Now that it is safer to go outside I find myself driving alone to different towns to see friends I have only seen on the screen.
In between these towns, I often find myself alone on dark roads lined with endless trees, literally driving through another void, uncertain how long it will take me to get to the other side, to get home.
The ETA on my phone means nothing to me as I drive, it feels like an eternity and I must convince myself to not be afraid and keep my eyes on the road.
This is a life or death situation. I breathe a lot.
About seven years ago, I was in a car accident where a car drove head on into the passenger seat I was sitting in.
Just before impact, my girlfriend at the time told me she loved me for the first time.
As she said it, I was taking off my seat belt and I was smiling inside as I reached for the door handle.
That was when I saw the car coming straight towards us.
I did not scream.
And then impact.
When I was young, I thought that Laura Palmer’s angel/devil parable had something to teach me about being a woman.
In some ways, I was correct.
In other ways, I was wrong.
Mostly in that I thought it was an ideal.
I found myself during quarantine having some incredibly low moments.
Who didn’t ?
To be a spectator in one’s own theater is not for the faint hearted as the spiral becomes an autopsy of the past.
I think not so much about the accident but its aftereffect on my life during this time.
I feel sad but relieved for the distance from others as well.
The spiral would continue.
On many evenings, I lost myself in memory, reliving the countless moments where I have walked away from the party, the bedroom, that person and knew somewhere in my deepest core, that if I hadn’t gotten up just then, I would be dead a moment later.
Sometimes you just know without knowing and to act on that feeling (even though you are unsure of the consequences on either side of the decision), you go forward anyway and I am thinking about this sense of volition quite a bit these days.
I sigh with relief because somehow I am alive.
I look up the etymology of the word , “void”, because I hope to find a way to describe what feels so indescribable.
Wide, hollow, waste. Uncultivated, fallow.
Opening, hole. Loss.
To leave, abandon, give out.
Unfilled, space, gap.
Absolute, empty space. Vacuum.
To clear, drain, evacuate.
When I think of the word ‘void’, I think of the 2014 film Under the Skin.
In it, Scarlet Johannson plays a gorgeous alien (or maybe she just is a woman) who picks up men all over Glasgow.
As she undresses, she devours them into a thick rolling black molasses slick of ether.
This slick is the void with or without the enticing body. Or maybe the body is an afterthought, begging the question of how one describes the erotic for themselves.
This question is more pressing as I think about what I could say if I had to describe the spatial dimensions of my own desire, where would I even begin without an external attachment to contain the parameters ?
Without the eye of the other upon us, is it safe to indulge our desire at all ?
Who gets to say when ? And how does that manifest its own kind of void ?
Someone in a reading group I participate in admits that they relish in looking at themselves when they are spotlighted in Zoom as they teach.
This confession makes me cringe mostly because it speaks to how the attention economy is its own currency and I trouble in that investment as much as I negotiate it regularly as one who has chosen a life where I often share my thoughts and feelings in public space as a way to find community.
So that is why, in this moment of withdrawal from attention, I find a certain kind of liberation in not having to think about this for a minute.
To not participate, to not invest.
We desire so many things and because of that, the eternal question about that reality centers so much around, how can we get this current desire in the shape of our own needs ?
Especially if it feels like our needs are always changing.
To withdraw from the world is a kind of starving but there is something glorious in the realization of the manifest ways we can feed ourselves.
Strangely, the slightly horrific aftermath of the car accident is what taught me this.
Which is to say that all things considered, we were quite lucky.
I was not physically harmed beyond a few scratches on my face that all eventually healed. They did not even scar but they did leave various impacts on my heart.
My ex’s car was demolished but the insurance company made it new.
I cannot say the same for the relationship but that is a different story.
The car accident comes to mind because it showed me how few people know how to handle the darkness.
What I mean is that in times of difficulty, people cling to the binaries of good and bad.
Deserving and not deserving, in this case, as a way to make sense of why terrifying things happen and in that reaching comes a certain kind of violence.
It is hard to know what to expect when you survive a near death experience, but one thing that really caught me off guard was the blame.
Some of it was blatant, basically homophobic, but the majority of it was subverted by who I thought I could call a peer and that was much more difficult to bear.
Care of myself was the only panacea even if others deemed it self indulgent.
As one drives away from one’s terrible incidents, the details become less distinct or relevant in the rearview mirror. You learn to discern the relevant directions for your care.
This is a nuance around the concept of care that I believe relates to what I think Audre Lorde is talking about when she talks about the erotic as a source of power.
I had to love myself back from what was taken away at impact.
This realization hit a zeitgeist for the collective in 2020.
The more we luxuriate and prioritize what we want to eat, when we want to nap, how we want to dance in the kitchen, or start our mornings in milky baths, the more we acknowledge the ‘incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge’ without the need and manuevering of outside validation so prevalent in the before times.
This is the instinct I utilize to survive quarantine, with a whole heart.
I ‘indulge’ to ‘survive’ to calm the ‘desire to scream’.
