Issue 002: Nothing Left To Love
(Please Love Me)
3 September 2011
• • •
And so I came back to my home
Where loneliness did lie
I said I was to leave again
But no one said good-bye.
I told them, “See, now listen here”
I told them listen well
“I am leaving for the other coast,” (said I)
“Or my brain and heart will swell.”
“I have lived here far too long
And now I must away,”
I turned and blew a kiss—and waved
And walked the other way.
• • •
Dearest friends and beasts:
Hello. This is Ryan Theordor Cecilius Starsailor, of octonaut, of VIII Nothing (which I will get into later, maybe, I don’t know). I am writing these words and sentences and paragraphs to you and for you from inside this cavern—from inside a place that is comfortable to me. I am holed up in Berryville, Virginia, which is where a few magical human beings who love me very dearly, God help them, have allowed me to hang my hat and avoid bad feelings for a little while. I am in hiding. I am avoiding the teeming screaming madness of the world. I am also relatively happy. What a strange and fascinating feeling—to be happy. It has been so long. I almost don’t know what to do with it. It scares me a little. However, I think I shall I keep it for a while, if it will let me, and if I promise not to squeeze it too hard.
I have spent the last forty-eight hours driving aimlessly with my dear cousin, John Blacksher. And also I have been thinking and laughing and crying and feeling. I have done all of these things just as I always do them, which is deeply.
Yes, and I have come to two conclusions, which I finally settled on this morning upon waking, upon first opening my eyes. The theme of this week’s newsletter, as you may have guessed, is the idea that there is nothing left for me to love, and that I must go someplace new. I have loved everything there is to love here. I must go to a place where there are new things to love. I wrote that dumb little poem to say that. I wanted to say good-bye. I wanted to prepare myself for the painful departure, and the reawakening on the other side of this godforsaken continent. I am going to where the sun is friendlier, and where the clouds are kinder, and where the wind is windier.
• • •
I have just come from California. That was two days ago, yet I have felt the pressing desire to return as soon as I am able. I think I shall go in October, when the weather is fair. Hah!—the weather is always fair where I wish to go; it matters not when I board a plane and land there.
You may have visited California before. Never in my life had I done so. I don’t know why that is. It was something I had always assumed would just happen. Well, it did happen, and it happened to be one of the greatest experiences that this little East Coast pissant has ever experienced. I was happy and warm. It has stayed with me. I want it never to leave me.
Among many reasons, I wish to return for the following, which are my favorite reasons:
1) The sun doesn’t hurt. It’s bright as hell, sure, and I had to wear my (awesome jerk-off) sunglasses the entire time, but I never burned. I burn easily. I am white as cauliflower. In fact after spending most of my time outdoors, the worst it ever got was that I turned a faint shade of pink. Pink! I was adorable for thirty-six hours, which is how long the rosy color remained obvious. Mostly the sun was kept behind well-intentioned clouds, or it just stayed the hell away. When it did poke its head out to say hello, I welcomed it, and we became good friends.
2) It’s in the 60s and 70s every day. I guess I’m referring specifically to the Bay Area here, but hell, that’s where I want to end up anyway, so that’s the only part I care about. It is what I would call “October weather”, which just about everyone knows is the best month out of the year. I would wake up and throw a hoodie over this ridiculous frame of mine, and walk out into the street and feel the cool breezes as they sailed down every street. It gave me chills down my spine in the best possible way, no kidding.
3) People are generally nicer. I noticed this everywhere I went: on the bus, on the train, on city streets—people are just nicer. Here on the God damn East Coast, everyone and their mom wants to treat you like a steamrolled piece of dog shit. Just the other day a 15-year-old boy flipped me off as I drove past him. And once I was out on a night walk near the Copycat Building, and I did what it is I always do when I pass by a human being: I said “Hey!” or “Hello!” or “How are you?” In this case, two “adults” were sitting on a stoop smoking cigarettes like their lives depended on it, so I said, “Hey guys!” Their response, of course, we unsurprising, but painful nonetheless: “Fuck you.” Fuck you, huh? Okay! Wow! Every time I’m in New Orleans or Austin or whatever, I’m always struck by how friendly and outgoing people seem to be. They are my people! They are people I want to know. One more anecdote: Last night, by God, I was with my dear cousin, and we visited Shenandoah University to find a little fun, a little mischief. As we walked past the duck pond, speaking of love and death and the end of the world, we came upon a couple seated on a bench. “Hello,” I said. “How’s it going?” said my cousin. Nothing—no response whatsoever. They just stared dumbly at us with eyes that lacked spark and wisdom. Meanwhile, in Oakland, I can get on the wrong bus, ask if I’m on my way to 3rd Street and Broadway, only to be told, in the friendliest terms by everyone on board, that I am in fact on the wrong bus. And the bus driver will stop, give me a transfer ticket and send me on my merry way, making sure I utilize the correct bus station this time, so that I can end up where it is I want to be.
