Mass Hysteria and Flying Sluts

Do you ever wish that The Shining took place in the woods, and everyone had wicked olde English accents? Do you get really turned on by arthouse horror? Are your political affiliations vaguely feminist, and not very impassioned or critical? Are your political affiliations more radical, but you’re open to compromise because if you actually had to limit yourself to consuming only radical culture you’d actually never go outside or turn on a screen or read or open your eyes and ears? Do you suffer from angina, nausea, shortness of breath when you are surrounded by large groups of people? Have you ever hallucinated an entire relationship?

*ahem*

Nevermind, advertising voice. Now is not the time.

Hi. I’m Alison. I’m a real life witch. I’m also a film nerd.

I saw the Witch. It made me feel a lot of thoughts, and I thought I felt some things. During the film I made a bunch of notes in the dark–definitely a worthwhile process, despite not even having the pen hitting the paper for half the movie. My scribbles have come in handy in developing a deeper reading of the film, invoking important questions that this essay may come to answer.

Spoiler warning: I’m gonna break down as much of the film as I can remember.

The first question, and the one that intrigues me the most, is the most obvious: Is The Witch anti-witch?

I will argue there that this film isn’t exactly anti-anything. It’s very hard to suggest that a specific reading of the film holds more validity than another. At its core, The Witch is a meticulously rendered account of 17th century Puritan anxiety. The film is steeped in the folklore of 17th century England. Bearing in mind that most surviving historical references from that time were clearly not written by witches, the source material for this film is most definitely anti-witch, and is a product of the witch hunts themselves. This does not mean that the film can only be read as being anti-witch.

There are many ways to get to the sabbat, many ways to approach the heart of this film. Vice has published a couple of articles and interviews about The Witch, hailing it as inherently feminist. I’d say that such a reading definitely holds its own, but that the film itself is not inherently feminist. Said articles are quite vague in their analysis, focusing on the relationships between the members of the family and William’s blatantly patriarchal bullshit. The man of the film is tyrannical, oppressive, and not one to invoke the sympathy of the audience. On a very surface level, this suggests an overarching feminist ideal, but not one that is necessarily radical or inherently anti-oppressive.

“I wanted this to be presented without judgment, to just tell this particular story. But it’s so blatant how feminism rises to the top. It just does. From a contemporary perspective, looking back, it’s clear that in the early modern period, the evil witch [represents] men’s fears and ambivalence and fantasies about female power. And in this super male-dominated society, the evil witch is also women’s fears and ambivalence and fantasies and desire about their own power. It’s a tragedy to read about a young girl upsetting someone, and since she didn’t think she could have the kind of power to create that reaction, it has to be the devil. And thus, she thinks she’s an evil witch. It’s chilling.”

Frankly speaking, mainstream culture has become so saturated with feminist tropes that it’s pretty easy to read a work as feminist. Audiences around the world have, at least somewhat, seemed to raise their basic standards for how female characters should be treated in films. Don’t get me wrong, culture at large is still extremely toxic, but feminism is now a part of common discourse where it was once shunned to the extreme. The Witch does have some basic feminist leanings, but that does not make it inherently feminist, nor does it make the film a space for empowering reflection or societal change.

Interviews with the director on a number of film websites touch on his “witch nightmares”, a sense of being perpetually haunted crones with evil hats. Many of these interviews ultimately speak to a sense of catharsis the director has experienced through the creation of this body of work, a kind of letting go of his witchy demons. He no longer has a sense of being troubled by these ideas of witches, though none of the interviews exactly unpack why this is the case.

One might surmise that his demons could have been transformed through a deliberate reworking of the tropes of witches: he could’ve taken the image of a blood-sucking, infant-smearing, malevolent witherwort, and have the family, or at least Thomasen (more on her later), realize that the witch is not in fact the enemy. The characters could be led to realize that witches often like plants, that flying ointment has never and will never contain infant’s blood, that Satan is more representative of the demonization of non-Christian religions through violent colonialist modalities, etc.

This doesn’t happen. At all. The witch is rendered as a shapeshifter with multiple familiars, taking on whatever form she can to invoke the deepest sense of fear in each scene: old bloody hag, seductress of young boys, whatever. At every turn the witch is rendered as dangerous and evil. There is no sense of transformation, no shift in how she is codified within a moral framework.

