It’s a Sunday night. I have an infected spider bite on my knee the size of a silver dollar pancake. This isn’t news, this time of year I almost always have an infected spider bite somewhere on my body. Two years ago when I didn’t have insurance I spent $1200 for an ER doctor to tell me that spiders have little tiny spores in their venom and that some people are very allergic to this spores and immediately develop cellulitis and that I was one of them. He sent me home with a prescription for Bactrim, bringing the total daily expenditure to $1220, give or take.
So it’s a Sunday night, we’re on the couch and my knee is red and itchy and angry. My partner is eating hummus next to me and my Diet Coke on the coffee table is slowly getting warm and the condensation is puddling around it and I can’t reach it because I can’t bend my knee- you know, on account of the spider.
What’s different is that somewhere along this quarantine we got whatever the HBO streaming service is calling itself these days. I don’t remember much of March and very little of April and May, only that I dreamed about my dad a little and cried about him more. June I came around a little, enough to recognize that I had turned 29 and that my baby brother had graduated high school but had to do it at home in his sweatpants, no band, no dad. My graduation was at St. Basil’s Cathedral, my dad was there.
At some point one of us popped for HBO or begged a login off a cousin but I can’t remember which and I can’t remember who. But here we are, watching HBO all the same. And I’m tap-tap-tapping on my laptop and eventually my partner asks what I’m working on and I realize that it’s nothing. I am working on nothing- or rather, nothing that will likely see the light of day. And not for lack of trying.
One of my best friends and I have started writing two serials. Another friend approached me for another project. An old editor and friend is starting a new website. I say yes to all of them but find it hard to be excited about any of the projects. I idly scroll through instagram hashtags trying to find some to use on our posts about our serial only half-listening to myself when I realize it’s a fool’s errand.
Any posts to instagram will be buried under influencers and paid ads for hair growth vitamins. And we are a long way from the early days of Medium when personal posts were welcomed and indie writers given a home, any post I make now will be buried under whatever large publication has moved their blogging to this platform and whatever semi-famous so-and-so has a book coming out next week.
There is, at least, some integrity on Wattpad where I know our serials won’t be drowned out by ads or vanity coverage but good, old-fashioned horny fanfics. And I mean no disrespect when I say that. Every adult fiction writer got their start writing horny fanction in some dark corner of the internet in the early 00s and I’m no exception. It’s an honorable calling.
It feels, more and more this year, that I am- we are, shouting into the void. Shouting about injustice, the pandemic, our crumbling collective mental states. And what we get in response is ads and headlines watered more than a bottle of tequila in the Marina del Rey Islands on a Tuesday night and that’s just the bits that haven’t been hidden behind a paywall.
You used to be able to yell into the void and maybe five or six people would hear you and yell something encouraging back and then maybe you’d get some kind of book deal or something- you know, if you yelled long enough and at a sustained volume. Now you yell into the Void and the Void asks you if you’d like some custom shampoo or an $80 gold-plated necklace modeled on an impossibly thin 19-year-old in a beach you are no longer allowed to visit because no one can keep their shit together.
And still, in the midst of it all, there are slices of the world before all this and they seem almost perverse in their normality- “normality” here merely being a convenient word to call the time before this. I wonder how it is that it can exist among everything else. Sandwiched between ever-rising positive case statistics and a piece about protesters being pulled into unmarked cars, there it is: a photo of a distant mutual friend at a pool party. It is the Jersey Devil of posts- it should not exist at this point in time yet it does and it is all the more unsettling for it.
I think of that portion of Anais Nin’s diaries from the period right before WWII officially began. She’s in New York and she wants to shake the Americans who don’t take the looming threat of war seriously, who laugh and joke and carry on as if nothing has ever been wrong nor will it ever be wrong. And shortly after that I think about how fortunate it was that the Good Lord in all her wisdom decided to call Anais home long before she could ever get on Twitter and drop a scaldingly bad take that would tarnish her complicated legacy once and for all.
This is probably the place where something helpful or inspirational would go. It’s the place it certainly should go, but I can’t bring myself to write it. Blame it on my spider bite. Because it’s now Monday morning, I am still writing and the bite still burns and itches. I take a Benadryl and a Bactrim and keep going.