*Note: I wrote this before 7 November, but it’s still relevant and worth exploring.
I have been thinking about Donald Trump as synecdoche and what that could mean for the next few decades if we don’t understand and act on what that entails, e.g., if he loses the election (and concedes, too), we still need to deal with many major problems (which, mind you, are not by any means new or surprising): The climate that bore Trump; the climate that exists in his aftermath, albeit more than likely agitated and angered to a greater degree; the small details that, combined, create a problem as large as what we see in this election (I’m talking about sexism, racist, misogyny, islamophobia, neoliberalism, isolationism). What I mean by small details is that, for example, when cis men tell women that they’re beautiful even though this bothers women because unwritten in our societal language is the implication that women are required to say “thank you” or basically applaud men for being so bold and romantic. These are difficult to address because they’re greeted with stubborn dismissals. When I talk about this, I think of the Waking Life Espresso events in Asheville, NC. The two owners of the business were members of the Red Pill fraternity on Reddit and other weird and disturbing corners of the internet. After someone anonymously posted the owners’ podcast recordings and screenshots of their Twitter and blog feeds, Asheville erupted in rage, boycotting the coffee shop until, only a few days later, the owners closed Waking Life permanently. The reactions to the event were varied. Some men sided with the WL owners. Other men acted surprised that this could happen, that men treat women this way. But that reaction smacks of ignorance and insouciance. We, as women, know that these two men in Asheville were not outliers in an otherwise pleasant landscape.
My boyfriend and I drove across the country in July of 2016. I’ve told this story so many times that the experiences and memories have removed themselves to screenshots and elevator pitches. But it was still an incredibly humbling and centering journey. Primarily because the United States is SO BIG. Look up ‘big’ in a thesaurus for more information re: the vast and desolate landscape that is our country.
I took a few pictures while we were out in the middle of nowhere. This way when I’m re-reading Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead I can look at poorly composed iPhone pictures of Arizona/Nevada, &c., and I won’t have to try as hard to imagine the landscape of the play.
Because I’m the kind of person who’ll pick up a book and, half-way through the first page, suddenly find another book in my hand — I can’t commit! (My therapists know all too well.) These words from Francine Prose offer me guidance:
With so much reading ahead of you, the temptation might be to speed up. But in fact it’s essential to slow down and read every word … All the elements of good writing depend on the writer’s skill in choosing one word instead of another.
I want to slip into the curve of your back–
where my fingertips dance along the ridge
of your spine as I count each vertebra in a
language we created–unreeling like an anchor
while your hand moves so deeply inside me
I lose my center. I will rest here, unsteady:
(… “Lacunae”: cavities/depressions in bone
Missing pieces of manuscripts. Example of the adj. jejune. )
I am thinking about your tongue
and the way your eyebrows slope
when you look up at me and you
moving up to me and
cool blue light
music and your voice
until you’re sitting in front
of me thinking about it all.
Feel like I’m waking up after a week of illness. Air fresher, sun warmer; I’m able to laugh and smile.
Does this make sense? I’m alive, and I know what that means now because I wasn’t before you.
—Your boobs look really good. Might be
the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me
while I’m crying. (Am I mean? Guarded maybe.
But my mom said I’m mean sometimes.
She could be right.)
—Why are you crying? I’m sorry.
—What’s wrong? I’m so sad.
—Why? I don’t know. I’m so sad all the time; it won’t stop. (Apologies, excuses.)
—You were the one who said that it’s OK
to be sad.
I crossed his path twice today. He stood in the same place, Parliament resting between his thumb and index fingers.
—You’re still waiting for Godot? (He reminds me of an old friend. I’m always finding memories in the expressions of acquaintances.)
I’m already working on his next mix CD. Thought I’d title it something sad, like: We’re not dead, but asleep dreaming of ourselves. (Maybe he’s like me, and he doesn’t think that’s sad. And our flesh will become dying birds spiraling out into dusk to catch the last echoes of traffic exhaust in the deep Southern sky, our pale feathers dipping to touch once softly and then falling away.)
You once loved Whitman. You take one Women’s Studies class in college. You take four more. Your gender becomes a question to declare a statement. I mean, you’ve always questioned its state. Draw attention to that fact. Nothing is worth reading anymore. “Kurt Vonnegut sucks.” And the Lost Generation should be forgotten. Be as radical as possible. No one gets it like you do. Drink so much your fingers spin. That’s funny, you think. It’s easy to laugh as your friend speeds drunk down the highway when you realize the consequence is death and you’ve been wanting that for so long. You’re only not laughing the next morning when you’re awake, you puke in the bushes on the way to work, and you’re still here. But you wake up. Deal with the day. Smile at someone. They don’t smile back. No one’s happy. The dim room spins around heavy with conversations you paid tuition to escape. No you didn’t. You rolled your eyes through your liberal arts education. Shows you didn’t learn anything. “I never want to go back. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back.” Where else, then? How long can I live in Facebook statuses and Instagram photos? Do they charge rent? I feel like I’m dying, I’m telling you honestly. That’s not true. I can’t say it out loud. But I’m feeling that way. I can’t take hot showers anymore; I feel so suffocated. Used to stay in until the water ran cold. Until my skin boiled. Blistered. Burned.