How to Be Alive

There is something delicious about witnessing
flirtation. A hand extended beyond one bubble onto another,
the brush of an arm. Laughter loud, too loud for any joke, encasing
two people in heat. We are all just inescapable fragments, body parts inflicting
movement and sound onto the world in a quest to be made whole.
I walk around and wait for it to happen to me.
I do it everywhere, my waiting. At bookstores, where I make a big show
of thoughtfully thumbing through The Best American Poetry 2022, shouting
that I am an intellectual and also a poet, so I am easily seduced
by the moon. At the grocery store, I seek to convince all shoppers that there is nothing
more sensual than a bell pepper except for me. Walking down the street,
I flip my hair and wear rings on all my fingers except
the ring one, of course, to let the emptiness scream out I AM AVAILABLE
so the bystander of emptiness can simply fill in the rest. The soundtrack
to all this is that one Mitski lyric on repeat – if I gave up on being pretty
I wouldn’t know how to be alive
– again and again so I never get to
the punchline. Zac Efron, a formative presence in my hormonal adolescence, shattered
his jaw at home. Running through his house in socks, he slipped,
smacked his chin and lost consciousness, chin bone hanging
off his face upon arousal. Isn’t that awful? How anything can kill us?
I know this because, after substantial uproar on Twitter about how messed
up his face looked in recent photos, Zac gave an interview explaining
the series of unfortunate events. The man broke his jaw
and the entire world only talked about how much less
fuckable he became. Isn’t that sad? People all assumed he had work done,
that he ruined himself to please Hollywood, to stay young.
How do you ruin yourself? By wearing socks?
I haven’t walked around in socks since the psych ward. Maybe
that’s what Zac was missing. Every conversation I have boils down to
“They don’t make sex symbols like they used to” but I don’t know
who “they” is and I don’t know who to ask. Can you see me? Can you see me?