Screening Room: Rion Amilcar Scott on Big Bird, Writing, Adulthood, and the Unfairness of Death
From ELECTRIC LIT
I used to joke that between apparel, toys, books and DVDs, my family was, for a time, single-handedly funding Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that produces Sesame Street.
I had always been fascinated by Jim Henson’s gentle philosophical method and by the visionary Id-like wildness of his puppets. My toddler — himself an agent of chaos, akin to so many of Henson’s greatest creations — provided the perfect excuse to finally study at close range the antics of Henson’s Muppet characters. There was another reason of course, the great unpleasant present that often numbed me and left me cold: the low bank balances and high fees for existence; the sameness of each workday and fleetingness of each weekend; the damn maddening frustration of constantly having to be the disciplinarian — how bad I was at all of this. And the paperwork. No one tells you about the paperwork that adulthood involves.
Read the rest of the post here: Rion on Big Bird
Millions of Tiny Things
When Hammond was very young, he had a hard time sleeping. It felt as though there were millions of tiny things crawling around beneath his skin, and the small, small spaces that separated each of these tiny things was known to him, and so it wasn’t just that there were millions of them, but that he never felt whole, and that he felt always on the brink of dissolving. He knew that the only thing keeping him together was his ability to focus on each of those tiny spaces inside—if he fell asleep, whatever small bit of force that kept the parts of him from flying apart would vanish and he’d be torn into millions of small, small pieces. Sometimes, at night, he felt his focus slipping, could feel the tension in his body as he tried and tried to will himself whole, to keep it together. But the millions of tiny things inside of him kept moving, sliding around. It was hard to keep track of them all, and on this edge of sleep, every time, he thought that he would die. He thought that he could already feel his body going to pieces, breaking up like static, so when his eyes closed, he said goodbye to his parents, goodbye to his dog Mojo, goodbye to the trees, goodbye to his bed, goodbye to the turtles in the pond out back, goodbye to the sky, goodbye.
Sometimes, Hammond makes the mistake of telling the people he loves about this time in his life. They look at him with either pity or amusement, though there was the time that the guy rolled out of bed, put clothes on, and left Hammond’s apartment while muttering something about fucking schizo nutjob. It’s always a calculated risk to tell someone something ugly about yourself, but perhaps this isn’t the best way to describe it because Hammond does not feel shame about his boyhood. He was anxious and heady and sullen as a child. Many people are these things. That he experienced long bouts of psychosis is nothing to be ashamed of, though he has learned to conceal it from people, folding this necessary article of his being away in the way one might wear long shirts over flabby arms or keloids. It’s only on the edge of sleep, when he’s curled up with someone toward whom he is experiencing the first, fluttering uneasiness of love that he makes the mistake of telling them about the times as a child he thought he’d dissolve in the middle of the night. There is always a moment of hesitation, when they aren’t sure if he’s joking or telling the truth, that he realizes is a minor kindness extended toward him, a moment in which he can take it all back and explain it away as a bad joke. It’s a fleeting, narrow possibility into which he could wedge himself and live out the rest of his time. “Oh,” he could say, “just kidding.” But he never takes the moment, never takes it all back. It is what it is, he figures. He is what he is, he figures.
Read the rest of the story here: Millions of Tiny Things
The light was gone, sucked back into the black wires that hung off the roof and stretched across the expressway, leaving the kitchen a study in blurs. Ogugua popped open the plastic crate of eggs and felt around for the matches, his pupils widening to inhale the grey air. It was so much quieter here in Owerri than it had been in Lagos. In the sky outside his glass doors, when he looked, he could see the moon hanging low and round, steeped in urine.
The match hissed and exploded into fire once Ogugua touched it to the leaking gas of the stove and he capped it with his frying pan, the one with the loose screw in the handle that he was always tightening with a butter knife. He couldn’t help comparing everything now to everything that used to be. Even the eggs here were different from the ones in America, where he used to call home, where the woman who used to be his wife still lived. Those yolks had been pale, smelling of a thick rottenness that made him peel them out and eat only the gelatinous white. But here, when he cracked them open, the eggs spilled out pools of fat yellow blood that sizzled with volume. Ogugua lifted the frying pan and touched a candle to the stove’s fire, setting it on the counter in a pool of its own wax.
He had arrived in Lagos with his daughter in early July, when the rains were still determined and flooding. During the flight, he fed her small spoonfuls of his airplane dessert, a piped thick cream with reduced fruit spilling over and staining the top. She batted her hands at the spoon and chuckled in his lap and sweetness smacked through her lips. Ogugua kissed the top of her head.
Read the rest of the post here: WELCOME