The closer I feel to this concept of a ‘self-connection’ that Lorde describes, the more I redirect the expectation onto myself and the work I do as I commit to this path of self illumination that reflects back at me as an American person, born and raised through and with capitalism, and how this becomes part of the life project ; to learn how to care for myself to care for the world.
Lorde theorizes: This is the reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of.
This devotion to self reflection is what I find necessary to empower me to fight for a better world. And we all know how anything/anyone with power feels about being questioned so this is easier said than done and I think for me it feels closest to the societal void we currently face.
I don’t know if there is any other way to dislodge the constipation of fascism without a type of love that starts with myself to be conveyed to the other.
Once, I thought that seeing my way across the river of trauma would alleviate my screaming heart and when I survived, I thought it would extricate me from experiencing any degree of despair ever again.
Like each moment surpassed was in itself its own type of lottery.
But then here I was again, in early quarantine, re-enacting these nightmares, not just the incidents but also their aftermaths, and to be honest, I don’t know why I let my mind go there.
I did my best to talk myself out of it by covering my mouth on the roller coaster.
Eventually something like a realization that I did have a capacity to survive and that is when I could tell you I finally understood Lorde’s contextual meaning in the word ‘preservation’.
This has been the buoy in my personal illumination through the void as I confront the compartmentalization of self and choose to be unafraid if all the parts of myself show up to the party at the same time.
It reminds me what euphoria in the breeze can feel like when one shares vocabulary with another.
A media transfers itself into the intimacy of a secret handshake.
One of the most moving parts for me in Twin Peaks is when Major Briggs says that his biggest fear is that love is not enough.
Sometimes I think this is the fear I hold most deeply inside.
This is the feeling that I live with most.
Sometimes this overwhelms me but I have learned too many times how punishing the release of this scream can be.
I want to admit I am scared and want to love but this has become so viscerally a dangerous desire, for myself and for others.
When Trump tells the rioters in the Capitol, “We love you”, I think of how the narcissist always preys on the unloved.
And I think Lynch is thinking about this too.
He shows us in the plotline of the waitress Norma & her narcissistic mother who willingly writes a bad review of her own daughter’s restaurant just because she can.
We see how this leads her down a path of bad men until she finds the one she just can’t have in Ed.
In this way, we see how love brings us to light but how having it withheld can turn one down the wrong path as well.
A narrative for so many in this town, for so many of us which is maybe why these fictional characters hold so much endearment in all their oddity and despair.
Another perfect example is The Log Lady, who tells the audience in one of her omniscient narrator monologues before the episode begins, “The answer is within the question.”
This is the vibrational connection of the dark spirit that is the United States’ soul. We look ‘out there’ for the ANSWER but it always circles back to us in the lottery game that doesn’t really exist.
Which number did you pick ?
Did you win ?
Or, did you lose ?
7. Enter the Void
At one point, my meditation teacher Ronit reminds us that we are living through a moment in history.
She says it so simply and it gives me such a frosted pause as the arrow points to the void.
It feels almost presumptuous to assume that anyone can deem time with that level of heightening so what shocks me when she says this is that in some ways it feels like she is giving us permission that we may or may not feel we can allow ourselves to acknowledge.
In a Q&A session on his YouTube channel David Lynch Theater, David is asked about the bleak times we are going through.
He explains we are going through, in his words, a deeply transitional time.
And he explains gently that we have to go through the bleak times to get through to the other side. We have been leading up to this for a long time.
That we must believe it will be better once this is done.
This statement leaves me feeling deeply unresolved.
Somewhat gaslighted in the way that the idea of suffering as a necessary evil is often used to bypass the consistent behaviors that marginalize, silence and kill.
A friend reminds me of Lynch’s somewhat ambivalent position on Trump which I throw myself into a k-hole on the internet to unpack.
His provocative statement that Trump might be exactly what the country needs smacks of this frustration as it speaks so specifically to a particularly anti-everything pro-chaos that smacks of a privilege that only a white man or a person with a trust fund can afford.
Once again, another example of how the male artist can speak to me and simultaneously not be an ally at the same time.
Maybe this is another way to perceive that we are living in ‘a moment in time’ ?
Once, it felt like people like this could do anything they wanted and if one were to say anything, the comment would fall in a particular kind of silence that acknowledges but never does anything about it.
Now, I see these same people, mostly where I live, mutter under their breath about how silenced they are.
The before and after of an incident and a way of being through the decisions made by an individual that articulate into collective resonance that holds a current of energy.
It comes down to how it is received.
This is still very much a transaction.
It all goes towards a question of how does the connection to what’s erotic shift based on what’s Outside ?
Where is the love ?
Without a plan, this de-centering sparks a desire to connect to the void in an attempt to ground.
Not to negate the manipulations of these social platforms and their effects but I do feel like much of it can be managed with intentionality.
Connection to self.
It is terrifying to think about how much of our behaviors are conditioned around by how good one feels about themselves.
Technology pokes at this fact.
