Tag: jumbled thoughts from the past few days

Death of the Blogger

My workplace is about an hour from home on foot. As the day swivels into evening, I button up my jacket and exit the building, my hands jammed in my pockets. My thoughts pour from my mind and drain away into the frigid air. The sky is blue-black and dotted with wispy clouds, like white splotches on frayed denim. Cowgirl pants, I think dreamily. I imagine riding a horse through Tokyo streets; the pink neon of nearby signs reflecting off a sleek, dark equine coat.

Midway through February, another year of web hosting for Conscience Round comes due. I have held onto this domain for thirteen years now. As an online diary, Conscience Round has proven to be arable land, though not always fertile. Mostly, it has helped to keep myself accountable to both myself and my desire to write. I didn’t start with the expectation or hope of readership, though I do treasure the handful of emails from readers who have come upon the blog serendipitously, spontaneously, after plugging in a few keywords (a tender offering from a once-upon-a-time generously-optimized search engine).

In 2008, I was a young teenager mesmerized by the huge expanse of the Web. The ready availability of minds and their words, rendered onto the digital canvas, made me feel like I lived in the Age of Discovery. Now, my impression is that old-school blogging has been largely replaced by monetizable spaces, where any hobby, interest, or cottage industry can be strip-mined for readership. My language there is prickly, but I truly don’t take issue with this new world; I’m resigned to the inevitability of change, and I don’t begrudge the instinct to head to greener pastures. And, anyway, the Web is still so vast that I suspect old-school blogging does remain, somewhere, in some nostalgic, tree-lined corner. The fact that I haven’t found it is not proof that it doesn’t exist.

But these transformations in the blogosphere do mean that I have reason to get existential with this blog. Every year, I toy with the idea of ending it all; I can’t really justify the luxury of paying for server space and a unique domain name for such a tiny, tiny blog, though inertia and sunk cost fallacy feel like enough to prop it up. Come February 1st, I stare at the invoice from my hosting provider and wonder idly: Why do I keep this site up? Why do I continue to post? What do I hope to gain?

This blog has been an anchor, a good luck charm, and a scrapbook of times heartless, tender, depressive, joyful, cruel, loving. I only very rarely show it to others; I’ve always liked that only strangers come upon it. Just recently, after nearly five years of dating, I showed Strawberry a post and he said reading it was like “being in another body.” I was surprised at how much I understood; writing and reading really are like experiencing another body. Running, breathing, expelling; all from within another body. An escape, a confession, a conjuring. That’s enough reason for Conscience Round to exist; because it helps me write, and sometimes writing is the only way I can take in a deep breath.

A Bouquet of Spoiled Fruit

At the discount supermarket beside the station, a mounted television screen plays the video of Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic on repeat. A shopping basket made of peach-colored plastic looped around my elbow, I pause to contemplate the image for a moment. A 90’s Mariah in red velvet plays in snow while I watch her almost twenty years later, on a dark Saturday afternoon in suburban Tokyo. There’s something about this instant: shopping for groceries by myself, a girl in tennis shoes with no weekend plans and no future goals, that feels like a revelation midwifed by loneliness. I buy toilet paper, oranges from Ehime, and instant miso soup containing dehydrated pork and a foil packet of monosodium glutamate. As I’m leaving, I suddenly hear and feel thunder, so close and so physical my mind leaps from my body. It takes me a second to recognize that the sound is not coming from outside, but from the thudding of bowling balls against the synthetic wood lanes of the alley on the second floor above the supermarket.

Lately, out of a desire to occupy my thoughts with something other than fear, I’ve been reading the books left on my living room shelf by previous tenants. At least one left behind required reading from an art history course, a fact revealed by the content of the texts: The thoughts of W.H. Auden, the letters of Van Gogh, and several dense analyses on art itself. On the train into Tokyo, I read thinkpieces about the purpose of art, the nature of its operations, and the effect of its manipulations on the mind and the emotions. I am not sure if I can comment meaningfully on such pieces without engaging with, and thus succumbing to, their trap: that any one person can dissect the feeling of feeling.

