There’s this one Pulp song* I’ve always loved called “The Fear.” There’s just something about it: the ominous, creepy, I-can’t-even-tell-if-that’s-synthesized-or-not-but-it’s-amazing introduction, then Jarvis Cocker’s speak-singing, then the music picks up and the choir comes in with the Ohs and then it’s just a brain-smattering-but-still-ominous-and-creepy cataclysm of Awesome. Part of what makes it so awesome, for me, is the fact that is so gorgeously captures and evokes that ominous and creepy feeling of fear that often creeps up on you at the strangest times and in the strangest places, so much so that whenever that creepy feeling creeps on me, it seems like I can actually hear the thrill of fear that’s in the first few notes of that song.**
For example: flashback to yesterday. I’m sitting in the Charlotte airport in the middle of my layover, looking over the notes for a poem I’d scribbled on the back of a random extra handout. I kept crossing out and writing in and crossing out again, and nothing was right. Then that suddenly became all too true, all too overwhelmingly true: nothing was right. Nothing felt right: the words of the poem, the poem itself, its subject, all of my subjects, the series of series I’ve been struggling through, the
hundreds of pages I’ve scrawled and typed and scrawled over and retyped over the past few months, the thousands of pages I’ve produced over the years, the very fact of me writing itself — all of it, all of it swirling like the unreadable slur of ink across the page I found I could no longer look at.
Then I was sitting hunched over my cup of coffee, tapping the foot that wasn’t in an air cast, my elbows on my thighs and my chin in my hands and my eyes staring out of the window, not even watching the planes arriving and departing and taxiing, being gassed and boarded and deboarded, and all of my thoughts vanished into one thought: just what in God’s name do you think you are doing?
Here comes the fear. Again.
Then I realized that a bearded, be-sweatered hipster was staring at me with his iPhone held up, which meant he was possibly Instagramming me, and I realized that I needed to get a hold of myself and get on a plane. And I did. I didn’t even Creepstergram him back. And by the time I got home, I felt a little better, or at least good enough to finish the poem and send it to the lovely group of people I’ve been writing with for the past two months, sending in a piece a day. I will confess: if not for them, I might not have finished it. I might not have typed it. Sometimes, it’s good to be beholden, especially when it’s not a good day to be Bolden.
I think that The Fear is natural, especially in my situation. I spent three years writing as much as I could, with my
workload and health and General Things as they were, which wasn’t very much at all. Then, I found myself here in Statesboro, and the workload and General Things were much, much better, and then — well, I went to eleven. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and then I wrote some more. Along with the writing, of course, comes revision, and with revision comes submissions, and with submissions come those “thanks but no thanks” messages in my mailbox and inbox. And with all of that comes The Fear. I wonder if I’m improving. I wonder if I was ever any good at all. I wonder if what I’m writing is authentic. I wonder if there’s such a thing as authenticity. I wonder if I’m just re-writing what I’ve written and written into the margins of every notebook I’ve ever had. I wonder if knowing this is the only thing that makes me happy, the only thing I can really and truly say I know I’m meant to do, is enough.
And here’s when I talk about moving away from The Fear, about picking myself up off the floor, dusting off my knees, and washing the mascara off my face. After all, Jarvis Cocker moves on, too. The song after “The Fear” is “Dishes” — about how sometimes, you just have to get the dishes dry. Sometimes, you just need to read someone a story to lull them to sleep, get out matches to light their cigarette. “I’m not worried that I will never touch the stars,” he sings, “cos stars belong up in heaven and earth is where we are.” Sometimes, that’s exactly what I most need to remember, that and Cocker’s question and answer, which is more true to my life than I think I can say: “And aren’t you happy just to be alive? Anything’s possible.”
*I do not mean to imply that there is only one Pulp song that I love, as I generally love all Pulp songs, perhaps to the point of obsession. I mean, seriously, I’d put Pulp’s Common People up there with OK Computer and In Utero as one of the best albums of the 1990′s, and the fact that I sometimes put Hit Me Baby One More Time on that list should not lessen the Awesome that is Pulp.
** I mean that in a “stuck in my head” kind of way, not an “oh dear God I’m hallucinating” sort of way, incidentally.