accumulation, astrology, and alliteration
It feels like I’m living a double life sometimes. One week I’m sitting inside doing nothing, the next I’m in a different state to play groupie at a friend’s band practice, and the week after that I’m surfing with a group of complete strangers. Somewhere between those, I find a way to not fail school— it helps that it’s online— and to have accumalated a heap of belongings in the bedroom I’m only in for about 7 months out of the year. I don’t think I’ve even tried to clean since the summertime.
It’s December 5th, 8:24 p.m. I’m turning 18 in a month. I can’t even see the floor of my room. No college applications have been submitted, I’m three months behind in one of my classes, and I don’t think I’ve showered for at least two weeks (not including washing my hair and armpits in the sink, or the day trip out to the Oregon coast that Jack and I did on the way back). I’m starting to lose time again— it slips through my fingers like oil. The room smells like sweat, Jack’s Tiger Balm, a menagerie of different perfume samples that were gifted to me, and a distant smell of formaldehyde.
Standing in the middle of the room, I crack my neck and knuckles. I take my time flexing and pointing each foot to pop my ankles, then crunch to each side to crack my back, placing my hands on my hips and staring at the pile like I’m Victor Frankenstein learning what the phrase ‘consequences of your actions’ means. I fully recognize I should stop dumping my shit on my bedroom floor whenever I come home from somewhere or at least have the sense to pick it up, but no part of me enjoys dealing with my own bullshit. Tragically, I can’t escape to the French Alps, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing I could.
It’s insufferably quiet in here, only the hushing of car wheels passing on the street outside audible, fading in and out like the breathing of an indeterminable monster. Something is in the CD player— the arpeggios of Jeff Buckley’s Mojo Pin echoes across the room when I hit play, and I almost immediately turn it off. Not that. Not today. It gets switched out with a Mazzy Star CD.
I would lay on the floor, but I’m up to my ankles in clothes and mystery items. I suppose that’s just how it goes, isn’t it? A girl’s gotta lay down, but the floor is probably a biohazard and the bed wouldn’t bring the same satisfaction. No Goldilocks ratio here. That’s just how it goes.
Jack dropped me off without much fuss last night, just a kiss on the cheek from the driver’s seat and a see you yelled out of an open window. It set the dogs in the neighborhood off barking, and as I waved him off for as long as I could see his car, they slowly fell quiet again, blinking off like lights. Neither of us are big on goodbyes— nobody likes to feel like something is the last time. Goodbyes are for the dead. We’ve both got beating hearts. It’s not time for a goodbye, not yet.
Most of today was slept through, the rest spent on homework and playing word games with my mother. She says she misses me until I leave a spoon in the sink, and then she takes it back. I know she does, though. She’d never be able to finish the New York Times Spelling Bee without me. She gives me a paperback copy of Patti Smith’s Woolgathering.
“The back cover reminded me of you,” she says. She just saw Patti Smith live, got to shake her hand and everything. I’m immeasurably jealous. “I want you to be filled with a vague and curious joy. I want you to be happy.”
“I am happy,” I say, taking it from her.
“No. No, you aren’t,” she says, and that’s that. She goes back to work, I go to my room, and we both ignore the other until it’s time for dinner, during which nobody talks unless to comment on whatever TV show we’re watching.
I’m starting to slip away again. Timelines that should chain together are fragmented into separate links— get dropped off, static, conversation with my mother, static, dinner, static, and now I’m here. What brought me here? What brings that mysterious stranger into town in those Spaghetti Westerns my father always puts on when I have a fever?
Once again, I find myself thinking of Camus. Did he also walk into his bedroom and feel like he’s intruding, an impermanent visitor in his own life? I belong more to the lonely evening outside than in here. Back out there, in the superblue. Some people get the orange windows, but I just don’t think I’m that kind of girl. That’s what you get when most of your natal chart is in Saggitarius, I guess. My best friend emailed me my chart when I got home— four out of eleven planets are in Saggitarius. She tells me that it means I’m independent, but my sibling tells me it means I’m self-isolating. Both of them are right.
It’s addicting, that kind of personality sorting. I look at my messy floor and blame my packrat tendencies on my Saggitarius Mercury, I look at my unfinished assigments and blame my lack of responsibility on my Cancer Saturn, I look at all the people I hardly trust and blame it on my Scorpio Moon, I look at my obsession with balance and blame it on my Libra Ascendant. A new way of saying that it wasn’t me, that it wasn’t my fault. No internalized individulism, no family history with OCD and depression, no being unreliable. Today, we point our fingers at the planets and say that we can’t help it.
