Author: Jayinee Basu

Jayinee Basu lives in San Francisco. She has been published in Everyday Genius, Metazen, Test Centre, Banango Street, Clearly Stated, and TAGVVERK. Her poetry collection, Asuras, is forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms.

Left Turn Signal

When you run from a bee, you reduce its ability to sting you. Why are you running from bees? When a bee stings you, it dies. When it dies, it cannot sting a person who is allergic to bees. It is your responsibility to let the bee sting you. Sit in the bee garden and collect their small corpses in your lap. Let the bees sting you, you who are not allergic to bees. Just sit here in this garden, silently, and consider: is there a finite amount of sorrow in the world?

If you have truly let the bees sting you, you will feel pain, and you will feel it strongly. You will not feel catharsis. You will feel no reduction in guilt or shame. You will not feel closure. You will feel submerged in a deep sense of ambiguity. You will not be like a dog that cannot hold two conflicting viewpoints at once. You will be a wise dog. During your time in the bee garden, you will come to construct an operational definition of yourself.

America makes everything vulgar. It is a row of yelling houses. Confessions were once carried out in coffins in order to keep the flood of relief contained. In American bars and websites, you will come across neon signs flashing PLEASE TELL ME I CAN STOP HATING MYSELF. Well you can’t. Just sit there in the bee garden, quietly, and cry if you need to. Assume you’re always acting in bad faith. Do not be depressed, do not be happy. Suffer with intention. Convert to Christianity out of spite. Do something about yourself.

And yet every morning you awake from dreaming of a bee garden to find yourself inside of a mall where people are sleeping on yoga mats. They are screaming in their sleep. No matter how much golden light they pump into this mall, it is simply an aviary of shrieking birds. Your entire life will be conducted inside this mall. The ground is covered in shit. You drive around the mall aimlessly, forever. You keep your left turn signal on.

lmao

You spend your life collecting the words that become your vocabulary. The words have associations that are specific to you. They are attached to sensations that you sometimes look back on, sometimes forget, sometimes crave, but that always exist in the palimpsest of your memory. Some of these words have cultural importance. Love and all the weight of its utterance is a big one. Its presence can be bright, like a million unexpected lightbulbs turning on all at once and illuminating a sweet lumbering beast you didn’t see before. It can also be deeply soothing, like the sun going down for the first time in 4 months in Norway. Maybe you love many people and one day you take out 20 dollars in small change and give money to every person who asks it of you on the street. You walk down every street in the city, burning with love.

Likewise, you give away words as gifts to people. “Hey man”s you have many of. They are like pennies. If you drop one here and there it’s whatever. Sometimes you even throw them away in a careless sweep along with other trash like “doing good” and “see ya”. After a particularly hairy sweep, no more small talk, you think. Only communicate the big things. After days of silence and feeling cold underneath sweaters, you learn that you, like most other people, don’t have that many 100 dollar bills to give. You jangle your pennies more cheerfully.

Coveted words are framed and affixed to the walls of your vocabulary. You wouldn’t just call anyone your mother. You wouldn’t just call anyone your girlfriend, but maybe you would, if you’re still burning with love. You’re intense that way. You wouldn’t just describe any experience as being transformative, unless you for real turned from a bald egg into a spiny echidna. You look back at that experience and wonder if that egg was even alive, much less you. You wouldn’t just describe any person as being beautiful, because that word is not meant to describe people. That word is reserved for the gradient of blue to green that a dense forest turns at dusk on a silent cliff, a color the Japanese conceptually call ao.

So you’ve built this pretty gorgeous vocabulary edifice thing that you live in at all times. Sometimes you add a brick here and there and try to say the word lmao out loud. The sound of your voice lays across your face like a projection and activates when you speak. Every time you speak, you are aware of chinks appearing in the edifice and people peering through them at some unpleasantly murky part of you. The structure teeters for a second and restabilizes. You jangle your pennies nervously. You age slowly. You fall in love with someone when you are 70. You say to her “I wish I could have met you sooner,” to mean “Do you think I am a bluish gradient in a dense forest at dusk?” when actually she means that you are the tiny turbulent eddies of milk in coffee. Plaque is building up on the walls of your arteries. You die first, and vacate the premises of your vocabulary understanding that you have never communicated anything other than animalic scents.

The Protective Mundane

One day I feel the loss of growing up too hard. All formations of adult emotions seem neutered and true and achievable and inevitable. I consider that I had had the kind of innocent romantic love people write chamber films about and that I left it for knowledge in an ostensibly Faustian move. I consider that I maybe just should have remained a baby deer and enjoyed a life of milk being fed to me by hand. My biological interior is freaking out. My shell is expanding and shrinking in localized and minute ways. I feel encephalitic. I skip class for the second time this week and cry.

