It was something. Out of nowhere, I didn’t give a shit about anything for like a month. Like nothing. I mean yeah, there’d been plenty of times where I didn’t give a shit about something. Oh that thing? Yeah, fuck that thing. I did it all the time. Multiple things even. Had to. It was part of life, sure. But this time it transcended all things and applied to everything. Like your brain after a severe blow, turning off all functions except what’s needed—breathing, but that’s about it. I just didn’t give a shit, for better or worse. Things I liked / things I didn’t like, didn’t matter. Didn’t want to paint. Didn’t want to write. Didn’t want to talk to anyone. Respond to emails or texts. None of it. I barely went outside even. Just baseline survival. And sure, I had also fake “not given a shit about anything” before, in the way many do—to prompt the world to say, “But I give a shit about you!”—sure. Still this was different. Now there was no desire, no disappointment. I didn’t want anything. I wasn’t angling. Just flatlining alive. It was something. The world had been on a rampage trying to get me to give a shit, too. All kinds of shit, you wouldn’t believe it. More and more. On TV, on the radio, the bench ads outside the grocery store, they all expected me to give a shit about something. I was asked to give a shit by video screens at gas pumps even. Yard signs accused me of shit. There were flags! Everywhere, everyone wanted me to give a shit. And it had to be the right kind of shit, or people would give a shit about how I gave a shit, and then I had to give a shit about that. It was an endless cycle. A terrible ceremony. So I fought back with nothing. Like air to an incoming blow. No dodging, blocking, or absorbing. Just gone. Not even there. I witnessed transparent versions of myself slowly exit my body and float away, at the grocery store, in the post office, bumping up against the ceiling. Birthed from my head and floating away, trapped somewhere in the atmosphere. Bumping the undersides of clouds while the real me waited below. I’d sit by my bedroom window looking outside, like a cat, just staring. Days, ate that way. I watched cars go by. People biking. Clouds. I used my binoculars to look at birds on power lines. I watched the man with the sores on his leg walk slowly to and from the liquor store every day. I watched the sun go down. Watched it come up. Days, ate. It was something. Made me realize I had gotten too good at what I’d been doing. You can get too good at something that’s meant as a temporary solution, and then it becomes the problem. You start living in it. And the worst part is, it’s not bad.
Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Episode 22: “Form and Formlessness”
In an essay specially commissioned for the podcast, Aisha Sabatini Sloan describes rambling around Paris with her father, Lester Sloan, a longtime staff photographer for Newsweek, and a glamorous woman who befriends them. In an excerpt from The Art of Fiction no. 246, Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti discuss how writing her first novel helped Cusk discover her “shape or identity or essence.” Next, Allan Gurganus’s reading of his story “It Had Wings,” about an arthritic woman who finds a fallen angel in her backyard, is interspersed with a version of the story rendered as a one-woman opera by the composer Bruce Saylor. The episode closes with “Dear Someone,” a poem by Deborah Landau.
Rachel Cusk photo courtesy the author.
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