Today I read Jane Eyre for the first time since I was a freshman in college. I had spent the week in a classroom of fifty seventh-grade students, and I wanted to experience that soft happy flutter that comes from watching sappy love movies and reading sweet books that serve as personal love notes. By the end of the novel, I wanted to push the text down the throat of a shredder. I wanted to take Jane by the shoulders and tell her that Rochester was not worth her sacrifice.

We like to sit back and pretend that everything has changed since then. Now we value the strong, independent woman who pulls herself up from the bottom of society to make herself an equal. I read Jane Eyre and Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and I pity the women who had to be saved by rich, powerful men in order to become someone, but I am not too different from them.

I was born Appalachian poor to the most chauvinist of men and to the weakest of women. I was born to lose, but a wealthy, educated man saw me, fell in love with me, and swept me out of hell to be his. Everyone talks about what a success story I am, how great it is that I “got out.” But, like Jane, I did not save myself. I could not. I had to be saved by someone else—I had to be saved by a man. (Continued )

Fifty years ago today, Sylvia Plath finished a poem that would go on to become one her most famous. It was called “Daddy”. On that day, she wrote to her mother, describing the process:

Every morning, when my sleeping pill wears off, I am up about five, in my study with coffee, writing like mad—have managed a poem a day before breakfast. All book poems. Terrific stuff, as though domesticity had choked me.

Having been enamored with Plath’s woefully short and tumultuous life for practically forever, we at VIII Nothing are proud to celebrate the birthday of one of the finest poems of the twentieth century.

For those interested (and you should be!), the Paris Review, which is reliably excellent, has a long and in-depth piece up on Plath and Ariel and the creation of “Daddy”—among a lot of other things. It’s a good read, and managed to teach us a few things about Plath’s life (and here we thought we were experts all along).

And if you’ve never read the poem, for God’s sake, hurry the hell up and do it already.

The following “interviews” were conducted on the night of 7 October 2012 at Mohawk, which is a small music venue in downtown Austin. The lights were dimmed low, and there were hot flames coming from the fireplace near the entrance. People seemed happy to be where they were.

The interviewer, Ryan Starsailor, was under the influence of two to four beers, depending on the time at which the conversations took place. We present the piece in chronological order.

•     •     •

The interviewer spots drummer/vocalist Linwood Regensburg in line at the bar. He is holding two drink tickets and talking to a young woman with short-cropped bangs and black-rimmed glasses. On top of his head is a little orange knit cap.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, hey, Linwood.

LINWOOD: Hey! You look familiar. Have we met?

INTERVIEWER: No, we haven’t. I just knew who you were. I wanted to say I think you’re an all-right dude.

LINWOOD: Man, thanks. [Shakes interviewers hand firmly.] Hey—what should I get? You’ve got a Lone Star there.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, Lone Stars aren’t very good—

LINWOOD: I wasn’t going to say that outright, but yeah, it’s just kind of what it is: a cheap beer.

INTERVIEWER: Really it’s no different than, say, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

LINWOOD: Right, right.

INTERVIEWER:  You should get something local, like Fireman #4 or 512.

LINWOOD: Yeah, I always have this guilt that I’m not trying out more local beers. These days I just want a Miller. [Laughs.] My fallback—my fallback is usually Heineken. Except when I drink too many of those I can’t stand it for a few weeks. Maybe I’ll just get something . . . that, uh, isn’t very good.

INTERVIEWER: I too enjoy shitty beers.

[An older woman approaches Linwood holding a copy of Those Darlins’ sophomore album, Screws Get Loose.]

OLDER WOMAN: Linwood, Linwood—can I get you to sign this for me?! I’ve already tracked down Nikki and Jessi and they signed it.

LINWOOD: Oh, yeah, of course.

[The woman who is with Linwood, with the short-cropped bangs and black-rimmed glasses, turns to the interviewer.]

WOMAN WITH SHORT-CROPPED BANGS AND BLACK-RIMMED GLASSES: I’m Lindsay, by the way. Not sure how I missed out on introducing myself.

INTERVIEWER: I’m Ryan. Hi Lindsay!

LINDSAY: I’ve known Linwood for a long time. He’s one of my oldest friends—so this is so weird to me, to have people come up to him like this. I don’t think of him as being famous at all.

INTERVIEWER: He seems like such a nice human.

