09 January 2018

Serial Recap: 4 Years Later

Almost four years ago I read about a This American Life spin-off called Serial that was boldly going where no podcast had ever gone before: talking about a murder in-depth. I was deep in my last winter in Moscow and had been relying on audio books to keep me going as I travelled back and forth through the icy, painted towers of my Russian city with my ripped English books, my eyes watching the Ruble teetering on the edge of an economic crash. I devoured books. I read while zipping on the metro a mile under the city and in the backs of tiny buses and plugged in my headphones as I jumped over ice patches. Everything blended together. All I wanted were stories.

And this consumed me. I got everyone I knew to listen to it, America and Russia. On Friday nights when my expat friends and I met at the 2-for-1 bars we frequented, the conversation always began with Serial and ended on Sunday morning with Serial. Everyone had opinions. There were clues everywhere and we hung on Sarah Koening's every word. Each episode that came out was like ripping into a new present. I don't know if I've ever had such a proper storytelling experience before.


I even wrote about it to you guys! I think to date this post had the most discussion in the comments.

Whatever, you all remember. It was awesome. A great time to be alive.

Which brings me to now. Every year when the air in Chicago gets this tight and the moisture in my hands evaporates and when I walk so fast I feel like I can't breathe because the cold has taken my lungs away I am transported to Moscow and I listen to old playlists, read old books and listen to this podcast.

And the smell of cigarettes in cold. But I don't smoke those anymore.


So I re-listen. Again and again. But my conclusion about it all came to a place last year and I think I'm done thinking about it. This is all very controversial, but I'll put it out there and please feel free to disagree because this is my favorite thing to talk about.

But I think he did it. I think he totally did it.

And I have thought lots of things. Adnan has big, cow-like brown eyes. He is articulate and polite. He doesn't like to interrupt. He's so sensitive to how he comes across. He wasn't even upset that they broke up. He was so, so well liked. How could I not wish it wasn't him? It's impossible. 

So I, like you, like Sarah, like Rabia, thought no way. Jay is the weird one. Or that guy who found her in the woods. Or someone else. A serial killer. That serial killer who was around. Or Don. 

But then I re-listened. Then I had my million conversations which started in Moscow and ended 5 minutes ago in the break room of my office with a coworker who saw my instagram post. And I listened to Rabia's Undisclosed. Well, half of it because it's kind of un-listenable. But then I listened to Serial again. And then I came to the conclusion that despite all these earnest tellers of his story, he just did it. 

*Full disclosure: I sympathize with this case and the people involved. I also believe in a high burden of proof and do not think he should necessarily be in jail. But I would also not want to be in a room with him. But he technically shouldn't be in jail.*

I think he did it because, simply, that is the story that adds up the most. It's hard to believe it because the story is told by Sarah who wants to believe it's not him, who has been fed this story by someone who did not believe it was him, because virtually everyone involved said how great he was. Because Hae was unable to capture in her diary the clues that her boyfriend was a killer. Because his teacher's didn't see it. Because his lawyer was really sick. But there aren't arrows, things don't happen in a straight line.

But he was there, shotty cell phone tower technology or not. He was driving around Baltimore, he was with Jay (the phone call from Adnan's Philly girlfriend), he did have a reason. Not a great reason, but who does have a great reason for murder?

And Jay knew where her car was. 

Sarah really wanted Adnan to be innocent and you can hear it if you listen back. She is so excited for every piece of evidence and she even admits to sounding like she needs a Xanax (compare her voice to old This American Life episodes or Serial Season 2). She is chasing a story, but she can't find anything. Nothing adds up except what Jay says. Jay knows things and while they aren't perfect, they are facts. He tells the best story: his friend killed his girlfriend because he thought he was a gangster and called his weird friend and they buried her body and never talked about it again. It was surreal and cold. Something that happened.

And the timeline is very short, the time between her leaving school and her not showing up to pick up her cousin. That is another fact. If she had been killed by a serial killer, wouldn't they have come for her in the night? Or when she was leaving work? If this had any bit of randomness to it, it would have creaked the story into another direction. But there is no break, she goes missing right after school. Something, someone got her quick. So something, someone, would have had to move quick. Like someone she knew. Like someone who was in the car with her. Like her ex-boyfriend. Like her close friend.

