It was fitting, I guess, that I read from Ginsberg tonight, seeing as it was Ginsberg who brought me to this city in the first place. It was Ginsberg who made me say “lonely trembling individual” over and over and over again—in silence, a saying. Whitman’s word unsaid. That was eleventh grade, an embarrassing admission.
I’ve always disliked summer. I like it, but I also dislike it. Not even summer camp could cure my insomnia. Trips to the pool, snack time, fun-dips for a quarter, chewing gum stuck to the trees, cold grass, unselfconsciousness. I used to stare at my ceiling in the dim-nightlight-lit-dark, two legs upraised perpendicular to the pink printed sheets. I liked to snake my blanket in between my toes; it made a nice sensation. And then when I got bored I would close my eyes and stare instead at the insides of my eyelids (you’d be surprised what you can see in there if you keep on looking). The insides of the eyelids were to me (seven years old) the whiteness of the whale: “A dumb blankness, full of meaning.” I tried to imagine what there was before there was. Before anything. Before nothing. I failed. And saw myself soaring. And slept.
While I’m on the subject: I’m no Ishmael at the mast-head. I’m the Sub-Sub at her desk, sub-sub-ishly sorting, extracting, compiling. My books surround me, fortress-like. I haven’t the heart to return them. They remain where I’ve placed them, behind the spiral-shaped seashell weather-beaten by the waves and the postcards (Derrida, Patti Smith) and an old copy of Stein’s Three Lives (New Directions). Which way does your beard point tonight? Toward what tendencies? Obsessions? Loves? Thoughts without words. A lonely trembling individual. I have so many words now, four years later; the phrases drip dropping from my fingertips. My nails never used to get this long (I chewed them off before they had the chance).
And the mast-head? A bench on Morningside Drive; look to the east. This morning I stood with one foot up on the cement slab, knee cocked to the sky, Bob Dylan circa 1964, examining my newfound need to examine, to “clear my head,” to sit in a place and stare at a thing until it loses its thingness and starts to look strange (have I really been hanging around this place for four years?). Unfamiliar. At the height of my undergraduate powers, she said. What’s the use of bursting into tears?
Sidewalks are now synonymous with doom. Impending doom; not quite. A fluttering in the stomach, a bursting-forth-feeling as my feet move forward (the rest of me follows, against my will); and then, a wave of nervous energy (the kind you revel in), a twinge of excitement (the kind you counteract with but, but…). It’s the forward motion that unnerves me. Each step an articulation: now what? Tracing a line straight through to the future, to the not-yet-here. But then you get there (and there becomes here). How far is here? It’s better to bike, these days. The circles, the cycle, I find it comforting. I can make believe it doesn’t have to end when I’m dodging cars. I know where I’m going.
(It always felt like this.)
The first-year says, yeah but… And I feel the pangs of lost time. I’m never going to read the Proust that’s sitting on my desk, but I will write and speak and shout and smash in search of lost time.
I’ll go ahead and say it: Margaret Vandenburg, I’m going to miss you. You were right, by the way. I don’t have any architecture.
Did I look nervous behind that podium? Wander down a ways, you’ll see; my kneecaps betray the nervousness in me. They twitch. I didn’t know what to do with my body. (I know how to dance. But the movement of the mouth just messes everything up.) I tried not to think about the bored-sounding tone of voice I take when I read, and just read. Was it a surprise when I said the word fuck? Did you believe that I believed?
I told S that my depression was imminent. Like a deadline. I can feel it descending. I can feel it in the air. I can feel it in the dust that lingers near the trash barrels in Morningside Park. I can feel it when I walk alone in the dark up Amsterdam. I can feel it when I finger the pages of my composition book. I said that I really didn’t want to be the maudlin weeping one. But I will be. I said this.
In green, in warmth, in smiles, in close-knit-ness come too late, in belonging found and gone. Looking back, it was Ginsberg that first made me say, “that’s me.” (Theorize that.) Someday, I will.