Love the World Or Get Killed Trying


love the world

The following is from Alvina Chamberland’s English language debut Love the World Or Get Killed Trying. Chamberland is a Swedish-US American author of predominantly literary autofiction novels. In 2015 Bokförlaget ETC published her co-authored book Allt som är Mitt: Våldtäkt, Stigmatisering och Upprättelse (English translation: All that is mine: Rape, Stigmatization and Reparation). She resides between Athens and Berlin and has no real hobbies, only intensity and serenity.

Iceland, late July 2018

1.

Dear reader, I know one isn’t supposed to expose one’s own weaknesses and insecurities. In the animal kingdom it often results in death, and I’m not sure if human beings have evolved past that yet. Still, I feel I must begin by confessing something mortifying to you as I pray it will open doors to an us: I don’t know if I have any kind of creative talent. Sometimes I believe I should just go for a five-mile jog each time I get these urges (write!), these drives (write!), these needs (write!). Run-Bitch-Run! Then the entire planet would be saved from my tatty magnifying glass! Since I am lazy and the keyboard is much closer than the jogging trail, the world cannot consider itself quite so lucky. But… these words really only managed to explain my own record-low self-esteem. Truly, reader, I write to give back to the imagination I’ve resided within for over half my life. It is like a thank you-card to that which has saved me from an early grave, buried underneath the ruins of numberless defects and loveless brass beds. I return to these crashing sentences every day to expand the death threats of my reality into a domain far mightier than my own final breath. Now, my keyboard is breaking dowwwn, allergiiic to the chill of Icelandic summer, and I have no one to share my anger with or blame my shortcomings on. No, my frustration can only be directed inwards, canalized into a firm slap on the cheek. Water damage. Keyboard, I know you are punishing me for all the times my eyes have skewered you with their monsoons. But I promise, I’ve never wanted my tears to hurt anyone; for so many years I have protected you from the blood, the vomit that would have caused such massive harm you’d be beyond repair…

Reader, I need a present from you: I need you to stay with me in the now-instant and trust in my brief memories of the past. My thoughts have forgotten what happened. I recall only how I felt. You&I, we’re embarking on a journey together that shall force us between the extremes of weeping and laughter. And silence. Silence too. However, I cannot tell the story before it has been told. Please, let us begin with some basic facts & particulars. I’m in a hurry to sweep them out of our way so we can hike to stratospheres with ephemerally everlasting views beyond vision: Age: turning 30 next month. Height: 180. Blonde hair, blue eyes, Swedish and US passports. Living in Berlin. Indifferent to two things: trends and podcasts. Hi, my name is Alvina and I’m always late, so I nearly missed my flight here. I’m afraid of flying, so I needed to swallow the last Valium in my stash just to not get a panic attack. And in the security check I created quite a stir between Henry and Renate, who didn’t know who should search me or if I was a sir or madam. Luckily, like bonobos, black swans, seahorses, and children under the age of four, the X-ray machine didn’t give a shit.

Reader, this dead-serious and gallows-silly mission we’re on together takes the form of a non-guided travelogue. Just that? No. I must dig much deeper, into rigorous investigations and vast emotional terrains that always expand past two wrongs and one right. I’m trying to find out if the sun can shine on the us’s who live on the darkest side of patriarchy. Will a soul inside a deep stab expand or shatter? I’m scared of losing thin skin, not bleeding, but… reader, may I reach for your hand to rescue me from the rough hooves of a stampede?

Yesterday my plane landed in a bed of magniloquent scenery that demands to be placed center stage. Iceland—my fourteenth international trip alone. I fled here from the trampling city to come to terms with my longing and be left in peace so loneliness won’t rip me to pieces. Certainly I’ll make many mistakes along the way. Will I forgive myself for them? Will you? There are humans who never travel solo; I am neither better nor worse than them. They are supposed to look down on me with sympathy, and I am supposed to look up to them in envy. I don’t. I am used to this lifestyle and it suits me fine. I’m not afraid of being followed by my own shadow, and I quite enjoy the company of my thoughts and feelings and temperamental carnival rides. But… Some days the ripe shows signs of rot: eager worms, chunks turning to mush, losing their hold, plunging to the forest floor with no Sir Isaac Newton to catch them with a groundbreaking theorem. Yes, there are risks. Yes, risks…

Earlier this afternoon I hopped on a bike for the first time in two years. I wished to cycle along the scenic coast-line outside of Reykjavik. I ended up zigzagging between hideous gray factory buildings and rusty ship wharfs for kilometer after monotonous kilometer before finally finding something that remotely resembled “scenic coastline.” I crossed the threshold into nature and sensed the contrast in acoustic scope and light absorption. A steep climb arrived. It became clear that although I remembered how to ride a bike, I’d completely forgotten how strenuous it can be. Sweat exited my pores… dripped… then poured. My breath grew heavy. My muscles, they ached. I gave up and hopped off the saddle. I walked my bike to the top of the hill. I parked it near the roadside and wandered into a grassy-mossy wilderness, stumbling upon something that looked like blueberries. I wished to eat them. I hesitated. I decided to leave them be. They could be another berry altogether. They could be very poisonous! If I had a boyfriend, he could be a botanist and a botanist would know this. If I had a boyfriend, he could also be a well-planned person, a person who reads maps, a person who finds the perfect cycling route that only lays out beautiful scenery before us. We would complement each other. Most people spend more time touching their smartphones than their partners. Reader, I guess you’re thinking: You’ve got no partner, so look it up on your phone. But I own no smartphone, no GPS, no data, no way to check where I’m going or which berries are edible, just my self, alone in nature, internet free, with one less problem running up that hill in mad pursuit of my attention span. I name this: Providing Space for the Surfacing of Deeper Emotions. A purple lily rises up three feet from the berries, and I listen to her as she hums the melody of an inaudible lullaby. An exhausted ocean-crossing butterfly slumbers inside the delicate swaddle of her silken petals. This symbiosis between butterfly and lily reminds me of how I long to love… Freed from my death wish spawned by amassed past seasons of bloom, buzzing with men springing from every street corner whispering, Pssst, assfuck now, while the boy who whispers sweet nothings and secret-secrets in my ear, who makes breakfast, kisses me goodbye, and thinks of me when I’m away has spent his entire life as my imaginary friend.