I don't really see how anything else adds up. I know a lot of people fall back on the information presented in Undisclosed, but Undisclosed is almost unfair to listen to. It feels even silly to write about because it is so profoundly biased and lacks any sort of self awareness. I will say there are some interesting details that make Jay look bad, make the cops look bad (but aren't all cops terrible at this sort of thing? Who has ever heard of the police handling a murder investigation well?), make the lawyers look bad. It's messy, but these things are messy.

So I guess that's all I've got. I think he did it because I think Jay knew enough things. And I think Jay sounded scared, I think he was scared. And all any of us are doing are just listening to the facts, listening to the way people tell them. Listening to their voices.

I think Adnan should have had some memories: school was cancelled the next day. Then his ex-girlfriend went missing. Those are memorable things. He said he didn't do it because he didn't want to go to jail. He says he can't remember anything because there are no good memories and some people are bad liars. I do believe some things are as simple as that.

I think a part of me gets it because I was an impulsive teenager. I think when you are that age you just don't think of the future; like everyone is sort of floating around. I read about teenagers doing terrible things all the time and I remember that. I remember feeling nothing was real. Living in a movie in my head. I believe it was a combination of that. Just that dark, dreamy teenage brain coming to fruition. Just something he did.



But hey, you can tell me what you think too. It's still a great story. 



18 December 2017

Morning Light



My favorite old books- Wuthering Heights, The White Album, Z for Zachariah, The Metamorphosis, Redwall








I have never lived a year without winter. It is my time of rebalance and stabilization, where I grow closer to the center. I read an astrological belief somewhere that the season you are born into is your root, your happiness, so maybe that is true for all. I might just be winter. 
*
Ben and I finished watching Stranger Things season two and it was fine. We watced Dark and that shook me. I had rolling chills for most of the episodes and the consistent feeling that the world is so far out of reach, that we are small and insignificant, but that doesn't take away from the enormity of our presences here. I want people to watch it so I can talk about it with them, but it feels like recommending the Bible. It's so, so much. 
*
I think about God a lot, what that means to me and how I can apply it to my life. I think that I am spiritual and that maybe I understand it all, just deeper than I would have before. I watch Jim & Andy and Jim Carey's words almost scare me. He mixes Catholicism and psychic experiences and his empathetic abilities and the universe's intended happenstance and I found myself staring at the screen like yes yes yes all of that, me too. 
*
I get a surgery that is minor, but necessary. Something physical happened to my body in my grief and my mind could not ignore it for long. I have to spend hundreds of dollars to fix it, but I want it to be fixed. I don't want to part with the money, but I don't need it either. Ben and I start cheersing to our health which is what most cheers translate to, but we say it in English. 
*
I write to Lena Dunham on instagram and as she writes back, I am invited to my ten year high school reunion. The two notifications appear in the same moment and it takes me days to wring the anxiety off me. I think at first I won't go to the reunion, but then I think that maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I don't think I'd recognize so many people, but the worry is probably that they wouldn't recognize me. 
*
Things don't hurt so much these days. But I wish I could sink the entirety of Christmas into a black hole and never look at it again. Just this Christmas. Just one black hole. Just one memory erased. 
I buy everyone I know gifts. I spend more money than I ever have. I wrap them in paper and they sit in my living room, for now. 