4) It’s easier to be happier there. This one is hard to explain . . . but I shall try anyway. If you consider that there are miles and miles of fields filled with grapes that will eventually become wine, and that there is delicious and organic food anywhere you wish to go, and that the weather is more or less perfect, and that there is a mighty ocean boarding the state, and that there are redwood trees and deserts and mountains and grasslands and so on . . . it really does make sense. It’s just a nicer place to be. I used to boast about Virginia’s many charms, but man, fuck that place. And I’m a guy who loves Virginia. And see: I’m not a very happy person whatsoever. In fact I’m the most miserable person you could ever hope to know—and I felt happy there. Genuinely happy! Do you know what this means for me? Do you? My God, what a feeling! As I said above, I have no idea what to do with this newfound feeling. It is something that I can safely say I’ve never truly felt before—at least not this brand of happiness, of which I am sure there exist many. I like this one, at any rate.
5) People on the West Coast are generally prettier. They’re just nicely archetectured human bodies. I don’t know—there’s been too much breeding on this coast, here in the East. And I say this as a person who was spawned here, and whose body, I’m sure, represents the same repulsive design to which I am referring. Don’t take this part too seriously—I’m not advocating eugenics or anything, for God’s sake.
6) Jason Long’s Uncle Allen lives in a town called Pleasanton, California. I don’t know what else to say except I love that dude and I love that town. “Pleasanton” for God’s sake. For God’s sake!
There are more reasons—many more, even, and too many to count—but for the sake of brevity (hah!), I will stop here. That and I dislike lists. I’m truly sorry to have made a list. I’m not quite sure what it is I was thinking.
• • •
Do you remember the scene in The Matrix where Agent Smith grabs Morpheus’ big sweaty head and, with bulging eyes, begins to tell him that he “must get out of this place”? Remember how God damn crazy he looked? That’s how I feel, sometimes, only I would never have the audacity to grab some hapless soul by the skull and scream it into their face. I’m much too nice a person to do that. But I will tell you, right now, that I have to get away from here, before the big meltdown—before I implode. It’s getting that bad.
I’m sick of the traffic and the bad weather and the shitty people and the gray, gray, gray. I’m tired of living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, in the bottom of this volcano, in the grasp of death. I can’t take it anymore. I have to find a way to be happy most of the time. I’m willing to travel 2,300 miles and leave everything behind in order to accomplish that. I’m saving myself.
• • •
Enough about California—for now. If you choose to continue receiving this newsletter, you will hear way more about it than you could ever hope to hear. I’ll be there—living there. I’ll see and feel and touch and listen. I’ll tell you all about it, if that’s what you’d like.
• • •
What am I to do with five months? Five months to walk around like a jerk, to visit people, to meet people. I plan to sell my car and most everything I own. If you want to rifle through my shit and take something for free, you are more than welcome to. You can have anything you want.
Just stay away from my socks. I guess in saying that it negates the part about taking whatever you want. Did you know that I have an envious sock “collection”? (I hesitate to use this word.) I have socks of all different colors—of every color of the rainbow! I have striped socks and patched socks. It’s really wonderful. I think I’ll take all of them with me.
Did you know I get really upset when one of my socks begins to wear away? It’s almost like a funeral when I have to go and toss it in the trash. Oh, God, and they usually go together as a pair—both worn away and holey. I may start crying; I must stop.
• • •
The other day I had something of a nervous breakdown. I said I a lot of swear words to myself while driving through my hometown. I felt weird and miserable and deflated. That’s when that little shit flipped me the bird. I just waved and said to myself: “God loves you.” I always do that. It helps me to stay sane when the world isn’t. It’s also pretty funny, if you think about it.
I went to the grocery store. I intended to buy a couple dozen little blue capsules which would allow me to temporarily shut my body down. I wanted to drive somewhere and just go the hell to sleep for a half a day. (No, not that kind of sleep—real sleep.) I walked down the magazine aisle. I don’t know why it was the magazine aisle. It had to be the magazine aisle. There was a girl crouching low and reading the magazines closest to the ground. I said, “Hello”. She said, “Hey!” I walked past her and accidentally kicked a clear plastic container that was nearly invisible. It flew down the aisle and made a horrible noise. It clattered against a shelf and broke. She laughed. I turned around: “Don’t tell anyone I just did that.” I thought that was pretty funny. I guess she did, too, because she laughed again.
