What It’s Like To Wake Up As A Huge Loser

My novio often says “good morning little mole!” when I emerge from the bedroom half-blind and looking for coffee. At the moment, however, he is working, while I still have four weeks of vacation left and can sleep all the way in. So these days we don’t really wake up together, which means it was just me, myself, and I, alone in my sticky-eyed moleness this morning. As I reached my proverbial claws out of my proverbial burrow and sniffed around, shit got dark real quick.

mole

The rain had finally let up overnight and the breeze it left behind was cool and sweet. The sun was shining. Although the construction workers had been banging away for hours, I hadn’t noticed. What a beautiful day! someone who is not me might’ve said upon waking. But someone who is me, or at least sometimes me, said:

You have no purpose.

You are a loser.

And a weirdo.

You sweat too much.

You are a failure and a fake.

Shit-talking oneself first thing in the morning is really not OK. I mean it might be OK and understandable, necessary even, for someone who grossly mishandles a global pandemic or incites violence or locks humans in cages, but something tells me that the internal dialogue of a person like this looks very different than mine does.

But I woke up with these trashy mantras floating through my head anyway. Then I opened my e-mail and saw that Mary Oliver’s book of essays, Blue Pastures, had been left in the mailbox.

Great, I thought. Fantastic! Mary Oliver is a literary dime piece. She’ll probably have an essay about the simplicity of leaves or some shit to make me realize that I’m a big drama queen and that peace is possible even among all this uncertainty and existential angst.

I got dressed, took the elevator downstairs, turned the key in the mailbox, opened the tiny door, and found another dark, empty hole. No book. No salvation.

I made my way to the doorman’s office to inquire about it. In Spain, I usually have communication problems with the men at the door. It’s because of my accent, I think. And now, with the mask mandate and the whole not being able to see anyone’s mouth issue, things are worse–for both me, and them. But we made it work:

Me: Hola, I received a delivery confirmation for a book, but there’s no book in the mailbox.  Did you accept any deliveries?

Him: *blank stare*

Me: A Package. From Amazon. A package. I should have received one. Could it be the little package you have sitting on your desk right there?

Him (laughing): No, it couldn’t be this one. That’s impossible, because this one is for me.

Me: Ah… hm, I don’t know then…

Him: Well, the delivery man also had another package, but he left it in a different box. It seemed strange to me, you know, because I know those people are on vacation for the next month. He was in a hurry.

Me: Well, that sounds like it might be it.

Him: Hold on a minute, I’ll be right back.

He disappeared down the stairs and appeared a few moments later with a ruler, a long piece of metal wire, and an unidentifiable piece of plastic. He headed to the mailbox in question and I offered to shine my phone light into it, just to make sure my package was really in there before we began committing a federal crime. Sure enough, it was.

The long metal wire didn’t work, and neither did the unidentifiable plastic. In a final attempt, he slid the ruler under the bottom of the box and managed to push the package up to the slot, where someone with small hands, which the doorman does not have, might be able to grab it.

Him: What are your fingers like?

Me: Well, (*thinking*: sweaty… so, so sweaty) I think I can get it.

I felt a bizarre sense of danger and relief as I stepped into his personal space and worked my hand into the  slot, finally managing to pull out the book. It was the first time in five months that I’ve shared anything resembling space or time with a stranger, let alone a common goal.

He collected his tools and turned to me as I thanked him.

Him: He was just in such a hurry.

MeYa, las prisas no son buenas. Haste makes waste.

Him: Haste makes waste, that’s right. Hey, this never happened.

Me: I wasn’t here and I never saw you.

I haven’t started reading the essays yet. I don’t think I need to. It’s like Mary’s spirit flew out of the book, possessed the delivery man, and slapped me in the face: don’t hurry to a destination that you can’t even name. Don’t berate yourself for not being there yet, wherever there may be.

And all of this is also just to say that it is OK to wake up in a trashcan sometimes.

Love,

Seo

A Picture-Perfect Breakfast

Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen…

We counted the writhing bodies.

I know it’s necessary but…

I feel sick.

This is so sad.

This is horrific.

How are they still alive?

I will never get this image out of my head.

I will be haunted.

The holiday home hadn’t been rented since February, before total confinement began. So one, two… six months had gone by without a single human being passing through it to enjoy the expansive view of the Alpujarra mountains, or the fireplace, or the vertigo-inducing hammock.

They came out of there like cartoons

Paper wasps are social creatures, says the internet. Each spring, a few queens (“foundresses”) awake from their winter slumber, chow down on some paper, and begin to build and lay. Saliva and paper become cribs for their daughters, who will expand, maintain the home, and provide caterpillar gruel for baby boy wasps. Those boys become men whose main function is to mate and, in very rare cases (when all of the ladies are out hunting), defend the nest. New queens are raised later in the season.

As a species, they are peaceful enough. One can co-exist with the paper wasp. They do not attack unless they feel their home is threatened and they do not feel that their home is threatened unless it is located in an area, like a balcony, with regular human traffic.

Breakfast in the Alpujarras

On Tuesday morning, JC took a seat below the wall lamp and we clinked coffee cups. Inside the lamp, life rustled into action–a nest. From the nest, a paper lady eyed JC’s big black curls and identified them immediately: a threat to safety, a major road-block to bacon. I speared an avocado and the peace broke with a shout– hijo de puta (son of a bitch! mother fucker!) A red welt appeared on JC’s arm as the aggressor, her bright yellow legs dangling, hovered around the chair. He peered up into the lamp: me cago en… (I shit on..!) So we began our little escape-the-pests dance. Plates and forks flew indoors. We were two city idiots dodging stingers. Soon, the fat can of Raid emerged. I  knew this because from the kitchen I heard more swearing, and a door slamming shut.