LINDSAY: Oh, he is. The nicest.

LINWOOD: [Turning back.] Isn’t tomorrow Columbus Day?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. And I still have to go to work. Though I guess celebrating the life of a mass-murdering marauder-sociopath is kind of a weird thing to do.

LINWOOD: Was he really that bad?

INTERVIEWER: He was a total asshole.

LINDSAY: Yeah, he was.

[Linwood hands Lindsay a beer and takes a sip of his own. The interviewer thrusts his beer into the middle of the human circle, as if to say, “Cheers”. Linwood and Lindsay tap their beers to the interviewer’s, and everyone takes a long gulp.]

INTERVIEWER: Basically one of the biggest jerks in history.

•     •     •

Two beers in, the interviewer stands as a lone sentry near the venue entrance, where the fire can be felt, and new faces can be seen. Jessi Darlin is one of those faces. She is 5’3” and dressed in a leotard covered in sequins. She is wearing wrestling boots. Her blood-red lipstick and pale complexion give her an otherworldly appearance.

INTERVIEWER: Oh hey, Jessi Darlin.

JESSI: [Turning to the interviewer.] Hey! What’s up?

INTERVIEWER: I just wanted to say hello—and do this. [Reaches out for a handshake.] I’m Ryan.

JESSI: Hello Ryan! It’s nice to meet you. [Shakes outstretched hand.]

INTERVIEWER: Uhh, do well!

JESSI: Thank you! I will. [Walks away.]

•     •     •

Nikki Darlin stands at the end of the bar with a grown man who is wearing a paperboy cap. Her eyes are partially hidden behind smoky black eyeshadow and an asymmetrical tangle of bangs. Her lips are dark red and her outfit is the color of charcoal.

INTERVIEWER: Hi Nikki Darlin. I’m just a dude who likes what you do, and is glad you exist.

NIKKI: That’s always a nice thing to hear.

GROWN MAN WITH PAPERBOY CAP: Man, I’ve got to use the bathroom!

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, it’s right there. [Points to the open door next to the bar.] It’s a weird room. There’s purple light flooding out of it, and the trashcan is propping the door open so there’s virtually no privacy.

GROWN MAN WITH PAPERBOY CAP: Weird, man! Totally weird. [Walks into the bathroom.]

INTERVIEWER: [Turning to Nikki Darlin.] Uh, I’ve always wanted to meet you. So it’s nice that that happened. [Motioning towards the bathroom, where Nikki’s dude-friend/maybe-boyfriend is.] Listen, this might be an inappropriate thing to say, but I guess I was always in the John camp. You could have been the next John and Yoko, man.

NIKKI: The what-camp?

INTERVIEWER: The John McCauley camp.

NIKKI: [Smiling.] Well, I’m not. Hah.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, man, yeah I guess that was kind of rude of me to say. I mean, that’s your personal life.

NIKKI: No, it’s fine. We both live in Nashville and we’re still friends. I guess we broke up . . . about a year ago.

INTERVIEWER: Well, that’s sadder than hell, but I guess that’s just some shit that happens.

NIKKI: Yeah, it’s OK.

INTERVIEWER: I think I read one time that you’re from Rappahannock County, right?

NIKKI: I sure am.

INTERVIEWER: I’m from Prince William County, which is something like thirty miles away. So I guess we’re both Virginians.

NIKKI: [Holding up two drinks—one belonging to her special guy.] Cheers to that.

INTERVIEWER: [Pantomiming a toast with an empty hand.] Uh, I don’t have my beer. I gave it to my girlfriend.

NIKKI: [Winking.] Good man.

INTERVIEWER: [Patting Nikki on the shoulder.] Hey, I’m really looking forward to this. Thanks again for existing. [Darts away.]

NIKKI: Wait—

INTERVIEWER: [Walking backwards towards Nikki Darlin.] Yeah?

NIKKI: What’s your name?

INTERVIEWER: Oh, I’m Ryan.

NIKKI: Hi Ryan. [Extends her hand.] I’m Nikki. [The two shake hands. Nikki has a nice handshake, as far as those go.]

INTERVIEWER: Hi Nikki.

•     •     •

Those Darlins are about to perform. The crowd waits patiently. They are engaged in friendly conversation, and are sipping drinks and staring ahead at the stage. Linwood Regensburg walks through the crowd to get to the stairwell leading to the stage and the green room. He recognizes the interviewer and raises his eyebrows as a greeting.