The feeling of feeling. If I overthink this, I start to panic. Perhaps panic isn’t the right word; “unravel” might be a better one. A human in a human world, I know I feel every animal sensation: disgust, hunger, pain. What does it feel like to feel the loftier, cortical emotions? I have never been sure I understand love, spirituality, or art, which may be the three vertices that make up the geometry of truly higher-order apes.

Across from me in the subway car sits a young man in heeled boots, an alpaca wool shawl in blue, red, and mustard, and a silver necklace with a flat, round pendant, in the style of a saint’s medallion. I think of an illustrator friend, and how her descriptions were submerged in the language of art, suggesting an alternate way of seeing: a woman’s head “shaped like a hot air balloon,” the skin on the cheek shaded in “pinky-purple.” I try to recast the young man in her eyes and come up with a poor, but honest, imitation of her vision: uncommon colors, unusual lighting. A prophet from the era of fast fashion, scrolling through a chat screen. Though I’ve long since lost touch with my artist friend, in these instances, her mode of perception still manages to echo through my mind. It comforts me to finally understand that she, like every individual to enter and momentarily wander through my life, has sewn a thread through me that can never fray thin. A drop of rain always remembers the ocean from whence it came.

In the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, I watch as Strawberry witnesses snowfall for the first time. On the eighth floor of a department store, he pulls out his phone to film the snow coming down on the unremarkable street below. His movements as he walks along the window, gently angling the camera to capture the fullest extent of the scenery below, are full of a natural, breathless tenderness, like the beats of a winged insect settling on a flower. We play outside in the snow, and, with total absorption and entirely no embarrassment, he builds a tiny snowman with mouse ears made from dry leaves. I am reminded of the undisguised rapture of childhood games, but filtered through a new layer of adult consciousness. The wind feels like it could pick me up from off the ground. Snow, piled up against the curbs, glows like a halo. The day progresses into soft blue and golden apricot, littered by an arc of reflective clouds.

Mientes mucho

My mind often returns to August of last year, to that beach in Kamakura. I remember it was mid-afternoon. I was sitting alone on the cold sand, feeling time within me like an organ of my body, like a second heart, heated, and fast. That entire day I had been alone, on autopilot, but there, by the the ocean, I found myself shifting back into a realer, more organic state, and I thought of my life, how it had developed into this foreign animal I knew to belong to me, but did not recognize, nor control, a life powered by something other than me, something more innocent and magnetic, and free.

Life possesses its own momentum, I think, a type of gravity generated by the soul. Like the survival instinct, but more human, more mundane too; less about danger and more about memory, and desire, and the muscular, spiritual pull in the body that comes with the existence of beauty, the appearance of pain. I don’t always feel it but when I do its effect is tidal, and immediate, like an electric current. I think of that instance, a few years ago, in Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan Memorial airport, waiting in a shuttle bus on the tarmac wet with rain, and pausing, suddenly, to think: I’m living. I’m here, and I’m alive. It was a forceful, and tender, and gently, momentarily paralyzing thought, like passing by a garden for the millionth time and noticing, for the very first time, the row of tiny flowers lining the path.

There’s a difficult, intractable, callous, evergreen part of me that my mother often calls my “nature.” I love, and require, this solidity but I wish I could change the angle of it, give it substance instead of just density. I wish I could carry resilience like a physical object. I wish I could swing it like a sledgehammer.

I think a lot about my character, how it sees, and reflects, and pursues the world. I think a lot about possibility, and emotion, and owning up to my bullshit. I think a lot about how for years I dejectedly but willingly described myself as a neurotic girl, and then a neurotic woman, just because my father called me that once. I think a lot about what it means to judge, to separate, to reject, to forgive, to value, to cherish, and how love intersects with these, individually, and in a sequence, and all at once.

Instances of peace are close to my soul. They slow time down, prolong my life for just a few more seconds, and the pretenses of calculation — how to be, and say, and act, and to what degree — which have so sustained my identity slip away, and I am not afraid, for once, of excess, or hesitation. I return to the beach at Kamakura, alone, entirely responsible for my own life. No need for excuses; no need for lies. I go through my photographs of the trip, the snapshots of white-petaled flowers with rosette cores, the plain and dignified mountainside vistas, the gray roads, their subtle, gold-toned luminosity in the summer evening. I go through images of the sea, its mirada vidriosa (“glassy stare”) and of my face, which some have called “heart-shaped,” on those impulsive, rare instances that I turned the camera around to capture my tired but smiling expression, framed by iron and blue.