The witch is the Big Other here, the scapegoat for every minute of violence in the film. By the end, when Thomasen goes to join in ecstatic dance, I’m left with a sense that she will be subsumed into this magical order, one that is inherently dark and corrupt. If we are to consider the film feminist, we need to be able to consider it within the broader context of the history of the witch hunts.

From ~1450-1750, tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of “witches” were burned. In many cases women were burned for being suspected of not witchcraft, but adultery, homosexuality, divergence from Christian faith (in any direction, especially so in early North America), or any number of deviant behaviors, that were instantly rendered as “witchcraft.” Point is, the images of witches upheld by European folklore are deeply rooted in misogyny, and this film does not actually challenge or transform those images. Instead, its primary focus seems to be to take the old myth of the wicked witch and modernize it, make it frightening in the context of contemporary horror culture.

So we come back to the notion of the director’s nightmares about witches, and his own personal catharsis that allegedly occurred as a result of the creation of this film. Getting to externalize his fears helped them settle and fade. This appears to be much more of a personal payoff, one that speaks to his own transformation more than the transformative potential of the film itself. Does this mean that the film is anti-witch, or more self-concerned than attuned to the liberation of women?

Well, no. There’s no evidence to suggest that the director created this film with the intent to release his demons, really. It just seemed to happen, which makes sense, as the creative process is nonsovereign, takes what one knows and projects about their life and casts it into the world, offering the work as an interaction between the artist’s intent and what the audiences read. Art changes things in the act of becoming.

I could also argue that the film is fairly radical. Thomasen’s parents are outright abusive, and as they push her farther and farther to the edge of survival with their violent bigotry, she fights back, saving herself, and is free to join the witches off in the woods and fly around partying with plant spirits. This is the reading that I was initially inclined toward, as the scene where Thomasen walks toward the fire got me really excited. Had flashbacks to witch camp and turning into a deer, being surrounded by tons of really interesting hot people. If I had to choose between being sold off in a city to a husband who was going to turn me into a baby factory, thus losing all control over my reproductive faculties and body, and living in the woods with a bunch of babes, I’d choose the woods.

But alas, that reading is a little weak, more along the lines of what I want to believe rather than what makes sense. This radical reading would be much more potent if the witch wasn’t established as a real character. I want to believe that the hag witch isn’t real, a hallucination, and that Thomasen is the only real witch in the film, or there are no real witches here, but then where the fuck did the infant actually go? Whatever.

Trying to discern the reality of the film’s events is a bit difficult, which creates a paranoid affect that the audience experiences vicariously through the characters. Again, just saying the film can easily be read as feminist does not make it feminist, especially when the director stated multiple times that he wanted to tell the tale for its own sake. For the director to say, oh, yeah, my film is actually so rad even though I didn’t try to make it rad, is more of a marketing tool than anything else, as the director tries to cover his ass and not come off like a misogynistic asshole because his film is full of tropes of hysterical women.

This leads me to want to consider the film for its historical merits, analyzing the piece for its depiction of a settler family and the anxieties therein. The Witch is meticulously rendered, based on years of historical research, so I’d like to explore what the context of this research actually suggests.

Over the course of the film, Christian settler anxiety–a paranoid reflex against nature and those who commune with it–eventually consumes the entire family. William’s woodpile grows as tension builds, and he tells his son Caleb that they will not be “conquered by the land”, positioning his will opposite Nature in some struggle for conquest. Throughout the film nature is antagonized and, with the use of the fantastically unsettling score, is ultimately personified alongside the witch as being the penultimate force of darkness. The narrowmindedness of perspective is literalized in the film’s various POV shots of characters looking through small slits in sheets, flashes of flesh contained in modest garb, or in the cracks in the walls of the barn.

The scene where the children are locked in the barn–after being suspect of communicating with the goat and thus the devil himself–is a powerful site of enclosure, the disenchantment and subsequent domination of natural forces. Their magical ability to speak to the goat is rendered as a moral impurity, one that William attempts to rehabilitate through imprisonment, confining the wildness in the children, shaping them to the order of God.

William’s patriarchal ideals represent his role as a godly figurehead, established in the opening scene, as he is banished for believing himself to be capable of speaking God’s word–superseding the rule of the Pope and the church appointed rulers of the state. During the witch hunts the male figures in the family represented an extension of papal authority. Though the family was banished to the middle of nowhere, William clearly retained his personal sense of empowerment and rule.

