By Sarah Nicole Prickett.
Relax, it’s California time. I’m a little cold——the desert’s cold at night, “cold” meaning fifty degrees. That’s what the cab driver said. I change into a black one-piece swimsuit and sink into the hot tub. No, wait. First I take a picture of the sunrise.
In my dream I was——KIDDING! I’m not going to tell you my dream.
In the kitchen the coffee takes forever. A tall Scandinavian-looking blonde comes in twice in a faint pink dress. The first time she says “it’s still going, huh?” and the second she says “it’s slow.”
“It’s on California time,” I whisper. When I got here on Tuesday I texted Jesse: I don’t want to talk to anyone, not even you. Then I deleted email and social media apps, turned off my iMessages, and un-allowed all outside notifications. If anything actually happens, I’m sure I’ll find out.
I’ve made two calls in five days and today I call Durga. When she doesn’t answer, I sing happy birthday into her phone (either my luck or hers——I forget——will go bad if I don’t). She should be eating pancakes by a window, nails painted gold.
The sun hits the table outside my room first thing in the morning. It’s full on my face. I feel fine. I read the newspaper and The Hollywood Reporter; I write down the things I’m thinking or think I should Google.
Look up: what percentage of Americans are also East Asian?
Look up: a serial killer who rescues his victims from other/lesser evils before he kills them?
Look up: do Fifty Shades of Grey fans like the movie?
Look up: what is the antonym of “idiot?”
My notebook starts to feel like a bad game of Jeopardy.
Page one of the California section announces that the investigation of Elliot Rodger by the Santa Barbara police department is over. Look up: full report.
The newspaper turns out to be yesterday’s. In the bathroom I remember that when I started to research that essay, I called it When A Man Hates a Woman. When I started to write it I called it We Are All Elliot Rodger. Two days later it was published with a much better title and a week after that I told a doctor that the headaches wouldn’t stop.
I love putting products on my face. It’s the only time of day I’m like, okay. I know exactly what I’m doing. I put on a Vitamin C serum, another antioxidant-type serum, an SPF15 sunscreen, an eye moisturizer, and a regular moisturizer, and then I pour a plastic cup of water.
I take Vitamin B12 and Vitamin E and biotin and zinc and Wellbutrin; in New York, I’d also take Klonopin, maybe Vyvanse. Eric says that taking his prescriptions feels just like taking his vitamins, but I say, Eric, those aren’t vitamins.
Jesse says it can’t be that bad. After all, he used to take Wellbutrin to quit smoking and it didn’t feel like anything, really. I have no reason not to believe this; he was taking, at most, a third of my dose.
Breakfast is served in the lobby. Slant sheets of glass, yellow chairs. I eat strawberries and omelette with million-grain bread and Nutella.
When I packed, I grabbed a stack of dollar-store composition books and Mubi spiral notebooks and Moleskines. I was careless; half of them are already full. Idly on the bed I flip through to-do lists, false starts, notes for finished pieces (a list from the movies: “scenes of gentler undoing”) and pieces I’ll never finish (“Hillary talks about China like China can’t read,” “Hillary is the Jennifer Aniston of electoral politics”) until I find a page with “Notes on a Honeymoon” underlined once at the top. Jesse and I were here in the spring.
can’t write anything down b/c then it becomes writing, to be evaluated on a matrix of skill, believability, not truth——definitely not truth
the anguish is (as I told Jesse, in a fit of irony)
that I have no private thoughts
(but this is not entirely true)
(it’s never so bad)
In fairness——not that I deserve it——to me, all that is true.
I’m tanning face down by the pool in a highlighter-pink bikini and when my phone bleats I almost lose my top. Jesus Christ, I say. Make a wish for Durga, says my phone. (NB: We’re 29 years old.)
It’s not true that I’m tanning, or that I’m only tanning. I’m writing on my stomach in the light. For five days I’ve been reading books, copying out passages I need, writing down stray thoughts, questions, occasionally a bit of an argument. I’m working on three different essays and part of my book, and sometimes I get ideas for the magazine. I like working so much alone. It’s totally nuts, indulgent.
When it comes to proper writing——writing by machine, for publication——I can only do one thing at a time, often with a song on repeat. I remember when I wrote about Zero Dark Thirty I listened to “Lost in My Bedroom” a hundred-plus times; I remember because the dissonance is showy, yet the effect I swear is legit. A very light, very sticky song has the trapping feel of spider-silk——eventually, you can’t move, you can only sit stuck and write. If you’re as skittish as me that’s a good thing.
