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Topics - Q. G. Pennyworth

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Or Kill Me / He Was
« on: April 09, 2019, 05:50:09 pm »
He was my backup husband, because my real husband is so fucking danger prone and headstrong and has such a terrible diet we all joke that I'll be a widow someday. I feel like a widow today. He was tall with dark hair and watery blue eyes and I was in love with him before I ever saw his face. We stayed up all night writing and editing, sharing memes and confessions in the dark. He was alone and cold in the dark when he died.

Our brains came from the same "irregular" bin, we'd say, the same flavors of crazy and creative. He was better at pounding out wordcount, I was better at quips and poetry. We were propagandists, provocateurs. We tilted at windmills and brought down empires and swore to make sailors blush. He loved the Atlantic maritime aesthetic, tall ships and salt water. Loved his city and his country and his island home. We'd give each other shit for using different units of measure, for the slightest differences in accent. We both lived with one foot in politics and the other in activism. Our victories were beautiful and our defeats crushed us.

We'd stay on the phone til all hours and he'd take his breaks here and there for a cigarette after promising me a thousand times he'd quit. He was an addict, and like all addicts he lied about things but none more than his addiction and the state of his recovery. He wasn't when I met him, unless you count the cigarettes. Grief and a sudden influx of cash gave him the ability to fall much further down a hole than most people can before hitting a bottom. We stopped talking for two years because I couldn't watch him self destruct from 400 miles away. I sat on the fire escape and cried my eyes out as the sun set. He preferred chaste little kisses to passionate ones, and wanted his turn as the little spoon. I threw the creative output of our breakup on the table in a real and literal sense when he came back to town. He told me I hadn't changed. He had.

I stayed up with him too late and he soaked up my tears while the world seemed fake and dangerous, like cracking ice I would fall through. He had a roll to his gait and he'd snort when he laughed and had way too many strong opinions about science fiction. He was getting better.

He loved my husband and us as a couple and my husband loved him in the same brotherly way. Co-conspirators, comrades in arms. His mother didn't know what to make of it but she knew he was better when he was with us, knew Boston did him good, knew the relief on his face when I said I would meet with him again and see if I could handle having him back in my life. She said it was too bad I was married, but never when I was in earshot. We rescheduled our wedding in the hopes that he'd make the trip. I was always giving him shit that he never showed up as soon or as often as he promised. He was always over-promising.

He was a fighter and he couldn't give up a losing fight or even admit when he'd found one. He got paranoid and he'd forget that he was loved and who loved him. He saw magic in everything.

He was, and that's the hardest thing to say: "he was." Because thirty eight is not old enough and never married is not old enough and still talked about wanting kids someday, the work he was still doing to salvage his relationship with his mom the work we were doing to patch ourselves back together turn into whatever we were going to be it's not enough and now it never will be because he was.

Apple Talk / Like a Prayer
« on: April 04, 2019, 07:13:00 pm »
Is the moment
When you nearly burst into tears
In the back of a cab
Because you want nothing more
Than to plant a soft kiss
On the cheek of the driver
Who has been through so much
And seen so many things
Lived such a complex life
Of joys and sorrows
Across three countries
And sixty years
And has offered you the barest glimpse
In this short time you have together
It is being completely overwhelmed
With love for a stranger
For just being

