Friday, November 22, 2013


In 2012 I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time, on a friend's suggestion. Hoping to finish early enough to leave time that month to reunite with a boy I'd met at Burning Man, I cut off all other activities [minus taking a Thai massage class--which, incidentally, is what I'm doing this week as well] and isolated myself in trendy coffee shops, surviving on quiche and biscotti in an obsessive fervor.

It paid off. I finished in just over two weeks, partied that night to celebrate with some of those people I'd been militantly ignoring in the pursuit of raising my word count, then went on a loop around the Southwest that played out like an absurdist's wet dream with the boy I'd then just met and am now still disgusting-twitterpated over.

Yeah, though, NaNoWriMo. I'd recommend it to anyone vaguely interested in creative writing, but especially to writers [or would-be writers] held back by an edit-as-you-go neurosis [like me], which can be paralytic to those who'd rather not write at all than risk writing something bad. It's all about quantity over quality.

Of course, busting out 50,000 words of fiction in two weeks means a lot of what I wrote is irredeemable garbage, and some of it is probably beyond comprehension--but I figure that's kind of the point. And eventually I might even go back and try to tie it all into something that makes a little more sense--that's both the luxury and the daunting pressure of writing fiction, for a change. I can edit people in and out on a whim, change the ending, all that jazz--but then, of course, I'm completely responsible for it, whereas real life I can just buff up and relay--BAM!

It's November again, but I'm not ass-cannoning a draft this year. However, in the spirit of what I think is a really awesome idea, here's an excerpt plucked from last year's:


I don’t love a city for its seafood restaurants, its commercial avenues, its people. I don’t love a city for its fashion sense, it’s street fairs, its local haunts. Not for its level of criminal activity, and for neither its cheap taco trucks nor its fine dining. Not for its music scene, its job market, its housing prices, its public transit, its prevalence of free parking. Not for its street performers nor its lack thereof, not for its office buildings nor its historical districts, its Chinatowns, its nightlife.
            What’s left?
I love a city for its rooftops, its sewers, its abandoned warehouses. For penetrable structures that were never meant to be penetrated, and never designed with aesthetics or comfort in mind. I love a city for its shut down buildings. I love those taggers who are artists and historians more than vandals, whose marks on such relics are like a nod “hello” from across a crowd too dense for you to swim through in order to reach one another. A nod “I see you.” A nod “I know.”
            Just as I love a person for their disgusting idiosyncracies, the momentum of their bodies—a biological autonomy their minds can’t veto. Not for their “unique sense of style” or their “quirkiness”, or the bullshit traits they construct and exaggerate with the hopes of seeming interesting or mysterious.
            I love a person for the way they cry when there’s no more holding back, some variety of viscous release oozing from every hole in their blotched head. For the silent pleas they make to themselves when they wank off—not the bullshit moans they make to convince their partner that they’ve given themselves up to the experience when they’ve done anything but. I love a person for their insomnia. I love a person for the things they’ll never admit to me: their neurotic fascination with vomit, or their habit of occasionally eating their earwax or boogers or scabs when no one’s around, or of smelling the insides of their piercings or biting off their toenails, or their fetishistic attraction to whatever. For the way their smell changes as they get older, that subtle fermentation. For their private rituals and traditions so deeply ingrained into the clockwork of their lives that they don’t even realize they’re secrets, for the private superstitions that they deny humoring. For the things they might look up, the Facebook profiles they might sift through of their long-gone-someones from five relationships ago, the pictures they might save so long hoping no one else will ever know. For the way they handle the unspeakable indiscretions—accidentally running over someone else’s cat, accidentally shitting in someone else’s shower, accidentally sexting someone else. The momentary freezing, followed by the dichotomous fight-or-flight, and whatever cover-ups their overloaded brains can cough up. For the way some of them might sit up at night, alone, stricken by some secret terror, some grand Question that suddenly makes them feel as if their entire life is a worthless sham and what the hell can they do about it so that they don’t sit up at night feeling that way?

Riding the bus I could see our reflections in the scratched-up windows. We matched. Dark oversize hoodies and jeans, hair covered in dust and cobwebs, faces worn out and stretched thin from the abuse we’d been subjecting our bodies to, extra-gaunt under the fluorescent light, which gave way to blemishes that would be invisible during the daytime, under the more forgiving light of the sun. On the back of the bus slept a crumpled man in a crumpled suit, but otherwise it was empty save for the two of us.
As if picking up from the middle of a conversation, Kai asked me, “Why didn’t you go?”
“What, why? Because I’m sick of being elected Mama, and I don't want to hear about Gary's dog's bladder infection or about how he's getting fat or his dad died eight years ago or his rent. He's sent me pictures, too. The dent in his car, himself drunk and crying. He's been drunk all the time. Hence all the bitching." 
“Passive-aggressive, much?”
"Fuck off--I've told him to stop calling so much, and anyway who has the energy to be on-the-table all the fucking time, with fucking everybody? So, I’ve been harboring a bit of resentment, yeah. I guess that part's my bad, not his.”
“Everybody? I thought you guys were hooking up?"
"Ha. You're cute."
"If not, you should consider it—that’s generally the easiest way to get rid of him.”
“Whether or not I could stomach that anymore, he won’t even.”
“’Won’t even…’? Have you seriously tried and failed?”
“I used to think I liked him or something, before I learned he's an energy vampire.”
Kai raised an eyebrow at my non-answer answer but allowed me to divert the conversation, so I did.
“Like, the whole sucking blood, only he tries to drain my well-being. He doesn’t just want to confide in me—he wants to get under my skin and make me feel his pain, but constantly. Like he can outsource his shit and feel better. So he wants me to be on fucking call, to feel guilty when I’m happy and he’s not. I don’t know when he decided I owed that to him, but there you go.”
“That’s a side of him I’ve never heard of, and I’ve known the guy for years. Also, you don’t seem like the maternal type. You're not the right mode of bitch.”
“See, that’s what I think, too. I keep getting elected without running. Like I said."
“I don't know if I buy that. You make yourself out to sound all innocent, but it's not hard to picture some very conscious manipulative tendencies in you. But what do I know? And anyway, I've never seen you in action.”
“You just never put my boot to your skull. And you’re probably right, on some level. I’m just a disenfranchised girl caught in a web of disenfranchised men caught in my web.”
"Now you're just romanticizing yourself. I never said that." 
The bus reached its last stop and we reemerged into some forgotten infrastructural corner of the night, the air smelling of smog and promise.

I lagged behind a bit, taking it all in. It’s not that there was a whole lot to see—industrial buildings and warehouses, a monochromatic network of steel pipes and concrete. Dark unlit streets, the shadows of the part of the city that is a part of the default world. Pavement looking like the teeth of someone who’s been making out with a sledgehammer.
But there was a thrum to these neighborhoods, a dark pulse. The pulse of the former, the never-beens, the long-dead. The negative space, the pause between places.
If all the world’s a stage, then these places I sought out were backstage, collectively forming a subtropolis of which I was the sole citizen. That citizenship wasn’t defined on a physical level, and I was never the first or only to walk across the thresholds of these places—but when I occupied them, the former residents or employees, the builders of these places, the taggers, the teenaged summer flings craving heated solitude, the strung-out shadowselves, the other explorers like me, even Kai, were all as incorporeal as ghosts. 

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