06 December 2017

27 Things Learned in my 27th Year


  1. It's all genetics. Don't read too much into makeup blogs or seek other people's advice. Nothing realistically helps that much. Everything on your face chills out in your late 20's so just enjoy it. Stop sitting on your sink every Sunday night and picking at your pores. 
  2. If you don't know what to order at a bar, order gin. You can drink gin forever. 
  3. If you have an impulse, fight it. Wait to do everything. Going with your gut is not your strength. 
  4. Don't sit so much while you work. 
  5. The way you treat people makes a much more lasting impression than what you say to them. Warm up. 
  6. Any fight you are involved in is in some way-big or small- partially your fault. Realize this and root yourself in that. 
  7. You have quirks, but you also have obsessive compulsive disorder. It is okay, but also realize that your non-stop cleaning and arranging are beyond your control and not funny or annoying. They are apart of your overall person and you can learn to live with them. 
  8. Highlights will make you feel better. 
  9. When in doubt, repeat: "You have nothing to fear, but fear itself" over and over until you believe it. 
  10. You can live through any amount of pain. There is another side to the mountain, wall, tidal wave you are staring up at. You have every tool you need and you will develop the rest on your way. There is only way to go and that is forward, up, and through. 
  11. There is a God and it is bigger and trippier than you can comprehend, but the journey to understanding your spiritual self is a good and necessary road you will need to walk down. And walk that road by yourself. 
  12. Don't think that you could have stopped something that happened. It happened because it was always going to happen. You have no power over anything.
  13. If you feel love for someone, text them that instant. Do not wait to tell anyone anything. 
  14. People will vulture around your grief. Do not give them that satisfaction. 
  15. If you don't like a TV show after three episodes, stop watching it. 
  16. Your mother is the coolest woman alive and if you are ever bored ask her what you should watch or read because she has the best taste. 
  17. Understand that just because your dad died doesn't mean that only your dad died. A lot of people lost someone that night and acknowledging their grief will help your own in some weird way.
  18. Your cousins will help you in every way that you need help. 
  19. The story of all your friends dropping out of college to join a cult and not even inviting you is a fail safe in any social situtation. Your memorized facts about D-Day don't land as well no matter how hard you try. 
  20. Nobody cares what anyone else did when they were on acid. Those are dumb stories to both tell and hear. 
  21. You don't like crowds so stop going to places where there are crowds. It doesn't make any sense. 
  22. Astrology makes sense. 
  23. Don't get excited if your favorite director/writer/band is coming out with something new. By the time they are your favorite, they are mostly out of good ideas. 
  24. Don't tell your friends what you think they want to hear. Give them real advice if you really care about them. Don't be friends with people you don't care about. 
  25. Hold yourself to a high standard and don't let yourself dip below that for more than a couple hours. Even when it hurts. Even when you think you can't. If you call off work too much, you will never go back. If you keep cancelling dinner, you will never end up going. If you say no's, they won't turn into yes's. Take care of yourself, but don't let yourself get lost. Be a real person.
  26. If you think someone does not deserve your compassion, be even more compassionate towards them. They most likely need it the most. 
  27. On March 18th when you wake up at 1 pm and call your mom to talk shit about your old boss, don't tell her about the concert you went to the night before with your brother and husband. Ask if you can talk to your dad and tell him about the pizza and the Irish song and how cool the Aragon is and ask him what shows he's seen there. Tell him you love him and that you thought about him during the show and you're glad that he helped you love music so much even if you liked such different stuff. Tell him you're happy for every characteristic you share with him. Tell him you're grateful he's your dad. 

24 November 2017

Past Life Hypnosis pt. 2

Everything in my mind is darkness.

"I don't see anything," I tell the hypnotist. My words crumple the room, falling deep into my throat.

"Wait until you do," he assures me. I concentrate on not moving. My mind seems profoundly empty. I am wandering through the dark, arms outstretched. My ears are piked, listening.

Think of something, think of something. 

And then it starts to appear, like a memory triggered by smell. A mix of worry and dark images. My cheeks go cold and I open my eyes to see my hair in the wind. It whips across my face and I know that it is dark and very long. As I pull it away from my eyes I feel a familiar ache-I am looking for someone I know I won't be able to find. I want to ride a horse to him. It is known that it is a him. I turn and I am next to a horse, but it's my horse and this I just know. I am in the moors and I am in Ireland. I am firm in the ground, I am firm in the hypnotist's chair, but these are my memories.

I have a message. And I have dread.

There is a small castle on a cliff and I mount my horse so that I can ride to it. My face is cold, the tips of my nose and my cheeks. My eyelashes are covered in salt and I hear the ocean not far away. With a small hand, I gather the dark hair and tuck it into the collar of my coat. It is wool and itches the skin it comes into contact with, but I am grateful for it's warmth.

The room I am lying in has lost its reality and I am drifting into the middle of two worlds it would seem. I am present perfect in both.

I ride and ride. I am both a good rider in this time and in my real life. It is difficult for me to tell if I am remembering what it is like to ride a horse, to find your rhythm with the animals, to move when it moves, but I try not to think of what I know. I focus on this memory of where I am a familiar rider.

I come to a castle on the edge of a gray cliff. There is a gate that reaches above me and people in the court, carrying barrels, moving animals. I see my friend, he is young, but so am I. His teeth are spaced and his hair is long and red.

"Do you recognize this person in your life?" I hear the hypnotist ask.

"No," I tell him. "But he is my best friend."

"He is your best friend? Is he your brother?"

"No, we are just friends."

