The Things I’d Do

I used to try to track my dreams and force sleep paralysis. I’d do things like put on white noise through headphones and fasten halved ping pong balls over my eyes, to force sensory deprivation. When that did nothing, I’d keep myself awake for days at a time, blasting loud music and imbibing caffeine while making note of any aberrations in thought or mood.

I’d test my lung capacity and willpower by keeping my head underwater during baths, stopwatch ticking in my hand outside the tub. I’d go on fasts for days, taking in only water, not even tea, not even black coffee, dropping weight and going straight into starvation mode.

I’d bike for an entire day–twelve hours straight, then do the same thing but with walking. I’d spend whole days imagining life through the eyes of a city pigeon or a backyard squirrel. I would inflict self-pain in small doses (small at first), looking for the minimum effective dosage, journalling the process, always documenting, because if you’re documenting then it almost feels like you’re doing it all for a reason.

I’d spend entire nights outside, then days, at first trying to find out what the “homeless experience” was, but then of course discovering that there isn’t only one. Back at home, I’d do stuff like super glue my hand to the bathroom wall and see how long the adhesion would last. I’d put all my money save for five dollars in savings, then live off that five dollars for two weeks. I would sneak into a supermarket’s bathroom just before closing and see if I could go the whole night without being detected.

I’d rig an eye-opening device, like the one from that Kubrick horrorshow, and see how long I could go without blinking before my vision started to fade. I’d sit, and stare at a wall, and meditate for hours at a time, losing track of the passage of minutes, then hours, then days. I’d live in my closet for a week or so.

I had the idea that I was collecting these experiences for a book. It was fiction at first, but it became nonfiction eventually as time went on. Surprisingly, at least at first, the writing was undisciplined. There was no structure, no schedule, just word after word whenever they’d come. There was something about the truth, though, something lacking. You could spend an entire day looking at something and not really see it. For some of the experiences, I’d take them on for a month or more and have less than a paragraph to put down about them. Seeing is not reflecting. Feeling is not reporting.

I spend most of my days, now, eating when it feels appropriate, sleeping at night, and moving unrestricted during the day. I don’t write about this (I write about other things now), but I seem to get on okay. Sometimes, at night, images of experience will dance in front of my eyes as I try to sleep. I watch them pass as I breathe and breathe and breathe.

 

Featured Image

All I Need

Pretending there are any ideas other than this one, any places beyond where we find ourselves, now, trading traumas and swapping family war stories in the dark, under the artificial moon streaming in through the window, flies buzzing around it as it buzzes back at them, glowing orange, now red, now white hot, and we are all of us children stumbling around and searching for reason in all this fallow grace, this sickly daze that we’ve created for ourselves, this human sadness, a self-created void that’s as warm as a security blanket and just as well-worn, eating up the land, and I tell you about when I was small, so small I couldn’t talk but could watch, could see these things as they happened in my home, these horrible moments that shaped me into the person I am now, heal(ing)(ed) from these wounds, recounting them to put them in a glass box where they can be regarded like a plague contained, quarantined from its host once and for all, and I watch the way the light dances on your face as you lay down color on paper, something on in the background, but fuzzy around the edges, like a dream, and I’m similarly drifting in and out of sleep, with that nonsense thought process that comes along with it, saying things I can’t remember later but which I’ve needed to say, not to anyone but just in general, needed to speak these stories out loud so they couldn’t hold me hostage any longer, that’s what trauma is, a hostage-taker, laying claim to your body, your mind, your soul, your sanity, until it’s not anymore, until one day when you realize that you can function again, have functioned for some time now, and just realizing this is terrifying, because you don’t want to jinx it, don’t want to lose all the progress you’ve made, don’t ever ever ever want to be broken in that way ever again, and your breath hitches in your chest, vision narrows, it gets harder to breathe, and you have to go to the bathroom to catch your breath, and dry your eyes, and remind yourself, again, as many times as it takes, that you are okay, that you have been okay, and you will continue to be okay, and maybe this isn’t an exhaustive catalogue of post-trauma feelings, maybe it can’t cover it all, but it covers mine, even as I stand years removed from the trauma, years removed even from the most dangerous of episodes after the fact, as I enjoy peace in my time as they’d call it, writing and working and living and enjoying, I can see that this little parasite might always be there, might always squeal its insistence, but it’s a hollow cry, a desperation that goes unheeded, and I walk on into the night with nothing more than the stars and the moon to light the way, here in these hills, and that is, now, more than enough.

That is all I need.

They All Fall Down

You can smell violence like you would a dying flower in an empty lot, mold gathering in all the cracks, hearing the distant sound of sirens, eating a honey bun you got with your last $0.50 from a convenience store you haven’t been to in years, understanding that this is the place, this is the time, this is where you make your stand, on the street corner standing opposite the ones who wave confederate flags, showing toothless grins, with beards the color of puke, knowing that this place you now call home is not where you were born but where you were born again, and all of these fuckwits come in with out of state license plates, cheesing for the cameras, trying to get the next soundbite that will go viral, no real conviction behind their words, and you can tell that last part by how they look at you, or rather how they look away and won’t meet your stares with their own, because they haven’t been through real hardship, really, maybe drink and drugs but not poverty, not violence, not the gnawing sense that you could be hurt or killed at any moment just stepping outside your door, being told not to leave your home or go certain places at certain times, having to take precaution always, not knowing if you can trust your own neighbor, you’ve been there but they haven’t, because you can see it in their eyes when they spout their slogans, when they sing their dixie, you can see the death in there–a death that their bodies and brains haven’t caught up to yet but their souls have already suffered, and what comes out of their mouths is a result of fear, and all fear can be exploited–you know this as you stand in front of them, some of these old men still playing confederate dress-up, LARPing as johnny rebel even though they’ve never had to fight their entire lives, only fought by choice, always on the losing team, the wrong side, and when you stand in front of one of them and ask him if he knows that he’s on the wrong side of history, he’ll say this is his history, this alternate story constructed in his brain, and you know he’s not worth the effort to swing your fist, not worth the effort and yet there might be one in the future who is, so you show up every time because this isn’t done until it’s done, statues aren’t gone till they’re gone, and you have to show up, have to be present, have to be visible so that they know they will be fought every step of the way, so that they know their ideology is cancerous, so that they lose the same battle their ancestors lost before them–because these wars are not won with rhetoric or even argument. They all fall down, but they have to be made to fall.