When did “adventuring” become a verb? When did it become code for white bodies exploring “the outdoors” in ways that not only reproduce the frontier but also act as an alibi for ongoing colonization? When did “the outdoors” become uncontested space for putting white bodies in motion in ways that seek to secure the instability of both white subjectivity and settler sovereignty?
No fatties—No femmes—No old people—No blacks—No one without a car—No one living at home with their parents—No unemployed people—No blacks (again, as if one can never say it enough)—No Mexicans—No foreigners—No one who doesn’t speak English—No one who speaks English with a thick accent—No blacks—No daddy issues—No Muslims—
“[The] explosive flower of I’m not ready and I don’t wanna.”
There are defensive postures we take with and in our bodies to congeal ourselves into something more unitary, more put-together. Bedwork is one such posture in which we feel ourselves recalcitrant. I routinely wake up at 3:00 a.m. to remake my bed before getting back in it and trying to fall asleep. Often I am unsuccessful. I lie awake feeling myself evacuate all my other repositories as I unify inside my head.
Meanwhile, my apartment is not homey. It’s missing a couch, bowls and things. I am trying to organize or arrange or do whatever with my few things in this space that is the absence of a couch, and it is woefully not working. My things have refused to orient themselves, or orient this space, or look not-thrown. And the absence of the couch is ballooning. Sometimes I hear it at night when I lie awake after remaking the bed.
Shortly after moving in, and before I was done unpacking, I began getting ready for my next move. Then I abandoned that for the project of congealing myself. Then got bored—which was only inevitable. So now I’m taking defensive postures. I’m engaging in those ambivalent movements that can only register as indeterminate agency because they are “caught up in things”. The “gesture without motion” of a hand that thinks of reaching for the salt shaker but changes its mind, even as the food remains bland.
I’m inside that paralysed force that mashes up ImNotReady and IdontWanna, but without a plan. So I’m sitting here alone—there is no couch—and resisting, which is very high school of me.
I wonder about, as Berlant would put it, those people I could never really finish looking at. The myriad bodies that congregated at the edges of my field of vision. And every time I tried to apprehend them, they would confront me in brief moments of parallax when the light—or something in me—shifted in an unforgiving, uncompromising, uncharitable, or even uncooperative way, making the contours recede. It is in this way that too many bodies became unavailable to me so that when, after many failed attempts, I finally saw them, it was as if I had never really looked at all.
At the same time we were learning to make Swahili grammatical, to discipline lugha ya mtaani with fasaha:sanifu, we were taught that anasa—the good life, the chasing of pleasure, the getting lost in desire—was an unsustainable orientation toward life. Anasa couldn’t be trusted. Those who sought it always came to ruin, and quickly. They failed exams. They showed up late to work and got fired. They became impotent. The list of things we feared at the particular moment we should have been learning they were not fearful became endless.
As we learned new vocabularies and how to properly conjugate Swahili verbs, we learned also that those who lived for and in anasa became lessons about an uncapacious social that rewarded only askesis in the selfless and loyal service of itself. Anasa was anti-social and too individualistic. Mtu ni watu. Utu:ubuntu is not the thing you think about when you’re orgasming. You think about other things, other possibilities.
I am trying to think of how I came to distrust pleasure. Perhaps like anasa, I feared that it would disorganize me. Or I would become too organized around it. Away from the Kiswahili fasaha:sanifu economies where properly conjugating verbs is simultaneously a lesson in forming exemplary neoliberal subjectivities, I have been tracking anasa economies of giving in and giving out.