I Could Live Without Speaking
After Autoportrait by Edouard Levé
IntroductionPhoto by Molly Matalon
In 2017, when I was still working on my book of essays, Tonight I’m Someone Else, I reread Autoportrait by Edouard Levé, a French writer who died in 2007. Each time I’ve turned to his work over the years, I become inspired all over again by the quiet intimacy of his books. I’m also not immune to the mythology around one of his other books: he turned in the manuscript for his novel, Suicide, 10 days before Levé himself committed suicide.
I’m interested in Levé’s work not only because I love his sentences, but because I’m interested in books as objects that have the capability to outlive the author. Most art has this quality—films are documents of actors speaking and moving long after they’ve died, records are documents of the way songs were sung and played at one particular moment in time. But the written word is what has fascinated me for most of my life, hence my interest in essays and its ability to capture one person’s line of thought at one point in time. It seems so specific, so small and quiet, and yet certain voices travel through time, reaching us when we need them. I happened to need Levé’s Autoportrait (published in 2005, two years before his death). I was fascinated by the way the book appears as one long, relentless block of text, and each declarative sentence feeds into the next. Sometimes they directly connect, sometimes they don’t. But, when read together, they begin to take on a human quality, as if the text itself is out of breath—desperate to get everything down before it’s too late.
The work below is the first of four parts of a project in which I wrote my own Autoportrait. Each sentence uses at least one (but usually three or four) words from each of Levé’s sentences, and I’ve followed the order and number of sentences exactly. So, for example, the first sentence is in Levé’s book is, “When I was young, I thought Life: A User’s Manual would teach me how to live and Suicide: A User’s Manual how to die,” and mine is, “When I was young, I thought running away was the answer.” In carefully following his sentences, they became like rapid-fire prompts for me, often resulting in a sentence written in a way I wouldn’t typically have written it, or recalling a memory I hadn’t thought about in years. Even though I was using his words to begin (or end) my own sentences, mine began to take on a totally different shape from Levé’s, resulting in entirely different confessions, memories, and recurring obsessions that unintentionally echo throughout the piece.
When I originally began this project, I thought it might become a long essay in my book. My editor and I eventually decided it wasn’t the right fit, but I continued the project on my own, simply because I found it so pleasurable. It was almost as if I was being supervised as I wrote. There’s a line in my version of Autoportrait that says, “I hesitate when given too much freedom.” This project was a way of restricting my own freedom as a means of production: I always knew what to do and where to go. A lot of things have changed in the year since I completed this project, but I’ve decided not to edit the piece to reflect those updates, since the whole point was to document a certain moment in one’s life. Here is that moment of mine.
Part IPhoto by Molly Matalon
When I was young, I thought running away was the answer. I never studied abroad. I prefer to write with my back to the window. I have a friend who gets off on girls with acne. The ending of a book rarely satisfies me. I eventually forget the source of each grudge. I’ve been to a prison where none of the inmates had killed anyone. I look at the sky because a therapist told me six years ago that it was important. I am not afraid of being alone. The amount of tedium that people report to each other exhausts me, especially when I am the one reporting it. I love all of my nicknames. I always notice right away when someone is evil, but I override my judgement, thinking I’m wrong, and then later they prove me right. I shred old drafts in protest of a proper archive. When I was two, a calm “no” would stop me in my tracks. Competition is one excuse for my behavior. It would take longer to describe my problems than it would to solve them. I am becoming wilder with age, as if to make up for lost time in my obedient youth. I put great effort into concealing my skin’s uneven texture. I have cheated on one test. I steal other people’s jokes. I do not read the news. My hate is temporary. I forget my dreams the day after I have them. I do not believe in anarchy. I prefer a clean room, but almost never keep it that way. I wish it were acceptable to silently gaze into other people’s eyes for long periods of time. I am never bored. I rarely forget to eat. I like to comment on the food I’m eating while I eat it. I knew an artist famous for her ability to sit still, she pronounced my name Chel-see-ya, I never corrected her. I can easily follow instructions. I hesitate when given too much freedom. I think of gray hair as evidence. I search the internet for symptoms. I think my father feels he should have gone to war. I always forget if the scar on my lip is on the right side or the left. I am not sure justice is real. I do not say “I love you” casually. Airports remind me to never have children. I become embarrassed when someone hears me sing. Only a few people have told me I’m funny. I felt elated the first time I saw deer grazing in a meadow. I prefer to let other people use a hammer on my behalf. I do not know what it’s like to expect an inheritance. The word “sale” does not excite me. I cannot sleep if there’s too much light when it should be dark. I can sleep wearing uncomfortable headphones to block out neighbor noise. I had an idea for a movie that starred my beautiful friend who hates being photographed. I have a tendency to think too highly of people who I don’t know very well. I once took a subway, a train, a car, and a ferry to see a castle in decay. The best part of graduate school was fighting with my teacher about essays that feel like dreams. Money seems fake. The password to my online bank account is “LessThanBanking.” Heaven Knows What, Always Shine, and Under the Skin are films that have affected me more than most books. I laugh the hardest at jokes I already know. I have never attempted suicide, though the vigor of my death drive is impressive. Many of my childhood memories involve the tart taste of unripe oranges stolen from my neighbor’s tree. I am bad at telling people what I need. No one in my family has any money. I do not believe that democracy will ever be as perfect as people expect it to be. I used to exchange handwritten letters with someone I’d never met that called himself “Ponyboy.” My grandmother’s life story involves racing semi-trucks as she rode her horse next to the highway. I have thought, listening to someone sing karaoke, “He is making an unbeautiful song beautiful.” I have thought, watching someone cry, “He looks like art.” Before anyone could fast forward commercials, my parents used to mute them and look away. I don’t like the sound of birdsong. I have heard a man lie so elaborately for so long that I began to admire the way he did it. My friends fascinate me until I learn too much about them. I have a friend that carries around an Altoid tin of hallucinogenic drugs. I miss being young enough to be covered under my parents’ health insurance. A nice person is less interesting to me than a mean one. My worst memories eventually fade completely. I like watching my best friend’s child learn new words. Sea World is the first place I remember in my first memory. I don’t like being naked in front of other women. I eroticize memories of fantasies, and then memories of memories of fantasies, and so on, until they’re so far away, I can barely see them. I have never kissed one of my teachers. Love stories are my favorite. I never tell someone else’s secret. I like hearing my friends talk about how they make things. A woman on the internet taught me how to apply the eyeliner I now wear every day. When I was sixteen, I traveled by bus from Phoenix to Los Angeles, the man sitting next to me fell asleep on my shoulder. Whenever I’m suspicious, I’m right. It surprises me that the human body is so resilient. I try to make love without remembering the others. I admire radical breaks in behavioral patterns. Sobriety is rare for a reason. Extremely good news makes me think something extremely bad is about to happen. Both of my parents have their own motorcycle. I don’t like men who are excessively handsome, but I like to be friends with the most beautiful women I can find. Ending a friendship or a relationship is always ugly. From certain angles, one man that I kissed looked just like Bob Dylan. I find myself in the same situation again and again. I’d like to be well-traveled. My profile is angular. I like my eyes because the shade of green changes on occasion. Strangers enjoy reminding me that my face is pale. My left eyebrow is superior to my right. I lower my voice when I’m flirting. I don’t need breakfast. I am not looking to seduce a non-artist. I do not like when people tell me how much I’d love Paris. I wish the gaping hole in my bathroom ceiling didn’t feel like a metaphor. I wish I had a Standard Poodle whose ears I could tie ribbons around. I have no interest in poetry about the president. I have no respect for people who arrive late. I don’t care about trends. I have a friend who collects strange people, I don’t know what that says about me. I consistently fall in love with unlucky people. I do not like messy offices. Even when I was very young, I felt very old. It surprises me how many people never ask questions. Some day I will read Moby Dick. Time mocks me. When I try to write about what I can’t remember, I seem to remember everything. When I was very young, my father was the only person in our family who paid to get his hair cut, my mother cut my sister’s hair, my mother cut my hair, my father cut my mother’s hair. I don’t always admit I’m in love. I rarely feel lust without love. I am surprised by betrayal. I do not consider marriage to be protection against anything. My intelligence is obscured by my obsessions. Other people seem to like me more when I drink whiskey. A fading love can be revived. I have never smoked a cigarette. I often leave parties without saying goodbye. I begin to see my face changing. I leave gracefully and without a word. Bragging bores me. I will become a different version of myself if the occasion calls for it. I have a way with authority. I love talking on the phone with my friend I haven’t seen in three years. Other people’s successes motivate me. I do not befriend drug addicts, but they sometimes befriend me. I have trouble understanding why the film students I’ve known don’t go on to make films. Presents can be manipulative. Love can be deadly. I collect other versions of myself. I rarely become ill, but I have bad skin, bad teeth, and bad knees. I avoid the doctor. I am very allergic to indoor cats and mildly allergic to outdoor cats. I have never been to the emergency room. Being on an airplane makes me feel restless, ugly, and sexual. I do not have a good sense of smell. I recognize the ease with which I lie and try to correct it. I can name most dog breeds. I have kept love letters that I should not have kept. I had a female hamster named Brownie. It always surprises me when anyone learns English quickly. When someone is tickling me, I curl up like a potato bug to protect myself. I went to high school with someone that won thirty thousand dollars the first time he played blackjack at a casino. Other people’s vacation photos are torture. Museum guards are part of the art. I like to sleep in the daytime with all the lights on for fifteen minutes. I hate climates that easily dip below zero degrees overnight. My Mormon friends in high school made a big deal out of not drinking soda. For the first twenty one years of my life, I lived in desert cities surrounded by mountains. My parents spent one night of their honeymoon sleeping inside a volcano. I first fell in love with a girl when I went to camp on an island. Many of my childhood vacations were spent inside canyons. I prefer deserts to beaches. The moon seems closer than it is. I once saw the green tail of a comet by accident. The Milky Way seems quaint in the context of what must exist elsewhere. I am no longer interested in protests. I have never believed that having children would save me. Satan seems too specific. Monsters in disguise must be everywhere. Bank machines seem inherently evil. Solitude comforts me. A friend of my parents was an emergency room doctor who told bloody dismemberment stories over dinner. When caught in a lie, I still won’t reveal everything. I forced myself to smile when I worked as a bartender at an old hotel. My father’s mustache obscures his upper lip, I’ve never seen it. My mother used to put her hair in a bun by sticking a pencil through it. I was relieved to not be a Catholic when I first learned what confession was. As a child, I lived a few houses down from a pedophile that owned a hot air balloon company, he once crashed a balloon with some tourists with him, a bag of cocaine fell out and was found by the police. Basements always seemed sinister to me. My grandparents always had the best dogs: Pal, Sam, Kody, Shane. I have never missed a flight. I like boring highways. My high school boyfriend’s father seemed impressed by me. I am beginning to hate the city I live in. I left the room weeping when Maggie Nelson had us read AIDS memoir excerpts aloud in workshop. A job editing a literary journal brought me more despair than a job mopping floors at an illegal punk venue, and they paid the same. I rarely laugh at TV when I’m alone, even when it’s very funny. I have always wanted to write a manifesto. Magnified mirrors are triggering for me. I’ve always loved the full names of men I’ve loved and I’d say them aloud to myself, a miniature summoning. I only like to buy salads if they have a lot of ingredients. I’m impressed when people can quote from memory. I delight in grooming rituals. I wonder what I could be a specialist of. When I was younger, the stars mattered more. I trust my memory as much as I distrust it. Clouds seem fictional. I saw a geyser in Yellowstone. I have never been on a safari. Bright lights help me work. There haven’t been any murders across the street since the police started keeping watch over it all day and all night, they stand outside their car and text. I have never told a police officer what I really think. Once a month, I’m shocked all over again at the pain of being a woman, I often say, “My body has turned against me again.” My parents are usually in a good mood. A carabiner I used as a keychain was once confiscated at a courthouse. My sense of