The colored leaves / Have hidden the paths / On the autumn mountain. / How can I find my girl, / Wandering on ways I do not know?

The clouds rise off the mountains like smoke. Crows sit on telephone wires; they open their wings like Aphrodite scarring the foam. I walk through the neighborhood, in the yellow heat before the typhoon, in my sweaty tee, in running shoes trembling like orange blossoms.

Rivers travel from canyon to ocean, belly-up and boneless, in the receding bitterness of spring. They are loyal, constant; but when they arrive at the coast, at the lion’s mane ultramarine waves, do they hesitate, as I have? Do they ever think — no — I want to go back, I want —

Heaven help us. We move forward.

My mother is like a falcon lost in private flight. “Es que no hay pozo más grande,” she, in tears, said to me. “There is no deeper well.” Too much of her body is underwater. Too much of her body feels what her mind denies. It’s because of love; isn’t it all? It’s the fault of the lament, honor, and debt of love. I want to prove to her that she is worthwhile without love, that I could live forever without it, its delicate almond-shaped leaves falling, its direction as clear as exhaust ascending. I won’t be manipulated by love. I won’t be dragged by it.

When it rains here, the trains and the trees move like prophets chosen by brown-eyed angels; like their souls are crystalline, and pure, honeyed, and unafraid. I want to know that same gentle, complete peace — but I’m still distracted, by new days, new desires, their shapes when they settle inside me, round and heavy as peaches, their smell dissolving into the air, pulling me out of sleep like Athena bursting through the pate.

My body, twenty years old, can sit still, be quiet when supposed to, polite, good; but it doesn’t know how to hold my mother in its arms. My body, twenty years old, knows it’s time to go. Goodbye — no — I want to go back — I want — oh, heaven. Help me. Look at this body of mine, this river reaching the ocean and thinking of the gorge where it was born, look at me, in the middle of the fire, holding to my mother. Look at these, the wounds of intimacy; I don’t cry anymore, but God, how they still stink like oil, how they cling like anchors. In time, I know, I will grow accustomed to this. Repetition, I know, is the only real cure for suffering. Repetition, I know. Repetition, I know.

The clouds rise off the mountains like smoke. Crows sit on telephone wires; they open their wings like Aphrodite scarring the foam. I walk through the neighborhood, in the yellow heat before the typhoon, in my sweaty tee, in running shoes trembling like orange blossoms.

Fine & Crude

During the ceremony of Mahākāla, Lama spreads his fingers slowly and makes a circular motion with his hands, finishing the movement by resting the pads of his thumbs against his forefingers. I’m reminded the film I watched last year, alone in my college dorm room, about Japanese funeral rituals; I remember Daigo, the young protagonist, how he’d traced a dead man’s face, so slowly, with his palms, in a still room, before covering him with a sheet. Watching Daigo on the screen, his hands, I’d been filled with a strange, gentle sweetness in the pit of my chest. Now I feel that same sweetness in my heart, light, but physical, insistent but impersonal, and I recognize it as purest love, so small, quick, instantaneous, so close to unbearable, catching me off guard and then lingering for years after as rarefied memory in the depths of every bone. Lama’s hands, Daigo’s hands; the red, blue, green and yellow divine, the white body, under the sheet. Hands, hands; moving, circling, with that infinite and unconditional tenderness that men reserve only for their gods and their dead.

Billy puts his arm around me. It’s so dark I can’t see two feet in front of me. His car, the surrounding mountains, the sound of crickets, the stars: these things define the space around me now. I’m shaking, not so much that it’s immediately perceptible, but enough to know that I’m not prepared for this. I am neither the many-armed god nor the body with closed eyes, not angelic or animalistic, and Billy’s hand is at the base of my spine, moving up my back to the strap of my bra.

