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is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

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Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

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Entries in lucy morris (19)

Wednesday
Mar062013

In Which We Are Besieged By The Past

by Will George

The Inverse of Pleasure

by LUCY MORRIS

 

DEAR C,

It’s that time of year again, when I’m besieged by the broad past. I call it memory season and when it arrives I might remember in sudden, dense flashes being in the kitchen with my mother fifteen years ago or a hallway in a university building in the city where I grew up. I might remember with startling specificity the dates of minor events or the songs that were playing at a certain party. The scenes and settings — which overtake me in the aisles of the grocery store, in the middle of a run, at any moment they don’t belong — are not necessarily charming or dismaying or loaded at all, they are just there, but their accumulation feels intermittently unbearable. One drink helps it abate but two brings it back in full force.

I picture a barstool with a crosshatch tear in its leather that sat conspicuously empty beside mine one night. I recall a cold bench on Fifth Avenue in February. I think of beds with sheets that did not lie flat, of couches that couldn’t comfortably seat two, of high-rise windows with paper birds on them to confuse real birds away. I feel an abstract pang for each of these surfaces, for how I once knew them — felt the icy bars of the bench, saw the light penetrate the dirty windows — and never will again.

I think next, in a layered flash, of a large scar on a left bicep and the smell of cigarettes that were the cheapest you could buy in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in the year 2007, and a note with a stick figure rendering and my name in brown Crayola letters. You wouldn’t know by looking at it but the note represents proof that I once knew and later lost someone who loved me so much he’d reach over and scratch my itches for me, softly pull apart the knots in my hair. The scar and the cigarettes were his, too, and I had hoped to forget them forever along with the rest but, as it turns out, I did not.

The pangs are not as random as they first seem, either. They are, after all, not really for the pebbled leather surface of the barstool, the black pigeon cutouts on the windows. They are for the mood I was in when I sat at that bar (a little bit in love, a little bit confused: that condition of being twenty-two), for the moments when I stood by those windows (feeling, as a teenager, an unfamiliar magnetic sensation it would take years to name). But you know all this, of course: you were beside me on that winter bench, shooting me messages of comfort while I sat at that solitary bar stool.

I used to think I wrote to remember, but lately I have been finding that I write to forget. When you isolate an event on paper, commit its details to the page, you are free to release it from your consciousness, let the record of a time exist somewhere outside yourself. I write these lines in the hope not of commemoration, but of erasure. I write them to you in the hope that memory season will end.

LOVE,

L

by Will George

DEAR C,

Once, when I was very young, I felt things acutely, physically. Disappointment would strike me below my ribcage; the effect of great beauty would hit me somewhere behind my knees. My cheeks were often red with thrill, my hands clammy with excitement. Anything could set it off: I remember with great acuity the sensations triggered by someone I saw on the city bus one afternoon.

But sometimes, for spans of several months, things would go dark. The space below my ribcage was still, my knees straight and immobile. My cheeks would stay pale, my palms would dry out until they flaked, papery. It had happened to many in my family, even to those generations now confined to thin sepia prints in leather albums. The photos could be categorized this way: there were the ones who had successfully killed themselves and then the ones who had tried, in ways that were not always so direct as to spare everyone around them. There was a time when it was difficult not to wonder which one I would be. 

by Will George

But then for years, things would not go dark; they would stay light, and I slowly stopped identifying as someone who had felt any darkness at all, I left it off the emotional resume presented to people who endeavored to love me. It had been something that had happened to me but was not a part of me. That past had belonged to some other, smaller person, a person with a different height, weight, haircut, glasses prescription — it wasn’t me. I never wrote about it because it would be dishonest to write about an experience that I did not fully identify with myself.

It has been so long since I was afflicted by it that I almost forgot what the dark is like. It feels different now then it did when I was very young. It used to be that when I felt the inverse of pleasure, it was not without its own joy, because to feel so intensely — to feel anything intensely — is one of the chief pleasures of being human.  Even a desire not to be alive, as I sometimes had then, seemed an acknowledgment of how very good life could sometimes be, a foolish way of saying: if I can’t have it as it should be, I don’t want it at all.

