No matter the medium they’re deciding to dabble in, I can’t help but find it slightly comical every time someone declares that they want to be an artist.
It’s become a subtle way of chasing fame and fortune while still maintaining some element of depth. They can bask in the glory of narcissism and boast proudly under the guise of substance. Which is obviously much more dignified than merely being an instagram model. And I resent that something so innate for me has been reduced to just another career path anyone can choose.
But then I remember… that it isn’t. And even if it was, no one would willingly choose a path that has been proven to pan out tragically almost every single time. Just show me your favorite artist and I’ll show you a calamity.
You see, I don’t just feel compelled to self express, I’m downright tormented by the urge. And it is not fun. Or prestigious. Or even worth it.
The work itself is the easiest part. It’s the suffering I’m obliged to dive head first into that sucks. As a writer, I’ve been given quite the fortunate life. Unlike Bukowski, I never sought hardship and adventure to write about – it was just given to me. But I still need to feel it all. I don’t run from the extreme ends of my emotional spectrum, I go towards them. I embrace adversity, heartache and grief with open arms because an artist is just the sum of their experiences so the more, the merrier.
It’s a subconscious act, of course, because doesn’t my style of writing conflict with my belief in the law of attraction? I feel compelled to write my darkness but doesn’t that act in itself evoke more? However, even when I acknowledge that no writing ever done is worth being at the mercy of my emotions and refuse to participate in this self sabotage any longer, it is still at my very core.
And that’s what I think separates us from the folks just looking for an aristocratic hobby to disguise their narcissism with. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from studying all of the creatives I admire, it’s that we all do it. We refuse to deprive ourselves of any experience, no matter how much it might hurt us. We are compelled by our pain and chase any thrill that may ignite it. We are slaves to confronting ourselves . No one with any common sense would choose this.
I had to turn my floor heater on this morning after I woke up to an unreasonable chill. The zapping sound it made upon being used after so long made my overly cautious brain immediately look for an escape on the slight chance it happened to provoke a fire.
Which reminded me of our fire….
I was about 15 or 16 and had left school early again for no other reason than ‘I feel like it’. The lack of academic supervision in my life caused me to have a severe truancy problem and I had created a habit out of coming and going as I pleased. I was halfway there before I got a phone call from Mario telling me ‘the house is on fire’. He had started it. But this time, my brother’s arson was pure accident. You had given him permission to let off a smoke bomb to get rid of the squirrel who had moved in to our attic and without reading the directions, he just lit it and threw it up there. My slow frolic quickly turned into a sprint home.
I started the shower and undressed remembering how I slowed down as I approached our home to scan the crowd of neighbors that had formed looking for you. I could finally breathe again when I spotted you near a couple of police officers in the front of the crowd. You looked back and saw me and pointed up at the ladder that stretched from the fire truck to the attic window and could barely murmur the words through the tears you were fighting, ‘…my house’. I just froze and stood there.
I hadn’t understood what you needed from me then but I could see it so clearly as I recalled those events today. I could suddenly remember the expression in your face so sharply now. I closed my eyes to condition my hair and there you were. In that wheelchair. Looking back at me. With panic, desperation, fear and grief over watching a home you spent your entire life curating burn written all over your face. And you needed me. But I dropped the ball. I just stood there. It wasn’t until our neighbor Lamar coaxed me towards you, ‘go comfort your grandmother’ that I walked up to rub your back. And even that was for the sake of all the onlookers around us.
The memory in itself made me so weak that I just leaned against the tiles on my shower wall and wept…
‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’
My eyes competed with the stream of the shower head as I became overwhelmed with guilt. I couldn’t stop apologizing. For every time I blundered when you needed me even though you had never failed me in my moments of weakness. For having the responsibility of taking care of you when I didn’t know how to. For any moment that I showed you anything but pure appreciation. For how differently I’d react to these situations as an adult than I did as an angsty teenager. And even now… for pushing the memory of you to the back of my mind just so I can cope with my day-to-day life. For forgetting. Because the truth is, I need you now just as much as I did then. And I love you more now than I ever did. And it kills me that I never properly showed you.
Please forgive me.
He knew what the answer was going to be when my father asked about my new job because it was the same as it’s been for the past 10 years. I’ve never been able to fight my innate repulsion for the work force. Incessant small talk with clients and comrades all day drains the life out of me. Waking up before the sunrise feels unnatural. Having to feed into hierarchal positions that allow people to gain dominance over their betters is ego crushing. Witnessing someone power trip because of some nonsensical authoritative title is horrifying. Compartmentalizing myself so that the person I am at work is so far from my actual self just kills my spirit. And participating in this idea of capitalism and consumerism goes against everything I believe in.
So when my father, a man, who spent his entire life coming up with hustles to help him avoid ever subjecting himself to this type of environment started trying to convince me that I should somehow be thankful, I was a bit offended. ‘BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT?!’ It had been statements like his in response to my expressed disdain that made me spend so many years wondering what was wrong with ME. Why couldn’t I just grin and bear this like everyone else? Why did I want to reject such a necessary part of life? Was I just being lazy? But this wasn’t an aversion to work. Because if I had it my way, I’d be spending my days painting, maintaining my own home, growing my own food, and offering my skills and talents to my community. All of which, would entail a lot more effort than the mind-numbing way I spend 10 hours of my day now. This was an inability to conform.
