This is what a typical day looks like. This is my view, lately, from 2:00am until 1:30pm or later. It is my bed. It isn’t particularly comfortable; it isn’t particularly restful. It exists, and I exist in it. That’s all. It is comprised of a fitted sheet (which never fits), a handmade Doctor Who pillow, a grey-pillowcased memory foam pillow, and a Star-Wars-pillowcased thin pillow which always seems to sink in the wrong places. Two hair ties from nights of complete exhaustion make their homes on the mattress. The wood-metal bed frame was handed down to me by my grandmother when I was very young, and it has remnants of the chewed-up gum, put there in my early teens, which I had tried in my twenties to scrape off. Part of the wooden frame is broken and I don’t know how to fix it. I wish I knew how to fix it. I’m sure that if I had wood glue, it could be fixed, but I don’t have wood glue, nor do I have money to buy wood glue.
It is currently 1:24pm. I haven’t eaten anything since this exact time yesterday. I don’t feel the need to eat. A couple of weeks ago, while I was in Spain, I wanted to eat the entire world.
I was in a country foreign to me, standing in some of the oldest buildings I’d ever been in. Even if I could duplicate my self into infinity those cathedral ceilings would be too big to be full of me. The pipe organs, some of the most massive structures I’ve ever seen, taunted me with the knowledge of what I can’t have based on what they know my hands have done, and will do.
Nevertheless, I wanted to play them. I already knew what shapes my fingers would make. I already knew — each time I think of this my soul leans toward weeping — how the sounds my fingers would elicit from those gilded pipes would pulverize the air around me, making their ways to the floor, crashing into the columns, shooting upward into the archways and catching there as if they know the ceiling limits their splendor.
Reliving this, my fingers still ache with desire to be controlled by something so massive, so powerful, and so beautiful.
A week later, I find myself in my brother’s RV wearing shorts and a cutoff shirt with a black Casio watch on. My brain is the best it’s ever been. I have his McPherson carbon guitar in my hands and I am playing “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. I mix it with “Doxology” because the guitar is in drop D. I play it over, and over, and over again, and I don’t remember stopping. My brother plays with me but I cannot hear him. I can’t stop playing because it’s the first time I’ve played without excruciating, legalistic pain in two years and I wish to myself that I would always feel like this when I played. My fingers end the hybrid song by floating my left ring finger over a spot on the guitar that sounds like angels when you touch it lightly and pull on the strings. The fingers in my right hand pull on the bottom string and then the next string up and then finally the middle two strings, making the guitar sing.
And somewhere, buried in the two years, I want to cry, but I do not yet know it because I never ask myself questions anymore.
I flew home a few days after that. I knew the moment we got into Michigan without having to look through the window because adrenaline began to course through my veins. I was afraid, but still, I didn’t ask myself questions. I had made myself want, expect, desire nothing, and so I thought that asking myself questions would disrupt that. My mother and father picked me up from the airport and my father asked me if I was cold. I hesitated and responded after I realized he meant to ask if my skin was cold. I said no.
The next day, I ended something which I had hoped would last forever, and I felt absolutely nothing. Then I was told, “You’re one of the best people I know.” Something in me broke, I think. I had been told that by two other people in the same situation; this made three times this statement had been uttered to me. It used to cut my cardiac muscle down the center and peel it open wide. This time, I felt nothing.
I had spent most of the trip messaging my friends and asking them to meet with me. For lunch, for coffee, for dinner, for me to make them dinner, for going out, for staying in, for playing music, for talking, for anything except being still and silent. I felt happy and free and finally able to do the things that I wanted to do. I went to queer spaces for the first time and saw the loveliest of people express themselves more freely than I’ve ever seen before.