Now it washes over me in a blank way that is devoid of pleasure. It is hard to see solutions. I remember calling you from Russia five years ago, when I last felt this way, asking permission to extricate myself from what had seemed to bring it all on (it was a fear, then, of giant falling icicles, speeding cars, of, at its core, not being happy again), and in telling me that I could I knew that I would not need to. I write in the hope that the same will happen now, that in asking—broadly, anyone—for permission to escape (the ceaseless snow, the sense that, unlike everyone around me, I was not divined for this), it will turn out that I do not need it.

LOVE,

L

by Will George

DEAR C,

I’ve been riding through the middle of America a lot lately, trying to find a spot that works. I am calmest on a bus, irate driver on the loudspeaker, a book on my lap, snacks at my feet. I keep my polka dot backpack half-packed; the bus company website is always open on my browser. 

I think of what I would do if I weren’t here. I could go live in Los Angeles with my grandmother, help her out, hang out by the pool where the studio execs swim, hope that the proximity to their success renews the incorrigible belief I once had that I, too, would achieve something. I could move to St. Petersburg, get an apartment in the city center, jog along the Fontanka, come to inhabit, again, the language that was my favored one for so long. Or I’ll go to Beijing, live on your floor, make you coffee in the morning before you wake up. The alternatives are appealing but they remain abstract, hard to access, the here-to-there route unclear.

by Will George

Back here in the startling present, signs of spring are nowhere to be found but the sun seems to shine differently on the days it decides to shine at all and I am remembering the sense of prophecy that springtime brings, some glimpse into a panoramic future in which things look doable, or already done. When I, for instance, tie on my roller skates at the Rec Center here on a Saturday night, what I feel is not necessarily the fun of the moment—the whoosh of a cross section of town skating by me, the bass-heavy boombox playing three-year-old top forty hits, the thrilling uncertainty in my knees as they slide forward—but instead how good this will all seem years from now, when the town is behind me, the top forty tracks forgotten, my knees creakier than they already are. This future-perfect mentality is not a great way to live, but it is better than past-imperfect, and it is the way I know.

There’s a moment, at the end of a bus ride, when people start packing up. The bus slows, easing through residential streets, and the rummaging begins: bags are pulled from under seats or overhead compartments, purses and pockets checked and rechecked for wallets and phones, coats zipped, scarves tied in place, and people move to stand in the aisles, hands drumming impatiently on the tops of the seats. There is, in the aisles of the bus, a thick kind of impatience. I knot my scarf, hoist my backpack with the rest of them, but I stay put in my seat until the last possible moment, until I have to go. I wasn’t always like this — I used to be known for the expedience with which I could flee anything — but sometime lately I have come to fear the final paragraphs of chapters, closings of books, ends of ends. I write these last lines, too, in a kind of fear — a fear of what will happen if I do, but equally a fear of what will happen if I don’t.

LOVE,

L

Lucy Morris is the contributing editor to This Recording. She is a writer and translator living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about living alone and losing the excitement.

"The Pattern Has Changed" - Samantha Crain (mp3)

"Somewhere All The Time" - Samantha Crain (mp3)

by Will George

Thursday
Feb072013

In Which We Lose The Excitement Over Its Possibility

Last Try

by LUCY MORRIS

It is well below zero in Iowa City today. It’s long johns and duck boots until April, a fur hat around the house, four layers of clothing to go jogging. The fake chenille gloves I bought on St. Marks Place long ago do not cut it here; I curl my fingers into fists inside of them, bury them in my pockets. It is difficult to recall a time when I ate something that had not first sat in the oven for an hour.

I was born into a Midwestern winter and for a long time believed that the packs of gritty perma-snow in the city where I made my arrival meant something fundamental about who I was. I thought of it this way: how can a person who sees no green for the first six months of their life function in the same way as someone who does? I have long attributed my closeness with Californians to this fundamental difference, to that foreign palm tree perspective they can provide.

