Charlotte E. Wilde

Identities constructed on the linguistic champ de bataille | Words, like little foot soldiers, march out in the armies of my poetic failures

Armies of Dreamers | trudge on, trudge on

We are a generation characterized by our glorification of wanderlust, a word so overused and over-though that it has been stripped of its beauty, emptied, exposed. A word degraded, perhaps, much as a view is rendered moot through the repetitive action of opening. It waits, arms flung wide and again, receiving the flocks of would-be dreamers, hopes pinned on avoiding the inevitable: themselves.

Yes, this is the church of our modern malaise. We, tentacles of roaming millennials, reaching for something we know surely must be there but can’t quite find or grasp, slippery. And so photos are taken, splayed like calling cards, their function at best a surrogate memory, at worst, mere proof of passage. We have loved the world for it’s value as a prop,  selfie-stick sublimations, the breadcrumbs of our decent left for next years crop of seekers, hearts still idly pinned to the hope that happiness is only a voyage away.

But let’s take a step back. It’s true, of course, that people have always travelled. Yet, I can’t help but feel that this is somehow new– the sleepy-eyed and un-documented voyages of yesteryear have been re-written, replaced by the roaving quests of the over-educated and under-inspired. The maladie of the errant — this is new. And perhaps we all feel it to some extent, that building, billowing pressure sneaking further into the conscious reaches of our lives the longer we remain in one place, a chant that grows louder in the dark: the longer you stay, the longer you will stay. Stuck. Stagnent. It stands on the scaffolding we’ve built for it along the way, the scaries of another looming Monday morning, the fear of meditation, our inability sit still and just be alone with ourselves.

And so the question becomes, where did it come from? Perhaps it’s the idea of home that has become untenable, replaced by itchy soles or souls. The perfection of a white linen bedspread, princess and the pea, this your mind speaking from under the layers you’ve laid down to cover it up. Two choices: Roll over, or run.

Perhaps the only “home” we can appreciate anymore is the one seen from across an ocean, a continent, as if down a long highway shimmering with the mirage of a perfection afforded only by this far-off vantage point, lost when standing too close.  Home has become a construct of distance. For this generation of vagrants, the footsore roamers, perhaps the proverbial “heart” once associate with such a notion is, and can only be, wherever they are not.

So we all trudge on, warm hearts and cold feet, disenchanted yet somehow hopeful, souls wide-shut, still clinging to the belief in an answer lying just around the bend. We, army of dreamers, eyes closed to the inexorable truth underlying our grid-lined lives, the underdeveloped, the overexposed. We, lost in this rambling game of find-and-seek passed off as wanderlust– a slight of hand, or of heart, which, instead of giving value to our voyage, has served only to render the word as impotent as the act.

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Mr. Right Swiped Left, aka. modern romance [is dead]

*Note: This is an updated version of a post from July 17th 2015 that I decided to come back to and re-work.*

(A Tragicomic in 10 acts)

{ACT 1}

He was one of those rare, mythical creatures everyone’s heard of but nobody’s actually seen — like unicorns, or people who know how to fold fitted sheets — the Cinderella of Tinder profiles, a 1000 yard stare and an ass to write home about.

Swipe right.

Despite showing up 15 minutes early (a rookie mistake wherein the desire for control trumps that of any possible dignity) I hadn’t seen him walk through the door. He was camouflaged by the bobo decor of  the bar like one of those employees at over-priced specialty-stores wherein their sheer level of aloof-yet-cool is somehow enough to convince people of the appropriateness of spending a month’s salary on that “must-have” silk skirt.  Europe excused the monotone of his look, set off by a turquoise ring that matched mine and a tattoo that desperately wanted closer examination. He was done but not overdone in a way that screamed ‘don’t even think about it.’ But I make a habit of never taking my own advice. Something about the way he walked over, offered me the requisite “bise” and arranged himself in the chair across from mine made my mouth dry.

In the span of hellos I conclude he must be one of these people who always finds themselves asking what’s wrong — there’s never anything wrong, of course, it’s just that you constantly have the impression around them that there’s something in your teeth, that your smile is screwed on crooked, or that you’ve committed some egregious faux pas while ordering your wine.  Meanwhile, it seems my legs and hands have somehow forgotten how to sit or hold a glass. Not something I’m used to, but the phrase ‘out of my league’ was 1000 under the sea with a fish like this and colloquialisms don’t translate well. I’m watching from the outside, subway-struggling to breathe, looks sliding off him like water on scales and scales breaking under the weight of his stare until I catch myself looking away just to break the tension.