I don’t want to be touched, but I do. I don’t want to be touched, but I do. I want to be touched with reverence, with emotion. I want to be touched like I’m wound into your heart, like I’m a wound of your heart. I think about it all the time. Solid, and warm, chemical, touch like talc, touch like titanium. Hands, hands; moving, circling. A typical person goes through three-hundred-and-fifty thoughts a minute, and I’m thinking sudden rain, fingers, magic, name the closest stars, name the five kingdoms, name the boy I loved wholly once upon a time, crop rotation, touch, fluids in the brain, touch, blood, touch, touch, romantic by nature, skeptic by choice, touch. I want to be touched like none of it ever matters.

Hands, hands; moving, circling, with that infinite and unconditional tenderness that men reserve only for their gods and their dead. I am neither, and Billy’s swallowing hard, and his hand is squeezing my shoulder.

When I was a child, I went to an exhibition at a local museum that I’ve never really been able to forget. Picture this: A thick, black curtain, a dark corridor, a door that, when opened, leads to a wide, high room, so large that I cannot remember where it ended or began. The room has white walls, and it is filled with prisms, of every shape and size, hanging from the ceiling, reflecting light, producing color. I stretch out my small hands; I do not touch. I walk through it, slowly, but fast enough that the whole thing is over than less than fifteen minutes. I’m telling you this because I’m trying to distract from the truth of the matter, which is: I want to be touched, but I never wanted Billy to touch me.


Your eyes are ink; I write in black iris. Your hands are flowers; I write on black iris.

There’s a nest of swallows under the eaves (Spanish: golondrina, wings spread thin as leaves, cleaved from the woodlands and cleaned by sea air). Far-off: a cruise-liner, blurred and milky on the surface of the water. The inside of my mouth is soaked in salt, swollen like a fig.

A few years ago, I remember a storm, on this beach, in this house. I lay on the mattress, quiet as the lights went out, like one of mythology’s silky sacrificed girlies. Later, my mother called me to her, and told me to look (Spanish: mira); I remember sticking my head out the window, where she had pointed, and turning my face up. 

I will never leave you behind and I will never let you go, someone tells me in a dream, with such a blend of effortless tenderness and thespian heroism that I can feel that sugary, fibrous love on me, on my body, for weeks after. I wonder if I’ve resigned myself to living like this: conjuring up warm but invisible lovers and other false idols, breathing the sweetness of their rose and amber touch and lips, always the miel (English: honey) rather than the hielo (English: ice).

Even when I lived across this ocean, across the full flesh of these waters, my old heart still could not help but struggle to keep you down. You, with your ultramarine torso and fingers, of all my possible ghosts. The eyes and hands I write with and on; they are your hands and eyes. Though I may, and I will, leave, the shape of you will never be displaced, only rearranged. That’s the last tragedy of first love: it is solid and tactile, infinite, exquisite, but angled so I know that it never loses its teeth.

Cut your hair

I examine my body in mirrors. In a year’s time, my hair has grown longer than it’s ever been; near the ends it feels like old hay, thick and unhealthy. I run my hands through it and think: this is Medusa’s hair, when she is cleaning herself in seawater at night, running across the white sand, her snakes with their eyes half-closed, dormant, shedding scales dried out by salt. Under the fluorescent light of a hotel bathroom, my hair resembles a horse’s mane, caught and collected against my neck, tangled, dirty; but during the evening, when I spot my silhouette on the wall, I see no hair, only fur down a wolf’s back. Prey or predator, girl or Gorgon; I still haven’t decided which I am. I am pulling at Penelope, undoing her work, ripping my hair from where it’s been threaded with silk and perfume, into her tapestry. I am running away, on the shore, hovering between water and land, my body flipping, switching: sweet, gristly, tender, crippling.

My mother is consoling me; she holds me, she lets me rest on my head on the hollows of her collarbones, my hair falling over her arms. “My God,” she says, “so much hair. It seems like a curtain, more than hair.” I think of actors in porcelain masks on a stage, appearing and disappearing as a velvet curtain rises and falls. For some characters, I bare my canines and carnivore’s nails;  electric and vicious, leaping up to kick flat in the chest, splitting the braid of blood that knots hearts. For others, I slip into yellow moon eyes and milky mouth; demure and gentle, so loving it’s as painful as any wound. Kindness like my monster Medusa bathing in the dark, to save the fishermen; cruelty like a hero, under the sun, with a shield of mirrors, putting a sword to her neck and swinging. They both have their own evils.