other countries is informed entirely by movies, books, and anecdotes other people have told me. I pity the homeless alcoholic who I’ve seen for years sleeping at the nearby subway station, but I marvel at how long he has survived without begging. I like the illusion of freshness that Mondays bring. I wish there was a city where music was only allowed through headphones. In the gym locker room, other women’s bodies never cease to surprise me. I forget what it was like to kiss my fifth boyfriend, but I’ll never forget what it was like to kiss my second boyfriend. I can easily imagine myself as an old woman. Several people have mistaken my handwriting for a computer font. I never know what to write on a postcard, the blank space seems too large at first, and then too small. I like to listen to dramatic soundtracks while I write. I once raised a puppy who was bred to become a guide dog for the blind, but he was rejected because he had allergies. I have never wanted a brother. I thought only extremely wealthy college kids were allowed to study art, so I studied journalism. I am sad when I remember the rest of the world. Lack of sleep makes me write very poorly or very well, nothing in between. I’ve loved men so beautiful that they thought they were beyond self-control. I sometimes remember a dick as an isolated object, separate from the body, floating in space, where I can really focus on it. I appreciate a stranger when we both notice the same thing and then make eye contact. There are some stories I prefer to forget. I surprise myself whenever I come up with the perfect title. I write easily in the heat of the moment. The stakes of a love letter should always be life or death. I would paint if I was given the tools and space to do so. I like to keep my room almost entirely white. It takes two days for me to fall in love. I would pay someone to follow me for a day and write down everything I did. I usually work through the weekend. There is so much of history that I still don’t know. I enjoy packing because the anticipation of the trip is usually just as good or better than the trip itself. A friend once tackled me on the Lower East Side and I fell into a pile of sidewalk trash bags. Another friend once started a rumor about me, saying that I don’t believe in recycling. I’m relieved when a friend wants to do something besides drinking. I knew someone who was waiting to die. I believe democracy is good, but that true justice is impossible. I sing in private. I feel better after eating red meat. I admire the way dogs never stop loving the world. I don’t remember any conversations I had with either of my grandfathers. I remember telling my mother she had a beautiful singing voice. I want to write sentences so sad that they free me. I can understand why some people still hate me. I live for beginnings. Some people become annoyed when they see how lucky I am. I never get tired of saying “a girl can dream.” I know the names of two of my neighbors. My cousin once got me alone on Christmas Eve and hissed in my ear, “You think you’re better than me?” I sometimes think about signing up for a silent retreat. In the supermarket, I’m always convinced I’m in the way. The pursuit of pleasure is important. I am not horrified by reality television. I’d like to see earth from space. I do not expect utopia. I took Spanish in school for five years, but I do not know enough to have a conversation. It doesn’t embarrass me to be wrong. I used to love looking at my boyfriend’s hands after he got in another fight. I once punched a man because he called my friend a slut. I have noticed that my heart rate slows in nature. I love excess anything. I sometimes listen to thunderstorm sounds to fall asleep. In daytime, I walk on the building shadow side of the street. When I travel with someone, I usually notice how much needier they seem than me. One of my friends knows everything about art. I have never regretted kissing someone. I tried to read the Bible once. I do not read the books with the most hype until they are out of fashion. My hair is my shield. I watch reality TV for the editing. I feel more alone amongst a group of friends than I do alone. I avoid people who bore me. I have trouble saying “no.” I used to have a fantasy about opening a cafe called Cafe Shh where no noise or speaking was allowed. I have been to Italy once. I dream of having a house in the country. I rarely regret losing touch with someone. I think back on the people that insulted me in person when I didn’t say anything back. The highway from Los Angeles to Phoenix is beige and static and inexplicably beautiful. In the summer, that same highway appears as water every few minutes. I usually do not see the inherent good in people. My desire is increasing with age. I take less pictures with my iPhone now than I did with my Polaroid camera fifteen years ago. I go through phases where I want so much change that I imagine an entirely new life. I fall in love more easily when I travel. I wanted to write a book where I used another book’s rules. Confronting someone goes against my nature, but I am determined to improve. When I decide on someone, it’s usually trouble. I prefer to wear all black clothes. Time seems unimportant in someone else’s bed. With every transgression, I become more and more obscure to myself. I see art in everything when I’m in a good mood. The memory of love makes solitude bearable. I drove a car in high school that my friends called the Safari Mobile. I wish for more daydreaming time. Reading Seneca helped me to become less jealous. I love steak too much to ever become a vegetarian. I like to watch my soft-spoken, beautiful friend perform the loudest, harshest industrial noise music I’ve ever heard. I don’t make enough of anything: books, songs, good, love. It gives me pleasure to perfectly align a stamp onto an envelope. I have a feeling that I will die “too soon.” I wonder who I would be if hell seemed real and possible. I have a terrible sense of smell. I marvel at the compulsive patterns of my brain. This sentence I wrote last year loops in my brain like a pop song: “I am alive and reaching out.” I read that Stevie Nicks told Lana Del Rey, “You can be my little echo.” I remember finding a pornographic videotape in the VCR while I was babysitting at someone else’s house. I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid to watch my significant other die. The way music sounds on a highway makes me want to drive faster and longer. I look more closely at the bodies of clothed women than clothed men. I could live without speaking, but then I would want to sing. Competitive sports mean nothing to me. If I look into someone’s eyes, they usually look away. I once tried to stand for a seven hour performance, I fainted after ninety minutes. I have learned how to run for miles, but I usually get bored before then. I have not written my will. I have not acquired anything valuable enough to assign to one person when I die, though I would consider making a list of every book I own and then giving those away to every person I know. I have not gone out of my way to be charitable. I have not received so much praise that I believe it. I have not seen a dead body. I am not nostalgic for a younger version of myself. I do not trust headlines. I used to worship anyone in a punk band, that was the only criteria. I once had a dog that destroyed my apartment so thoroughly it was almost like art. I used to hate leaning into the turn when I rode on the back of my father’s motorcycle. I am rarely nostalgic for the past and frequently idealistic about the future. There is nothing I feel compelled to share, which makes me the ideal secret keeper. I have trouble believing the world will last much longer. I like to send thank you cards. The delay in a text message response is a kind of small torture. I often fall asleep during movies and never finish them. There are a few movies I refer to as my “go-to cry.” It gives me pleasure to waste a beautiful day working indoors. My friend’s mother told my friend that the point of life was to pay attention. Answering machines have the time to become beautiful now that they are no longer useful. Talking on the phone keeps me closer to my faraway friends than the ones I have nearby. When I’m on the phone, I don’t care what time it is. The more frequently I see someone, the more difficult it is for me to remain friends with them. I become impatient when someone dominates a conversation for too long. With time, bad memories become good. My clothing looks so serious that I am often asked if I am wearing a uniform. I do not wish to be friends with bitter people. At sixteen I bought most of my clothes on sale at Goodwill thrift stores. In high school I read more song lyrics than books. I used to make zines with stolen copies. I always liked writing but I often hated English class. It was horrifying to learn how frequently my friend stole from the grocery store. I get excited by the possibility of being left alone for a few days. The most romantic thing you can say to a narcissist: “I’ll be your biographer.” I do not consider myself a scholar of anything except my own sensitivity, which is extreme and immeasurable. I prefer to reread a book I love rather than read a new book which might disappoint me. Books make up most of the space on my shelves. When I count or report a number of anything, I consistently round up. I will never know how much time I’ve wasted. The pursuit of great work matters to me. I have read more contemporary poetry than classic novels. I prefer short books to long books. A perfect sentence matters more to me than a great plot. Lynne Tillman can make me laugh and cry on the same page. Eve Babitz makes me want to live. Atticus Lish depresses me. Jennifer L. Knox cheers me up. Joe Brainard is less affirmative than Édouard Levé. Eula Biss makes me more intelligent. Whenever I think of Gertrude Stein, I think about Alice B. Toklas preferring to write with her back to the window. For a week, I lived in the same college dorm that I think Bret Easton Ellis lived in at Bennington. I’ve read Georges Perec’s dream journals, but none of his novels. Other writers’ displays of despair comfort me. I don’t see the point in finishing a book you don’t like. When I make lists, my life feels possible. The worse the book, the better I can read it on the subway. I like to read in the morning because it feels the most like luxury. My mother’s glasses prescription is so strong she’s legally blind, but my vision has always been 16/20. I write to find out what I’m like, I read to find out what other people are like. I start to really read if the passage is about heartbreak. I read better when it’s raining or snowing. Encountering a full moon surprises me each time. I do not read in the presence of a loud conversation. At the beach I worry I’m getting too much sun. When I lived in Los Angeles I used to drive to Malibu on Saturdays at six in the morning so that the beach belonged only to me. I always like the idea of going to museums more, but then I never actually do it. I make no effort to be part of a clique, group, or club. I do not like swimming. I have swum in the San Juan River in a canyon, the water was red with mud and filled with boulders, my father told me to float with my feet out in front of me, the idea was that my legs would break instead of my head. I think going to the movies is too expensive. I have made love to the song “I’m a Believer.” I have made love entirely in my mind. I have made love with one person while thinking of another person. I have made love that felt like revenge. I have made love in the middle of a dream about Grey Gardens. I have made love as a last-ditch effort. I have made love without making a sound. I have made love with someone who refused for so long that the wait became the act. I have made love when I didn’t want to. I have never done cocaine. I find seduction to be more intoxicating than fresh air. I have passed a joint but never smoked one. At the age of fifteen, a lot of rich boys I knew started going away to rehab. At seventeen, I knew my time to start smoking cigarettes had passed, and I was right, I never smoked one. I loved the girl who sold acid out of her pocket, but she didn’t love me, or maybe she did, I’ll never know now. New York demands black leather. At ten, I worshipped the freedom I suspected teenagers had. At six, I broke my wrist doing a cartwheel in my living room while trying to impress my babysitter. At fifteen, my crush on a boy made me so weak in the knees that I sometimes collapsed at the sight of him. I fainted briefly when I broke my foot at a punk show. I have never been interested in mind-altering substances. I am telepathic with some people. I am at ease on a train and a car but not an airplane or a boat. I am uneasy when I feel trapped in a conversation with someone I don’t like. I wonder how I got this way. I feel good after exercise. I could not live in a basement apartment. The quieter the room, the better I feel. I stop talking when I can see how anxious my friend is to talk. I used to think I would be alone forever, or that I would be with someone who could never understand me, which is worse than being alone. When I’m required to be social for long periods of time, I will take breaks to retreat elsewhere and rest, charging myself like a battery. I think people like to talk about how great the writing on TV is nowadays so that they feel better about watching so much. I love everything about the word “beautiful.” I don’t know which disturbs me more, political decisions or the news reporting on political decisions. I had a friend that always had a new idea for a gallery exhibition, but never followed through. When I’ve slept badly, I can’t stand anyone. I believe the people who say they’ve witnessed demonic possessions. I worry that real change is impossible. Most of my fantasies have come true. I once encountered a wild horse while driving my mom’s van down a dirt road at night and I still think about it all the time. It annoys me when writers read out loud for too long, refusing to acknowledge the palpable boredom of the audience. I have thought simultaneously: “I want to die” and “I want to fall in love a hundred more times.” I feel better about my day if I get up early. I love how men look when they’re smoking, but I hate how they taste later. Drinking helps me to casually touch a person I’ve never touched before. Drinking gives me the courage to make the bad decisions I’ve always wanted to make. I prefer movies I can’t understand to ones I can predict. My ideas wait patiently to be executed. I always wear my seatbelt in a car but never in a taxi. Maybe I’m writing this book so I won’t have to finish my other one. I’ve bought a Kokopelli necklace from inside an adobe house in the middle of nowhere. I do not go out of my way to share. I do not want to keep secrets all my life.
