help

maybe I’m a writer but I’m not writing

I said

Hi guten tag

What I need more than anything in the world Iʼm pretty sure is a writing practice. If you have it in you to have some kind of diagnostic conversation with me — and not letting me trick us out of it —  that would be a great, great thing for me. 

She said

I can and will help you with that

What are some thing you might like to get out of the writing practice 

I said

A reason to live?

It is about documenting what Iʼm doing — what Iʼve done, whom Iʼve met, whatever — if nothing else 

She said

And what stops you from doing this

I said

This what I canʼt answer 

That question makes me feel like breaking down 

I donʼt know if I believe ADD is a real thing 

But I like canʼt do anything 

I used to, with drugs 

And I donʼt want them 

And I think maybe the muscles can be developed to transcend that

And I just want someone to tell me I have to do X minutes or pages at Y time every day 

Without having to use drugs 

She said

Okay we can start there but at some point the bad thoughts need to be singled out and thrown away 

I said

The documentation is the most important thing right now 

Itʼs the thing that if I can be on top of, I will feel more okay about dying suddenly 

She said

The documentation is of how your time is being spent? 

I said

Just of being alive. 

I guess to name the importance of it is to articulate some conviction of my own singularity, which as you know I am persistently reluctant to do 

But 

Like

Remember that time I told you youʼre my perfect reader? 

It’s the intersection of the stuff that makes my friend Ted talk about a show he made up called Rachel Has a Really Interesting Life and the time you said Iʼm more a writer than anyone you know  

She said

You are more of a writer than anyone I know and Iʼm happy to talk to you more about that today or anytime you ask me to. 

I said

Okay Mary, itʼs like this: things that make me feel like I really am accounting for — justifying — optimizing — my existence are going places and doing things and talking with people and telling other people about it. Thatʼs my purpose. My reason for being. Thereʼs more, specifically about hoped-for impacts, but thatʼs at the core of it. And…Iʼm ready to do that. But I donʼt know how to write anymore, or maybe I never did, whatever. Some of it is that I donʼt really read, but more of it is about the muscles, the sitting down and doing it for stretches at a time, or for doing whatever the version is where youʼre not sitting and you work in many short spurts. My mind is just…chaos. Have you ever seen the movie Yellow Submarine? Remember the part when — who? — it must be Ringo — Ringo — takes, hmm — who? — I think itʼs Old Fred — the attaché from Pepperland — in search of the other Beatles so they can unseat the Blue Meanies and restore peace, and they go into this endless hall of doors, and behind each door they open is something crazy, like George tripping to sitar music or a train barreling down, and every time they go through a door and shut it behind them, leaving the hall empty, all sorts of crazy stuff comes out of the other doors and runs across the hall and into a different door? Thatʼs how my mind feels, and also I donʼt really know any of the things that equal organizational skills, which is an inadequate phrase for what Iʼm trying to name — it just was never part of anything anyone ever taught me — and I think I could learn them, even at this advanced age, but I donʼt know where to start even deciding where in the day to brush my teeth for the first time. Like itʼs 3am on Saturday and I still havenʼt brushed my teeth. Like, the last time was before I went to bed on Thursday night. Because it’s not clear to me where in the daily order of things that matter teeth-brushing is supposed to happen. But I digress. Itʼs just chaos in there, and I think I can start to develop these muscles — really lean into the athleticism of writing and build a practice — but I need some directive, or some prompt, or some…invitation. Iʼve been hiding in the apartment, yes, but also, Man, in the times when I havenʼt been, Manuel said some amazing things about music and racism and tactical empathy and I saw a band from Mozambique and drank some kind of cloudy green elderberry raw wine and met all these Caribbean and African guys whose White people English is accented with German and they said some amazing things about post-war colonialism and racism and writing, and wow the urban sociology of the jokes at the English-language comedy show, and the incredible Anglo-Serbian person who writes/takes photographs/does comedy/does voice acting I met, Oliver, the one who is on his third tempestuous marriage and was fake-unintentionally brushing his fingers against my bare thigh with the swaying of the train car, leaning in to listen to me read him The Marriage Plot on the U8 back to Alexanderplatz, and HE said some amazing things in categories Iʼm too tired to list creatively. And Iʼm not writing any of it down. This is what makes me feel like Iʼm wasting my life, because Iʼm merely living it; I am not sharing it. Iʼm moldering in the apartment because I think I need to stay here to Write and Get Stuff Done but I donʼt know how to organize the time so that I can do stuff and then be done and go out to live more life because I can trust the system, trust myself to maintain the things that matter to me while also continuing to live instead of being worsening the ever-growing backlog of things I need to write down, to tell someone about but havenʼt. But. sometimes I tell you things. Also sometimes — less often, on the whole, these days — I tell other people things, too. My best documentation — my best writing — happens in a surprise letter of some sort — a series of texts with the right degree of engagement from the other party, an email that I didnʼt set out to write at length. To you, to Cedar. To Taonga, when Iʼve let myself. To my dad and, to a lesser extent, mom. In a journal, I donʼt know whom Iʼm telling. Me? I donʼt buy it. So…maybe Iʼm a writer — I do want to know more about that opinion of yours, but when you think the time is right — but Iʼm not writing. Which would be okay, except that I want to be writing. I mean maybe I shouldnʼt be mad at/impatient with myself. Maybe Iʼm not. Maybe this is right on schedule. So, okay. I want to write again. Without prescription amphetamines. And I need some kind of daily process-oriented activity — maybe thatʼs a better word than task, which I think does have a product-oriented connotation — maybe itʼs a rule? — a prompt, really — an invitation. Like, I canʼt organize so much as sentence into the abyss, never mind a cogent essay, but telling someone something lets all my mind particles just fall into line because itʼs an emergency, not a drill, and there is no choice but to just get in formation. Probably thatʼs not accurate neurology but the point is I can like filter and organize and produce excellent turns of phrase for certain audiences of one. 

