Zenith (the low hum of a blank screen)

“This is a warning: here comes the morning.”

She had done her part by having a kid. Something anyone could point to as making her accomplished enough– anything on top of that is a victory lap. No one would fault her for keeping things quiet- drinks on the weekends, maybe a date, vacation time over the summer. This is how she eased into her forties, and there was nothing terribly wrong with it- even if her only wish were to politely color within the lines and walk away with a terrifically neat and tidy picture of a life well lived.

First time I had dated someone so incredibly settled– she even had a house to go along with the kid. Only a few years older than me, but it felt like decades. With my baseball cap turned slightly askew, I still think I’m a twenty-five year-old rock star with a full road ahead of me. This is the fantasy you indulge in when you’ve never chosen a path- you pretend that you still have choices, and that you could be smug about those boring types with their suburban homes and vacation clubs.

Only a few years older than me, but I called her my old lady girlfriend– for reasons that are more clear in retrospect. Maybe I needed a feeling of distance from how quiet things were for her- maybe I felt a degree of insecurity about how unsettled my own life was, as if dating her made me confront my own reality; sideways cap and rock star fantasy be damned.

Maybe I felt the need for distance because this wasn’t my life and it never could be- I was just filling in. Her Scott Weiland had checked out years ago- I was only a hired gun, her Jeff Gutt; let’s do an album and a tour, and call it a day. This wasn’t my story- and the space between us made that fact immutable. This wasn’t my story, something one of her friends explained to me on a drunken bar night- as if to skew my expectations- “she cares about you as a person, but you’re not the love of her life.”

This wasn’t my story- and we had no reason to pretend it was. There was a comfort in understanding that it was good enough. It was functional. We got along. We had incredible sex. What else could one hope for in the land of the dead?

I didn’t choose a path, so one was chosen for me- like I let the menu screen run for too long, and the game booted up on its own. Unsettled is my path, and it ran diametrically opposed to hers. We were different people with different lives. She was a good kisser; we spent most of our time in the orbit of her bedroom- after, she would talk about whatever cruise she had planned, and I’d talk about my writing.

She’d tell me that she didn’t understand why I liked writing. She didn’t understand why I bothered or what I was looking to get out of it- why I took it seriously; why I’d be so hard on myself over it, why I never thought it was good enough. I’d talk about the ideas I’d have for pieces- the frustration I felt in my attempts to bring them to the proper terms- and she’d stare blankly and tell me that she didn’t get it, which I suppose was slightly more polite than telling me to shut the fuck up.

She didn’t see the value in any of this because it wasn’t part of her world- a very tangible world of cause and effect. You work for long enough to cash in your tokens for a week in Florida. A localized world where you meet with friends at a pub and order an Uber for the way home. A world where you can rest easy at night knowing that you had a kid, created meaning in what is inherently meaningless, and can enjoy the blank spaces that life will offer.

I don’t sleep well at night, and I haven’t for a long time. I’ll often wake up with feelings of an unidentifiable, shapeless dread- a subtle haunting- which I can’t immediately suss out the origins of, that will cause me to stand in my kitchen for several minutes, long after midnight, composing myself. These feelings were stronger when my life was a disaster- after my engagement and career blew up at the same time, when I had given up on long-term planning, when I had suicide as a potential endgame, where I’d go out with two middle-fingers up to the world that betrayed me. This felt like being on fire, which had since been extinguished, and now the remaining embers caused a dull burn.

Writing is the pursuit of truth- this is what I’ll say when asked why I write. Not all writers are genuinely pursuing truth, but they think they are, and that counts too. One can either pursue family or pursue truth. While it isn’t necessary for those who pursue family to also pursue truth, the option is available- however, for one to eschew family, one must pursue truth. Nothing else matters, and every little bit of consumption distracts from this pursuit.

This is why you spend your time grinding away- this is why productivity is all that matters to you. This is why bouts of creative impotence keep you up at night. This is why you can’t picture yourself settling in to a week aboard a cruise-ship or hidden away in some resort hotel in Mexico- the anxiety of spending time doing anything but turning eternal truth into art, like an intellectual alchemist- Henry fucking Frankenstein, half-mad, looking at your best work and swearing you know what it feels like to be God– nauseates you.

Greatness lies just beyond your reach, but it’s there and you can feel it. Even starting with nothing, you can take what’s needed from your surroundings and make from it something more. On your best days, you might even feel justified in being called clever.

You can make up for mistakes made along the way; time lost; hearts broken. You can stitch things together- make sense of what went wrong- bring meaning to what is inherently meaningless, and condense things to their proper terms- where those around you can look past the mess you’ve made, and only see how you’ve come to frame it- in terms that are brilliant, clever, and meaningful. You create beauty in meeting dead-end girls, and having dead-end sex, in dead-end relationships- this wasn’t time wasted, this was time making art. This is what you tell yourself, in your kitchen, in the middle of the night, as the clock ticks away- and this is the part you leave out when asked why you write.

Follow me on Twitter @ KillToParty

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17 comments

  1. greenmantlehoyos · April 1

    Not trying to troll or start a debate, but have you tried believing in God?

    I don’t mean some vague “spiritual but not religious” goofiness, but cracking open the back of a Gideons Bible, following the little plan and taking a stab at actual belief?

