heart brain hygiene

this is a literary blog by swedish writer sofia ponten for contact please email sofia.ponten(a)gmail.com

PERSIAN RUGS

Every time I run into one of my roommates around the house, which isn’t that often, we say hi, we start talking, and we end up in a 45 minute discussion about the musical structure of West Side Story but also the racial problems of the lyrics, obviously, and end up singing the medley. Or. We start talking about a friend of a friend and end up in a talk about life, what we want, hope for, what success really is. I love living here. 

I sit in my office on my persian rug and I look at my air plants and I soak them and I write, I try to not only write horoscopes but horoscopes are my job and I keep answering the kids questions about life and love and it’s similar to my writing, it’s ok, I get to write and think on my tiny persian rug bought on the Chelsea flea from a man from Teheran who loves Sweden for giving home to many of his friends and family and gave me a good price and I didn’t care that much about the price, I needed the rug for other reasons. 

It’s hard to wake up in the mornings and that’s just something I need to figure out. I keep pushing deadlines and that’s just something I need to figure out. A bunch of my friends in New York right now won’t be here come 2015 and that’s just something I need to figure out. I make tea and coffee and serve myself and I cheat my dietary restrictions and I’ve lost my ability to choose the perfect color at the nail salon. I get to excited and try too much. 

I consider studying and I consider rewriting everything and I wonder where the urge to tell a specific story went and I wait for it to return and I don’t doubt for a moment that it will. That’s just something I need to figure out. 

WONDER END WEEK

Not sure if this is the right moment. Not sure if this is what you wanted. The helper. Ask me anything, I’ll do it. For the sake of order. I want to turn it around. Not up, just around. Then we can stretch. Hold the pose. And stretch.

Sweat is dripping from just breathing. Inhale, exhale, and when I turn my head down, sweat runs backwards, backtracking its way into my eyes or ears or nose. Inhale, split dog, exhale. All out. We walk Clifton northeast and talk about habits and rodents. We breath cold crisp air and I get licorice at the deli, lemons and tea. Wash it out. We go to a party. Have subway crushes and dance, sing all night. Dance all night. Joking, not joking. Dancing, not dancing. I tell it all. I’ll do anything. 

What’s the name of this game. Waking up from dreams of pregnancies and sounds of laughter. It’s still early and that’s at least one mistake avoided. Up, up, tea, avocado, write. Write, write, text, coffee, text, text, write, write. 

The weekend. Habits and rodents. Waiting for the subway to the sound of a steady beat, a steady bounce of the head, the shoulders, the toes. Far underground, under ground. I can hear the train coming. We better be ready.

DRAMA

Gardens. I really need to go visit gardens. Your hand on my forehead. Not anymore. I really need to write about what happens in Ferguson. We’re all humans. Politics is the only thing binding us together. Holding us together. No. No. Not anymore. You’re gone.

We sit on a bench on ave A. Kids with backpacks and goth ensembles stumble by like yeah totally. They dream like I dreamed but they’re living it, I never did, or did I? The equivalent, or just something different? The cortado hits my lip, flowing down the side of a paper cup, it’s bitter, too bitter, I forgot to ask for soy milk, it’s 25 cents extra, the swedish krona is really weak right now, I can’t afford to be vegan, but I can, oh I can. They’ve passed now and J and I go through all the ways in which we tried, and never failed, but tried, and ended up here in a dead end of writers block and wanting to move far, far away.

It’s not always like that. But this day I can’t buy my avocados and lemons for $4.32 cause I’m out of cash and credit cards only work when the total is over $5 and DS did tell me, no shame, about how he hurt her and watched her cry. Asshole. I’m so happy she did tell me. In so many cases she wouldn’t have. Under the hamper looking lamp, next to the pine and all it’s memories of winter she did tell me. My coat falls to the floor together with all my other shit and my head is spinning from that stupid cortado and all I can think of is taking a bath. 

And then all I can think of is it being saturday in New York and me being here. And then all I can think of is that I need to write. And then all I can think of is that there’s nothing to write about. 

'I don't know these people' yet here you are, in their company, you chose to be here, didn't you? Out drinking waiting for your girlfriend to text you and I get it. You just needed to get out. 'We never talk anymore' I say and you nod and that's that. 

'I hope you understand that all of that right there is bullshit' and he points to the screen, or I imagine he would have, and I'd say 'yup, sure do' and wipe the keyboard clean, restarting, only never forgetting what was once said.

On days like these we rub our eyes trying to see clearly, but the sun is too bright, too bright for the season, and we need to enjoy it, as if we’re not grown up at all, as if we’re nothing but kids, forever young, like the ladies stomping through the city with white roots and old mutts, at heart kids and what’s on today, New York, what’s on today, Brooklyn? Hand it to me fast or I’ll feel stupid reading about it tomorrow. Hand me life over, it’s what you promised to do, no? It’s what you promised to do if I gave you mine. At least that’s what I’ve heard. 

