The person I am in my head is so far from the person I am in the world. Nobody would know me from my own description of myself; which is why, when called upon (rarely, I grant) to provide an account, I tailor it, I adapt, I try to provide an outline that can, in some way, correlate to the outline that people understand me to have—that, I suppose, I actually have, at this point. But who I am in my head, very few people really get to see that. Almost none. It's the most precious gift I can give, to bring her out of hiding. Maybe I've learned it's a mistake to reveal her at all.
He says that children live on the edge of madness, that their behavior, apparently unmotivated, shares the same dream logic as crazy people’s. I see what he means, and because I’ve learned to be patient with children, to tease out the logic that’s always somewhere there, and irrefutable once explained, I’ve come to understand that grown-ups, mad or sane, ought really to be accorded the same respect. In this sense, nobody is actually crazy, just not understood.
My everyday Appleton life, my phones calls to my father, my occasional beers with friends, my Saturday-morning jobs around the reservoir - what was all that, but the opiated husk of a life, the treadmill of the ordinary, a cage built of convention and consumerism and obligation and fear, in which I'd lolled for decades, oblivious, like a lotus eater, as my body aged and time advanced?
But to be furious, murderously furious, is to be alive. No longer young, no longer pretty, no longer loved, or sweet, or lovable, unmasked, writhing on the ground for all to see in my utter ingloriousness, there’s no telling what I might do. I could film my anger and sell it, I could do some unmasking of my own, beat the fuckers at their own game, and on the way I could become the best-known fucking artist in America, out of sheer spite. You never know. I’m angry enough to set fire to a house just by looking at it. It can’t be contained, stored away with the recycling. I’m done staying quietly upstairs. My anger is not a little person’s, a sweet girl’s, a dutiful daughter’s. My anger is prodigious. My anger is a colossus. I’m angry enough to understand why Emily Dickinson shut out the world altogether, why Alice Neel betrayed her children, even though she loved them mightily. I’m angry enough to see why you walk into the water with rocks in your pockets, even though that’s not the kind of angry I am. Virginia Woolf, in her rage, stopped being afraid of death; but I’m angry enough, at last, to stop being afraid of life, and angry enough—finally, God willing, with my mother’s anger also on my shoulders, a great boil of rage like the sun’s fire in me—before I die to fucking well live. Just watch me.
It’s the strangest thing about being human: to know so much, to communicate so much, and yet always to fall so drastically short of clarity, to be, in the end, so isolate and inadequate. Even when people try to say things, they say them poorly, or obliquely, or they outright lie, sometimes because they’re lying to you, but as often because they’re lying to themselves. Sirena,
We're always upstairs. We're not the madwomen in the attic--they get lots of play, one way or another. We're the quiet woman at the end of the third-floor hallway, whose trash is always tidy, who smiles brightly in the stairwell with a cheerful greeting, and who, from behind closed doors, never makes a sound. In our lives of quiet desperation, the woman upstairs is who we are, with or without a goddamn tabby or a pesky lolloping Labrador, and not a soul registers that we are furious. We're completely invisible. I thought it wasn't true, or not true of me, but I've learned I am no different at all. The question now is how to work it, how to use that invisibility, to make it burn.
I was so happy it was like a food, like I'd been stuffed with it, a foie gras goose of happiness; happy enough to know, fully, that I was happy, and foolishly, for one second, to dare the thought: "Imagine—imagine if each Saturday morning could be like this," and in the middle of the singing, I blushed, not even looking at her, because even just having it I knew there was something wrong about the thought. Another boundary crossing—an acknowledgment to myself, so fleeting but so dangerous, of how hungry I was.
From anywhere: where once he had feared that this immense city would set him adrift, a spinning atom in the ether, and where once he had seen in this the ultimate terror of insignificance, he now, and suddenly, and so clearly, saw that his fate had led him here. His fate had taken him off two trains this morning, had raised him to the surface at Whitehall Street, had shown him the spinning atoms, unraveling, the end of life, all of them people tethered by love, and habit, and work, and meaning, tied into a meaning suddenly exploded, because contrary to all he had imagined, being tied, being known, did not keep you safe. Quite the opposite: this, surely, was the meaning of Emerson, which he had so willfully and for so long misunderstood: great geniuses have the shortest biographies. Even their cousins know nothing about them. He had never been known rightly - how could he be, in the carapace of his ill-fitting names - but had thought that this imperfect knowledge was to be worked upon, bettered, but of course: mutability, precisely the capacity to spin like an atom, untethered, this thrill of absolute unknownness was not something to be feared. It was the point of it all. To be absolutely unrelated. Without context. To be truly and in every way self-reliant. At last.