Discover more from warm cups of tea
if i could see all my friends tonight
rhythms of contemporary life + lcd soundsystem's all my friends
It’s been more than a few weeks. I’ve been missing writing for fun and for free, instead of writing towards academic obligations. Various things on my mind lately, which I am going to tell you about. Settle in with a mandarin and some chrysanthemum tea, if you wish.
an ache i meet to desire living
This will likely be quite a diaristic missive, more so than usual, if that is okay with you. It’s been strange and busy inside my mind. Miscellaneous thoughts have been bouncing around my mind and me without the time to sit and write, and in the interim I’ve told a few people of my intention to write ‘what will probably amount to more thoughts on contemporary ennui and the rhythms of everyday life’—the latter idea borrowed from Lefebvre but only Sarah’s explanations and me skimming Wikipedia.
I recently turned 23. It doesn’t feel much different to 22, yet at the same time it does feel like a distinct step above. Something about passing that doubled figure? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just blink-182 echoing in my ears, Nobody likes you when you’re 23. An evolution from happy free confused and lonely at the same time, in turn an evolution from nineteen and on fire, I move through life with song lyrics and fragments carved into my mind. Hard to believe that I was ever nineteen. I knew so little. I was so static during the pandemic and yet I feel a certain disconnect to that undergrad struggling to acclimatise to a new city.
Sometime during May, I began taking to listening to all seven minutes and forty-two seconds ‘All My Friends’ by LCD Soundsystem, almost ritualistically. Cried on the tram home to this song twice within two days; if I’m going to be overwhelmed with processing emotions then I might as well take the chance to make it cinematic, a scene in a slice-of-life television show where everything is episodic and everything is temporary and the soundtrack is fantastic.
Really though, sometimes all you need is a song that last almost eight seconds that’s a breakdown about going out with your friends and wanting to go out with your friends and being sad that you can’t go out with your friends and wishing that your friends were here. Eighty seconds of just a beat and repetitive piano chords and then, that’s how it starts. A song that layers and builds and sweeps you along without you even realising it, like meaningful relationships, all driven by a rhythmic, almost frantic percussion. And over it, we set controls for the heart of the sun. Restless and glorious.
Towards the end of high school, many of my friends and I began to add “see you on [x] day” to our farewells. Usually this was just the next day (Akmu voice: oh, see you tomorrow!), sometimes even in twelve hours. In that final year of school, I saw two of my closest friends six or seven days of the week during term-time and I liked it that way and I can only expect that they did too. Now, I’m more likely to confirm to friends that we will see each other when we see each other, usually on some corner of the internet. Otherwise, we suggest that we will make future plans, which sometimes eventuates and sometimes doesn’t. Sometimes I will say ‘I’ll see you’ and phrase it almost as a question, and ultimately it comes down to the same idea: I want to see you again. Then again, the Chinese farewell is literally that: 再见. I think of this, when I hear James LCDSoundsystem sing, you spend the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to be with your friends again. Line that hits when the first five years have passed and everybody is slowly finding paths for themselves and at the end of the day, all roads do lead back to being with your friends again.1
Of course, friendship is all sorts and they don’t all last forever. I think there’s joy in even fleeting companionship, built up from nice interactions to ease you through the day. People you’ll meet at an event and see on Instagram forever, or talk to often until you’re catching up and it’s been years. I think that’s okay. I think that’s being alive. There are people I still think of fondly and I’ll wonder if they remember at all, but then I realise that it doesn’t quite matter. We’re all just moving through our lives, wanting to see our friends again.
A few afternoons ago, I reread Hanif Abdurraqib’s ‘And What Good Will Your Vanity Be When the Rapture Comes?’. I love love love this poem, and this time I was struck by two stanzas near the beginning:
the way I might describe it in a poem and the man
says the moment is already right in front of you and I
say I know but everyone I love is not here and I mean
here like on this street corner with me while I turn
the sky a darker shade of red on my phone and I mean
here like everyone I love who I can still touch and not
pass my fingers through like the wind in a dream
but I look up at the man and he is a kaleidoscope
I say I know! But everyone I love is not here! I fold them into my heart because I carry a lot of love for the people I love and I can struggle to find new people to let in as a result, but fundamentally they are not here and I want to show them the sky!
It does get lonely, even if it is getting better. And I do think that having people to call on has made me realise again how lonely I have been in the past, and I knew I was. I was there. I guess I just feel disconnected from myself quite often, so the reminder is jarring? A few weeks ago Jordan <3 was in town and we were all preparing to go out and ‘Dancing in the Dark’ was playing and the four of us took a moment to scream, hey baby, I’m just about starving tonight and in the days after I listened again and again (me and this song are having a moment again). I’m thinking about hunger-as-desire (for love, connection, sense of self, purpose) and how I stayed hungry for so long. Often when I hear Florence Welch singing at seventeen I started to starve myself my thought is that I started to do that much earlier, and it’s the kind of statement that is in effect probably more worrying than it is funny but it’s how I feel. I don’t know. I really do look back on those years before the pandemic and during lockdown in particular and I want her to know that her feelings are justified and that things will get better. There’ll be wonderful times, and life in between. And I want to emphasise that I did have wonderful times, these are always possible, and I did forge connections, many breaking with newer ones sprouting in their place. And I saw my friends again, but.
Everyone I love is still not here. And the thing is, I don’t think it will ever be possible to gather all my friends in one place. I’ll always be missing someone. Always always. ‘All My Friends’ closes out on the question But then, where are your friends tonight? followed by a repetitive refrain of if I could see all my friends tonight and I do interpret it as a statement that things would be okay, if. Pleading and somewhat euphoric. It’s the first half of a conditional statement, left hanging, and I like the idea that the second half doesn’t even need saying, that the chain of logic is so obvious. And it’s a little bit mournful—you can’t always see your friends tonight—a little bit reassuring—there are good times ahead, even if there isn’t a streetlight to guide you now you have to trust that there will be a night where you can see all your friends tonight.
As ever, it’s nice to be able to have songs and lyrics if nothing else. And I will see my friends again. I’ll be alone on the tram in the city or I’m sitting in comfort in my bed late at night but I’m heading somewhere, always, laying my head against a window and looking out, heart still hungry and still restless.
let me show you the synthetic pond
I am aware that a new round-up of media is due at the end of this month, so I won’t dwell here. I’m reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, which is as if they invented a book that is good. Genuinely exquisite prose. I have various things on my (optimistic) to-read list for the next month or so, including Nona the Ninth and Aristotle’s Poetics. Otherwise, I’ve begun rereading Mockingjay, mostly to exonerate the series from having to write an essay on The Hunger Games in which I was asked to talk about numbers and statistics and not the actual text (this was a protracted struggle for me). I do anticipate making my way through it in one go, once I actually get around to sitting down with it.
As well as [gestures to whatever is happening just above this], I’ve been listening to a lot of Samia, especially ‘Charm You’ and ‘Honey’ and also ‘Show Up’. Enjoying the new Maisie Peters and Arlo Parks albums. And so on. Listening to a lot of Carly Rae Jepsen, forever the maestro of desire and grabbing onto it even/especially when it’s scary. Jordan and I are once again rewatching Please Like Me, and we’re still making our way through Buffy where I have also been rewatching various other episodes in other contexts, you know how it is. Watched Across the Spider-Verse twice! Gwen Stacy <3 Miles Morales <3 Pavitr and Hobie <3 I care them.
Saw Ethel Cain at the beginning of June and what a show . . I cannot believe that she really sounds like that, and even better live. Setlist was too short but the amount of emotion and storytelling packed into it. Artist of a generation! Saw Mallrat in May, in the midst of going insane for reasons. She was as lovely a performer as ever. I love you pop girls I love you music.
Some parting thoughts: it’s June. Almost the end now, but still. Happy pride month. I hope it’s been a good June; if not, I hope that July is better, and that you have good Junes in the future. Well, I hope everybody has good months in the future, forever. Anyway, I mostly wanted to reaffirm the importance of community in this time when transphobia—transmisogyny in particular—feels choking and inescapable, online and across the world and in the media and from the University of Melbourne. The university isn’t an unexpected place this time, given the awful awful history, and it’s easy for me to feel more than a little useless; my anger and upset feel so small in the face of an institution. And we circle back to ‘June’ by Florence + the Machine: Those heavy days in June, when love became an act of defiance, indeed. I guess I just want to say: actively listen to and look out for each other, please. Also: I love you gay people in my computer.
Anyway, thanks for reading. It always is so hard for me to untangle the everything from the everything else. I don’t actually try very hard to do this, because I never promised thesis statements. Ah well.
this happened to my friend miles morales btw.