I grabbed a box of artificial sleep off the shelf and returned to her. “Do you know what’s it like to be really sad?” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “At least I think I do.”
“I’m talking sadder than you’ve ever been in your whole life.” Something truly awful had just happened to me, which I won’t mention here because . . . well, I don’t know. It’s one of the few things I’m going to keep close to my chest.
“Then no,” she said. “I’ve never been that upset.”
“Well, I am. I’m about ready to burst. I’m done.”
“Do you want to come with me while I finish shopping?”
“Yes—God, yes. Let’s go.” I was jittery and manic. I was speaking so quickly, thinking rapidly. I had forgotten to take my medication that morning. I was avoiding a drug called Abilify because it makes me feel rotten sometimes. It puts a weird sort of energy inside of me that cannot be used up. It lights up my insides like a roman candle.
She told me her name was Alex, and that she wanted to buy a watermelon and some hair dye. She said she wanted her hair to be red. It was mostly red anyway, but she needed badly to make her roots that color, too, she said.
“How old are you?” I said.
“Twenty,” she said. “I’ll be twenty-one in November.”
“Oh, God,” I said. I was about to tell her I was an old, old man, but that it wouldn’t be obvious after I’d admitted to the amount of years I’d been alive, and because of my boyish appearance. Both were badly disproportionate to how old I felt. So I said something true and slightly sad:
“I’m twenty-three and well on my way to the subsequent number.”
She was weirdly impressed by my Bachelor’s in English literature, and my dumb old minor in Philosophy. It made me feel bad. The poor girl had no idea. She said she was studying American sign language. I told her I’d heard there was some real money in that. She nodded, but seemed unsure as to what I was getting at. She just went along with it, like I knew better. I had to laugh. I had no idea what I was talking about.
I ended up buying the damn watermelon for her. I told her it was a present from her new friend Ryan. She was very thankful. She said that meant we were truly friends now. She asked me what my favorite fruit was, and she blushed a little when I told her I loved apples, but that it was a close tie between that and strawberries.
When we left the grocery store, she told me of her intentions to buy a sandwich. I asked if I could come with her. She smiled. “Of course,” she said.
Walking down the sidewalk, we were approached by three slimy-looking human cockroaches. Each of them tried to hug her. She only hugged the first guy, who was the slimiest of them all. After he’d left, she blurted out something strange, which was this: “He once tried to sleep with me.” I hadn’t really needed to know that, but she told me anyway, and that’s all she told me. And when she said it, her eyes were distant and hollow, and there was a sort of vague unhappiness about her.
I didn’t press it. I just said, “Oh!”
Yes, and after she had her lunch, we talked for several hours. She was content to let me ramble on about existentialism and doomsday theories and anthropology—and about love and California and misery. I told her about how I’d written my number on a cocktail napkin and given it to a girl on an airplane on my way from California to Chicago. She giggled. She giggled a lot when I said things that weren’t really all that funny, and were in fact pretty sad and pathetic. I told her I was genuinely upset that she hadn’t tried to contact me, no matter how stupid it was that I’d done that, or that I’d expected anything to happen at all. I told her the girl on the plane was just about the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. (My cousin says I’m into sad-looking girls. It’s true. This girl looked sad as hell.)
She asked me if I wanted to do something later, after she’d seen her parents for a while, and I said, “Okay, yeah. Okay.” She then drove me to my car in her big black Cadillac, which I told her looked like “The Death Car” because it resembled a hearse. It was a spooky car, for sure. She said her grandma had sold it to her for $10. Way to be an asshole, Grandma.
She left. I left. I went somewhere else. I sat in my car and stole from a coffee shop free invisible signals which made the internet possible on my portable internet-searching machine. I talked to this pretty girl I know. She told me she didn’t believe that I was sitting in my car. I took a picture to prove it. She laughed. She said that was funny as hell.
I never saw that other girl again—never saw Alex again.
• • •
Yes, and so that night I drove down misty highways and screamed along to music which opened my heart viscously. I let it. I wanted to hurt, wanted to feel pain. I drove until the road took me to my dear cousin’s house in place he would call the Village of Berries. He showed me to my room. He hugged me like a brother. “Welcome,” he said.
I set my bag down next to a double bed which had been placed in my other dear cousin’s room. He had been away from home for a long time. He was in California studying and teaching physics.