Part IIPhoto by Molly Matalon
I do not think anyone has ever described me as “young at heart.” I go to sleep best with my head on my significant other’s thigh. I pretend to forget the names of my enemies. In the morning I believe my to-do list is possible. Getting up is routinely difficult, but, once I’m up, I like mornings. I forget workshop praise instantly but I will not forget the meanest thing a teacher ever said to me. Certain people wear me out in seconds because they talk too loudly. I am attracted to men who are sad, handsome, and impossible. I like when men drive with their left hand on the steering wheel and the right hand on my thigh. I know the names of clouds, but I never know which is which. I have never looked under the hood of a car with a solution in mind. Even when I was very young, I felt old. I find that men who are aggressive on stage are generally very sensitive off stage. I become suspicious when my therapist agrees with me. I regularly have hour-long phone conversations with four people: my mother, my best friend, my oldest friend, and my friend I’ve only met twice. My grandmother’s hands are so gnarled that they look like something else. I know nothing about agriculture but I like the idea of it. I once filmed a South African woman speaking Afrikaans. I once made eye contact with a squirrel who was trying to open my window with his tiny paws. I always meant to visit my great uncle who was a farmer, but now he’s no longer a farmer, and I feel like it’s too late. As a very young child, I used to pretend I was being interviewed by a reporter about a great thing I’d made or done. I used to play “Harriet the Spy” and write down all my neighbors’ license plate numbers. I have changed two tires under my father’s supervision, and then never again. I have driven my father’s Isuzu Trooper, my mother’s Ford Windstar, my best friend’s Honda Accord, my boss’ Nissan Quest, my crush’s Honda Civic, and my own Toyota Corolla. In summer in Arizona I used to have to wait for the steering wheel to cool down after being parked in the sun for too long. I am afraid to ride a bike in New York. I bought roller skates when I was twenty-five because I liked the idea of becoming an adult that roller skated, but I never used them, and then gave them away. I have a large nose, I don’t mind. I only wear shorts in private. I think I look best in a wool sweater. I will sign up for any kind of exercise class that I’ve never done before. I forget to write in my journal, and then suddenly it’s been a year. My favorite friend is the one that I have the least in common with. I wear the clothes of a conservative older woman and the shoes of a whore. Even a temporary view from a balcony makes me feel rich. I don’t understand why it’s not easier to make digital film look like it was shot on Super 8. I have no inclinations toward suicide, though I am often self-destructive. Elaborate rope knots do not excite me. I breathe well after a nap. I’m afraid I look stupid in my most ambitious shirt. Trapeze class does not interest me. I once named a turtle “Hat.” I have trouble remembering anything about my first boyfriend besides his teeth and his clothes. I would never volunteer to be hypnotized. Betraying myself is a kind of pleasure. I charm old men without trying. I like candles that smell like roses. My neighbor has a cockatiel named Spike that is older than me. I try to hide it when I cry on behalf of beauty, it is embarrassing to be “moved.” I love the crackle of an indoor fire. I have high arches in my feet. I spend several months of the year in a continuous state of cold, even in the warm shower I am busy anticipating the cold of stepping out of the shower. At a seafood restaurant, the server, without asking, cut the octopus tentacle into bite-size pieces so I wouldn’t have to. Everything interests me at first, except politics. I once interviewed a scientist who was trying to prove that the dead are still conscious. I have fantasies about driving down the highway in a big black SUV. Driving fast, I forget there is any other speed besides the one I am going. I live so much in my own head that I don’t mind going to places where there’s nothing much to see. Walking over a bridge that moved in the wind, my boyfriend realized that he was afraid of heights. Cheerful music mocks me. I have attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on behalf of a friend. I think I’m making progress on my compulsive behaviors. I desire an object more if I’ve seen it on the internet as opposed to in the store. I do not look for shortcuts. I am shocked by the unending sensitivity of my hands, which I feel should naturally be tougher and less prone to pleasure. I cover my mouth when I laugh too hard. A man once said he liked my perfume and inhaled near my neck so hard I thought I might disappear inside him. I become annoyed when I am too hungry. I liked the morning light in every bedroom I had in Los Angeles. Faith seems temporary. When I was misbehaving, I was expecting to be stopped. I have left a man because his optimism was distracting. It has become trendy to have your aura photographed. I am more excited by a man’s nose than by his dick than by his shoulders than by his arms than by his lower back than by his lips than by his ass. It fascinates me how inseparable tenderness and violence seem. When I walk alone at night, I sometimes put my hand in my pocket so it may look like I am carrying a weapon. I am afraid that I don’t know what real pain is yet. I like to be alone for long periods of time. Other people’s children seem unsustainably loud, but they keep going forever at top volume. I do not sleep well if I’ve had more than one coffee that day. I wonder how I can become less irritated at the people I love. I avoid crowds. I always feel sick after a betrayal. I admire women who never have children. I feel extremely ugly two days a month, nothing can quell the insecurity. I like music that sounds like the end of the world. Listening to music while I clean, exercise, or walk through the city makes me feel like I’m in the montage of someone else’s movie. I rarely go out of the way to stand up for what I think is right. Whenever I call my significant other, he answers with dread in his voice, anticipating bad news. When I wore leggings and a sports bra in front of my friend, he said, “Nice book tour body.” My mother monitors me out of love. Finishing a thing never gives me the sense of pleasure I was expecting. I think wearing a watch upgrades my look. I do not love karaoke, but I love the memory of it. I prefer the electric guitar to the acoustic. I am a secretive musician, I love to play guitar when no one is home. I go months without seeing someone that lives down the block from me. I make regular trips to the bodega for overpriced snacks. I usually can’t handle being around the same people for more than a few hours, and there are others I never tire of. I do not enjoy art book fairs. I enjoy walking through book fairs but never buy anything. Some of my closest female friends speak with accents from foreign countries. I have always wanted expensive, elaborate curtains. I write in bed in the winter, at my desk in the summer, and at the library when I go into Manhattan. I don’t feel the need to get in the pool. I do not snore, but I am known to have entire conversations in my sleep. There are weeks in winter when I never stop having goose bumps. I drink to forget who I am, or to let myself become what other people think I am. After eating, I am either too full or still hungry. My parents met because my mother wanted to learn how to rock climb and my father was a rock climbing instructor. I taught myself HTML. I taught myself guitar. I enjoy the idea of learning to play piano again. I once lost interest in a man because he said, “I dare you to race me to the end of the block.” I went to Diptyque to smell Philosykos because that’s what Édouard Levé said he wore. I am against clickbait. I generally do not like long, precocious titles. I am less guilty now than I was this time last year. Mick Jagger looks like magic in old footage. I have a weakness for beautiful people. Expecting nothing from life is admirable. When we were twelve, my friend found her seventeen-year-old sister’s dildo and we talked about it for weeks afterward. I’m always surprised when I make a friend laugh very hard, I never think of myself as funny. During a movie, my critical brain turns off and I hope for the best. At a vegan dinner party, I found it impossible to become full. Talking always helps me, but I’d rather stay quiet. I like sleeping in hotels, they remind me of trouble. I have known I didn’t love someone anymore, but I didn’t do anything about it. I prefer interviews to reviews. I get lost all the time, even in cities I know very well. I prefer conversations with one person at a time. I would rather have dinner at a place I already know I like than at a place I’ve heard is good. People think I’m not having fun if they’re swimming and I’m not, but the truth is I prefer to watch. I feel good working at the library with my headphones on. I always like underwater scenes in movies. Sitting inside a strip club for the first time, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in six years. I have stayed in bed for days. Fake smiling depresses me. I own only one pair of blue jeans, which I call my “house jeans.” I have a collection of thigh high stockings. I have a collection of black dresses that resemble each other. I have a collection of black blouses. I have a collection of black workout clothes. I have a collection of black band shirts. I have a collection of black jackets. People who don’t know me well either think I am very warm or very cold, it depends on when and where they meet me. I have considered going off the grid. The sound of a faucet dripping gets on my nerves. I fantasize about revenge without acting on it. I always pull on the door at least once to make sure it’s locked. My favorite luxury is being psychoanalyzed. I buy clothes for events months ahead of time. I am in favor of things starting on time. No matter what I’m doing, I enjoy a task if I’m doing it well. I enjoy a book less if I hate its cover. I sneeze over my shoulder, away from whoever is in front of me. Only in the last month have I become interested in real estate. When I look out a window, I wish for a sign of wildlife. I would rather be in the country than in the city. I would rather be alone than with people. I press my nails into my skin and make matters worse. I don’t know who makes me laugh the most. I chew gum more if I’m dieting. New clothes make me think a new identity is possible. I regret not being clearer with some people. Becoming politically engaged can feel masochistic. When I was young, I could sense mens’ sexual energy before I could name it. I have trouble explaining why I’ve kept a secret. I like to take baths in hotels. I perceive competitive energy when it comes from my peers. My favorite movies are about sad women. I sing to myself, but I do not whistle. Hearing someone else have sex can be horrifying. I feel uneasy when someone puts a lot of effort into singing the birthday song. I used to test an echo by howling like a wolf. I grew up in Phoenix, where you travel from one air conditioned location to the next and hope you don’t have to spend much time in between. I feel no nostalgia for my childhood, but I have nostalgia for making out in cars. I am tempted to kiss people in power. My favorite friends send lyrical text messages without trying. I like travel that doesn’t require an airport. Life seems at once very long and very short. Monday is the best day of the week. January 1 is the best day of the year. Women hurt my feelings more than men do. One of my friends always has a new idea for a conceptual project. One of my friends is having an affair. I’m glad I didn’t grow up with money, I learned how to be charming instead of rich. I’d like to own a house one day and fill it with large dogs. I prefer dogs to cats. I can do without eating at restaurants, I cannot do without salty snacks. Petting a dog makes me feel good. The sound of a cat meowing at night bothers me. I have few reasons to stay up all night. I do not seek wealth, but perfection, something money can help. I wept reading The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan. I like listening to soundtrack music while I write. I have a fantasy of directing a film and recording an album. I do not have a fantasy of receiving fan mail or being a role model. I can’t remember saying “rendezvous” earnestly. My dreams and my life both seem more or less unreal. I regret hardly anything. I make my bed only when I’m cleaning the rest of my room. I do not wear neon colors on anything except my nails. I feel good when I feel useful. Satisfaction is so fleeting that it’s already gone by the time I realize I’ve felt it. Walking in Manhattan is either horrible or cinematic. When I was a model, someone taught me how to walk. I often laugh at a bad joke out of sympathy. I think most people smile too much. I like to wear long lightweight coats to cover myself in summer. Whimsy seems wasteful. My silence is hostile. One of my friends invites her boyfriend everywhere. I feel like a teenager again when I catch a glimpse of other women in the locker room. When I am tired, I am more likely to say what I really mean. I don’t mind very small spaces. Hunger is one excuse for my behavior. I