Have a little priest

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I’ve had a terrible time writing lately. It’s possible, though maybe unwise, to date this particular episode of writer’s block to my grandmother’s sudden passing a few weeks ago (a few weeks? five weeks, exactly), which feels a bit like cheating, like I’d be instrumentalizing her death or something by using it as an excuse for shitty writing. I don’t know. I’m incredibly sad about it still, I guess. I’ve dropped out of so many things lately. I did write a book review for the New York Times that should be coming out soon, for a novel called Supper Club; and I’m really pleased with it, but it was torture getting it out onto the page. I kept setting the bar lower and lower in the hopes that I’ll be able to stagger over it: 300 words, 200 words. I felt like that fancy kind of tomato paste that comes in a tube instead of a can, the kind you slowly choke out of its aluminum casing with your fingers like toothpaste. Squeezing my brain out so I can brown it in the bottom of a cast-iron pot.

I finally got on Wellbutrin—name brand, not generic, because it seems likely that I have some kind of allergy to a common drug filler (or “excipient,” as Wikipedia has just taught me)—but all it did was add to my anxiety and make it impossible for me to cry, so I weaned myself back off it. The writing on the little circular pink pills makes them kind of look like smiley faces; with a large knife in the kitchen I cut them cleanly in half. They made that satisfying crushing noise, hundreds of little grains splitting apart. Take that, I thought. I’m supposed to go on Prozac next, inching ever closer to my destiny as a sad Mafia boss from New Jersey.

Oh, my friends, what to say. I’ve been wanting to say something about the Hot Priest from Fleabag, who as I have said on Twitter is not in fact Hot but rather Sexy, a delicate but crucial distinction without which the second season of Fleabag wouldn’t have actually worked. The whole point, I would tell you, is that while Fleabag thinks that the priest is hot—indeed, she and Claire agree on this point in the back of a taxi cab—he is something else instead. I would point out that while Andrew Scott is a perfectly handsome actor, he also has a strange face, full of cracks and menace; that his eyelids are heavy with obscure intention; that his teeth, when he smiles, are sharp and eager, as if he is about to bite, canine, vulpine whites; that the fox isn’t a metaphor for anything, it’s just him, he’s the fox. I’d try to make the case that this is part of what makes him sexy: the sense that there’s something crafty or manipulative or just a little off about this guy, this father who fucks. This, I would argue, is why he sees through Fleabag, why he alone is able to follow her glance through the fourth wall and out to us. Hotness is about the self; sexiness is about the other.

Or something like that. But I have this fluttering behind my eyes now, like a flock of starlings all at once taking flight, or bats swirling in the snout of a cave, raging flying animals, or the desperate flapping of a trapped bird—all of this, right behind my eyes, in the space behind my optic nerve, angry fruitless motion, murmuration and frenzy. That’s the anxiety, a many-creatured thing; and then there is the depression, an older god, like the weather, or a cloud of volcanic ash, some looming slow-moving shadow that follows me across a wide empty field. It swallows everything eventually: every piece of writing, every new dress, every hobby, falling into the dark. I got a white dress that I loved at the beginning of the summer, lacy, stretchy, and I already hate it. I got a red and blue striped romper, too; I still love it, but it won’t last for long. The smoke will eat it too. I’m wearing it right now.

Coming to you live

from Charlotte Douglas International Airport

My grandmother died a week ago, and I was at the funeral yesterday, so I’m physically and emotionally exhausted and I haven’t got a letter for you today. I’ll be back next week once I find out who or what a Hot Priest is. -A

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