STRAWBERRY LETTER

I prefer to sit on the rug, strawberry letter number, the october sun setting somewhere in my memory, dirty blonde, dirty strawberry blonde, and the miu miu hair of my future husband. Of course I don’t have a future husband. The mush of park slope decomposing. 

Try to tell mysef - there needs to be love, there needs to be love - and then looking for buts and ifs. Reformulating what it means to be socially aware on an everyday basis, connecting the dots of american history. Spending a week thinking about death only to find out there is life. 

Baby. Let’s want each other. Let’s laugh and want each other and be cute in each others company. Baby, let’s not talk about babies. Baby let’s just be on this rug until the sun comes down. Then. Then we sleep.

MANAGE

Sore sad eyes. J Dilla in bed with me, I haven’t felt like being out after 9pm this week. It’s only been a week, still the swedish election is ringing in my ears. Something is really, really wrong. I’m stuck wondering what’s to be done, stuck thinking “I’m so far away”. As if distance is still a thing. 

I walk Lefferts Garden through Crown Heights to BedStuy thinking of Sweden as my monogamous partner, listening to Beyoncé’s Resentment as my strides grow wider and wider. I need to outrun all of this. All of this. 

In the supermarket I have a new persona, or it was new during my first years, now, I’m just that. Getting stuck in a new supermarket-face. Hi, credit, I don’t need any bags, thank you, have a good day night forever. Forward, straight. What if I could go backwards, would it be less of this straight, swedish girl visiting smileyness? 

It’s there now. I run up the stairs to my palace made of stone and dark wood and I don’t go out again. After 9pm people start drinking other things than coffee and tea. Me, I listen to J Dilla in bed while writing natal charts and reading and I don’t know if it’s better but it’s something. And at least here I can keep my hormones in check. 

And I think about all the undiagnosed girls and feel a deep sadness and awe as to the lives they’re managing, leading. Cause managing, we are. 

I BETCHA LOVE

August 4th

Somewhere over Macedonia I start crying. The lights are off in the cabin and the myth of Greece is long gone. 

A record of lightnings sways over the city as I lie awake, washing with salt water. On the balcony I wear striped tights out of steel bar shadows. Spiders nest and wait to catch. Places you once left are truly fires parching the past, using the air from tonight. I wash with salt water. 

Here, you can feel, hear and absorb every squeak, murmur and car passing. I’m used to the mix of fans, neighbors talking, arguing, cars, music and cops harassing. In quiet like this, every sound becomes a reason not to fall asleep. 

And then we wake up. Hungover from too much salty water, sweat and tears, hoping to get some more of the last pot of coffee the house has to offer. A bunch of people making small noises to tie tiny knots of companionship together. None of it worth crying over. 

When the cramps come, there’s not much to do. Pop those pills, make your stomach cry, wash it with salt. Realize that everything you’ve ever done was pointless. That the future is nothing but a pointless blur. Sure, you’ll be happy. But you’ll also be sad. 

Slowly, slowly. 

MIDDLE OF JULY

For a moment I obsess about what’s not. It’s daylight until 10pm and I forgot. I forgot the sun won’t set. I dive into the water and practice what has been preached to me. 

other things that come may or may not come

but look at it from this perspective

you can go swimming and come back from the beach

and dream of anyone and rest and then eat and then swim and then write and then swim and then sleep

very

few

people

could have that evening

A part of me is only here for the coffee. The silence. The dock of the bay. A country so sparsely decorated by pine trees and late night sun that things needn’t be complicated, doors are left unlocked and birds are chirping only for you. Only for me. 

We talk a lot about Gaza, and in between the house, and everything gets so tightly woven together, human nature, the basic needs grips us in the palm of the universe’s hand. Not that I didn’t already know. It’s just different. Something riding the NYC subway taught me. Something the mere size of different populations show. Something a society obsessed with market value explains. For a minute I really don’t miss american reality.

For a minute there’s no more trying to get yourself out of the subway without stepping in pee, and more like slowly ascending in a clean elevator to be greeted by too much space for you to ever fill.

BACK TO THE RUG

We’re not sitting in a café together. We’re not sitting on a stoop, where our knees would accidentally touch when we laugh, when we solemnly swear to try some tenderness. I’m on the rug, he’s in one of two place, in front of whatever device that lets him say “hi”. 

Older. Wiser? Preparing for all the shit that might come blowing my way. In most cases it’s make believe. It’s the life long story of suffering from fear rather than real threats. Over and over again. But so are you, right? It’s not only my life story - it’s yours as well. it must be, cause I was specifically told over and over again that I wasn’t alone.