I reach the edge of a cliff towering fifty feet above the bursting Atlantic waves. I never got to travel to this kind of place with the Kays or Shawns or Johns of my past. At present, no human beings are in sight. I’m free to throw myself into a multitude of imaginations and fantasies as I put on a solo sex show for the seagulls and the spraying H2O. Warm cum pours over my stomach. My only facials shall come from cold winds, salty ocean water, and aspirin-tablet face masks. They’re vegan. They provide more sufficient nourishment than anybody’s ejaculated fluids. In my masturbatory make-believe, I was taking Cristiano Ronaldo’s dick into my mouth, tasting its texture, sucking it soothingly, deeply, rhythmically to a velvety climax that sees us now crying in each other’s arms. CRYstiano RoRo. Yes, that’s what I call him, after his many tears and over the top-emotions during Portugal’s dramatic win in the European Football Championships in Paris two years ago. I don’t know RoRo, he’s probably a chauvinist&sexist&misogynist. But I do know that on the morning of the finals, I let a gamma moth fly out the window of my room in Berlin. Attracted by RoRo’s scent of nectar, she flapped her bible-paper-thin wings straight towards the Stade de France to comfort him, landing on his eyelid right as he collapsed from injury, as if to say, RoRo no worries, everything’s gonna be alright. Somebody should inform him that the sender of this carrier pigeon, his good luck charm, was ME! As I lose myself inside the majestic cinema where lofty miracles play on a loop, a prankish seagull splats its poop right onto my forehead. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE, she screeches in her gull language before soaring off. I do not give her the bird. I understand. I too get the runs from too much coffee. This was an alarm, urging me to bike back into Reykjavik to wash myself off at one of its geothermal swimming pools, contaminating the water with birdshit and human cum.

Reader, if I listened to everything a seagull tells me, I wouldn’t get very far in life. I still haven’t gotten very far in life… I only feel fine with disgusting myself, never others, so I cycle home instead, where in the shower the soap won’t lather properly, irritating me into an expanding hesitation: Alright, Ms. Alvina Alone, you can postpone receiving all the confused stares of who’s that girl intruder in the men’s locker room until tomorrow, the day after, or the day after that… Perhaps then I will show off my masterly synchronized swimming skills, making a beautiful boy consider leaving his girlfriend and adopting a feral cat! It’s definitely a better method of seduction than my written words, which make every man in his right mind run, run far away. Is this the price we pay for sharing our deepest secrets in unshielded soliloquies? Helping others feel less alone while remaining so ourselves? Always, No, mainly, Yes. Reader, though most men have fled, some have grown infatuated. But they’ve looked up to me like a mountain… and that devastates my eternity unless he has a mountain or ocean of his own. Oh, there could be 6 or 7 men in the whole world with veins pumping molten lava and crashing waves who could shock me as though I’ve been cast into a flooding meltwater cascade, 6 or 7 men with whom I could lie completely still for one full day: never quite housebroken, but no longer stray. I hope for too much, but could he be reading me right now?

Teardrops, living water, trickling down my face, to flow endlessly and never hold back, the thought of him, the thought of him, the thought of you, reader, may I tell you a bit about my Now & Then through the language of feelings? Exit your home for the next few pages. Leave your furniture alone! We all know that the wildest house party is a completely empty space where all the possessions you could never own are left unchaperoned. Are you outside now?

Love Remains

I know: The light is blinding without the penumbra.
I know: A herd of humans is worse than a pack of wolves.
A substitution for an end
Within the limits of always and nevers
The inevitable

To die strangled by scarves
My wiggle room is sparse
The present simply cannot see where to tread its feet
To gaze over the tombstones

Surrounded by a budding spring
A boy is lying on the train tracks
He is my first love
(Nijinsky stealing men’s wedding rings at Kreuzlingen)
A train passes by on the opposite track
The boy is preserved inside his blooming cactus
Best before October 24 2014
While love remains
Stillborn

Death shreds our passports
Granting entrance to more than heaven
A witch burns a flag
A hypochondriac hears a running nose
There is no waterfall
In sight
To provide a rest stop of relief
From the carsick drive to eternal sleep (???)
Meanwhile At the mausoleum of lovemaking skeletons
A sonorous miracle
Vibrates inside reverb
Holding a 19 second lifespan
Named infinity
Ordinary life is letting us down
Killing the insect
Drowning in a teacup
That tears could not spare.
An outlet Never a solution
The beginning
Water and salt
Resuscitated equilibrium
Drunk on caffeine-coated power
The sheer force
Of my left hand
Shatters a crystal glass
Pink bloodied champagne
Runs down the drain
A recluse moon
Turns her back to the earth
She’s seen enough
An invitation
You must be silent to hear Listen.
And love all of us
To death

__________________________________

From Love the World Or Get Killed Trying by Alvina Chamberland. Used with permission of the publisher, Noemi Press. Copyright © 2024 by Alvina Chamberland.



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