Or Kill Me / She and I and You
« on: March 05, 2019, 10:41:15 pm »
I am an unreliable narrator you say. I never know what's happening. You are too put together to bother with her. She forgets, she falls apart, she looks at things from the wrong angles. You feel nothing about her. I can't stop feeling things. Life is a firehose I am fighting all the time I don't know how to function without a fight and you are maddeningly unscathed. She is unplugged, malformed, unstuck from time, she is struggling and crying and screaming and I am just trying to hold you together just trying to get you through this just trying to find a light in the distance to point out: we just need to make it that far. You go through motions. Sometimes you forget to breathe. She can't feel her face right. I don't know how to save her. There are no walls between us. You feel the pit in your stomach, the creeping dread. You are where you are. Nothing is right. Her legs aren't real, her body creaks like an old house. She only speaks in metaphor, she only lives as metaphor. I write and write and people say what beautiful fiction and you do not see that it's just reality from another side, that there is no skill here no beauty no trickery or smoke or mirrors just what I am splayed out what she is pinned to the wall where you were and will be and you are walking through like a dream following a script you never wrote. She is chasing butterflies in a field because that's what dreamy girls are supposed to do. She isn't supposed to be there yet. You know what you're supposed to do but you keep forgetting. Everything is out of order. Floodgates rusted shut and a torrent behind. Flat affect. lips sealed tight against anything that would give away the game. She wanted to be something but nothing worked out, biology got in the way the narrative of her life got in the way you can explain it all you can make it sound so rational and nobody questions a thing. Of course she's like that. It's nothing to be ashamed of. I'm not lazy I'm not selfish I'm not manipulating you it's not enough it's too late she can't open her mouth she can't be in the same place twice. She is staring at the hair tie on her wrist, she cannot look them in the eye. I have depression she is trying to scream it but nothing comes out the face doesn't move you can't deal with it right now you aren't going to deal with it nobody can make you and you evaluate your steps did you drink water did you eat food did you sleep like sleep could make a dent in this thing that she is that you are like there's a chicken soup a cure for crazy you're not crazy you are she is I am.

Apple Talk / Serenity
« on: January 01, 2019, 07:53:47 pm »
I never wish for serenity. And knowing that, I should not be surprised that I never get it. But even when I reflect on this omission on my part, I never seem to change my wishing ways.

I see serene people in my life, I know that it is a possible thing. But the people I see who are content bring up bile in the back of my throat: the wealthy, the lazy, the willfully ignorant. Nothing could be further from my heart's desires than to settle for *this*, to set down my megaphone and shake the tension out of my fists, to decide that this is good enough. I am a malcontent, and I know it will kill me in the end.

I never wish for an end to the fight. There are days I cannot even imagine what an end would look like. Other days it's all to clear to me: a boot on the face forever and ever, we all love Big Brother, a tiny upper crust making merry on the backs of billions as the world burns. And to say that all the danger is external would be a lie, I know too that I have my inner struggles, my own dragons to slay.

I wish for a better sword. I wish for a stronger shield. I wish for a pitcher of water and more ammunition, for you at my side at the end of the world. Forever.

Apple Talk / Not Today, Air Conditioner
« on: December 27, 2018, 09:01:49 pm »
One time I was moving out of one apartment and into another one just across the street (there were three apartment complexes all bunched together in this little patch of land just outside of the high property tax college town we orbited). My eldest was a wee little thing in a stroller and I wasn't yet pregnant with #2. It was a nice day and I was free to do some moving work while my husband was out at work.

For some reason, I had gotten the idea in my head that I had to deal with the air conditioner in our old unit. Looking back I can't imagine how I got there, I don't think we bought the fucker and we sure as hell didn't need it at the new place, but here I was sure that I had to get the thing out of the wall before we handed over the keys. There was one of those holes high in the wall for the AC to sit in, the base of it at about 6 feet. Not too high for me to reach, but high enough that it's above my head. And I shuffled the unit out ok, and started to pull it out before I realized that no, I did not have this. And the weight shifted forward and I put myself in the way, the front of the air conditioner mushed into my face and my arms barely holding the thing in place, the edge of its little alcove in the wall the only thing preventing me from losing control of the situation completely.

I did not have this. I could not hold this fucker at the angle I had it. I could not readjust without losing control even further and everything crashing to the ground. So I froze. And it felt like forever standing there, baby sitting quietly in the stroller just in the other room, phone perched above her and out of reach. There was no way out. But I could not stay. I am not going to die here with an air conditioner on my face. So I shifted my weight and pulled it forward and let the fucker fall, keeping my toes out of the way. And I controlled the fall enough that it didn't break and I moved on with my life.

No matter how hopeless the situation, sometimes you just have to decide that you are not going to die here with an air conditioner on your face.

Apple Talk / IRC
« on: December 26, 2018, 06:03:06 pm »
bitches I'm blocked again, fix it.

