peanut butter will always feel like home
not everything seems to matter to everybody like it does to me.
as we speak there’s an ant crawling across my rug and under the door, strapped to a crumb three times its size like an astronaut with a jetpack. i think, in an ideal world, that would matter more than dinner parties with their rudeness and romance or lack thereof.
tonight the moon has quiet hands. she folds them in her lap then presses her hands like a mothers’ on a feverish forehead in the dark and they feel so good and cold like human plums. we look at the moon when nobody’s looking at us. if you look at somebody on a good day you’ll find them laughing with their head back, all tangled up in their own humanity and refusing, for the moment, to think about the moon. this isn’t innately sad or happy — more self evident, like air or blueberries. we attribute feelings to inanimate objects because our hearts are too big to fit in their rib caves and the wire mesh of our experience has made objectivity impossible. our senses are malleable. we are breathing clay.
for me npr is the kitchen on a saturday morning, my mom squeezing a lemon on an english breakfast pancake. for me chipping green paint will always smell like funerals. wet cheeks will always feel like funerals. cranberry nut bread will always taste like a consolation card. the perfume of a person, the smell of their house. how the sky turns purple like a bruise at a certain time of night and it makes you think about how romantic these scenes always appear from the front seat of someone’s blue convertible. my worst memories return in gales and stairwells. polo shirts, a cologne that trained me to asphyxiate in its absence.
but then there’s also how peanut butter will always feel like home. the creaky swing, the yappy dog, complaints about both things. scabs on knees and the sparklers burning to the nubs in fingertips — tracing chandelier formations in the clear air while simultaneously threatening to annihilate your hands. parents are uneasy about many things, yet they soften with sparklers. little flames in little fingers. it’s because childhood nights poke their sleepy heads through the chain link fences of their memory until they are let through — like stray dogs with frayed collars and an enormous need for nourishment. that’s all these memory things are — pests and also presents. darting around forever in front of my forehead causing ruptures in the future and making me taste mexico every time i lick a stamp.
do you ever have those moments when your personality is just annoying yourself? and you wish you could leave yourself talking for a minute and just take a break from yourself for pete’s sake, the kid follows you everywhere
you’ve got a little crown of light around your head and i don’t understand anything at the center but you’re new and i like you. that feels like standing on top of a mountain staring down at pretty towns, miasmas and clouds and rubber boots and the burnt out ends of marshmallow roasting sticks and horn rimmed glasses and rivers of bicycles and breakfasts and apologies. i apologize if what i’m riding is a tide of false optimism because i fear that i am prone to those. there is a certain sadness that comes with having hoped for something too hard and thus causing it to deflate like a soufflé or to wake from its formation stages too soon and too shoddily crafted to turn into anything real.
all i’m hoping for this year is, once or twice, that back-seat feeling — driving around at night on empty roads, head in someone’s lap. safe.
don’t go to bed too happy or your feet will stretch too far to fit your bed and turn into trees. you’ll dream yourself as an apple orchard and grow too vivid too quickly then shrivel like socks in the laundry come morning. you’ll doubt that anything could ever be so pure as to elicit the shiver it did, so you’ll scratch up your brain’s vcr replaying lost exchanges. did you really say that, and did his laugh blend and echo like canyons? were they breaths of jagged glass or more like lace? could you put a mirror on the day and see yourself through it, or take pictures through windows like a peeping-tom on your own life? there you are in the full skirt, walking down the street, face full wattage. you’ll imagine charcoaled fifth dimensions underneath every compliment you received, because happiness generally eludes you or dips in at unexpected moments like the tops of jungle gyms at sunrise and in your bed watching louie on netflix or full of oreo sundae in greggs restaurant at 1 am. in your mind the hills you climbed burn steeper and more cobbled until you trip and skin both your knees, thinking, why didn’t i let it burn and dissolve on my tongue? better quit before you take bites out of every red apple and leave them in the sun to brown, the skins of life and a shred of what it felt like to live it.
sloths are the weirdest animals. first of all, their name. no other creature is named after a deadly sin, not one. you couldn’t be like, “be right in mom, i’m gonna go walk the wrath” or “ugh shit that lust just stung me in the eye.” well you could, but if you did say those things, they would be weird metaphors and you would probably be a brooding type with a beret and some kind of deep tattoo.