Because when people say these things, like ‘Alexis, this is just part of being an adult‘, ‘it’s just what you have to do‘, what their inadvertently suggesting, (but refuse to openly admit)… is that you simply do not have a choice. And therein lies my main problem. This guise of freedom that doesn’t even fucking exist because freedom would mean free of coercion. But what if I don’t want to spend my life selling my labor to get by? What are my other options? Homelessness (which is essentially illegal), jail, a nuthouse? Having to choose between starving to death or selling your self isn’t exactly a decision. We are being forced into this.
Because the truth is, our country relies on the working class to thrive. And the only way to get us all to volunteer ourselves was to make the incentive basic survival. Otherwise, who would subject themselves to this? Having to be around people you would normally never choose to be around. Ass kissing. Obeying people that are not as intelligent than you. No one!
Will I continue to participate in it until I find a way out of indentured servitude? Much to my own dismay. Because like I said, there really aren’t any other choices. I have to. But will I continue to feel ashamed for my insubordination and inclination to reject it? No. And having to participate in it doesn’t mean I can’t recognize it for what it really is – modern day slavery. Sonny was right, the working man IS a sucker.
Any conversation he attempts to make with me is drowned out by the sounds of my own thoughts, which are always elsewhere. The small talk is pointless anyways. Liam knows that I’m not here for love. Because if I were, it certainly wouldn’t be here and with him. He can only seem to handle me sexually. When it comes to emotion , conversation and affection, he’s lost and I’m bored.
But I was hurt by the harsh realization that this is going nowhere fast with the one I actually want. I can’t compete with the women who are actually in his presence during our distance and honestly, I’m not sure I’d be able to even if he were near. He once told me about the reaction he seeks from the people around him when he appears with a girl. ‘Damn, what you ‘bout to do with THAT?’ He needs a trophy; not a free thinker. As most basketball players do. A woman with a price tag on her, consumed by superficiality, not someone too invested in a book to wash her hair. He shames me for the few things I find attractive about myself, my intensity, my passion, my tenderness with words like ‘too sensitive’, ‘too dramatic’, ‘too emotional’.
I feel so stupid about it all. Living my life in a way that considers someone else. Something I’ve never done before. Something that completely backfired as I’m certain it is what turned him off. So I am back here, in Liam’s Bed-Stuy brownstone, trying to rid myself of how foolish I’ve been to be so devoted to someone who I’m likely not even compatible with in an attempt to regain my hedonic nature.
His need to please me allows me to relish in being a lazy lover with him. He’d be wholly satisfied with just tasting the nectar between my legs for a few hours which is usually all I allow him for the mere sake of feeling worshipped. But sometimes I need to be ravished. And he, being far more experienced than I am, understands and takes heed. He can’t bring me to climax, because.. well, because I don’t love him, But I’m fulfilled enough. I wonder if this sort of animalism is reserved for the men who I don’t see a future with. I imagine being too timid with the man I actually liked to be this uninhibited. Too concerned about his pleasure instead of my own. I wonder if love and this sort of sexual indulgence can ever go hand in hand.
But I suppose I’ll never know.
And alas, I’ve run into a boy who is too wise and self aware to manipulate. Which, if I’m going to be honest here, is exactly what I was trying to do. Because an ‘I like you enough to see where this will lead’ seemed like uncertainty and doubt in comparison to the maddening, spirit engulfing love affair I had always envisioned for myself. So I coaxed him to express himself in the ways I needed him to to validate me. I threw bitch fits with the intent of him chasing me and consoling me. I demanded answers he sincerely didn’t have. I pressed him for a guarantee he honestly couldn’t provide. Until finally, he just couldn’t take it anymore.
And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for ruining us before we could even start. For letting my ego and expectations push him to a point of no return. Until I made that ‘I like you, let’s see where this could lead’ turn into a ‘let’s end this now’ followed by a silent treatment. I was so concerned with the idea that he wasn’t completely enthralled by me and might be just tolerating me that I made it so he couldn’t even do that anymore. I pushed him to the point that the person he has become is so far removed from the person I initially caught feelings for that I don’t even recognize him anymore. He’s just a hard shell of the man who I used to exchange movies and books with. He’s this new guy who gives me the cold shoulder. And who could blame him?
Sure, he could’ve ended it more amicably, as his harshness hurt me beyond repair. But that’s the thing, I don’t choose how he reacts and me trying to dictate that is how we got here in the first place. If I could control his reactions, he wouldn’t be him. And the reason I felt so strongly was because he’s him; not me.
I could’ve written him out to be a villain. I could’ve pulled the same victimized crap that I usually do. And I was going to. I was going to write another entry about unrequited love and all the effort I put into this person who ended up not appreciating any of it. That’s the thing about being a writer, I always have the advantage because it’s my perception. But I didn’t do that this time. For the first time, I looked for the fault within myself. And I hope that means something. That I’m learning to love maturely. Even if it’s not going to be with him.