can’t imagine being drafted into the army. I have never had a knife pulled on me. I have aimed a gun at a camera. I have never fired a revolver. I have never fired an employee. I have shot an arrow at camp while trying to impress the first girl I ever loved. I have sat in silence in a meadow until deer appeared. I have observed elk in the distance. I have eaten rattlesnake. I recognize the scent of my lover. My parents had a desert tortoise that would claw at the back door at mealtime like a dog. I have caught sight of a pack of coyotes hunting in Los Feliz. I wear headphones when I ride the subway in attempt to protect against overhearing too much misery. Beautiful men are dangerous, which makes them more beautiful. Rest comes natural, work does not. I neglected to use any kind of standardized test guides in high school, my scores were poor as a result. I typically eat until there’s nothing left. I haven’t crossed a border or left the country since I was very little and my parents took me to Nogales. I sleep facing the wall. I once catalogued every object I owned, one per day, for 657 days. I have never owned a real suitcase. I would rather live in the country with my significant other and two dogs. I do not have fantasies of marriage or motherhood. Sharp pleasure leaves its mark on me. Whenever I see a scab on myself, I marvel at the competence of my body. My hair used to protect me, now it just keeps me company. I follow through. I wish secrets weren’t so desirable to me. I hope some day I might only hear from people I want to hear from. No rest for the wicked, no rest for me. The death penalty is barbaric. There should be a word for the kind of light sleep you get in a new bed with a new person. I have been handcuffed. I have been beaten. I have been insulted. I have been abused. I sometimes think I am lucky. I will never be done with my work. I do not know how to say no to some people. I do not believe in heaven. I used to invent things when I was little, like a rope contraction that opened my bedroom door from across the room, and a water pillow which was water enclosed in multiple Ziploc bags. I hope to become better. I choose art over everything else, including a healthy life. Earth looks unreal when viewed from space, or in the images I’ve seen that were taken in space. Knives appear in my writing more than my life. I do not mind washing dishes but touching wet food makes me gag. Our dinner table is two feet wide and four feet long. I have never owned a vacuum. Oversized windows seem gauche. I only scrub the tub. My ideal day involves not talking to anyone all day, and then spending time with one person at night. Growing up in the desert, rain was like a celebrity. A heavy meal puts me to sleep. Neighbor noise keeps me from falling asleep, but rarely wakes me up. I have never wanted to kill myself. I think I am a good listener, but I can’t remember anyone ever telling me so. I have always counted on becoming rich later on. I trust my female friends more than my male friends. My female friends last longer than my male friends. Each of my lovers has seen me do one thing I’ve never done before. I have stared at a wall under the direction of a choreographer. I have modeled in a runway show. I sometimes find myself enjoying sadness. My friend banned me from using the word “like” when discussing his manuscript. I can remember much of the last twenty years of my life. In public places I resent overhearing conversations. I am drawn to people who are not afraid of death. I had an idea for a movie about two people that fall so in love that they eventually combine into one person. I do not need glasses yet. People that drink seltzer all day long always have a story about Italy. I always take men at their word for some reason. I have a fear and an attitude about drugs. I used to be able to name all the bones in the human body. I feel prettier if my nails are painted. I keep the pressure of publication to myself. My relationship with money has always been unrealistic. I want to be pure forward-thinker with a sin-riddled past. I love the unpredictability of liars: you never know what they’re going to say next. I am against nostalgia. Museum paintings seem both dead and alive. I spent most of my childhood outdoors, but I don’t remember liking it. I never knew why my parents refused to admit math was unimportant for my life. I am in favor of keeping my opinion to myself. Music mattered to me more than anything until I was twenty-two, and then writing took over. A diagnosis doesn’t convince me, but it reassures me. I think it’s disrespectful to publish someone’s journals or letters after their death. My mouth disgusts me if I think about it for too long. My parents have never worn helmets when they ride their motorcycles. I feel put off by writers that can’t read a room and then read long after the audience has had enough. I have idea after idea when I am reading a great book. In my childhood memories, I’m never the one talking. I used to play badminton on the junior varsity team. I wanted a water bed because my parents had one. I avoid certain streets because the energy feels inexplicably bad to me. I tried painting once in middle school, but never again. I become suspicious almost as soon as I become happy. I close my eyes and see him again. I cannot predict my mood swings. I empty my brush, full of hair every day. Squeezing an arm is one of my favorite forms of affection. Sometimes I will spend the day reading what other people think. Joy lasts only for a moment, that’s how it keeps its heat. I like sad people that make quiet jokes in the corners of parties. I have trouble keeping friends for longer than a few years. I dream about terrifying things less frequently than I dream about banal, boring things. I like that I can go anywhere and work, I only need my computer. I own five records. I never realized until I got older how much my father resembles a cowboy. When he became angry, my father used to tell us, “No one will ever treat you as good as your mother treats you.” My mother used to sing me to sleep. My father has always been quietly cheerful, even when everyone thought he was about to die. I have never longed for a brother. My grandmother once texted me a photo of her hair with the caption, “I thought you might like to see my braid.” I have told four men I loved them, and one man that I “liked” him “too much” which just meant I loved him but I would keep it to myself. I have ignored my friends falling in love with me because I wanted to keep them as friends. I speak English fluently, I speak Spanish poorly. I remember thinking my friend was pretentious for studying Latin in high school while the rest of us studied Spanish. I see no point in keeping in touch with people just because we’ve known each other a very long time. My favorite months are January and October. I almost studied linguistics because a teaching assistant said I could be an expert at it someday. I like to avoid politics in conversation whenever possible. The economy is a mystery to me. I never go out of my way to eat bananas. International news seems more dangerous than local news, even though it’s farther away. I cannot remember ever seeing a dead body. My feet are long and slender with high arches. I hate feeling too hot in a store after coming in from the cold street. I once tried to enter an indoor shooting range on the fourth of July, but it was closed, and then I never shot a gun. My American accent reveals me. The sound of French spoken out loud makes me like French movies more than others. English seems prone to disappearance. I immediately trusted my Russian therapist because I liked her accent. I remember developing a crush on someone because of their English accent, I don’t think that would happen today. I feel sympathy for underrated artists. My mother used to keep a notebook where she would write down quotes that inspired her in some way. My mother has photo albums for some years and not for others. I take very few pictures. I have taken over a thousand pictures of myself. Being “almost” in love is a wonderful phase. Being finished with a long project feels like being finished with a friend. I separate the people I know into two categories: artists and non-artists. I accidentally insert myself into other people’s tourist photos when I’m in Times Square. Temptation interests me more than action. I like seeing tourists in awe of the destinations I’ve seen a hundred times. I could have been a veterinarian or a musician. I can walk for hours and run for miles. I always think I like being in nature until I get there. I overuse the word “like.” I never need anything from Chinatown. I work badly when I am sad, but I write well about sadness when I am less sad. Almost nothing upsets my stomach. I think people look more attractive when they are smoking. I get a sore throat once a year. I follow in smarter people’s footsteps. I have a friend who will never write another book. Sometimes I write in the middle of a crisis. My body seems to be failing me more quickly than I had anticipated. I know I have bad knees, bad skin, and bad ears. I follow my heart. I once loved an anarchist that had a dog named Chelsea. I am not someone known for her strong political beliefs. I am not someone who enjoys debate. I am not obsessed with reading the news. I am a believer in democracy. Abortion rights matter to me. I have voted for John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton. I do not remember being bored as a child. Facts don’t change anyone’s mind. I am more interested in tenderness than in cruelty, but I have loved exquisitely cruel people. I am often disappointed in my friends. I often dream about being very late. I don’t know how the planet will survive this. I don’t forget about death. I am uneasy when I feel trapped in conversation. I am often disgusted when I remember myself. People like me because I let them talk about themselves more than I talk about myself. When it comes to strangers, I know right away whether I like them or not. I have no desire to see certain places with my own eyes, photographs seem satisfactory. I lie by omission. I never think about God at night. I have faith that there is nothing waiting for me when I die. When I was very young, I believed in romantic love more than God’s love, though I had little proof of either. I dislike hearing about other people’s wealthy friends. In college I would often go days without sleeping for no real reason besides I didn’t want to waste my life asleep. The influence of a beautiful person is more powerful than a drug. I am overwhelmed by overly-long menus. Despite having studied journalism in college, I often dream of a world with no news at all. I wore a watch when I was ready to be held accountable again. I have trouble remembering Plato was human. I avoid tourist locations. I find myself at parties looking for a feeling. An enemy can be motivating. I have one coffee per day, two if I need to be brave. The problem of love is the problem of my life. I drive far behind the car in front of me, as if they will stop at any moment. As a child, I found a skateboard in a ditch and then used it for years, all the while worried that one day the owner would one day find it and take it back. I thought I was dying, and then I learned what anxiety was. I think I look smarter in turtlenecks. I submit when forced. I can’t imagine ever cutting my hair above chin length. I resent paying a hundred dollars to a hairdresser for a simple haircut that takes ten minutes, but I always tip well. I often say, “I might be wrong.” I have seen too many boring readings, but somehow I remember almost all of them. I sometimes act like I invented the word “inventory.” I’d like to write more of my life down. I wonder why I’m often annoyed at my friends. I often remember quotes verbatim. I never pine for my youth. I hated the taste of my boyfriend’s cigarette breath. It seems that many famous people are a friend of a friend. I once ruined my friend’s acoustic set by taking a photograph with an aggressively loud Polaroid camera. I wash my hands like a regular person. I used to work so hard and so late that I fell asleep on the train. It’s rare for me to instantly like a woman the way I can instantly like a man. I do not wait long if someone is late to meet me. I hate seeing people I know at the supermarket. I am attracted to men who don’t seem too impressed by me. I would rather have a great conversation with someone I never see again than make small talk with someone I see every month. I have always wanted a home with stairs. I have gone fishing in a canoe with my father. I have never shot a rifle. I cannot remember even seeing a rifle in person. I hang a piece of tape in the kitchen that attracts flies and then keeps them in place. I used to hold my magnifying glass over ants like a little psychopath. I have destroyed many friendships with negligence. I deeply loved dogs because my mother was allergic, they were delightfully out of reach. As I walked down the stairs in Queens, I realized someone was robbing me, he had my new Blackberry in his hand, I said, “Give it back,” he placed it back in my palm and ran. My friend had a mean hamster that bit me in the webbing between my thumb and my index finger when I climbed a tree with her. My cousin’s boyfriend once waved a gun in the air. I loved the smell of lavender when I found it in a drawer. I remember refusing to say “sorry” only once.