INTERVIEWER: Hello again, Linwood.

LINWOOD: Hey man.

INTERVIEWER: Linwood, this is Chantal—

[Linwood shakes Chantal’s hand.]

INTERVIEWER: —and Karina and Javier.

[Linwood shakes Karina and Javier’s hands.]

LINWOOD: I gotta get ready. It was nice to meet you all!

INTERVIEWER: Bye Linwood!

•     •     •

The show has ended and the members of Those Darlins depart from the stage and head to the bar to get one last drink before braving the cold October night. On the way out the door, the interviewer spots Nikki Darlin, and red-faced and silly from a few beers, has the balls to say good-bye.

INTERVIEWER: Have a good night, Nikki Darlin.

NIKKI: You too, Ryan.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, is it OK if I hug you?

NIKKI: Of course. [Hugs the interviewer.]

INTERVIEWER: Nikki, I’m going to support you in everything you do artistically for the rest of your life. OK?

NIKKI: That’s so sweet of you to say, Ryan. [Turning to the guy behind the merch booth.] Wasn’t that sweet of him to say?

MERCH BOOTH DUDE: It really was.

•     •     •

The interviewer exits the venue and walks down the sidewalk in the direction of his car. An enormous bearded viking-giant, whom the interviewer recognizes as one of the Mohawk bartenders, makes huge strides in the opposite direction. The two recognize each other as they pass.

ENORMOUS BEARDED VIKING-GIANT: Have a good night, brother.

INTERVIEWER: You too, my friend.

The boys across the hall are brothers. They live in a dirt cheap studio rented by their sister.

Only their sister doesn’t actually live there. And the boys are actually half brothers. Different fathers. Jessie knew his father, but doesn’t really get along. Cary never got a chance to meet his.

The boys do hard wood floors. But that’s dried up. They are in and out of rehab. Now the boys sell heroin and rock. Loudly by phone. Usually pacing. In the hall.

Cary is the younger. A good looking, naturally California type. When he moves he reveals how many times he’s been broken. His body fits together like it’s been permanently fused at a couple key points. His legs are a ninety year old woman’s. His arms a mafia enforcer.

He is jovial and kind during the day. He dotes on a small jack terrier named C.J. Shows it off any chance he can. Like the proud father of a spelling champ. Framing it in his forearms as though a rare violin.

At night Cary is wasted. He wails his pain. It consumes him. It drips feverishly from every pore. He calls everyone he knows. He punches walls. My walls. He calls the fire department to take him to the hospital. When they come he doesn’t want to go to the hospital. Mainly because he can’t afford the ambulance. Or the hospital.

Jessie is the elder brother. He too is always sunned Californian. Jovial with a childlike air about. His smile shines from a dented face. Like a puppy who constantly sticks their nose in closing doors.

Jessie has asthma. He smokes cigarettes on the back fire escape, just outside my bathroom window. He has a cough like a Maori chant. It is a rumbling curse from the depth of him. A song of endings. He has just returned from prison. And is usually drunk by noon.

Jessie is a happy drunk. Sings and says hello neighbor. He is a sullen and moody sober. The kind of guy you can imagine in prison. (Continued )

Couldn’t sleep tonight. Stayed up and read a book and listened to music. Made dinner for myself earlier because she was busy with what’s-her-name’s birthday. Asked her not to go, but she went. That was selfish of me. She should be making friends. She needs to know more people—more people than just me.

I need to know more people than just me, too.

Yes, I have just turned off all the lights in my apartment, and I’m looking out into the blackness of the dead city across the way. What’s going on? The sky is hazy and yellow. It’s nearly five in the morning.

In thirty days, I will phone my father and tell him I love him, and then I will hang up the phone and make him wonder if I’ll be alive tomorrow.

But right now, this yellow sky is really something. A huge section of the grid must be out, and all that light is trapped up there under the clouds. Not a single light across the rainbow bridge. Even that stupid warehouse where all the artists live is completely dark. Gotta wonder if this lifelessness has reached the harbor. Probably a bunch of people breaking into low-level apartments right now. Probably a lot of glass shattering and people screaming. But from here it’s silent.

I’m going to tell him I love him, and hang up the phone. I will put on that ratty green t-shirt and walk to the railroad tracks. And I will take them as far as I feel like going. And then I will jump from some high place and hope the height kills me.

