Right now I need to be finishing up an important writing project but instead I keep playing with beautiful, anthropomorphized battleships. Gacha games – virtual capsule toy vending machines where gameplay serves the objective of collecting cool things – never hooked me. I scrolled with disinterest to mild annoyance past twitter screencaps of spring bunny girl Fire Emblem Heroes characters or whatever historical figure Fate/Grand Order has turned into a sexy girl this time. I’m partial to goth bitch Murasaki Shikibu. Then one day I stopped at looked at a screenshot a friend had posted of a shipgirl from Azur Lane, a naval themed gacha game that’s been getting popular lately. The art was attractive and my anxiety and roaming attention led me to actually download the game.
You see the girl above has a gun – that’s how you know she’s a ship. It’s usually more obvious, but I chose to spend most of my gems on this bathing suit. Gems are an in-game currency that’s hard to amass, but you can use real money to get more. In Azur Lane, working towards rewards and lucking out with rare ships feels fair enough that I’m not tempted to do that. Using money is also devoid of the small rush of satisfaction I get from completing a battle stage or clearing daily challenges. Beyond the main draw of collecting ships and getting them cute outfits, I can also upgrade their weapons, get better furniture for their dorm room (I’ve settled on a pastel “Afternoon Tea” scheme), or play mini games.
Asuka Langley Sohryu, the spitfire prodigy who enters the story of Neon Genesis Evangelion like a wrecking ball, has never been the character I publicly align myself with. I have folders of images of Shinji Ikari (and sometimes Rei Ayanami) for all my #same and #aboutme needs. My depression and sense of wrong-footedness in the world IS most like Shinji’s, shrinking from others even as I drip with the need for acceptance, borderline self-absorbed in the conviction of my own worthlessness. I’ve always feared taking up space. Asuka makes herself so much larger than her fragile teenage body. She yells, she crows, she storms, and she’s often standing on the highest ground in a given scene to position herself over her peers and adults alike. I take pains to seem emotionally smaller than Asuka in my life, but the difficulty and effort come in part because I am like her. I too am angry at every failure. My self-concept is tyrannical and rigid, sometimes deforming into a profound lack of compassion for others. I also feel bound to Asuka in her angst over growing up; in her uniquely adolescent, girlish despair at the limits of her own body.
Asuka spends most of her time insisting she has nothing left to learn, that she is already an adult. As the most ruthless and well-trained Eva pilot, she balks at the idea that she should be asked to save the world but not be allowed to act as a professionally and emotionally independent person. I mean, fair point. But like the other pilots, she is a vulnerable child. Unlike Shinji’s passivity, Asuka deals with her trauma and fear of abandonment with false bravado. She would rather be seen as angry and hateful than weak, and has almost no filter for lashing out at others. There’s one moment in episode 22, “At Least, Be Human”/”Don’t Be,” where her anger is intimate and heartbreaking. There’s nobody to witness it and I’m not sure she would have shared this particular pain with others anyway.
Roswell (1999) was not a great show. It falls behind its supernatural contemporaries Buffy and Charmed in the popular conscious and never garnered romantic excitement like Felicity or Dawson’s Creek. Roswell made the risky move of building its entire foundation on two teens being soulmates right out of the gate, asking us to care about understated human Liz and understated alien Max before we have time to get attached to them. The thing, though, is that I kind of love bullshit like that. I love the almost embarrassing melodrama of Dido’s “Here with Me” as the opening credits song.
“Wines to pair with hentai tags” was a thing I said in service of a one-off, “just two things” mashup, but then I kept thinking about it sincerely. Drinking wine and frenzied hentai browsing are an almost daily part of my routine. Doing them together sounds like a very lush evening. #selfcare
Wine and hentai may not be alike in widespread legitimacy, but they both have extremely dedicated and enthusiastic communities that participate on a spectrum from casual dabbling to encyclopedic knowledge. There’s nothing inherently more ridiculous about pairing wines to tags than pairing wine with literary genres or movies. That is: ultimately it’s an interesting exercise in investigating why we like what we like, but what we decide is always going to be a individual mix of nature, socialization, habit, and that mysterious X that makes our tastes ours.