Mid way through the film, the confrontation about Katherine’s fathers cup paints a broader picture of the family’s social position. In this scene Thomasen and Katherine are framed by a medium-long shot, each body at opposite ends of the frame, separated by a large shadow. When William diverts his wife away from Thomasen, confessing that he sold her father’s cup, he is at once establishing his connection to the capitalist economy, and establishing his daughter’s innocence. In effect, the ties that bind Katherine to her ancestors are broken by this transaction. This is a solid example of the ways that capitalism and colonial powers can destroy one’s ties to their ancestral lineage. The violence of this example, however, is extremely tame compared to the genocide of Indigenous peoples, or the destruction of plant-based knowledge and magic. Anyway, I do not wish to compare the effects of such violence here, only to draw a simple correlation.

One of the main tools of the capitalist class during its inception was to force peasants to internalize a sense of guilt and shame so that they could either join the violence and become capitalists themselves (“selling out”), or take their frustrations out on the ones they love, effectively keeping them from resisting structural oppression, despite whatever their best intentions may be. This is a fundamental mode of operating within colonial logic, and still manifests daily in the interactions of marginalized peoples across the world.

Contextually speaking, the witch hunts had women bear the brunt of this sense of oppression, and William ultimately acts as a tool of the state. The tragedy here is that his condition is not hopeless the entire film; we are instead forced to watch him lose his mind, chopping one log at a time, praying, eventually blaming himself for the horrors that befall the family.

The children get sick and “possessed” but the family is starving, there’s ergot all over the harvest, and they’re living in conditions that aren’t suitable for survival. The conditions of their suffering are not at the hands of the witch, but the state that sent them to live in isolation from all the resources and comforts of city life. Here, Katherine’s longing to return to the city acts as a moment of clarity. As the family cannot return to the comforts of civilization, their Puritan worldview, the view of the settler, is rendered void by the chaotic snarls of forest branches and vast quiet of night.

Because the state effectively cut off their means of subsistence, banishing them to a farm where it’s next to impossible to actually grow food, their witchy anxieties are all sorely misplaced, which is frankly the most terrifying aspect of the film. I could argue that the witch could merely have been trying to defend her homestead from her neighbors that hate her and everyone like her… And that she just acted out of self defense… Because they probably would have tried to shoot her if they found her…

Yeah, I’ll go with that.

I’d really like to pretend that the film’s focus on historical accuracy allows for a reading of it as being rather benign, but the fact that the witch is yet again the source of all evil in the movie is pretty unsettling. I’d be curious to see what a modern account of contemporary witchcraft would actually look like in a film. The way Robert Eggers stylistically revamps the trope of the evil witch is interesting, and handled with great attention to detail. He has stated that he has little interest in telling stories that take place in the present day, which would typically make it less relevant to discuss the ramifications of portraying witches as evil, noting that this story is intentionally contained within its historical setting. But the fact is that it’s a historical film being screened in present day, and once again, witches are not actually given any credit or voice here.

I suppose we’re only as real as the director’s nightmares.

Whatever. Solid 8/10, with a side of compromised integrity.

***

Some of my referenced material:

http://sarahannelawless.com/2011/09/10/on-flying-ointments/

http://filmmakermagazine.com/people/robert-eggers/

http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/19/11059130/the-witch-director-robert-eggers-interview

Ouroboric Forms

Whenever I pick up an academic text I start to feel a little overwhelmed. Typically, this would result from the density of the material, the inaccessibility of the language, or some other factor that could be directly attributed to the generally pedantic and pretentious nature of academia in and of itself. Academia, being deeply entrenched in a capitalist economy based on false notions of scarcity of knowledge, can be easily dismissed in radical circles as a higher evil, one of the many forces that works to oppress and marginalize those who aspire to learn and grow, operating as an extension of industrial work forces at large.

Degrees in themselves are tokens of having survived the system.

Debt is the plague one willingly inhales when they enter the halls, lest their parents provide them with enough savings to act as a filter for the noxious atmospheres of crammed hallways and torpid flourescent lighting.

These tropes are well known in my news feeds, present in the lexicon of underground radical discourse, registering school as a de facto representative of the enemy, the parent, the manager, heirarchy, ennui, soul crushing tedium–all taken on, willingly or not, in the name of becoming a citizen of an aspiring social class.

