February in review, the dark sucking void, a bit of march

The weather, outside, is clear, oddly, and I try to think of snow. Think of snow. My life is mostly colorless save for dance parties, and I don’t want to write about those. I’m afraid I’ll sound like an idiot, shallow and cheap and incredible and impossibly naïve all at once, unwilling to compromise the way I feel about it now with the way I might feel about it in the future. It’s a sort of self-consciousness I’ve never known before, that I can’t wait to shake off like a head cold. Self-doubt that clings to me like cheap cologne I sprayed on by accident, some place I can’t remember. February is the month the vortex opens, and the rest of the world is suddenly there, in stark relief. The vortex opens some place you don’t expect it, in the hollow of a tree except in the city I never notice the trees, so that analogy won’t do. In the hollow of my own heart. The vortex opens, and through it, the void, a small black square of it. I know that beyond that small dark square it’s black and bottomless and bigger than anything, absolutely bigger than absolutely anything. And I remember how small I am, how soft, how mortal. And I know, too, that the universe tends towards chaos, and I can see, all of a sudden, the sheer improbability that is life on Earth, and as a last thing I realize that we have manifested it, that this elaborate collection of single-celled organisms that is life is only here through the sheer will of our believing in it, and all through the month of February I look into the void at its darkness and its blackness and its bottomlessness and my powers of manifestation start to wane, my Chi starts to dim like a guttering votive in a cardboard box, and I know, with all of my heart, that it could all be gone in an instant.

We have to believe.

And now March, which feels halfway through already but I think that’s because I’ve sent all my feelings ahead to the middle of the month and I find myself wandering here in the beginning, without a thing on my back. The days feel empty and sort of rough, like sandpaper. And their loop no longer feels refreshing, it feels instead like I have an excess of one thing and too little of another, like I’ve got plenty of clay pots but no water. Where is the market where I can trade time for money? Ah yes, capitalism! But I have never been much of an economist, and besides there’s a handwritten note on the capitalism machine today, closed for repairs. So I’ll be rich and poor forever, a sort of limping existence, a one-legged life.

I’m not the only one, of course. Everyone my age I talk to who doesn’t have a job and lives in Portland is having one heck of a time trying to find one. I feel like come summer we should form bands in ragged woolen caps and set off across the country on freight trains. Only it wouldn’t be picking peaches this time, like in The Grapes of Wrath. What would it be? Something horrible. Pharmaceutical studies, web design. Something like that. There is no labor anymore, at least not for us. No objects moving through space by the power of our own two hands in exchange for warm metal coins, not now and never again. It makes me want to put on my cap and run off on a freight train just to spite them. Oh wait, I already do. I will not become a web designer. I will not.

Speaking of the void, I looked at the Second Life website today. Don’t ever go there. Just don’t. I had a horrible feeling about it, but I was curious and procrastinating, and then there I was, sort of hovering over it, the fake satellite image map of that fake horrible land, unable to descend and look closer because I was unwilling to open an account, but it didn’t matter because I could see it from here- the end of the world. The goddam end of the goddam world, like the Nothing in every young adult novel I’d ever read. I closed the browser window quickly, and the map blinked away. I almost expected it to pop back up, to suck my face into the flat blue light of my computer screen. I realized it would have been wise to tie my feet to the legs of my chair in advance, as a sort of anchor in case I fell in.

But it was gone.

I don’t want to look at my computer anymore. I keep trying to imagine a life as a writer without it, but I can’t. I am of its generation, and it is of mine. We are grown together, its wires in me like tentacles. My brain has grown around its cold glowing, the hum of its small fan. I think and my fingers tap and pages are written, like a sort of magic manifestation. The thought of life without it fills me with a sort of panic.

But I am growing to hate it. I don’t want it. I want to smash it to pieces, and I fantasize about that- about tossing it against the wall, destroying it so I cannot use it ever again. I’d be in some dry, dust choked place, and a faded door would bang open, screen torn off in the wind, and light would stream in. I’d walk out that door, leaving my computer on the smooth concrete floor, nothing but a bunch of harmless plastic, no portal to anything, not a part of my own flesh and blood. I’d walk away along the road, the good solid road, and stick my thumb out- and from then on out I’d only move through real live space, in the third dimension, and I’d scribble my stories in notebooks made from old paper if I wrote them at all, or I’d become a traveling storyteller, an oral storyteller, and I’d spin a mythology to save humanity. In this fantasy I look, for some reason, like Angelina Jolie in this video.

The end of the world. The beginning. The middle.