I had forgotten, in my years away, this particular brand of winter. In a cold such as this, your life shrinks to bare minimums, to the fewest trips out, the shortest routes possible. Some days the confines of my life seem impossibly small, treadmills and Word docs, a grid of five streets, books and bedtimes. I no longer have a solid recollection of what it feels like to be heartbroken or high or any of the extremes that once seemed so ordinary, so central a part of my own landscape. This is a remoteness from reality that I had not imagined I could naturally achieve. But, if I am to be honest, I think I probably always wanted to.

In weather like this, any reason to get glum will do, but my main one lately is that not long ago, someone I loved stopped talking to me because of something I wrote. These are the occupational hazards of the trade: carpal tunnel and being disowned. In the scheme of things, these are minor damages. Still, every day on my careful walk up icy Washington Street I spend fifteen or twenty minutes thinking about how to undo what I’ve done. I vow to make this person mix tapes every month for a year or hunt the Haunted Bookshop for books they’d love, mail them on with quiet inscriptions meant to make things right. I will do anything but I will not say sorry because in my life I have tended to regret the apologies I did issue more than the ones I did not.

I used to think I’d rather be a good writer than a good person, but to think I’ll never see this person’s sideways smile at my door again, never open up another midday email from them, hurts like a hangnail tugged at daily. I can’t explain it except to say that this is a person who once called me St. Lucy of Iowa City, who would put $5 in the jukebox and let me choose all the songs. I was often bereft after seeing them but now in their absence I ascribe that to the fact of their departure, not of their presence. In case you haven’t guessed by now, eulogizing is the conversational mode of the season around here.

Lately, a number of people have been talking to me about the nature of love, about hovering under the covers with someone all winter, or about holding out for somebody better, or about getting married. I still know how to play my part in these conversations, but the ideas and scenes described to me seem remote, unrealistic, and not even particularly desirable. Whether this is a winter condition or a permanent condition is hard to say. I sleep with my cell phone and a volume of Proust on the pillow next to me and on not all but most days, this strikes me as more than enough company.

But there is a person I say goodnight to on the phone before bed and I can sometimes feel as the tender words fall out of my mouth the ultimate damage they will do, even though they contain nothing but truth. It would be incorrect to say I have forgotten how to love but somewhere along the way I lost the excitement over its possibility. A friend says to me sometimes, wistfully, charmingly, “I just want to fall in love,” and I am surprised to discover that I don’t want to, not at all.

To think I may have found a way to exist without love makes me feel superhuman and also like someone who is totally and completely doomed, for whom there is no hope at all. When I say that there is no cold like Iowa cold, probably what I mean is not just the temperature.

I remember once feeling very sure of what I wanted but lately that certainty has been wavering so much that I wonder if it too was a fantasy, like the one in which I’m always pleased and never once waver when the temperature rises above seventy. I look out my window at the trees, branches like vertebrae against the gray sky, and consider never writing another word, never striving for my madeleine line. It’s not that I thought I would write one of those, but if I had been sure that I would not, little could have compelled me to sit down at my desk every day.

I want to tell the person who no longer speaks to me that I wrote about them because I wanted not to lose them and felt that I inevitably was going to. I understand the irony that it was the act of doing so that was precisely how I managed to lose them. I remember the belt and knit hat they were wearing last time they said goodbye, although I did not know then that it would be the last time, or maybe I did and that’s why I committed it to memory.

I was being insincere about the madeleines. I continue to write, even when I understand it best not to — and this is one such case — so that I will remember the black knit of that beanie, the brown leather of that belt.

Someone in class the other day said that nostalgia is memory as an aesthetic object. One winter a couple years ago I found someone willing to drive me across America. We broke down in the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico on the shortest day of the year. The sky was an inexplicable violet. I think of this when I reach for the optimism of longer days, of some small relief at the sun not having quite disappeared before my walk home.