And from here I will talk more generally about what happened and will happen in the future:
At some point, the words which were uttered to me on three separate occasions becomes four (as of today, this happened in the past; I won’t speak of it but it’s easily discoverable if you’ve been paying attention; if not, that’s okay, because as you’ll see soon I’m driving myself straight into a space in which I am anonymous, much unlike but also like the unnamed narrator in the beginning and end of Ellison’s The Invisible Man, and let me be clear that by this I mean to invoke his exposition on hibernation and overt action) and I wonder what it is about me that is not enough, why it works with other people sometimes and not for me. But, this is irrelevant. Actually, this is not irrelevant, but it sets off a series of chemical reactions in my brain and the broken something from before becomes lodged in a valley, a liminal space I fought for years to reject and then for years to work through, as in, “by way of.” But there is a space between the between-space. Or, rather, there is a high between-space — the queer space, as in the queer space that Warner discussed in his The Trouble With Normal (and by this I mean to reference the place in which we work through, by way of, stigma) — and a low between-space, where I’ve seen some of my queer friends go when they grow tired of asserting their impenetrable smiles and bitchy quips and yearn for a boyfriend and/or girlfriend and/or (a)romanticfriend and/or partner.
And so for me the high between-space is the one in which flirtationships and fun seem to be all that is. No substance, just the illusion of stuff, much like a cloud. And like a cloud when all the little droplets gather together they’re no longer fluffy substanceless entities — they cause destruction, they strike innocent things and set things on fire.
Here, I would like to pause and mention that sometimes when I am very happy or very sad I imagine something made of light is inside me and pours out of my eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears. It is painful and wonderful both in the times of happiness and sadness. Actually, now that I think about it, this only occurs when I play music, and I think the reason I want to play again but also don’t want to play again is because I want one person to hear the music and tell me, “Stephanie, your music sets the inside of me on fire.”
But now back to clouds and lightning.
I move from the high between-space of loving the queer stigma to the low between-space of abjection. Both are liminal spaces but one is made of drag queens and the other is made of vomit. And this is where I am now, in the low between-space of the abject, the vomit. It is in this space that I find myself fully aware of the meaning behind the eight words uttered to me four times: It is not they that I am the best person they know. It is that I am not enough for them. I am routinely forgotten, and in my hyper-awareness of this fact I make myself nothing so they may flourish. I become dirt so they may sprout.
And then comes the anonymity. This is no longer the low between-space; this is non-space, non-time, this is being outside the system. This is the no-where. Entirely unlike the space the narrator in Ellison’s novel describes. He is still subject to temporality. Or, maybe, because I am still subject to temporality, it is the same. Regardless, it is similar. It is different in that Ellison, and by extension the narrator, has an audience. I, on the other hand, write and exist and create for no one.
Oh, and now I am thinking of the summer. For nine months I do the important things and make names of myself and then it is over and I hole myself up in my room, watching Law and Order: SVU in the evenings and putting my feet in tennis shoes and running down LaSalle in the mornings. (You likely won’t understand this but sometime soon I will work up the courage to run all the way to Stumpmier, past the place where I died and was resurrected.) I will run and ignore all the texts that don’t come and keep running and running and running until finally I am at peace with being no one.
And there, in the no-where, I am reborn. I begin to create. Then, someone notices me — usually one of the ones who uttered the words (with the exception of this last time, because I doubt anything will come of it) — or someone new.
And I am ecstatic at being noticed. I stop creating but I also stop asking myself questions and it is glorious and it lasts. It lasts for a time. It lasts for a time. And I know that it lasts for a time because who among us with mental illness has ever been cured? Who among us with brains like mine has not gone through a cycle? Who among us hasn’t thought silently, “Oh, what a joy! The day of deliverance has come!” only to be thrust back into the no-where again?
Oh, but would we also not risk everything to be set on fire from the inside? I once said that I would. Then, I said that I wouldn’t, and I made it through my first winter.
What is the more godly thing to do? To create and risk your sanity, or to keep your sanity and sacrifice your creativity?
I wish I could speak plainly. I hope that I have spoken plainly.
This is too personal to risk posting. This is too long.
It is now 6:46pm.
Maybe I’ll send it to a friend, only to have him not read it.