The almost week from hell began last Sunday, which was such a contrast to the moments before. That Friday I had met up with an old friend and watched the first day of SXSW unfold from the vantage point of his apartment, an ultra modern unit right on East 6th with a small terrace overlooking absolutely everything.
At first I was annoyed that we weren’t getting drunk like everyone else, but at the same time I was entertained by the awkward activity taking place below us – mainly girls talking about how much they love cock and men with puffed out chests and stiff shoulders wobbling toward West 6th in a synchronized swagger, like Emperor penguins marching toward their ancestral breeding ground.
A man at least twice our age noticed a comfortable patch of grass near the sidewalk and veered off, narrowly missing the unforgiving concrete that almost dealt some serious damage to his swollen face. Two women who looked like out of place hospice nurses scolded him in embarrassment and helplessly began to hoist his arms off the ground like two flies lifting a watermelon.
Just when I thought he had passed out for good, a man walking by gave drunk boy an alleged look and mouthed some sort of obscenity, which triggered his latent testosterone. And the ticking time bomb rose like a Phoenix from the ashes only to unleash an anti-climactic, sloppy uppercut on the passerby.
His chaperones screamed and justifiably threw his ass back on the ground before anyone of real authority could witness the pathetic antics that were unfolding before our sober eyes. With a look that can only be described as the most incredible mean mug I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing, the ladies joined forces and transformed into a single dominant she-devil who then ordered the instigating plebeian to “take his shit elsewhere.” And that was that.
My friend took us next door where his floormate supposedly awaited us with chilled vodka (but only because his real plans had failed), and after we rushed through the obligatory introductions: “hi,” “hello,” potions were brewed and not before long we got tipsy and decided to watch twerk videos together.
A group of attractive Frenchmen arrived and I was instantly captivated by their collective je ne sais quoi. Our host was very generous with his bar setup and everything from the iced bottles that glistened to the plump limes to the silver straws that chilled my lips kicked the ass of my usual $10 wine. There was a man named Yann who I found especially interesting, not because of any sexual attraction (his boyfriend was right there), it was his confidence as a well-traveled enthusiast of the world that reduced me to a flirty schoolgirl. I didn’t hate it.
After a few more drinks and a few more semi-pornographic twerk vids, we went outside for a smoke and he told me about the time he flew over the Pacific and was personally invited to behold the fucking earth from the cockpit itself. “You have not flown until you have seen the view of a piolet!” he said. He seemed like that guy who not only gets invited to do marvelous things, but also the rare breed who has the heart and the capacity to appreciate them. After an hour of chats and drinks and smokes, my friend and I left and so began the week of almost hell.
I spent the next day nursing a hangover and invited my sister to drive up for bonding, or something. We had dinner and in a rare flash of vulnerability, she opened up to me about her relationship and all the things that were worrying her. She made me smile because I know she’ll be fine. Despite all the passive aggressive shit we’ve bestowed on one another throughout the years, one of the things that has always motivated me is her and my younger brother. To guide them, encourage them, help them avoid some of my mistakes.
The next day, Sunday, the day my almost week from hell began, we drove downtown to get coffee and a girl from L.A. slammed into my car. To make a long story short, I was mortified that my sister was in the car with me. Nobody was hurt, it was very minor, but she is my sister. The person I’ve always tried to protect, and if that car had impacted but a foot closer to the passenger’s seat…I try not to think about it. I didn’t want to face anyone. My friends were so concerned and loving and reassuring, all I wanted to do was attack them for being so nice to me. I was angry because I felt vulnerable all of a sudden, and that way of thinking leads you down the rabbit hole to isolation and self-loathing. I begin to think about the costs of fixing the minor dents in my car, then I became furious with myself for allowing my consciousness to drift away from sister and onto the material repercussions. My mother says that I am many great things, but that my downfall will be my inability to let anyone in when I’m in pain. But like anything else, it takes self-awareness and time for our misgivings to heal.
That evening a friend whom I had lost touch with called me fortuitously and nurtured me with, not sympathy -I didn’t deserve that – but presence. Hearing a familiar, unthreatening, gentle voice was a soothing salve to a sickening afternoon. I walked around the block and we talked about the nature of time and how it’s the only real arbiter of suffering. Let me take a moment to say that I know I’m being such a fucking melodramatic victim, stay with me.
Monday morning was the worst but I had a job to do and my officemates rule. Say what you want about the Machine and how schedules and obligations make societal slaves of us all, but sometimes when all you want is to recede from the world and stew in your self-loathing, what you need most is that nagging voice in your head that says, “People are depending on you. Pull yourself together.”
That night I was invited to a party and every atom within me surged and sent signals to my brain saying don’t you dare go. So I did something I haven’t done in a year, put on my Converse that are a half size too big and went for a run. I ran until I felt sick and that light headedness felt good and cathartic because I wanted to feel physical pain. I ran until I saw red spots, then walked it out for another mile. I only have five songs on my iPhone, which happen to be from Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album. Thank you Dustin for showing it to me. I don’t know if it was endorphins, dehydration, mania or the Floyd, but I started laughing wildly at the sky and then everything was okay. I don’t want to tell you what I was thinking when I stared into that darkening expanse, mostly because it doesn’t matter, but I realized that this sadness eating me was nothing more than a returning visitor. At some point you look it straight in the eye and decide that you’re going to be brave, understand its presence rather than fear it.
After a cold shower I put on a dress that, I don’t mind telling you, is very sexy. The party was at one of the most posh and exclusive places I’ve ever seen, my code name to get in was Faith Ferratucie (Ferrah-too-chee) and just when I started to believe that SXSW was some fucked up harbinger of doom, I met the most down-to-earth CEOs, founders and assistant bitch boys in tech. One of them was Russian and we talked about Dostoyevsky and had grapefruit vodka and devoured succulent heure d’oeuvres. But then he wouldn’t stop staring at my breasts, so I gave him a fake number and took his business card. Another guy I met was from New York and we talked about his wife who is a chemist dedicated to cancer research. The way the talked about her made me almost fucking cry right there, but his boss interrupted and handed me a drink (which I demanded he first sip in front of me. You can’t be too careful).
Boss and I talked about God knows what, I was a little drunk. But there was more talk of breasts, so I felt relieved when the cops came in and made everyone leave. After that we went to Swan Dive and I met a dance crew, also from New York, premiering their documentary at Southby. They were tight as shit and on a better day I would have asked for a performance! But then I got into an argument with a law student about the Upanishads because we were both drunk, and all I remember is he was actually very cool and I couldn’t stop laughing.
The rest of the week was spent dealing with USAA, reports, statements, explaining to my understanding parents, running and yoga because I’m working on a nice lil’ bod for Summer. I’m sorry if this is boring, and I commend you for reading it. But this was a big week for me. Your 20’s are hard man.