(CW: sexual assault)
Liner Notes: Dear Reader/Listener
This is a performative text, a manifesto of some sort.
All the readers/listeners have to do is press play and read on. Listen in order. The music and the fragments of text are written together. You can either read the text first then play the song, play the song then read the text, or do it simultaneously. This piece is about trauma ---- particularly sexual trauma ---- and how trauma may operate like music, as both phenomena travel through the body. Maybe that statement will make sense later.
In this piece, I also would like to think with and flirt with my friend Henry Wilcox. Henry works with DJ studies mixed with some cooking and science studies. I am interested in their methods of using the techniques of a disc jockey. The DJ plays tracks and mixes noise to create an experience for their listeners. I am the DJ in this piece, using songs that I want to think with my own body. I also want to extend conversations I have had with them on bleeding by performatively demonstrating it through my writing. If we think theoretically, bleeding is caused by a puncture to a boundary from an external force. This point of puncture, or what I would call “wound,” opens and exposes an inside. As the inside spills out to the outside, the bleeding dissolves the boundary between internal and external. To think with our own bodies, when a needle goes into our arm, we bleed. Bleeding can also be used to describe visual and audio media. Visually – especially using paints or inks – bleeding may mix colors. Two colors both external to each other become internal thus making both a mess or a different color. With music, like colors, sounds go into each other and mix.
I am bleeding in this piece. The music punctures me.
I apologize for the abstraction and theory talk, so let me be your DJ. Press play and navigate the mixtape yourself. Dance if you want. Sing if you know the songs. I’ll be doing it along with you.
I am listening to this at 3 am. I can’t sleep. I am thinking about everything. It’s June. The air conditioner is on. I just installed it yesterday with the help of my neighbor. No one is awake, and all I can hear is this song. I can hear it move from my head to my chest. It makes me do a little dance. I am remembering last June when you stopped talking to me. I remember that previous June when I left him. And the June before that he left me, and I let someone else have me. And then the June when the music started, I had someone else take everything from me on their bed. My self separated from my body. A scream that starts to sing. A song that won’t stop replaying. Perhaps this separation of myself began many Junes ago, and it is this June where I am starting to enter back into me.
I am listening to this at 3 am. I am thinking about you. I am dancing to this song because I don’t know what else to do.
When I think about trauma and music, I think about this song. The connection between trauma ---- particularly sexual trauma ---- and music has been on my mind since I saw Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play. Throughout the play, Rihanna’s song “Work” plays in the background along with other songs associated with different characters. In Act II, the Black characters talk about how they hear a song in their head whenever they engage in sex with their white partners. The song plays over and over again and correlates to the racial trauma that is inflicted upon them by their white partners. It is hard to explain as I am still listening carefully to my memory of the play.
This song is more direct than the play. Using French house music and a sample of Diana Ross’ “It’s My House,” Gaga sings about the sexual trauma that she is still dealing with. At the age of 19 when Lady Gaga was starting to record music, her main music producer constantly assaulted her and threw her on the streets. Both a sexual and physical injury, it manifested her career and eventually her body. She was constantly working, overperforming herself to the point of exhaustion, and one day she collapsed. At a show in Montreal, during one of the intense dance numbers, her hip broke. She had to cancel the remainder of her tour and vanished from the public eye. Now, more present than ever, she says that she is in pain every day and cites her diagnosis of fibromyalgia back to her sexual assaults at 19 years old.
I am not equating my experience and pain to these examples. I am thinking and dancing with them for my own body.
I am listening to this song in March 2020. Yaeji released this song, and my world shut off. When I was growing up in Georgia under my parents’ room, I was kept inside and could never go anywhere. Isolation is just what I know. You weren’t talking to me. In fact, you didn’t talk to me for several weeks. I lost everything. My jobs. My school. And you. Everything. The only success I had was waking up. I had that down. I woke up every morning and thought of you. I still do so. The pandemic created a poltergeist in my apartment. What I tried to keep away came to me. I saw my ghosts and demons above my head in bed. Sleep was a relief because when I woke up, I thought of everything again.
I listen to this song and think of Georgia. I think of Warner Robins, Bonaire, and Athens. I think about Watson Boulevard or Broad Street. I think of Church Bar. I think of Southfield Plantation. I think about how I left. I think about how I wanted to escape one day because I knew nothing in Georgia was for me. I think about how I don’t care to see any family again. It just hurts too much. For the longest time, I thought I could never leave. I didn’t think it was possible. Now here I am, away. I hope it can stay like this: away.
I am listening to this right now, and I am bleeding. I probably first heard this song when I was a baby. The song was released in 1997. My mother played it. It was on the tiniest CD. I think about my mother a lot when I hear this song. As I start to gain a comprehension of Japanese, the lyrics attach to my skin. Like hooks, they pierce the flesh, and I bleed.
