This month’s theme is Infinity, about what cannot be articulated; the infinite feelings, colors, sounds, experiences that we do not have words for. We’re publishing a few entries from Tavi’s diary that show how, for her, “it’s gotten shockingly effortless to live in Infinity, and trust that I’ll retain what I need to later, and if not, accept the price of a life fully lived.” This is part five in the series; read the first installment here, the second here, the third here, and the fourth here.
A diary entry from very early November, a lapse in the break from writing:
The day of Halloween I had a shoot for Vogue. Grace Coddington chose one musician, one film actress, one model, et cetera, to shoot separately, and I was the stage actress. We’d had a fitting earlier in the week where she said she remembered when I came up to her on the street when I was 13 and asked for a photo. I remember she had said to me, “Oh, I hear you’re the competition!” She was so nice, so enthusiastic in her quiet, thoughtful way. She said she wanted my input on what I would be wearing but I was too shy to offer any. I liked the Miu Miu she’d selected: pink coat like a thin mattress pad, flowery cropped blouse, red pencil skirt, tartan wool belt, high tan and white pumps, and my nameplate necklace which she asked that I keep on.
Now I took the car to Newark Penn Station and was a pinball machine of nerves while eating the catering over making conversation with Grace, who sat down next to me, and receiving texts from Man for the first time since our first date, which I was sure had gone terribly. I talked to the models while we waited around, met one who has a head of frizzy red hair like a mini-Grace and is my age and was very kind and easy to talk to. After all the waiting around, everything began to happen all at once, and I was rushed to a corner by a train entrance where I stood perfectly still and gave variations on a smile and everyone paid very close attention. Then it was over.
Back home, I got my costume together with Anna (Madonna) and Petra (Regina George). Because I’d procrastinated, I just decided to wear one of my sequin tube tops and be Chloë Sevigny’s character in The Last Days of Disco. I had the right hair for it. Petra bought me some cheap black pajama pants that actually worked very well, as did her leopard coat and my gold strappy platforms. I was texting with Man throughout about possibly meeting up later. I went to work where knowing I was about to possibly meet up with him made the first scene very real. When I came back, Augusta came over, and everyone else went out to some place that required IDs, and Petra was only just now telling us as if I could suddenly acquire a fake at, like, the deli. So Augusta and I hung back and listened to my live Talking Heads record while I did my hair and makeup. It was so great to talk to her about acting and directing, like to have a nerdy conversation that I normally can’t have because I think it bores most people or sounds pretentious. She told me about her thesis where she plans to draw an analogy between the world in a film with the Other spaces as defined by Foucault (a mirror is an Other space; you know that it is real as a fake space), and I shared that acting in the play is not about convincing myself that I am another person or that I’m not on a stage, but knowing that this Other space and the months of rehearsal and all the muscle memory are constructed to allow for emotionally honest behavior. It’s easy for me to accept that Jessica is real and that Warren is real, even if they exist as Other, because of my many years Fangirling over fictional characters as vital to my existence as friends and family. I remembered when Petra and Anna and I screened Manhattan on our rooftop, and its shots of the city completed a 360-degrees panorama of our own downtown view. I’d been struggling with Jessica’s stakes seeming high enough—who cares, really, about this young girl’s date with this weenie guy—but saw that Mariel Hemingway made us care about everything that happened to Tracy by just being so believable as a real human. That is my problem right now–I get all of Jessica’s circumstances, I know who she is, but I’m still struggling to just exist, like a person, onstage.
Augusta and I went out onto the street and spent too long trying to find the deli that is two blocks away. Then we had to find another one that sold beer. We split a liter while sitting at the counter at the pizza place, going deep and making each other laugh in equal measure. I love drunk Augusta! I’m always worried that when I’m drunk and socially anxious I’ll start talking about something really dark but with the disposition of like, Christine Baranski. But with Augusta I always feel so safe! We took a cab to the club where Petra & co. had ended up and went straight for the bathroom before getting drinks and then we put our stuff down on the couch in the middle of the room and danced. I wanted to request disco, per my costume, but they never go back once they’ve started playing new music. I tried to let it go. I am trying to do that more. Then it became fun. We merged with the rest of the group. Why’s Augusta so great to dance with? I checked my phone and had a missed call from Man and a text that they weren’t letting any more people in, so I went outside to find him, and was stopped right at the entrance by a girl with really elaborate face paint and fake teeth and horns and a pink, Mad Hatter sort of suit. She said “Hey!!!” with all the familiarity of a locker buddy. I was baffled.
“It’s Chloë. You’ve interviewed me before.”
“Oh my god, hi!! I didn’t recognize you! Um, what are you dressed as?”
“I dunno! Just like, a frumpy devil?! I wanted to do something really weird and intense!”
“It’s working! I didn’t know it was you!”
“What are you??”
“I’m, um, I’m you! In Last Days of Disco!”
She turned to her friends. “You guys! She’s me in Last Days of Disco!”
