The Treehouse Coffeeshop
Collingswood, New Jersey
…said Tweedledum, “You know very well you’re not real.”
“I am real!” said Alice, and began to cry.
“You won’t make yourself a bit realler by crying, “ Tweedledee remarked: “there’s nothing to cry about.”
“If I wasn’t real,” Alice said—half-laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—“I shouldn’t be able to cry.”
“I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears?” Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.
amsterdam multiple choice:
(a) leidesplein. the waterhole. live dutch honky tonk mixing with drunken laughter, with heat stirred smoke, with joker smiles, with throbbing lights, my head and heart throbbing faster, less and less th, more and more bb.
i cannot breathe/people smiling waving/if i look at them i will cry/i don’t want to exist.
(chorus: how did i get here.)
i see us crashing from a distance, i’m the accident, i’m driving by, there’s glass between us, i see them clearly, clustered, sing-shouting lyrics.
we match eyes.
i exist all over again.
i exist all over again and have to answer to life, have to half-feign half-interest, have to smooth my rage over with gritty sandpaper, smooth.
i don’t do smooth.
i’m so lonely. here. where we have gathered to not be lonely. where the waterhole is the saddest room in the world. where the slightest socializing nauseates me with the force of ten back-to-back tequila shots. i drink nothing. where 1000 dull cliché daggers stab me, gut and heart. 100 every time someone laughs. 100 every time the group wraps their arms over one other’s shoulders, swaying in a team huddle, a circle, a ring around my neck.
i cannot breathe, but i could cry for the rest of my life.
(who is this girl.)
misery indeed loves company. just not this company. misery watches joy and doubles over in pain, too shy to find a tram to step in front of, too tired to get up from this bar stool, where it’s easier to sit and cry and pretend this is just a bad trip, your existence.
i know i can take something, anything, and lift myself from this sadness, buoy on up to the surface, float and bob with everyone else in a sea of beer-flavored sweat and good vibes.
i know my sobriety is worse than any drug. i flood myself with stress. i drown from the inside out.
i decide not to turn things around.
i walk home alone.
i miss my friends.
they know what i mean when i say i can’t.
(ryan calls us enablers. we say this life shit is hard and nod. we sigh oh sadness and hole each other up in empty houses on flimsy stilts of empathetic words. we say what the fuck and high five. we say at least we get it and laugh with ourselves. we are eye-rollers. we are half-empty. we wear grey-colored contacts. we throw our individual angst into the kitty and save it for a sunny day. we keep collecting. we wouldn’t know a sunny day unless it gave us skin cancer. we exaggerate. we have life dysmorphia. we keep going.)
(b) the morning after, i find the things i’ve lost:
1. left contact, crumpled in the corner of eye—i thought i cried it out somewhere between honk and tonk.
2. hair elastic, the one that sent me again spinning again as i got ready–the vaguest reminder of how easily i lose the things that hold me together.
3. ryan, patient, forgiving, as loving as he has ever been, when i have been as crazy as i have ever been.
(c) i am not writing to write. i am writing to sweat out toxins. the smell of last night’s dismantling is the smell of bad and regretted sex, of pissing yourself.
i am writing to have myself to console.
(d) hi. my name is jenn. i am the anti-life of the party. invite me. i’ll bring my cheap platter of thinly sliced complaints. we’ll eat and eat and never be full. we’ll take shots of our own fermentation.
a toast: to one after another after another.
(e) i hate how heavy i become, when i close my eyes and an outside hand spills hate over me, a whole tanker of oil. i suffocate. all i see is all i cannot see, you know, now that i am covered in oil. and i know i’m close. i’m close to air, to hands, to another side, to my realer self. but the impossibility of opening one eye. the impossibility of having to face everything i hate (breathing, standing, etc., etc.). why. why do it. i want to drug myself back to sleep and try again tomorrow. i am always trying again, never getting to that place people aspire to when they try again. my try agains are loops, not points on x and y axes inclining me to the ideal self point. i zoom into my worst. i can’t see whether i’m on the up or down slant. just a point without context. i need the full picture. the monet. i need to be pointless.
i am good from far.
(i think i have ups and downs, but my life, graphed, printed, is just an average EKG stretched out over 28 years. i’m beating myself for nothing. this is what a life looks like.)
(f) i don’t want to be here, in this room, with these strangers, with the first snow of expectation shoveled down from the sky. we run outside, throw ourselves in it.
we make the shape of angels.
the next day, we want sun. it will be months. we will slip on our own ice. we will crack our own heads.
our angels, how quickly they evaporate.
no matter how many layers we shed for each other, what we see is not what we get.
(g) ryan brings me mega-dose pills of vitamin c and ginseng. i want a different memory of myself in amsterdam than crazy bar bawler, so i put on a new face and we all go to the sugar factory. i drink vodka and then i really drink vodka. we dance for hours to dj music spun in between incredible live jazz sets, the lead british singer’s voice, sultry and unsyllabic, thickening the air. we breath it in through our ears, exhale her through our fingertips.
we are only vibrations.
i am finally happy, the happy i only am when drunk enough to hold onto exact and whole moments, which seem endless and thrilling.
