books previously, I was able to pinpoint exactly what stories she had already told about Robert Mapplethorpe. At first, this was met with a distant annoyance in a sort of “why doesn’t she just tell a different story” sort of way, and then I remembered Robert Mapplethorpe is dead and there are really only so many stories about Robert Mapplethorpe that can be told, which launched me into a lovely little fear spiral. Usually I can logicalize my way out of these, but it took me a solid month to work it out of my system.
Here’s the thing— God, I say that a lot, that and “anyways”— Robert Mapplethorpe could be a rock right now, but Rock-bert Mapplethorpe isn’t accessible to Patti or anyone else and therefore doesn’t exist in the collective mind. To us, Robert Mapplethorpe is erotica and eccentric jewelry and green eyes and gay activism and photographs and, to the knowledge of a select bunch, in Panic! at the Disco fanfiction, not a rock or a rotting leaf or part of a dog’s paw. Despite his icon status, he cannot transcend the flesh. Not a bad thing to be unable to transcend— the flesh is great, I’m a big fan of the flesh. But when the flesh deteriorates, we need to metaphysically extend beyond it because we can’t exist within the flesh anymore. I suppose that’s the trouble of being famous, though. You get a “brand” and things you’re known for, and then they outlive you. Even memories warp us over time. And while the art and whatnot you leave behind is a solid indicator of self, it’s always interpretable and so that gets warped, too. The flesh can’t really be relied on for anything besides blooming and subsequently rotting. Remembrance is so messy, anyways. Anyways. Anyways. Anyways. Anyways. God, I have got to stop saying that.
Anyways. I was scared, then I knew I was going to be a rock, and then it was all okay. So I guess we’re all Lot’s wife in the end— I guess we’re all going to be pillars of salt. Oh, well. Not such a bad thing to be.
I don’t like the societal meanings of a lot of words. “Death” does not mean end, “angel” does not mean good, “God” doesn’t mean good either, “phone” means something closer to disconnection than connection, “freak” doesn’t mean bad, etcetera. There’s lots of words that are simply descriptors that get labeled bad when they’re perfectly neutral— “fat”, “big nose”, “hairy”, “acne”, “asymmetrical”, “wrinkles”, etcetera. Most things are neutral, really. People just have the wrong idea. People have always got the wrong idea.
I am very tired. Of people, yes, but also in general. I am going to take a nap. Hopefully people will stop having the wrong idea by the time I wake up. They won’t, but a girl can dream.