El Bosque Existe

Unflattening - Forest

Por esta fiebre, pregúntate
y al frío de otoño, permítele.
A ti mismo, deshaz, así sin miedo.
En montañas de descuidos, piérdete,
así sin pena, confúndete,
no hay soledad que te destruya
y no hay compañía que te salve.

En ciertas cosas, deténte:

El té es agua de algo que estuvo
y no por eso es triste.
Con fuerza, piénsame
y lo que nunca hiciste, aprópialo,
eres té de intenciones, agua que está.
Como niebla, abarca,
y sobre el mar frío, descansa. Ahí,
soy yo, recuérdate, siempre yo.

Cuando esto acabe, descúbrete,
no eras quién pensaste.
Fragmentos, junta y lento, pega,
y si terminas, búscame.
Te estaré esperando entre niebla
en el bosque que toca ese mar frío.
Esta oscuro, te diré, entra, entra.

 

 

Ilustración: Unflattening de Nick Sousanis.

Blog Home December 2015

An Overweight Meteorite

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 11.13.55 AM

(Disclaimer: I wrote this piece a month or so before the COVID-19 quarantine. I’m posting this from my living room in Mexico City, I’m not actually sitting in a coffee shop or going skateboarding. Anyway, here it goes…)

Last week I created a reminder on my i-phone titled “practice self-discipline”.  Every day at 2:30pm, my phone pings to try and get me, a thirty-year-old Mexican to exercise, hike, eat healthy, work hard, fast, not smoke, drink no more than a glass of wine and rid my mind of the leftover Pad Thai from my last Uber Eats order that is sitting in the fridge.

I’m approaching thirty-one like a fiery, overweight meteorite.

It dawned on me that there is a real chance that I might actually, literally never be hot; statistically, this is my final shot at having a six-pack. I have to give the rope– that is my self-esteem– a tug in the right direction in the tug of war between monstrous indifference and active happiness. All this, while the only true result of the aforementioned war is a small, misty cloud that looms inside my brain and keeps whispering into my ear- or out to my ear I guess, if it is in my brain, the geography of this sketchy metaphor is confusing but anyway- it whispers the question:

“Am I depressed? Nah, I’m not depressed… am I?”.

When I was fifteen I crashed a quad bike into a tree at full speed. I had a friend called Melissa (names have been changed) who lived in the Ajusco forest and for her fifteenth birthday, she organized a big sleepover. So off we went, bursting with hormones and teenage sex drive. I liked Melissa. She had shiny hair and an unassuming, kind smile. We had a connection that felt like something more than friendship, which is completely unrelated to the point of the story, but I will pay it off by letting you know that during the sleepover, I snuck into the girl’s room and scored. And by a score, I mean me and Melissa cuddled awkwardly until 3am.

After the sleepover, we took Melissa’s dad’s dirt bikes for a spin. I was feeling elated and manly that particular day because my worth as a male specimen of the human species had been validated through Melissa’s approval. So I proposed a race. The others agreed.

There was one problem. There were 10 of us, but only 5 bikes, which meant that it would have to be two teenagers per bike. Bad idea. It was decided that my partner was to be Hugo, a young skinny rasta kid and we spun off, dirt flying and of course, no helmets. Halfway through the race, Hugo and I came up with a plan. We decided to play a dangerous game of deception: right before going under the bridge, I would pretend to go right but then at the last moment, go left. Why? I honestly can’t remember, but as I executed this plan that only a fifteen-year-old mind could conjure, I slammed straight into one of the bridge’s piles.

Hugo flew into a trashcan somewhere and broke his jaw while the bike and I got entangled in a cute little tumble turd of death that resulted in a broken arm and a second-degree burn on my left leg. Melissa picked me up from the dirt, held me in her arms and cried for help… psych, she actually just stared at us, horrified but also kind of frozen, the way that is expected when you are fourteen and think that a schoolmate of yours just died in what has to be the dumbest dirt bike accident of all time. She did, however, find her dad and got him to drive us to an emergency clinic.

