Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sullen Choirboy #1

(Author's note: This is a reissue of the zine I made when I was twenty. It's in its entirety, including grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes and super-emo angst! Enjoy. Summer, 2001.)

Part One:

Sullen Choirboy #1 Nothing
(Empty: Not Revolutionary, Lacking Strong, Well-defined Beliefs)

I have been planning to do this since I was thirteen. I finally felt I had enough to write about this year-and I realized I can do a zine without writing about music. However, I'm still lame enough to put it out under a pretend name. Sorry. Thanks for reading. Let me know if you hate it or whatever.
Lots of love, Verg

PS. Names have been changed, except where I felt lazy. Sorry Dan, I thought it was funny. Everyone else, I have my reasons.

Sullen Choirboy

"You're the only thing gone right today"
My life is a movie.
The light changes with the song.
Sat at the lake, drinking cheap red wine.
Smoking cheap cigarettes.
Talk about each other. I've been analyzed.
Nothing happens, but there is too much to think about.


She was doing the dishes, alone in the kitchen in the middle of the day. No one else was home. The sun filtered in through the blinds, turning the kitchen yellow, shining on the messy table. A song played softly on the stereo sitting next to the phone, the same song he had sang to her in bed that morning months ago.
There were a lot of dishes, but she was almost done. She washed them in the same order as always - plates, bowls, cups, silverware, pans. She was on silverware.
She was tired ... exhausted, actually. At that point where any sudden event, however insignificant, seemed monumental and stunning. She felt like crying, but she really wasn't that sad. Doing the dishes gave her time to think, though, about everything that had happened in the last couple weeks, months, year. And she prayed she didn't hear the jangling of keys going upstairs and the door slamming a second later that meant he was home. She didn't want to talk to him, but he was always there. And so she enjoyed, in a miserably happy way, the time she spent alone doing dishes.
Knife, fork, fork, spoon ... the stereo sang "...all those late night, desperate phone calls ..." She remembered doing the dishes when she didn't have the weight of the year and her mistakes pressing down on her, just the weight of three weeks worth of dishes to worry about.
The phone rang, startling her so that she pressed the knife she was cleaning into her other hand. It slid into the soapy water, leaving a trail of red across all four fingers. The blood dripped onto the foam, forming strange patterns on the soap bubbles. The dirty water stung on the wound. She stared at her hand, immobile. It seemed monumental, symbolic, as it should when someone has reached the level of exhaustion she had. She was tired of this routine, this place, the role she played in the lives of everyone she lived with, especially him. The phone continued to ring.
It's not for me anyway, she told herself, and cursed herself because she knew she would answer it just the same. "All those late night, desperate phone calls," the stereo was skipping ... it sang urgently from next to the phone. She grabbed a towel and pressed it into her bleeding hand. She stumbled into the other room, weak with pain and the sight of blood, and picked up the phone. "Hello?"
A girl's voice: "Hello, is Seth there?"
"No, he's not. Can I take a message." She didn't even think about what she was saying anymore. This was routine.
"Yeah, can you tell him ..." She didn't listen, and hung up the phone after the routine completed itself. She wasn't part of it ... just a vehicle for the system. She leaned back in the chair, and feeling the blood soaking through the towel, closed her eyes. She could smell it, metallic and chemical, like oil. She felt faint and sick. But the knot that had sat in her stomach the whole year and grown in the last month seemed to be unraveling.


The Matchbook Language of Bars

During a drunken phone conversation in a noisy room, he said he wanted to meet her to talk about King David and Chinese radicals. "We'll get drinks, tomorrow. I'll come by at nine ..." Followed by the obligatory guilt-inducing complaints and hangups.
The next night she sat, still waiting at ten, sipping on a vodka tonic and an imported cigarette. Hu Shih had come with, to provide an extra barrier against the world. She believes that next to drinking and smoking, turn-of-the-century Chinese intelligentsia are the best form of protection against human contact. He was drinking a Blue China, of course. He was smoking English cigarettes, of course.
As an exhale of the finest British tobacco, Hu said, "You know we've got to change language, it's juvenile, it's not how we think. Language can be a tool, not a trap. We need to say what we think. No more messing around with subtlety, sub text, hidden meanings. I want language to be honest the way eyes are honest. Because there are enough barriers between people and people's ideas."
"I'm awfully tired of having these meaningful conversations in bars," she interrupted, "But you know, I've tried the brutal honesty thing, and I'd like to think I'm too nice to make it work. And I know we all want to say what we're thinking. And I know I'm tired of people who hide meanings in every sentence the way paper hides paper cuts, thinking I won't find them, or trying to provoke some reaction. But you are just as guilty as them, and me." She tried to stir her drink, but realized there was no straw. Instead, she lit another cigarette.
Hu adjusted his jacket, slightly flustered at the attack, and said "I've heard you say there is nothing better than drunken honesty. And I've seen you be your most honest when you are drunk, because you have lost fear. The problem with honesty is the consequences are not always good. Unfortunate consequences mean losing power over a situation ... this is what the Confucian scholars feared in my time. So honesty can mean bad consequences, and bad consequences make you humble. And there is nothing like being humbled to keep someone honest."
There was a moment of the jukebox overwhelming the conversation, during which she thought about what had been said.
After it died away, she said "I think that sounds kind of counter-revolutionary, a circular argument, Hu ... you sound quite Confucian. I have been humbled so many times ... and yet honesty still eludes me. I am getting better at it, but still. How many more times must I make these mistakes before honesty will stop hurting?" She realized she was being melodramatic. She was probably tired and a little drunk.
"When you learn to stop hiding your meanings like razor blades in apples. Because you know you do that too ... you believe you've got more control of your words that everyone around you. Honesty will make you humble."
"Why should I listen to you?" She said, sinking into the defense of brattishness. The defense she always used when she knew she was defeated.
Hu sighed. "Because I'm one hundred years older than you."
She straightened in her seat, resolute to try one last round. "But doesn't honesty take the art out of language?"
"There is an intrinsic beauty within language, one that is only magnified by honesty. Dishonesty is a travesty, a heretical warping of meaning and intention. There is an art within honesty. There is an art to honesty. Only through its misuse can language become ugly. As for you," Hu helped her put on her coat and said, "Keep changing and your language will keep changing. Don't hide under your language, don't use it as a wall against others. Language is a tool, not a trap. Make your words as honest as your eyes. Then you won't need me as protection. But for now, I will always be there to walk you home."