I recall a time when my fantasies were more interesting, more ambitious than this, but now the main object of them is summer: windows thrown open, socks discarded, stumbling home in a sundress at dawn. That I have in my current apartment an air conditioner that requires closed windows and no longer possess the constitution to stay out all night are realities that do not intrude upon these imagined scenes. Fantasies are hope as an aesthetic object. 

Lucy Morris is the contributing editor to This Recording. She is a writer and translator living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about living alone.

"Prodigal" - The Ember Days (mp3)

"Face in the Dark" - The Ember Days (mp3)

 

Friday
Dec282012

In Which We Meet Someone New And Ill-Advised

The Weight of What Happened

by LUCY MORRIS

I began 2012 with a literal lump in my throat.

The doctors at the Duane Reade clinic I went to did not know how to remedy it. They gave me horse pill antibiotics and steroids to take on a staggered schedule but nothing stopped the swelling. “Call 911 if you can’t breathe,” one concerned doctor said, but how I was supposed to make the call if I couldn’t breathe he did not explain. For weeks my fever soared, eventually getting so high I hallucinated several extra characters into the short story collection I was reading. Late on those early February nights, a guy across the country sent me drunken texts I could barely decipher but in my haze I answered them anyway, surprised, in the morning, to see what dialogue we had in each of our respective stupors produced.

On Valentine’s Day a doctor stuck a needle in my throat and drained what had turned out to be an abscess. Afterward I sat in the Hot & Crusty on First Avenue, my hands shaking from dehydration and in relief, while I downed bottles of Vitamin Water. When I got home my first grad school acceptance was waiting.

I knew by March that I’d be leaving New York in the fall. I treated the departure as imminent, pacing up and down Fourteenth Street counting every step, every sentence. That whole spring I hovered mentally somewhere above Ohio, equidistant between where I was and where I was supposed to be going.

2012 was the first year since I was a teenager that I didn’t have a boyfriend but I had something better, I had my friend Jeanne. One, two, three nights a week, she’d come over after work with a bottle of wine and groceries and we’d cook dinner together and curl up on the couch with our plates and glasses to talk through the minutiae of the last 24, 48, 72 hours. It was a routine I’d shared with several boyfriends but I didn’t remember it feeling as complete as this for so sustained a period, the full bellies, full hearts, and full conviction that no one, anywhere else on the island of Manhattan and beyond, was having as much fun as we were.

For a long time I had assumed that the people who got you through the night and brought you breakfast the next morning were the people you dated, because for a long time for me they were, but this year, for the first time since romantic relationships became a possibility, I began to understand the inadequacies and limitations of that particular arrangement. Now it seems to me that there are people who sustain you and people who sleep with you and often those are one and the same, but just as often, maybe even more often, they are not. I confess that it is these latter love stories, the platonic ones, that interest me now more than any other.

Summer came absurdly early, a series 80 degree days in March, a sweaty April and dead hot May. Everything was a blur of Keds and whiskey and the acute sense that time was running out, even though there were still months left. I did crunches and squats in my living room, imagining that physical strength would insulate me from the changes I dreaded. In the evenings I carried six-packs down Metropolitan to my friends’ backyard, doing bicep curls with the bottles, as if that made a dent in the damage I was doing, physically and otherwise.

Some late afternoons between jobs, I sat on the steps of a statue in Washington Square Park, sweat dripping down the open back of my dress, texting with that guy, typing out things we didn’t really mean. Each message from him was a present I was slightly frightened to open. He asked me to meet him in Barcelona. I didn’t have the money but I was buzzed on premature summer, on pre-emptive nostalgia, on all that was before me, so I entertained the idea for a while. We each were deeply compelled toward some part of each other but it was not a complete feeling and even I, even then, was aware of that.

I spent most of June on jury duty down at 80 Centre Street. On lunch breaks I ate hard-boiled eggs and gchatted the boy I did like in a complete way, the one who walked me home when I was sidewalk-wavering drunk and bought me breakfast in the morning. “Just because someone doesn't adore you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't adore you with all they have,” he typed at me, and it took me a while to understand the unspoken part of that sentence, which was: “But that still might not be enough.”

