It was January in California. I was living the low life. Sleeping twelve hours a day, waking up at noon. Doing work and then not. I ate very little, then a lot.
I went through whole days without talking to anyone. Even in our small room, my roommate and I barely exchanged hellos. I was surviving on peanut butter and instant noodle, the latter being the luxurious instant pho instead of ramen. I was looking at my electronic devices all day, watching other people achieving their dreams and not feeling a thing.
I wasn’t creating contents like I was supposed to do. I wasn’t creating anything. My thoughts still raced, but I was always tired, always too disappointed at the world to put anything down.
Among what friends I have, only one person still text me. And when he asked me if I want to go out to eat, I responded three hours too late. I was living in the confine of my room, biding time until the spring comes, waiting for a change to give me the reason to be irritated again.
I was in bed all day, under layers of blankets with the AC on cold. I was invincible at the safety of my room. I was in bed until 6 pm. I was invincible but only somewhat.
I crawled up and changed my sweatpants to a pair of jeans, put on a jacket and head out for a night lecture. Artists often visit my school throughout the school year, and now I was taking an easy class where all I had to do was sit in the lectures twice a week and get easy credits. Might be waiting the tuition I paid, but really I just want to get things over with.
The winding corridors were empty. The only sound was my footsteps. For once I was walking without my headphones on. Truly listening to the winds howling and all the creaking noises, the people talking in a faraway place or just behind the door.
The lecture hall was dimmed so I didn’t have to worry about seeing people’s faces. I signed in and sat down at the back row. I was on my phone, pretending to have something more important than this until the lecturer announced that he was ready.
The next two and a half hours was such an out-of-body experience I almost felt bored among all the strangeness.
The artist was one of those good speakers we rarely get, otherwise it could have killed me with secondhand awkwardness. Instead, he was brilliant and easygoing.
He mainly did installation works, worked with all sorts of material and sound. He took us through his life’s works in various types. A room-sized installation that looked like an escape room inhabited by aliens? Check. An outdoor opera through a hole in the chimney? Check.
I was always so cynical about fine art, never finding the point of it all. Told a friend that I’m not the type of person to feel emotions when I look at art and he was genuinely shocked. I truly didn’t.
Who’s gonna fall for this? I was a narcissist when it came to creativity. They could be producing masterpieces and still, I thought mine was better.
Of course, mine was better. I loved my world better than his rant about a fantasy world map he drew. Even though I never drew a map as complexed as his. Mine was better because it was all in my head, where they sat pristine in gestation, never tainted.
In the darkness, everything made sense. That was when I realized it couldn’t stay that way.
Everything in our headspace is always better. Every story sounds better in our own head. In my head, I won all the arguments, while in real life I only smiled faintly. Under the dimmed lights and having watched the improv performance the artists spontaneously did, we clapped in hesitation.
When it was over and I walked out, knowing the cafeteria would only have leftover food. I had a slice of pepperoni pizza for dinner the third time that week. Red-ish oil glimmered under the heating lamp.
I sat alone in the emptied dining hall, listening to the echoing sound. I knew at that moment, I needed to write something. For the first time in months, I felt the urge to write. I was writing before, but it was like a routine of typing words, and I would drop off the face of the earth for another few days, then came back trying to pick up the threads. It wasn’t working. I needed to write something else.
I was walking back home with my hands in my pocket, shivering all the while. I recently picked up an interest in the introspective personal essay. Am I telling a story? Or simply dumping my mind’s content on the keyboard? I started a first draft that later became this.
I don’t know, I don’t know. This feels like a journal entry.
Yeah, I do this very often. I get inspired by others quite easily. I got epiphanies a few times a month. The weightless feeling I was addicted to, the sense that you can do anything, you can accomplish anything. My mind turned into a different beast at night, or maybe I’m romanticizing the darkness.
I was back to my bed and blankets again.
I turned on my nearest screen. Turned on some soft hip hop.
An old friend was online. The certain kind of friendship: know her in real life, friended her on social media. Never talk to me, never texted me, never liked my posts. Last time we met was five years ago in a dingy subway station. You know, one of those old friends.
She posted something, saying that she was crying because one of her favorite authors had passed away. We read some of his work in a grade school textbook, but it’s not an author I care too much about.
She thought otherwise. She posted a diary entry of four years ago when she wrote about being inspired by his work she just read. With the caption, “when I grew up, you’re gone.”
A sudden sadness came over me. Like it often did.