tavi, writing my feelings as usual (emphasis mine):
After the show, I’d go straight to the apartment of a new guy I was kind-of seeing, each of us so skilled at remaining unknowable that it was like a one-night stand, every night. Then I’d wake up in his bed, maybe go out into the world for a few hours before the next show and maybe not, and repeat it all again.
I started keeping a diary again the day after we broke up, scrambling to save what I could, but all my efforts felt futile. On the right night, after hearing the right song, or rereading any of my favorite parts of The Secret History—a devastating lesson on the impossibility of perfection, let alone a kind that can last—it makes me crumble all over again. When I started writing this thing about Infinity, I talked to my therapist about how hopeful it was making me, as if, through the powers of my storytelling, I could rearrange the past and dictate the future, and then how stupid I feel every time I recognize the hubris there. Sarah Manguso in her book Ongoingness: “How ridiculous to believe myself powerful enough to stop time just by thinking.”
“Give yourself a break,” she said. “You had a secret world together. Sex and watching movies and giggling. Sex and secret worlds are the symbolic, and they’re way more powerful than the narrative; than ‘we went for a walk, then we did this, then we did this.’ It’s play. You guys played together like little kids. And that’s not something you can really articulate without sounding mushy.”
“But it feels like bad writing to just say something is indescribable. Though I guess some things really just are.” (Scary thought: What would it mean if they weren’t? If you really could describe everything? The world would be…underwhelming?)
She brought up the debate at the beginning of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, about whether language is precise or fallible. I wrote down the exchange you just read. So here I am again, sad and alone and without any words. Also there’s a spider bite on my toe.
Drawing on a memory can also mean defacing it, adding another subconscious layer of commentary with every recollection. Things get even more unwieldy once they sprawl out across the imaginations of the strangers reading it, should one choose to share. Unfortunately, the thing itself is over as soon as it’s over; dead whether you choose to “kill it with the word” (Goethe, via Bluets) or not. I do think there’s a way to approach writing about one’s own life that cultivates acceptance instead of clinging, and unearths discoveries which simple event-recording, with no real digging or reflecting, can’t offer. This alleged act of murder is also a way of giving birth to something new: There’s an Infinity on the other side of words, too; on what can become possible when you do try to gather up your engrams of an event and let them guide you through writing to a previously unrealized truth.
“I told you I’d stopped writing. You aptly observed that this was because I thought I had to mute my individualism to feel a part of something. I wrote thousands of pages about that boy by starting them all as emails to you, because your supportive ears could trick me into forgetting I was performing the dreaded task of writing. I’d tell you the latest drama, and you’d say: “All that matters now is the writing.” Writers have a bad rap for putting the writing first in a way that shows apathy towards the people in their life, but that’s not what you meant—you meant that writing is how you and I live, and synthesize everything we learn, and that the only thing that mattered now was growth.”