Aneristic Illusions / Hypocrisy
« on: December 05, 2018, 12:18:46 am »
As someone who leans decidedly to the left on many issues, I would like to take a moment to express how utterly and completely DONE I am with liberals accusing conservatives of being hypocrites. Seriously, over it.

For starters, it accomplishes nothing. The people who are voting conservative are not unaware of the hypocrisy of their leaders, they have made a calculated decision that what they gain from electing inconstant dickweasels far outweighs whatever damage to their immortal souls they're incurring consorting with hypocrites. You won't change someone's mind or vote with an accusation of hypocrisy, so stop wasting your breath.

For another thing, it's distracting. Attacking someone for hypocrisy invites a debate as to how hypocritical a particular action is, and what someone's true moral compass looks like, and how much of a compromise position is really acceptable, and whether forgiveness is a valuable trait in a voting bloc. And sure, if hypocrisy were literally the worst thing in the world, it would be worth having that debate, but THERE ARE WORSE THINGS THAN HYPOCRISY. If you're mad about children being detained and teargassed, just be mad about that. Don't muddy the waters debating whether or not Jesus would be happy with Christians who pulled that shit.

For one more thing, it's self-destructive. If one side decides it is the party of no hypocrisy, that side will lose. Because you will have serial gropers, texters of dick pics, people who made bad jokes ten years ago and folks who are bad at keeping up with their taxes in any group of people. But if one side is willing to burn those fuckers to the ground internally and the other side is willing to tolerate that bullshit so long as their objectives are still being met, guess which side is at an advantage?

I'm not voting in favor of hypocrisy. I just want people to stop pretending that it's the most important issue of the day.

Apple Talk / On Language
« on: December 04, 2018, 10:01:12 pm »
There is an idea floating around that goes something like "the language we speak controls the thoughts we are able to have." It's the subject of serious study, and like all good bullshit there is a corn kernel of truth in it, but the fact is that it's still bullshit.

The arguments in favor go thus: several experiments have been able to demonstrate that certain functions of the mind are, indeed, tied to the available vocabulary, and without that vocabulary the mind simply refuses to recognize some concepts. Languages that do not differentiate blue from green, for example, produce people who don't draw a line between the two colors, and indeed there are whole cities that have blue lights on their traffic signals because well who gives a shit, it's still under the "grue" umbrella, isn't it? In another example, deaf children who learned a limited vocabulary form of sign language were less able to imagine the inner mental experience of others, and this was not changed until they were exposed to people with a wider vocabulary, at which point they caught up quickly with their peers.

So, if we extrapolate this outward, you can see the pull towards imagining that all of human experience is dictated by our language filters. That we are incapable of feeling things for which we have no name, and the things that we can feel have an indelible mark upon them based on our available vocabulary. Perhaps this extends out even further, and there are whole realms of existence that we are blind to from lack of words to understand them.

This, again, is bullshit.

We have all experienced the "wit of the stairwell," when you think of just the right thing to say after the moment is lost and you can never get it back again, regardless of whether we're speakers of French or have heard the term "l'esprit d'escalier." The internet was overjoyed when it found the word "shadenfreude" to perfectly describe its pre-existing love of watching others suffer. Even neologisms like "sonder" have not opened up new feelings -- most of us had already felt at one point or another the complex emotional stew that accompanies an acute realization that others' lives are as real and complex as our own. Experiences can defy our ability to describe them, which by necessity means that our experiences are not limited to what we can describe.

There is, however, something of value in all this.

Vocabulary does not limit what we can feel, but it does put a limit on what we can express, and a lack of vocabulary can pump the brakes on our self-reflection and even our ability to cope. Processing an emotion often requires a certain level of understanding, of examining the thing and putting it in the correct box on the mental shelf. We do this internally -- through the filter of our own consciousness and vocabulary -- and externally by talking things through with trusted friends. When we don't have a word for an experience, we have trouble putting it in the box ourselves, and we have trouble explaining it to others. We rely on metaphor and lengthy descriptions, which make us more self conscious about the whole thing. "If this was really so common, wouldn't there be a quick shorthand for it? I must really be crazy," quoth the brainweasels.