Part IIIPhoto by Molly Matalon
One of the best compliments I’ve ever received is, “You look like an assassin.” I don’t suffer in a way that makes me want to kill myself. Wasted time haunts me as I am wasting it, but not later. Desire fills up entire days when I let it. Music acquires poignancy when I am riding in a car at night. I find nature peaceful but I can’t stand to be among insects for too long. English will become extinct sooner than we think it will. My most memorable nightmare is one I had as a child in which a leopard climbed through my window, parting my metal blinds and attacking my bed. My father and mother treated me so fairly I never felt compelled to rebel. I never remember looking at the sky when I was a child, except for a few nights in the wilderness when I could see every star. Great architecture brings me about the same amount of pleasure as nature. My friend made up a game where you think of anything in the whole world and then the rest of the group has to guess what it is, the prize goes to the person whose guess is the closest, the prize is just a turn at thinking of anything in the whole world. I daydream more vividly with my eyes open than closed. A white horse once appeared to me in the middle of a road in the middle of the night and I’ve believed in magic ever since. I do not feel particularly connected to the sea, but I would die without the moon. I have never been aboard a yacht. I have never jet-skied. I do not know how to sail. I am comfortable doing nothing. My height gives me confidence, I am often the tallest woman in the room. I would like to communicate less, I wish sitting silently together was more culturally acceptable. A sentence comes into my head whenever I suffer: “This is the pain to make up for the pleasure.” In Arizona many people keep their guns at their hips like cowboys, but the look requires a permit. The memory of art is beautiful in its own way. I am thirty at the moment I write these words. I have seen a funnel cloud forming above a cornfield, and then shrivel back into the sky. I only drink beer if there’s truly nothing else to drink. My fingers and toes are longer than average. My legs are becoming strong. My arms are thin but strong. I can crack my jaw, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, thumbs, fingers, back, hips, knees, ankles, toes. At the age of fifteen, I began coming to terms with the fact that I would never have voluptuous breasts. I have green eyes and dark brown hair that I dye black every few months. In summer, the freckles on my nose darken. I keep my nails short so I can play guitar. I have no orange, yellow, blue, purple, beige, or brown shirts. Whiskey makes me friendly. I cannot remember the last time I ordered vodka. I drink margaritas when they’re on the menu. My friend and I used to drink gin and tonics until we passed out. After years of working as a personal assistant, I think I have perfected the art of being subservient. I sometimes tell myself that I don’t deserve anything, and sometimes I tell myself that I deserve better. I still don’t really understand how to use an electric lighter properly, I’ve only used them about ten times in my entire life. I could have worked a full-time office job, but then my dreams would have been delayed even longer. I am young enough to never have used a map for planning a trip. I liked looking at geographical maps when I was young, imagining all the places I might go one day. I do not trust what other people think is the perfect temperature, I often pack a sweater. After seeing Matilda as a child, I believed that I might be capable of a miracle, using only my mind. I never know what to do with an old computer, I usually just leave them in a closet at my parents’ house. I judge ugly clothing and unkempt grooming. I only went to San Francisco once, for twenty-two hours, to read in a squat lit by candles. I didn’t know what to say when my friend showed me his newest canvases, I didn’t want to lie. I painted one summer when I was thirteen, and never again. I worked as a tutor for the two sons of a family in Queens, the grandfather had hundreds of paintings stored in the basement, the grandmother showed me the difference between the paintings he made before he went mad and after he went mad, the ones he made after he went mad were vivid and surreal and truly brilliant. I felt a great relief when I got rid of a hundred books I owned but was never going to read. Reality seems debatable. I work best when I’m alone in a quiet room that doesn’t belong to me. Many people in nonfiction workshops seem to be using writing as a stand-in for therapy. I have always felt uncomfortably close to madness, I identify with women in horror movies who can’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s not real. I don’t know why I cry so much, but it seems genetic on my mother’s side. As a child, I had fantasies about being kidnapped from my bus stop in a black sports car with tinted windows. Orgasms sometimes make me depressed, a love letter makes me euphoric. I am more likely to forgive a man than a woman. Revenge seems to take care of itself without any interference from me. I don’t care about moral questions raised by people that are just trying to get a reaction. I am wary of outspoken and reactionary people, I’m much more interested in quiet and mysterious people, you never know what they’ll say when they finally speak. I would like to see at least five countries: Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, and Japan. I once traveled by bus from New York to Philadelphia, attended a party at a warehouse owned by a famous DJ, and slept with my back to my friend who wanted to kiss me but never did. One of my greatest shames is that I have not set foot on any continent except North America. I am not a natural performer, but when I get on stage all my fear leaves me. I am not naturally authoritative, but I can command an audience. If I eat too much at breakfast, my whole day is ruined. My best work comes from writing as soon as I wake up, I write with one hand and touch my dream with the other. I fall asleep around one in the morning. I get up around nine. I work best in the morning, I lose momentum in the evening. I was born at six-fifteen in the morning. I feel alive when I meet someone that frightens or intimidates me, and I feel excited when they become my friend. To ignore an email gives me a feeling of power. I marvel at the bodies of other women in the locker room. I always wonder how other people in New York make enough money to live here. I don’t feel guilty about leaving certain people behind and I feel extremely guilty about others. I complain in private about overly praised artists. I remember being at urgent care when I was in the third grade, my lip was stuck to my braces and had to be carefully separated, my mother was so nervous that she couldn’t stop laughing, I remember the doctor commenting on her laughter but it only made her laugh more. It feels so good to cry at art that I usually end up weeping. I hardly ever eat fruit. I always prefer to eat savory over sweet. In Tucson my fondest memories take place on my bicycle. I am uneasy when I see a barefoot person in public. An astrologist friend once told me my soul age is fifty-two, ever since then I’ve been waiting to turn fifty-two. I believe in astrology for as long as it seems true to me. I would like to believe in the end of suffering. I would like to be very good at dancing. I have consistently fallen in love with men who perform well on stage. I once ate dinner at a diner so noisy it made me upset, then the waitresses started dancing and it made me cry. I have enough ideas for books to last me about ten more years without ever having another idea. My handwriting has frequently been mistaken for a computer printout. I periodically forget my own signature and feel like an imposter forging a check. I love Russian last names above all others. I am more likely to keep a secret than share it. I do not go to bars to meet new people. I can’t help but look at a TV in a restaurant, which in turn makes me hate the restaurant. My photographer friend showed me a black and white photo of his girlfriend’s nose that looked like a desert landscape as soon as he flipped the photo sideways. Sex is the only act that makes time slow, stop, and speed up, all at once. I have never wished for immortality. When I walk down the street, I have to remember to look up, even in New York, especially in New York. I feel indifference so infrequently I barely recognize it, I love and I hate. I wanted Hilary Clinton to win, but I have let go of my disbelief. I vote for whoever seems less greedy. I have only a vague idea of who is in charge of what, in terms of legislation. It seems unwise to forget we are mostly animal. Exoticism mixed with familiarity is one formula for fame. My voice deepens when I’m onstage. I do not raise my voice in front of an audience, they have to become very quiet to hear me. My face looks older when I smile. I have kissed two people at once. I am suspicious of most clubs. When it comes to interior decoration, I prefer as much white as possible. I take my cell phone almost everywhere with me, even within the apartment I take it from room to room. I like the way academics take their watch off and set it flat on the podium. It takes me about three days to get used to being in New York again after being away, I resent the pace of the city until I catch up to it. I can envision entire days in my head so accurately that I rarely forget anything when I travel. The things I want that I don’t have are dogs of my own. I know nothing about being famous besides it seems to bring equal amounts of money and misery. I have never fallen in love with someone with a forgettable name. My memory cooperates best with dialogue, I can repeat long passages with few mistakes. I can imagine getting married, but I cannot imagine changing my name. I have an easier time talking to one friend at a time rather than two. I never ask my lovers how many women they have made love to, the answer seems designed to upset me no matter what the number is. I have loved as if my life depended on it. I never thought I liked school until it was really over, then I wanted to go back. After an extremely bad first kiss with my first boyfriend, I spent six months secretly thinking I was gay, not realizing he was just a lousy kisser. I do not fantasize about being near a pool. I think I prefer a mattress on the floor. I keep very few objects and I get rid of large batches of things every year. I remember mean comments forever. I have sometimes repeated a mistake because the first time didn’t kill me. I used to long for attention, now I long for silence. My favorite threat is, “See you in my dreams.” I have accidentally walked onto a Martin Scorsese shoot. I obsess over my skin but not my weight. I feel grateful when a sad movie makes me weep. My mother used to sing me two lullabies before going to sleep each night. I wrote fan fiction in spiral notebooks. One man gave me a slap in public that left me stunned for years, I can still feel it. When I was a child, my mother liked to call me by my first and second name, Chelsea Rose. Exhaustion overwhelms me after a day spent with other people, but the buzz of conversation keeps me awake. I either connect easily right away or not at all. My best male friends live far away, which may be the key to having a long friendship with me. I will never ride a motorcycle of my own. I like talking about abstract concepts more than technical things. I cannot conceive of a life without art, though capitalism encourages it at every turn. My childhood friends depress me, simply by continuing to live in the same city we grew up in. When I was a teenager, I met one of my best friends after he took my hand and danced with me at a concert, he later told me he did it out of boredom. I choose love over friendship every time. In every friend I am looking for radical sincerity and promptness. I have ended friendships with people because they were consistently late. Some of my friends have died. Almost all of my best memories of adolescence took place at night. Education seems important, but certain schools seem overrated. I probably like deadlines and rules more than most people. It moves me to see photos of my friends and lovers when they were young, it’s hard to reconcile the younger version with the version I know. I can hear the gravelly voice of my neighbor in the apartment above me. I never desired candy as a child, but I often ate entire full-sized bags of barbecue potato chips. Making eye contact with a gorilla at the Bronx Zoo disturbed