The point of this story is not that Melissa didn’t really love me, it is that Hugo and Me are alive and well. We survived. We fucking survived. Not only that, but three weeks later, we went skateboarding. We went skateboarding! Cast and all.

If that accident happened to me today, I would be dead or there would at least be an activity that I wouldn’t be able to do for the rest of my life, like play pinball or crouch to pet corgis.

I hurt my wrist on a hike the other day and have not been able to do a proper pushup in a year. The doctor told me this, textually: “We could operate and try and fix it…but you know what, It’ll be cheaper if you just do fist pushups for the rest of your life. Get a carpet”. The subtext is, it won’t heal. It’s irreparable like my flabby stomach will soon be.

As I’m sitting here in this coffee shop in Mexico City sipping on this overpriced cup of coffee, I can picture a grown man in his mid-forties reading this and laughing while he mutters over a decaf espresso “oh, kid, you have no idea” and stares out at his oak tree from his dark leather chair. It’s all his because he owns things because he’s achieved things. That’s how I picture my forties, apparently, which is funny because that’s how I pictured my thirties when I was sixteen. Right now, from where I’m standing, my thirties are looking pretty much exactly the same as my twenties but with a wider spectrum of drugs that are no longer on the do not even think of putting this substance into your face shelf and a much longer list of diagnoses.

I don’t know if being lonelier comes with the decade but as the list of “friends I see often” dwindles, I find myself wondering what I did wrong. Maybe I became too consumed with my work or just more boring to be around. Maybe this is just what happens when you reach three decades on earth, people just sort of– stop trying.

But I think there’s something to be said to losing not-so-close friends and multiple physical abilities. It forces you to value the things that you used to be able to do naturally, makes you appreciate being surrounded by people who care about you, even if you’ve always hated them a little.

A couple of weeks ago, I went skateboarding– this time of the year, the Jacaranda trees in Mexico City bloom, covering the normally dark grey street in sheets of purple flowers. As I was coasting down one of these streets, a thought crossed my mind: this is one of the things that will become riskier every year that goes by, like eating shrimp or getting extremely drunk. And so I tried to ollie over a sidewalk and fell, hard. But it felt good because I got right back up and I don’t know how much longer that will happen. I do know one thing: I’ll keep trying until it doesn’t and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

To everyone about to turn thirty, I’ll tell you this: expect an existential crisis, don’t race dirt bikes but do take chances. Grow up, but not too much.

Do drugs, just less often.

I guess the point of this post was to let you, my readers, that I took a step in the right direction in the shape of an iPhone reminder and in the process actually just created the worst (or best) self-soothing mediocrity machine. “Practice self-discipline? OK! *Click*” and it shows up as completed for the day.

I just completed practising self-discipline by clicking the complete button on my self-discipline reminder!

I guess that is the one thing I’m actually very self-disciplined at doing.

-TNO

 

 

 

Illustration by Liana Finck

Instagram: @lianafinck

Bundt Cake

6C689B2C-28D4-4DF4-B595-0B5BB9EF36E5I wrote you by accident
found you inanimate inside a ditch in my brain
swore to drain your essence from the pond of
similar wounds.

Summon my sadness and awaken my fury, you spoke
and I tried to listen.

The matter is always Time
like stubborn crickets in a big dark field.
They mention a hole at the center of everything,
a cosmic bundt cake.

Typical, they say to one another—
but we know better.
It was never sweet Time that we craved
but salty brevity.

 

 

 

Original doodles by: Manuel Bueno @manuelbuenobotello

 

 

The Most Widespread Infection

future32I lean the side of my forehead against the window of an Uber, close my eyes. The odd relief of Mexico City streets makes my head bang softly against the glass with every tiny little bump. “A stranger’s car is no place for drunk naps”, I think. I learned that the hard way… except I didn’t, someone did and now it’s common knowledge. My stomach growls because I’m starving. 

The world is crawling with bacteria. Specifically the one I’m about to contract, Helicobacter Pylori. It doesn’t care about any of this. It cultivates on the surface of a spoiled slice of ham, waiting to be consumed by a host (that’s me!). It does not care about Cuba or climate change, the revolution or sandwiches. All it wants to do is multiply, to be more.