In early August I drove to Iowa with three suitcases and two lamps. Moving to a new place is the pits. But there are moments when the misery starts to crack and something good shines through: certain fall strolls up tree-lined Summit Street, those first conversations with people when you finally get to the meat of things, the routines you learn to construct for yourself. At the beginning I called Ellen “My Iowa best friend,” but after a couple months I dropped the “Iowa” part.

For months I was deeply, viscerally, hair-tearingly lonely there but I knew I wouldn’t leave, that this loneliness was a productive and necessary one. When you are alone, as I am, there is fundamentally no choice but to keep yourself going, to put on your sneakers and run, to soak the beans and cook dinner, to go to the coffee shop and work. This confirms a conviction I have long had that, with a few specific exceptions, the things you are most afraid of are the things that are actually best for you.

All fall, my dad called me every Saturday, like he used to when I was in college, and I’d always be at a coffee shop reading, like I was in college. The anthology I was often reading from was one I’d owned for seven years. Reading your old marginalia is like talking to an old boyfriend––you see how your way of thinking has changed since you were last acquainted. Incidentally, the narratives of real life are often more interesting than the narratives of fiction, although in 2012, for reasons obvious and abstract, it was hard for me not to believe that all narratives were fundamentally fictive.

By this time I no longer gchatted much with the boy who bought me breakfast. The guy with the texts had temporarily quit drinking and stopped messaging, but he e-mailed me every time there was a tragedy in New York. There seemed to be a lot of those just then. The week I finally got around to framing and hanging a photo of my friends and I in the Rockaways, taken in June, was the same one the very beach we laid out on was washed away.

Around Thanksgiving I told the texting guy he had to stop drinking for good. “I’m never going to be able to do it again, am I?” he asked me, as I walked him up and down the cold early winter sidewalk, after I’d pulled him out of a bar down by the river. “No,” I said, “And you’re going to feel much better.” But how did I know that? How did I know anything, and how had I gotten here, into this role? I was realizing, about then, that when you spend time with people who drink a lot more than you, as I had been for the last few years, you alone carry the burden of remembering: they will not recall the things that were said or proposed, the plans that were made and the ones that were abandoned; those will instead sit solely on your shoulders. This hadn’t before bothered me, but sometime lately it had begun to feel heavy, that weight of what happened, and bearing it by myself.

He bought me a pizza with French fries on it for my troubles but eating it felt like the end, and it was in fact the last meal we shared. He was fine because he didn’t remember anything. I spent a week under the covers, trying to figure it all out.

I emerged around my birthday. There was a clarity to the Iowa air that day and a clarity to my thoughts, too: if my early twenties had been characterized by a harried sense of caring — maybe a little too much— about everything, it seemed I had now entered a phase of caring a great deal, but only about one thing. Bars held much less interest to me now than what went on at my keyboard. There were boys —there would always be boys, this I finally understood with some mix of excitement and apprehension —but they had receded into the background, into the occasional phone call. The blurry moments before sleep that I had previously spent thinking about them were now occupied with thoughts of essays I had yet to write, of books I was reading, of what I would do when I sat down at my computer the following morning. My dreams took place at the keyboard; I awoke with sentences fully formed.

There are moments, still, when I miss three whiskeys on a weeknight, the chaos of someone new and ill advised, but not all that much. The metrics I employ now to judge my days are radically different. When I read things I wrote earlier in 2012, it feels suspiciously like foreshadowing for what was to come, just as this bears, no doubt, some sign of what’s ahead.

I write now back in New York, from an apartment high in Prospect Heights with views of Manhattan. The Empire State Building, gleaming red and green, is so small and remote that it disappears when I bring my finger in front of my face. New York is unchanged in a way I had not anticipated — and that makes me laugh; what had I expected would happen? — but to my surprise and some pleasure, I find that I am not.

Lucy Morris is the contributing editor to This Recording. She is a writer and translator living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about living alone.

"Super Bien Total" - Sade (mp3)

"Paradise (Ronin remix)" - Sade (mp3)