me, I saw myself. I could spend all day grooming and never be tired of it, I like to tweeze my eyebrows, brush my hair, file my nails, shave my legs, the list goes on. I memorized the breeds of dogs from an encyclopedia over the span of several weeks in the fourth grade, I still remember all of them and their traits. I used to prank call people listed in the phone book. I read vicious reviews of books only if I have no intention of ever reading them. I used to find comfort in the precision and reliability of the printed TV guide, which was delivered to the house like a little magazine. I do not like to watch a bad movie all the way through, I become frustrated at how much of my life it has already wasted. I love the deep impression a movie makes when I see it at exactly the right time in my life. Failure is my greatest fear and my most effective motivator. I often don’t have an umbrella at the moment I need one. The success of achieving a goal brings so much less pleasure than I thought it would, but the near miss of failure is worth it. I go to the movies about once every two months. I don’t expect much from movies with enormous budgets. I believe the possibility of a perfect book is greater than the possibility of a perfect film. I keep my stories short so as not to keep my friends captive. It used to take me a while to figure out what someone wanted from me, now I sense it right away, like a honed instinct. I like the idea of a museum more than going to a museum. My memory fails me when I try to remember something I’ve written about, the curated memory overrides the actual event. I think the most beautiful animals are doomed to disappear first. I respect effort more than success, one seems real and the other seems lucky. I keep my clothes in white cardboard boxes. The ingredients for satisfaction elude me occasionally, and other times I know exactly what to do. I have never been attracted to a man shorter than me. I feel grateful to have no children. I have never had an abortion, but I used to spend my Saturdays escorting patients into pro-choice clinics while religious protestors yelled about murder. The first time I made love to a man, I hid my smile. I tend to gravitate toward people who don’t seem too impressed by me. I have felt frightened for my life more times than I can count, death seems close more often than not. A chiropractor once attached six little electric vibrators to my back, left the room, and charged me three hundred dollars. In college I had pink polyester sheets that I mistook for satin in the store. I only need a general sense of cleanliness, dusting, mopping, and deep cleaning seem mostly optional. I rarely wake up in the middle of the night ever since I stopped lying. American fame seems more reliant on persistence than talent. I cannot remember attending a panel on literature that didn’t bore me, including ones that I participated in. When I was a child I thought I must have some sort of telekinetic power if I could only harness my ability. I had a boyfriend that loved to fight, which I see now was a kind of next-level distraction from life’s misery. I become annoyed when given too many options to choose from, I prefer to let other people decide for me. I would like to get rid of all my old drafts and papers so that only my books endure after I die. I want a friend who’s braver than me. As a child I never dreamed about being married but I did dream about fame. I played teenager with my neighbor when we were very young, we gave ourselves names like Stacy and Ashley and talked about the mall. I forget what I liked about my childhood friends, or if I liked them at all. I am making an effort to be more compassionate. I have rarely felt like the victim of my life, even in misery I can see how I’ve led myself to it. I don’t mind driving a long way by myself, in fact I prefer it. I will never know what kind of person I’d be had I enjoyed math as much as I enjoyed writing as a child. I typically do not have more than one idle day in a row, even on vacation I prefer to work. I dream of living in a large isolated house in the countryside. I used to think I’d be celibate and alone for my entire adult life, but it only lasted a year. I do not wish for an enormous window, just a green view. I think I look entirely different from picture to picture. My friend and I played an Oulipian game, “Surrealist Passport,” in which my name became Mr. Snowball. My feet are smaller than they should be. If I sit too long in a certain position, a quick arch backwards cracks a vertebrae in my lower back. I once broke my foot at a punk show and didn’t go to the doctor for two weeks because someone had once told me feet heal themselves. One day I told my therapist, “I don't know what to do,” and I wept. As a child I listened to a contest my local radio station conducted at midnight in which callers would fake orgasms to compete for concert tickets. I once saw my classmate on TV the day after I told him his short story “didn’t resonate” with me. I watched TV all the time when I lived alone in an apartment that came with cable, if I lived with someone else I would have been embarrassed to watch so much. When my parents were done watching TV, they would close wood shutters on the furniture in order to hide it, which I always thought was dramatic. I think people try to convince themselves that TV is becoming high art so that they can feel less guilty about watching so much. I wonder why so many people are so averse to giving away or throwing away their possessions. I feel uneasy about having too many books I don’t read and too many clothes I don’t wear. I have never seen a pornographic magazine up close. When I write for more than an hour several days in a row, my brain becomes accustomed to it, but then I always break the pattern in an act of self-sabotage or laziness or both. I like to listen to music to kill the boredom while I shave my legs. Fatigue washes over me when I don’t know what to do, stalling for time. I find sadness more beautiful than happiness, but not while it’s happening. I can write in the morning when I am still partially dreaming, I can write in the afternoon when I am intent on not wasting the day, but I cannot write in the evening unless there is no other choice. I’m not distracted by a sunny day, if anything it just keeps me indoors longer. I’m often disappointed by my secret attachment to masochism. I become more aware of my body the older I get, though it hasn’t changed that much. I have written mainly on the computer for the last few years, but the things I’ve written on pen and paper have been truly wild, almost as if they were written by someone else, someone insane. I always knew I wanted to be a writer and an artist, but until two years ago I never understood how I would make money doing it. I always thought someday someone would bring a gun to school, but as far as I know they never did. One man I didn’t know very well had a habit of telling me his darkest secrets. I do not care what most people think of me. “Television” is a beautiful word for an ugly thing. I used to live for beginnings, but I am becoming very fond of middles, and I almost can’t bear endings. I can still remember a counselor at beach camp named Puka after her puka shell necklace, she radiated sex before I even really knew what sex was, and before I even knew women could do that. I’d prefer to die young than live forever. Illnesses seem endless. I do not write in order to validate my behavior or even my life, I write in attempt to find beauty in something that so frequently seems unendurable. Writing never becomes easier for me, it only becomes more difficult. For reading, my favorite positions are, in order: lying down on my bed, sitting on my bed, sitting at my desk, sitting on the subway, standing up on the subway. I am obscure to myself, which keeps things interesting. I cannot bring myself to hate someone forever. I like to watch reality TV after a long day of reading and writing, it’s like eating pizza after being on a diet. I volunteer directions to tourists who seem very lost but then become angry when they don’t thank me. I am always shocked whenever anyone brags about stealing. Slow motion plus string quartet equals emotional reaction. I get along well with tall women. I have yet to meet an old woman that looks like how I imagine I’ll look when I’m very old, but I see them on the streets of Manhattan all the time. To feel like an object puts me at ease: I know how to act. It is very rare for me to lose track of time or be late. When I was eighteen, I slept through a math test that took place at four in the afternoon. On a trip, I pack as lightly as possible. I think I could be the same person even if I lived in a different decade. I have rarely experienced something I would describe as “unthinkable,” even the most horrible things seem not only possible but about to happen. Most of my dreams consist of me wanting something simple to happen, like a phone call, but it becomes impossible for some vague reason, and I wake up frustrated, which seems like an immense waste of a dream. I trust people less when they say they can never recall their dreams. My dreams are often longer than I want them to be. I sometimes dream of the person I am sleeping beside. It seems futile to interpret dreams, but that’s never stopped me before. My dreams are typically no stranger than my life. I often laugh out of sympathy. My aesthetician asked me mid-extraction if I believed in god. I used to long for a heavy X-ray blanket to sleep under, now I settle for a heavy comforter. One person I knew was so sad he always had to leave the room, as if his sadness was stinking up the place. My memory retains dialogue for years. I apologize more than I need to, but I like to be accommodating, so maybe I need to. I made avocado toast for my friend the morning he removed a tick from his ankle. I always completed my schoolwork, but I never really excelled, except at linguistics, of which I only took one course, and my first journalism class, but only because I was able to memorize an entire Associated Press stylebook. Whenever I fell in love, it always felt like I had no choice. I like a restaurant with servers that check in on me just the right amount of times. I tried to stop thinking about the texture of my skin, it didn’t work. I cannot imagine hunting without guilt, though I eat meat easily and without pause. I send thank-you cards for almost everything, without them my gratitude feels unfinished. As a child I flattered myself by thinking I might be kidnapped. My mother assigned a different lullaby to me than she assigned to my sister, she sang both every night. Whenever a celebrity dies, I feel less sad than other people seem. I try to write prose that sneaks up on the reader, suddenly it is beautiful. Time rules my life without feeling oppressive, or perhaps constraints have more to do with freedom than I thought. I do not think too long about certain decisions like what to order at a restaurant or which route to take to my destination. Any pleasure I feel from exercise is far outweighed by the pain, and that must be why I like it so much. When I see something exceptional, I assume it will be the last time I see it. Breasts are mysterious to me. I have always thought I could be a singer if I tried. I do not wish I was on TV. My curiosity gives me an edge. It is confusing for me to spend long periods of time with extroverts, I always wonder when I can retreat. My friend claimed he was woken up by the ghost of his uncle who haunted their villa in Italy, the same ghost later dictated a letter through a guest at the villa who hadn’t known him, she wrote the letter and delivered it to the ghost’s son, and it was discovered that the letter was full of family secrets only the uncle could have known. I try to pay attention to the right moments. My behavior got so bad that I thought I might die, only then was I interested in salvation. I have told a man I dreamt of him instead of telling him I loved him. I do not regret having been born in the eighties, I believe the miseries of each decade are about the same. I almost interviewed to work as a copywriter that would create slogans for a luxury car company, and then I decided it seemed like the kind of job that would pay so much money for so little work that I could never justifiably quit the job, so I decided to never start the job. I thought I could never forgive one man for what he did, but with enough time I have forgiven everyone for everything. A good hair day is crucial to a good picture. It amazes me when I remember how many different houses I’ve lived in, and that I’ll never live in them again.