    I’m just saying taking the five minutes, you’re not the first writer or artist to feel this way is all I’m saying,

  2. Walter Devereux · April 1

    I wait with baited breath for every post you make. Kill to Party is the only blog I read religiously, every word of every article. It’s magnificent stuff.

    When you read stuff like this regularly, and follow a blog devotedly, you start to imagine you’ve been on this long journey with the writer, almost like he’s a real friend. Then you want to start giving him advice, participating in the journey, to overcome this feeling of being a pitiful voyeur. Even more so when, like me, you’re a married man with a large family who by all appearances has it figured out.

    Every post you write is about situations old timers called “getting religion”. Dostoevsky wrote that “If I could ever be convinced that Christ is not Truth, or that Truth is not in Christ, I should keep Christ, and leave Truth.” That’s a guy who agonized the same way about finding meaning in life. Life is suffering. You can’t escape that, you can only find meaning in it if you look beyond the meaninglessness. Looking where Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn and the other truth-seekers look is as good a starting point as any at this point. It helps me, at any rate.

    • Tobias Contreras · April 3

      This comment, as much as the post, helped me. Thank you

    • But for many of us the truth of religion isn’t satisfying. Certitude isn’t satisfying. Having things ‘figured out’ is a pleasant feeling, but feelings alone do not make a meaningful life.

      Or as Camus puts it- “So long as the mind keeps silent in the motionless world of its hopes, everything is reflected and arranged in the unity of its nostalgia. But with its first move this world cracks and tumbles: an infinite number of shimmering fragments is offered to the understanding. We must despair of ever reconstructing the familiar, calm surface which would give us peace of heart.”

      Kierkegaard noted almost 200 years ago, “There are only two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” Certainty is an emotion. The feeling of knowing (certainty) is very similar to other emotions such as love, anger or hate but importantly – the feeling of knowing in itself, functions independently from reason.

      • Walter Devereux · April 11

        Reread my Dostoevsky quote. Christ doesn’t bring certitude, because human certitude is cold. It’s also only half-real. St. Paul tells us to “work out thy salvation with fear and trembling.”

  3. Pingback: Zenith (the low hum of a blank screen) | Reaction Times
  4. Colby · April 1

    Because you are sleep deprived;

  5. Colby · April 3

    Again for your sleep problems, there is this stuff called Zquill – melatonin + vitamins made by same company that makes Nyquill. Comes in liquid or gummy bear form and is in the supplement section of your local grocery store. You’re welcome.

  6. Joe · April 5

    Never stop writing. Your writing has inspired me to pick up the pen and make sense of things. Thank you, sincerely.

  7. Max · April 6

    Hi,

    I want to thank you for sharing your amazing writing skills.

    Have a nice day.

  8. Frank · April 6

    What is your work? Five years of writing and no books, just a bunch of blog posts about failed relationships? Some kind of discount delicious tacos record of self-pitying rumination? Your stuff sounds like what you’d hear from a mumbling drunk with his head on the bar at 3 am.

    What I see here is an aging closet queer, a “writer” who can’t write 200 words without a video game or movie simile carrying him along. The stated intention of pursuing truth isn’t worth shit, it’s just noise, which is all we can expect of most writers, especially when it is couched in this meandering, fragmented and pseudo entrancing style. The funny thing about writers is that they are dominated by images of writing, by ideas about what being a writer means for them. They really struggle to just shut the fuck up and write something worthwhile about something other than the olympian task of writing they’ve set for themselves.

    And I have grown to resent and distrust this self-serving division between supposedly normal people and the few tortured artists and geniuses that move quietly among them. You are aware that other people have inner lives too? Maybe that woman’s inability to understand why you acted like your jerkoff blog posts gave you birth pains comparable to beethoven writing the 9th symphony is a testament to her good sense. But no, she is just some idiot who pops out kids, right? Do you assume that people with children just lean back and think highly of themselves?

    That woman is so dumb, she has no thoughts about having children,or thoughts about anything, unlike you, who stands in the kitchen at 3 in the morning, agonizing over the proper phrasing of a bad dudes reference. There’s this typical wishy-washiness where one second you grandiosely pursue truth and then a few seconds later it’s all just shit you’re telling yourself. A moment of preening and then back to neutered self-effacement. Keep at it, it’s going nowhere.

  9. JimmyMacWhenAreYouComingBack · April 9

    Man this is shit. I came here from TRP. You caught my attention but you’re trying too hard to be another beat writer. Fuck me. There’s too much to do these days to be so nihilistic. It’s not cool. It’s done to death.

    • Leadville · May 12

      I despise the beats with every fiber of my being. Because I so hate them I’ve forced myself to read their harrowing histories, and suffer through a few modern film adaptations of their so called lives. I’ve done all this so you won’t have to. There’s no there. The mythic foundation of our modern culture built on sand and lies.

  10. Fishmonger · April 9

    I actually had an aha moment reading this. Being stuck inside lately has me yearning to create every day. I’m making more music than I have in years and it feels awesome. I’m writing straight from my experience and practice as if it’s flowing out. It’s the truth. Writing is the pursuit of truth, like you say, and in practice you can use it to learn your own truth. I’m finding things I’m still bent out of shape about, things to let go, things I want to see fulfilled. You’re writing is great, it conveys that sense of self truth-seeking

  11. redmanticore · April 29

    “This is why you spend your time grinding away- this is why productivity is all that matters to you.”

    How sad.

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