These are ideas that circulate in my mind on a regular basis, par for the course of a dirty punk kid who has been fucked over by the system their whole life, who for once wants to fuck back, to lean into the dark thrust, grin, devour the other ravenously, fueled by the frustration of living most of my life feeling like I don’t have a choice as to how I can live it.

These ideas circulate as I wander the shelves in bookstores, find myself wandering over to the theory section as if it is the only one in the store, picking up the most disturbing theoretical texts I can find about death, the pain of subjecthood, bad sex, witch burnings, the darkness of desire, anything that feeds my romantic longing for truth.

They circulate as I leaf through the pages, finding words that I would never understand without the aid of the internet, many that I never find definitions for, getting lost in the haze of terms and smoke and mirrors that seem to say so much. These authors seem to speak to everything I have ever thought and felt, before tearing apart my basic understanding of how I exist in the world.

Still, the notions of communing with a great evil never leave my mind as I sit down in the softest chair I can find, tear off the shrinkwrap, crack open a tome written by two theorists I may never meet, who may or may not have come from a more affluent background, conversing in a tongue I somehow find myself able to grasp despite never being formally taught the language. I read slowly, deliberately, not wanting to miss some crucial revelation or point of conjecture that may spark some point of reflection in me.

These points of reflection build, tesselate, spiral into a brilliant ball of clear light beaming with the same brilliance one feels the first time they gaze into a kaleidoscope. I realize this evil does not exist objectively as evil, only as a constructed set of relations in a world of nearly infinite possibilities.

Still, the feelings of alienation, of foreclosure, never leave.

If it is reading these texts that invokes such a reaction, why do I do it? I realize that in order to grow as a person I sometimes need to let in something that I believe to be harmful, that sometimes in a strange climate I may have to forage for my own food, risk being poisoned if I do not want to starve.

I get better at learning which ideas are poisonous, not to be considered. I refuse to read Butler, Greer, and most of their contemporaries because they consider my Transness to be an affront to their essential feminine essence. I gloss over the existentialists because they adhere to strictly to Freud, gloss over the vast bulk of political theory because I have read enough to know that Marx too was an asshole.

Once again, I revert back to my default state of isolation, confusion, wondering if I’ll ever get to go back to school, and what it might cost me.

I realize I become overwhelmed not by my lack of comprehension, but the sense of deep knowing I experience as I engage with those aspects of life that were once torn from me. That knowing is also a direct experience of my own power; its inverse is also present: that I recognize my own power by seeing the ways that I have lost it, by feeling the lack as a cruel tension in my ribcage.

***

My eyes wander from the screen, light tapping of fingers paused for a second, replaced with light sniffling and the precipitant wavering in the lower half of my vision. I think of all the times I’ve had to compromise my integrity to keep going, to work jobs that I fundamentally disagree with, to pay the rent on a house that’s going to be demolished in a few months, working toward a life I would want to look back on rather than one I could live while I have the chance. The alcohol continues to work its way into my bloodstream, making me simultaneously more sensitive and more confident.

Goddamn you, capitalism. I’ll tear my heart out and fist it down your throat until you’re gasping for breath, pull back just before you lose consciousness, do it as many times as it feels good for me, never once worrying about your humanity, as I emulate your inability to feel for human beings. When you’re dead I’ll shit on your grave and refuse to mourn you, the way you refuse to mourn those you destroy. I can say this fantasy exists as a product of an individualistic society, and I know for sure that by dividing us they are winning.

Even in my dreams of revenge I am alone.

Here, I come back to contemplating the memory of purchasing Sex, or the Unbearable, along with Baedan Issue #3: A Journal of Queer Time Travel. Their spines hold years of promise, of learning, of knowledge yet to be integrated. Their contents are crafted with sheer intent, the will of many souls dancing together and spilling out onto the page. I think of my dear friends who read theory, most of whom are very, very far from here. I think of the fact that reading is often a solitary act, and in order to read these texts I must disengage from my peers, dive into bleached paper instead of the world around me. I think of how badly I wish to write, to express myself, and consider my own naïveté, an amateur approach, having dropped the fuck out of school in order to survive. I think of the times I’ve tried to write fiction or poetry, felt utterly inept, each utterance forced, like I’m trying to write with someone else’s left hand. (I’m right handed.)

