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

“Angry Girl Music” or: Callin’ Ya Bullshit

“Sometimes I just love driving around, blasting Fiona Apple, and crying.”

We used to refer to Bella’s car as Goldie Hon. It was a gold Honda. I liked imagining Bella  on Lincoln Drive scream-crying along to “Get Gone” or weeping to the tune of “Never Is A Promise.” It made me feel less insane and a little bit nostalgic for pain. Because pain, in some strange way, often meant clarity–or at least the coming of it.

Sometime in winter, I downloaded the Co-star App, and I also began following the company on Instagram. Yesterday, they uploaded a post detailing how each of the signs “reaches out.”

“Cancer,” it read: “With random Fiona Apple lyrics captioned, ‘so us‘”

This is not the first time that astrology has successfully made a caricature of me.

I remembered reaching out to an ex-boyfriend when we were in the process of tearing one another apart at the messy end of our long-distance non-relationship. I opened Facebook messenger and sent him a link to Fiona’s new song “Werewolf.” My following message read: “reminded me of you.”

He replied quickly, as usual. “Aw, you’re thinking of me!”

Later, he actually listened to the song. I knew this because I received another message in which he had written “you’re an asshole.” Breaking up was new for me, and deliciously reptilian.

Fiona Apple’s first album was released when I was six years old. I don’t think I heard it until I was ten. My cool south-Jersey cousin, or perhaps it was even my own mother, introduced my sister, then at the beginning of her own dark pubescence, to Tidal and When the Pawn… I liked the music then, found it mysterious. I imagined the riffs offered some unique meaning for moody teenage girls, as my sister and my cousin were.

When my own middle-school discontent arrived, I often laid in bed at night and listened to “Fast as You Can” on repeat on my discman. I liked that Fiona was both self-deprecating and righteous. It seemed bold to be a woman expressing anger and sadness, to be accusatory and sensitive at the same time.

Fiona accompanied me through middle and high-school and university, off and on, always giving me permission to be confusing and complete. And now she’s here for my adulthood, too, with Fetch the Bolt Cutters. She’s funnier, more confident somehow, but still 100% Fiona Apple. It’s a piece of art, the sort born of necessity and passion. It ignores marketing tactics and says, “easily-digestible narrative? the fuck is that?”

Thanks for this quarantine blessing, Fiona.

Seo

Babies and Mead: Life Before Quarantine

Before Christmas, I took a flight to Prague to meet Keith, my virtual husband and best college boyfriend. When his sister, who lives in the Czech countryside, gave birth to two precious twins, I knew that it was high time to confront my fear of newborns. What type of woman is afraid of babies, you ask? Well, it’s really their necks that scare me–the fact that they can’t support their own skulls yet. Also, their whole I don’t know how to speak thing is a bit of a snag for me. I’m a hardcore verbal learner, you know? All jokes aside though, holding a tiny, delicate human just seems like a whole lot of responsibility for someone who rarely gets through a day without running into an inanimate object.

I learned quite a bit about babies during my trip, however, and even overcame my fear. Generally speaking, infants want just a few things: food, sleep, or a good puke. Do you know what it feels like to have hot, regurgitated breast milk run down your cleavage? No? Well, I do. That’s just another part of the logistics of newborn-rearing, I hear. Other than that, everything else they say is true. Babies are sweet, they smell good, and they bring the circle of life just that much closer.

Keith y Bebe

After I’d spent a few days perfecting my burping skills, I left the gray Czech hills and headed for the big city again. A wonderful little detail: the regional bus between the pueblo and Prague not only employed attendants, but those same hot-pink-uniformed attendants also served complimentary coffee and provided newspapers to those who wanted them. The coffee was bit shite, of course, but the gesture did not go unappreciated.

I’ve always felt that Spain is much too ebullient during the holiday season. Fully grown human beings parade around town in towering Christmas-tree hats made of tinsel. They glisten. They glitter. The Navi-Bus rides by twice an hour blasting los peces en el rio. I don’t know what fish in a river have to do with Christmas, probably because I never went to church. Wigs are also a big thing and the bars are fuller than usual, with company dinners spilling out of doorways, and various HR Josés gearing up to hook up with various Juanas from accounting. There’s a lot of shouting, like always.

Prague at Christmastime was different, though, something I could identify with: a little dark, sweet, sour, weird, and vaguely dangerous. It was all mead and mulled wine. I carried around a cup (or three) for hours, stopping only to marvel at the beautiful architecture, the rain falling in Old Town Square.  I kid you not, I nearly cried watching those drops fall. Unfortunately, you can’t really see them on my phone camera.

Old Town Square Prague
Another fantastic thing about Prague were these TRDELNÍKS! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I would have eaten a dozen of them. They’re simple: dough wrapped around a thick, wooden stick and slowly rotated and roasted until it is ready to be coated in sugar and almond. Reluctantly, I walked myself back to my hotel after eating this one.

trdelnik
Hawt trdelník and cider

I flew back to Spain on the morning of Christmas Eve and jumped into M’s car immediately upon landing in order to spend the evening with JC’s family and friends. M dropped me directly at the bar, where it is customary to have aperitivo (see: 2 wines and 1 tapa), with friends. Aperitivo turned into lunch, where we met a group of boys who were enjoying one of their new Christmas gifts: a small plastic toilet that, when “flushed,” would eject a cartoon turd. Whoever caught it first was the winner. Lunch turned into cocktails in the middle of the damn day in a bar with no windows and lots of men wearing ties. By 9 o’clock I was hiding in JC’s childhood bedroom, realizing that Spain’s jubilance had played me yet again: noche buena dinner still needed to be eaten, extended family kissed, and gifts opened. And there I was, all disheveled, sending frantic messages to Tuna to tell her I don’t think I can doooo thissss.

Happy belated holidays,

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