When I check in on IG, doing a quick scroll down to see that my friends are still alive and out there somewhere.
It fills me with digital dopamine.
Their smiles and how sometimes they are playing a song on a ukelele in their pajamas is pretty cute.
I take my dose of this, usually while I am waiting, for my coffee to steep or I am waiting in line at the grocery store and I am trying to ignore that exposure to this shared air is stressful.
That I am in public and at risk of the unknown.
Instagram keeps me centered in the state of quarantine but also offers a release from it simultaneously.
I am curious if there is data about how much doom scrolling and internet arguing occurred in the grocery store line during quarantine.
Anyway, I try to just scroll and then I keep it moving.
In deep lockdown, I was more inclined to DM people, sending ‘how are you ?’ texts but that grew old fast.
There were only so many ways to say. “Hanging in there”, ‘grateful for my health’ and ‘crazy world we live in, huh ?’
Or just ‘Crazy’.
I lost count of how many people just wrote me that.
A post of your cat playing with your toes felt like a happy medium.
The grand phenomena, that in one way speaks to the wonder of the banal and also the incredulity of how this is all we have got now and we are making the most of it.
We are living through history.
Then, there are the people I don’t know whom I check in on.
Like David Lynch.
Sometimes, I feel like deep quarantine brought me to a place where I feel like I regressed into my teenage self. The one who felt trapped and silenced in her bedroom, obsessively listening to music and collaging zines as a sort of life line.
Asking the question. “Was there anyone out there ?”
This might be a weird thing to say but I began to miss teenaged me in quarantine. Or long for that person who thought that darkness was an abstract and seemed to have an infinite well of hope.
The person that believed that if I could make art like David Lynch, my life would be ‘perfect’.
Now that I teach, I see that belief in my students that there is some kind of finish line and that makes me want to scream inside my heart too.
Sometimes I try to warn them and they never listen which is fine because I never listened when people warned me of the same thing either.
Like them, I just kept stepping forward into the darkness, the Laura Palmer version of myself, until it became redundant.
Now, the only trace of the accident appears when I am in a car.
When I ride in the passenger seat, I sometimes find myself reaching for the door with a light to tight grasp on the door handle as another person drives.
The strangest thing about this is that it doesn’t mean I am necessarily scared by their driving.
The instinct is more akin to how a child feels comforted by holding a certain blanket or toy.
I grip onto the door handle as a way to feel contained within the vehicle despite the fact that this action speaks to a desire to get out of the car as soon as possible.
When I reach for the door, I try to hold back but it makes me feel desperately uncomfortable. It is easier in the colder months when I can hide my hand under my coat because there is nothing I hate more than having to explain why I am doing it.
I hate admitting out loud that I am still affected.
It makes me feel like the accident won the lottery over me and also, sort of did it by cheating.
I resent how it intrudes on any new relationship I may try to form.
Not to mention all the things it brings up that I would like to simply forget.
And if the driver is someone I knew at the time of the accident , they seem perplexed that I am still affected. Because as popular a term as trauma has become, no one really wants to hear about its actual effects.
In Joanna Hevda’s essay on the Sick Woman theory, there is a moment where she suggests looking at oneself in the mirror and utter how abnormal it is to care for oneself. That this care can only be a temporary thing.
They close by saying: “Saying this to yourself will merely be what the world echoes to you all of the time.”
I think this is why I prefer to drive, even if I am lost.
A weird moment of connection happens over Instagram with an old friend who began a regular DJ set during the first few months of quarantine.
These themed Sunday night “events” offer a weird structure in the sea of time and I am grateful for his efforts and the reminder of how music can be in the words of the theorist Karen Barad ‘ a kind of touch’.
The night that hits me in the chest is when he plays only records put out by the seminal punk label SST records.
A song called “Everything Falls Apart” by Husker Dü
“Let’s not listen to the things they say / Everything can fall apart / Let’s think about our actions before we do them / Everything will fall apart / I got nothing to do / You got nothing to say / Everything is so fucked up / I guess its natural that way / Everything falls apart
Finally, an answer or another way to look at it, Or another way to look at it…..
In a Buddhist reading group I am in, there is a story told about how when the Buddha was dying, his last words to his followers were to ‘be a lamp unto yourself’.
And many people interpret this in two ways.
Was he relinquishing his role as a leader ?
Or is he simply reminding them (us) that there never really was one ?
My instinct points to the latter and I think this is the lesson I am reaching every time, over and over, this thing called light, called art, this thing I used to just call punk, this thing was what taught me how to keep going.
This rubble has to be, as it always was.
If we are ever going to change anything.
It used to comfort me to point at the psychosis of the good but it is another thing to know it’s cruelty and walk through it anyway.
In some ways, this is what all these medias help me vacillate, in the way that Barad also says how ( in this case, music, but I would say all these medias) can be ‘never pure or innocent. It (music) is inseparable from the field of differential relations that constitute it.”
This is a realization that does not comfort but also does not upset.
It simply is.
And that is how I scream into my heart.
How about you ?