I have tried to write in public before, but I always give it up. Like Kafka, I break it off when I run into problems, but, unlike Kafka, my problems are always the same.***
The first is that I don't have "an angle." I have no "perspective," no "unique or compelling voice," no "fresh take" on any subject. I am not the "voice of my generation" except in the sense that my absolute conviction that I am "different" or "more self-aware" is exactly what typifies me as part of that generation. I'm also physically unattractive and don't own any nice clothes.
The second problem is that I don't have any ideas, not even for movie scripts or sitcoms. Nor do I have a cohesive set of personal ethics or politics, although I will dogmatically espouse either Marxism or post-modernism depending on what suits me at the moment. My primary way of engaging with the world is to be overwhelmed by it. Recently, I was flipping through my notebook and came across some notes I had scribbled down while listening to a lecture about Schopenhauer. I didn't recognize the notes at first and thought they were a record of my own ideas. This experience (mistaking another person's words for my own) genuinely scared me.
Like Kafka, I can count "an apartment of my own" among my failures. I live in the upper floor of an old house: four bedrooms, one bath, a small living room and kitchen. There are three other girls and a mouse, although I haven't seen him in a few weeks.
It is agreed upon but not stated that my bedroom is the worst. It is certainly the smallest. The upstairs windows are bigger and have wall-to-wall carpeting, but it is also agreed upon that I would not be able keep them tidy. Wherever I go, I create clutter: mostly books and old tubes of makeup.
My landlord is a firefighter. His girlfriend is an accountant who always looks surprised. They have a German Shepherd named Rocco who was trained in Austria as a guard dog. He barks incessantly and only responds to commands in German, which I find unnerving. My landlord regrets buying the house and is always trying to unload it. Periodically, he brings people for showing, but, after seeing it, none of them express further interest. He is weirdly destructive, even of his own property. Once I asked if he would trim an overgrown rosebush and came home to find that he had ripped it out by the roots. When I asked why, he said, "I don't want to have to come back here next summer and trim it again."
Last spring he came over unexpectedly to fix a window. I thought it would be rude to shut myself up in my room so I sat on the couch, working and trying politely to ignore him. Suddenly, a spider dropped down from its web and he pointed it out.
"Look," he said. "A spider."
I looked up. I could faintly see a back dot suspended in midair.
"Yes," I said.
"You want me to kill it for you?" he asked.
"No, you don't have to," I said. "People say it's good to have a spider. They keep away other bugs."
But, as I was saying it, he lifted his hand and crushed the spider in his fist. Immediately, I changed tack.
"Or you could kill it," I said. "Great. Thank you."
My old landlord in Boston was always coming over without telling us first. He was an asshole. One afternoon I was sleeping naked on top of my blankets (it was August, during a heat wave) and I heard someone open my door. When I looked up, I saw a man's face in the doorway. I was frightened at first, but then I recognized who it was and felt ashamed instead. There was no ambiguity. I was so obviously exposed that I didn't bother covering myself.
"Get out," I said without raising my voice. "Get out."
He shut the door. I can't remember if I ever saw him after that or if we only talked on the phone.