Looking at my journal now and it appears I haven’t written anything in nearly two months. Get away from women. Stay away from women. Gone forever? I hope not, Ryan.

Sure is dark over there. If I go out, I might not come back—and not by choice, either.

I’ll jump off the rainbow bridge. And I can see the National Bohemian billboard from way the hell up there. Been there for ten years. I’ve always liked it. I think it’s a nice billboard, as far as billboards go. They’ll be cleaning me off the tracks by morning. Someone will say they saw some kid jump from the top of the arch and splat! No more Ryan. ‘I love you, Dad’—and then no more. Not another peep out of me.

Out walking. Put my shoes on and stepped out of the building. My building still has power, but it’s hard to tell because everyone but me is asleep.

The air is nice and it was a good idea to come out here. The whole city is plunged in black shadows. Darkness for miles. Can’t get over this eerie glow, though—hovering just below the bottoms of the clouds. Moves a little, too. Haven’t seen anything like this before. Feels apocalyptic. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d be upset if I knew nothing would ever go back to normal again. If everyone was dead inside their homes—asleep forever in their beds. Thing is, I don’t want to be the only one left. Tomorrow will come, and the glow will be lifted, and the light will return, and I’ll have no one to talk to. Take me, too.

It would shatter him. Thirty years of quiet sadness. Working in the garden, petting his dog. Dead son. Loved me. Loves me.

Thought I heard something, but it was just a bag blowing by. Got caught in a bush. Garbage everywhere. Over there, I can see plastic and paper caught up in the skeletal trees. No flowers, no leaves—nothing. Even the trees have given up on life.

If someone sees me and they’re mean enough, they’ll put a knife in me and take what little money I have. And it wouldn’t be hard to match my key to my car.

He tells me he dreams about me most every night.

I hear a song. I know this song. Someone else is alive out there.

Thirty days.

The sky looks sick. I think maybe I miss you. I should think that more often.

Jesus, it’s dark. Darker than anything I’ve ever seen. Black over black over black.

There’s that bridge. I can make out its outline. If I climb it now I’ll slip. Too wet.

Not in the mood to die tonight. The power goes out and you forget anyone even exists at all. Just me out here.

Go back to sleep. This won’t hurt a bit.

You should know that I threw away the lantern you gave me. It’s in a landfill somewhere.

We were supposed to go together. But I got upset and stayed behind. So you bought me that little lantern and a pack of tea light candles.

And I loved those little candles. They smelled like vanilla and honey. And I burned through them while I reread The Hobbit. And I burned through them while I reread To the Lighthouse. And I burned through them when I combed the knots out of Dante’s fur.

Yes, and when it was warm I would open the windows and listen to the cars and the wind. And pull up the shades and see the moon. And Dante and Virgil would rush to my side and beg me to lift the windows a little higher.

And that little lantern was burning on the dining room table I had turned into a desk. And I sat on the Persian rug and read books by little clouds of incense smoke.

And I held you that night after we walked through Mt. Vernon, on the first day of spring.

I supported you when I had nothing. And I fed you when I knew I would have to go without. I cleaned your car and bought you bananas.

I knocked on your door and woke you up. I cleaned your bedroom. I threw away that towel you puked on. I bought you a glass of wine.

And I drove you home from work. Paid your parking tickets. Wiped away your tears. I told you you were beautiful and I kissed your eyes.

I held you in my arms and said you never had to leave if you didn’t want to.

Because I wanted to remember what you smelled like. Because I wanted to hold your hand.

You kissed me when I told you I was miserable. You bought me tea bags for my birthday.

And when Sean died you only touched me because I asked you to. And when my mother had a breakdown you watched me cry.

And I told you I liked it when you wore stripes. And I threatened him and said we were engaged.

And I burned those little candles until none were left. And I slept until the sun was setting. And on that last night there I curled up alone on the floor with my stuffed animals. I turned the heat up high. I could have kissed another girl the night before but I didn’t.

And when I woke up I threw away that lantern. I tossed it in a dumpster and my eyes got red. Because I told you I would love you forever. Because I couldn’t help it.

Because I never wanted to see that fucking lantern again. Because I was out of candles anyway.

And it was cold that day. And there was no room in my car. And I didn’t want to bring it with me.

And you wouldn’t know the fucking difference anyhow.