Happily, alcohol winds all inhibitions and some time later after my third mojito and a 20 minute mental detour I find myself ready and willing to cash out. Turns out ‘out of my league’ bites hard in the rain and one slow grinding song topped with a licked-lip-stare finds us holding hands in a taxi cab listening to the driver chat away about his ex-wife’s seemingly egregious shortcomings to god-knows-who at 4am. Romance is dead, I think, but I feel his fingers rubbing mine and I realized that 29 stands its ground on the scale of take your wins where you can get them. So I do. Sensibilities swallowed like a #tobedeleted hashtag, I’m envisioning myself a liberated-liberal-lady-luck with requisite flaming torch and toga. Fuck it, it’s a Thursday and I’m painted into these jeans like a mainstay attraction complete with lipstick stained teeth and a doe eyed grin. What do you want? He tastes like a 14 dollar whiskey, decadent if over-priced, and I make a mental note to congratulate myself in the morning.

{ACT 2}

My heels are too high and he has hands softer than anything I’ve never felt on my skin, the combination of which helps me forget how to walk, reading like an invitation or a warning.

“Are you inviting me up?” he asks in the hallway, and I want to smile or respond but somehow my face feels angled all wrong. Words are slippery things– like peeled grapes or spaghetti without a fork they’re best enjoyed cold, alone, and without the pretense of good manners required by someone else’s presence. In any case, what comes out must have  resembled “sure” because I quickly find myself pushed  up against the wall in the stairwell with his hands in my pants.

Romance is dead, I think. ‘Who cares,’ chorus two glassed of wine, three mojitos, and a forgotten dinner.

Majority wins.

{ACT 6}

“I really can’t see you again,” I warn him the next day after acquiescing to an ill-advised whatsapp exchange, but I got the impression neither of us were entirely convinced of my sincerity. An army of half-baked protests ranging from hair-washing to grocery-shopping later he shows up at my door with a Nick Cave record and a dozen roses stapled with awkward and three of those little packets that keep the water fresh.

“The florist asked me if I wanted to add a card that said ‘I love you’ but I told her it was a bit early for that.”

I choke on my gum, or my tongue, and go to the kitchen for a glass of water under the guise of looking for a vase. Desperate times, or measured ones, call for eventually cutting the stems short enough to shove them in a rinsed spaghetti jar. It occurs to me that I feel less moved by this trite little display of good faith than I probably should, it seems the only thing that can move me to tears or heartstrings of any sort is the carriage scene in Lady and the Tramp.

But hell, I’m nobody’s fool. Love always starts with roses but frequently it seems to end with bloody lips or lost bets and belt-wrapped wrists. I’ve been reading this book by the guy that won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, he thinks love often ends with Gillette special blues and, at the risk of bandwagoning, I’m inclined to agree.

Still, he’s standing by the window and I think he must be perfect.

He seems a bit disappointed about my lack of reaction to the flowers, but honestly not as much as you might expect. I’d like to find the words to explain to him that people both horrify and enthrall me. I sometimes imagine I’d be better off if I could watch them interacting as one does at a zoo, preferably with soundproof glass or a script of some sort indicating entrances, exits, and X’s where I’m meant to stand at certain moments, complete with stage directions to elucidate appropriate responses to such boy-meets-girl offerings. Words continue to elude me so I shrug instead and silently hand over the spaghetti jar stuffed to the gills with its strange cargo. Problem solved.

{ACT 7}

Having relocated the flowers we walk and sit in a cafe. I want to smile but I’m feeling  sure I have chocolate on my teeth. “What?” I say, accusingly, when he looks at me. “Nothing, you’re beautiful,” he replies.

I stare at a dog on the other side of the street hoping my feigned interest will negate my awkward as I digest the compliment. I think this may be a good time to introduce some fun fact about myself, such as the fact that I have double jointed thumbs or that I always wanted to be a truck driver as a kid. Instead, I go to the bathroom and checked my face for signs of “beautiful.”

Turns out I’d been wrong about the chocolate.

{ACT 8}

When I get home the roses stare at me. A rose is such a horribly stuck up flower, I immediately regret having poured the three little packets into their water. I put them in the bathroom and feel satisfied when they looked a little surprised.

