And the rest is rust and stardust.
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
If you were to draw back every layer of vanity and self-effacement and wariness from my countenance, would only the body remain? What a relief it might be, then, to dissemble each limb, become a discordant array of separate parts—a leg, an eye, a hand, a hip—a nightmare, a vivisection, a beautiful thing. And if you saw these scattered pieces—the ink-stained arms with faded scars, the blackened lungs and racing heart, the trembling fingers, the rigid spine—would you know that they, in aggregation, constituted me? Would you realize that they formed my very self, the only thing I feel in its entirety? Would it frighten you? Would you care?
And what would lie beneath that but a flowing essence of blood in the veins, of marrow in the bones: where, then, is the thing that compels me to write? I know it exists, because I can feel it there, it troubles me every day, it makes me crave cigarettes and stronger cures, it makes me too frightened to ever be alone. Could you find the source of it, this part of me that hurts? What would it look like? How would it react? Could it be lobotomized, reduced to a dull numbness as I lie etherised upon a table, palms turned skywards, eyelids half-shut, lank hair strewn about my shoulders?
What if you took apart the sentences on this page? If you deconstructed my language, would you see my lies? Could you identify my verbose illusions, all the ways in which I syntactically circumvent admissions of my guilt? Or would it become unintelligible: would the letters simply scatter across the screen? Would they lose whatever binds them to any measure of coherence? Would you uncover my truth, or merely reduce this voice to ink on paper, material and obsolete? I need language to lie, but also to feel, and so any guess is better than my own.
Only a few nights ago, I undid myself with more intent and precision than even my form is accustomed to. The sensation was unlike anything I had ever known, and too somatic to be readily described. My mind gave out with no resistance; I could have been immortal, I swear. It was irrepressible and ecstatic, and for days afterwards, I was wracked with tremors that I could not understand. There was some latent sense of contamination as well: something dirty or even degrading. Singularly narcotic, viciously physical, it was the kind of pleasure that can break a body in sheer excess of sensation. My skin was crawling, my pulse was beyond measure, my consciousness was in discourse with itself. I was euphoric. I loved it. It hurt.
Sometimes I wonder if I am still thinking straight. If these words seem frightening, then their implications are something else entirely. It was nothing I had not attempted before, but on that night, I performed my actions in such a way that their underlying connotations became clear. I had taken myself a step further towards the kinds of decisions that might destroy this vehicle, this body that keeps me conscious and sometimes does its job too well. Did I think of anyone in those hours: my mother, my brothers, my lovers and friends? Of course not. This impulse towards self-destruction is too strong, too inherent: it is almost instinctive, and requires no thinking at all. It does not feel like a decision. It feels like a way of being. It feels like a thing that I am. Every now and then, I seem to forget the difference.
I know that I used to be better than this. I remember so vividly those early months, melancholic and joyful at the same time, when I was writing and waiting and barely surviving impermanent bouts of madness, which seized my mind and rendered the physical world so vibrant, so stimulating. It used to feel beautiful. As I wandered from city to city, from person to person, I knew a sort of purpose. It was as though my soul was entirely exposed, a lidless eye that never shut: I was feeling everything and utterly undone, but there was earnestness and passion and a spectacular sense of creation. Seeking some truth, something better than what I had always known, I was perpetually on the edge of a precipice, striving towards another feeling.
I remember the late weeks of December, when I found myself laughing and shivering and half-dead with cold, kneeling in the currents of the Atlantic, having never been happier or more at peace. We did not know if my skin or limbs could survive the ordeal, but it hardly seemed to matter. All bared flesh and thin satin slipping off my shoulders, frigid and soaked so throughly that I could feel the salt water in my bones, it felt like I was being born again. I used to know how to hurt myself in ways that were wonderful.