(To be honest this whole thing is mostly my blanket’s fault. I have felt imprisoned by this blanket in what seems like a Chinese finger trap kind of torture, where every struggle to escape makes its creepy microfibers close in on me even more. Inventing a blanket that prevents its inhabitant from venturing out to seek food, water, or sex seems like a dumb evolutionary move, imo. I am making a mental note to write a strongly worded letter to its manufacturers who will no doubt see this as some sort of mock-angry praise.)

Anyway so I’m here stuck in this blanket thinking about all the ways in which growing up is hard and unpleasant when I begin to cry even harder realizing that it’s not hard, actually, it’s exceedingly easy. Life is very very easy for me because I have all these resources at hand that I’m wasting, essentially, because I’m finding out that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. I get very angry at myself and start counting the ways in which I’m failing other human beings.

I remember talking about Picasso with my dad. He said Picasso could experiment and do the things he did because he had proven himself to be a skilled representative painter first. Performing whiteness is a prerequisite to being able to do anything else with any degree of institutional support. I realize I have been pretty good at this performance. Now nothing I do to reclaim or reexamine Indian anything will ring true, because I’ve already vetted myself with whiteness, and am therefore safe. Safety in this case feels cowardly and like a betrayal to those who can’t cast their skin off so easily.

I don’t feel guilty for doing it, really. It’s a survival technique. But I do feel guilty for being successful at it. It seems to indicate a treacherous ability to morph. My memories of being teased for not being able to speak English don’t exist anymore. All sensations of shame from middle school I attribute to idiot children’s actions. Anything that I can call upon to feel rage is gone. My body can rid itself of trauma peculiarly well and this scares me. A person without the memories of their formation is not a person.

I look up ‘suicide methods’ on the internet. I come up on a site that supplies a matrix of considerations based on time, pain level, and efficacy. I’m not going to go into it because I already feel weird saying that this resource exists, but basically I start eyeing my room for structures that can support a weight of ~100 pounds. My room is a very tall and very small square with no protrusions of any kind except a doorknob that falls out with obnoxious regularity.

I should mention here that I’ve eaten two caffeine pills. I am getting really restless. I look at all the clothes hanging on my garment rack. A wool pea coat derives visual strength from invoking a naval power that brought India to its knees. An epaulet on a military jacket confers hierarchical status. Knockoff Swedish Hasbeens in wood and blue leather speak to Nordic genteelness. My hair is artificially lighter than black. I love minimalism and Dutch inspired fonts. I’ve only dated white men. I am killing myself studying science because I am convinced that it is the only mode that can truly affect change that isn’t entirely evil, that it’s the only way to be intelligent. 

The website says to wait a week before taking any kind of action. I agree that this is reasonable. But I like being prepared. I write a really stupid draft of a suicide note that is not worth describing. I step outside to a beautiful summer evening.

The walk to the hardware store feels very nice. I feel good because I feel determined. I smoke a cigarette and consider the beauty of the world impassively. The fact that I can do this indicates to me that I’m making the right decision. That it’s possible to intellectually acknowledge that something is wonderful or broken or fearsome and not freak out about it seems wrong and bad. I don’t want to be an adult who becomes so good at not freaking out that she begins to consider freaking out a bad thing. It seems irresponsible to say all oppressed people should feel rage because rage is really bad for you, but apparently not feeling rage is also really bad for you. I try to feel hatred, or at least anger, toward white people. It is impossible. Some type of looped cognitive circuit ends up rerouting all anger back to me which is redundant at this point.

The hardware store is closed. I am extremely annoyed by this. I Yelp some more hardware stores in the area. They are all closed. It is only 6 pm on a weeknight in a major metropolitan city. What the hell. I need rope and zip ties. (if an alibi becomes necessary I will say that I am going crabbing and need these zip ties to affix chicken wings to a net). I walk over to a burrito place and eat a shrimp burrito. I feel kind of dizzy and consider what just happened. I want to laugh. It all seems pretty goth. I mean I literally have a tattoo of a dead raven on my back.

Later that night I climb a radio tower to look at the eclipse with my boyfriend and his roommate. The blood moon keeps slipping behind shawls of cloud. We yell at it every time. I was hoping for a bloodier moon, one that might nod at what a weird day it’s been. I look at this crazy pretty city that has always been my dream laid out before me and I don’t know how to feel. I wish I were on drugs. I consider that drugs, like people, try to sustain the problem to which they are the solution. At the top of the radio tower there is a lot of wind and it is uncomfortable. We make predictions about whether we’d be able to see the eclipse at the correct time, which is a little past midnight. We can’t see it and go home.

It is hard for me to accept still that I have to hurt people in order to survive, and that important things sometimes will not feel insane. But it’s like you can’t continuously gasp without exhaling sometimes.

The End

P.S. I’m okay really thank you for worrying.