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.