I think of the fact that no matter how bitter or upset I feel, I’m still drawn to explore these abstract realms, and that even if I’m not meeting a basic word count, or I feel like I have to struggle against my trauma to say anything at all, that it doesn’t mean I should ignore my desire to try, to exist, and to not be silent in the face of a world that seems utterly futile and hopeless. To remember that if I am willing to open up to the process, to let myself be uncertain and in the act of uncovering, grow to know one thing and become aware of so much more that I may never know, that I can perhaps move closer to living the way that I want to.

And if I share that process with you, what does that mean to you?

Is the World Really Ending, or Does it Just Sound Like It Is?

I’ve just finished reading Joanna Demers’ Drone and Apocalypse. Naturally, like any other number of critical works that I’ve read lately that confirm my own position rather than challenge it, I’m left with more language to articulate more of the same. Yet somehow, in writing this, I feel as if a different picture may develop as-yet.

The narrative structure was in itself quite engaging–it’s a fictionalized set of essays written around present time (naturally, about how the author Cynthia Wey is convinced the world/civilization is nearing an end, and that drone music is its preeminent soundtrack), which is discovered by gallery curators and historians in the 23rd century, and displayed in an interdisciplinary fashion. There are a number of “conceptual artworks” mentioned that were formulated within the body of several of the book’s essays, painting a picture of a picture using language. Some of these artworks are further realized with photographic inserts of collages–contemporary works that all borrow heavily from Roman history, retelling myths with references to advertisements and mass culture. The fall of the Roman empire is invoked throughout the entire next, as are various biblical references, essentially relating Wey’s doomed disposition to historical iterations of apocalyptic literature. This suggests that Wey’s sense of imminent yet never arriving doom mirrors historical patterns, that the anthropocene extinction movement is another form of eschatological panic not unlike the doomsday ravings that have trickled out of history since the Middle Ages.

This is, in essence, a book I feel like a future me might have written, or may still write, should I bank enough time in an academic environment. But there are a few key points that I’m a bit lost on, have yet to figure out where I got on a different path, having now found myself in entirely unfamiliar terrain.

The first primary difference I can discern is that I personally don’t consider modern-day doom panic to be as easily dismissed as the ravings of peasants in shit filled streets somewhere in England in the 17th century. Science has been telling us quite blatantly for the last several years that carbon emissions have, in fact, fucked the planet over. Cities are going to flood. Species are going to continue to go extinct at a rate that no government sponsored non-profit can ever hope to sponsor back to life. The planet is definitely overpopulated, cancer is now so widespread that birth is in itself an act of Russian Roulette, and billions of people are quite likely going to die, probably in the next couple hundred years. I would post links to the research I’ve done so far, but this is a quickly written opinion piece, so you can find your own info later.

There’s my position on the apocalypse: I think it’s real.

This has given me much ground to relate to the fictional Cynthia Wey. My first question is, why exactly was Wey’s character fabricated? I’m inclined to think that by creating a character rather than suggesting that the essays reflect her own position, Demers is creating space to have Wey’s beliefs more carefully criticized, as they are more removed from lived, real experience. This device is in and of itself quite fascinating, but as I mentioned earlier, I think it does suggest a more easy dismissal for her case.

And then there are the segments written by the gallery curator. These take place in 2213, which means that over two hundred years have passed since Wey’s doom-laden missives fell out of her brain and into her journal. It also means that the apocalypse, or some kind of mass civilization crushing death did not affect institutionalized galleries, and potentially did not happen at all by that point. Having an academic career, I can see why Demers may choose to believe that the institutions that uphold her will live on. Optimistically, I would want to agree with her. My more cynical sides say she’s totally wrong. Realistically I have no idea.

In all likelihood, the decline of civilization will continue at a heartachingly slow rate, as we watch subsequent generations develop more illnesses, countless neuroses, and cities will look even more like Bosch paintings than they do today. People will keep dying, being born, wondering why they’re alive, and as long as we don’t destroy every last patch of forest or nuke everything we might be sortof less fucked. Nonetheless, it’s very possible that art galleries could look back on the apocalyptic work of today and scoff, or perhaps shed a small tear. Or both.