It’s hot and bright in Brooklyn and early enough in the season that it doesn’t aggravate me. My dress is insubstantial, equally valid as a fancy top or a beach cover-up. It looks kind of trashy in a way I realize would keep me from going onto the subway, into Manhattan. “Brooklyn is technically a beach town,” I joked, but it’s true. Actual beach aside, the blanket of Prospect Park is pinned down on most corners by traffic circles. It feels like a vacation spot standing at a red light in the middle of one. The first time I ever saw a traffic circle was on Hilton Head Island and “traffic circles are for beach towns” is one of those childhood truths that won’t quite leave me. They seemed to have a sort of power back then – round and round and the traffic circle itself is what spits you out from the normal world into Vacation. Looking kind of trashy is also for beach towns. In adulthood I managed to love the beach a few times a year, turning into a calmer, languid version of myself content to read and drape my limbs and drink stupid drinks. Certain summer days here can bring that back. Brooklyn is my home, the first place in New York where it doesn’t feel like a lie to call it that. I wonder if it’s because I needed to feel connected to an earlier home, an earlier me.
Home – my embarrassing longing for it and how often I feel without it – haunts me more than almost any other idea. I was always planning to write about my home in Hilton Head, South Carolina. There was always a reason to put it off: I needed to visit and be fully immersed in it to do it justice, or I needed to learn to write better first. I treated writing about it like going there – something that seemed inappropriate to approach with less than my best self. But I waited too long and now this is an elegy.
New York City rarely gets the worst of any major weather event, but we love to make a huge thing of what we do get. I was on the street when the fifteen or so minutes of whiteout snow and gale force winds swept through. It seemed briefly possible that I might get blown backwards and away and I found begrudging humor in how in-sync the weather and my emotional state was.
The snow was gone as quickly as it came. Steam puffed upwards into a stunning and unfair sunset. From the huge windows of the Park Slope living room I’m in, snugly tucked among patterned carpets, blankets, and velvet chairs, any wind and single digit temperatures seemed small and quaint. I am the person who lives in the tiny, candlelit house in a snow globe – never in real danger from the dream-of-a-dream of bad weather.
It’s not the first time I’ve been in this room, but it is the first time I’ve been alone, in a crisis, in this room. This beautiful apartment on the top floor of a historic townhouse is inherently comforting. It’s not just because it belongs to dear friends who are absurdly good to me. The warm wall paint, the rich wood – it’s made entirely of things that signify security. It’s a very straightforward version of not-my-home-but-feels-like-home. Other places in my life that feel like home are so because they were built through time and joy and trauma. The things that forged those places can also make them unstable. There’s something easy and soothing about inhabiting a fireplace and sweater catalog image of home instead.
There’s no easy way to short-circuit the worst of human pain, but there are weird and laser-specific moods you discover. The tautness of everything you are as you walk knowingly into an unbearably shitty thing. The rush and melodrama of explaining your sadness to someone when it’s still an Event. And I’ve found the shape of another packaged, artisanal emotional experience in the past few days.
The sun is setting again and I can see nothing but those puffs of smoke and this Brooklyn that feels like it can’t be the same one I live in. In a way it’s a reverse “other people’s windows” feeling. Right now I’m afraid of that feeling. Up here, I’m safe behind a window other people can’t look into. Even the annoying sobs I let out last night felt a step removed; the appropriate crying of a girl in a TV show about wealthy people. Part of me thinks the gutting won’t come if I stay suspended figuratively and actually up here, padding around (in borrowed clothes, which somehow adds to it all) in this version of Myself in Pain that’s edited and polished.
You learn something new every day. I’ll go back down eventually.
