interchangeable v. 2

On Beliefs

I believe in feeling deeply. I believe in damaging your hearing for the sake of really good music. I believe in damaging your lungs for the sake of a really good menthol. I believe in clichés. I believe that there is true love, and it is important that we find it. I do not believe in one true love, I believe in many.

I believe in clichés; that there are some things that we encounter so universally as humans that they become shared ideas. I believe in pain that is so deep it feels like it will never heal. I believe the pain will heal. I believe in love. I believe love and pain are not each other’s complement. I believe love is a cliché because it is the most powerful thing we as humans can experience. I believe in sex; I believe having sex can be good for you. I believe physical connection with another person who sees you can empower you. I believe in being a slut. I believe in being a bitch.

I believe in instincts, I believe that there are things that cannot be explained by anything other than a gut feeling. I believe that you should usually follow your heart. I believe that short-term gratification can be worthy of long-term consequences. I believe, above all, that we were not born into a binary world — that we have the freedom to exist in more than one of two ways. I believe that we are powerful, that we are supposed to experience pain and we are supposed to recover, and be resilient, and I believe that the only way to experience life fully is by feeling absolutely everything.

On Panic Attacks

The worst part about being manic is when all of the energy culminates, and it climaxes, and you crash. The worst part of the mania is when the mania turns into depression, which it always does. Mania isn’t sustainable, which is really fucking unfair, because I think it feels really fucking good, and often I feel like a better person for my mania.

Panic attacks feel like the whole world slows to a stop to watch you cry and freak out and crumble. He always understood this, and waited patiently for it to pass.

I had a panic attack last night at the radio station where I was playing a show. We were doing a show together, what did you think of that song? And off air, in conversation, I told him I thought I’d be dead by 2033. He told me not to say that, really, don’t say things like that and my face burned red with shame at having said something even I didn’t agree with. I felt stinging in my eyes and my breath got short and I felt my heartbeat pulse around the edges of my vision; I leaned back in my chair so that if I passed out I wouldn’t collapse. And he just waited; he knew. I didn’t have to explain myself to him. It was so strange– he just saw me, without any effort on my part. I wanted the panic attack to last forever, I wanted to always be encouraged to feel the way he silently encouraged me.

On Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder affects however many Americans is enough to make you care about it. Being bipolar kind of just means that sometimes you’re a terrible person. Sometimes you’re fine, and you live pretty normally. Other times, the best way to cope is to hibernate for a week, or a month, or however long it takes.

On Marijuana

I wasn’t at the point where I’d argue that weed was medicine, but

“It’s a known fact that grass increases creativity from eight to eleven times

In fact, everyone finds that they’re more creative stoned, than straight”

- America’s Most Blunted, MF DOOM & Madlib, “Madvillainy”

He taught me that weed didn’t have to be this evil thing that had to be pathologized like I had always learned. I began to take on the unpopular opinion that maybe drugs weren’t so bad for you– some of them, some of the time, in moderation. That one weekend the two of us spent together, he packed bowls while I made coffee, the serene routine of the coffee grinder syncing perfectly with the flower grinder.

I figured out that you can actually smoke weed and still be a good person. I also learned that there were some things that went better sober. Still, I loved how he knew exactly when to pack a bowl, without asking.

On Nicotine

I was quitting for the millionth time. I’d started smoking cigarettes first, then vaping, all for boys to begin with but ultimately, for myself, my own gluttony.

I was 8 days smoke-free when I met him, a pack of Camel Crush cigarettes in his hands, and it didn’t take much for me to get back on the wagon. The intense weeks we spent together were smoky, full of vapor which was blown out of the lungs carefully, in a direction that would not upset the testy smoke detector.

One day I just wanted to stop, so I did, and months of money wasted and taste buds burned and lungs singed were over.

He would quit one day, too, I knew it.

On Adderall

He took Adderall for his diagnosed attention disorder. I took his Adderall because it made me feel good.

On Happiness

When I took Adderall and concocted the perfect mix of caffeine, nicotine, and weed to go along with it, I felt overwhelmed by joy as a result of the drugs dispersing in my body.

Sometimes I write notes on Post-its, and today I wrote a note to myself to stop being afraid of using words that feel true. If I decide to live my life as if this is the rest of it– this happiness, this pure bliss, then I am to enjoy every moment of it. I will treat our seconds as savory, I will cherish every shared moment of bare skin.

Sometimes, when I take Adderall too frequently, it causes problems.

On Mania

The thing about the Adderall was that it made me really fucking productive. I could produce more important notions than ever before, I was oozing with ideas. Of course, it wasn’t the stimulant that was doing this to me– it was my own brain, overwhelmed with dopamine. I was falling in love, I was taking amphetamines, it didn’t take much to spin into a manic episode.

I had been doing so well, I was so convinced that it was just the love filling me up.

On Music

We are both bipolar. That really didn’t connect us nearly as much as our shared music taste did. We had this thing we’d do, where we’d rotate who was playing music, switching aux cables back and forth seamlessly, eager to show each other a new song.

