(I have a new story out! Details under Writing News.)
It's the end of January, and we've seen at least three cultures herald a new year. There were fireworks, indulgent food, games with friends and family. And then there was me, unclogging the P-trap of my bathroom sink.
As a millennial, I am a perennial renter. And most places I've lived have been in various stages of disrepair. The place I'm currently living is one of the worst: old and failing appliances, unfinished floors, bugs, leaks. I can't even have a pet. And since my month to month lease makes me fear filing any maintenance request, I try to handle as many fixes as I can myself.
Unclogging a P-trap is a relatively straightforward and relatively disgusting task. Put a bucket or large Tupperware under the pipe, unscrew the U-shaped joint, and scrounge out any amount of black sticky mess you can. Reassemble and enjoy your working drain. It took one YouTube video and about 15 minutes, and saved me from having to file a maintenance request.
And I enjoyed doing it. I enjoyed placing my hands on something and effecting a change. I enjoyed altering my environment in this small way.
I used to be the type of person to collect experiences. My ideal vacation is wandering various museums and art galleries, stopping at a new restaurant for a wonderful meal. I liked to say (and still believe) that even the most horrible task can be improved with good company. My apartments had bare walls and little furniture, and gifts were just things that would need to be packed up and moved eventually.
But of course, since the pandemic, my ability to collect experiences has all but disappeared. Even the experiences I've had these past three years: getting a new job, getting promoted, getting published, attending conferences, etc were all made possible by shifting pixels on a screen. Shut my laptop and they never happened at all.
Back in 2020, people saw the lockdown announcements and warned of loneliness and skin hunger. These days I find myself yearning for any physicality at all. Starved for experiences, I now collect objects: ceramics, books, enamel pins, flowers. If a friend gives me a gift, I tie them to it, and think of them when I hold it. I admire my trinkets during my endless Zoom meetings.
I seek out the physical experiences still accessible to me. I've gone for walks when it's dark, wet, and cold, comforted by the knowledge that I can go home to light and warmth. Comforted by the knowledge that I can fix something. I eat tins of anchovies over the kitchen sink with chopsticks, the intense flavor making my jaw clench with the same pucker as a good sharp cheese. I seek out films with complicated cinematography and interesting narratives, stretching my brain until I feel something. I place a heating pad on my lap and pretend it's the cat I'm not allowed to have.
This is the sort of post I'll regret.
I'm not in solitary confinement, but I am solitary and I am confined. I know others are still living this way too, and it's only nominally a choice. And I know those not living this way, who have spouses, who have lives, are looking in at this with a kind of entertained horror. But I have been adapting to this for three years now, and I'm still here.
Last week I pet a mouthy black cat on one of my walks. I made perfectly roasted brussels sprouts. I savored a new tin of matcha. I watched hummingbirds flit through the dead trees. I outlined an incredible story. I danced to good music. I wore a soft sweater. I watched the sunset. I saw a friend. I fixed my sink.
I wrote this.
I have a new story out now at Lightspeed, and it's already getting lovely comments.
“Between the Stones and the Stars” is a flash fiction fantasy piece about two rivals meeting on a mountain, and saying anything more would spoil the fun.
Lightspeed is a bucket list market for me, and I still can't believe they snapped up this story last year. They haven't been open to submissions since. Also, to give you an idea of publication timelines, I wrote this story before I was vaccinated. It's a bit of a time capsule and a quick intro to my style. Hope you enjoy.
Since we’re talking about touch and physicality, I have some tactile recommendations.
Fyodor Pavlov's tarot set. Fyodor Pavlov is a trans artist with a beautiful, sensual, and dark style. I have followed him for over 10 years and watched him slowly eke out this tarot set in that time. It is now available for purchase, and each card is a beautiful piece of art. Even if, like me, you don't “believe” in tarot, it is still very pleasing to handle and admire each card. I recommend it for either yourself or the people in your life who enjoy lush things.
Gushu Studios. I have a variety of teaware at this point, but several pieces are from Anj at Gushu Studios. She's only been making pots for a few years, and it's been fun to latch onto an artist early and get to see them grow. Her work is very colorful, sturdy, and enjoyable to hold. I highly recommend following her on either Instagram or through her mailing list, so you know about upcoming drops. She's gathered quite a fanbase, and her wares sell very fast.
Tinned fish. Look. I know this one is vague (and only useful to people who eat fish) but I have been having quite the adventure exploring tinned sea snacks. There's a huge variety out there, both in type of fish and method of preservation, and it's been fun expanding my palate. You can get as chic with it as you like and enjoy fish from around the world. Plus the little labeled tins scratch the same part of my brain as individually wrapped airplane meals and bento.