My grandmother’s middle name is Christine. My mom’s middle name is Christine. My middle name is Anne. Growing up, I hated that – to me pointless – choice to break tradition. “Molly Christine” was more interesting, more romantic. It could have been a small comfort to me in all the years I hated both my names and longed for something feminine and flowery like Rose or Violet. My mom always said that she wanted to name me something that worked in all stages of life. She wasn’t fond of the popular choices of my era like Katie or Brittany. If not Molly, might have been Anne Elizabeth or Elizabeth Anne (called Liza).
Molly is perky, clipped, and short. It wasn’t common, but it didn’t feel special. The one or two others at school were always sportier or cheerier than I was. Famous examples real and fictional (Malone, Brown, Bloom, Ringwald, et al.) likewise seemed cut from a different cloth entirely. And Anne…well I often prefaced it with “and the most boring middle name ever.”
I’m huddled in an airport bar at JFK, more than three hours before my flight to Albuquerque. Even with the wide margin of error, my anxiety spiked in the car on the way over. This trip has been a fixed mark for months and now, as it’s happening, part of my mind is bracing for something to make it impossible. The giddy, exciting side of anticipation has always been basically inaccessible for me until I cross some threshold that confirms the awaited thing will actually come. This confirmation can be superstitious. It just has to feel safe. There is a point where waiting can feel good. It’s the feeling of sitting in a restaurant when you know someone is meeting you or a theater when you’re seated but the curtain hasn’t gone up. Getting through security at the airport does this, too, even though things could still go wrong.
Besides, I have a soft spot for airport bars. Drinking alone in them still makes me feel special and like an adult in a way that isn’t depressing like most other things about feeling adult. Maybe it’s because they’re so often places where I experience that rare high of waiting. Most forms of travel are romantic, even down to the subway, so it could be that a little of that train station anything can happen aura rubbed off onto the overpriced restaurants at JFK. Airport bars are not glamorous. Look even a little closely and it falls apart, but the illusion persists for me.
I used to think that this kind of waiting was the happiest a person could be in life; when against our better judgment we let the optimism and potential get to us without the edge and disappointment of reality. I was sort of right. It wasn’t safe to believe you’d arrive or could rest in anything. Maybe I didn’t realize that it’s possible to take it too far and never remember to stop and take inventory of everything. This is the second time I’ve flown to ABQ. This time I’m alone. But I’m going towards (and back) to something. The other day my boyfriend said “you’ll be home soon,” referring to this flight, this day. I don’t know if it was a slip on his part. Either way, it feels true.
I’m coming up on my third anniversary of living in New York. New York still seems fake, sometimes. It’s probably a common enough experience for the transplants, this feeling that we can’t possibly be allowed to just live here; that it’s going to kick us out any second, doomed thereafter to try and fail to get back as if New York were actually bound by a Brigadoonesque enchantment. It’s hard to accept that I live here because my life has gone a bunch of ways that no child dreams about and moving to New York is the one thing I said I would do as a unforged young person that I followed through on.
It is, in almost every way, different than I imagined it. The New York I was supposed to move to some day was meant to be the big threshold crossing, tadaima-ass moment. The person who stepped across that threshold was not just me but the best version of me. For a while, that seemed possible, as if the two suitcases I packed and brought with me on that one way flight in 2016 were all there was to it – no looming depression, no eating disorder (at least not in a cool, manageable way), no ill-advised and already dead marriage.
Some months ago, one of those 1.5x speed, flailing late night conversations life sometimes grants us produced an epiphany and that is – you can’t be both a Fuccboi and a Zaddy. To refresh on the etymologically recent but spiritually ancient concept of the Zaddy: a Zaddy is an attractive, (almost always) older man who is not necessarily a father but gives off that innate aura of responsibility. Do you ever think it would be kind of hot to be sternly told to get your shit together? A Zaddy is the type of person who could fulfill that fantasy. This is not to say that all Zaddies are good partners. I think the dark side of a Zaddy romance is probably be a man who doesn’t cede enough emotional territory, is patronizing in an unsexy way, or makes you feel messy and small. I mean, I am messy and small, but come on. I am already tired of typing the word Zaddy but I will forge on!