growing up

PSA and a Mantra for Malcontents

Last week the dentist refused to take the teeth out of my head.

“I could paralyze your face. Permanently.”

“Oh. That’s not great.”

The longer you put off wisdom tooth removal, as  it turns out, the more complicated the procedure will be. I’ve got roots dancing with nerves at the back of my mouth so for now, it seems, I’ma have to stay wise. Take note, teenagers of the world.

Anyway, in six years of life in Spain, I have never experienced a June that did not make me want to peel my own skin off. At the same time, June tends to be a time for reflection; I usually do that naked, spooning with a bag of ice, while marveling at the many places from which sweat can spring. This one is different. I’ve still got a comforter on my bed and I don’t feel like I’m burning. I can’t say I’m angry about the weather, but I’m worried about the earth–and myself.

What am I doing? What’s next? Where do I go? How do I find a patron to support the art of my life?

Last year I became obsessed with the idea of “running through the pain.”

I read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and remembered nothing but this mantra: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

I began saying it to myself, sometimes while running but more often as I prepared dinner or walked home from a night out. The sweaty strangers of the disco scene often sent me on a downward spiral, though hindsight highlights the role of gin.

After a long, frenetic, gorgeous, and totally mental winter, this mantra just isn’t doing it for me anymore. Here’s what I think: suffering is not optional,  l0sers. The longer you refuse to acknowledge anguish, vulnerability, and sadness, the deeper their roots will grow. Next thing you know, you’ll find them bursting out of you in public health clinics, at cafés, and on unsuspecting waitresses.

What comes before gratitude is a lot of snot, tears, and unabashed drama.

As for mantras, I’ve been using this one:

I ain’t fuckin’ sorry.

Love,

Seo

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When All Else Fails, Write Shit

I sat alone on Sunday afternoon and tried to work the words “cieno,” (mud/mire) “guadaña,” (scythe) and “amago” (feint or tricky gesture or can someone please come up with a better translation?) into a “poem.” My greatest regret in life is having thrown out the tiny camo notebook I used to hide under my pillow in grade school. In its pages I wrote poems dramatically lacking in depth and technique–in other words, not much has changed. I’m writing in Spanish lately not because I am trying to improve, but because I find comfort in my ignorance: I sense that the writing is trash but I don’t know that I’ll ever be entirely sure why.

The park in the photo above is in Suanzes. I suppose it’s the sort of neighborhood you move to after having children but, as with most things, I actually have no idea. Incidentally, it is a great place to go when you feel that you cannot physically endure one more gulp of city exhaust. I presume that much has been written about the price of metropolitan life and that many a human within Madrid’s gates has  begged for some gaddamn peace and quiet. I never thought that I would count myself among their number, but lo and behold…

Follow Your Heart and You’ll Always Feel Delirious

I love you under the rain and under the clouds and after midnight on Tuesday nights. I love you at lunchtime and on Sunday mornings before the hung-over crawl out from under their bed-sheets. I love you even and sometimes especially when I don’t, forgiving you your excessive escalators and stale Saturday winds.

I ignored you when we met. Skinny from silliness and afraid of everything, you were too wild for me, full of chatter. Five years later I hauled my suitcase up the stairs in Tirso de Molina. There was a light rain falling. Men were shouting and selling: paragua, paragua, paragua! I was lost but didn’t care. I would remember this moment for many months, especially while listening to shitty guided meditations. We stayed in a one room studio in Arganzuela. For three nights a madwoman banged trashcans and howled “Arabian Nights” beneath the window.

In August you were deserted. Queens with pencil-thin eyebrows smoked in doorways and danced chotis and I couldn’t stop smiling. The metro back was empty but for one sleeping woman. I looked up at the ceiling in my airport hotel and wondered what was wrong with me.

In September I had a bed and nowhere to rest my head. Waking up to you made me happier than I’d been for a long time. Sure I was lonely but I was also awake. Friends and strangers came and went. Gran Vía was a trap. I stumbled through January. Some nights the windows shook.

Last March, J asked what was wrong with me: why did I have to walk so far if the metro was right in front of us? It must have been one of those early Spring days, still cold enough for a coat, everybody falling in love. It took me seventy-five minutes to get home and I listened to Nino Bravo most of the way. Here he is, singing his way down the Paseo del Prado:


And there I was, trying real hard not to spread my arms out and sing right along with him. Maybe I should have. I’m here now only because I decided to honor impulse, after all. One year later and many are the afternoons that I still feel like singing up and down your hills.

Happy anniversary, Madrid.

Love,

Seo

New Views, Old Thoughts

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For the love of the metro and the sake of my mind, I moved to Madrid. In Bodas de Sangre, Leonardo (the home-wrecking heartthrob) tells his lover: “cuando las cosas llegan a los centros, no hay quien las arranque!” When things reach deep inside you, nothing can pull them out! I sang that line into my steering wheel all summer long, knowing its truth better than most other things. It was a truth that I knew when I left home for the first time, when I escaped to Granada, and again 4 years later, having learned to live and love in another place, when I began to think mostly of metro cars, mostly at night, especially after wine. Not a single part of my body would shut up about it, so with some fear and plenty of nausea, I accepted the impossibility of quieting my feet.

So here I am. I live here now. “Madame George” lasts about exactly as long as the ride from my home to Alonso Martinez. I dream myself onto platforms, at the right station, onto the wrong train. I think I share a wall with an American. I can always tell us by our laughs. Strangers touch my ass every morning and I find myself staring into the backs of heads on the metro ride, which isn’t as romantic as I’d imagined it would be, but certainly has its charm, too (it’s that sense of community that comes from inhabiting somebody’s 8AM body odor).

When people ask “why?” I say:

“I just needed a change.”

Which is, of course, true. Still, my real life is not nearly dramatic as the one I live in my head. I suppose that is for the best, but this all felt very serious and necessary. Serious enough to take a Lorca quote completely out of context, at least.