In a room full of people, somebody finds their way to me and confesses they know so much about me already. Is it weird? That they’ve followed me on facebook or twitter? Maybe they should feel dirty? Like a stalker? Should they be telling me this?
Through a friend or acquaintance I find out somebody I met once two years ago at New Year’s in a crowd of strangers followed my blog until the updates stopped coming. They liked my writing. Or else something attracted them to what I was putting down. Disconnected from my audience — now an imagined blur in my mind, scanning the internet waves for random words I’ve spilled across them somewhere off in the distance — I wonder: What did they like about me? Did they find my writing too personal? Am I just a fascinating wreck?
Have you seen me naked? Was my skin stained in unexpected places? Did my lip quiver right before you turned away?
Somewhere in a book I didn’t like it says “There are two types of people in this world. Those that live their lives with clothes on, and those that take their clothes off for the world. To show people what it means to be alive and human.” Or something like that.
If I didn’t like the book, it wasn’t because I disagreed with that sentiment. I am a public figure. I have been taking my clothes off for the world for years. Recently I stopped.
I had my heart crushed into awkward shapes. I had the scar on my back quoted without my consent. I had the beauty mark above my pubis used to make a killer case against my perfect. I let you into my room but I found you rooting around for gold while I was not looking.
And a woman I respect told me in no uncertain terms to stop.
Dear Doctor: I make myself vulnerable by exposing myself compulsively. The tools I use to teach the world through my body are not enough to keep them from cutting my skin to get closer to earthly fantasies. I am not the world. I am an individual who suffers. I teach the world to abuse me through my constant reinforcement of how much, how far I can bend before I snap. I am strong but I have a tendon that cripples me. I collapse with the softest breath. I am vulnerable as all fuck and I’m dying because I taught them how to kill me. I am nothing, and nobody cares at all in the end, when they go home to a television that buzzes and a need to be something bigger than themselves.
So why take off my clothes at all? If I had wanted to be a hero, I might have tried, at least, to save your life?
There is something inside me that is elastic and unpredictable. I cultivate it. If there’s resistance, I step back. In another time I might have been a poet. In another body, I might have been a writer. In another life, I might have had a more resonant name.
Sometimes an image, a collection of words, a scent, a touch, a flash in another’s eyes is so beautiful I crumble under the weight of the instance and the world. I can cry at anything. A glance in an elevator. An intense emotion of any flavor. A glimpse of the candid being stripping away the layers.
It wouldn’t be fair to experience the world with such crushing love if I didn’t also experience it with equal rage. What would I be if I couldn’t fall into the devil’s arms with the wrong combination of words or gestures? I would be some happy fool. I would be ecstatic, yes, but what would I do with it except sing praises to the universe? I might have had to be a saint.
It wouldn’t be fair, in light of such widespread suffering. But mostly it would not have been fair to me. Me. Me. Me. Miss Lonelyhearts.
Miss Lonelyhearts has to suffer. Not as a martyr to the world, but as a martyr to herself.
Because in my quest for truth — for some chaotic purity — as deluded and misguided as I am, I know at least that it is not one-sided.
I have problems with my family. I am the black sheep, and if that isn’t it, then I am the sheep without any skin at all. They took a different turn somewhere. I am inappropriate. My morality wanes. I make hasty decisions. I love reaction, provocation, challenge. Whatever you think I should be, I will prove myself the opposite.
The opposite at all times of exactly that which one thinks an individual should seek to be.
What the fuck is up with that? I don’t know. It’s about rebellion, as an easy out, but more than that, it’s about getting right down to the truth — some kind of truth that is constantly slipping through and eluding — about human existence.
The truth about human existence. enormous thoughts. enormous pursuits. I’m going about it all wrong. But there’s some desire to uncover how nuanced it is. There is some lunatic need to prove that it twists and that it will not, can not, must not be captured in rules. And so, they call it rebellion. And it started when I was in the womb somewhere hot and sticky 28 years ago.
I like attention. I like being rewarded for being quick on my feet and quicker with words and slippery when wet. Merci. But also, I want you to know that I am dying everyday. I want you to know that I suffer with every step, just like that fucking mermaid who wanted too much and got so very little. A punishment for your ambition? A curse for your greed? Sedation in the arms of love? Oh, mon amour, I open my arms so wide to you.
Here’s the thing. To be human, for me, is to walk home in the fog and find 20 dollars rolled up by the curb just when you’re thinking oh fuck it’s all in vain. It is to sleep for 48 hours and miss the entire world because you’re tired. It is to cry in peals of horrible thunder because you are alone. It is to laugh hysterically when whatever you’ve been working on is garbage and you’re going to have to cut apart the entire film again. It is to discuss things that ought not be discussed, for example, the fact that I have hammertoes and my podiatrist cried at my feet (that’s a favorite, you will hear it again).
If I don’t take being human by the horns I will evaporate. I’m sure of it. Because sometimes, getting out of bed will kill you. A look will kill you. A misunderstanding will cut you in the vein. But other times, the light will be a spectacular burst that fills your every cell and crumbles your knees to the ground. People will be so insanely amazing and loveable, and desirable in their flawed states of unravelling, that you will have no choice but to give them your entire heart so be it you can always grow a new one back.
The most amazing thing in the world to me is when another is so human in their ugliness, uncertainty, honesty, and desire to be good. I can’t turn my back on that truth. I’m hunting everyday with my nose to the ground for that honest moment. Lie to me if it means you’re letting me inside. I’m sniffing coat sleeves and collar bones for any trace of truth. I’m letting my tongue parch and curl up from the salt along your back. I will follow my instinct to the grave.
It’s better to have lived and died than never to have been alive at all?