I lay on the floor despite the mess. Mazzy Star isn’t doing it for me; nothing is doing it for me. I think about Sylvia Plath, how she talked about the days where you feel like someone has plugged every outlet of yours with wax. A Lady Gaga music video could probably get me going again— Marry the Night, something to remind me that all the terrible things about me can become beautiful. That we are ugly, but we have the music.
I switch out the CD to something faster and more anxious, feeling unsettled. Freud is echoing in the back of my mind about how all the boys I hang out with either look or act like my father. Look at yourself— all alone in your room, surrounded by all those memories with people that would love to have you, all those people that asked for you to give yourself to them, but you just laughed them off and said maybe later. Wake up, you big baby. Nobody’s taking you to the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.
If this was a movie, I would place my perfectly manicured hands over my made-up eyes and cry, gently sobbing until the screen fades to black. This isn’t a movie, though. My fingers are speckled with scars and hangnails, the nails brittle and chipped with polish. Any eyeliner I had on washed off in the Oregon ocean. Nothing will fade to black. Nothing will end. Nothing ever does— the grief, life. Love. And I’m not going to cry, sorry, but I have a Capricorn Sun. Don’t blame me, we just don’t cry.
Instead of being an Old Hollywood actress, I sit in my own mess and stare softly at the place on the wall where Scotch tape peeled the paint off, eyes focusing and unfocusing. My two hours of magical thinking. If I know that I’ve got two Libras in my chart, I can bring some form of balance into my life. A flow. Stability, stability, stability. I drink stability like a thirsty child. A dramatic and eccentric life with the same fucking people over and over again, an incestous friend group of swingers. That’s my Saggitarius Venus, laying down a royal flush in the third house.
Okay? Boohoo, Snowflake Queen. You’re one of the beautiful people. Kill yourself or get over it.
Oh, that little demon. You know, sometimes I think there’s three things inside me, controlling my brain— an angel, God, and a demon, maybe. One optimistic, one so neutral it’s indistinguishable from a concrete wall, and one critical and accusatory. The angel sits on my left shoulder and the demon sits on my right, leaving my head as a sacrifice to God, who likes to pull my hair. It’s a funny image. I almost laugh, but then the demon kicks me in the neck hard enough to bruise. What’re you gonna do about it, RoboBitch? You gonna cry?
No. I’m not nearly hydrated enough for that. Instead, I start picking up clothing, throwing it into the already overflowing laundry basket. Any trinket shaken loose is left on the ground for later. I find skirts that I forgot existed, ancient t-shirts, clothes that I borrowed from people and never gave back. The heater clunks on and I slam the vent shut. This is for me and me only, and I’ll freeze the room out if I have to.
Clean clothes that are mine go onto the bed. Clean clothes that aren’t mine get thrown towards the door, ideally to give back but realistically to become mine until someone else takes them. Dirty clothes go into the hamper. The CD ends, and I put in a Bowie compilation like I can dance my blues right out of the room. Fuck all the beautiful people, fuck the sorrow and that entrancing superblue sidewalk ouside the glowing amber houses. I tell myself over and over— if you want to be in the amber, you have to make a place for yourself in the amber. Make it mine, make it mine, make it mine. I turn on all the lights in the room even though the electricity hurts my bones.
Nobody’s going to take me to the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow and nobody’s going to build me a house there. I’m not a heroine in a Western— there isn’t a cowboy out there waiting for the love of their life to need saving. I’m the motherfucking cowboy, here. Put your boots on and get riding. There’s a big world out there, and that amber house won’t build itself.
There are underling problems not being addressed. I might always be sick, I might always have unreliable moods, I might always be stuck on the road. But I can’t do anything about that right now. Right now, I can clean my damn room.
Over and over. Build the house. Get out of the scene. Kill youself or get over it. Magical thinking, magical thinking, magical thinking— you are someone who believes in magic, I remind myself. You put shiny stones in your mother’s herbs, leave hair cuttings in the trees and dishes of milk out on the porch for the duine sídhe you think lives in the lilac bush.
For some reason, the easiest way for me to convince myself to do something is to convince myself that it’s life or death. Everything is, if you break it down enough— get out of bed or you won’t eat breakfast and then you’ll starve, clean your room or live in depressed squalor. Do or die. I need to clean my room, I need to clean my room, I need to clean my room. There was an article about writing that said repetition conveyed insanity, but this isn’t insanity, it’s survival. I want to live! I want to live! I want to live! It’s desperation that begets results.
It’s going to happen for me. It’s going to happen for all of us. If I can clean my room, that means I can probably finish my assignments, which means I can probably get anything done if I really put my mind to it. All those little underlying problems, that desire for everything to be alliterative or end on an even number, all that sadness, it can go away.
I just need to clean my room.
“Motherfucker,” I say out loud.
Underneath all of that mess lies a green rotting orange, reeking of formaldehyde and waiting to be disposed of.
It’s that easy.