I’ve written this obituary too many times to count now
I keep saying it’s done
I’m in love with a ghost
I don’t know the how’s and the why’s and the wherefores
Only that whatever once was
Just a bride who lost her husband at sea
To torments gone unrecorded
I only know he is gone
And nothing of him remains
Except what I’ve committed to memory
And a phantom that assumes his shape occasionally to walk the streets of New York
Let it be done
Let the light go out
I’ve kept the home fires burning long enough
Just some lyrics that made sense today by Andy Shauf:
Split my mind wide open just to find my every thought
I’m just hoping that I’m not stepping on your toes
Or find my feet forever flowing forward faster still
I’m just making progress until I can learn to step again
Move me in my heart however I can be inspired
If I am getting tired just take me to my bed
Send me to the shallow waters if I am not so strong
I’ll just sink or walk along depending on your viewpoint
Cos I don’t want to be alone if you are passing through my town,
When all my friends have found you avoiding love of summer
Please don’t hesitate to call I’ve been so all alone
However capable I’ve shown, I’m just hoping that you’ll find me
I know I’m not a rich man or a man of many things
You love the songs I sing and it’s making me so tired
I’m burning out on singing songs that at one time meant so much
With lines of longing for your touch
Or of holding you so tightly
So I hope you’ll understand that I’m spreading myself thin to cover up my dim perspective on the subject
Cos I don’t want to be alone if you are passing through my town,
When all my friends have found you avoiding love of summer.
No I don’t want to be alone if you are passing through my town
When all my friends have found you avoiding love of summer
When all my friends have found you avoiding love of summer
Yesterday Harry and I went to see Everything Everywhere All of The Time at The Alamo in Brooklyn.
It’s so great in so many ways. Think The Joy Luck Club meets The Matrix.
I cried even.
The message was extra special because I got to watch it with someone who for me embodies the core values of the film.
We took the elevator to the basement and got peanut butter Jojos and soda and placed Google eyes on Everything Bagels and Everything Bagel seasoning as an homage to the movie. We also danced in front of the meat aisle.
Then we walked back to my apartment and made spaghetti sauce with vegan sausage and noodles. Kim joined us. We scarfed down dinner so that Kim and I could get to Jack’s solo acoustic set at Pete’s Candy Store.
I’ve never been inside before. The venue is tiny. It’s basically the size of a trailer. Very narrow. Jack did good.
Caithlin joined us there and we continued on to Barcade after Union Pool wouldn’t let me in without ID. Lucky for me Caithlin had two IDs on her so I borrowed one to get into Barcade.
And then we all caught the B48 out of Williamsburg.
I got off the first bus and checked to see when the bus that would take me closer to home was coming.
Fifteen minutes away. And then a 14 minute bus ride. Or a 19 minute walk. At 2:30 in the morning.
I don’t walk through the world feeling I’m invincible. I have quantifiable observable data to the contrary. I got aggressively hustled/kidnapped at Penn Station when I was 20, leading, in part, to a mental breakdown, leaving Princeton and severe agoraphobia. I dropped out of college. I wouldn’t leave my apartment except on short trips to buy alcohol.
I also have a neurodivergent brain that takes information in differently. It’s constantly registering tiny details that escape the notice of others. Yesterday on our walk, I pointed out several things to Harry, one of them being a broken bottle that we’d passed on a previous walk a month before.
I sense danger differently. I’ve been conditioned by certain people in my life to acquiesce even when engulfed by fear. I have a very difficult time lying. And a very difficult time saying “No.”
I have to live in the world. I have to be able to function.
So what did I do? I started walking. And I prayed. Not for safety. I just picked up the conversation where it left off. Talking to whoever listens. I wasn’t alone. Mostly I asked for some clarity about this panel that I’m going to be on at the end of the month.
On my walk I saw a mouse and I heard a disgruntled cat whine. I passed a man walking in the other direction. I passed a couple holding hands. And when I was two minutes away from my front door, I heard a voice. Gravely. Deep. Older.
“You going home?”
It came from inside a parked car with the driver’s door slightly opened. I couldn’t see the man’s face.
“Yup.” Yup? That’s me not being able to lie in the moment. Not being able to not answer in the moment. That’s me being something that everyone worried about when I first started coming to NYC.
“You have a good night.”
That was it.
It was grace. No angels with harps. No clouds parting and a ray of light shining through. No booming voice from on high. Just an older, presumably intoxicated stranger wishing me a good night.