I’ve learned that a necessary consequence of living is the disloyalty of the heart; but my spine will always be mine. My feet and teeth, those too. And my hair, of course: short, long, unwashed, clean, wrapped around my body, pulled across my face. It springs from me like Aphrodite from the sea. Whatever I am, carnivore or carnation, moon or monster: I cut my own hair.

Where I Am Now

My favorite days are like earth after rain, rich with soft soil smell, a little warm, a little damp. I make tea but forget to drink it, and the smell of it, heavy and sweet, fills the room. I spent a Saturday sobbing, once, and the Sunday after dying of laughter. It served as a good reminder: putting on clean jeans and making it outside, that’s heroic, sometimes. My heart is a silly thing, half-formed, still catalyzing, but it’s still my heart. I am no Achilles, no Alexander, but I don’t mourn it, this mortal that I am, these places where I am now.

On bad days, there isn’t a prophet alive who can help me out of the darkness, but my mother’s face, blurred almost beyond recognition by an Internet connection strung across the Atlantic, does the trick. When I look at her, I remember how she never cried the day I left home, and I now realize that was the greatest kindness she could ever have showed me. I’m realizing a lot of things, as of late, and they make me want to punch myself in the face and kiss a stranger, in equal measure.

My body, this year: the back of my ankles dry, the curve of my wrist warm, some parts of me like peeled oranges, yellowing wheat, husks of cinnamon, belly flab, short legs, acne on my chin; I should get more sleep, I should eat better. It’s hard, and getting harder; nobody ever told me that. Even for the stars in space, life is nothing but resisting inner pressure and external gravity, inward and outward forces. But I think life can’t be measured according to difficulty, along a spectrum of extremes. I am not better, I am not worse. What I am, where I am now: that has yet to be determined.

I am nineteen in two hours.

Not A Good Day

A pair of young women came to calligraphy class today. They stood up to introduce themselves: slender, rounded arms, soft sweaters, pleasant voices. We practiced writing earth: pronounced chi, thick lines and threads of black, flecks like kicks, dense and hard. One of the women stops behind me, steadies herself on my shoulder, leans in and takes hold of my writing hand, guiding my strokes.

Her touch is all over me, gentle, and suddenly I cannot breathe. I feel like I’ve been robbed blind, like my inner organs have been removed and replaced with seawater, dark matter, heavy liquor; I am light, I am lightless. My ribs open up and invite it in, and there are branches around my waist, and blood up to my neck, and I’m overwhelmed with it, staying power, saving grace, movements like the wind on rooftops, because she’s touching me, her slim, cold hands are on me, her liquid-smooth, heart-soft palm is on the crushed metal of my shoulder blade, her fingers are resting in the gaps between my knuckles, like warm air rushing to fill an empty space, and she’s telling me that the fourth stroke ends in a stop, not a curve.

It’s been six months since someone’s touched me.

I need to control myself; I can’t control myself. I assumed this unease was temporary, but now it’s getting too familiar with me, softening the vertebrae that care for the frame of my body, licking at the falling walls of my mouth. I can’t control myself. I can’t control myself.

Fire, honey; liars, money. Put me to sleep; set me on fire. I’m so stuck within this life that a woman’s hand is enough to rip me apart. These hours I live are not whole; these places I go are not homes. What am I living, where am I going? I CAN’T CONTROL MYSELF.

Me: earth when it is dying, bruises that are flowers, empires of leaves and dog days that shatter, dust and dust and want and want. I was going to be a hero, but why would that be, when I am made of the stuff the galaxy wouldn’t put in its stars? I sit on my bed, dark outside, back to the wall, and I look at my hands, where I saw worth, once. Now I only see weapons.

I go to sleep praying that, during the night, I’ll change into someone better than this. When I wake I take in a single breath, my eyes open like gunshots, and I know: nothing has changed. You can’t control yourself; who would ever touch you.

