The Architecture of Unhappiness – Chloe Pingeon
September 2, 2022
The boys who live next door are talking outside my window. They hung up string lights a few days ago and they’re playing the guitar, and right now the walls of my room feel suffocating so right now I am jealous of them. I can hear the breeze whistling through their guitar and I can hear it rattling in my window.
It’s a beautiful night. Warm. It’s spring. It’s more a sense of paralysis than self-destruction that keeps me encased in this room, but whatever the root cause, the end effect is the same. I should tell myself to go outside but I won’t. Stay inside. That’s what I tell myself. Waste your fucking life. The idea fills me mostly with visceral disgust but also with a slight sense of release that leaves me a little smug. I could waste my life if I wanted. I could stay forever wrapped in sheets that feel too warm with my hair knotted on my pillow if I wanted. I could lock myself inside and decide to make the least of every moment and watch my youth slip away.
I’m thinking about how it’s blue hour dusk and it’s my favorite time of night and my favorite time of year and I am perfectly capable of sitting on the street and soaking up the purple haze that the light makes at this time of night. There’s no fucking shot I go outside. How many sunsets like this does the world have left? Probably a lot. I find these walls paralyzing. I find the self-torture that comes with giving into the paralysis to be a little freeing. Technically, I am perfectly capable of aspiring to absolutely nothing.
The boys next door are talking about respect.
“It’s a respect thing,” one of them says. “It’s that you don’t respect me.”
His voice has a slight drawl. It’s almost sarcastic or maybe he’s kidding.
“Like I literally feel like you have no respect or appreciation for me at all.”
I get the feeling that he’s not kidding. There’s an earnestness to the statement.
“I’ve told you multiple times to stop liking picture’s of other girls in bikinis on Instagram and I literally see right here you liked a picture of some random bitch’s ass.”
His friend half heartedly scoffs. “She said that?”
So he’s reading someone else’s texts. His girlfriend’s, I presume. Hence the sarcasm. When he speaks again, his voice is more earnest.
“And she used a shit ton of punctuation. Like she ended all that with a period.”
The friend murmurs something indiscernible in response. The friend is playing the guitar. The friend doesn’t care. The friend knows it’s dusk and it’s spring and it’s stupid to waste the perfect time of night at the perfect time of year.
“I’m gonna tell her she’s the most perfect girl I’ve ever met so don’t worry?”
Another pause. They are musing now. They are sitting in dusk breeze under string lights and I’m two feet away through the wall and the air is so still inside and this room feels like it’s caving in.
“Tell her to stop using so much fucking punctuation. It’s weird.”
“Yeah. It is weird. Right?”
“I can’t believe I told some bitch she’s perfect and she’s still mad.”
There are flowers in my room. Two bunches of tulips I bought at Trader Joe’s and put in glass vases I got on Amazon. The vases are single stock, for one flower only, but I filled them with at least three. One single tulip in an Amazon vase on the floor of a basement apartment feels depressing. I got the vases because they look vintage. I should have gotten them actually vintage. Every vase is unique, it said on the packaging. I got six vases for thirty dollars and now they are full of tulips only the tulips are dying because it’s almost summer so I’m leaving this apartment so I don’t need groceries so why would I drive all the way back to Trader Joes just for fresh flowers? I could throw them out, the wilting flowers, I mean, because they’re already brown and shriveled and crammed into Amazon vases scattered on a lightless floor, but without flowers, my room feels empty and I would rather some flowers than no flowers, even if they are dying or already dead. The floor of my room is linoleum tile. Like a kindergarten classroom. When I moved into my apartment in late August and I told my friends that I fucking hated my apartment and they said yes because there’s no direct sunlight, and there is no direct sunlight but I hate my apartment because the floors are white linoleum tile like a kindergarten classroom. Sunlight doesn’t do much good if all it’s reflecting is white cracked linoleum tile. Cracked white linoleum tile in a white room that is exactly rectangular. Sunlight needs angles, or at least one angle. My exactly rectangular linoleum tile basement room has no angles besides I guess the corners but corner angles in an entirely symmetrical rectangular room do not demand sunlight.
When the walls of my apartment feel particularly suffocating then sometimes I drive home to the house where I grew up. My 2007 Honda is parked in a gravel driveway in a trash-filled alleyway behind my college apartment and when you drive out of Boston at dusk the roads of Suburban Massachusetts begin to trace through quiet woods and rolling hills and you might notice, almost in spite of yourself, almost defensively, that it’s actually rather beautiful. When I was younger I would sometimes find the woods suffocating, too. Sometimes I’d wind my way past ivers and oceans and a field of birch trees that I called the viney forest and summers would blur into the fall and I’d become almost wild. Sometimes I would wake up in the winter and the fields would have turned brown and I’d listen to the silence outside and I’d feel like I was drowning in it. When I drive home I listen to music so loud my car shakes. The streets are quiet and this is obviously obnoxious and also immature and also slightly performative, but it also makes my thoughts of suffocating walls become distant. I find discontentment with my surroundings to be ridiculously self-indulgent. Particularly because my surroundings are always relatively fine, and I’m often relatively discontent.
When I graduate college I move to Berlin and in a museum where the gallery walls are blue and the speakers are simulating the ocean and I’m lying on beanbags with my sister and my mom texts me that my dog had died, I suddenly start thinking about the start of things. Because I remember getting my dog and I remember starting school and I’d never really thought of time as segmented but here is a start and here is an end and I guess that is that on childhood. The museum in Berlin feels like a relatively ok place to come to this realization. The ocean simulation pales in comparison to the real thing, but then again, the artists aren’t really trying to recreate the Atlantic anyways. The artists are trying to remind us that the oceans are filling with oil and the world is ending.
I like rain by the ocean, but when I drive home, I like when the sky is clear. I like the moon. There’s a road I particularly like that runs along a field and a pond and a house that’s called Duck Puddle Farm. I like to sit on the hood of my car and I like when it’s dark and the windows of the house glow yellow and the movement of the people inside cast shadows across the road. I don’t like watching things and I particularly don’t like watching people. I like to be at the center of things but I don’t mind watching shadows. When I drive home it’s still spring, and so it’s still cold. It’s hard for cold air to feel particularly still. It’s hard for windy silence to feel suffocating. I’m sitting on the hood of my car and there is nothing caving in. There is nothing but expanse here.