The book does little to actually suggest anything about the condition of the future other than referencing a gallery that may or may not exist at that point. So we turn to contemporary drone music, which I am listening to as I write this. The artists I’ve discovered through this book are fantastic:

Celer, William Basinski, Tim Hecker, Elaine Radigue … Gah. Yes. As a musician who occasionally even makes work that could fit into the category of drone, I’m a little bit in heaven right now. A heaven that looks more like most people’s hell. It’s just so fucking beautiful and so depressingly bleak that the world itself could be wiped away in front of me, and if I kept listening it would be perfectly alright. Is that actually a good thing? Have I been living in Vancouver too long?

Turning away from that scene before I slip off the deep end, I’d like to call in the idea that drone music can act as a reprieve from meaning. Its structure and intent often speak to little more than notions of beauty or atmosphere. These are sometimes spaces that we can project meaning onto, but drone does not readily lend itself to typical “feel good/bad major/minor” categorizations. The typical structural qualities that lend themselves to the common leaps of emotion, like as a major chord progression goes from root to minor and back, are erased. The notes exist. The sounds, by they choirs or crickets or a deep sine wave, simply appear, and then cease to be. Forms flow into one another like water, contrasting the cold steel of mechanized beats or other constructs of rhythm and progression. In a sense, drone is antithetical to many of the rules, regulations, and traditions of music. Where a pop song builds meaning out of measures, time signature, lyrical cadence, drone simply waves in and out of being. From here, it’s not much of a stretch to consider the pulsing tones of Radigue’s synthesizer works as analogous to a field of grass blowing in the wind; here, pop music would be the suburbs next to the field, constructed to profitable perfection, all alike, spaced out in 4/4 all the way to the mall.

The apocalypse of drone would be the tones that smash their windows. (I found that video mentioned near the end of the book.)

The book is a solid exploration between apocalyptic forms of media, with many philosophical references to keep it interesting, but neglects the potential relationship that apocalyptic art has with present day civilization. The intent of the book, it seems, is not to ask whether or not we are really fucked. It meanders through symbolic wastelands of art and sound with no clear destination. Which is totally fine. I suppose I just feel that there is no sense of truth being conveyed here, other than the perspective of the deceased narrator. Without truth, what does it leave us with?

Brilliant tunes that make both the end and continuance of life seem utterly sublime.

Shadow Travel

An insufferable will to remember possesses me. Some days, my mind and I get along as we tumble back in time together. These days it feels we speak the same language. The language of trauma, of reflection, of reliving past lives repeat ad nauseum. We speak to each other, and I am enabled to write these words upon the page with a lucidity I dare not take for granted, because most days we are wasted.

We slur together as I stumble down the halls of time, stopping only to vomit and medicate my chronic pain. I open doors to find memories that do not feel like memories, they feel like places I never leave, like moments that never end. The party goes on forever, long after every guest has fallen ill and retreated to their own makeshift shelter behind couches, shrouded in darkness. The social becomes too much to bear, but all exits are blocked until the flashbacks end. None of us can get out. Not my ten year old boyself locked in mother’s house, nor my current self who sometimes lives in his skin. Trapped, we toil together with our imaginations, trying not to let the darkness kill us before the locks open, chains of time fall away. We sing together, we dance alone with each other, we take photos of our immutable surroundings, documenting the surreal stoppage of time.

We stare at our work: photographs that move and swallow the viewer whole. There too, we speak the same language: one of perpetual listlessness, of unbecoming as my sense of self fades into other selves that seemed to die long ago. My hands hold his against a guitar, rest next to his on the piano, vocal cords scream into pillows in a warped, guttural pitch that echoes us both. Together we break our silence, let time coagulate as we drink it down until we’re sick again. The doors open for a second, I leave as quickly as I came, abandoning him for present reality.

These words are a tribute to his existence, as a complete self that never felt like anything other than primal disquiet, enraptured pain, constant lack of being. A complete self that still feels that way long after I’ve moved out, grown up, left my home town, and done everything I possibly can to express myself and heal. A consistent pain that holds me together.

They say chronic pain is a symptom of complex trauma, possibly of complex PTSD. Dad says it’s dangerous to self-diagnose, because I’ll trick myself into exhibiting symptoms of a sickness based in belief. If this is true, then belief in my own existence is evidently an illness. These messages are all too clear to me; they live on in tense muscles and overactive nerves as I buckle down daily, attempting to shrink to a more invisible size. Both my father and I self-isolate.

Mother remains a mystery as always. I’m left to guess why she hurts the way she does, as my questions fall flat against her lack of memory. Conscious or not, her defenses work well enough to kick her own child out of her life on a continual basis.