(h) what’s the color of the sky right now? –little boy to mom in the treehouse cafe
(i) i miss home. i don’t know where home is anymore. i miss mati. i miss solitude. i miss the feeling of not missing anything.
(j) ryan offers to buy us both tickets home early. even at my craziest, i am still chinese, cheap even with unemployment money not my own. i know tickets home early is not the answer.
we sit on a bench by our amsterdam apartment. ryan breathes for me. he is happy; he can help. he has given me everything and more:
-he supports my dreams
-he brings me to the best place in the world for christmas
-he supports our bitch mutt, takes her out for early morning poop
-he lets me sleep
-he has given me everything and more
we discuss theories for why i am losing all my shit:
theory #1: ryan is in the best mental space of his life and with no one to commiserate with i feel extra-super-lonely.
theory #2: ryan knows the secrets of the universe and i am jealous.
theory #3: i constantly convince myself of reasons to feel bad. really, i need to be happy for no reason, and here’s why:
(k) ryan is morning. he wakes me through the curtains. he sweeps hair from my face. he brings me back from nightmares with soft strokes, down my arms, down his guitar. he tells me there are no real nightmares. no one hates me. only i hate me. i can turn everything back into a dream. it’s just a switch. reset my own circuits. flow, light, be on and on.
(l) i wake up new. i hear the tram rushing past the bedroom window along kinkerstraat, the same tram i fell asleep to, the sound synesthetic to a movie wash out. ryan crawling into bed cross dissolves, our bodies curl into parenthesis, lucid dreaming begins. morning fades in twice—once, still dark, it could be 5, it could be 9. fade back into sleep. fade in again—bicycle bells, a steadier stream of cars, white sun. i get up. i feel exactly how i want to feel, make green tea, cream of wheat and soymilk, write four sentences i am satisfied with, read rats, wake up and up.
the rest of the day is perfect: a warm and bright afternoon wandering vondelpark, playing games of ice bocce with sticks and corks, trying to drop ice through ice. hawaiians—never underestimate our ability to amuse ourselves with a half-frozen park pond that is probably teeming with leptospirosis. locals look on as we would if we saw tourists picking rocks out of the ala wai, skipping them, and shrieking like five year olds at magic mountain.
the day passes, a simple daydream that glows with you into tomorrow even though the details are forgotten: which songs were sung, who said what about why, whose idea it was to climb the twice-rooted tree, slick with moss and cold.
we are twice rooted in each other, ryan and i.
we are the architects of our days.
we are (im)proving our own theories.
we are all of the above.
the cave we call home
central district, seattle
Alice laughed, “There’s no use trying,” she said, “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
1. hey, this is how not to suffer
(there is so much more to write about than my moods.
ryan on jenn as re-told by jenn as herself: i think my writing about how i act like an irrational psychopath excuses it, that molding my social retardation and sadness into something that sounds nice is a skill i value, and so i do it, blog and blog again. i write about how alone i feel, and a world of people relate.)
2. ergo, i feel less alone.
(really we’re just enabling each other’s bitterness. we take nothing away from my words beyond a sense that we all suffer similarly. i never say: hey, this is how not to suffer, and write about all the joy i experience. i sift content about how things really can change down to a fine dusting, flavoring my blogs with an imperceptible sweetness. mostly, i throw in handfuls of raw animal lard*. every single one of my myspace blogs is the same story, different day. oh i’m blue colored. oh i cry at house parties. oh i don’t belong in this world.
oh i am so fucking sick of oldself.)
*example of something that disgusts me
3. vulnerability, hear me meow
(i try to get everyone on my “side” by shouting out the easy conundrums of being that i know i can get everyone to say AMEN! to.
me: isn’t it hard to date a person who talks a lot about philosophy?
me: isn’t it hard to change?
me: shouldn’t boyfriends never yell at you, no matter how rancid a psychopathic bitch you are being?
me: isn’t vegetarianism WAY better than non-vegetarianism?
4. i am one with myself
(ryan says that by feeling deeply embarrassed about my psychotic self makes her real. instead, i must stop making her real. stop giving her my body. stop feeding her little gummy hatebears to gnaw on all day.)
5. so this is the last time
(the last time i blog about my life in crazyland. offering more and more case studies of myself for the masses about exactly what happened, using completely biased, post-hoc reasoning as to why i justifiably freaked out (chemical imbalance, hello?), so that i can avoid these things in the future. [crowds, areas with no immediately accessible exits, strangers of odd height, dentistry, male nurses, baroque-style buildings, leather couches, tomatoes off the vine.] i could tattoo a do not do list on my body memento style for the rest of my life, but all this does is make it all true. none of it is true if i don’t want it to be. it is all yesterday’s jenn.)
6. i have a fucking incredible life
(on paper, my facts do not suffer: born and raised in goddamned paradise, harvard, hapa, all limbs accounted four, athletic enough, smart enough, adventurous enough (?), 5’3” enough, not in financial debt, has best boyfriend ever, best bitch mutt ever, best friends ever, best family ever, best best ever.)