Must be nice.

Here’s what you need to know about H. Pylori: It is exceptional at what it does and humans are no good at spotting it. I read on Wikipedia that at least fifty per cent of humans are infected by H. Pylori. Fifty per cent! Doctors call it “the most widespread infection in the world”. The exact way humans get infected is still a mystery, but experts suggest it happens through contaminated food and water or coming in contact with infected saliva, vomit or fecal matter. Yeah, I know.

A man cuts down a tree with a chainsaw somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness and I puke into a toilet. I’m alone. Have you ever puked into a toilet in an empty house? It is, to put it lightly, a worrying situation. I could die, I think. The soft hum of the television is depressing me in the background, the way it tries so hard to be entertaining is obscene. “Alaska: The final frontier”, but H. Pylori doesn’t care. It’s the most widespread infection in the world, even Alaska, but it does not even care.

Being an adult is weird, man, one minute you are doing Molly with strangers in a club in La Condesa and the next you’re crawling on your knees, alone, in a house that you rented on the internet, trying to reach your phone because your legs feel like pepperoni sticks when you stand up and you really need to call your mother.

“Do you have a fever?” I’ve got a fever alright. “You should go to the hospital.” Fuck no. I hate hospitals. This was a bad idea. I lie, tell her I’m feeling better and hang up.

It’s you and me now, Helicobacter Pylori.

Arthur finished building a cabin with his own two hands to cope with his PTSD from the war in Iraq. Melinda, his wife, does not want to stay in Alaska. She misses Milwaukee, her parents, the smell of burnt butter from the diner and the warmth of other people’s company. She misses breakfast with her sister and people-watching in her favourite park. Melinda doesn’t want to start a family in Alaska. I don’t blame her. Arthur, never wanted to start a family at all, he just wanted to feel useful, like he did something other than war. Arthur and Melinda break up.

Arthur stays in Alaska.

H. Pylori’s next move is going to hit me like a ton of bricks. Out of nowhere, a laser-shot of harrowing pain to the heart. My chest tightens, my breath shortens, I groan, roll off the bed and my head hits the dresser. I lay there, staring at the ceiling. I’m for sure about to die, I think.

But then, H. Pylori talks to me, from a place deep within my body. It speaks in a calm voice, it says words I recognize:

Little Creatures are coming, and they are asking if I am god, and I am asking what god is, and they are telling me, and I am not this god. And God is nowhere. Little Creatures wandering through the air, and they are dragging in places and echoes of lives and they are asking me about god. I am going to tell you something, Little Creature. There is a hole at the centre of everything and it is always growing. Between the stars, I am seeing it. It is coming. And you are not escaping. And the universe is forgetting you. And the universe is being forgotten. And there is nothing to remember it.

I’m having a heart attack. I always assumed I’d die in Mexico City but never figured Alaska into the equation. Who would have known I would be this calm throughout the whole thing? Baller.

Little Creature, you are not chosen. There is no one to chose you. You are atoms. And your atoms are not caring if you are existing. Your atoms are Monstrous Existence.

Monstrous Existence.

We are not meeting again. And the universe is forgetting you, and I am remembering you, but not because I am caring. The beginning is moments ago, the end is moments away, there is no time to forget before all is forgotten.

I know where I read that. It was in a video game and this isn’t a heart attack, it’s the goddamn sandwich. I mindlessly chug some rubber-sole flavoured antacid and swallow two or three pills in a last-ditch attempt to soothe whatever the fuck is happening to me. Gulp! It’s not working.

Goodbye, Little Creature.

Now, I’m all alone.

