Do love like jobs, that’s what I say. Apply to more positions than you can bear. A rejection a day and you’re doing the right thing: jobwise, lovewise. Treasure falls in the hands of those who hunt.
Relevant experience: Worked entry-level position for Philosophy PhD. Pitched ideas, etc… at semi-weekly assemblies. Winter/Spring 2014
Related experience: Threesome liaison. Coordinated 5+ informal meetings, arbitrated between two hesitant parties. Summer 2014
So I’ve been having this feeling lately. It comes when I least expect it, so I can’t even schedule around it. I’ll be like, talking to a sophomore about major selection at the advising mall or something, and all of a sudden it’s like all the blood stops moving inside my veins, and right at that moment I need to run back to my room and wallow until my circulatory system cooperates, or before I bump into someone I know on campus, and they throw me a smile, and I shoot them this watery, clock-me-in-the-face type grimace.
Take this: I’m standing in the Frist gallery, nothing’s wrong – like actually, all things considered, I should feel like a pretty big deal just saying – I just put in my order at the quesadilla station, and the quesadilla man with his hairy hands and his white hat scoops a hemisphere of shrimp into his ladle, about to heat it up on that Mongolian barbecue thing, and I’m struck down with it, that hideous feeling, out of like thin air.
A ladleful of pale shrimp. Can you not feel the doom crushing you from all sides?
I start to panic. I have these thoughts like maybe I don’t exist at all, ergo the shrimp quesadilla is for the person behind me, or if I do exist, everyone’s looking at me slump-shouldered in line thinking Shucks, what horrible pains that poor boy must be trying to balm with such a cheesy mess.
I think of myself as very permeable when I’m sad.
A mob is forming and I need to get out of there quick. A girl with thumbholes in her sweatshirt sleeves pushes from behind trying to cut through the crowd but we phalanx her. Sorry girl, no one notices you except me, and I don’t feel like corralling the others, so tough. Now I see her cheese/veggie quesadilla is ready and sitting on the counter, and she’s reaching through the crowd to try to grab her meal, but her arms would have to be like three times the length to get it, and she can’t but she’s reaching-as-signaling to say, Hey guys can’t you see what I’m doing here can’t you see how futile this armstretch is until you move please, but no one’s moving and she’s pushing and that hardly makes her more sympathetic as she repeats Excuse me, Excuse me while she uses her body like a battering ram, but no one’s moving, arms down, out of luck.
I duck out with my food to-go and bolt dormward. I try to keep the steam in, but the dumb plastic take-out hood never really fits over the plate. A fiasco. I don’t even want it anymore. The smell under the lid is putrefaction. I take a bite but I spit it, unchewed, onto the ground. I sit at my desk and try to read Nietzsche, but my mind can’t hold the words, and I know I’ll have to spend the next hour or so just coping. Waiting for the lull in the rain. All I can do is lie back-up on my bed with the lights out and let my misery kind of reverberate.
The feeling is like You were hungry? Ha ha have fun choking that down.
The feeling is like You wanted to read Zarathustra? You can’t ha ha now you’re lifeless.
I try to mentally slideshow the good shit in my life, but the feeling swoops in again. Missed me? It says. Now you can’t have any memories of yourself or the world unfiltered through this horrible odium, like sepia contact lenses your mind is forced to wear until the indiscernible future. So there. Best of luck in all your future endeavors.
I whisper my SAT score into my pillow. I count the hearts I’ve broken. To my relief, both numbers are formidable. Spotify radio’s on, and I’m hitting my head with the heel of my hand when this Slim Jim commercial comes on that says “Hey you! You’re listening to Spotify which means you’re a fan of making good decisions! Another good decision is eating Slim Jim meat sticks!” and I don’t laugh but think it’ll be funny later, that time that Spotify cajoled me to buy meat sticks after catching me at my worst. Like it knew the only time I’d be vulnerable enough to buy meat sticks is here, in this bed, on this campus. I t ’ l l turn into this joke. Along the lines of: what were YOU doing when the meat stick commercial came on?