He and I start speaking. I am off my horse and now I see that we are the same size, but I have the foresight women gain before boy. Or maybe I am a psychic, I just seem to know things. We begin to speak about a battle that is expected to come, but I think that it will be more men than they are expecting. I think that no one is really ready, but my worries are dismissed because I have been wrong before.

"What have you been wrong about before?" the hypnotist asks me.

"I've predicted things that have not come true," I tell him.

"How does that make you feel?"

"I feel angry and worried. I know that I am right this time. I know that this battle will be bigger than they know."

The boy and I hug and I ride my dark horse to a hill above the castle and I see the clashing of men. Hundreds of ruthless herds, teeth thrashing. Some of it looks like Game of Thrones and as I recall these moments, I dismiss them because I know they are not my own. Images from movies are breaking through. This is not my past memory, this is my imagination. But the worries for my friend begin to pump through me harder and harder and after awhile I think to myself that his father must be dead because the castle has been overtaken. I go to a camp with a fire and I hear murmurs around me. I hurt for my friend who must now grow up without a father. How can a boy become a man? How do boys become men?

"Lisa, I'm going to ask you again: do you know this boy?"

"I do," I tell him, suddenly realizing. "It's my brother. That boy is my brother, Bob."

I slip pack into the hypnosis, deeper now. I know that we never speak again after his father dies. I just love him from afar.



***

Years pass without recollection. I think that I must have always been so cold. My country is all night time. I meet a man with dark skin, darker than anyone I have ever seen before. He comes to my village with an ability to heal and is very well-respected. He and I are married when we are both the right age, but I worry what people think when we walk together. I dream of us being hidden from the world. I think that I need to hide him from what the world could do to him.

These things I remember very quickly.

It takes almost no prodding and I feel as though I am physically running from scene-to-scene. I can see and feel everything. My husband's face is so clear that I don't even trust myself. I must have seen him before, but yet I cannot place him in my current world. 

I have complex feelings towards him; I feel very protective and defensive over him. I know he is not treated the way he should be and I feel shame about this. He comforts me and we speak frequently about leaving Ireland, but he prefers to stay. He has work to be done, there are things I cannot understand about the world beyond.

The hypnotist asks me one hundred times if I know who he is, but I do not. I think I may not have met him yet. 

And then suddenly I am very ill. I lay in bed with full sweats for months upon months. I have full body sweats and I dehydrate. I have a nurse who is my closest friends and cares for me while I hurl towards an early death. We bond as I lay dying. 

The hypnotist asks if I know my nurse and once again I recognize her only in my present life, but I do know who she is. 

"It's my mom," I tell him. "My mom is my nurse."

My husband comes to my bed, but I tell him I do not want him to watch me die. I believe this moment and even in this life, I would be too proud to die in front of someone I loved. 

My nurse holds my hair back as I vomit off the mattress. I claw at my throat in the chair in the hypnotist's office. 

"How do you feel?" he asks me. 

"I want to die," I tell him. "I am in so much pain."

"Then die."

I see myself roll over. My skin is yellow and wet. My eyes bulge from my head, wild and dark. I watch the light of my life go out and then suddenly I am filled with peace. I hear the hypnotist begin a prayer, but I sink under and under until it has all ended and I am dazed and being led out of the room.



I meet Ben in the waiting room and we walk into the sunlight and I think that all the cars are driving backward down the street. We take the train back three stop to our apartment and the cars seem to rearrange themselves politely back on the road.


***


I wish I could write to you and tell you how to do things. I want to write about my true darks. I wish I could pen what it's like to call your mother after something like this. Really capture the mood of quiet. Maybe one day I'll write this story enough and I'll be good enough to tell you how it is. 

It's always dark outside when I walk home from work. I get off the train and Montrose and there is this point where the crowd disperses and I'm walking alone and that's when it hits me. I feel it swell up inside of me, my own personal thunderstorm. I hold it in sometimes, I suppose, but mostly I cry openly because it's dark and there are lots of trees and because really, I can't not cry. It is the darkest part of my day and there is nothing glamorous about it, there is nothing I can do to stop it. I walk like this for seven minutes, about two songs. And then I get home and there are cats begging for food and lights that need to be turned on and dinner that needs to be made, projects that I want to work on. So I stop crying and it's over. The storm sinks back into the ocean. 

I am just a 27-year-old girl cooking dinner for her boy in her apartment filled with trees. Nothing magical. Just a life continuing on. 

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