I’ve spent my whole life asking the same question: Where do I put this?
The Hallucinogenic Toreador by Salvador Dali
Where do I put this feeling? Where do I put this messy tower of words? Where do I put these images flooding my brain? Where do I put this song, lodged in my head when I wake up, determined to haunt me until I go back to sleep again?
Where do I put this feeling that the world we inhabit is just a drab shadow of something better, a gray, cold planet spinning in sync with some colorful, brilliant planet just one or two light years away? Why can’t people speak in movie dialogue or song lyrics, their words a manifestation of the intensity I feel inside my bones? Why am I trudging through this flaccid world, mumbling along with these busy and distracted zombies, when inside my head lives Days of Heaven and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Why does the sublime taste like madness when it’s coated in a thick layer of shame, inherited from my parents in the form of punitive responses to raw need, inherited from their parents in a half-empty bottle of cheap vodka, inherited from their parents in the form of stoicism and a sex life like a rape kit, every sweet touch a form of ownership, every less-sweet touch a mix of violence and erasure. Wheeeeeee!
Let’s keep tracing our steps backwards. We are only a few paces away from starving peasants now, scrabbling for tubers in the mud, or frightened apes, hiding in dank caves. Mozart could eat cake, at least. Virginia Woolf found a few years of peace, maybe. Emily Dickinson had her slant of light. Every now and then there are a few brief flashes of divinity on a planet crowded with crude creatures, sweeping dirt floors and socking each other in the teeth, in spite of the iridescent infinity living inside their chromosomes.
I guess it makes simple sense that every word from our fearless leaders now feels like a grope in the dark, a hip thrust aimed at violence and erasure. But erasure isn’t what it used to be. Being rapey doesn’t feel quite rapey enough anymore. Mother Earth is the last available woman to violate and get a real charge out of it. Hers are the only eyes still registering surprise. You would really do this?, her eyes ask. You know it will destroy you, right? But you want to go for it anyway, just for a second of feeling like the biggest boss, the greatest ever, the most supreme chalupa of all? That’s how flaccid and enraged you feel the rest of the time?
I guess that at least explains your resting flaccid-and-enraged bitch face.
Where do I put this feeling? It expands in every direction now. The shame under my skin is echoed in the aggressive patter of news talk shows. The dread in your cells twinkles in sync with the sparkling particulate in the air. We can only nurture hope in the farthest reaches of our bodies’ galaxies now. Our nerve endings are emblazoned with the knowledge that we’ll keep burning the oily bones of our ancestors until we are all dust. These monsters know that each less-sweet thrust is a form of erasure. That’s why it turns them on so much. Our world will die the way a snuff film ends.
Where do I put this? What if I smear it all over the fucking place? What if I wipe it all over my naked body and post it on Instagram, next to some brand of lip-plumping gloss that I couldn’t recommend more full-throatedly, my voice echoing the sweet melancholy lilt of a dying songbird? The predatory whore builds a nest, then widens her territory. Only she and her sister whores recognize that every good whore is a predator. You might not fear her, but… you really should.
Because I don’t care if you think I’m being grandiose. I don’t care if you think I’m showing off. I don’t care if you think I’m gloating over my embarrassment of riches in the sloppiest, most whoring fashion imaginable. Sloppiness is necessity as the clocks drip off the wall. I will gloat, motherfucker. My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, but I drink my milkshake. I drink it up.
Ask me the eternal question: You mad? I am neither crazy nor angry. Even as you covet me or smear me or shame me back into some dark cave, I feel nothing but mercy for you. I won’t fight you. That job belongs to someone else now. I can eat you alive, sure, that’s easy. But I’ve always found your fisticuffs hopelessly unimaginative and monotonous. (OH, hi Jon Favreau. Gosh, don’t you miss bringing a piece of your liver to the table? When’s that dull guy going to take his helmet off? You think Baby Yoda can carry this giant shit sack to the bitter end?)
Fuck fighting. I’m better at showering you with love. I was always more full of love than anything else. And I know you’ve been nibbling on the same sad scraps that I have. I can see how erasure sometimes feels like the sharpest weapon you have left. I want to wrap you up inside my enormous shaggy Hagrid sweater until you can finally relax, until your eyes go from grey to bright amber, the glorious glinting gold eyes of our ape ancestors. You and me, we are not that different. I know you need my love. Or… maybe I’ll eat your head first. No that’s not a metaphor, I mean literally ingest your entire meaty head. Please try not to underestimate me again. Oh well, too late.
Being digested might feel a little bit like being loved, though, if you focus really hard.
Where do I put this feeling? I will eat it. I will relish every bite slowly. I finally realize that this feast was fit for a king, and I am the king.
I used to think this feeling was pointing me toward love – or maybe this feeling was love. I used to think it was melancholy, the curse of humankind. I used to think this feeling was madness: the manifestation of being way too much for anyone to take. I used to think it was a by-product of being oversensitive or broken. I thought I had an affliction. I thought I was doomed. I thought acceptance or money or fame or devotion or sex or beauty would heal this feeling. I thought I could climb on top of my mountain of shame and shine like the sun and be adored and it would feel like destiny.
But now I know better. The only word I have for this feeling is hunger. This feeling is desire. This feeling is the realization that longing is a way of touching the sublime.
This feeling never needs to end. Hunger is eternal. This feeling is a year-long orgasm. This feeling is a decade of bliss. Maybe two decades of bliss. It’s hard to count the years forward, into the future. It hurts a little, to inch closer to our premature demise.
But I know now that this feeling belongs to me. I can finally taste the truth. I am on the colorful, brilliant planet now. I will try to send postcards occasionally, but I’m pretty busy. While you’re waiting for my next dispatch, please know in your heart that I wish you all of the love in the world. It’s inside you, actually. You just have to dig for it. Keep going until you find that iridescent infinity living inside your chromosomes. Trust that you will reach it. I don’t know how much time we have left, so if I were you, I would start digging right now.
This week’s Ask Polly is about feeling like a defective human being. I love love love this Buzzfeed essay by Katherine Miller on our broken sense of time and this essay by the delightful Adam Sternbergh about watching “Frozen” fifteen million times. Sarah Miller is one of my favorite writers of all time, and this morning the NY Times published her essay on the ungodly plague of Karens buzzing around us, wheeee! This week I became a Buzzfeed News member because they employ a ton of great writers and reporters pursuing unconventional work and I want to keep them in business. Join me!