So expanding our vocabulary, especially our emotional vocabulary, is a huge positive thing! And as neologisms and hyper-specialized loanwords infect the wider world of internet english, we can expect to see improvements in our ability to process and communicate our own feelings, and an increased ability to empathize with the complex emotional states of others.

We're not going to start seeing word fairies, though, so quit it.

Apple Talk / Pretending is more powerful than you know
« on: December 03, 2018, 05:23:30 pm »
Sometimes the thing that's got you fucked up is too insignificant to justify just how fucked up you are.

Sometimes the monsters have no nads for you to kick.

Sometimes you find yourself overdosing on adrenaline and cortisol for no good reason at all.

Sometimes there's no hope of a satisfying narrative conclusion.

And you can hide from this reality, and you can deny this reality, you can live in this reality with no hope of ever growing up or out of your petty trauma and maladaptive coping mechanisms. You can be furious with this reality, and scream into the unfairness of not having a moment to dredge up and fight and win. You can insist that no you're fine really and let everyone else carry the burden of your shit, because you won't.

But these are choices, and you have other options as well.

If a narrative conclusion is what you need, then go and fucking make one. Your head's as big as mine, as big as all our heads: whole universes fit in there. Start using that machine for something more productive than Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity errors. Build yourself a monster and fight it. Build yourself a trauma and overcome it.

You've always been a flighty kid, a dreamy kid, a kid with an overactive imagination. Stop hating that and start using it. Stop wasting it on entertainment and start using it to heal yourself. Write a better story. Run a better game. Make better art. Run that "coming to terms with the past" narrative over and over until it wears a rut in your brain as familiar as the one that says you're an idiot who can't do anything right. Make it as automatic as the path from your bed to the toilet.

Because it turns out your brain doesn't actually give a shit whether the bad thing you're getting over is real or not, it just needs practice going through the motions. It turns out healing is a habit like any other, and "cheating" means absolutely nothing in this context. Sure, there are folks with specific monsters with nads they can kick, who need to spend time doing that thing, but if you are one of the many who is broken because of a thousand papercuts instead of a sword wound, take heed.

Pretending is more powerful than you know.

Apple Talk / Who You Are
« on: November 20, 2018, 05:11:31 pm »
We are what we do

So if you don't know who you are, start doing things! Over time an identity will emerge, or something close enough that you can run with it. It may take a long time --years even -- and it's not remotely safe, but it's the only way out. Date somebody. Dump somebody. Go to Shakespeare In The Park. Buy a membership at a Museum. Find a library and start hanging out there.

Don't worry too much about clothing, hair, and accessories. Appearance isn't identity, it's just a way of presenting yourself to the world. As you start doing things, you'll find some outfits work better in certain situations than others, and some aesthetics get you further into the circles you find yourself. Go to a riot. Go to a city council meeting. Take an online course. Pick up a new hobby and find the other people doing it.

If money is no object you have more options, but even if you're struggling to get by you can still figure yourself out. Access to the internet puts tons of free, structured educational paths within reach, and countless communities for any interest you can imagine. If you don't have access where you live, libraries are free and have computers. Museums have free admission days. Volunteer opportunities don't have to be huge time sinks. Sit in on a church service. Collect trash and make something from it. Go for a walk and let yourself get a little lost.

This also applies if you know who you are and don't like it very much. Change comes by doing things, and if apologies are owed they don't have to be the first thing on your path to being a less shitty you. Pick up a paintbrush. Move away. Stop spending time with people who make you a worse person than you want to be.

Apple Talk / Not Crazy
« on: November 14, 2018, 05:21:02 pm »
I'm not crazy.

It's weird, because I spend a lot of time crazy, but right now I'm not. I'm sad, and scared, and have a problem with procrastination and confronting things sometimes, but it's not crazy. It's just human shit.

I wish there was a way to explain that subtle divide between crazy and not, to wrap it up in neat little paragraphs or poetry and go "see? This is the line." I don't even know how to start.

Maybe it's an issue of cohesiveness: an internal experience that's all one thing and not a war of screaming invasive thoughts and impulses. It's knowing the things that are in your head are all yours -- strike that, knowing that it's all you -- and not feeling a need for a dialogue or a conflict with it. It doesn't mean anything is resolved, there's still all the emotions and practical concerns that were there yesterday, and I'm crying at the drop of a hat and barely caught up with half of my work, but I'm not crazy.

