The Elephant Celebes (1921) by Max Ernst
You don’t trust me because you don’t trust yourself. You don’t trust yourself because your good instincts are cluttered up by other people’s confused notions about who you are. That’s what happens when you run around feeding people myths all the time.
I trusted you, though, even in the chaos of smoking planes and falling stars. Some things show up inside your cells before you have time to study them closely. Some things get cut out of your body before you have time to surrender to their initiatives. Don’t trust me less just because I systematically exploit every coincidence. Unrelated realities sometimes spark poetry on an inappropriate plane. Google it, then call it shallow. Serve yourself. Mommy still loves you, even when she’s bored to tears.
I wasn’t wrong to trust you. I was wrong to imagine that your cells were magically immune to invasive mutations. We matched. I was wrong to underestimate my power. I cause trouble when I imagine myself as powerless. But I was never trying to fuck shit up. I was only trying to teach you to trust yourself.
You haven’t learned yet. Maybe you’re not much of a learner.
Who can the elephant trust? Pay attention to what happens before your brain gets involved. Follow every reflex. Throw out your old myths and rusty calculations. The ground has shifted under your feet. Use this yellow grease. Make some adjustments. Maybe this day wants you to witness your meaningless principles going up in smoke. Maybe this sunshine wants to show you that you can’t hide anymore. Covering your tracks will only destroy you. Doesn’t that sound like something an addict would say? Stop feeling haunted and listen more closely to the voices in your head.
Some people are suffering right now, and others are figuring out that they were trapped before and now they’re free. The elephant casts an enormous shadow without knowing it. Whose sunshine have you been blocking? Loyalty isn’t just sticking around. Loyalty is honoring another person’s needs as much as your own. Have you ever done that?
No one likes to witness a woman growing into something more vibrant and less familiar: frills and pointy horns, microsurgically precise gestures, a mechanical terror, every trust fall mistaken for suicide. Preference and choice have nothing to do with the audience’s involuntary reaction. It’s hard to scrape a whore with bad intentions out of your brain for long enough to realize she’s just an exotic variety of genetically engineered plant you’ve never seen before, winding her way around these twisted barricades. And it’s hard not to ignore a patient Colocasia, waiting in the dark, until one day her heart-shaped leaves reach too far for comfort. Even house plants want to know their own power eventually.
From a distance, we overvalue and then undervalue each other. From a distance, we make bad guesses and tell each other lies that might add up to a satisfying myth. I would say come closer but I’ve found more inventive barricades to scale. You’ll have to trust your own cells now. Make good choices while you still have choices to make. Silence your Greek chorus long enough to speak from the heart.
And where will I be? Welcoming the pruning shears, fully surrendered. No one knows what will happen next. Survival is electric when you trust yourself, even under threat of extinction. They’ll take whatever I don’t need and build something unreal in its place. They’ll construct the most humble space-age collage, a ramshackle hut with a platinum roof, a lopsided tree with nanobot leaves, a garden of gorgeous cadavers, eight milkmaids weeping, stars looming menacingly, not realizing that the spirits of the dead are still on my side.
My trust is less charitable than you might imagine. Sew me into a voodoo doll, possessed and unearthly, ripped and ragged, gathering her pain into a lightning bolt, setting forests on fire continents away so something new can grow there. Don’t worry about me. I won’t underestimate my power again.
Thanks for reading Ask Molly. Ask Polly is published here every other week. Sign up, it’s free, and it’s a little looser than The Cut’s version because I’m flying without a net, for better or worse, richer or poorer. But aren’t we all? Honor your peculiar needs. Loyalty includes standing up for the sunshine you require to survive.