I had this thought last night mid round one of mushrooms that I didn’t want to document anything.
And I kept telling narrator Vene, the one who is slightly me and slightly not real…the one you know if you’ve only ever read my words and not met me in person…to be quiet. I didn’t want to think in words because they were just a pillow fort for an ego that has made itself very small and fragile over the past year. I’ve become desiccated. Inert. Living on air to survive. Waiting to be activated.
Words weren’t my friend last night. So instead we just listened to jungle and drum and bass and Björk sing jazz tunes in Icelandic and drew and painted on these giant sheets of green paper.
Did funny observable moments happen? Yes. There were a couple of round robins of drug deals. Money went from person A to person B and then to person C and back to person A and illicit substances went in the opposite direction. I got a vicarious lesson in how to spot “good” coke. I’ll never use it. I’d rather be strapped to the front of a moving bullet train. But if you’re wondering, it involves “fish scale” iridescence.
I got home after 6:30 and passed out. I feel gooey inside. Less small. Less apologetic. Less defensive.
Last night at karaoke a flight attendant named Coral asked Samy and me how we knew each other.
👨🏻🎤: Yeah, we had one really hot week in 2017
I explained that we are friends now. When I told her I was friends with other women in his life, she tried to read the situation for drama. That’s how most people read the situation. Hell, I’d probably read it that way too if it hadn’t been me.
For those of you who were around back in 2017, when I was venturing out into the world, you might remember all the fun 🦄/🦩 (unicorn/flamingo) stories. Me coming to NYC to see one and ending up with the other. Juggling them on trips. Juggling all the rest of the guys. All the fun sex. The concerts. The sweat inducing anxiety. The “Will she make it out there in the big scary world” terror. All of it scored by Matty Healy and The 1975.
That first week out here in May 2017 I left my backpack with all of my psych meds in the back of an Uber. I had no way of getting more. It should have been a shit show. Instead, Samy and my AirBNB host Darah (who is still my friend) covered me until I could get back to AZ.
In the course of five years, I’ve pummeled through my second adolescence, fueled by booze and cigarettes and weed and music. And…lots of sex.
Jack asked me this morning if I’m ready to date again. I’ve taken off time from dating. It isn’t important to who I am right now.
“Not just yet,” I said. “I need a win.”
The win is in the works right now. Just in time for summer five year anniversary of that first NYC excursion.
Drinks with Kim at Rudy’s in midtown with Chipotle chips and guacamole (which is such a luxury) and queso. Tyler introduced me to this place. The beers are cheap and the bouncer, Tim, is friendly. He saw my ID and told me he loves Arizona sunsets.
Then to see Company. I don’t know what anyone told you but I was certainly not crying the moment I heard Patti Lupone sing. That is fictitious and libelous and I shall…ok ok I cried. And all I could think of was my Misha, who is never far from me and invoked at the slightest sensation of beauty.
Watching Company feels too intimate. It feels like Sondheim stripped me naked and paraded me around to strangers in Times Square. There’s this line that goes something like, “Anybody else would be put in prison for doing the things you do to yourself.”
Yeah, I know.
The show has been updated. The lyrics changed to suit the time. Wife became prime. Life became Time. Still witty. It’s been reimagined as a fever dream of grey encapsulated in neon lined rectangles.
I’m never just in the present. Past me thought about Mary Ellen who went with me to see Anastasia in 2018. And that time a well-known NYC storyteller recognized me in Times Square in 2020 and I felt like a local. Or the first time I sat in this very Five Guys with a milkshake I couldn’t afford, experiencing free air conditioning after a night at Upright Citizens’ Brigade texting back and forth with Tyler about his show because I was too broke to pay the door fee.
I know it might seem like I know what I’m doing here and I’m a like a duck to water in NYC. It’s become easier. But there are days when I feel so defeated and turned around and lonely and wounded and…and…and…
And then I get dressed in spite of it all and I go out and I live. And questions aren’t so scary without answers. The answers won’t come sitting in my room. They come in the living part.
In being alive.
I’m watching this documentary about Harry Nilsson.
I was born in 1979 so I didn’t grow up with the 70’s. I grew up with its implications and legacies. Where my lifeline started, everyone who was older than me had collectively experienced them. It was real…to them.
And to hear about it, I missed out on the coolest decade that ever was.
I was steeped in someone else’s realness with its orange and yellow tones and stagflation and 14% mortgage rates and post-Vietnam malaise and episodes of I Love Lucy and Leave It To Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet.
