I am fascinated by feelings, mostly I suppose because I feel many of them, too many of them, but the emotions that most enthrall me are the erratic ones that sit under the surface, intensely felt but indescribable. They are the feelings that cannot be boxed up in easy adjectives, but a current of both physical and emotional sensitivity that sweep me into wordlessness. And so as an exercise to improve my writing, over the last few weeks, I have been jotting down these inexplicable feelings in hopes of explaining them. There are 7 in total below, perhaps you’ve felt some of them too, perhaps you haven’t. But isn’t curious how words are how we define what we feel and yet so often words don’t seem sufficient? It both haunts and irritates me – which is precisely why I spent hours wrestling with my words to perhaps finally pull them into these feelings. I cannot say this is my best writing but it certainly is one of my more solid efforts.
1. when a man touches my stomach
I’ve never had a perfectly flat stomach, I never will. Mine curves outwards slightly at the bottom and it’s been such a quiet source of shame. I’ve slowly stumbled to self-acceptance. But when a man touches me there, or worst, grabs ; I shudder. It’s a deep discomfort, verging on revulsion. I breathe sharply in and hope he stops. It’s a physical contact that reminds me of all the horrible comments I’ve heard about my body and the silent, red-faced shame I felt when they were spoken. Like when a man I loved more than anyone told me I shouldn’t eat so much or the man on the street that called out ‘cute but too chubby’ or that time in Paris when I wore a boyfriend’s sweatpants but broke them down the crotch and he was so repulsed with not the broken seams but how much larger I was than him. All these tiny words I’ve done everything to forget come right back to me as soon as a man touches my stomach the wrong way; when I’m leaning over, when I’m falling asleep on my side or when my jeans are too tight and bulge that way they hideously do at the waist. It’s a reminder of all I resent in men, how they make me wish I was perfect, how they make me feel I should be smaller, how they make me feel ashamed in some inexplicable way. And as I am thinking of all of this, breathing sharply in, the poor innocent soul of a man is wondering what on earth he did to turn me so suddenly tense and cold. I never explain but smile and quickly switch whatever unflattering stomach position I was in.
2. the smell of last summer’s perfume
I wore alien by thierry mugler all summer. the empty bottle sits on my dresser. whenever i’m putting laundry away, i’ll stop and smell the bottle. the deepest nauseauting nostalgia hits me. I’ll remember the cafe in Ibiza, the one Marta and I went to over and over again for lattes, the sun sweating onto our faces as we drank coffees too hot for the weather and wondered what our plans would be for the long, late night ahead. I’ll remember our white dresses over bikinis, our rental car and the loud music we’d play. The invigorating sensation of sand washing off in the shower. Or the day I spent on a boat with a bunch of strangers, floating on my back in empty water near Formentera, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy as that day in my life. The night I saw Kygo play the piano in tinted pink glasses. I’ll remember the weekend I spent at the W with a handsome man. I’ll remember laying on his leg as we did nothing but watch the sea. And his sweatpants, the softest I’ve ever touched, which he wore again when I saw him in Milan, and really how the texture of those sweatpants, which I’m sure were cashmere are how he made me feel. Or the one night I spent laughing hysterically with two Austalians, the sort of laughter that makes you forget to breathe. Crawling into a cardboard box on the street for the sake of it, testing how long we could keep big chunks of raw ginger in our mouths. Watching them slide down the cleaned wet streets like little boys. Alien is one of my favourite perfumes and yet I cannot justify it anymore because the scent is tied to the best season of my entire life, one I’ll never live again, so, I never want to wear it again. Except to maybe hastily spray it as I rush through duty-free as a grand, stomach-turning reminder of all I did in the beautiful, maddening, magical summer of 2017.
3. seeing my mother’s face in my photos
Every so often when I’m editing photos of myself, I stop because I see so much of my mother in my face. And it’s strangely reassuring to know that she is there within me, a part of me ; who I am. I think of her in her twenties, and her life before me, which I really only know as a series of repeated, fragmented narratives she has recounted to me over my life. I wonder if I met her then would we be friends, I always think we would. I think of her living in her first apartment, eating popcorn for dinner because it’s all she could afford and her gold hoop earrings and long, blonde hair. I think of the sound of her sewing machine, which is as familiar to me as her voice. I visualize the photos I have of her in cropped tops and flares. But ultimately, I think of how grateful I am to have my life interwoven with hers and how even all that happened in her life before me, feels in some strange way, like mine too. So when I see her face in mine, I remember how my best friend isn’t just my best friend, she’s me and she’s my blood.
