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The Protective Mundane | Jayinee Basu

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.

About 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.

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