And driving a pedic@b is all sorts of hard. The first night I did it I made nothing, combed the empty streets, felt like I was the last one left alive. Made it home at four a.m., delirious and exhausted. The second night two rich men hired me to follow them from bar to strip club to bar and wait outside, perched on the bike with my library book, good woolen flannel protecting me from the night air. I’d drag them inch-by-inch up hills like a tired oxen, and they loved it. Dapper men in flapping scarves walked past at the speed of jet planes, laughing good-naturedly. The riders gave me twenty dollars, over and over, and at the end of the night I had eighty. I felt like I’d finally felt what it was like to do sex work, only I’d sold exercise instead. They’d been too drunk to stand all night, straight as arrows, and one kept telling me how cute I was. That flannel, he said, in all seriousness. And your boots. I wanted to tell him that if he thought I was cute then it made him a homosexual. He would’ve laughed at that, drunk and happy. If I had money like him, I thought, I’d hire everyone on the street to do any little thing for me, pay them in crisp stacks of twenties. My own stimulus plan.

The third night the chain broke on another cabbie’s bike, nice man who lives in Beaverton, just moved here, I picked up his subtle North Carolina accent right away, even though he just lived in Asheville for a spell, was really from Baltimore. I gave him my cab, told him my quads were sore, my magic was faded. Unlocked my bike in the parking garage that smelled like piss and rode home past all the glowing taco bells. drive through open. I work again in a few days and I’m not excited, but damn do I need the money. It’s cold winter still in the late night and there’s hardly anyone about, you have to hunt them down like shy rabbits on the barren downtown streets and coax them into your cab. Luckily when they’re drunk their feet don’t work anymore and that makes it easier. Unluckily they’re all poor like me and I haven’t yet learned to tell the ones who have endless regenerating magic money banks like the two men I ferried from bar to bar and then dropped them, at last, at the Hilton to sleep off their hangovers.

And here ends this rambling entry. It’s late night and the time has changed. My bed is calling me, my small knitted bear, my flat imperfect pillow, the open window. And since I’ve been re-reading The Bandit Queen, nightmares- my brain processing chapters that I read too quickly, in a panic, on the max- I’m in India and I have to hide in the jungle, I am Phoolan Devi and I am an the reincarnation of the goddess of vengeance, I am the physical manifestation of all the oppressed peoples who have ever lived. What do I do?

4 thoughts on “February in review, the dark sucking void, a bit of march

  1. Oh Carrot, lately your posts have been making me feel a little maternal towards you. I want to tuck you into a billion soft blankets, give you a cup of warm tea and a kiss on the forehead.

    so here is my unsolicited “advice”, and I apologize if it sucks.

    I like to ask people what the “apocalypse” means to them. Most say everyone dies and everything ends. I tell them, we are all going to die anyway. Apocolypse, cancer, car accident – it will happen one way or another. Why this obsession with the minor details? And there is no “end of the line”. Just transition. At the end of the exhale, there is an inhale. So stop worrying and stay in the present. “Now is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” ~cifu turtle from kungfu panda

    Carrot, your discontent is telling you something very important. Something feels unauthentic to you. Maybe your spirit wants to move again.Maybe you don’t really want to fit into the shape that you have made for yourself there. Or maybe you are looking for something entirely new and elusive and it will provide for you an adventure that will last years. I don’t know.

    I don’t know why everyone is staying in the same place if it no longer supports them. There are plenty of jobs out here in L.A. and I’m sure other places too. What is keeping you in Portland?

  2. Sloth- It’s ok! Yes, I know the apocalypse is a silly idea, I just like the symbolism of it! I’m being dramatic here, that’s all! And no, I’m not going to stay in portland. Thanks for the heartfelt advice.

  3. well then, I blame it on your writing for making me feel worried about you. But I should know better. You have a place to crash in L.A. should you ever venture out here. Not that I would expect you to want to.

    You were right about Brokeback Mountain. I’ve read it 3 times and am reading the screenplay right now. Are all of her stories like this? Do you ever feel inadequate and lame about being a writer when you read (da)shit like this? I know I do. Like why would I ever think I could come up with something as meaningful and say it as lyrically and simply as Annie Proulx? And how do you pronounce her name, anyway?

    The paper I have to write on is about how Proulx is a “geographic determinist” and how the landscaping/environment of the story and the movie plays an important part in the narration of “Brokeback Mountain”. I love how the landscape is as dangerous and cruel as it is romantic and majestic. It sets off how plain and ruddy the lives of the people who live there are. And how nature is so beautiful but so stoic and oppressive, and carves the faces of stone and people.

    It’s one of those stories where I can sit for hours after reading and experience real humility at how life is just so….it is just so…..!?!

    !?! is the only word I can find to describe it.

    And I can’t stop thinking about Heath Ledger.

  4. Sloth- some people say that Brokeback Mountain is her masterpiece. So no, I don’t compare myself to that! She’s 73, also, did you know that? So we’ve got some time to improve. 😉 And she said in an interview that it took her twice as long to write Brokeback as it did to write The Shipping News, which is this brick of a novel she won awards for. Totally blows my mind. And no, I don’t know how to pronounce her name. Also, speaking of place, she’s leaving wyoming. She’s totes squeezed all the stories out of it that she can get. I forget where she’s going next, but it’ll be her new subject matter. I hope she lives forever.

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