{ACT 9}

The next day I think about baking him a cake or doing his laundry. I go with the former, decorated with blue frosting that reads “how about a blowjob?” I’ve always wanted to make a cake with something horribly inappropriate written on it, probably motivated by the same appealing juxtaposition of the cross-stitch patterns that sometimes pop up on my Pinterest — perfectly demure tiny pastel threads arranged to read: “Fuck the patriarchy” or “Cunt.”

In the end, unimpressed or just plain underwhelmed by the results, I swirl the blue and white into a tornado instead.

Romance is dead.

{ACT 10}

I gave the cake to a homeless man outside my apartment, my teeth stained blue from the frosting. I go back up the five flights of stairs and get the roses. I give him those too.

I’m on my way back up to my apartment, two stairs at a time, when my phone buzzes in my pocket.

“I really can’t see you any more,” I text.

“I know, I know” he replies, “but let’s just get a drink.”

{FIN}

 

Ink, page, skin {we’re [s]inking again}

my sink is full of dirty dishes

my head is full of sink

you know the kind, the creeper, kudzu, the slow-to-steady-your-hands-kind, the hollow-in-the-stomach-kind. The I like this feeling of empty-kind because it means I make less of a mess-kind, you can put it off but it’s not leaving, still-knocking-don’t-forget-about-me-kind. It’s the kind that sits fast in the dark listening to a breath pattern— in the left nostril, out the right, still the heart, calm the mind— but not caring-kind because it’s busy, occupied. Elevator music, you’ll have to wait like everyone else-kind.

So stay a while, touch your skin. It’s yours. Yours more than anything has ever been yours. Savasana, you say to it, commanding. But you can’t control the trickle in and the trickle out. The sink is still dirty, your thoughts still drying, caked on, yesterday’s mess still hovering where tomorrow’s already trying to forget. Ready to. Are you?

sink. put it off. sink.

today is the 21st of June. Solstice. I’m a solstice baby, three parts of the same soul. Odd number, like I’m missing something or something is uncounted in me. sink. sunken. something lying under this skin. Hidden.

Is this a coming of age story or a count-down? 32. 23. 3. Cumulating. piled high.

Skin. Sink. Solstice.

you know the kind.

 

Who reads this shit anyway. (Me, I do)

So often I find myself talking of Walter Benjamin, his essay « Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction » or his life. I’ve not read him in probably 4 years but find that nobody else has ever so my accuracy isn’t put to the test. I suppose I’ve turned into one of these pseudo-intellectuals, party parlayer, just waiting for someone to contradict me. I wonder how much of what I say is Benjamin any more and how much of it is just me filling in the blanks of my own imagination, re-writing his words, a palimpsest of wine and nails, both red. Read.

In the end, I’m not even sure he’s applicable—are the scaries of our modern lives really so present, are we all so preoccupied with their horror that they float up to the surface of every other bar or birthday I attend?

The first time is a first date of sorts, possibilities second to note but this one ruined by a third-wheel who doesn’t like intruders—queried banalities are below her, it seems. Walking to the show I’m trying to fill the silence or the silence is filling me, cross-walks and the subconscious, while number three lags behind, sulking. I know how dangerous this city can be for the soft ones, the sensitive, but my thoughts won’t line up, watching her juggle this misplaced jealousy.  Having offered an awfully rude glimpse of my other options (number three hovers to the left), I end up instead recalling quips about belonging to clubs that would have me as a member, and leave early.

The next time it’s grown cold out, I’ve been strung along, out against my will of sorts because so many people in such a small space make me feel judged/judgey but effort asks that I forget myself for a night so here I am, singing along again silently (though still out of tune). Half-past 12 finds me a bar stool amphitheater where my audience of two want to be touching but can’t because forgetting isn’t so easy when you’ve known each other’s secrets. I wonder why I find that beautiful, but I do. So I bridge the space between them with talk of arcades.

Months later I’m there again, same city, different bar. I’m post-concert alive, enclosed in the inner circle but exterior still, staring at the mouth of a singer with hoop earrings, asymmetrical pirate–but he’s glancing over his shoulder (should somebody save him?). I’d imagined a connection (sidecar side-effects), but find it’s impossible to ascertain if interest is feigned in a place where intellectualism is a party-trick. He’s happy to hear of failed-escape plans but wondering why he’s been forgotten by the beautiful ones, the side-man guitar slingers, the strappy top wearers, the tattooed hands holding tonics, the daughters-of named Lou. Like Benjamin, he too is wishing for a life-line, only not as literally.