Music was the best way for us to communicate outside of the glorious meshing of our words in the air. We were best able to feel deeply in front of each other when music served as a backing track to our foreground.

“‘Cause a beat plus a melody makes me speak of l-o-v-e eloquently, so evidently”

- Luv(sic), Nujabes feat. Shing02, “Luv(sic) Hexalogy”

On MF DOOM

I was familiar with MF DOOM when we met, but nowhere near as familiar as he was. DOOM was a superhero amongst men, lyrical to an extent never seen before. His wordplay was musical, even if simply read aloud. DOOM’s 2004 album, MM… FOOD, was pivotal to my life, it soundtracked my summer of exploration after I’d broken up with my high school sweetheart.

For him, DOOM symbolized travel, a soundtrack to his job at a hostel in Australia. He had a killer Aussie accent.

MF DOOM died in 2020.

“Living off borrowed time, the clock ticks faster.”

- Accordion, MF DOOM & Madlib, “Madvillainy”

On Religion

I am learning so much with him about how to be present. I don’t think we’ll get married, he doesn’t either. Statistically, it’s not looking good for us. But good God, how blessed I am to know him even for a moment the way I knew him this time. He makes me feel religious. I didn’t know how spiritual my whole life had been until I met him. I didn’t know that my whole life had been meaningful and that I would lap up our time together like water in an oasis.

On Connection

There were few words invented in the language we speak to allow us to use language as a vehicle to describe our connection. For the truest of loves, when you’re in the middle of it, it is all you care about. Everything has notes of them. Love and life and art become inseparable. We were talking about that, sitting on the couch surrounded by high ceilings and low tables, about true love. We both did this very interpretive dance, sashaying around admitting that we felt true love for each other, and we said nothing implying that we do, in fact, feel incredibly deeply about each other, and yet our connection was seamless.

Connection is a word I found for describing the innate pull one human has with another, and the subsequent push between them. A push and a pull, a back and forth, you’re in on the bit, so am I, we know each other’s deal. Sometimes it is romantic, most often it is not. Connection is synonymous with twinship. This is part of my new vocabulary I’m building to describe finding perfection in an imperfect world.

On Twinship & White Girls

Twinship– a concept introduced to me by Hilton Als’s ‘White Girls.’ “What is there but other people?” Als writes of his deepest love.

I didn’t recognize him until I saw myself in him, and then I couldn’t stop. I realized we were the same person; that in a past life we had already been together. I just knew him.

We did some of our best thinking together lying in my bed.

“[He] and I had both grown up feeling that the language we spoke was somehow incomprehensible or fuzzy to those around us,” Als writes. That is how we each felt, independently, of our own accord, and we felt that there were very few people who could understand us. We could understand each other.

“People do not sleep together because they’re similar,” but we did.

“And as metaphors go, marriage– twins joined by a ring and flesh– has always been attractive to me, the pomp and circumstance, the illusion veil and orange blossom, the rice landing on sanctioned heads like a hard rain as I and I become we, if they weren’t born that way.” We were already married, we were born that way, we possessed a we-ness there was no need to explain because we both possessed the same I-ness.

If I had known him any other time than now, I would have hated him. He was the kind of person I would’ve loathed in school; we would have been too similar, and too different, and the differences would have bothered me because I felt so similar to him.

I felt like one when we were together, a complete picture of who I was.

On Fighting

Sometimes, as a result of being so abrasively similar, our thorns would catch on each other. We would get into arguments where we would yell at each other for agreeing, passionate disagreement over how deeply we agreed. We would misinterpret things, hear truth in a way we’d never heard it before, and it would confuse us, so we lashed out. We were just the same; one felt deeply what the other one was feeling, and I wondered if maybe this would prove to be an issue in the future. Maybe opposites attract for a reason.

On Him*

He is strong-spirited, opinionated and defensive. He is afraid of being hurt. He has been hurt, mostly by himself– is that mean to say? I knew he got in his own way a lot. I got in mine a lot, too.

On Her*

I knew this wouldn’t last; statistically, there would be some reason that we would clash in our similarities and one day it would be enough to end it.

I knew we were soulmates but knew we would never be together for more than a short period of time. It was impossible for two people so destined for each other to really live together in this deeply imperfect world.

“It’s so easy from above, you can really see it all. People who belong together, lost and sad and small. But there’s nothing to be done for them; it doesn’t work that way. Sure, we all have soulmates, but we walk past them every day.

Maybe that’s how books get written, maybe that’s why songs get sung. Maybe we are the unlucky ones.”

- From Above, Ben Fold & Nick Hornby, “Lonely Avenue”

*It is impossible to describe him and her without her and him.

Author’s Note

Nujabes, Chet Baker, King Krule, Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper, Ben Folds, Logic, Anderson .Paak, MF DOOM, the HBO miniseries “Sharp Objects,” Super Smash Bros. Melee and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were in rotation constantly throughout the duration of this piece’s creation.

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Isabella (AKA belm0ney, she/her) is an English and Creative Writing student at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.

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belm0ney

belm0ney

Isabella (AKA belm0ney, she/her) is an English and Creative Writing student at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.

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