Loneliness is like always multitasking. No matter what you’re doing you’re always also thinking: I’m lonely. Not a productive thought, just a reiteration of the status quo. But aren’t I supposed to be good at multasking? I was a tri-varsity athlete, was president of honors choir and starred in two musicals while cooking flautas at a women’s prison on the side. When has that ever been a problem?
I know love starts with the self, but maybe if I could bait someone into a cuddle, it’d be like jumper cables to a dead car and bam, I’m back in overdrive, overdriving.
I am a prox. I need to be revalidated sometimes.
So I coaxed a freshman boy to my room, and in the morning we took a clumsy co- shower, two bodies wedged into a cubicle trading off who gets to stand under the water and who watches, cold and goose-bumpy on the side. Well I was cold and goosebumpy and he was under the water, and I told him the soap on his hairless chest made his skin feel like a dolphin, and he thanked me, and we both laughed, and he turned off the water really quickly. He motioned to get going, but the ending note was weird, so I asked him to get brunch, and he conceded, but I knew he didn’t want to be there because he didn’t custom order an omelet, like he didn’t want to spend the time waiting in line. Just powdered eggs and go. When did I become so bad at relating?
When he loaded his eggs onto a bagel he asked me What are you doing after graduation, and I smiled. I said, Well I always wanted to be singer/songwriter, so with all the money I made at the Welcome Desk I’m gonna buy a used van and just, like, idle it in the nearest parking garage until the carbon monoxide does that thing it does. You mean kills you? His eyes got so wide I had to grin. Yeah, that thing, that.
Hooking up at this place is like metal-detecting. Put your sad tired self out there and push, keep pushing and treading over the same barren land until one day it happens: you’ll hear a beep and you’ll dig, right there under your feet on that patch of land you’ve trudged over so many times and you’ll feel it, the outline of something precious starting to form as you claw raw-fingered through layers of compact earth, until you’ve dislodged it, and you’ll hold it in your hands, a treasure, wow.
I told myself I wouldn’t go out tonight. I told myself I wouldn’t leave this desk until I applied to at least ten jobs. One more milligram of caffeine and I’ll start jittering like a lawnmower. Any contact with a soft surface, and I could sleep for weeks. But I’m on point tonight. Solid black muscle tee and just the right level of buzz. I take the Monster I was saving for an all-nighter, pour some Svedka down the can’s little mouth and hit the road.
One thought on “Lost”
This makes interesting reading alongside your piece from a while back about Center Gays vs. Non-Center Gays (forget what it was called). One of the things I most remember about that one was the image of the balding fat middle-aged single gay alums at their little networking event and the “vision of the future” they represented. At the risk of engaging in long-distance psychoanalysis — always a risky prospect that’s liable to make you look like an ass — I can’t help but feel there seems to be a continuous undercurrent in your writing about gay stuff: a fear, rarely stated in earnest but often self-deprecatingly alluded to or layered in irony, of ending up totally alone. This is a fear I share, and which I suspect plenty of other gay folks our age share too, even if it’s a bit impolitic to talk about it in this age of ours, when the dominant LGBT political message is one of marriage equality and little white-picket fence homes with two mommies who’ve adopted African children and the like. Hell, it’s probably how a lot of straight people feel too, at least in the sexually sophisticated and rather cold urban centers — the sort of people who show up in Marie Calloway and Tao Lin novels…and probably you suspect this as well, or you wouldn’t write about it so much.
Anyway these are scattershot impressions; I don’t know any more than you do where the answer to romantic happiness lay. But I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it? Great writing, anyway. The line about your SAT score made me spit my drink onto my laptop from laughter. And your characterization of waiting in line at Frist in front of the quesadilla man as an occasion for profound existential dread basically sums up most of my day-to-day interactions.