Part IVPhoto by Molly Matalon
Praise and positive affirmations seem like certain death for creativity. When I eat a sandwich, I have to dab a napkin to my mouth after each bite or else I feel like I look messy. Most nights I fall asleep in front of the TV. I rarely humiliate other people, but if you’ve wronged me you’ll know. Dreams don’t feel like fiction, in fact they seem more real than my life. I remember how heavy my family’s first desktop computer felt in 1997. Flying doesn’t bother me, in fact I often fall asleep during takeoff. The middle of winter never feels like the middle, it feels like it will last forever. When I’m in a foreign country, I become desperate to fit in. I used to own rubber boots, but now I only have leather boots. I suppress my appetite. I am more comfortable with my hair down. I don’t need to be around people all the time. I don’t need to feel understood, but it helps. I do not shout or raise my voice. I rarely eat breakfast. I prefer to eat savory things rather than sweet things. I drink cocktails and wine but not beer. I don’t need to leave the house, but it puts me in a better mood than staying inside all day. My father would sometimes take a different route home, he said it would confuse anyone that was following him, my sister and I would laugh but his words colored our drive home with great drama and tension. My father made me cry when he taught me how to drive a stick shift, he was so frustrated that I started to learn faster. Every time I ask a new dermatologist for help with my acne, they act like they have somewhere else to be. I have a best friend. As a child I preferred ice cream to cake. I do not fill my house with possessions and I get rid of large batches of things each year. I do not mind if a restaurant is nearly empty, but I mind tremendously if there is no music. It does not bother me that language as we know it will someday become extinct, it seems good enough for now. I enjoy the simple soapy taste of a lavender candy. I do not think talking about suicide is inherently morbid. The more ideas I have the more I want to live. I don’t know how to live without letting myself be ruled by my own obsessions. I have heard a bear’s heavy footprints outside my tent in a Yellowstone campground. My mother wouldn’t let me shave above my knees until I was in eighth grade, it wasn’t the hair that bothered me but the unevenness. Out of nowhere, I will remember someone from my past and suddenly wonder what they are doing. I have had two dogs for one year each: one golden retriever guide dog puppy in training when I was ten, and one black labrador when I was twenty, I am overdue for my dog of the decade. I think too many memoirs have too few beautiful sentences. I almost always want short stories to be novels, but I usually don’t want essays to be memoirs. I do not write plays, but one day I’d like to. I write poems when I’m trying to hide something. I do not write mysteries, nor do I read them. I think I’m almost ready to write fiction. I had a teacher that wanted to find a more beautiful word than “fragments,” I think we tried “shards” and “slivers.” I am uninterested in discussing movies with someone with different taste than me. My least favorite topic of conversation is the news. I don’t learn everything I can about local politics. In high school I learned about music from Myspace, Livejournal, older boys I had crushes on, older girls I wanted to become, and a record store called Stinkweeds I wanted to work at. I become disenchanted with people in an instant. I am amazed that airplanes fly. I would like to accept the idea that evil is always in power. Sports on TV is my least favorite thing about the holidays. Concerts with long breaks in between songs bore me. My entire life I have been attracted to musicians, I don’t know why. I do not go to museums as often as I could. I have a recurring nightmare: someone is bleeding in the middle of a small room filled with people, but no one will make room or leave and the police don’t answer when I call for help. I have never spent considerable money on lamps. I still remember the noise musician who played the saw while looking into her lover’s eyes. The circus made a big impact on me as a child, I couldn’t believe how wild the animals looked, how ready to betray their obedience they seemed. Synchronized swimming seems pointless and not even that beautiful. It makes me laugh when anyone pretends to be the opposite of who they are, like my gentle friend pretending to be confrontational, or my easygoing friend pretending to make sweeping demands. I respect anyone that takes their job seriously. I have witnessed the chaos backstage at a runway fashion show. I can find beauty in almost anything if I need to. At home I would rather watch reality TV than a critically acclaimed film. In hotel rooms I feel calm (no one knows where to find me), fear (what if a stranger finds me alone), erotic (perfect scene for a crime), relaxed (the only place I take baths), and lazy (cable TV brings out the child in me). I do not like to shower at night, it takes a lot of time and effort to sufficiently dry my hair before bed. It doesn’t bother me to leave my legs unshaven. My oldest memory is of wearing a pink and white striped shirt while touching a dolphin at Sea World, but I don’t know if the memory is real or not, I know I was at Sea World, but I believe I may have imagined that I actually touched the dolphins as opposed to just seeing them. Almost any sound can keep me from sleeping, I often fall asleep with headphones listening to white noise. I sleep better if I had a productive day. The texture of my skin is a problem. I have imagined more than one disease but never contracted one. I never feel like I drink enough water. Lemonade is usually too sweet. I only drink Coca-Cola if I order a whiskey coke at a bar. I would rather not drink at all than drink beer. I prefer red wine over white. I often remember emails I need to respond to, I resent how much energy this consumes. I prefer to start reading a new, potentially good book rather than finish a bad one. I do not read enough. I have not managed to keep in touch whenever I’ve been away. I am surprised when anyone tells me I’ve had any real impact on their life. Success is intangible, which is why I want it. I don’t think I’ve stolen anything. I have never really understood the thrill of theft. I do not feel joy when I get away with something, but I feel a quick jolt of adrenaline, and then extreme guilt, which is addictive in its own way. A madman once chased me down Eighth Avenue yelling at me to stop looking at him, I eventually had to run into a salad restaurant and use a line of customers as my safety barrier, I put my arms up in submission and turned my back until he left. I don’t like it when people smoke, but I understand it. I find pools generally unpleasant, I don’t understand why they are such a signifier of luxury. Everyone I know has financial woes, even the millionaires. I receive almost no mail. My life has had a clear trajectory toward this very moment. I wish I could remember that emotional pain always fades, I forget that the intensity won’t last my whole life. I have smelled the sulfurous springs of Yellowstone. The rich are undoubtedly weaker than the poor. “I love you” can be weaponized. I do not force myself to write, sometimes I just can’t do it. I have encountered many people in the year prior to them becoming very famous. I have spoken with someone about the ways I might lose my mind. I have low expectations. I might have an anorexic friend. I have had many opportunities to integrate myself into a group of friends who already know each other, but I resent the pressure to fit in and I eventually resist and turn away. I do not know what I expect from life since I only want to write books and make art, not get married or have children or retire. I used to live for passionate declarations, now I’m only interested in what can endure. People seem to like me more when I wear braided pigtails. I’m friends with people who have siblings that were killed, several accidents and one murder. I feel more than one void in my body. I do not iron my shirts, but I dry clean some. I do not want to live in my apartment much longer. I like as much light as possible when I’m writing. I do not consider myself to be spiritual. The only debts I have are to the United States government, for getting a Master’s Degree, and to Chase Bank, for living beyond my means. I feel myself under the influence of Édouard Levé. It embarrasses me that I fantasize about being interviewed on the radio. My strenuous jobs used to prevent me from writing, now nothing can stop me except my own laziness. I only tried to read the Bible once, when I was very young, and only because I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself at Bible Camp again. I will never be done with the books on my shelf. I admire people that aren’t afraid to do a little of everything. I admire people who say no. I abandon sentences more than anything else. I rarely read a library book. The police in Italy look like extras from a World War II movie. I feel too sensitive for this world. I cannot think of one classmate who attempted suicide and lived. I don’t believe in staying friends forever unless you really mean it. When I was sixteen, I kissed two boys: both had the word “octopus” in their AOL Instant Messenger screen names. I remember sitting on a barstool next to a man while I drank a cocktail called “Purple Reign.” I drink one cup of coffee in the morning. I drink decaffeinated tea at night. I drink coffee for the effect, not for the taste. I notice the sound of gum in someone else’s mouth. I have lived through 11,345 days. I have lived through 272,280 hours. I have lived through 16,336,800 minutes. I am five feet nine inches tall. I think my hearing will go first. I have had deja vu that lasted for several minutes in which I knew exactly what someone was about to say, and then exactly how they were about to move. I often lose my way, I have almost no intuitive sense of direction. Classical music concerts move me to tears. Jazz concerts bore me. I would consider living in California if I were a millionaire. I have a fantasy of going on a cruise alone the way David Foster Wallace did. Art is a reason to live. Most things I know about art I learned from my mentor. I do not get tired of watching TV but I do get tired of reading. I do not listen to country music. I prefer old buildings to new buildings. My favorite music is either very loud or very soft. I play the guitar and used to play the piano. I used to have sleepovers with my friend on her backyard trampoline. My mother did a parachute jump on her fiftieth birthday. The smoke of a cigarette coughed out by a famous author sitting near me on a lawn has left me enchanted. Children rarely charm me. I often worry about a car’s technical performance. I have never bought a car. Love does not extinguish me. Arizona smells different when it rains. Only once did I have my hair stripped with bleach at a salon. My appearance changes drastically in low lighting. I am writing this book on a computer, on an app that shows me how many words I have written. People have told me they thought I would be mean. I have sometimes taken pictures in an attempt to keep someone that I knew would leave soon. I live much of my life in New York wearing headphones. An entire trip to the movie theater can be ruined for me if there is one particularly loud person seated near me. I am more attentive when I am teaching than when I am learning. I’ve never been to the opera. I very rarely read big books, I prefer to reread short ones. I often eat as much as a man does. I always feel like I’ve eaten too much pizza. I often regret having teased someone too aggressively. Being driven in a car makes me feel rich. I spent a long time thinking keeping secrets would enable me to really live. I do not like being the authoritative one in a friendship, I like being told what to do, but hardly anyone ever tells me. I rarely chime in on a conversation with more than four people. I often sigh too loudly on accident. It never occurs to me to bake or to cook an elaborate meal. I do not see the pleasure in cooking for extended periods of time. I do not always care about a room with a view. I like the idea of traveling to a foreign country, but when I get there I am ashamed I don’t speak enough of the language. I would be curious to see Machu Pichu but would worry about the journey there. I would be curious to see the Eiffel Tower, but less curious than most people seem to be. I would be curious to know what it’s like to live alone with a dog in an isolated cabin for a year, I suspect I would make good work. I would be curious to spend a night in a tree house. I would be curious to sleep at the foot of a man’s bed, like a dog. I met the love of my life outside an art gallery, the show was sponsored by a vodka company desperate to become cool, the love of my life said he remembered meeting me once before and my whole body came alive. I rarely expect greatness. I don’t like to smile in photos. I believe in the power of ritual to work well, and in the power of betraying a ritual to get an unexpected result. Americans expect fame. Masked teenagers on Halloween frighten me. My parents tease me for things I haven’t done since I was a teenager. I like to sleep facing a