Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

19 May 2021

Such a Lonely Word

In Paris, the weather is strange. For a moment it is sunny, then it will rain torrentially, like now. It feels like an expression of inner climate: Murky, uncertain, unstable.

We still live under a curfew. But stores will open soon. Restaurant terraces are being painted, preparing for public use after over a year of stagnancy. Next month, tourists will be welcomed back into the country and into our neighbourhoods, though most adults probably won't be vaccinated until deep into summer, maybe fall. 

Whose shitty plan was this? If this had been my job, I'd be fired. I'd be arrested.

I scheduled my vaccines. By July 15 I'll be clear. Still, I will probably miss my school gathering in England in June, not that the vaccination would have mattered; France is an amber country, so I would've still required a test to enter, a quarantine, then testing twice a week for the duration of the trip. It doesn't feel worth it. But maybe it doesn't feel worth it because I'm not interested in doing anything.

What are you doing this summer?

There is no more Cannes four times a year, no more family vacations with my in-laws. All my friends have spread out, into the countryside or back to their own lands. There is nowhere, really, to go, not with any meaningful clarity. I cannot go to Sark to play in the wild.

I have trouble sleeping at night. I can't seem to quit smoking. I shuttle from bed to computer to kitchen to computer to kitchen to bed; I can feel the furrows under my feet, in this small space, which is a haven but also so tightly contained that it seems impossible that complete cycles of life are occurring inside it. I work, I edit, I interact with people on screens, I occasionally get good feedback and new gigs.

The work and the life I designed were all my choice and I like all the people I interact and collaborate with. But I am listless, avoidant. I want to sleep. I feel trapped. Yet there is also nothing I'm interested in doing outside anymore—outside, where 90% of my life used to take place, even without cross-country travel. I have walked the length of Paris multiple times, at multiple hours of day or night, my legs hard and firm. I did not worry much about my weight, or the interesting new wrinkles blossoming around my nose and forehead, now so visible in all the Zoom calls.

My face never used to do that before.

But now my life is mostly this tiny home, in this tiny neighbourhood, which will soon flood with tourism.

The Americans are texting and messaging. They are making plans to visit; am I available? I find it overwhelming in a way I can't describe. They don't know what it's been like here, seem vaguely puzzled when I talk about how we haven't had bars or restaurants for over a year, we've gone out with special hall passes and are still living under a lockdown—still, even now. There is a part of me that feels an obligation to rise to the occasion. Another part of me doesn't know how to live in this world anymore.

The aggressiveness of the vaccine situation scares me—how the US, UK and Israel are treating it as a kind of silver bullet, "Okay, get vaccinated, RETURN TO NORMAL." All this pressure trickling down onto people whose pay has been sliced, whose lives became more uncertain. Commercial rents went up from the first lockdown onward. Normal was already difficult for most people at the best of times; now the upward slope back to that is steeper, more treacherous. 

What is normal? 

I have barely been able to process the changes I underwent, a menagerie of dramatic transitions. It will be years yet before we even understand the psychic or physical impact of the larger collective arc, this big strange time we all lived through and braced ourselves against together. Not only the pandemic but the rage. The lies, the confusion, the fights for power, dominance, money, land, right of life, control.

I'm so tired all the time. Is it my body needing rest, or is it depression? Do I give in or withhold?

A part of me thinks I should sit with these feelings: work with the murkiness, reconstruct my solitude. We are not good at things that don't fall on a binary, at not being pushed toward a touchpoint or a goal. I do not want anything anymore. Maybe that, too, is a depression signal. On the other hand, what a strange metric: When did we decide we needed to want things as evidence that we are okay? There is something insidious nested inside that idea, and I don't trust it—something opposite from the state of simply being. 

Do I give in or withhold?

I am not not engaging. I do the work, one small thing at a time; respond to emails, take calls, engage in some hollow simulation of negotiations. I spent five days in Brittany with some of my best friends, witnessed how they have become parents, relished in the beautiful trappings of our lived-in adulthood, how multiple grownups in a space just know how to do things to keep a community going: setting tables, chopping vegetables, flying kites and reading stories with the kids, loading and unloading dishwashers. Then, at night, we can still drink too much wine and laugh until we cry.

I came home and had a cracked tooth filled at the dentist, scheduled another appointment. I cleaned my teeth and let them lecture me about smoking.

"I should quit smoking," I sighed.

"I should also quit smoking," my dentist sighed.

"The trouble is, I like to smoke," I said.

"Me too!" He laughed.

I finished a book, began another. Started a series and gave it my full attention. Returned emails. 

I was relieved to be back home, in my own bed, accosted by my apartment's sweet smell, as if some version of me had still been there, filling the space and lighting incense or switching on diffusers or spraying cedar into closets and patchouli on sheets, even though there was plenty of evidence of my absence: A bouquet of mint, wilted and dead, beside the still-flourishing orchid. The olives whose water grew mould spores. The tomatoes gone soft, too tender to cut clean. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, people are still talking, conversations in the air waiting for me to return to them. I wrote riddles, published other people's work, played with the internet.

There is a kind of electric live aroma coming out of the trashcan, which was too empty to change before leaving, but I should have anyway. All kinds of strange stuff is mixed in there—organic, wet, pulpy. Stuff that would be happy in a compost, but we don't have one of those, so instead they rot in bags, of use to no one, the life they could sustain unrealised, annulled. Somewhere in the world, those bags are just piling up, smoking from the inside.

I itched to write on the train, and wrote a little. Back at my desk, or belly-down in my bed, I did not want to write anymore. I feel, instead, an immense loneliness, larger than being alone. I have a letter to send that I still haven't sent.

The life I designed, in this context, feels like a holding pattern. I don't know how to make it not feel like that anymore.

01 May 2021


I did a podcast ep with my friend Aron Solomon recently. It's a fun ep, but he asked about the origins of Muse by Clio's new Reinventions series, which I never got around to explaining. I wanted to correct that in a winding Twitter thread that kinda feels like an extremely unfocused ad. 

If you're ruminating reinvention in this time of so much migration, renegotiation and change, I hope you'll read it and get something out of it. I hope you'll also get into Muse's Reinventions series, which is just starting and has so much wisdom to convey. I am quite excited about the ones yet to come.