Nowadays, I am afraid that I am starting to do these things simply because I am bored. I am not even cynical, or jaded, or defiant. I am just fucking bored. I forget that I am real. I forget that things can hurt me. I forget that this body can die. There is hardly any love left in me, because I wasted it all on absent fathers and the kinds of people who could not receive it in full, whose own abject states permitted me to engage in masochism and self-indulgence without any kind of reproach. Now I bring myself back to the brink of my own existence, time and time again, and it is not new or exciting anymore. It is hopelessly, almost despicably mundane.
If anyone else is feeling this way, then they sure as hell are not expressing it in the manner that I am. Intentions aside, people cannot seem to reach me. I believe that they are trying, but all I can perceive is some tremendous sense of distance that knows neither mercy nor reason: something insurmountable and maybe even innate. They cannot quite seem to understand what I desire or need, or perhaps am I failing to communicate it, or perhaps they do not know me at all. They react, always, to the wrong signals, and fret when I am not at risk, and remain so hopelessly oblivious when I am suffering without cause. They give me what I do not need, yet engage in a manner that inadvertently denies the things I desire so desperately; the things that, in fairness, they have no way of knowing about, because they are so singular, and so vital, and so strange, that I rarely express them adequately, if at all.
Underneath it all, though, I do not want anything particularly complicated. I think I just want to feel heard. And safe. Maybe even loved. I think I have always wanted that.
Does my writing seem repetitive lately? It certainly ought to. That would be because my entire life is grinding to a halt, utterly lacking in direction, with nothing to make me feel even close to the way I did just half a year ago, outside the gates of my college, when a stranger kissed me on an empty street. But I did not do it for him, not at all; as a matter of fact, he was barely significant. That part of me is changing and dying now, so that the strangest things, once so incredibly affecting, escape my present notice. This very morning, I sat reading alone in a coffee shop that I had not visited in months. It was only once I had arrived, and saw that table in the corner overlooking the city streets, that I remembered the cause of my prolonged absence. We had met here for the first time, one rainy afternoon, before moving to a smoke-filled bar as the sky began to dim. On that night, we each began to learn what it might mean to let the other in.
When all is said and done, and I finally lay this to rest, I will become his memory’s keeper. All of the months we spent on our efforts towards affection; all of the wonderful nights when we talked well into the morning; all of the times we could not stand each other; all of the pleasure and hopefulness; all of those ways we felt and tried to feel; all of the time I spent writing and wondering until I knew him more completely than I had ever expected to know a living thing—he will forget it all. He will forget this, and it will not be his fault. So I will carry whatever recollections I can bear, and the rest I will abandon as well. No one survives this world without becoming a little colder. It was a difference, perhaps, of more than just the passing years. Maybe it had more to do with what our minds and bodies can sustain before we surrender quietly to the night. He was already far-off and fading, when I was just starting to burn. He was a waning constellation; I was the still-rising sun.
So I think that just leaves me again. I have this body, and nothing but this body: this complex and medicated and many-gendered thing with which I navigate a senseless world. It is a sort of Plathian social absurdity: a sacrifice or strip tease, I suppose, given the contemptible manner in which people occasionally regard me, as an object of physical desire. They do not understand or want to understand how it affects me—how more often than not, I feel inhuman, othered, not alluring but utterly debased. This body is graphically altered, explicitly my own, made to be unmade. It remains in constant motion. It will not succumb. It breaks stillness in the same way that a cry breaks silence: without language or restraint. Whatever I need to communicate or survive, it must be done through this body. If tear it to pieces, I will have nothing left.
I am not, I think, the kind of person who is capable of communicating or even understanding the remote and peculiar way that I feel now. It could be anything, who knows, it could even be the feeling that took my dad away from me. And that sounds damning and inane, but I am trying. Whatever else is my head or in my heart, I am trying, and I am so eager to feel differently again. So remember that, please, in all of your untold desires, and all of the letters that you burn. Recall the fatherless girl, barefoot and dissociated, moving like a sleepwalker and scarcely as sentient. She is not yet finished. She is not ready to submit to anything or anyone at all. She is only waiting for something new to engage her remains.
Miles to go before I sleep, right?
And I intend to see them all through.