(these are the only truths worth believing.)
zeitgeist coffee, seattle
in amsterdam, we fell in love over and over again. ryan–during my worst “sober” trips, he was calm and kind, wrapping me in his new full embrace, an embrace that promised we were a locked safe, no one else knowing the combination (our shared dreams spelled backwards in hieroglyphic x language). he would stay by me, but stay afloat, and would not drown down to where i was, and if i just held on, and kept holding, he’d pull me somewhere safe, with words and laughter and better eyes.
we have been together almost all day of every day since we left philadelphia on november 1st. this traveling has made us a pack, a fixed family, synced systems with updated software.
this is the most true:
in amsterdam, we had the best moments i have ever had in my entire life.
amsterdam was watching birds trace the sky for hours on the roof of the science museum, talking, laughing, imprinting our bliss on each other.
amsterdam was our night of endless tribal-revival-hippy-free love style dancing at the rokerij to pure lover avi’s flutes and a drummer who could even play scissors and rubber ducks like a badass motherfucker, ryan singing with his new singer’s voice, kealoha slamming poetry, their beat boxing duets–a room of dutch people wondering if we were the audience or the show, wondering what we were on.
we were audience, we were the show. we were on happiness.
amsterdam was ryan and i standing on the edge of the ponds in vondelpark at night, seeing the sky reflected in the dark water, the black crooked branches of winter trees probing something bottomless, deeper than we could ever imagine. my stomach churned as though we could step off the muddy bank and into that void. our held hands kept us safe from stumbling, let us see the menacing infinite as breathtaking.
amsterdam was early evening biking through town, just the two of us, two days before we left, the city a well-lit amsterdam montage, a sitcom of our entire year together:
past the book store ryan found me in after we fought, our first few days in amsterdam, when we were still not sure we should be there, when there was too much cost-benefit analysis flooding our lagging heads. costs were high, and we weren’t. when ryan was old ryan, and jenn was old jenn, and old ryan said i’m going this way and old jenn said i’m not, walking forward while ryan turned back. i knew he had no idea where we were, how to get back without a map. without me. without his wallet that i had conveniently been holding.
later, on the third floor fiction aisle of a random bookstore, deeply apologetic jenn said
you found me.
and still uncertain ryan said
you’re so predictable.
two weeks later, peering through the closed dim windows, we laughed at ourselves, standing inside that silly bookstore, the day we tried to stir up a batch of the end of the world using ingredients that existed nowhere but inside our old rotten heads.
we moved on.
walking our bikes through crowds of giant dutch people, down the same once empty main streets we pedaled down in the middle of the night with mikey, hearing only the whir of wind in the tires, blurring past fashionable clothing stores we never went in and all the falafel places we did.
over the bridge where we bumped into keali’i reichel, who sang one of our favorite hawaiian songs. for those few minutes, we were warm, we were home.
the same bridge where we met the happiest bum in the whole fucking world.
past the shopping tunnel where the boys freestyled the witty commentary on everyone walking by song, and earned their first 20 cent euro coin.
past the many coffeeshops we read, wrote and smoked in, past the corner where ryan took me from hysterical sobbing to hysterical laughing, all with one line, a line i can’t remember, something absurd, something that made me certain you can turn moments and moods around, realizing i do choose to persist in my sadness, and a bad thought is just a bad drug. you, overdosing your system.
on that corner, cries of i can’t do this anymore turned into irresistible, irrepressible i can do this forever giggles, giggles that rose up and out of my heart into the collective hymn and hum of the world.
there was still so much of our journey left.
into the park where we all played that sunny afternoon with the frozen ponds, down the corridor of sloping trees, black on an orange grey sky, damp from invisible rain, laughing maniacally at the non sequitur squawk of ducks, hidden in the dark chocolate colored marsh, dinging our bike bells to pass by no one but our old selves, stopping at the twice-rooted tree, remembering it was all the best, and to never be misled by the wrong memories.
only the best times of your life will exist if you want them to.
amsterdam was meeting a cast of characters. realizing we were probably the same to everyone we met. our stories written into each other’s life lines. ‘til syndication and beyond. hawaiians in a foreign land, crazy-haired and ski-masked, poets and artists singing i want you to drop baby, drop baby, drop until ryan’s fingers froze, collecting a lifetime worth of stories, epiphanies, art, new laughters, new new.
the secrets of the universe.
it’s the year of the rat.
it’s the year of the fuck naming years. the year of living each day as a year. the year of last times. of first times. of all of it all of the time.
dear kealoha, minja, and mikey,
i’m sorry for being a crazy bitch whore cunt.
i wouldn’t want to do amsterdam with anyone else.
i just didn’t know it at the time.
a toast: to the year of many years.
to blogs that do not use the word angst, its synonyms, or angst dressed up in pretty frocks of any written form.
to i control the shit!!!!!
i love opening a book, seeing our double dog-eared pages, me speed reading to catch up, always one chapter, one theory behind.
thank you for waiting.
i love that you are smarter than everyone.
(p.s. i am not everyone.)
i love crawling into bed next to you, knocking ankles, whispering there’s no place like home, and knowing we’re already there.
(m) all of it, all of it,