Italians are hard to read

~ i wrote~

What I want to tell you about is yesterday, when the two hot Italians I met in my dar invited me to go with them to Akchour, where there is the only real water near Chefchaouen, if I could just find a helmet, for they and their motos had taken a boat for 56 hours from I-don’t-know-which Italian port to Tangiers and are now motoring their way back up through Morocco and Spain and home to Milan and Verona, and I could ride on the back. So we got up early and they went to breakfast and I went to the square and started asking people, trying to have them want to help me but not think they might marry me, which is a fine-eyed needle to thread, and eventually one guy without teeth or anything else to do took me to his barrio, where we started knocking on doors, waking people up, going from house to house as directed by whoever. (I fell behind at one point because I stopped to photograph a puppy that was eating the head of another animal. At first I thought it was the head of another puppy — that makes a better caption, for sure — but now I think it was probably the head of a goat. I’m going to try to think of a zoologist to e-mail about the orthodonture, and then we’ll know.)

A guy weaving a rug on a loom in a half-subterranean chamber with doors open to the street gave a long answer in Arabic, and José (…Youssef) took me to some blue stairs and said, Wait here, so I sat down and waited and after a while he came back and said — I think — my Spanish is still pretty crap, as was his — something about how there was a helmet to be had but also a problem with the guy who had it, a problem 200 dirham would fix, and I was like, Yo that’s too much, whatever this problem is, and José shrugged and walked me up the hill that’s outside of town, toward Hotel Atlas, like, more up the side of the mountain, really, and there was some kind of construction crew doing something with a truck, and he said something to one of the guys (SO cute, by the way, that guy was) who said something back and then grinned and ran away, farther up the mountain still, until he disappeared, somehow, among the scrubby trees, and then after a while he came back with a motorcycle helmet and handed it to me and I tried to thank him in Spanish, and French, and English, and he just looked at me blankly, smiling, so cute. By then it was an hour since I’d left Erico and Mauro, who were in a hurry because they wanted to do our outing and then get on the road to Fes, and José understood and took us on a shortcut back that probably white women don’t usually think to take and at the fountain where we’d met I gave him 100 dirham and told him it was to share with the guy who lent the helmet, and he pretended not to understand, and I ran back to the dar where gli Italiani were packing their bike bags, and off we went.

Hiking in cannabis fields with a shirtless guide who said I could be shirtless, too, and what a luxury I have forgotten to remember this is, an entitlement to bare my skin without persecution. Swimming, orange juice. My guys had a definite partnership dynamic — one shared wallet, it seemed, fine-tuned motorcycle communication — but separate beds, and I remember they apologized to each other in a moment when their feet touched while we were all sprawled together on whatever you call the Moroccan furniture in the dar, smoking hash, the day before. Italians are hard to read.

Most amazing, though, god, was being on the back of those motorcycles. I rode with Mauro to the falls—a bigger bike, a bigger man—and I had the feeling that he either was a good, cautious driver or was taking extra care with me at his back, and it was just exhilarating enough, and the winding mountain highway and the sun, and sitting astride the rumbling of this huge machine as he accelerated, was just…wow. And then on the way back they said I would change to ride with Erico, and I was secretly disappointed because I had liked how Mauro had touched me on the hike, and Erico had ridden behind on the way there and must thus—I reasoned—be slower on his smaller, dorkier bike… But then he told me, unequivocally, to keep my arms tight around him rather than hold on to the handles at my hips, and while we sat in traffic behind a Coca Cola truck he rested his elbows on my bare thighs and moved real good, just a little, to the music carrying from the speakers on the dune buggy-type thing idling in line behind us, and when finally we got out from behind the truck and the rest of the cascade jam, oh my god, Cedar, he went so fast. The littler bike goes so fast, and I had the feeling that he was showing off, hot-dogging it, or maybe he was mad that the shirtless guide had lollygagged and in a hurry to drop me off and get on to Fes, or maybe that’s just how he rides always or what he felt like doing just then, and it was scary, tilting so close to the ground, taking those curves, getting to a straightaway with no cars coming in the other lane for many meters and just pulling past everything previously ahead of us, dodging back in line at the last second before impact. It actually felt a little like skydiving: I’d adjusted the chin strap on my borrowed helmet a lot at the outset but realized then, at a real probably-terminal-for-me velocity, that it wasn’t quite enough, that actually the whole helmet might get whooshed off my head; the eye shield wasn’t really adequate and I thought a little that my eyeballs might get whooshed out of my skull, the same as when I was free-falling out of that plane…moreover though, I think it was that I felt the real possibility of dying in a second and had to just trust in this stranger’s valuation of his own life and tandem care for mine in taking it to this tandem extreme. At one point I loosed an arm to reach up and try to cram my helmet back down in a same second Erico accelerated and we surged ahead, and the various properties of physics pulled on me in way that was a little too close to coming off the bike, and he reached back and yanked me in, and after that I held on tight and let the helmet do what it wanted, stayed close and low and just turned my head to watch a blur of the landscape, so colorful, sideways, and I thought that to die in this moment would be earlier than I want — I have a lot to do — and would make some people I love really sad but in other respects would be just fine. 

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