How can an email account be silent when the city is roaring. Behind the screen the mirror is lurking. Asking questions I can’t possibly answer. 

He keeps repeating it, monday hi, tuesday hi, wednesday hi, and I’m on my rug. I wake up thinking it’s probably not fair of me being here. I lie in bed deconstructing that thought.

I go to the kitchen to make tea. I wonder how much chat about sex one can put in a novel. How much is fair to him, how much is interesting to the reader, how much I’m willing to share, how much the publisher wants. I go back to the rug. 

hi I take a break and sit on the stoop alone, no cigarettes anymore, only the distant roaring and my neighbor watering plants. A different stoop, a different time. I go back to the kitchen.

He tells me I’m using love as a misnomer. Confusing love and lovers, or was it love and sex? I agree to some extent, seeing his side of the story. I play a song from a disney movie I loved as a child. Does it matter which one? It taught me to love lovers. 

He believes in no beauty and I frankly, couldn’t care less. Love of my life, lover of my life, on my rug I deserve all he has to offer. I go back to the rug. 

WHAT’S NEXT

We sigh through the bad internet connection at the corner off Greene and Bedford, Möregatan and Åsögatan. What’s next - well, what does it matter? The same, but different. I tell her I’m scared and she asks if it’s the neighborhood. I wish it was. That, I might be able to work with. No. Not the neighborhood. Society on the other hand.

"She’s 30 and she’s never had a relationship, obviously she’s doing something very wrong" pow pow pow he says it "or everything exactly right" and I think, again, of that Louis CK scene "where are we going?", "well to your death, statistically".

But that’s not it either. There’s mud dripping of the performers face and everyone who lives in New York has an opinion, are entitled to one, because they live in New York. That’s their resumé. I want to go up and scrub the mud away, scrape it off her face, kiss her lips and set her free. 

Entitled opinions in a game of dart. A single light lit on the bedroom floor of his “room”. Three missed calls and a text that says “hi”. I wake up. I squint and rearrange my thoughts. 

I probably need to do something else with my life, she thinks, and I probably shouldn’t be thinking in such broad terms, I reply. I tell her someone asked me what I’m “doing now”. Her laugh is the best laugh I know. I start laughing too. “I know, right?”

I squint and rearrange my thoughts and well, does it matter? What’s next remains the same but different. I wake up to find the three missed calls, the text that says “hi” and I wipe the sleep out of my eyes and I see the world differently cause I’m in a different place, how else can I explain it to you? Experience doesn’t translate. 

The fine line between opinions, critique, critical thinking, open conversation and establishing identity as a form of currency in the city is mushed by too many a feet to count, is there any point in dividing it up anymore? I stare at the steak, the glass of wine, the row of people performing, doing their best, the art stretched over the canvas, faces on the subway, the gardens of my neighbors. The last thing it is, is my neighborhood. Whatever happens next, will start nowhere but here.

COME SHED YOUR LIGHT

We be rearranging the seeds at night so when he wakes up in the morning a new view is on display outside his window, even though he does not know it yet. He will, soon enough. As april grows and the sun keeps rising he will know.

As the subway doors close behind me I step away as if hitting the floor hard with my heels will jolt my brain back into place. It does the exact opposite. 

Earlier. Outside of the bar we never went into an aggressive butch wants to buy me shots, none of the others, just me, and I’m confused, drunk, thinking she’s the bouncer. “You can come in and I’ll buy you a shot”. The homeless libra sitting on his walker shakes his head. He asks for change and I empty my wallet. He looks me in the eyes “I’m a good person” and I answer “I know” and I do but I add “you’re a libra”.

A hot afternoon in Italy I tell her I want her to work on our friendship but no matter how clearly I form the words, she keeps pointing in different directions. Diverging my attention with shiny objects, gifts, jewelry and red roses. The cheating is burning inside of me, I want it, I whisper down my drink, I want it, but no. I’m not looking, not following that finger anymore. The angry finger, injecting me with guilt. The hand he’s promising to put on every inch of my everything. I’m not doing it anymore. I’m done. 

It rushes through my blood as I’m outside, in the cold, the wind, I was promised not to be left alone, but I am. I let go of her hand and try to catch the heavy door as it closing, I can’t make it, my hand gets clamped and I see faces through the door, just looking, pointing, horrified, I curse, grab the handle with my free hand and pull it open although I don’t know how I do it, how can I do it on my own, there’s already drink, my phone, so many things. I get inside. I stop. I stare at my hand. A red line across. A final mark.

I walk away from the subway doors and up the stairs. Already gone are the things I was going to say as we were sitting next to each other. Already far under ground left in the tunnels together with many a truths. In a way I’m glad they’re staying down there. In a way, there’s no better place for them than to ride with you on your way home. 