The world is still a terrifying place and there is still so much wrong we may never recover, and I may be leaving my children a far more difficult life than my parents gave me. There are still fires and the theft of elections and the threat of war and social collapse. There are still nazis on our doorstep. Relationships are still hard.

I want to say it's like being in a pool, hearing everything muffled and muted by the water, but it's not like that at all. There is a reduction in the intensity of the experience, yes, but it's more like someone was screaming into a megaphone next to my head and only just now put the damn thing down. It's like finally taking your hand off the hot burner. There are still problems, and there is still pain, but it's less.

I've had times like this before. I know it's no guarantee that I've "made a breakthrough" and I'm "cured." My crazy is deep and rooted in the genes of my ancestors, a long line of uppity women with private battles as far back as the stories reach. I am not deluded.

I feel like I should be happier about this, excited, but really it's just a thing. I spend a lot of time crazy, so I have a lot of stuff built up to make me a functional crazy person. When I'm not, it's almost a little trouble adjusting back. Have to relearn how to make art like this, how to write, how to relate to other people. It's not a complaint, either, I like being safe in my own skin.

It's worth knowing. It's worth talking about.

Apple Talk / Belated Halloween thing
« on: November 07, 2018, 05:03:21 pm »
To the parents
Of the kids
In the store-bought costumes

I worked hard putting together
My son's outfit tonight
Finding the right cloth
To obscure his face
Without obscuring his vision
Building the magic staff
With hidden flashlight
And enormous plastic gem
Fitting the overwrought custom mask
To his small face
Sewing him into his headgear
Because there was no other way
To secure it
Layering the right clothing
To keep him warm
While preserving the aesthetic
And here
Is your child
In a $10 ninja jumpsuit

I just wanted to say
That you should not let anyone
Disparage what your child is wearing
Or the effort you put in
Or the investment you made
I just wanted to say
That your child's happiness
Is the only thing that matters
And that their participation
In this silly tradition
Is more valuable than a chest full
Of custom-tailored costumes
I just wanted to say
That whatever your situation
Or your child's
I'm happy you came out tonight
And if anyone gives you shit
I will sic my son on them
With his ridiculous tentacleface

Or Kill Me / Bandanna
« on: October 07, 2018, 04:15:29 am »
I put a bandanna in my purse
on the way out the door
Because if there is teargas
you want to cover your mouth and nose
Because I was going out to an event
and I don't go to events anymore
where we don't worry about teargas
and nazis
There were people spraypainting signs
but there were no cops there
except the ones blocking traffic
and the dumptrucks they used to close the road
were too much like the ones they used
to block off the protesters from traffic
for fear of another Charlottesville
This is my whole life now
Everything is protests or politics or echoes of both
and even the places I escape to
are reflections of the fear and rage
the banshee wail I can't ever get out
and can never walk away from
it's become second nature
Because for two years there has been
a quiet war
And we fight it with cardboard
and bullhorns
and bandannas

Bring and Brag / Favorite Sentences Megathread
« on: September 11, 2018, 10:31:31 pm »
What do you post here? Your favorite sentences from your own writing, or someone else's with attribution. Context is for losers.

Apple Talk / Tinnitus
« on: September 11, 2018, 02:31:33 am »
She has tinnitus
Says it sounds like a symphony
Tones that ebb and flow into infinity
Words drop out she responds numbly
Smiles and nods like a foreigner in her own country
Her body is failing and she can hear

She has tinnitus
Says it's nothing really
Winces when the sound jabs too deeply
Can't stand the radio, hides at the party
It's always too much and she hates to be needy
Her body is failing and she can hear

She has tinnitus
Says it feels like a fantasy
The ambient soundtrack to her every reverie
The howling void outside our reality
The edges are ragged and she rides them fearlessly
The world is failing and she can hear

She has tinnitus
Says it's like electricity
Angels in the wiring screaming in assembly
Incomprehensible, prone to insanity
The simulation's failing and she can hear

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