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Every Night

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I. A movie for Kristen Stewart

There is a scene in the movie Certain Women. Two young women are seen eating opposite to each other at a diner. One woman is a young lawyer, Beth, played by Kristen Stewart, teaching a class on the education law where she meets Jamie, Lily Gladstone, a young quiet ranch hand.

The light is dim, hands on the table, doors open and close. Montana is outside, with its broad empty spaces of fields, parking lots and streetlights. Beth folds her fork out of the napkin, she eats while the other girl watches. Jamie’s face: soft, tender, almost a little too passive. And so I sit in front of the girls the first time they see me, put up my hair slowly and avoid eye contact, wanting to show them something.

The actual main character of this movie is of course Montana: Horses barely moving. Mountain skyline. Small cities, long distance drives, darkness and water, lots of rocks.

As I watch the movie at a friends place, I take notes. Something to do with feminism, I write, underplayed, then a lot of question marks, as if I am not sure what the movie is trying to say. When my friend enters the kitchen, sits down and sips of her coffee, I joke to her: “The movie is only interesting when it’s the female characters interacting, whenever there is men in the picture it makes a point of showing just how terrible they are, and it’s like fine, we know”. She laughs while a guy in the other room goes awkwardly quiet.

How clear this feeling of serving something or someone becomes—the sadness, the loneliness—how purposeful and stupid it makes me.

It’s funny how perception changes. Even if I place myself in Beth’s seat, the heat of her back against the cushion, the tips of her feet on the ground, concentrate on the taste of the food, it’s Jamie’s gaze I see myself through, somehow always identifying with the admirer rather than with the admired.

Lately I’ve found myself living like a teenage boy, drinking myself to sleep, feeling sad about women in a way that makes me very young and hopeless.

On Kristen Stewart as I watch her walk the aisle of a prison institution in Camp X-Ray, I write: controlled like a man or a woman.

A beautiful sad boy, she lies in a big expensive chair. It’s Personal Shopper. The camera is trying to sexualise her, like it’s a way to undress her. Like it’s reaching for something, trying to get something from her, which seems too banal, too obvious: she looks awkwardly confused trying to give it up. It takes too long and still it seems too easy. Then she undresses. We watch. Her face, flat and white, brightening the big screen in it’s fat pale light.

II. Sadness and Drinking

In Bluets, Maggie Nelson writes:

Last night I wept in a way I haven’t wept for some time. I wept until I aged myself. I watched it happen in the mirror. […] I recognized this a rite of decadence, but I did not know how to stop it.

In Afterglow, Eileen Myles just writes:

Longing is not a direction.

It’s strange, this connection between boredom and sadness, it makes you indecisive. Later in Bluets Maggie Nelson writes, Mostly I’ve felt myself becoming a servant of sadness. This is not to do with the romanticised beauty of sadness, but is a wish to hold on. I become so serious like I’m striving towards something, when in real life I’m standing completely still. Later in Afterglow Eileen Myles writes how her mother burned a letter about her father, because she had to move on.

How clear this feeling of serving something or someone becomes—the sadness, the loneliness—how purposeful and stupid it makes me.

So sad and slow.

I’ve come up with a self care routine. If an evening goes badly, I drink a lot very quickly (only sweet cheap drinks like rum and coke, vodka and juice), fall asleep to wake up the next day, remembering nothing of my problems. It works fine, though it’s temporary.

I honestly can’t remember which book I read that says alcoholic men are men who are sensitive like women. Eileen Myles writes of her family members that they are all weak and masculine, which is something that really resonated with me. Wanting to take on some kind of responsibility that is usually expected of men. But also being too open, too soft, to be able to live up to any masculine ideal, and having a great amount of pride in this weakness.

I’ve been thinking about the quiet men, passive men. I still listen to that Frank Ocean album with “Nights”, about the monotony, about the change from day to night, over and over again. The loneliness in the songs comes not from actually being alone but from disconnecting with other people. The temporality of the sexual encounters.

It’s a song about working for money, about sleepless nights. And how sex plays into this monotony, every night fucks every day up. The necessity of work to get anywhere, to keep yourself from standing still, even though low-paid manual jobs will make you feel exactly that: trapped.

Staying awake through the night, when you fell like you are the only person on the planet, and it’s sad but not really because you are there, more or less like you used to be, and the sky is so vivid.

The stupid sweet escapes we make getting high, getting wasted.

The dependence on others throughout the album is often either sexual or financial, at best unpersonal. Shut the fuck up, I don’t want your conversation, he sings. People either talk too much or too little in these songs. There is something inevitable hurtful about the temporality of these connections.

It is the time you work through to go somewhere else, that will later feel weirdly un-relatable to the rest of your life, so why does it still feel like you lost something.

In the songs there rings also an oppression that is not economic, but rather something having to do with a different kind of humiliation. Know them boys wanna see me broke down / See me bummed out, stressed out. I’ve always found there is something more personally degrading in getting paid very little. The fact that they know they can make you do it anyways, really makes me shiver.

Frank Ocean sings, no sleep in my body, no bitch in my body, and I think autonomy, self-dependence.

I write, submissive and prideful.

A lot of men have written about women and gotten applause for doing such a great portrait of them. If you move close enough, you can feel them watching, picking you to pieces. But I like how men like Faulkner write about their own womanhood.

I’m going to cut in a chunk of Dewey Dell’s monologue from As I lay dying because it’s simply that good:

Then I can see the slope, feel the air moving on my face again, slow, pale with lesser dark and with empty seeing, the pine clumps blotched up the tilted slope, secret and waiting.

I listen to it saying for a long time before it can say the word and the listening part is afraid that there may not be time to say it I feel my body, my bones and flesh beginning to part and open upon the alone, and the process of coming unalone is terrible. Lafe. Lafe. “Lafe” Lafe. Lafe. I lean a little forward, one foot advanced with dead walking. I feel the darkness rushing past my breast, past the cow; I begin to rush upon the darkness but the cow stops me and the darkness rushes on upon the sweet blast of her moaning breath, filled with wood and with silence.

The process of coming unalone is terrible and empty seeing.

This happens just after realizing she has become pregnant with the guy named Lafe. The moaning and the breathing and the darkness makes the situation sexual, but it is the sexual situation of her alone, and of her wanting. The separation from another person that is painful, or the opposite: touch. To have your loneliness violated, as he later describes giving birth.

Faulkner was a drinker, and it is to be said that sometimes drinking can feel as much an achievement as staying sober. And then there is another form of drinking, when Amy Winehouse sings, I don’t ever wanna drink again / I just, ohh I just need a friend, to keep company.

 

Works cited

Certain Women by Kelly Reichardt

Camp X-Ray by Peter Sattler

Personal Shopper by Oliver Assayas

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

Afterglow by Eileen Myles

“Nights” by Frank Ocean

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

“Rehab” by Amy Winehouse

 

She works underpaid jobs and talks more about writing than she actually gets down to it. She likes american writers who have lost their mind at one point or another. She likes Hilton Als, Carrie Mae Weems, the first poems by Eileen Myles, juice, Nell Zink and others.

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