“I sucked at organic chemistry.” She swirls a tumbler of flattened champagne with an easy poise, and for just an instance, the weariness in her face lifts as nostalgia settles in. Perhaps this is the secret to eternity; the Fountain of Youth is here, in our parents’ memories.
I’ve been going back less and less these days. The last time I was home was for what, a handful of days, months ago. It’s easier now to stay in L.A. for stretches at a time, the California sunshine haze punctuated by weekly conversations with the fambam. Sometimes it’s super fun and we laugh and poke fun at each other, and sometimes it’s super stressful and my parents and I speak in passive-aggressive undertones while my sister tries to dodge the overflow of our simmering rage, but it’s not like it’s any different being under the same roof as them,
but this past holiday has been… different. I see the weight of age starting to take root in the way my father holds himself, I see warmer light in my mother’s laughter, I see a hunger and an edginess starting to work themselves into my sister’s language, I see uncertainty and aimlessness and ambition and dumb, numb belief grip my peers, and the change is so sharp and so raw that I feel it leaking from the corners of my mouth, and I want to submerge into the surface of the earth as a petty means of locking my world in place, as if by restricting the boundaries of my existing space, I can somehow curate and preserve things the way they are,
when in reality, it’s the opposite that’s true: when you expand space out, time then becomes more and more inherently meaningless because everything is propelled forward but when placed in the context of entirety, of eternity, all of ~*this*~ is really nothing, ain’t it?
I know there’re some physics or whatever behind all of this thinking, but I’m really not qualified enough to be talking about the mechanics of anything, so I’ll leave the logistics to the experts and keep this grand theorizing to myself. Or something like that.
I don’t know. I feel like I write that a lot, but then again, it’s the most obvious thing to say in any situation. Who does know? Who can confront nothingness and fill its void? Should I be asking these questions at all? What does this do, besides stress me out and plant anxieties in the pit of my gut? Does that even matter? Who cares? Who fucking cares about any of this shit, including me, who fucking cares about all of these open-ended ‘what ifs’ when there’s real shit happening out there in the ~*real world*~, when the body is still the functioning vessel of existence and all this wishy washy mental hand-wringing is only possible because I don’t have terrors of the body to confront?
“If you’re looking for Hell, just try looking inside.”
HA. HA FUCKING HA. HA HA HA H A H H A A A A H A A A A A A A A
Stop. Breathe. Get it together. I didn’t start writing just to write about me. Look further. Look deeper. Follow the sound of a woman’s voice and watch the way she holds out her hands.
I just finished reading Tavi’s interview with Lorde, and it’s so refreshing to hear young women talking about that sort of shit. It validates the way I felt growing up, but it also begs the question:
there’s a considerable percentage of the world out there that’s struggling with these exact same feelings, with variations only in intensity and points of fixation, so why can’t we all find common ground with each other? And I know, I know, it sounds like one of those “Why can’t we all get along?!” pleas, but it’s not quite that.
It seems that every other person I know has grappled with the “otherness” brought on by teenage-ness in some form or fashion, no matter what their social sphere or the geographical location of their upbringing. And please, like anyone was 100% satisfied with their teenage experience — though there are always exceptions, and to them, bless you.
It’s more like, within this otherness, it’s possible to find community, but it’s difficult for these communities to reach out to each other? Or something like that… I’m chasing a nebulous line of thought here, and perhaps I’ll reel it in another time, but what I really want to tackle is this:
My family was having dinner together a few days ago. We were sitting at this claptrap table draped in cheap linoleum-esque fabric (aside: my dad’s place in Maryland still doesn’t have a real dining set yet, so we ate at this glorified card table while sitting on fold-out chairs, an island of back alley living in the middle of a room littered with boxes and presided over by a set of gorgeous printed curtains)
and my dad was nursing a bottle of beer, and my mom was drinking the leftover champagne from the morning’s celebrations, and I was trying to ignore the fact that oh my god, my parents get buzzed from having one drink,
and then, I don’t remember how, we got sucked into this long conversation about academics, and about school, and at first it was just my sister and me trading various class/subject-related episodes, but then my parents started chiming in about TAing and bad professors and clever professors and the things that they struggled with, the way they lived, back when they were us, before they were us,
and okay, I know that time is always flowing forward (let’s just assume that’s the way it is, for this moment… metaphysical intricacies aside), but when you enter these conversations where time is just a space in which you can pull from everything that’s happened so far, and you find your space bubble interlocking with someone else’s, and you can feel the intensity of their emotions and the similarities between your intersections, despite objectively knowing that there’s no way you can understand any of the details of their experiences,
and when the person whose bubble is bumping into your’s happens to be your parent,
it’s fucking scary, and the soft smile that graces my mother’s lips when she drifts into the past might as well be a warning bell, chiming its distress in an effort to keep me from placing myself beside her timeline, from turning to her and trying to imagine how she was “way back when,”
from seeing the present as an inevitable point along the mobius loop of my life, of her life, of every life,
and thus despairing.
That was darker than I’d intended. The conversation itself was really fun; even now, despite knowing otherwise, I still see my parents as these kind of superhuman figures, especially my mom. She’s the one in our family who always knows what’s going on, who’s packed the one thing you always forget but always need, who berates us into completing necessary responsibilities (even/especially if we don’t want to do them), and so for her to break from that and giggle over a schoolgirl memory is jarring but in a refreshing way. It’s like watching a miner wash off caked-on soot.
I have seen my mother’s face in soot for as long as I can remember. Comparatively, my dad’s a pretty open book, and as much as I joke that I have more in common with him than with her, I know that I am my mother’s daughter, even though we butt heads on just about everything, even though she’s started asking me about boyfriends, about marriage (oh my god), about children, and it’s teasing now but then I remember that she had me when she was what, 26, and then shit starts to get real, good god, and now I’m definitely digressing but hold it back, that’s a whole ‘nother mountain to tackle.
Right. So yeah, historically, I’ve had a contentious relationship with my mom, which was exacerbated by high school ~*angst*~ and then finally resolved (?) into a friendly (???) give-and-take, as I’ve shown that I can live semi-independently without completely embarrassing myself, but it’s impossible to look at her and not think about myself in relation to her outside of our relation… ya know? Like, shit, she grew up as the only child of math and physics professors at one of the best universities in China, and then she fulfilled her scholarly potential and took her dreams to America, and then she married a man with a goofy smile and a hair-trigger temper and they raised two crass, loud, American daughters, and sometimes I think that we terrify her,
but then she looks at us with pride or protective fear or soft, glowing joy, and it’s like, okay, alright, this is our mother, this is the woman in whose footsteps we walk,
but sometimes the soot cracks, and instead of seeing her features underneath the gray-black, I see the incoming future rushing toward me, and my gut instinct is to turn and run but there’s nowhere to run to,
and then it hits me… even if I had the chance, why the hell would I want to run?
I didn’t get into “Reflektor” (the album) when it first came out. I really dug “Reflektor” (the song) and all of the band’s previous material, but the other tunes on that album were just too… open, too bare, yet too dense where it did come together.
After reading the Lorde interview (in which she gushed over AF), I forced myself to listen through the album while I wrote this post, and now that openness is inviting, that density is satisfying, and I find the core of their sound and it welcomes me home even as I write about the fact that I’m losing a handle on what that word actually means.
With that in mind: “Ah well; you tried. Now rest your eyes – pin them to the darkness. Close your eyelids and welcome sleep. Let the sound wash over in waves…”
It’s been a while since I’ve been to see you
I don’t know where, but you’re not with me
Heard a voice, like an echo
But it came from you