Later, some weeks shifted by the canal, it’s finally warm enough for open doors so I’m outside, plotting escapes, figurative or literal. Hiding-spot ruined by a cigarette smoker leaning in as I’m leaning out, back to the wall, still not adjusted to this smaller space of speaking, perhaps necessary for the soft-spoken, which I am decidedly not. Her atypical nose lends a  sincerity lost to the truly beautiful so I tell her of smashing Ikea dishes and experiencing a void. « It’s just not the same feeling, » I explain, « as breaking something you love. » And she laughs, perhaps in agreement, perhaps at the absurdity of our corner conversation, I can’t be sure, but the topic quickly shifts to my accent and I realize “cute” doesn’t align itself easily with existential dread. 

Benjamin, my constant companion, crutch, a reminder that this world is mad, not me. Or I am, but cross-walks and bright lights blinking have made me so, full of scattered and strange. So kind of him, I think, to offer us something to blame. I don’t need to wonder what Benjamin would think of the 21st century. I suspect he’d be glad he was gone, far from this time where unfinished arcade projects and the beauty of baudelairien prose have been reduced to furnishing of idle fodder, our soft sides tucked so far, deep and away.

« Each scene makes up one chapter of your life »

« Each scene makes up one chapter of your life. » Sometimes I like to put quotes around something that I write, as if it weren’t me that said it, thought it. Somehow it feels like this makes it more official.

I eat the same thing every morning. Two eggs, one piece of toast. I think about cholesterol but secretly I wonder if I have something else entirely clogging up my veins. I keep eating the eggs because I guess I like to have something to worry about.

I cut them up before I sit down because I appreciate efficiency and I’ve already got enough trouble on my hands trying to prop open the book I’m reading with a piece of fruit, then the entire bowl (new book, strong spine, full of important secrets). Yesterday’s breakfast can already be found on page 73 which it feels a bit like sacrilege but it’s a price I’m willing to pay to forestall thinking for a bit longer each day.

Reading these words I wonder if there is a novel in me, too. Or rather, I wonder what novel is in me. I think it must have to do with E or V, but really, it has to do with myself, me, I. Humans are horrifically vain, aren’t they? People say it is this terrible egotism to write about oneself but I wonder, does anyone really ever write anything else? Pick your poison, pick your disguise: third person or a pseudonym, you’re not fooling a soul.

I fell in love with a writer once, which is actually quite similar to falling in love with ones self. He wrote the most horrible things. Beautiful things. Hard to describe really,  how skepticism turned to slivered sternums, like running until you can’t move your legs and the air feels thin and mean, the familiar heat of asthmatic lungs (so close to the heart, you could almost mistake it). He wrote things that touched me, that I then tried to emulate in my own writing—the simple horrors of modern life– gothic, grotesque, somewhat exaggerated existentiel dread.

My mother would say I’ve always had a flare for the dramatic and when it comes in short supply, I create my own or make some up. A copy-cat(e). I do it well, but so do we all, for what is living if not make-believe, death in reverse.

Later he hated me for it, when he realized I’ve only ever felt love for words. Couldn’t understand that a person is not their skin, and a person does not need to love your skin or your life or how you have only water, old takeout, and empty boxes in your fridge to love you. Wasn’t listening when I said, we are not the sum of our bones, and those who are, well, they’re doing it wrong.

Sometimes I go looking for him or someone similar, not the photos, not the facebook, not the instagram full of the most painfully ugly photos (I never could understand how a lover of linguistic beauty could not have an eye for it) but the words. Sunday afternoon lazily searching, and none of it alludes me except what I’m seeking which I suspect is some form of karma… or vengeance. A cruel trick, or twist of the knife, the hero’s prerogative (or is he the villain? This is my story after all).

In the end it doesn’t much matter much but I do still think of him sometimes, that intensity of feeling, our [missed] connection. And I wonder, after so long, what good is a grudge against someone’s nature? I eat the same breakfast for months on end. I am what I have always been, language heart, veins clogged with so many letters– his or mine or hers– enough to fill a novel perhaps, or just stacks of dear-johns that never made the cut.