4. advanced nostalgia
All the best experiences in my life have always been suffused with a secret sadness; as they are happening, I’m remembering they will end and never be again. I’ve said goodbye to friends on the street and as I turn away, I already miss what we just did; be it as mundane as a lengthy coffee or as wild as one of those nights that twist and turn in all the unexpected ways… Simply enjoying an experience is rather impossible for me, I already miss what will soon be a ‘remember when’. It’s a strange sensation. I am lucky enough to have a lot of fun, I tend to go out and find it. I’ve had many experiencess this year that have affirmed my great big love for life, and yet it’s an appreciation tainted with the longing to make the moment last and never end. I romanticize the past and I weave this into the present. Sometimes I’ll even simply think of tomorrow or when it’s time later tonight for us all to go home and I’ll wish we could all just stay in this one great experience for longer, And so while I’m laughing, talking too loudly, approaching strangers for the sake of it, I’ll be happy but heartsick for what is happening right now, right in from of me. Later, I’ll go home and I’ll feel empty because it did, indeed end. And will it happen again? I’ll wonder as I strangely find myself missing the life I was living just two hours ago. Perhaps it’s unwise to get attached to moments, they fly away, but that is where I live, nothing exists but a momen and the moment, this moment is all we truly have and not a single other moment will ever be like this one. I want to live and remember so many of them for longer than just that one moment, but I never will be able to and that makes me so, so sad.
5. the old people on the streets
I spend a lot of time on the city streets, they are my photo studio but also the route for take-out coffees, the sidewalks too are Biba’s daily exercise. Every so often I’ll be skipping along until I find myself stuck at a slower pace behind an old person hobbling down the street. I am always overwhelmed with remorse, I’ll study how they walk; legs stiff and weak after so many years of consistent function. Back curved over like a hunch. We will all be that old person one day, struggling down the street with bodies feeble and shaking. And yet here we all are today, cursing our physical selves, the bulge of our thighs or lack of a peach-shaped derriere. We cringe at the thought of swimwear or a top too tight. It makes me panic, it makes me want to cry, it makes me want toss off all my clothes and run as fast as I can because one day I won’t be able to. One day I’ll look back on photos of myself and think of all the strength and possibility there was within me that was left unappreciated. One day my heart will ache for the youth I am living right now. And how stupid we are to take even the simple act of briskly walking down a street for granted? But we do because what our bodies can do is rarely the worry, we’re too busy considering what it looks like to remember that one day it won’t work as fludily as it does right now. Our bodies, they decay and not even the dearest anti-aging cream can prevent the fact that one day we might need a cane to get to the supermarket. And that? Is both terrifying and inspiring
6. the deadly stare of envy
We all know the look, its the upwards scan of the eyes usually starting at the shoes. It’s silent, men can’t see it but we as women feel it. It’s the terrible quiet aggression of female envy, maybe you’re outfit is perfect or perhaps she thinks you’re face is absolutely beautiful, and yet rather than smile or pass an appreciative glance, she will evil eye you like predator to prey. It’s absolutely uncomfortable and despite being able to identify the interaction as envy, I never feel flattered. It reminds me of the girls that bullied me at the lockers before lunch, it reminds me of all the girls that ever acted inappropriate with boyfriends past, it reminds me of all the animosity I’ve ever felt towards fellow females, which really is a strange mix of sad inferiority. I feel like apologizing for existing. I feel like apologizing for the aggression that still so terribly wedges us as women apart. I feel like apologizing for the competitive nature of this world which renders them incapabale of acknowleding another women’s beauty or shoes without bitterness. I feel small and sad not just for myself but for all of us. And all of these emotions happen because some woman spots my Chanel bag and shifts me a mean look because it’s likely she’d like one too. It’s ridiculous. I hope one day it stops. It’s so sad, so unneccesary and so detrimental to our collective fight as women in a world that places us second.
7. the world won’t stop when i die
This thought always comes to me whenever I’m falling into a mid-afternoon nap. I live on a very busy street and even in the back room of my bedroom, I can hear all the city’s sounds. It’s oddly reassuring to me, I feel safe holed up in the space of my bed, which is tightly wedged between two narrow walls. It really is like a cave. And yet, whenever I decide to sleep during the day, I think, what if I died and never woke up? Nothing would stop. The cars would continue to aggressively soar down my street. My diasbled mailman would still come by everyday and my neighbours would move through their daily routine with showers and coffee and leaving to work, coming back from a long day…The concert I bought tickets to would still happen and the bar across the street would continue to spill out onto the sidewalks every night. Everything would stay the same, except I wouldn’t be here to acknowledge all these tiny nuances that occur in my building and street, which really is my micro-universe within this big city and even bigger world. At this point, I’ll usually visualize my physical self as a geo-tag, I’ll start on my street, then zoom out to my neighbourhood, to Barcelona, to Spain itself, to Europe, to the Earth. I will become smaller and smaller until I’ve been diminished to an invisible dot from outer-space. And that’s when I feel sad and swiftly fall asleep.