There was a poster hanging over the bed. It was a picture of the Hourglass Nebula. It looked like two swirling fiery halos with a blue-green eye in the very center. It looked ominous as hell—like a villainous creature floating in space. Underneath the lowest halo it said this: “A young bipolar planetary nebula.”
“That’s me,” I said aloud. “That’s what I am, too.”
I went to sleep. There were no nightmares.
• • •
Days went by. I slept peacefully in a double bed that was not my own. I had large dinners every night, which were prepared with a vegetarian in mind. I felt so welcomed and loved. I felt remembered.
Yes, and at night, John and I would descend upon the Village of Berries like phantoms, and we would go this way and that; walking down railroad tracks and sneaking into quarries and trouncing through forests—where old memories still lingered like wisps of smoke. The two of us looked and felt gorgeous. We went on adventures we promised ourselves to never outgrow. And we shared the same blood, which meant we were made of the same stuff, and which meant we were strong.
And in the afternoons I would hear John strumming away at a ratty old guitar, singing his lungs out. I could hear it through the walls. His voice sounded genuine and a little sad. It was the best kind of voice.
And night would come and we’d do it all again.
Once we ended up at Shenandoah University. We went there to see the duck pond. We were satisfied within minutes—satisfied after we’d made a lap around the pond and met every duck you could ever hope to meet.
Bouncing around campus, we saw little pockets of human activity, and wished to be a part of them. We made a plan to quickly assimilate ourselves into one of these pockets. John pulled out a cigarette. He said he was going to ask the group of people directly in front of us for a light. I told him that was a great idea.
We approached a group of students seated on colorful wooden chairs in the sloping lawn near the buildings where other students were sleeping or fucking or watching television or staring blankly at screens which displayed the internet in static high definition.
“Greetings,” said John broadly. “May I trouble you for a light?” My cousin is always such a gentleman like that.
A wiry country boy pulled a lighter out from his pocket and said, “Yeah, man!” He held the lighter close to himself, and then quickly flipped it out and on right in front of John’s face, nearly burning him. “Blam!” said the country boy. The cigarette failed to light. It was, admittedly, not a very good way to light a cigarette—or to handle portable fire for that matter. It was also clear that our new friend was intoxicated and dumber for it.
After some trial and error, John’s cigarette was lit. He never complained. “Thanks a lot, friend,” said John.
“Name’s Johnny,” said the country boy. Now the idiot had a name. I say “idiot” endearingly, if you can believe it. He was well-intentioned and helpful, just dumb as hell. He’d drunk too much.
“And I’m Caroline,” said a terrifyingly skinny girl who sat to my left. She quickly informed us that everything she was wearing had come from a store which specializes in risqué clothing.
“Even the bra?” said Johnny, grinning like a shark, eyes hidden behind $150 designer sunglasses. The youth have such strange priorities.
“Even the bra,” she said.
“Prove it.” Caroline lifted up her shirt to show everyone that she wasn’t lying. I didn’t look.
“And what’s your shirt say?” said Johnny. “Hell, I can’t read the damn thing, it’s so dark out.”
“It says, um, ‘Let’s get a room’”. Now everything made sense.
There was another girl, and her name was Becca. Becca was shy and friendly and reasonable. She was different than everyone else seated there. She had a big brain. I shook her hand. She smiled. “It’s very nice to meet you, Becca,” I said.
Eventually the questions came rolling out: “Do you go to Shenandoah?” and “How old are you?” and “What are you majoring in?”
We told them that we didn’t attend Shenandoah at all, and that we were both English majors, and that we were twenty and twenty-three respectively. No one could believe it when we said the last part. Their mouths just about hit the ground when they discovered I had the legal ability to purchase and consume alcohol. Instantly Caroline became extremely attracted to me. She eyed me up and down with a “come hither” look. I swallowed the saliva in my mouth. I felt weird and dirty. Everyone around us was eighteen. They were children.
Johnny stumbled out of his chair and asked for my phone number, which for some reason I gave to him. Johnny and Caroline kept asking me questions, as if they didn’t believe me when I told them how long my human body had been on planet Earth.
“I need to give you a hug,” said Caroline. She stood up. She grabbed my hand, and pulled me toward her. I felt like a wet towel. She wrapped her arms around my neck and held me close. I laughed. I felt like I had superpowers.
“Do I get a hug?” said John, sucking down a cigarette.
“No,” said Caroline, “because you’re not at least twenty-one.” What a shallow creature Caroline was.
We talked for a long time. Johnny showed me a nasty scar he’d drunkenly received a week prior, at welcome week. He said he’d hit the artery, and then he’d passed out in his bed and woke up in a pool of blood. “Shit was crazy,” said Johnny.