It’s a shame really, but most things are. Perhaps it won’t be the cholesterol that gets me after all.

 

 

*written one week ago exactly.

The Capitalization of Sentiment (7 minutes in heaven isn’t 7 years for a reason)

If I’m perfectly honest, which I both always and rarely am, I like the presence-to-myself caused by emptiness, by longing. I like the way my hands feel on my stomach when I don’t know they’re mine. I like how I look in the mirror each morning when I’m trying to remember who I was yesterday or where that person disappeared to in the night. I like the way songs sound best when I didn’t write them and how my words taste when I forget them for a time.

I’m a firm believer that proximity wilts sentiment, as though once we wrap our hands around it, call it by name, expect it and understand it, we find ourselves going belly-up, bloated with hows-your-day banality. The only option, perhaps, is to keep re-inventing history, looking for the feeling I had before that kitchen table where I first sat and wrote us down.

Every edit is a new perspective, every blank page a possibility. Every erasure is a sentiment sous-rature deferring to a stronger one that I think I may have forgotten in my haste to pack my pages with something worth saying “the end” to.

I’m lonely but I like it, seeking solace in a hollowness of feeling. I’ve become shameless, perhaps; a dreg sifter, unapologetically combing conversations for something worth keeping, a half-hearted prospector of emotions as of yet un-mined. I sit quiet, siphoning stranger’s stories, collecting stock sensations that I frame like photos before I pass them off as mine.

I’ve learned that little mystery goes a long way in a world of fast-fashion friendships and garnishless love.

Tonight you’re on the menu, sidled up to me at the bar like you didn’t chose the seat. When I lean in close you’re poker-faced but I read temptation in the tell of a tick. You know a room here wont cost you anything but a handful of buried secrets and in return I’ll provide a fresh set, bleached clean and hung out to dry.

I’m the slinger of sentiment, coat-tails wide with pockets full of stolen time, but you too are waiting for the clock-strike, the flag-fall, the ready-set-run. One sideways smile later, we’ve committed to an evening– not a crime– glasses raised to a midnight mess in a zero sum game, this capitalization of love. We both know these days  a real feeling costs a pretty penny and we’re already down for more than we’re worth; not trying to nickel and dime but old habits die hard when it comes to hedging bets.

So cheers to us, darling, straight laced drinkers cashing careless chips. I’m a runner with a skip in my pulse (they say it’s benign) and a hole in my pocket, or I think I lost count but until I catch up with myself I suppose you’ll do just fine.

 

 

 

Voice in a jar (it’s not a bell jar)

Have you ever read a book and hated someone for it, simultaneously reveling in the words as a child’s birthday cake– that first guilt-free high–and despised them, hated them trulymadlydeeply because they weren’t your own? Ever read a word that spoke to you so completely that you were sure you’d already written it, that it was almost certainly plucked up, a few sparse roots dangling, from somewhere between your 3rd and 4th rib bones.

(These hasty fingers. Mother said, “pull gently or they’ll just come right back,” but shoulders too achey, tongue too eager to get in out of the sun, fingers didn’t care)

have you ever read that book?
I have. I have.

(heart pain, a stroke or why does other’s greatness hurt?)

I got the title for this entry from a passage in Kate Zambreno’s Heroines. I think woke up the day I opened it. And strangely, for I’ve been mining passages elsewhere for months now—studied verbiage, hidden messages, jouissance and menopause, long sentences to short. I’ve been analyzing pages. Duras, Ernaux, Bouraoui. All french, all women. I soak their prose like chia seeds and watch it grow in the night. But this, well, this is different.

(you are different. you are only for me. I wont share you.)

If I could describe it, it was like reading me for the first time (terrible vanity). Like finding that first old journal with one page so real it actually remembered you. Or the first time I saw me and didn’t hate myself. Like reading me for the last time, too, something close enough to touch, but an organized version, not these scribbles on paper I keep stacked in a closet, tiny notebooks full of irrelevant notes:

To watch: The Heart of Madness
#37102 on list of things I hate: un-justified text
I didn’t change my name; I’m lazy or I like to remind myself of my mistakes.
This continuous drive for growth is the driving factor of value in our society.
I like girls with weird noses.

You know the sort. Or maybe you don’t and maybe that’s the point. But I suddenly felt for the first time that I could write what I want.

reborn. small revolution. ruined, reunited. restored.

I felt everything

(never more acutely).