Dear you, I’ll try to be honest and brief. I never quite understood what happened between you and me. I remember it being my decision, but when I think back on it, it doesn’t feel that way. I don’t believe we ever had a choice. Now we’ve moved on, or “on” has moved us, I can’t tell. Anyway, I met someone else, fell in love, fell out of love, met someone different and fell in love again. I’m sure you have too, I wouldn’t know. And even though I don’t love you anymore, I still think about you every now and then and wonder if you ever think about me too. It’s childish, selfish even. I bumped into you once at that party and we said we would get coffee, remember, then never did. We didn’t even try and that’s okay. Sometimes it hurts, and let me be clear, I don’t love you anymore.  It hurts because I knew you once, I knew you well and you knew me and for a moment there, it felt like we knew what we were doing. Together, things made sense. It hurts, sometimes, because we had that and we let it go. When it hurts I feel stupid. But I’d rather be stupid than indifferent.”

The pain is gone. At some point that I can’t remember, all goes dark.

“What you experienced was a severe oesophagus contraction. Recent studies on Helicobacter Pylori,” the gastroenterologist explains to me, “show that the bacteria can be beneficial to the body when it lives in the intestine but not when it infects the stomach. In this context, it can cause stomach cancer and other complications.”

That’s so typical of you, H. Pylori. You don’t care, you just reproduce, become more, unaware of whether you are helping with digestion or killing somebody. You are Monstrous Existence.

Fragility is a funny thing. It fluctuates like my mood. Some days I’m invincible, others I’m… quite vincible.

“What, are we going to ask her about the federal tax next?” Laughs some old, arrogant idiot on the radio of my taxi back from the hospital. Yes, we are, idiot, we are, and then we are going to listen. Because institutions need to adopt some of Greta Thunberg’s naivety if they are ever going to see the problem of Global Warming for what it really is, a potential species-wide catastrophe. Some people feel so separated from death, disconnected somehow from the world’s destiny. The religious should be especially worried because one thing is clear: if you don’t act on this, you are for sure going to hell.

Maybe we should revisit the ten commandments: 

Thou shalt not be indifferent to matters of species-wide survival. Thou shalt care and not act like a successful bacteria colony. Thou shalt not eat sandwiches that were not left in the fridge overnight.

The fact is, I don’t want to get stomach cancer and that is why I am going to nuke you with antibiotics, my dear H. Pylori. “Goodbye, Little Creature” indeed. I know you don’t care, but it will feel good to get rid of you and get some control back. Control over my stomach flora, muthafuckah.  Mankind one, bacteria zero, but who’s keeping score anyway?

“Wow, you should’ve called me. I would have come to take care of you,” she says, in that genuinely concerned but simultaneously soothing way that only Erika can get away with.

“Nah, I didn’t want you to worry too much. It wasn’t that big of a deal,” I lie.

A pause. I can hear her thinking, carefully considering what to say next and after a soft breath, she chooses perfectly. Anyway, come over to my place, I’ll make you some rice and chicken soup and we can watch a movie.”

I do and she does, and it is warm rice and tasty chicken soup, and we cuddle while we watch Two Weeks Notice (2002), an outstanding romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock and it feels good to finally hold someone other than myself. This worldwide infection won’t go away before a couple of days and all this rice and chicken soup is making me nauseous. But it doesn’t matter, I smile and pretend it helps.

It does.

 

(Photo: “The Future Sucks” by Inés Estrada. T-shirts available at http://inechi.com/shop.html)

Collide, Contra. Versus Anti-Impact

We have changed. I sense it in the crunching snow under your feet but we are standing, somehow, clawing our heads, pulling.

You breathe onto me and I breathe back,

barely.

Near the seabed,

we were perfect strangers, though now we have changed. We had been floating, deep,

where the water is frozen.

They moulded us into pieces of shrapnel and there is blood on your windows.        We are capsized.

The fear that my ribs are crushed; that I am howling and you are the moon behind a sunny sky.

I am naked, you are invisible.

 

110011_8

Photo: Todd Hido – House Hunting

Tela


Juntos, estamos vacíos

dos funciones que se absorben

hasta que no queda más que una visión

de una ventana, prendida a las dos.

De un foco que falla

y galletas tiesas que siguen dulces.

Cosmovisión, proyecto,

así cuando caemos, caemos dentro del otro

como tela.

376B51C0-EB25-4599-BCC1-C740148D95CA(Illustration: Charles Burns, “Black Hole”)