because the personal is cultural
I’m out of weed. I text the delivery service, but I don’t hear back from them. The concert is in thirty minutes. What do I have around the house? A flask of Balvenie Doublewood 12 y.o. Two cans of PBR that a way-too-drunk customer forgot at work. I don’t like drinking alcohol, not because of the taste, but because of the effect it has on my body. Still, I crack open a can and bring the flask with me.
But it doesn’t work. Even when I finally feel drunk, I still feel like I’m dying. I stand in the corner of the room, looking through Twitter on my phone. I’m not a douchebag; it’s just the only thing that’s making me feel a bit better right now.
When the opening act is over, I go outside to get some fresh air. When I come back some asshole is now standing in the corner. He doesn’t need to. He’s with someone. He doesn’t suffer from social anxiety. I go in the bathroom. I sit in the single bathroom stall, waiting for the headliner to finally go on. I curse the band under my breath for taking so long to get started. The internet barely works in here, and it’s not helping.
I remember that, when my best friend wouldn’t be there in high school, I’d eat my lunch in a bathroom stall. Soon though, I would just drop my lunch in the nearest garbage can and go spend the entire lunch hour in the library.
Even before I’d ever been to the city, I considered myself a city person. This was based on movies and television alone. I wanted to do things city people do. Now that I’m in the city though, I recognize that part of me (the core of me) remains a country person. I do city things but I do them in a country way: alone. I grew up on a dairy farm, far from my friends, whom I rarely saw outside of school. I had two older brothers, but we had a significant age difference: five and seven years. They were more likely to terrorize me than protect me. I remember an incident where my mother was scared of sending me to school because she feared that my teacher would think my parents were beating me up; I had bruises all over my arms.
So I did things on my own. I read; I watched television, whatever movies they had at the shitty video store in town; I listened to top 40 radio because I’d never been exposed to anything else; I daydreamed. In the country, if you don’t do things on your own, you won’t do anything at all.
In the city, I went to the movies, to restaurants, to concerts, to clubs, to bars, to dance shows, to plays… Most of the time, I did those things on my own. I still do.
There are two social settings in which I need to smoke up: at a concert and at a club. I’m not entirely sure why. I feel mostly fine going to a restaurant or a theatre on my own. Sometimes I’ll notice that I’m the only person alone and I’ll feel a bit of social envy, but then I listen to the inane conversations of the people around me and I go back to reading the words of people long dead.
I think I feel fine in these contexts because my aloneness is assigned a table, a seat, a delimited space. At a concert or a club, the crowd is fluid, and their togetherness constantly threatens to butt up against my aloneness. My aloneness is in a constant state of shock.
When I get stoned, I become invested in the sensorial experience of my surroundings. I don’t care that I’m alone. The tightness in my chest subsides. Words fill my head and, whether it’s actually true or not, my stoned self thinks I’m really witty. I can focus on the music, I can hear it, I can let it inside of me, I can feel it.
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.