Everyone is immortal on the holidays
Everything is immortal on the holidays, even love
Sacred and permanent and vehement and on fire
And despite my arsenal of intoxicants
The weapons that I insist are my defense force against reality and chest elephants and special Days
I feel entirely too vulnerable
Too hot headed, pink cheeked, left to my own devices
And I’m peeling my skin off in this deranged void space
Getting too close too fast too often
Being flippant about the geography of my body
And demanding that something be authentic and safe and uncalculated
Because I’m spewing, all jagged and harmful
And the intimacy rope is being gnawed at
But even bigger than that, and far more dangerous
I am more nonsensical than ever
Less ethereal/ Brooklyn, more vicious/Philadelphia
Something has been pent up
Which cannot be contained by the cage of numbness
The apathetic, goddamn fucking boring force field of self pity
And delusions of grandeur
Twelve versions of my shell laid out on the kitchen table like a peace offering to the ravenous
But I’m unfrozen, unfed and undignified
The last time that Philadelphia felt magic, I was driving myself there. My head was light with uncharacteristically bold self assurance and red wine. I stopped at a liquor store that emulated the taxi yellow energy of a cheap fever dream, complete with dim lights and strange night time characters, all tired eyes and baggy coats. I bought two large bottles of eight dollar pinot noir, one white and one red, and felt myself become oddly aware of how much strength it really took out of me to hoist them onto the counter for the unimpressed cashier to scan. It felt good to be on the way to somewhere, to remain in motion even if said movement was void of reason. Motion is the only thing that sustains me on the restless chest prison nights. On any night at all.
And motion was fine, until I felt my head slam into my dashboard, and the ugly squeal of my breaks doing their job a second too late, as my brand new Honda Civic..(or Accord? Is it bad that I still have no idea what kind of car I drive?) collided with the bulk of an SUV in the next lane over. I’m a self professed awful driver, but it had been years since I’d lost control in such a physical, catastrophic manner. In a panic, I stepped on the gas. There was nowhere to pull over and the street lights looming over the highway blurred together in a horrific, vapor wave psychedelic way.
A burly man in a truck rolled his window down next to me, and screamed out “you’re wild for that one, love.”
Fuck. “I didn’t know what to do!” I wailed back, helplessly. “Pull over, follow me,” he said.
Obediently, I followed the strange dude until there was space for the two of us to pull off and put our hazards on. Shortly behind me, the SUV that I’d scraped came to a harsh stop. An angry woman climbed out of the driver’s seat.
“You tried to hit and run me, bitch,” she yelled.
I was crying now. Sloppy, hot tears of humiliation and idiocy. Have You ever seen how ugly idiot tears are? “I didn’t mean to!” I insisted. As we attempted to exchange information, a gaggle of this woman’s children poured out of the backseat of her car and started taking Snapchat and Instagram videos of the massive dent that was in mine, pointing and laughing that I’d “fucked with their mom.”
“Do you want me to not call the police?” the lady taunted. “Do you have a criminal record or something?”
“I don’t have a criminal record,” I said. But I also absolutely couldn’t bear the idea of standing so still that my skin crawled, in the middle of the street, under the white hot gaze of this woman and her family and even the man who tried to help. I did have some points on my driver’s license for open containers. I was also two large glasses of red deep, which wasn’t a definite DUI now that I was twenty one, but God Forbid I shook or leaned the wrong way and a pig tried to breathalyze me.
“I mean if you’re okay with just exchanging our information, I’m pretty sure the cops would take forever to show up with all of the riots and everything. So I don’t really know if you have two hours to waste right now, but…”
“Yeah, I get that.” She smacked her gum and returned my ID to my trembling dumb ass hands.
“Be careful, then.”
I nodded. When i walked back to my driver’s seat, the man hadn’t moved.
“Don’t you wanna get that fixed, babe?” he said, nodding to the dent. Suddenly, he was repulsive and terrible and trying to get in my pants. “Cause I got a shop down the street, if you wanna—”
“Nah, I’m cool, I gotta go somewhere. Thanks for your help,” I interrupted — and sped off.
I was initially on my way to Sasha’s house, and despite the fact that she and Lola were flooding my phone with sympathetic texts upon hearing the news, the only person I could bear to think about talking to was Aidan. A strange genre of Stockholm syndrome is likely what led me to ignore their empathetic questions as they waited for my arrival and send him a picture of my damaged vehicle. It’s fucked up that I had to send the image to prove that something bad had actually happened, to show him that I needed him, or at least thought I did. I was like a child tugging on his sleeve, shaking like a leaf in the wake of my own destruction and flippance, begging for anything but more salt in my wounds. Acting on my desire to be comforted by my venomous ex lover was like intentionally going swimming in quicksand, and then justifying it by telling everyone I wanted a “challenge.”
I think Philadelphia started to lose its magic for me in the winter of 2020. In the fall it was electric still, but an ugly kind of black and blue electric, an acid trip temporary reprieve from the dread of a summer heat that weighed so much it was suffocating. When a place has no firsts left to offer me, it becomes recyclable. I smoked all of the cigarettes that I could, and now they just make my mouth taste stale and my stomach lurch with nausea. I found another boy to care so much about me that that love was going to run me into the ground if I didn’t beg him to turn off the engine. When the truth becomes ugly and impossible, so do I.
I’ve always been comforted by hospitals. On every trip, I hastily grab my iPhone before we’re even five miles away from home to research the closest one to our destination. Sometimes I’ll check while we’re in motion, making sure I remain near one at all times. I think this is another example of being stuck in motion… glued to my need for safety, entrapped by my fear, a slave to the nervous tic of knowing. I’m looking for a place where everything stops, because I’ve finally lost control, because I’m strapped down to a bed and hooked up to a million wires and bound to the opinions of others. In a hospital, I’m released from the terrifying burden of autonomy, the weighted privilege of free will that regularly runs me into the ground. By the time I was eighteen, I’d convinced myself that the only way to stop running and doing and drinking and driving and fucking and fucking up, was to be put away, under fluorescent lights and scowls.
I’m 21. The world has stopped. My body has been ravaged by coronavirus. People are dying. But I refuse to. The idea of stopping makes me feel claustrophobic in my skin, hot headed and angry, like clawing at the air because the evening surrounding me must be an invisible dome, locking me away from liberty.
There are gems on my face and I’m running at the speed of light through the blue dark of my front yard, one hand around a thick velvet resurrection in a glass bottle beneath a paper bag. I feel guilty for removing the innocent wine bottle from it’s brown paper cage, shelter from the outside world, but I haphazardly bring it out into the wind anyway, then to my chapped lips. I feel lighter as soon as I take the first sip, and immediately decide that my ability to indulge has an expiration date. This toxic comfort must be as impermanent as everything else.
I’ll stop tomorrow. I take another sip.
I know it’s a pandemic. I know that some people are glued to their beds and don’t have the ability to be anything but almost human. I know that my world is small but it feels vast and on fire and scary and… maybe that’s why I write in the first place, why my words are so scattered and void of structure, because I know exactly what I’m trying to say but can’t do it while I’m stuck in motion, while I’m fucking spinning.