however, any old person can say, “look honey, lets take a picture with that sloth!” and i don’t think that’s fair. i want a picture with glutton. i feel like it would make an excellent house pet.
also it’s not even fair because the sloth has no chance. right off the bat it’s stuck with a debilitating name. there are so many genuinely shitty animals in this world and even still they are all given respectable titles. nobody named mosquitos “annoyings.” rats aren’t called “disgustings”. humans aren’t called “builds shit and kills stuff”. we were all given the chance to be an exception — the stewart little of our species, the one friendly creature. sloths are never given that chance. they are lazy by name and therefore forced to sort of slink on their tummies to the fringes of society.
cities are different when you’re walking them alone. smoggy afternoons punctuated by sloppy sunsets that flicker pink and orange clouds around the tips of buildings. people chat over steak and wine, chomp korean food out the backs of trucks. some of them are best friends, some frenemies. others reunited after years without contact or meeting in a cafe thanks to an ad on eharmony. you can catch them in your eyes like picture stills, frozen in the middle of a bite in the middle of their life. you can browse for cheap books with sunglasses on, lowering your nose to drink the manilla out of pages or eavesdropping on coffeeshop flirtations — descriptions of bloomers and bad dates and midnight trips to target. you are an anonymous yet visible presence, pressing your nose up to the glass of other peoples’ day-to-days, smelling salt from steak and sweat and afternoons at the sea.
i walked for so long without any place to go in particular. i was in a short dress and my hair was making waves in the humidity. i thought about how lightning scars can sometimes look like flowers or henna on peoples’s skin and if that’s not proof that life is governed by some beautiful magnificent higher order then what is? cities make me believe in god. they breathe. self consumed as their makers and just as lovely.
gratefulness took a bite of me. there’s so much great stuff i’ve gotten to do in my short time spent on this planet and i’ve only taken the first tastes. life is more than a gump sized box of chocolates. it’s a giant hunk of fudge. every 11:11 i whisper into the digital glow, “all the good stuff’s on its way.”
another week is on its way. july is here and the bottoms of my thighs stick to seats so when i stand up it’s like peeling velcro.
my friends are made of stardust and one-liners. we sit in basements and cheap restaurants and, on dark nights, peel off layers on trampolines as we dribble rivers. i got to see regina spektor in may and in august i might be going to san francisco. my poetry teacher told me i can send her my work anytime. then there’s play-writing camp, and senior year, and college, and whatever. getting an apartment. jumping on the bed. having kids. i don’t know, death. tonight i’m excited about all of it, okay? so lucky to be in the orbit of this buzzing city, sneezing out my own weird thoughts and observations and to be so blessed that some think they are pretty.
- many people in my Facebook dash have been commenting “ur so pretty” and other such niceties on a picture of this girl who seems to be breast feeding a puppy.
- so there’s that.
- one of the nicest things in the world is just standing in the shower while all the water punches you in the face with its steam and greatness. it adds a lot to the electric bill but also your own emotional welfare, so it all evens out in the end.
- precollege is just like college except without any grades and you only have one class and you get coffee and after 2 weeks there is a party and then your parents come pick you up.
- also my teacher is the coolest person. she reminds me of what a granola bar would be like if a granola bar also wrote mind-blowing poetry.
- so maybe i should spend the rest of my life in precollege? it seems to be well-tailored to all my interests (coffee, no grades, writing, reading, sitting on peoples beds and chilling, being awesome, telling stories, et al.)
- every time i see a baby or small child i have to resist the urge to stuff it in my backpack or just steal it and take it home with me and call it my own. nobody understands this and it is widely regarded by spectators as the weirdest urge that anyone under the age of thirty has ever had, ever.
- but little kids are great and i want one.
- although i probably wouldn’t believe that if i were responsible for a tiny person full time. i don’t want to be covered in spit up and glue and macaroni noodles and my own tears. i like sleeping and dicking around and spending money on books and smoothies i don’t need.
- i made a friend who wears vintage clothes and lives in Florida. she writes crisp little poems and she said i can stay with her if i ever come to orlando. this means potential trips to disney just got a whole lot cheaper. also, she is great and today she persuaded me to buy a t-shirt that says “PIRHANAS ARE BAD NEWS.”
