In their September series of journal-style entries, Divya Seth discusses feeding their cat, the wine night remnants, and the often odd quirks of each attendee of a dinner party. Read more of their previous short essays here.
September 2nd, 2020
Hello! It is me. I am a surprisingly young human and my gender is (redacted). I work very hard to try and make some money because I have a baby made mostly out of grey fur and canned chicken and she is so small and soft that it would be outrageous to ask her to hold a job and pay for groceries. Hi, it’s me, and I was walking around a museum in a grumpy mood because things didn’t go exactly how I wanted them to and my defining feature is that I insist on willing the universe into submission. Yes, it’s me, and when I laid eyes on a piece of art that was once a large colorful tapestry, but is now just four borders held together by strings of beads woven together, desperately attempting to recreate the canvas that was once there, I thought of my family. You guessed it, me again, and I’m wondering if I am on a wall in this museum somewhere, its recessed lighting putting my cheekbones on haunting display.
[Read More: April: Indoors, Safety, Monotony and Turning Inward]
September 12th, 2020
I woke up feeling like garbage today. Like the City said, “it’s trash day!” and proceeded to remove my brain from my head because today is the day to take the trash out. My empty little head said, “This is a weird feeling!” and proceeded to explode into little sparks and stars against the dark inside of my newly emptied skull. I explain away my current lightheadedness and the spots in my vision and the general utter lack of energy from my normally-zoomy neurons as I roll away from the window in my bed.
“What’s wrong with me?” I have to ask my sister to tell me the obvious.
“Did you eat, drink water, and get enough rest last night?”
No, the answers are all no, of course. I wanted her response to be much more serious: oh my, this is problematic, you haven’t been feverish recently, have you? That little cough, that sniffle, what was that? You look tired—fatigue can be a sign of a real underlying issue…
My condition is not serious, and I’m not even ill, but it feels like I am. I can fix my headache with some stale tortilla chips, a glass of water, and ibuprofen, but it doesn’t feel like enough. There’s a Dorito chip for president. A stale tortilla chip isn’t that much better, but I eat it. I feel ill like a slow pan-over in a good horror movie, momentarily revealing a window ajar, or a stranger’s footprints in your home. You know the implication. The calm warmth of what was once your wine night is now an illusion. In fact, it always was, and, chillingly, you just didn’t notice. I feel ill, like watching the neighbors in a good Western shutter their doors and windows when trouble rolls into town. I feel ill like I’m watching them not watch—a refusal to witness. I’ve simply spent too long inside the eye of this hurricane shaped like a nation. As the eye shifts, I will the wall of the hurricane to whisk my body up into its chaos, so I can know the reason I feel shaken, my head emptied.
September 16th, 2020
Well, we both know there’s just so much we don’t like about this place. We’ve been hoodwinked into attending a dinner party neither of us intended to come to—at least, not any further than putting the invitation on our refrigerators—and, now that I’ve lain my things down on a pile of coats sitting on what is now The Coat Ottoman, I see that it is one of those parties where everyone has fallen into a role. We’ve made eye contact from across the room as everybody else attempts to make eye contact with us, if only to plead, “Stay!” So I blink twice and look away, “Okay, fine.”
And, now I am resignedly cutting up some cheese for the cheeseboard, and you are walking around offering to fill people’s wine glasses, and I’ll be honest, I don’t exactly know who this party is for, but I would like to sit down. I’m only here for the participation points, it has become exceedingly clear. And, I admit that knowing my way around a party has never been my strong suit—still, I can’t help but find the cacophony of preparation grating and confusing. Transfixed, smiling guests move swiftly to prepare and prepare and prepare, but I’ve caught no glimpse of the esteemed hosts.
What time will the party really start? What time does this end? The longer I linger, the more unsettling the questions. When you look to me for answers, I can only return your stare. It takes me a while to notice, but in those moments, at least, when you hold my gaze, I feel strikingly as though I exist. In fact, I more than exist. And then something strange happens, and time begins to move through me, and I see the night flying by.
I see the guests, busy with being busy, change and slow. Their shoes scuff, their clothes fray, and their faces age. They never leave the party, and the hosts never show, in fact, the party never seems to happen, even though I’m afraid it was happening the whole time. It is with fear and bafflement that I let my cheese knife fall to the floor, and with its clatter on the tile, it is the first time that you’ve all turned to look at me, to see me, with no demands or queries.
And, well, now that you’re all staring, I’ll say out loud what I’m truly terrified every single person here is thinking: “What are we here for?”
September 18th, 2020
There are days when my silver rings feel heavy around my thumbs. When my cool, smooth rhodonite stone weighs down my palm, and I’m paralyzed. The way smoke, inhaled, warms and overfills my lungs, assuring me that I no longer need air. The sun, filling my room, marking the walls, arrives with the gentle presence of nothing at all. And I lie, on my bed of constellations. If I had two hands for gluing pressed flowers to glass, and two more for typing and turning pages, and two more for fidgeting with my skin and my hair, then maybe I’d be satisfied.
If I could shuffle between headspaces like I swipe through desktops one to five, and if I could keep different books and articles open and waiting for me, beckoning, then maybe I’d be happy. If I didn’t stop before I even started, if I didn’t have to lie here and pretend to do what I want to do in my head in order to go do it, if I didn’t get too tired from the mental trip I took to the grocery store to take the physical trip there, then, maybe there would be food in my pantry. But I have leftover Chipotle, and I’ll eat it. I do not want to be, yet here I am, being. I fantasize—if I simply allowed myself to waste away and decompose in the face of my opposition, my insurmountable hurdle, that is, simply, living, then maybe I wouldn’t be such a hypocrite. This Chipotle tastes too good for that though.