Reading Nietzsche Naked Redux
There’s something almost therapeutic waking up tangled in your bedsheets, naked, with a semi between your legs; your head’s a mess, groggy from a night of doom scrolling, and the first thought that pops in your all-too-sleepy brain as you reach your phone is: Am I really about to turn 40?
That’s me. In bed. Naked and tangled in bedsheets. There isn’t a ceiling fan in my bedroom, but if there was one (and if I was one of my many characters I wrote about in my 20s) I would be focusing on that fixture in this narration. I would describe how dusty it appeared, at least a decade’s worth of fuzz lining the blades. How it slowly turned in the room, though it was off, as an indicator of a draft that snuck through the open window screen, despite it being a hot and humid day in South Texas.
Maybe I would write myself a partner. Some manic-pixie-dream-girl type whose love of life is just what needs to spill into my daily routine to shake things up, to cause much-welcomed chaos in my otherwise orderly life. Maybe she’s recovering from a night of drinking, or a wake-and-bake type. A waitress, maybe, I met a truckstop located just blocks away from a university. Maybe she’d be dealt a better fate than my beloved Amie, a character based loosely on my at-the-time-girlfriend despite denying it left, right, and center.
Doesn’t have to be a woman, either. Maybe it’s a stoic poet. His features are not chiseled, but still rather sexy. Dad-bod sexy. Wide shoulders to me to rest my head on as I play with the hairs on his chin. Maybe his breath holds the stale of last night’s wine.
Why do I do that? Always write these characters who do things I don’t? Sleep around. Drink alcohol. Smoke pot first thing in the morning.
There is no ceiling fan, despite me wanting to describe one. There is no manic-pixie-dream-girl or stoic poet. There is only me. Naked. Tangled in bedsheets. Half erection threatening to go either way. A rackety old air condition, a window unit, haphazardly installed in a window, which was itself haphazardly installed by someone who just wanted to finish the job.
My head aches. Caffeine withdrawal, I assume. It’s the most likely cause of 94% of my headaches. 3% going to dehydration or illness.
I pull myself out of bed and grab the pajamas I tossed on the floor last night. In the kitchen, I pour a bottle of water into my Keurig and drop a reusable k-cup filled with Folgers. I used to do the fancy-flavored coffees, and I still do sometimes, but the bitterness no longer bothers me. I add no sugar, but I do add a splash of oatmilk. Though, if I’m not careful, it’s more than a splash. I don’t discriminate. It’s not the coffee flavor I’m after.
As it brews, I scroll through my phone, catching up on any news I may have missed. Ok. I’m scrolling through TikTok, catching brief glimpses of thirst traps, activist posts, clown girls and cosplay videos.
I never drank coffee until my 30s. Rather, I never took it as seriously. There were, on occasion, those I purchased what my friend called “yuppie drinks.” Those coffee-flavored sugar waters you buy at Starbucks. I still, on occasion, buy those but not as often as I make my own at home.
At work, I will drink another coffee, and an energy drink. If I can’t shake this sleepy feeling, I will brew another cup and have four caffeinated drinks, which will cause my coworker to ask, “Can you sleep at night?” to which I will answer, “Yeah. I do. Eventually.”
One Friday, I forgot my coffee at home. I managed because there’s a Starbucks (not an actual Starbucks, but a place that serves Starbucks brand items) on campus. This acts as a backup plan on those days when I want more coffee, but not hot coffee, or if I forget my cup at home. There are three cafes on campus. One right inside the library where I work. I can grow fat just eating scones and drinking coffee.
Some mornings, I’ll sit at my desk and read while drinking coffee. It’s what I imagined adults doing as a child, though my mom never drank coffee around me. Not often, anyway. It might have been popular culture that planted that seed in my head. Unlike the visual, I don’t read a newspaper. Only, sometimes I do, but it’s through an app. My point is, there is no physical newspaper, just the idea of one.
I drink my coffee and read, my heart sinking with everything ugly in the world. Guns harm more kids in this country than drag queens, but guess which one is seen as the bigger threat.
Fuck, my head aches. It’s the tension. It’s the idea of watching people actively vote on the wrong side of history, just so they think they’re on top. And when the other shoe drops, when it’s their turn on the chopping block, they’re going to wonder how it ever got this bad.
I set my coffee down and pinch the bridge of my nose, hoping that the throb will go away.
Sometimes I hope if I drink enough, the headaches will go away.
“You focus a lot on ceiling fans,” a friend tells me one day. I am in my 20s when this conversation takes place, and the scenery is the same as it is in my last year of my 30s. Almost the same.
“I don’t know,” I say. And I think maybe it’s subconsciousness. I don’t intend to write a ceiling fan in all my stories, but maybe there’s something about ceiling fans that is rooted in my psyche. A part of me assumes they’re metaphors for the passing of time. The way the blades turn, the way the characters focus in on them. There’s an important shift that’s about to take place. A turn of the blade equals the turn of time.
Something has to give.
My characters hate the world. They’re spoiled and pretentious. They have the world sussed out and laugh at those who don’t.
And I wonder if I think that of myself. Spoiled. Pretentious.
This is something that goes away with age, because I learn that I’m a pretentious shit. I write letters to myself indicating such.
It was my last high school girlfriend who talked me into sleeping naked. There was something exciting about it back then. Something that tickled my post-catholic brain. It wasn’t sexual, just freeing. Though, when we fucked, we’d lay in bed afterward, holding on to each other’s sweaty bodies, tangled in the bedsheets, drifting away into that thick post-coital slumber.
And part of me can’t believe, as I lay awake now, the humid morning rapping outside my bedroom window, that it has been decades now. This isn’t the same bed, and I’m not the same person. And yet, somehow, I am.
There’s something therapeutic in that. Knowing that somewhere in the mess memory, there resides these moments with people I loved. Things that I enjoy.
No matter how long they’re gone.
Ceasing to exist.
“Fuck it,” a twenty-something-me says.