My Life and Times

Open House

Welcome to New York; Now go home

How can I talk about the new people and their superpower of invasion? I’m forever grappling with this question, reducing, stereotyping, and then struggling not to be reductive. What I keep coming back to is their apparent belief that their way of living belongs everywhere, that it should trickle down the ladder of power and fill every lower space, scouring and purifying as it goes.

An American Education

An American Education

No fiction could be more false, or more dangerous

My ears rang. My rage evaporated and in its place there arose an ugly combination of hope and fear. My body lifted itself from the chair. The world sharpened, as if I were wearing new glasses. I took a step, then another, taking care to avoid the eyes of the other foreigners. My legs moved. I advanced. What would I be willing to do for a green card? For citizenship? In that moment, I realized, I was ready to do a great deal of betraying.

My Instagram

We all die immediately of a Brazilian butt lift

Instagram people did not seem mean or clever. They were earnest and sincere. They drank green smoothies and went on hikes, sought personal bests, good health, peace of mind, and oneness with the universe. They believed every day was a beautiful day to be alive. Leaving Twitter for Instagram was like moving to Los Angeles, only cheaper.

The Custom of the Capitol

The Custom of the Capitol

This is what democracy looks like?

The buildings are enormous, the bridges are like Rome’s. I was told that DC was modeled after the gardens at Versailles. But unlike the European cities it emulates, there are no layers of history here—just that horrible orangey beige stone. I went to see a touring band play, and the lead singer said, “I forgot where we are.” To have history, you can’t simply have monuments; you also need a population to prop them up. Here, that natural accumulation is stunted, the city’s grandiosity hollow.

Bright Leaf

Bright Leaf

It was very odd. I felt that I was in a sensory-deprivation tank. Part of that was being in a nicotine-deprivation tank, but there was more to it. My day had no shape. None of my activities made any sense, because my life had become unstructured, as if it were one long, run-on sentence. I had no excuse for getting away from people, and I realized that much of my delight in smoking had to do with the ready escape it provided. Boring dinner party? Endless-seeming movie? Argument with the sweetheart? Cigarettes solved these problems.

Something Imaginary

Something Imaginary

I’m not yet assimilated

I’m falling asleep, dreaming, I can’t remember about what. When I wake, my nose is bleeding. No surprise, since I am a defective and sickly child. Alongside my asthma and vertigo, I have inherited weak blood vessels in my nose. My mother had hers cauterized, a red-hot rod prodded deep into her nostrils so the delicate, veiny frills would flatten and cease to bleed. I was a replicative mistake, the blood gushing out of my nostrils. I’m kicking and screaming.

One Part Retribution, One Part Redemption

One Part Retribution, One Part Redemption

On Binyavanga Wainaina, 1971–2019

Wainaina was in fine form the day we met, a mind on fire, and a cultural worker at the height of his powers. So the news this past week that we had lost him so early at age 48, of a stroke, hit my world hard. I had seen him in Berlin a couple years back, at one of the gatherings at Savvy Contemporary art gallery. He had suffered a racist attack while in Berlin, but was unbowed and determined to continue his sojourning. For many of us in diaspora, losing Binyavanga Wainaina felt like we were left with one less heartbeat in our chest. We have to spread his message to the world; we have the technology.

The Pink

The Pink

Happy new vagina

I suppose what I’m saying is not that the desire for a universal is politically defensible but, more simply, that the desire for a universal is synonymous with having a politics at all. In a punishing twist, feminism has become both the preferred name for this desire and the very politics which must not claim it. Indeed, the minimal definition of a feminist might be a person who, affirming that women will never constitute a political class, privately hopes it might happen anyway.

On Tinder

On Tinder

The strength of my desire, previously unknown to me, feels overpowering. It also feels necessary, which means that it is dangerous.

As soon as I hang up, every movement feels curiously weighty. Things somehow mean more than they used to. I sit for a while, feeling the rug under my legs, then slowly wash my face and feel the water bead on my skin. I stare at the bones of my face in the mirror, and I look shadowed and unrecognizable. A liquid warmth spreads through my body. I complete the assignment.