I never lived it. But I’m watching this documentary and I know every single song. And how they impacted collective lives through his originals and everyone else’s covers.
I remember sitting in the front seat of car rides home at night between Tucson and Nogales. The windows blacked out except for the stars. My sisters asleep in the back. 92.9 on the radio. And me trying to understand who my mother was through the music she loved. There had to be a reason she connected to this profound music.
She loved music. Good music. I just wanted to understand this enigma of a human being. And if I unlocked the lyrics maybe I’d understand her secrets.
I didn’t live through the 70’s. By the time I started paying attention, everything was shoulder pads and perms and new wave and Facts of Life and Silver Spoons and The Love Boat. And Reagan.
But the adults in rooms where my ears were turned on were still processing a time I never lived through. The older kids were saavy to all of this nostalgia. When they popped out of the waffle iron, they came out sarcastic and referency and cool. They were Janeane Garofolo smoking Marlboro Reds in bell bottoms, using a metal Muppet Show lunchbox for a purse.
Things changed just before I was old enough to do anything like that. By the time I popped out of the waffle iron, none of that nostalgia was cool anymore. Everything was looking toward the future. Towards 2000. It was Britney and Paris and Swedish style pop.
The older kids who taught us what cool was shut the door behind them at that point and sort of tuned out to anything new.
In 1997 you could look back or you could look ahead. And all of that I had to figure out at the age of 17.
My lifeline stops a few different times. I got to reset and choose a different adventure. It comes with consequences. It’s like a betrayal to anyone who swears allegiance to the 1970’s to love anything past a certain date.
Wanna know what’s funny? The kids coming up today would hand over their back teeth to live in the 90’s. Not the real 90’s. The 90’s they were told existed that seemed so cool.
Time keeps folding in on itself. I don’t feel like I belong to any of it. I have no allegiance. I just stand here on the rings of Saturn and watch it all like some beautifully elaborate and tragic ant farm.
They describe Harry in a way that resembles the parts I don’t like about myself. Crippling self-doubt and lack of self-esteem. Fun, on reflection. But dangerous in the moment. A death wish. By the time he’d sampled what it meant to be grounded, he’d painted himself into a corner. He got to feel love and connection but while juggling chainsaws.
That’s what I worry about. Getting myself to deliverance and not having the wherewithal to enjoy it. I need grounding. I can handle the whimsy portion of the evening. I just want to be healthy and financially capable to enjoy the good times rolling. Beyond that, I don’t ask for much. I don’t need status symbols. I just want something resembling a sturdy home. But who am I to that person?
Is that part of the damage seeking healing or is that damage looking for trouble?
I went to my first fet/play party tonight.
It’s fascinating how normal it felt to hug naked people. To watch people be spanked. To speak frankly about sex. And to NOT feel awkward about it.
Now to sleep.
Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an “L” on her forehead
So I’m five or six and the Daisy (Girl Scout precursor) meeting at my house is over. Something has happened that I don’t understand so my mother explains it to me.
She just confronted fellow Daisy Renee for stealing a tiny plastic envelope of Sanrio coloring pencils and paper. My mom had bought it for me. Renee claimed it was hers. I wasn’t paying attention. I had zero connection to the coloring pencils in question.
After everyone’s gone, my mother yells at me for letting everyone get away with hurting me. She tells me that I need to start standing up for myself because people will take advantage of me.
Funny, because around the same time I’d just been punished for not giving my best Barbie to Pilar when her family had come over for dinner. My punishment was to sit in my bedroom in the dark without dinner while everyone had dinner two feet outside the sliding door.
So, stand up for myself because everyone wants to take advantage of me but don’t stand up for myself because then I’m shameful and I’ll be made to sit in the dark, hungry, and crying hot tears and everyone approves of this.
This, pretty much, is the beginning of her “They’re all gonna laugh at you” mother of Carrie lecture series that will continue for the rest of our relationship. Because everything was my fault, especially when anyone hurt me. And what mattered wasn’t my well-being. What mattered was my mother’s well-being.
Now, I couldn’t tell you if all people really did want to hurt me or if I was trained to see the world this way. But I can tell you that my mother viewed every interaction as a slight. So I never spoke up when actual bad or scary stuff happened to me at the hands of people more sophisticated than I. There were already too many things I was in trouble for. Like not being invited to the movies or slumber parties or the carnival. I didn’t need to add to my shame account that my mother tallied daily.