As always, the parents are fully responsible for the negative conditions of the child’s life. Let’s just ignore transmisogyny and all of society’s other oppressive institutions for now—I was raised in isolation. The social was either too distant to be worth considering, or too intimate to be differentiated from my sense of self once I finally made it out. Besides, history loves to blame history for its own shortcomings, loves to displace its own accountability in the present.

Child is born. Plays gameboy till they get their own TV. Plays Nintendo till it goes out of style, then switches to Playstation to feel more mature. Eats junk compulsively. Does everything a good consumer is expected to. Gets a little older, starts getting stoned, wonders why jerking off feels so disgusting. Stops eating. Comes out as Trans. Plays Xbox compulsively, works full time. Does everything a good consumer is expected to do. Starts falling in love, ignores all the red flags along the way, like a good survivor is supposed to. Life melts, explodes, loses all form and logic. Has surgery, keeps getting stoned, wonders why jerking off is so painful. The pain stops for half a second or half a year. Falls in love a few more times. Pain starts up again when they realize they can’t count on anyone in life except themself. Child keeps getting stoned, starts playing Playstation again, does most of the things a good consumer is supposed to do, now with more radically aware self-consciousness and guilt. Feels about as mature as last time. Keeps having flashbacks. Keeps crying while jerking off. Keeps waking up with headaches, taking ibuprofen with hormones every morning. Tries to be responsible, like a good adult survivor is supposed to, especially at their age, no matter how young they feel inside and how desperate they are to return to a time when things where simple, when coping mechanisms actually worked, when a future still felt possible.

Is this a confession? A document of my trauma’s legacy? Something tells me these words are more than a journal entry, more than a personal memoir. There’s no real narrative, my steps do not walk down any set path. I can’t write a novel, and I wouldn’t dare to seduce you into my sob story. The child may not even be me. I don’t always cry when I jerk off these days. In fact, I actually enjoy it.

Perhaps this is all just an experiment, but I don’t know the controlled variables. If it was a game I’d hope to at least be able to tell you the rules. If it was a film we’d all be crying right now, or at least throwing things at the screen in disgust. This information I am sharing with you in fact has no set boundaries or scripts by which you can orient yourself to it. I don’t care how you feel. I don’t care what you think about the events of my life. This isn’t about me. It’s about what you make out of it. Does that make it worth sharing at all?

What’s worth sharing when the world is a towel too soaked with piss to absorb the blood on your hands? What’s worth sharing when every thought is killed by the next, when every desire fulfilled leaves ten wrought with longing? What’s worth sharing when doubt announces their presence in the room with a drunken yelp, trashes the house, and vomits on all their friends before any of them have time to interject with their own dreams, desires, and inspired poems?

Maybe every guest at that party once wandered into another house and did the exact same thing, and they’re reliving those memories for the rest of their lives.

Maybe that’s why we’re all hiding behind couches in the dark.

They’re Telling the Truth Today, Darling

Surely, this pain means something, could mean anything if I had the will to name it. It’s not often one gets shot in the stomach, has the banality of every day existence made mortal in seconds. The meaning of the day was suddenly called into question with the sharp rush of red pain dripping down my favorite jeans.

Always thought I would be the one to do it, to murder the day, waste every hour trying to live up to the last hour’s legacy of tedium. Always thought that I’d pull the trigger on myself. What I’m wondering is, are they really doing me a favor?

My conscious mind, now staring through hazed plastic wrap at the fading light of reality, tells me to reach up. Arm flies upward toward smoking gun. Clearly, some part of me does not want to die. Muscle tension dances with danger.

What’s evident is that the arm is not bulletproof enough to fulfill its own desires. My body lurches back with the second blast through the palm, right where the palm reader said it’d be. Now I believe her.

Try to scream, but the bullet makes a pit stop in my esophagus before heading home to the kitchen counter behind me.

Kkkkkkksssssskkkkkhhhhh….hsss…hhh…

Deflated.

Is my fortune fulfilled? Better question: is my life itself fulfilled?
My life is given its title at the moment of death: a deliberate accident on the part of bad faith, one that leads the victim to their own demise. The mad murderous king and queen, destroyed by grief, histories living out in the mind of a contemporary servant of trauma. Death pact with the stranger in the mirror, bound by a noble promise of total abandon.

This was CTV Evening News.