30 July, On the Hill
I hate people, I really do. Seeing the swarms of them crawling up the hill at Sacré-Cœur with their screaming children and awful tee shirts they find so witty sickens me. I hate your fucking tee shirt. I wish your kid would shut up. Get away from me. Stop telling your wife she’s fat, and goddamnit, put down your cell phone. Fucking tourists. I can’t get used to the idea that I’m a tourist, too. It’s abhorrent to me. I call myself a student, instead.
In class today, we had to say the things we couldn’t stand in French. Seven people said smoking. Fumer. Cigarettes are disgusting, aren’t they? I just love the acrid taste in my mouth. It brings me back to something: my uncle ashing on the couch, and porch days in college where we would chain-smoke and talk about nothing. Smash long fluorescent light bulbs, and shave each other’s heads. It makes me feel alive while it destroys my cells. The best things in life are the things that kill you a little bit at a time: the sun, long dives under the water, being alone.
I can’t get away from the people here, and sometimes I love it, and other times I can’t stand it. A man on the metro saw me eating a crêpe at 1 am. He handed me a chocolate, and exited the train. I didn’t say a word to him. I didn’t know what I could say. I wonder if he thought of me after that. I wonder if anyone thinks of me. It’s nice to believe that you are being thought of; that for some reason you’ve stuck into the brain of another.
I talked to new people in class today. I don’t know how to feel about them. There was a group of people from Azerbaijan, two young men and an older woman. The men seemed to be a couple. They were well dressed, in button-downs and bow ties, and smiled constantly. One of them spoke six languages.
I learned today that I am the only one in my French class that speaks only one language. I felt so stupid. They must think I am so stupid. I made it into a joke. When we went around the room saying how many languages we spoke, my turn came to announce my proficiency in idiocy. I said, “I speak English. My English is very good.” I smiled. People laughed. When they stopped looking, I dropped the smile, stared at the floor, and twiddled my thumbs in shame.
At lunch, the boy from the Netherlands sat with me, as did the pastry chef from Milan. I talked too much. I missed my friends. These new people were nice, but they had nothing to say. The boy from the Netherlands kept looking at me. I think he likes me. Poor thing. I can’t blame him; he doesn’t know me.
I am not an easy person to like, or love, or sleep with. Sometimes, I think I am as cancerous as all the cigarettes I’ve been inhaling. It’s just a mood. The clouds hang heavy today. I haven’t wanted to listen to music. I don’t know why. My feet have developed pustules. I burst one of them, and felt it squelch between my toes. I am a disgusting creature, my feet hurt godawfully, and I can’t bring myself to care. I just want to sit on the hill and read today.
Tonight, I want to drink wine with Johann. He is correct; we’ve become integral parts of each other’s experience so quickly. He drew out a diagram yesterday about the relationship between madness and genius. He is a philosopher. Philosophy is a respected field of study in his native Germany, and I couldn’t stop laughing when he told me that. He didn’t understand why. The United States doesn’t have much use for contemplation.
I’m starting to think that the diagram he made isn’t about one thing, but everything. I feel quite mad when I am with him. Crazy, crazy, crazy. It’s so fleeting. I’ll look into his eyes for a half second, and wonder if I can communicate with him telepathically. I get paranoid that he can read my thoughts. God— that would be embarrassing.
I wish he had signed up to take our class longer. I have no one to look at anymore, or do the French-speaking-exercises with, or turn to in confusion. I’m so pretentious, and I think he enjoys it. I’m not sure why. I think I make him sad. I think I make him feel bad. I think he likes it. Both of us are a bit masochistic. Why else would we continue? We aren’t rational, especially me. My feet are proof that I am no good at self-preservation. I have grown so accustomed to the madness. I can’t breathe every time he turns to me with wild eyes, and asks, “What is this?”
I respond with comforting caresses and sad shrugs. What could I say?
The bump on my head is throbbing in tune with the heartbeat in my feet, and in the distance, I hear an ambulance speed off to save the day. Sometimes, I wonder about all the people I’ll never meet, and it depresses me. Other times, I thank god. I don’t even believe in god. I’ve probably passed people on the streets that are scintillating. I’ve probably passed people who would rape and murder me if they had the chance. It is so large—the world is too big—and when I think about my place in it all, a lot of times, it’s too much. I love piano music. I hate that I have no musical talent. I love helping people, and I hate that I’ll never make a real difference. I hate even more that I’ll die incomplete, alone, and feeling unfulfilled, even when the only real requirement to have truly, actually lived a life is to be born and to die. Well, I’m halfway there.
Johann said his favorite part of Paris has been waking up next to me every day. I wonder if he minds when I stand on my tiptoes and kiss his face. I’d like to kiss his lips. I think he wants to save me from myself, or try not to lead me on, but this entire foray is a tease, and it’ll all end, so who cares if we pretend? But maybe he thinks I’m gross—maybe it’s like kissing his sister. I don’t like to think about how other people perceive me, because it isn’t accurate, and it’s probably much worse than the truth. Fuck him. Fuck me. He doesn’t want to fuck me.
