Little matters to me these days: walks, silence, what I’m going to eat for dinner, if my bread will rise, sewing a button on my coat. Writing nothing and making coffee. Despite a veil of light snow, I take a walk to the lake. The path, a wooden bridge over the highway into the wetlands was dusted with snow. Before me, the lake appeared as a heavily misted expanse of space behind a single lonely tower of steps and platforms on a hill. A structure, strangely alien, alone. It began to snow more heavily just as I approached the lake, the metal tower of corkscrew stairs singing in the wind, vibrating with a bright hum.
I stay a long time, until my fingers are numb, watching the lake churn - choppy and grey as the sky, cold as a stone. How long does the apocalypse go on until the end of the world is just the world? Is it possible to live in a perpetual state of endings? How are we supposed to feel about the natural disasters of trauma, simultaneously specific and vague? Events of sudden or insidious threat are inevitable, but their inevitability never helps us prepare for them.
Having watched this the global threat roll around like weather for the last ten months, it seems incredible that our government has yet to act decisively, to do something. But this is maybe not so extraordinary. As individuals and together as a society, humans seem hard-wired to respond quickly and effectively to sudden threats, but not to a menace that makes itself known stealthily and over an extended period. This pandemic is more like climate change than a bomb, and we are treating it the same way - a slow-moving denial of the systemic issues entrenching the problem and writing our fate.
Lulled into inaction, we are poorly equipped to deal with extended emergencies. How can we prepare for a threat so significant we can’t even imagine it? The truth is whether you spend any time thinking about it or not, the human condition is nothing but naked susceptibility to change. Every moment could be the moment your life is altered forever. But to live our lives, we don’t think much about it. Can’t. Ordinary life doesn’t just insert itself; it insists on itself. There is no way to inoculate yourself against future suffering.
“Normalization” is incredibly normal. A way of coping with terror by resetting our default values. Life during a disaster and life after an unexpected catastrophe both require a drastic shift in mentality. Part of the difficulty in processing what happens to us at the scale of trauma is that nothing can prepare us for it. That might sound like a tautology, and perhaps it is, but it is also a literal statement about reality: Trauma overwhelms, and the shape of Aftermath is the hardest to see.
The 17th century philosopher William Molyneux, inspired by the blindness of his wife, proposed a thought experiment: could a person blind from birth, who could tell apart a cube and a sphere by touch, to tell, if their sight was restored, which was which by sight alone?
After the discovery in the early eighteenth century of a cataract surgery that could cure blindness for some, Molyneux’s thought experiment became just an experiment.
The first moments for the newly sighted are blurry, incoherent, and saturated by brightness—like walking into daylight with dilated pupils— swirls of colours that lack depth, no objects only a field of motion and light. To answer Molyneux, then: No. there is no cube, no sphere...
We have to learn to see depth and edges.
Trauma is like this, too. Everything lost in confusion.
We have to learn to see again
Late in the afternoon, I return home, lay on my bed. My apartment is small, one long room cut into squares and rectangles by sliding doors, a tunnel that ends in a glass wall. This year has been a long repeating solemn ritual of waiting, watching light crawling across my walls. Buried in January, I imagine sucking their cock, drool ruining my dress, running down my chest. In my mind, I inhale their scent, taste them with my mouth the way I can taste the cold of winter or the steel lake water in the wind. My head bent as though in prayer.
almost a year
Waiting and touching myself and writing love letters, taking photos, breathing in written words, the recorded sound of their voice. Images and echos and flicking lights sent across the distance. We happened when the world was calm, and I was asking for nothing. I have been so fortunate during this time, the world closing slowly like a fist. And still, I have abundance, love. There is always food and a little money for flowers. I have a bedroom with dark walls, a clean kitchen with good light, snow in the sky. I have clean sheets and a bed where I wait for them.
falling in love is like this: it is learning how to see someone with all of your senses
Falling in love is like trauma: In the aftermath of both you are something new