The song’s title can be translated to “Friendly Feelings.” I feel so warm on the inside when I hear this song, and I want to spill this feeling onto you, the reader/listener. Depending on the kanji, or Japanese character, “yasashii” can mean “easy.” Easy feelings. I am unable to tell if it is “friendly” or “easy” or both. The word is not written in kanji. I wish I knew which one she meant.
I am listening to this song with you right next to me. I am sure that you, the reader/listener, know this song. I feel two things; my body hums two things. It is hard to separate the two right now. We all love to scream these lyrics. I think about him. I think about a few Junes ago. I think about the night that I graduated. I danced with my friend Amy at Church Bar. I feel every hard feeling. I think about how this is my last night in Athens, Georgia. I think about how I am never coming here again. I am at a bar that I was afraid to go to because I would see him. And I don’t want to see him. I see him and remember feeling like I am falling. Over and over and over again. It is the coldest feeling. I remember looking at Amy the whole time because I saw him, and he saw me. Amy kept me together. She still does to this day. I want to dance with her again.
I am moving into February 2020. It is the day after Valentine’s Day. I am so drunk with you. You told me that you cared about me so much. You bought all my drinks. You held me and kissed me at a bar in Hell’s Kitchen. I remember this feeling and how it once was attached to him. But this time it was different. We were so drunk walking from Hell’s Kitchen to the Rockefeller Center. We stopped to get banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery. It is almost 3 am. We took the F train to Queens. We stopped at the Roosevelt Island stop so I could take a piss in the trash can. We go on the E train. It was going local. You played this song on your phone. We listened. You put your hand in mine. You put yourself into me. I think I am bleeding.
I am listening to this now, on a hot day in June. I just put the air conditioning in. I came to New York City in August 2020. Two weeks after I said goodbye to my mother in Tokyo. A month after I turned 23. Two months since my father handed my mother the divorce papers and told her to get out. I was homeless in August. I started graduate school in August. I found a place in August, moved in September 1st. I got a few jobs in the fall. I didn’t feel anything at all. I put everything behind me.
I met you in October, the day before Halloween. I started to feel again. I am starting to bleed.
I haven’t listened to this song in a while. It immediately brings you up inside me. There is a look in your eyes when you are hungry for me. It is a beautiful knife cutting right where the fear should be. Nothing ever makes sense. It’s crazy how you are still with me. Nothing makes sense.
I want to listen to this song forever. I immediately queue after “Pang.” I cannot stop thinking about you now. You will never read this. You will never hear this song. You see my darkest parts, and I see yours. We will never understand what we mean to each other. But we bleed together. We will always remember what happens between us.
I am listening to this song on repeat December 2017. I am at my cousin’s wedding. I am blasting this nonstop. It is six months after June.
Hold me. On a futon on Russell Hall. Hold me. On my bed in Reed Hall. Hold me. In this apartment in the north part of London. Will I make it home tonight?
I am listening to this song at your housewarming party in December 2020. It is six months after June. Six months after you stopped talking to me. And here I am really drunk with your friends. This song comes on, and I understand what it is like to be in love with you. You hold me. I want to cry.
As music plays, time passes. As time passes, perhaps these wounds can heal. When these wounds heal, I can repair myself. I have time. It takes time.
I am listening to this song in the shower. I want to cry. I’ve been telling my therapist recently how I feel like I am just a head above water. My body is submerged with whatever depths are in my ocean. I am just looking up at the sky. Thinking about how much I wanted to… I just want to cry.
It is June 2017. I am sitting in the shower, letting the water run all over me. I feel so dirty and gross. I cannot clean myself off. I just got back safely to my student flat in Ravenscourt, a west part of London. I just got back from an apartment in the north part of London. I didn’t get his name. I blocked his phone number. I am in the shower, letting the water run over me. I don’t think I am bleeding.
Please just listen to this for me, for this life I cannot change.
I don’t like being touched. I can tolerate it, but I do not like being touched. But I want you to touch me. I want you, the reader/listener, to touch me. I want to touch you too. I want to touch you, the reader/listener. Can you hear the ocean? My body is at shore now.
This song is for you. This song isn’t for you, the reader/listener, but you are welcome to enjoy it. This is for you.
Today, I again opened my eyes like this. Like. Like. Like you. Like you. I like you. I like you. You. You. Today, I again opened my eyes like this. I like you. You like me, I think of you. You think of me, too. Today, I again opened my eyes like this. Opened my eyes like this, like this, like this, like this. Today, I again opened my eyes like this. Yeah, I’m dumb. So what. Today, I again opened my eyes like this. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
Thank you. Happy Pride. Happy survival. Happy bleeding. Thank you.