- I’m so glad i have made this shirt a part of my wardrobe. in fact i do not know how i got by before.
- i bought 1 dollar nail polish at urban outfitters. the color is called “midnight.” i painted myself while watching pretty little liars. a weird face mask crustified on my face. i felt precisely like the stereotypical teenaged older sister that you would see on a cartoon network show. you know, the one the protagonist finds with cucumbers on her eyes and curlers in her hair and screams “IT IS AN ALIEN.”
- which I’m okay with for the time being. if you can’t embrace being an alien at seventeen, then when can you, really?
how to conquer your fear of clowns and also people
It’s like this. One day you will see a clown. It will not be Ronald McDonald, the friendly face of American obesity. Not one of those cultured European clowns who can eat glass off a lion’s back and juggles fireballs with his tonsils either. It will be the kind of clown who reminds you of why you’ve always hated ice cream truck music. The kind that came up to you at a birthday party when you were in kindergarten and pulled a nickel out of your ear without even checking first to see if you would be okay with that kind of thing. He will make The Joker seem like a little kid who got into his mommy’s makeup bag.
You will try to play it cool. The people you are with, let’s call them Bert and Linda, will be amused by your evident terror. They will chuckle at your clown-shyness and clap their impeccably manicured nails together outside the circus they convinced you to attend ironically.
Linda might say, “Oh my god, this is too funny. You’re still afraid of clowns?”
Bert might say, “Linda. Get the camera quick!”
You will think about punching them both in their smug faces and then macing the clown, or macing them all and then escaping in the clown car, but whatever self-preservation skills you still possess will kick in at the last minute.
“I’m not afraid of clowns,” you might say, “I just don’t like the way they waste pies. They just throw them in people’s faces willy nilly. I mean half the time the pies just hit the floor, and like, those pies took time to make. Somebody lovingly baked those pies. I don’t trust people who take a perfectly good dessert and then punt it at people. I mean, this is how genocides start.”
Bert and Linda will raise their eyebrows like the housekeeper on the Brady Bunch did when she knew Cindy and Bobby had just fed their all vegetables to the dog.
“Reaaaally?” they will say, and in that moment, you will know.
You will know they know you’re truly very afraid of meth addicts and people with asthma (respectively for their scary faces and loud breathing.) They probably know you can’t sit in a room without facing the door because you’re scared Ted Bundy will sneak in, that even looking at a picture of John Quincy Adams creeps you out and also that you are perpetually afraid you will misplace your house key, catch mad cow disease or end up as a crazy cat lady who hoards college brochures and informational pamphlets. They’ll know about your childhood fascination with the Geico gecko and the phase when you walked around singing Oops I Did it Again and making all your t-shirts into crop tops with scrunchies. They will even know that you spit calzone out of your mouth when the hot English teacher tried to talk to you last semester. They will also sense that in fifth grade you lost a bet with Laura Heinzman by being too law abiding to stick your foot in the boy’s bathroom.
These hypothetical jerks Linda and Bert will see straight into your clown-hating, world-fearing soul and they will smirk. They will hold off on smirking full throttle right away, but you will be able to tell the smirks are building. They will drop you off at your apartment smirkingly and shout that they had a great time. Then they will go back to Bert’s apartment and swill wine around while smirking some more. You will unlock your front door, change into pajamas and defrost a pizza. “This is how it is supposed to be,” you will say to your dog who is lying belly up, exposed indecently on the other side of the sofa. He will nod his head in agreement. There is nothing to fear except clowns.
you will buy me a cheeseburger and we will sit side by side watching whatever’s on TV and i will call it home
my best friend tells me all about the ins and outs of her gastric system, so i say maybe we’re too comfortable with one another. then again perhaps there’s no such thing as too comfortable. like a bed you sink into, sheets and pillows made up to swaddle your frame like you’re back in your bassinet or baby swing, staring up, goo eyed, at ceiling fans.
i went running in the hazel night, clouds all a fluster. my stomach was churning. ethiopian for lunch and indian takeout for dinner. ben and jerrys for snack. there are so many continents sitting in my stomach that a food pangea has begun to form, uniting all the rices and tortillas of the nether worlds. i might throw up, or read, or light a match then lick the flame. there’s no telling what i might do. these spandex shorts create such an abundance of possible movements.