Some emotions, more thoughts, and many, many questions

I’m learning to read Japanese; each step across the page slides cleanly through me, sun cutting across the undergrowth. The characters fill me to the brim with the sticky reminder of their shape and meaning, stuck to the nape of my neck like the odor of spoiling summer fruit. I stand over a desk in the clouded glow of early morning, tracing their forms with a fingertip. Hiragana, katakana, kanji. I thread them together and run my tongue through them, and they are as new and tender to me as the the birth of the first moon is to the insecure god. I want to own and preserve these characters, cup them close to my chest; I want to mutilate them, too, test their breaking points. Indecision takes root. I remember that boy from high school; how the only thing I could tolerate less than his sadness was his joy. Someday I will be sitting on my haunches at the beach, dipping my hands into sand, writing him a love letter onto the body of the coast that the sea’s blood will soon take away.

My father doesn’t approve. Why Japanese? he asks me during our telephone conversation, his voice ground into pulp by some faraway satellite. Anxiety breathes deep and pure into my stomach; I press my forehead to the window glass and I thank God, not for the first time, that he is not here with me, and that he cannot see my expression. I look too much like my mother when I am upset.

Japanese at nine o’clock in the rain, footsteps up the sidewalk like the drip drop of a bar’s painful piano, my lips twisting at the language as though insistence could return color to the dying leaves of my thoughts; Japanese when I find myself on the floor, crying, folded up, creases and edges pinched to a close. Japanese because when all else fails, at least I have the frustration of a liar’s love to keep me alive through the change into the shattering season. Japanese because I am unhappy and there is no one left to blame.

I come up with a story for each character. Sa is a ghost, cooling touch and grace, wiry frame, wound up by childhood death. Tsu is the soft-eyed and slow-smiling boyfriend I’ll never have. Hi is a town near the seaside, done up in pastel and gold, where mermaids come to be buried. Ku is the secret that would break my dear mama’s heart.

In response to the first draft of my paper, my professor writes: Your paper has some emotions, more thoughts, and many, many questions. On the one hand, I like this structure, as I’ve said. On the other hand, the high ratio of questions to emotions makes me wonder whether the questions are protecting you from an awareness of feelings.

I have to laugh. Oh, the transparency of my doleful and doe-eyed deceit! A few thousand words and two weeks of class, and this man can see into the fleshy glass of my sinner’s heart. The questions are protecting you from an awareness of feelings. Damn straight they are. Bless the questions that keep me from feeling.

Na is a good girl who loves raspberries and spelling bees and dies of alcohol poisoning at nineteen. Shi is an orphan in charge of a city’s courier system. Ka is a white cat with the gift of speech and a duty to mankind. Chi is a fleet of transport trucks on the highway, going a thousand different ways, to opposite sides of a country. A is all I want, all I have ever wanted: a little house, by a river maybe, a good kettle, and someone warm who wouldn’t mind holding me when I’m tired.

Learning to read Japanese reduces and simplifies me, stripping me down to a few elements, as though I were a chemical experiment in the hands of the scientist, a clunky metal some lab technician will cut into with a diamond knife. I sit and forget everything about myself (a great feeling, the greatest of feelings, for a monster like me). The look of the characters, the sounds they carry in their curves, the way they fit in a sentence, inside my mouth. I cover each of them with the flat of my hand, and then slowly reveal them to the light, trying to say their names as quickly as I can. They don’t promise me more than exactly what they can give, but there’s a warmth to them that indicates, perhaps, the possibility of things to come.

In Japanese, someday I will: read a letter, talk to a cat, ask for directions to a town where mermaids go to die, listen to the advice of a ghost, buy a kettle, seduce a sweetheart boy, greet the conductor of the train that will take me somewhere (somewhere I won’t break my mother’s heart or disappoint my father or cry in the dark or run myself down into the slick pools of thick tar I mistake for rivers). Somewhere faraway where it snows the whole year and little houses aren’t too expensive and the locales smile often. Somewhere I can save myself, questions or no questions. And then maybe the scales will fall from my eyes and be replaced with stars.