God, I make myself so mad. The thoughts that rise unfiltered in my brain are angry, sad, stupid, and judgmental, and now they are recorded forever. When I die, I hope they read this at my funeral, and remind people that I wasn’t that great. Or maybe I was. But these things are here, too.
I feel a bit of angst. I feel like a teenager. I was wildly suicidal as a teenager. I still feel all of it, but I’ve learned to manage it. When I was fifteen, I scrawled out a message on my chalkboard that said, “Just remember, you’re going to die.” I told my parents that it was a reminder to live every day. For me, it was a reminder that this hell would end eventually, and I might as well ride it out. It still hangs in my childhood bedroom. I never erased it.
It’s cold out here. I don’t want to leave. I love sitting like a pigeon on this hill away from all the people, separated by a fence. They ignore me, for the most part. How courteous of them. I lit a cigarette inside my shirt, due to the wind. I heard people clapping in the distance. In my imagination, they clapped for me. What ingenuity!
These skinny cigarettes burn too fast. My ass is wet. I wish the sun would shine more. I wish I had coffee. I realize how few times in my life I’ve actually been aroused. Maybe I’m stunted. Maybe I’m a plant, after all: an asexual entity. Maybe I’m an agent sent into humanity, unaware of my mission. Maybe I’m an alien. Maybe everyone else is just crazy. I can’t understand. Intellect is sexy. Bodies are so secondary. Maybe I’m attracted to people who are logical and think concrete thoughts simply because mine are so uncontrollable and indefinable. I crave parts to collect and learn from. Maybe I’m a parasite.
These are all dark and beautiful days. A pigeon sits on top of a lamppost, and a small train rumbles by. I wish I’d brought a sweater, but what’s a little discomfort? I wonder about all the things in my life that have led me to become the creature that I am. Why I think so much, and feel so much, and can’t turn it off. I wonder if it’s braver to live in society and try to make it better, or turn my back on it entirely. I wonder if it matters. I don’t think so, in the end, but maybe I’ve invested meaning in one or the other subconsciously. The only other people who sit around me are the homeless. We are littered about with the beer caps, cigarette butts. Pigeons. Maybe I should move into the sun and read for a bit. That would be pleasant.
Last night, I had a dream about blood. I spread my legs, and I saw it everywhere. I was leaking, drained. I grabbed my body, and my fingers were razors; they tore my ribs to ribbons. More blood leaked down in tiny rivulets, pooling at my feet. I felt dizzy. A man approached me.
“Disgusting woman”, he remarked.
I gasped and leaked from my eyeballs, then. My tears were red. The blood-tears smeared and splattered on my arms. I attempted to wipe them away. I tried to be defiant: stand, and scream at the man, but I was too weak. I settled for a look. I gazed, with such hatred at this man, and he looked surprised. Sat down next to me. Tore his shirt off, and ripped his the skin of his torso, like mine. His expression softened when he looked into my eyes. Suddenly, he hugged me tightly, his hand on the back of my head. He buried his face in my hair. I gasped. It hurt. I saw scars on his legs, layers and layers of them.
He whispered, softly, in my ear, “Now, isn’t that better?”
It was. We wept blood together.
I want to read Johann Howl and Other Poems. He likes it when I read to him in English, and he would appreciate the work, the words. Ginsberg was gay, too. It’s important to feel understood, and the Beats are good empathizers. They sought to live in an absurd world, which isn’t inherently difficult, it’s all absurd, but they aimed to record it. Preserve it. They created because they wanted to create. Called it all holy.
Oh, Kerouac, how I longed to meet you in your prime. Sexist old bastard that you were—I have a feeling you’d have been my friend. I wouldn’t let Neal touch me, that whore. You’d find that hilarious.
I feel as if many people I’ve met are destined to be remembered as great, revolutionary, and tragic: beat down, and still seeking something. I admire them. Maybe I’ll see something in the news, or pass a bookstore, and try to find myself in the words. Or maybe all the people I’ve met will end up leading unremarkable, desk-job lives. I will still remember them. I hope they’re okay with this.
A policeman has just confiscated one of the watermen’s bags of water bottles. They sell us these bottles on our long trek up the stairs of the hill. I’ve bought one many times. They are cheap, and necessary. Thirst is human. The policeman is proceeding to dump out all of the water. He takes the time to individually pour each of them into the street. I am sure the men collect the bottles from some unsavory place. Refill them in a fountain. I don’t care. All I can see is the French policeman with the large gun and impressive stature pressing this poor man against a fence, and ripping his bag of water from him. Dumping it all into the street. It disturbs me.
Do they think themselves to be heroes, these policemen? Authority figures? Protectors of the people? Who needs to be protected from water? We know the risks. We are all free to refuse. A pigeon walks by me, bobbing his head. I think he agrees with me. People frighten me. I ache. I think I’ll stay up here with the pigeons a bit longer.
Copyright © March 2019 Miranda Royse
Miranda Royse is an undergraduate student at Tennessee Technological University studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing.