This is a love letter to you, to thank you. It’s a love letter about November 9th, 2016. It’s about how you helped me. How I felt desperate.
Before the election, I first heard the album a few weeks before the election. Hopelessness immediately took me out of my skin and carried me to some beautiful dark rocky cave where I can hear water dripping and I have amethysts for eyes. Nothing has moved me like that in a long time. I was nestled in the back of a van, driving around a foreign country. The song “Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth” is, to me, just like (just like!) an Anselm Kiefer painting called Sternenfall (Falling Stars). He lies bare-chested on a cracked earth floor, looking up at the night sky. The album as a whole reminded me of that Kiefer show, Heaven and Earth. I wrapped myself in the album, I kept trying to convey to others that they should listen to it. Hopelessness is like falling in love with someone else’s broken heart.
[Then, something happened. Something happened inside of me but mainly outside and to other people much more vulnerable than I. I was in an empty bar on election night with my only friend in this new city, in Millie’s Supper Club in Chicago, IL. Just me, the bartender, the chef, and me and my only friend. We thought it would be called early, we thought it would be done. But one by one, things changed, and then I had to get out, I couldn’t see it called. I biked through Chicago, nearly got blown off my bicycle by the wind for my first time. I was like a drunkard whose homing beacon had gone off, I couldn’t think about anything but getting home before the election was called. I thought, he doesn’t deserve to have me as an audience, I shouldn’t have to watch this. But truly it felt like self-abuse to choose to watch it happen. Home, I played Pixies album Bossanova loudly on the record player, while playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer loudly on my laptop, took two sleeping pills, and tried to be unconscious before knowing. before knowing, I wanted to be unconscious. I didn’t make it. I knew. of course.]
I woke up and reached for you. Thank you for being there. Hopelessness became something so large, I still felt like I was in a stone chamber with you, but I also felt like I was doing a dead float out in the middle of a cold salty ocean. I was too sad, too shut down, to accommodate anyone else’s reaction. I couldn’t abide other humans, but you came for me.
I thought it was “expose” but it’s “explode” that’s so hard, Anohni, everything is so hard. So much harder than I thought it would be.
“I have a glint in my eye, I think I wanna die… I wanna die.” I’m sure you’ve spent your whole life listening to people talk about the peculiarities of your voice and how you move people.
I don’t know how to be strong enough for this. I don’t know how to make my grief productive. I know that I have to and that I will.
“I wanna see this world, I wanna see it boil.” This was when I realized something terribly different was happening to me from this album, it was vital that I be hooked up to it all day. It protected me, it was an ice float in the scariest few hours. Alone and sleeping on the floor of a new apartment that had cockroaches everywhere. In the morning light, you carried me. You didn’t force me to feel less numb than I did. You slowly opened me up though. You invited me into your heart and into the world.
I walked for miles, and then I rode a bicycle for miles and miles more. Up and down Lake Michigan, I biked and listened to Hopelessness. You gave me a place where I was allowed to be numb, I didn’t have to shout and scream, I could barely open my eyes let alone my mouth. You washed over me and I fell in love with you again. I fell in love again with your broken heart, you let me love my own broken heart.
“Watch Me” – this is one of the most confusing tracks on the album, I cried for my own daddy. I cried for the childlike wonder of a day that didn’t yet know how terrible it really was.
I have a line of pimples and red raw skin under my nose because I’ve been crying too much. I wish it were colder, to freeze it into a snot mustache. Unfortunately, the day is excruciatingly beautiful and mild.
Why is the music in “Execution” like that? Why do you sing the words “It’s an American dream” like that? Why are you so creepy and sad and also make me laugh a little at how you sort of yelp it out like you’re dancing with you’re shoulders moving up and down.
I couldn’t offer comfort to anyone. I could only look around dead-eyed. I clung to you. Your music was the thing I held onto when I couldn’t feel anything, and also what is carrying me forward today as my heart slowly fills up with unstoppable rage and love. How did you make music for both.
Slowly, moving around this strange new city, I felt your music reaching across Lake Michigan, I started to remember some things. The first thing I remembered is that I have the biggest love, bigger and luckier than I ever thought I could have. We are strong. I can change my life, and I must, to respond to what’s happened. There are so many people who already live in a constant state of emergency in our country, now I am joining them in their fight.
There are so many for whom this election is not a wake up call, because they were already awake. And fuck anyone who writes that thinkpiece today. I’m ashamed at what I did not know. I’m so sorry.
When “Obama” comes on, I suddenly remember how I heard this album yesterday, the days and weeks before, I think of Anselm Kiefer again. I think of the NSA, I think of the fear that surrounds us, the terrifying and wrenching complacency. I think about taking sleeping pills again.
Trauma. Trauma. I’m so afraid of what’s being unleashed. I have small white points of anger. I’m especially angry at these Slavoj-Zizek-bulshitters theorizing the broken system and arguing that Clinton is a more dangerous candidate than Trump. These people who’ve never had a vulnerable body, a vulnerable status as a citizen. These monsters. (me).
“Crisis” is so maternal, explaining with patience that is beyond me, wit that call-to-arms tippity tap drumbeat. Oh, Anohni. I’M SORRY. is it a marching beat, or are they little gears.
All day is like this. I try to feel some more again, I try to reach out. But I can’t. I can’t access my anger and my love, I can only feel afraid and a kind of animal mourning wracking my body. The album is not a triumphant path upwards and onwards, it’s a maelstrom, but somehow, you do carry me up and out of myself.
From “Hopelessness” to “Marrow” you made me feel something…
“We are, we are all Americans now.” the saddest line of all, just as I start to feel, if not hopeful, just able to feel a bit more. It’s the end of the day now, or the end of the daylight. I take off my shoes and I’m standing with my feet in the cold lake water, on one of those very small beaches where the sand is really pebbles and seaglass. We are, we are all Americans now. I press the button to start the album again.
Thank you for sharing your heart, it couldn’t have been easy. For helping me hold my anger, and the anger of others. I will change my life. And I swear I will fucking kill anything that tries to obstruct our way forward. Okay, I’m starting to be able to feel anger again. You made this beautiful world for me to hide in today, but what I’d hoped would be my own shallow grave turned out to be a system of subterranean tunnels, this album you made… You gave me space for fear and cowering, and you showed me how to stand up with a hole in my heart.