But when I was included, I’d get in trouble for all sorts of bad behavior my mother assumed I’d participated in. And then I’d get punished for these imaginary offenses and not be allowed to go to the next thing I’d been invited to.
I couldn’t win. I couldn’t tell anybody what was going on. I didn’t know what to do with any of this. I didn’t understand what was going on. All I knew was that every little part of me was bad and wrong and shameful. Better to keep it all to myself…whom I also imagined to be the worst person on earth.
I didn’t see myself as a victim. I saw myself as a force of destruction. I was a villainous King Kong who disrupted a social order I couldn’t begin to comprehend. I didn’t know how to build. Only how to destroy.
“But you’re an adult now, Vene, you don’t have to behave that way.”
And you’re right to say that. But what I should be and what I was conditioned to be fight each other all the time. When I am at my best I can overcome conditioning. I get burnt out easily. That’s a lie. It’s not easily. It looks like it’s easy. But I’m handling a Fuck ton just to get to the point that’s easy for others.
Has the world rolled me? Yes. Many many times. I experience the world as an autistic person. I can be gullible. I’ve had people steal from me and mismanage my money. I’ve had people try to put and keep me in mental hospitals for problems I didn’t even have. I’ve had doctors prescribe medications that were potentially lethal. I’ve been sexually assaulted by someone I trusted. I’ve been gaslit and manipulated in subtle but terrible ways.
That made me bitter. It made me resentful. It made me vengeful. It made me cruel.
Mostly it made me feel alone and like I couldn’t trust people. So I just didn’t. I just don’t. Because I can’t trust myself. In the Inception version of my story, my mother implanted two tiny messages like sparse coding that just play and play with greater complexity.
“People will hurt you.”
I have to overcome this. I know that. Without therapy and with autism. I’m not going to let that stop me. I just have to get stronger. More discerning. Trust myself for everything that has gotten me this far. And then figure out who I want to be in the future and make it so. I really have come a long way from my past selves. I know I can do it. It’s just a lot of effort.
I also need people to believe me when I call something out for being dangerous. I know what I’m talking about when it comes to threats. I don’t see the world through the lens of a victim. I see the world through the lens of someone who had to be keenly aware of when the monster came out of her mother. I know when something is askance. I need other people to trust what I know to be true.
I need to build credibility.
But how do I explain that I need to be protected from harm and also that I can see certain types of harm coming way before anyone else will?
I don’t take compliments well on how I’m dressed. It’s getting to be a problem because now people are calling it out without understanding that it’s not about false modesty.
There’s a reason but if I say it to someone when they’re mid, “Vene, learn to take a compliment,” talk, then I have to explain what it was like being the daughter of a narsissistic mother who berated me before and after going anywhere in public because I never looked good enough for her. And if someone did say something nice she interrogated me for hours afterwards about what was said and by whom.
Nothing I did was ever good enough and there were always consequences and humiliation to be suffered for not just months but years to come. She never let anything go. I didn’t have a separate existence. I was either a giant disappointment and shameful or I was an extension of her and a compliment to her.
I’d show up to school dressed well and the other kids would make fun of how my mother dressed me or hate me because they thought I was showing off so it was just one more thing that called attention to how weird and not ok I was. But no one ever asked me if I was ok.
At home, my mother knew how to use my sisters to extend the cruelty. The only times I ever felt safe were when I would leave for camp far away from home and be in places where I could explore myself. But then I’d have to come back to more rounds of interrogation and mind games and bullying.
It didn’t end when I became an adult. It just got more complex.
If this sounds overly dramatic it’s because it’s only the tiniest tip of the iceberg.
I don’t ever bring up the really fucked up stuff because I don’t want people to ever have to suffer even the retelling of how terrible it was, let alone have a real idea of how terrible it was to live it. Just watch Mommy Dearest and Carrie and then you’ll have an idea.
So, no, I’m not being falsely modest. I’m trying to melt into the wall because no good ever came of calling attention to myself but it was also drilled into me that if I looked anything less than perfect I would pay a price later.
This is just some of the darkness I have to keep a lid on because people don’t know and they wouldn’t understand and no matter how much therapy or medicine or meditation or anything…you never quite escape it. You can rise above it. But good luck trying to escape your mother’s voice in your head.
So no, I don’t take compliments well. I don’t need to be called out for not taking them well either. Don’t compliment me and then insult me because I’m not good at it. I am already stretched so thin trying to do my best to human.