It was a massacre.

We finished our breakfast inside, watching the mountains through the anti-mosquito chain curtain, periodically checking in on the casualties. Me, half-mourning the bugs who’d made a home in our absence.

Cuidado,

Seo

I Know. It’s Been a Minute and a Half.

Dedicated readers, all four of you, please accept my apology, although I never promised you consistency.

How OK I am with being inside worries me, albeit only slightly. In these forty-nine (?) days, I’ve read Marx and Tolstoy and Camus and Hesse and Flaubert. All great guys, really stand-up writers. But I started reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie two days ago, and now the thought of returning to Anna Karenina produces a sensation in me not unlike the one I feel when I  think about cleaning out the shower drain.

Read the book, basically. It’s real good.

Other things I’ve been into:

  • This Jeff Buckley cover of “I Know It’s Over.”

  • Wondering what my life would have been like had I stayed in America.
  • Wondering whether I could live in New York City without having a meltdown.
  • Thinking about the past.
  • Inexplicably, missing Greyhound buses.
  • Thinking that education is really, really important.
  • Feeling pessimistic and optimistic in the same breath.
  • Herbal teas.

So that’s all I’ve got for today.

Stay curious,

Seo

It’s OK to be this Intense, Right?

When I discovered the newsletter template on Microsoft Word as a child, I began publishing one to distribute to my family on a completely random basis. Visits from cousins were announced there. Requests for new pets–usually, puppies or kittens–were also included, along with hard-hitting reports on labor rights. After all, when our parents were off making money to both feed us and support our greatest hopes and dreams, we were expected to wash wash. And what did we get for it? A dollar a week? The indignity of it!

family newsletter

For the first two weeks of quarantine, I published something similar for the refrigerator. This week, however, I did not, because I was too busy drowning in some Victorian-era melancholy.

Allow me to provide some insight:

  • I’m reading Anna Karenina and I know that somebody’s definitely gonna die and that Anna is totally gonna get down with Vronsky. There’s no stopping it. Kitty just got snubbed and she’ll probably be sent to a sanatorium because I guess heartbreak has the same symptoms as tuberculosis. What else could happen at this point? With 900+ pages left, there can only be drama. And death. And a healthy dose of social criticism and philosophy, I suppose. At any rate, I feel disproportionately sorry for Kitty for falling in love with the curly-haired count and rejecting the faithful farmer only to realize that the hot count didn’t give a single shit about her–we’ve all been there,  girl.
  • I’ve cried while watching the news twice this week (which, ok, normal enough) and once when I heard the song “Hallelujah” on a commercial (not so much).
  • I cut my own hair in the bathroom mirror while listening Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2, which felt very Tolstoyesque and more than a little unsettling. Check it out here:

  • For all of the aforementioned reasons, I fell into an internet black-hole while researching female hysteria. What if the protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (imprisoned in her bedroom as a cure for postpartum depression) had had access to Beyonce’s Lemonade album, or like, I don’t know, any of Fiona Apple’s discography? Or Aretha Franklin?

Well, that’s all I’ve got to share this week. If anybody out there is feeling a bit darker than usual, rest assured that you are not alone.

Fight for your right…. to feeeeeeel,

Seo

Play Some Relaxing Wave Sounds and Join Me for “The Grateful Hour”

My good friend Samuel, from Bristol, speaks like a  King–because I don’t actually know much about English accents, I’m not sure if this is standard, or enigma. Everything he says sounds like its worth a million dollars, though. So last week when he sent me an audio proposing that we hold “a grateful hour” during the pandemic, I went right ahead and stole the idea. Thanks, Sam!

Here’s some stuff I’m glad to have today:

A Kindle.

As the days of confinement descended upon Madrid, I was reminded of my long-abandoned e-book. Purchased for reasons unknown (I prefer paper) in 2012, I plucked it from my bookshelf pre-escape. In the past week, I’ve had the chance to indulge my favorite pastime and read The Plague, Naked in Italy, and The Seagull. Reviews and reflections in the works (maybe?).

Poetry.

Saturday was supposedly World Poetry Day (ojo: I did not fact-check this), so I read “Easter, 1916” aloud at lunch. Which brings me to the next item on my list…

My own ignorance.

JC is sometimes hard to live with because his thoroughness and curiosity make me realize how stupid I am. On this particular occasion, my idiocy came to light during a long series of follow-up questions about Irish conflict after the aforementioned poetry reading. My dad is from Ireland so, although I grew up in the states, I did remain Irish enough to internalize the notion that, no matter how much I was bleeding, I’d be grand. It didn’t really hurt. Sadly, however, I’ve got all my Irish history ass-backwards. I mean, I confused Easter Uprising with Bloody Sunday. I’m grateful for this ignorance, however, because it’s a wonderful reason to finally look into my ancestors’ past.

Video Calls.

Like everyone else, I also feel fortunate to be able to see my family rant about how there are no dried beans left at the Giant Supermarket, or watch a video about elephant seals with two of my best friends. It’s the little things.

Community.

The old ladies across the way don’t know my name and I don’t know theirs. Still, we wave to one another and we are united in our hope, I think. Pretty sure they’ve seen my tetas on more than a few occasions, but it’s cool. I’ve seen them plucking their chin hairs in the window. We have a sort of distant intimacy. Say what you will about the Spaniards, they do very much care about what happens to their neighbors. I’m happy to be part of this community.

Perspective.

There is not a lot that’s really necessary, is there? In the not-so-distant past, one made do without bread and milk, subsisted on garlic soup and garbanzos. We’ve stretched the pantry two weeks now and we could do it for two more, if need be. I’m dead thankful for this ability to put things into perspective and also for the fact that I could add 800 more things to this list.

But I won’t.

With heaps of gratitude,

Seo