he was staring at me for a while. i unshook my ponytail and licked the fronts of my teeth, paranoid that there might be a tree growing in the cracks, but i found no leaves or seeds and there was nothing obstreperous splattered on my face. he was staring at my notebook out the sides of his eyes in a blatant attempt to decode my chicken scratch. foreseeing this invasion, i refrained from writing about him. i’d write about him now, only, what can you write about a person you just met? it hurts your eyes to imagine somebody through any hole larger than a one inch telescope. the closest friends and lovers in the world were strangers once too.
any decision change or twist of fates could lead you to a different life entirely. it’s like playing pinball and wondering how many combinations of doors you might open to get to the end of the road. him staring at me might end in three kids and a suburban home, or maybe a fractured flat in a crack addict’s basement, or maybe he might die leaving me widowed and starving. we might not fall in love, choosing instead to be business partners. maybe we’d end up as bonnie and clyde, abbot and costello, batman and robin. he might be the juliet to my romeo or the benvolio to my romeo, or maybe i’m the rosalind before his juliet or maybe we are both the nurse. i don’t know whether i want to meet him at all now. i don’t even know anymore, whether i want to say hello.
someone smart once told me i need to get out of my head more. i think about that bill murray movie, stripes, where the big army guy says “if anyone calls me francis, i’ll kill you! and if any of you homos touch me i’ll kill you!” and then sergeant hulka goes, “lighten up, francis!”
lighten up, francis, is what i will tell myself the next time something like this happens. the next time someone’s staring at me and i’m counting all the freckles on my arms instead of all the ways i might extend myself.
vulnerability is the second before the joke registers.
vulnerability is dreams of arriving at school in your underwear or naked from the waist up, fielding the imploring glances of casual acquaintances who tilt their heads out of cubicles, all fully clothed.
it’s the fat lady’s name on the fashion show roster, the scribbled slut diatribe on public bathroom walls.
it’s “hello class, my name is so-and-so and i’ll be your teacher this year,” or “mom, dad, i have to tell you i’m” (gay, an atheist, dropping out, HIV positive, sad.)
it’s saying “i love you” — the soft kerplunk of words in a bucket. fish still waggling their silver tails in wet wild piles, snatched away from comforting beds of coral and schools of anonymous friends flashing their glittering bodies in the blue.
for the socially anxious, vulnerability is a chain of “hellos” that wedge in your throat. the ghosts of scraps that might fly out. the ghosts of scarves that keep your neck tied to your head on windy nights when it feels like all the trees are bowing down on pavement.
vulnerability is a stripper’s first day on the job. it’s knocking on the door of a new friend, glancing down to make sure your pants are zipped.
it’s somehow crying in public although you’re proud and you never meant to- the bramble in your throat that you remember from age 4 when you saw a dog get kicked in front of Target, yelp, and slink away.
vulnerability is the dog who gets kicked by its owner and keeps padding back, toenails on wood, hoping with wet eyes for a pat on the tummy this time, or maybe a big slice of cake.
it’s old men with skin like geologic maps who summon all their might to scratch across a room on vein tangled feet.
vulnerability is food for genocidarians, advertisers, politicians.
it’s mothers breastfeeding their babies on public transit, a quick rose of lips under winter coats.
it’s all it takes to hate a person. it’s all it takes to write a book. it’s the big bang. the first grain for human love. it’s all that is hidden or revealed. it’s all that turns the axis of the world from dark to light. it stirs coffee in clay mugs and cross-continental heartbeats. it summons the sailors to sea and back home again. it’s why so many babies get made. so many, left without daddies. in certain parts of the world it carries the sunrise like a red balloon over black strips of land.
i don’t know much about outer space but i think it might be the remedy for black holes — where gravity pulls at nothing, staring out onto naked time and counting all its freckles. maybe if we kissed every one of them they’d make it out okay.
i try hard not to think too long about things that make no sense.
i don’t know where the line breaks go.
you could break a line in half
at any moment.
also — beanie babies, how heavy your eyes get sometimes, doorbells, intestines, how you can be considered racist just by existing. how the sky gets heavy and gray like a giant cauliflower billowing on june walks and beach parties, arm movements and head nods and how sometimes politeness equates to just ignoring things.