I was relieved she wasn’t totally weirded out but maybe when I walked away she was like WHAT ON EARTH. Oh well. I saw Man on the other side of the rope and went out and hugged him hello and met his friend and asked if I could bring them in and the doorman said no, that they were 15 minutes from closing, so I ran in to get my stuff and say goodbyes, but then Man got in, I saw him at the other end of the room, but then we walked back out. Augusta gave me one of her googly eyes (she had stuck a bunch on her face and said she was a fly) and we saw her into a cab. Man’s friend drove Man and me to Man’s place in his fancy car with a photo of a smiling David Lynch taking up the whole big dashboard robot screen; my Halloween guardian angel.
Man and I talked and watched early Britney videos and passed out. In the morning we talked and cuddled and found the googly eye and had sex and this time I was not thinking about my arms or legs or anything, just letting myself feel it, and talking was so much easier than it had been on that first date, I wasn’t concerned with the value or intrigue of what I was saying, and kissing each other mid-conversation started to come so naturally and I wasn’t occupying my brain with concerns about keeping feelings in check or what my body looked like and I remember thinking mid-a kiss that was very overthought on my part to just let it happen to me before realizing that “let it happen to you” had been one of the notes I’d gotten about being present in the show. I was able to plainly exist in this space of sheets and contact. I found myself becoming familiar with his smell and wanting to hug it, and actually looking at his smile instead of being smiled at. I remembered that this stuff does not have to be a source of anxiety or oppression. Or that when it’s this easy, you are not thinking about what it means or will become. I wasn’t overanalyzing what was done or said while we were having sex or hung up that he didn’t say things like before. It was like when you follow a really strong show and the audience isn’t responding really but there’s nothing to even have to come to terms with because you just know on every level that it’s not like your fault or something bad or anything. You trust that the audience is with you in their own way and in that way they stop being an audience you are performing for; they are going through it with you, with the characters. A boy stops being someone you perform for or are gazed upon by; you’re just there with another person. You’re not thinking about what you are revealing or presenting. And if things are revealed or presented by you, they are surprises to you, too.
Now this makes me think of when I saw Jenny earlier this year and she said she hates acting games “because they just make me feel like I’m bad at acting,” but that the one where you have to make each other laugh just by laughing actually resembles the cadence of sex when both people stop hating their bodies or worrying what the other person thinks beyond what would make them feel good. At that same dinner, Ari told us about watching her ex move out, carrying his crates of records to the car, and her gaining momentary access to “an aerial view, like I was already telling my grandchildren about him.” The kind of perspective you save for endings. I try on that reflective calm now, post-breakup, as it seems like the sign of an evolved person. But then I remember something he did or said, or I run into someone else who knows him and assures me I’m not crazy, and I don’t have any journals from that time to parse like a detective for foreshadowing of his callousness, and I feel like I can’t fall asleep until I know if he’s Good or Bad.
It’s not that I consciously made excuses for him, but I was quick to swallow the onset of nausea when my therapist asked who in my life I admire for the ways in which they move through the world and I could not say that he was one of them. I just really loved to watch him. It was very captivating. I hung on every word. Not because I believed he held some secret to living, but because he held the secrets to who he was, and I thought that uncovering them would qualify me, too, as beautiful.
Today I got a haircut and color to more closely resemble Berlin-era Bowie and met Durga at a pizza place in Brooklyn Heights and we talked about Man and Man’s Friend for two hours and I kept topping myself with every fucked up thing he ever did and then once we got to the bar that the birthday was at I started to feel doomed and lonely and realized I had done thing called “splitting” where you shit talk someone you once loved so much that you become dissociated from yourself because who you are is not a person who hates them. Whenever this happens I have to retrace all my steps and figure out how I got from high school to New York, from who I was then to who I am now, connecting the dots across articles of clothing (none of which I can wear anymore), songs (none of which I can listen to anymore), and other such details of art direction.
I told Durga I wasn’t feeling well so we left very early.
DURGA: I think it’s good that you’re so comfortable leaving a party. There’s too little time to spend any not feeling good.
ME: I agree. I just get really impatient in those settings. It’s just like…I think about death all the time! You know? Like, every day.
DURGA: How can you not? When people ask me, like, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”, I’ve just started saying that I don’t know that I’ll make it!
ME: 10 years seems very optimistic!
ME: Maybe it’s because I watched Six Feet Under in high school? Or read Tuesdays With Morrie in fourth grade when I thought that was precociousness?
DURGA: But everyone I know who’s like this about death is also a writer. In “On Keeping a Notebook,” Didion characterizes notebook-keepers as “afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”
ME: Ow. Ow. I mean, I broke up with my high school boyfriend months before I was actually moving to New York because I just couldn’t hang out with him without anticipating the end. And I remember trying to “stay present” and convince myself it was the same as living life to the fullest even though you know you’ll die, or BECAUSE you know you’ll die, but like, I won’t have to mourn my own life once it’s over. Why “stay present” with someone who’s just gonna leave your life?
DURGA: Yes. Relationships are horrible because you survive them.