Raise your hands if social distancing is turning you into a zombie.
And not the cool kind of zombie either. The kind of zombie who has a brain but lacks the circadian rhythms necessary for it to function properly. The kind of zombie who will chase you down, not for your brains, but for your hugs and snugs.
When my daughter left for college, she left behind this unsightly, cumbersome Papasan chair – you know, those big, round Asian-looking things? Rattan. Rattan is the word I’m looking for, not Asian-looking, which sounds vaguely racist. My bad.
Anyway, I wanted to get rid of it but couldn’t bring myself to do it, because even though it’s odd looking, it’s so damn comfortable, which is also a thing people say about ME sometimes. LOL. I have piled it full of pillows and blankets, and it has become my nest. It is saving my life right now. I spend most of my time there now, endlessly scrolling through my phone.
I still wanna chase you down for your snugs and hugs. I will settle for an elbow bump, however. We’re worse off for that, though. It is the only thing I can think of that’s stupider than a side hug. Unless I’m greeting Joe Biden, of course. Elbow bumps ONLY for you, pal.
Speaking of Joe Biden, did you catch my last post about being somewhat concerned by the possibility of being sexually assaulted at a nude photoshoot with a perfect stranger? We’re gonna pick up now where I left off then.
The next week, Phil messaged me at the very last minute, wondering if we could meet up a few hours later.
Not a good look, Phil, but also, I’m a little dumb, so I agreed. I had done a bit of research, so I wasn’t terribly worried about this guy. I found out he’s worked with some of you sexy mofos in the past, and that proved to be an excellent reference for him.
We met at the Wal-Mart in Manor and I followed him way out into the countryside. We drove for a Long Fucking Time, which is a legit unit of measurement in Texas.
And then, Phil abruptly pulled his car over. A vast field greeted us. On its horizon, in a messy copse of trees, slumped a grey clapboard house, reveling in its ruin.
The field, easily a hundred yards across, was full of hard clumps of dry dirt. I stood there looking at it for a bit. Then I looked down at the six inch stripper heels I was wearing. Then I looked back at the field. Then I looked back down at my stripper heels.
Phil had said nothing to me of this field.
“Wow!” Phil said by way of greeting. “You really came, uh, ready to go!”
I took one step. My ankle immediately bent into a 45 degree angle. I straightened it and tried again. Same result.
Sighing, I removed the shoes and walked barefoot across the field, an apologetic Phil trailing behind. THAT. WALK. HURT. SO. FUCKING. MUCH.
But it was worth every rock I jammed into my arches in that agonizing walk across the field. I love a good abandoned house. There’s such a wildness, such a mystery to them. Some family hand-cut every single board in the wall, hand-carved each railing on the staircase, went to bed each night underneath the sloping eaves. What happened to them?
There was nary a single piece of sheetrock or popcorn ceilings to be found. The house was made solely of hardwood, some of it weathered, some of it rotted, but most of it still strong, stalwart, a quiet testament to a long forgotten echo. They don’t make houses of this quality and with this much love anymore, but they should. Oh, they really should.
Why do the houses made of plastic and fiberglass still stand, full of laughter and energy and bustle, while this ancestral paragon of unbending oak lies empty and alone? One can breathe in a house like this in a place like this. Here, you can see the sky in places you shouldn’t, but damn, the sky was beautiful.
This house really got to me, for some reason. I related to it. So many times we go unloved when we shouldn’t be. Overlooked when we have so much to offer. Built by love and created to hold space for it, even when the heart remains empty. The steady and strong parts and the weak and crumbling parts equally beautiful, equally picturesque to the few willing to adventure forth and discover.
There was also a lot of rat poop. I’m not gonna sugarcoat how much rat poop there was, and I’m not sure how to romanticize it either. I guess . . . it’s possible to be a thing of overlooked and forgotten value and also be full of rat poop. Perhaps that’s the lesson here, if there must be a lesson here?
I’m still working on the set of photos that resulted from this shoot, which I have dubbed The House of Melancholia, but it is perhaps my most inspired one yet. Obvs, Phil did a fantastic job, each photo walking the fine line between fantasy and nightmare, madness and desire, encapsulating that split second before revelation that holds both a threat or a promise, but you don’t yet know which.
I suspect we are all balancing on the edges of paradox these days. Too exhausted by loneliness to reach out for connection. Too weak from hunger to cultivate our own sustenance. Choosing to undergo physical deprivation of that which we require for mental survival, destroying the one to save the other.
In the void left when answers have vanished, art suffices.
At least, it does for me.