Ugh. I hate all this process junk. It doesn’t really matter how you write. Worse: it matters how you feel.
Look up: who came first, Nietzsche or Freud? (Next to this question, I add a pretty bad drawing of a chicken and egg.)
I drink a fifth cup of coffee with almond milk vanilla-something creamer and decide it must have been Nietzsche, because of all the masculinine mystique, the mystery so immanent in his lines. Psychiatry poisoned mystery, not the other way around. Right?
There’s a new New Yorker here——that’s new. Usually, the New Yorkers in the lobby are one or two years old. It’s the 90th anniversary issue. Emily Nussbaum writes about Joan Rivers, Hilton Als about Langston Hughes: two aged-out icons who couldn’t afford the best politics. “Champagne and sexy miscegenation,” I read aloud from Als, then again. I’m back at my table, eating pistachios and lime chips.
“It’s very sad, but it is what it is,” says an older grey woman in the hot tub to an Angeleno walking by, wedge heels slapping, a bottle of wine in each hand.
There are four of the Angelenos, all women in their mid to late 30s. I know they’re Angelenos because they have long conversations about “who the decision makers are” and never take off their shoes. Also: “I just signed up for memory and spirit school.”
Of the eight or nine things I haven’t lost, the ability to tan is my favourite. I wear Sport SPF 45 and my skin still browns like a sugar cookie. Sylvia Plath knew. She loved the sun. If she hadn’t moved to England she’d still be alive.
Look up: where did Sylvia Plath go on vacation?
I change into a dirty white t-shirt and black silk sleep-shorts and my robe, which has HOPE on the back. HOPE is a thing in waffle-knit. Look up: is it “waffle-knit” or “waffle knit” as a noun?
I have to do things on my laptop now, like write, but first I have to read this Julia Kristeva essay, Sabat Mater, because——I have a hunch——it will make my own essay make sense.
It does. Great. I make notes.
I wipe off my sunscreen and reapply moisturizers and serums and repaint my nails (I scratch off all my polish every night and put it back on in the day). Then I edit the pictures I took on my phone so far. Then I go to the kitchen and make a bowl of chili in case I get hungry. Then I go through three different books on “primitive” religions and myth, looking for a definition of paranoia, even though I know perfectly well that the definition of paranoia I wrote offhand in my notebook (paranoia: beside oneself, inasmuch as the self = mind) is fine, and will suffice, and I’m only trying to not have to write.
Look up: memory and spirit schools near New York.
Friedrich Nietzsche was born in 1844 and died in 1900. Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 and died in 1939.
Did you know they used to call psychiatrists “alienists?”
I always forget Nietzsche was a Libra. 🙂
According to this 1980 paper on Freud and Nietzsche, Freud, whose ideas seem (to me, but also to… Foucault… and probably everyone) to be all but impossible sans Nietzsche, went to a 1908 conference and claimed to be unable to even read Nietzsche because too many people were talking about him. Popular opinion: Freud is a dick.
Ooh, but the paper calls him “a secret disciple” of Nietzsche. Who am I a secret disciple of? Exciting! When I die, whisper it into my ear.
Okay, I’m actually writing now.
Jesse and I try talking on the phone. Too soon. We both like being alone, but if he says so, I panic. I married the first person I ever suspected of being too good for me. Too good at life——at moving through the world, handling money, talking, making people feel liked. Too good at taking care of business. Too good at taking care of me. I came here to recover my self-possession and I’m not really sure it’s working out.
I turn up the “Chandelier” remix and dance like a heathen.
Working in bed is so much like masturbating, I might as well. I take off everything and lie very flat on my back, left hand over my mouth, and——
Jesus, that took like… ninety seconds. Is that normal? I should look it up.
Typing typing typing typing I wish to god that someone had told me I was good at goddamn painting when I was a kid. You know that Renata Adler line? Never trust a writer in whom nothing is at risk. Agreed, and a twist: never trust a writer who wouldn’t rather be somebody else.
I slept for four hours, wind in my head. Woke with the sun all the same. Didn’t swim, didn’t put on my swimsuit, sat down to type all this out. Spotify is the one Internet-connected thing——other than, eventually, Google——I have open on my laptop, and Sam is the only person I follow. Sam is listening to “Not a Bad Thing” by Justin Timberlake; quietly, privately, I listen too. I get a sneaked satisfaction: I’m right here and no one can see me.
♫ When someone cuts your heart open with a knife
Now you’re bleeding ♫
Justin Timberlake, for example, would rather be an autopsy tech.
I’ve had three cups of coffee and I feel fine.
Look up: how to cut a heart open with a knife?