wall. My aunt went to a hypnotist to help her stop smoking and it worked. I had the idea to write a novel, and then I abandoned it, and then I started another one. I knew one man whose beautiful lips distracted me from what he was saying. I don’t get excited about free things. I can’t believe how freely some people give away their stories. When I was young I was obsessed with the idea of becoming a pop star while simultaneously having no desire to perform. Walking down the street in Manhattan becomes cinematic with the right music. When I sleep for too long, I feel even more tired than if I were underslept. When I trip in public, I despise anyone who asks whether I’m all right, I would prefer to be ignored in my clumsiness. Everything I write is questionable, but so what? In an Italian supermarket, I could barely find the shampoo. It’s harder for me to pay attention to a boring story than to stare at a wall for an hour. I can’t remember the last time I was in a pool. It sometimes feels as if I have forgotten nothing. I can’t remember if I liked playing Monopoly when it went on too long or when it was over quickly. I used to play Monopoly, Life, Chutes & Ladders, Chinese Checkers, Dinosaur Checkers, and Go Fish. I don’t know if children still play board games or not. I cannot remember being bored as a child, I loved to eat entire bags of popcorn or barbecue chips while watching TV alone. I have to be careful what I do to get myself out of a depression. I rarely enjoy small talk with strangers, but some cab drivers have delivered crucial existential life philosophies to me at exactly the moment I needed to hear them. At a party I am more alone than I am when I am by myself. In a small town I am always overdressed. I often see very famous people walking in Manhattan and make eye contact with them. I do not have any tattoos. I would never change my name. I wouldn’t want to die without destroying my journals and emails. Moonlit nights make the impossible seem possible. I never know when it’s going to rain. I don’t think I’ll ever stop believing art can save me. I always think Sunday feels like Sunday. I have counted calories and lost ten pounds. I have a taste for salty foods. I am not on a diet at the moment. I don’t like the way I look in a hat, so I rarely wear one. I am afraid of leaving my clothes unattended at the laundromat. Social climbers frustrate me. I do not know how to invest money. Extroverts tire me out more quickly than introverts. The lives of celebrities create the ultimate distraction. I have tried to cast a spell with a witchcraft book I bought at the mall. I spend too much time reading and writing emails. I collect nothing. I have not suffered the way my parents have suffered. I am wary of the corner near my apartment where someone was murdered in broad daylight. I wash my face at night. I don’t say “world wide web,” I say “internet.” A romantic connection has kept me bound to a friend for years, but it ended abruptly when I was done feeling it. I have never imagined a future where I will have a wedding. I cannot predict the behavior of cats. I have worked as a maid. I do not say, “I wish I was more like you.” I don’t like it when people come to town and expect me to drop everything. In the morning I make my way toward coffee. I don’t mind when grapes have seeds. I like peach flavored things. I do not eat cherries. Parties make me lonely. I have been told my paranoia is based in reality. I do not hate anyone, but I despise many. I am entranced by a dramatic film score. I admire the ingenuity of machines that anticipate human desire. Sinister allure is short-lived. Great performance art excites me long after the performance, the memory of it also excites me. My favorite movie title is Heaven Knows What, I wish it were also a book and I wish I had thought of it first. I don’t love the beach the way other people seem to. I like when professionals shampoo my hair. Lying on the ground, I suddenly realize I’m depressed. The quest for prestige is both admirable and hard to watch. I really love magicians. I remember a bad first impression forever. My unconscious is less detached from my conscious than I think it is. I tried to take all the adjectives out of my book. I remember my father watching TV in the weeks after he broke his leg. I have the most hope in the morning. It doesn’t bother me when my friends are compulsive liars, I like the game of discovering their truth. The only time I’m bored is when I travel. I don’t get upset that I can’t see stars in the city. I own one green cardigan. Breakfast in bed grosses me out. I drink apple juice before I give readings, otherwise I get dry mouth. I avoid nicknames. I’ve always wanted a balcony. I have never petted an Afghan hound. I used to have a dog named Julian. I pay to have my groceries delivered. I cook simple meals with three or less ingredients. I have always been thin, but I gained weight when I lived in Los Angeles. I sweat less than other people in hot yoga class. I wish I didn’t know some authors personally. I can see my face aging. I walk faster than any tourist. It hurts to run for long distance. I have never been a real athlete. I have been slapped. I have been punched. I sleep soundly unless I’m guilty. I wake up remembering a lie. I don’t wonder where or how I will die. Worried my weakness will be detected, I do not tremble when I’m stuck on a subway car with a crazy person. I do not have vertigo. I rarely put bad news in my letters. I see certain things as omens. I neither hate nor love myself. I don’t know any show tunes. I have seen my grandmother tap-dance at a recital. I would not want to live the same life a second time, nor I would want to live forever. I was twenty-one the first time I saw snow falling. Lakes don’t interest me. I like to wear bright colors on my nails. I like the way other peoples’ armpits look, but not my own. I like the smell of expensive French candles. I’m talkative after two drinks. Behind my eyelids, I see another kind of movement. I would believe more in God if religion seemed less in love with war. I have nothing to say about the president. I find normalization unsettling. I love the sound of thunderstorms and the silence of snow. My speaking voice is low and soft but not weak. I rarely expect to feel understood. I know nothing about calculus but I can still do some algebra. I fantasize about being onstage. Watching sports on TV bores me. I do not like to choose where to go or what to eat. Birds of paradise look unreal to me. I don’t keep friends who never ask questions. I do not trust fame-obsessed people. Bad weather keeps me indoors. I do not write hot takes. My notebook surprises me when I reread it. I still laugh about a joke my friend and I started ten years ago. I am in favor of “no loitering” signs. Caffeine helps me write, herbal tea helps me edit, alcohol helps me do nothing. I don’t believe there is another me in another universe. I have not been moral enough. I bruise easily. As I grow older, I get bossier. I don’t have to see the ending of a movie to know I don’t like it. My mother tried to teach me how to sew. My grandmother tried to teach me how to knit. My parents decided to choose my name from a Darryl Hannah movie. I do not work all night. I admire the intelligence of someone who doesn’t make a big deal about how much they know. I do not dream of cats, but I often dream of dogs. I have yet to find a skincare product that works for me. I don’t like getting emails from people I haven’t seen in a long time. When someone asks me what I write about, I can feel the conversation about to grind to a halt. I am afraid of having no savings. I am afraid of my computer dying without being properly backed up. I can tell what I was born wanting. I have no desire to own my own business. My apartment is not large enough to have anyone over for dinner. I have stepped on a frozen lake. I trust my intuition more than advice. Without fear I wouldn’t have any fantasies. I have gone to two therapists. A psychiatric hospital once called to ask me about someone I knew. I look for the simple things to bring me pleasure. With confession comes relief. Someone mildly interested in me excites me more than someone desperate to know me. I have trouble with limits. I have always felt more mature than people my age. I know three people in Australia. I used to love seeing celebrities shopping at the grocery store in Los Angeles. Too much praise makes me suspicious. I only love one movie adapted from a book. Possession seems possible. I don’t remember what I did the night my friend stripped me naked and hosed me off in the shower. War seems imminent to me. I spent a year hiding. I appreciate the rules of the English language. I vote Democrat. I live better in silence than in conversation, but I need both. I am interested in logic as something that could be totally opposite than what we thought it was. I only remember being in a spotlight once. I have a scar near my eye from chicken pox. I have seen a hawk. I have seen a jellyfish. I developed my own photographs in high school, and then never again. It embarrasses me how much history I still don’t know. I do not suffer being away from home for long stretches of time. I used to prefer longing to touching. My death will likely not be until much later. I would like to speak in Italian. Sunsets rarely disappoint. Abundance doesn’t interest me. I admire people who finish what they start. I can do without prefaces and introductions. I remember humiliating moments the best. A haircut always seems too expensive to me. The speed of an airplane still amazes me. My life’s path has been informed by my bad habits. I am usually early. Waiting doesn’t bother me if I can focus on something besides the act of waiting. I’ve been ordered around for much of my adult life. I editorialize social interactions. It takes me a long time to move on. I’m bad at riddles. I don’t have a signature scent. I have done shameful things to survive. I cannot remember the best thing I’ve done, but I can remember the worst. When speaking to an author whose book I’ve never read, I improvise. I look away when I sense danger near me. I marvel at trapeze artists. I do not use the word “fabulous.” I have never been pregnant. Leaving my last job was an ordeal. I was back to normal the day after my wisdom teeth were removed. Marriage strikes me as outdated, though I love attending other people’s weddings. Spiders don’t scare me, but I wouldn’t say I like them either. Mouths disgust me if I think about them for too long. Beautiful faces never get old. I have a wrinkle above my left eye. I used to cry about my small breasts. I always admire men’s hands when I have the chance. I have second and third toes longer than my big toe. I have child-bearing hips that I’m ready to waste. I have an ass that looks like it belongs to someone else. I have broad shoulders that make me look taller than I am. I like to hide in my hair. I like the thighs of women but not of men. In the first moment of suffering, I laugh in disbelief. I overuse the words “beautiful,” “maybe,” and “like.” I do not notice earrings, rings, or bracelets. I wouldn’t mind a fur coat. I don’t like getting a second opinion, I want the first one to be right. I don’t regret saying what needed to be said. I keep a calendar in my head and on my computer. I will gladly pay for silence. I rarely buy things on sale. Certain corners of Manhattan make me think of certain people. When I look at new shoes, I think of a new person. I can see how loud music could be torture. A burn on my neck looked like a kiss that stayed for months. I rank my memories in order of beauty and usefulness. A friend can let me down without me ever mentioning it. I still think the price I put on myself was fair. I drove with my eyes closed on a highway once. When I was a child I bought music from a catalog. After an hour of writing I want to get up. Laughing does not necessarily bring me closer to the person I’m laughing with. Tomorrow is an everyday promise. I like the light a disco ball reflects. I rarely threaten anything besides silence. Song lyrics have broken my heart more than novels have. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had were with people I had just met and never saw again. I have a memory of a comet so close I saw its green tail. As a child my father used to always tell me to look the word up in the dictionary. I like mirrors in elevators. I wonder where the dreams go that I don’t write down. I cross my arms when my hands need something to do. I turn around when I sense someone behind me on the sidewalk. Animals never cease to impress me. I have lived in ugly apartments and loved beautiful people. I wish I could interpret my dreams. I have read my favorite books more than ten times. My birth certificate says I was born at six fifteen in the morning. I am not sure dementia runs in the family. I identify with people on reality TV shows when I’m sad. I don’t know why I write, I just always have, I just always do. I prefer a broken statue to a whole statue, I trust it more. I am calm when I get my blood taken. I own nothing of any real value. I accept my life, regardless of when I die. I believe this world is enough. I do not ask “do you love me,” only “when did you know you first loved me.” Only once can I say “it’s over” and mean it. The best day of my life is something I won't know until the end.