I’m lying in the first bed I ever bought with my own money. It is a full sized bed. I bought it when I was 19. When I moved into my own apartment for the first time. A studio on the sixth floor of a building overlooking the 16th Street mall and a Chili’s in downtown Denver. I remember being horrified that beds cost so much money. I remember buying a full size even though I’ve been too tall for a full since I was maybe 16. I moved this bed into my childhood bedroom, replacing my twin bed, when I was 24 and about to move to Los Angeles with my newly bought queen sized bed.
This isn’t what I’m trying to tell you. You don’t care about my bed.
I drove home to Colorado from Los Angeles this weekend with the dog in the front seat and the cat safe in the back in the dog’s large crate. I’ve done this so many times. Sometimes with the animals, sometimes without. Sometimes by car. Sometimes by plane. There was the year I flew home, got shitfaced on the plane because my friend died just as I’d arrived to LAX, was greeted at DIA by my parents who held my body as I collapsed and convulsed into them, sobbing. There was the time last winter when I drove the 1,019 miles to Colorado while I listened to music someone else gave me that reconnected me to a part of myself I hadn’t known in so long. The part of myself that was really me and not just someone trying to be someone else so that I could be loved. The part of me that realized I could love another person than the person I’d always loved. I watched the Stratosphere in the distance. When there’s nothing left to burn/you have to set yourself on fire.
The drive home this time went fast. I stayed in my Best Western in Beaver, UT and thought about leaving a note for my best friend, who was a day behind me in her travels, who I knew was going to be staying in the very same motel room the very next night, my previous night’s ghost sleeping next to hers. I listened to different music than usual. To old music. Really old. Music I listened to as a 14 year old kid. An 18 year old kid. Music I’d listened to when the first kids I ever knew died when we were 14. Music I’d listened to when I was 18 because my best friend arranged it on a CD and gave it to me in the cemetery where he worked the day before I left our hometown and moved to New York City to go to college. All the music I listened to on this drive was a whole mess of good and bad. Jimmy Eat World. Ben Folds. The Velvet Underground & Nico. Kings of Leon (their old stuff). Wolf Parade. Sparklehorse. Sufjan. Ambrosia. Phish. Spoon. Frank Zappa. Eels. Ween. I listened to a mix a boy I slept with one summer gave me in 2013. Modest Mouse. Okkervil River. Arcade Fire. Other bands I’ll never know because he didn’t title the tracks.
I listened to many episodes of the podcast The Heart (and its former incarnation as Audiosmut). Radio is my favorite artistic medium second only to television. The episodes I listened to were about sex, how people like things done to them and where and why, love, how people chase it and run from it, marriage, whether it should continue as an institution or be torn down for good, letters, why people write them and what they can mean. I resolved a few things. Things I’ve known for a long time but never reflected on too seriously until now. I don’t want marriage. Partnership, probably, but marriage, probably not. I want to fuck a lot of my friends. Not in a romantic way or even necessarily in a sexual way. Just, in a proximity way. In an, I love this person so much I need to express it every way I know how way. Have you ever fallen in love with your best friend? Yes. Many times.
It is beginning to snow where I am, tucked away in the folds of a valley you’ve never heard of.
Other things I’ve concluded: music is foundational to who I am as a person. More than anything. More than television, more than books, more than writing or photography. More than love. First came music. It made me. I have a hard time relating in any serious way to people who do not connect to music. Who don’t remember the first time they heard such and such record or don’t have songs they associate with certain places, times, people, heartbreak, lovesickness. Listening to all this music on my drive home was like opening cabinets inside myself and seeing things I hadn’t seen in so long. Things I’d never have remembered if I’d never heard these songs again. Music stores my memories better than my own brain does (except that yes, I know this all happens in my brain, just let me have this metaphor please). My first experience with death is stored inside Jimmy Eat World’s first album. My first experience with falling in love is stored in a series of punk records I used to listen to with a skater boy named Jeremy who I loved till he moved to Florida after his brother committed suicide when we were 13. My whole adolescence into present day, I spend any spare money I have on albums or shows. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. Ditching school to walk to the record store that isn’t even there anymore. Staying up till 3am debating the relative merits of various Pink Floyd albums or Tool albums or David Bowie albums or Smashing Pumpkin albums (I will always love Machina and I don’t care what you have to say about it).
It’s cold here. In my room in my full sized bed and in Colorado. I came here for this. To be in this bed and to be in the cold. It isn’t necessarily safe here, but it is home and it does something to my blood and my heart that nowhere else does. Sometimes I wonder if I am just saying the same thing over and over again in different combinations of words.
Some of the things that have happened in my life in this, the final quarter of the year I decided to set myself on fire, are as follows:
- I swam in a rooftop pool downtown with N.
- I “hiked” to Point Mugu with 1/2 of Retired Couple from Airplane.
- I went to the Broad and then complained about it for a week.
- I fucked with this python named Ginger in an abandoned office building near LAX while Skrillex took photos.
- I presented a “paper” at a conference in Riverside and saw Maggie Nelson read.
- I completed my oral qualifying exams wearing my favorite outfit.
- I went on many friend and more-than-friend dates with people who emailed me about my Modern Love essay.
- I felt sad about love and spent the day with this dreamboat and we ate cake and filmed ourselves listening to “I Can’t Make You Love Me” at the beach.
- I went to NYC to talk book projects with some folks and to visit my loves and was interviewed for hours by my best friend from Salt Lake.
- I went to San Clemente with my tiny family (parents, brother, dog) for Thanksgiving where my brother cooked a rad meal and we went to the ocean every day.
I used to be better at posting on here, but it turns out PhD school just gets busier and busier as you move through it, and writing becomes not something that is a respite from school but something that you do at all times, and is therefore not something you want to do when you have a spare moment. If you are me. And the you that is actually me just wants to binge watch television when there is time to relax. I watched some good TV this fall. I regret nothing.
On the last day of 2014, I wrote the following: Today, I stood barefoot in the snow on my front porch. I dug my feet into the frozen earth. I stood inside the person I spent the last year discovering, and I made a promise to myself to move forward like something gentle and swift and fearless. I made a promise to myself to be the sun.
This year, I was the sun. If for no one else than for myself. I did both sets of my PhD exams and am now ABD. I wrote. I read. I published. I started two book projects. I edited so many peoples’ work. I raised a puppy into a dog. I loved people. I made things and built things. I pushed through things that made me uncomfortable. I dated. I explored the coast above and below my city. I went home to Colorado. I went home to New York. I went on an adventure in Canada and another in Minneapolis. I wasn’t always gentle, swift, and fearless, but I appeared enough of those things on the outside that I made it to all the places I wanted to be. I am exhausted but I am proud. That’s a thing I haven’t really said before because no one wants to hear about how someone is proud of themselves, but I am. I did good this year. I will do better next year. Because I have to. Because I can.
Oh, and I took this photo in New York one night when it was early but dark and I was walking home from MoMA and I was in a rush to finish my friend’s manuscript and I was thinking about the dinner party I’d be attending later in the evening and I saw this sign. And when I got home, I transposed over it an old photo my ex took of me standing naked in front of the Pacific Ocean somewhere north of San Francisco in August of 2012.
Because sometimes the king is a woman. Sometimes everything is just as it should be.