As Johnny told stories, he would grab Caroline’s arm and jerk her around like a rag doll. Caroline didn’t stop him. She just complained every now and then. Becca rolled her eyes from beneath a set of thin square lenses. She looked miserable.
Eventually Johnny and Caroline left. It was a huge relief. Johnny shook my hand before he left, and promised me he’d call me about alcohol the next night. John approached Caroline and lifted her off the ground, and told her it had been a pleasure meeting her. I laughed. I knew he was joking, but no one else did.
Caroline approached me. “And I hope we’ll be seeing a lot of more of you around here,” she said. I was sitting down, but she wrapped her arms around my head and pulled me into her orbit—right up against her stomach, which was warm with alcohol, and close to a shirt which read, remember, “Let’s get a room.”
“I need to get drunker than this!” she said stupidly. She meandered off into a cloud of blackness. John and Becca and I sighed in relief.
Becca told us all about how she wanted to heal people with musical instruments, and how she was from Pennsylvania and how she and Johnny had become close the week before when he’d ripped his arm open. John and I didn’t say anything about how strange it was to get close to someone in only a week. We knew she didn’t yet know any better. She was, after all, a child, and thus her brain functioned differently, and time still flowed slowly. Neither would be true for very long. Becca would learn fast.
When it was time to go, we left. Becca shook our hands. She said good-bye. We turned and fled into the darkness. John lit up another cigarette and talked about getting a cup of coffee.
• • •
I had a dream that night. It was a dream I had already lived.
Yes, and I’m back . . .
And I’m back in California, at the Sacramento Airport, and I’m watching a sad-looking girl pet her dog, who is stuffed into a little mesh carrier. It’s going to board the plane with her. I turn to a friend. “This image will stick with me forever,” I say. “The girl at the airport, petting her little dog. It will stay with me, up here (I point to my brain), so long as there is blood in my veins, and electricity in my soul.”
Hours have gone by. I can see her from where I’m sitting. She looks so sad. I managed to talk to her as we boarded the plane, but it wasn’t much. I’m going to write my phone number on a cocktail napkin and give it to her. I don’t care where she lives. I’ll go to her if she asks me. I’ll tell her that’s what I do: I go places and see people. I’ll tell her that’s my full-time job.
The plane is landing. I’m nervous as hell. I’m going to try to walk by her as we get off the plane and ask her how her dog was. I’m going to ask if it was scared at all. I’m going to tell her I heard it whimper a little on takeoff. I pass by her row. She’s playing with her dog. I wave to her. She blushes and waves back. Maybe she’s waiting until everyone else leaves before she gets up. Maybe she doesn’t want to scare the dog too much.
I’m waiting outside the plane. I feel dumb. I’m playing with my ticket, pretending I don’t know where I am. She isn’t coming off the plane. What’s going on? I’m about to miss my flight to Washington, D.C., but I don’t care.
I realize she’s staying on the plane and continuing on to Orlando. I catch a flight attendant, Gary, and ask him to do me a dumb favor. He says, “Of course, of course.” He says he loves young love. I give him the napkin. I stand awkwardly at the gate and wait.
Gary comes back off the plane. He pats me on the back. “She’s got it, all right,” he says. And what did she do when you gave it to her? I ask. “Oh, she blushed, all right. And she smiled, too. And she looked at her shoes. She was real nervous, my friend.” He pats me on the back again. I thank him. He walks away.
I wake up.
• • •
I have since returned home, having written this thing all over the damn place. The hope is that you enjoyed it, whatever it is. I don’t know.
I have attached a song for you to listen to.* You don’t have to, though. It’s a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately, because it’s so damn good. If I may say so, it sounds how I feel. I realize only teenagers say that, even though we all know in our hearts this sort of thing extends into adulthood. No one is ever brave enough to say it. I have said it, and I have meant it. It’s by a band called Deer Tick. Whenever I tell people how much I love Deer Tick, they always remark how gross deer ticks are. Well, okay. The band is pretty good, though.
I’ve been kicked and I’ve been down. I’ve been kicked while I’ve been down. I’m bleeding over here. I’m coughing up blood. The bottom of my life fell out recently, and I’m trying to put it all back together.
Don’t let me get close, though. I’m still toxic. Don’t take me in, even though you might want to. I’ll drain you dry. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you all. Thank you for being my friends.
—Ryan Theodor Cecilius Starsailor
“Oh love, it’s hard to hide it
True love, it’s hard to find it
Though I was once beside it
I’ve fallen far behind it”