the last one
|Helena Fitzgerald||Jan 23|
January is a highly chaotic month, resolution colliding with despair. It is a time about newness and a time about giving up. Everyone is shoving too many things at once into their calendars, all our new and shiny selves pushing to get onto the subway and crowding into tunnels and into the cold narrows of long streets where the wind navigates in from the rivers. Everyone is busy, and bright, and tired, trying to fit a whole year’s worth of proof into one month.
I’ve been trying to write a final griefbacon email for two weeks, to put together some perfect collection of paragraphs that would encompass the whole thing of whatever I’ve been writing for over four years here, polished to a high sheen, made coherent and gift-wrapped. I haven’t been able to do it; it was a January mood to think that I could, to think that things can be perfectly pulled together into the kind of ending that negates the fear of regrets. This is the last letter for a while and I meant to write about a lot of stuff and I’m not going to get to it, at least for now. Maybe at some point I’ll write about the Horny Billboard at the intersection of Lafayette and Houston; about how Vanya on 42nd Street is a christmas movie; about lipstick and yelling and Almodovar’s films; about Norman Fucking Rockwell! and the ten years of my life where I wore five-inch heels every single actual day that I left my house; about the Camp Cope album from 2018 that’s the best album I listened to last year and how all of you should listen to it, and useful anger and Courtney Love’s legacy and how the album is exactly the length of the commuter train from Philadelphia to Trenton on a Sunday in August; about the Frank O’Hara room at the new MoMA; about slow-cooker food and thanksgiving episodes of sitcoms and a million other things.
And also, a lot of other people’s poems, specifically that one Kim Addonizio poem that goes around feelings-instagram with some small regularity, To The Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall, which I can’t find a link to so I’m just posting a photo of it here:
This poem is a lot of things and one of them is about being a drunk girl in a bathroom. The thing about being a drunk girl in a bathroom is that you don’t remember it, which is maybe part of why it is imbued with so much nigh-on religious grace. The other thing about being a drunk girl in a bathroom is what I think Thomas feels when he talks about Jesus and means it, whole-hearted and full-throated generosity, a condition of unconditional everything, arms and face and body open to the suffering of the world, able to hold all of it.
The title functions as part of the poem, the engine already running up toward the limit, we are not introducing anything, we are already there. A small exclamatory list follows in the queasy second-person, a litany of overly specific experiences, absurd and disgusting, so personal that no one could possibly seem to share it, sang using a dildo for a microphone. And then it turns around like a gunslinger into the first person in the last three lines, listen. Listen, the poem like someone running full speed into a barrier, like someone holding out their hand to say stop, like someone firmly putting their arms around someone else who is crying too hard to breathe. I love you, it ends, from fast to slow, loud to quiet. Joy is coming.
“Joy is coming” is very different from “it gets better.” Joy is coming, but it might not fix anything. It might not change anything for longer than a moment. There will be a time other than now, when you will feel something different, something opposite, from this, when you will feel joy. Maybe that time will be the balance of your life; maybe it will be an hour, or less than that, a fleeting second or two grabbed out of the air like a passing smell. Joy is coming, though. Something else will happen, and you will feel something else. “Something else will happen” is the bleakest reassurance which is why it is the best one; it is always true. Things don’t always get better, but something else always does happen. Joy will overwhelm this moment, unearned, selfish, useless, joy thrusting up out of the ground, frankly rude of it, like the green shoots and new leaves in the first chilly, teeth-edge-hopeful days of spring. Spring is my least favorite season and then every year when it arrives I swoon around, drunk on all the newness and mad at myself for falling for it, somehow, once again, against all odds, here it is. Joy is coming.
The thing about strangers in bathrooms is that it is a kind of grace because there is not, and cannot be, any idea of deservingness. The narrator knows nothing about this person, if she is crying for a large or small reason, a rational or irrational one, if her problems are her own fault, if she is objectively the villain in her own story. It doesn’t matter. Listen. I love you because you happen to be standing near me. Grace is brutal, wiping away the work of earning love. Joy is coming, for you just like everyone else. Everyone is going to feel something else. At some point you will feel tired enough to sleep, hungry enough to not care. Something is going to matter more than this. The world is going to turn over in the dirt and uproot itself and blossom in spring, and nothing you can do can change it. January barrels toward change, toward unearned hope. Joy is coming and there is nothing you can do about, no way to adequately prepare yourself.
Anyway. This probably isn’t actually the last griefbacon email; I can’t really imagine that at some point I won’t write some weird, long essay at 4am and decide to send it, but it’ll probably be quite a while or at least that’s the plan. The archives are still up and available to everybody, and I’ve made an overly-long list of some of my favorites below, for you to check out now or whenever you feel like it.
an old friend of mine who was also a true living legend passed away this summer and I wrote a couple things about it that are slightly more personal than I feel comfortable being in this ostensibly-personal-essay newsletter
I wrote these two essays that I kind of think of as a twinned pair while I was out of town and missing Thomas; one of them is about The Wedding at Cana, the other one is about long distance relationships and nearness and farness
a long list of stuff to do in new york. if you live in a place long enough your answer when people are like “I am here for a weekend what should I do” gets pretty weird; nobody is wrong when they say that new york city is over, but here are a whole bunch of my feelings about it anyway
on getting to the end of a decade and the weirdness of looking back on it; a lot of this letter has been about “trying to quantify and reckon up yourself into a list of accomplishments is a trap” and this is probably my favorite on that theme
doing stuff at the last minute is only thing I am good at which is to say I am not good at it at all, the layered horrors of procrastination, this is about all-nighters and somewhat obliquely about rewatching all of Mad Men
I wrote a lot about the mountain goats although not as much as I wanted to and probably this short essay about Grendel’s Mother is my favorite one.
the most recent one before this but I like it a lot, on little women, and also the falseness of coming of age narratives, and the movies, and looking in at other people’s families from the outside, and how much I love the Angelika
anniversaries and love and frank o’hara and drinking coffee in bed; I wrote this on Thomas and my third anniversary and it’s still one of my very favorites (there are a few older ones, but this is the oldest one that I still think about regularly)
that’s it for now. there’s a lot more in the archives and I recommend checking all of it out, even the ones I don’t think are very good. please email me any time with any questions or thoughts or whatever. thank you for reading, thank you responding and posting and sharing and supporting this letter, thank you for being the last two people awake at the sleepover telling each other secrets. xo