HEJ

I went for a 8km walk/run and I listened to Eileen Myles and I laughed and her Boston accent always makes me warm and I listened to the same five swedish hip hop tracks over and over and I thought about my writing and I thought holy shit I can’t do it and I went to walgreens where everybody was nice in a sad way and I didn’t buy a water purifier. 

I tried working all day after that but first I had to eat and shower and drink coffee and make more coffee and then I realized that I couldn’t write and then I wondered if I’d eaten enough and I realized I hadn’t so I walked around my room putting things in order and then made real food, no cold noodle salad leftover, and I ate it and I watched something and I read something online and my head hurt. Not physically. I laid in bed and I meditated and I stared at my todo-list and I found the jeans online that I’ve been looking for and I made tea and I tried to nap and I tried to read and I texted and I couldn’t write. I took a pill as I do when my hormones are at war with my brain and I lay down again and I wrote in my note pad:

today I am sad. that’s ok. things will be fine. I have great friends and family. I don’t have to fight too hard. things are okay. I wish I felt less sad. but it’s okay. I can ignore the flow of social information. I can comfort myself knowing I can help. I want to help. I wish I felt less like this but it’s okay. it doesn’t matter. certain words. 

and now I am here and at the end of this sentence I can’t help but feel that something will be lost cause I’ll be done writing this and my mind will wander on without any particular aim without making sure that I want to go there too, which is why on days like these I’m very happy for the artificial solution of these specific pills I take even though I know there are other ways, but for now this is okay.

ANOTHER PROJECT

I’m done. Overlooking the technical equipment a dude comes over and asks me what’s going on, he thinks it looks great. I tell him about the project. He thinks it’s amazing and I explain my role, the artists role, I introduce him to our technician and he immediately sees this other dude and launch over him, congratulating him on the equipment, asks him if he’s the artist, won’t let him say that he’s not, and starts asking him if he’s into Nietzsche and Derrida.

Later I’m doing the same, another dude comes over to charge his iphone using my computer. We talk. Suddenly he tells me I’m a lovely lady “but I have a girlfriend”. 

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite Pisces in the entire world. As to counterbalance last night. A spirit animal of mine. L shows pictures of herself as 20, hanging out with Snoop Dog. I have a strong feeling that I’m done. I tell the guy at the bodega that I like their cat. He’s very surprised. “You like black cats?” Yeah, I grew up with them. I grew up with black cats and me and all of my friends are black cats sneaking around corners, watching out for each other, keeping karma in check. Your cat has a nice white tip at the very end of his tail. He doesn’t understand me. “Aoouh, see you tomorrow”. Yes, see you tomorrow. I walk out and into the freezing brooklyn night and walk home dressed in all black except for my white kicks at the very end of my tail. See you tomorrow. 

NUMBER SIX

I got to tell you. It’s getting hot. Really hot. We walk in rows and try not to look over our shoulders. The loud 16hundreds. The quiet 60s. The fightings in the 6th. I cross Washington avenue and on my left I can see parts of Manhattan and New York is not a capital. I stared at my brother when he told me it wasn’t, I was maybe 6 years old. Or it was 1996. My two deadlines and his birthday are all march 6. And the bills that I collect quietly in the daytime, when no one is around, are all in the six. They’re $666, $66.06 or $16.03. I remember E’s face when she told me she realized she could read Hemingway on her own even though her ex was the one who quoted him on a daily basis. We all had that breakthrough moment were we realize someone else’s interests aren’t theirs to own.

I bring handmade baked goods to my new home and laugh in the sun with Adi not far from my old. If that can happen today, then most things can happen tomorrow. He’s heading way south for way too long, but I will deal. As with that, as with anything else. Creating triangles out of words. Why not. 3 times 2.

BEST IVE EVER HAD

My hair curl up behind my ear as we talk. “Talk”. It follows an arch. An arch I can’t even explain. It goes from here, to space, back and over the country. It’s not him. It’s us. It’s the talk. It’s the strength we can build up without even needing a title. It’s just there. The only true organic garden where I can pick whatever fruit I’d like. It’s worth remembering. It’s worth where east river meets the bank of Brooklyn and the sun rises to see the island - it was never about that. It was never about the scene. But we were the only ones there. At that moment, as right now. Not together, not even close, but unbelievably true. 

RECESS

We want to see each other and I can’t help but wondering. Just as I decided I’m done. Cause I am. I’m done. It’s afternoon. Sun is setting. It’s saturday. It’s the most perfect time for writing there could ever be. Surrounded by force. Instead of resting my head on a pillow I keep it resting on my shoulders, straight up, eyes locked. We’re ready to see each other. I’m wondering if I can ask for the one thing I want, or if that would be taking it too far. I think I know how to stay in control. Stay. Stay in control. Just as long as you can stay for a while.