Working creatively with your love interest

As a videographer and director he is more dominant, less insecure, and a little less patient. This is the thing he takes ownership of, like I take ownership of my writing, and it is clear and obvious in the way we slipped into two different roles for our project. We were two parts of a five person team entered into Emerson’s 48 Hour Film Competition. He, the leader and the teacher. Me, the observer.

The world is rife with advice about how to work alongside your significant other. The most common commandment is Thou Shalt Not Mix Work and Play. You are encouraged to separate your creative life and your romantic life; don two different costumes, and be able to hang one of them up. After all, it’s as easy to slip back into “professional colleague” as it is to pull on a raincoat at the door of your suite. Tongues in mouths and pens on paper exist in two different dimensions, and for good reason, or else nothing would ever get done.

Except that this is bullshit.

The cheap and obvious panacea is that having a good relationship will mean having a good working relationship. Our good relationship meant kisses after a successful shot, but I was left with other feelings, too: did I contribute at all? I was the journalism major posing as a VMA, hoping desperately to learn and mimic what they did. Did I compromise and swallow criticisms because I was an outsider, or because I felt deferential to him?

I can’t help but feel smaller than him. I didn’t understand his reasoning for certain creative choices, cutting this, spending more time on that. I worry that he doesn’t think I’m smart because when he’s admiring classic directors all I am qualified to do is admire his intellect. And, because he’s good, he has given me reassurances about this. He liked the fact that I wasn’t perturbed by his idiosyncrasies on set (like the orange socks he religiously wears while filming). But for some reason I felt like Luke being complimented for making a tin can twitch, while Yoda was creating a steel castle with his mind.

The following recommendations were the missing links during my own experience: the things I needed but didn’t act on. The most important thing is to carve out your own space in the project- claim a talent that the other doesn’t have so that you never feel superfluous. If you don’t know about camera angles, focus on upholding the continuity of each shot- use your eye for detail. Channel your ability to talk to people by organizing marketing for your film, or your artistic skills to design the poster. This idea applies to any collaboration, like being in a study group or group project with your partner. Above all, you need to talk to them: fear is nothing except for the absence of communication. Confronting my insecurities with him as they rose up might have slowed us down, but it also wouldn’t have hit me so hard after the fact. And finally, set up an opportunity for them to watch you doing something you’re great at. We had shared our poetry with each other before but he didn’t truly see how I had a writer’s mind until I helped craft the film’s story. Someone in their element is someone at their sexiest- and we could all stand to see a little more of that. YM


City (awake)

My city never sleeps.

It’s up all night.

Just like three college students drunk on being tired

who perused 7/11 like a Thanksgiving feast

spread out on a maplewood table.

It’s South Street diner where the Cuban sandwich

will melt in your mouth

at 3:00 AM.

With the packed-full booths and the shouting cooks,

scrape of the spatula on a sizzling stove,

and all the hungry human din

of the people

who just couldn’t fall asleep:

Not yet-

Who just couldn’t sacrifice this day for darkness,

Not yet-

Who needed one more kiss and one more bite

to fill their stomachs.

It’s the bright cavernous maze of the MFA,

Corridors of secret spaces to touch each other’s waists

That sweet fugitive feeling of being

where you don’t belong:

But the museum never seems to shut down.

My city is a sprawling lawn

With feet twisted together

Watching a movie framed by a warm carousel

and a cool mathematical skyline-

each pricked by bits of light and bleeding constellations.

It’s a sprawling archipelago of theaters;

a chain of culture hopped like squares on a sidewalk

Skipping stones that hit art no matter where you throw them.

My city is a highrise apartment

And the set of keys in my palm with seashell ridges

The lock that I expertly twist and kick or nudge with my hip,

The room where I sit and feel awake.

When it’s dark, when I’m tired

When the world is a rush like the street and the sirens

When my brain is soft and clouded


In this city,

I feel awake.


Maybe I don’t care about anything

I told him

Because that bright spark of passion, that artist’s rebellion, that unfurling flower in your stomach that tells you, “create-” 

Was in everyone else’s garden

Across the white fence

Watched over by a painted gnome

And inaccessible to me.

I haven’t felt the need to do something

to create something beautiful and better

Since I don’t remember.

Since sophomore year when journalism seemed like a beacon in the dark sea of humanity

Since writing stories that made me feel like a poet

Weaving words in a way that meant something. 

I won’t blame my professors

or my boyfriend for distracting me.

And I’m not depressed or disinterested.

I still feel the thrill

of a voice onstage,

A warbling note or a word in a line of a poem that makes time stop air move makes me relish in the stillness of a moment

I still watch quietly

The crash bash bong brill shoot of a musical instrument

And fingers and mouths that I won’t ever understand

And minds that compose sounds and stories

That I wonder.

But I don’t wonder what I can achieve.

I don’t feel the siren call of a pen, anymore

I don’t want to channel art through me

Just in me.

And keep it safe and building like a dragon’s lair of gold

A reservoir of liquid shining metal that’s only mine and all the world’s

All that beauty.

But he said something about how that’s not all bad.

That maybe this doesn’t have to mean I’m empty.

He said, “maybe you have to take things in before you can put things out.”

Maybe I have to relearn to breathe before my lungs can remember how to produce melody.

Maybe this city is a hotspring

That will fill me

And rinse me

And gently turn my insides out like laundry on a hanging line

And scrub the trauma clean.


I like looking through the peephole of my suite’s front door.

That sounds really creepy, I know, but I like the scenes I see, disjointed, bodies moving through the frame, microcosms and still shots like still developing pictures.

I see the boys come and go from my RA’s door, and I think of some illusion that’s been shattered, about how authority is celibate, and then I think how loneliness finds everyone, everyone, doesn’t matter who you are.

I like the peephole that’s a fish-eye lens, the images round and distorted. It reminds me of the periscope on a submarine, like in those old, funny movies, that would pop up and break to the surface exactly where the drama is.

Outside, someone takes out the trash. Outside, someone says goodnight- friends come and go and I can’t make sense between visitors and residents because I haven’t met them all yet. I like that I’m viewing fragments of stories, unfinished stories. I like mystery books.

Some clues I can uncover. Some things, I can infer. My mind fills in the blanks. That door is closing on a night with someone else; there are two people in there, being. I hope they’re being happy. I hope they’re happy together.

Around that corner where I can’t see, that person just pressed the down button. Outside, a person waits for the elevator. Inside, a person waits for someone they hope to see. The faces and the doors and the scenes and the elevator buttons are emotionless; they are brief bits between next stops or at the end of memories or just before they begin. But inside I know the waiting runs deep. The longing is for something specific, someone specific, a current that runs past the present and back to the very first time you wanted. Inside you wait for that thing you always wanted. You can only hope, unlike the elevator, that it’s not empty when it arrives. You can only hope that no one’s watching at their peephole, feeling loneliness too.

Time of the season

The opening of a new chapter in our history will always be conducive to writing, but it is, I suppose, the just-almost-opening of one which possesses me to write now. I feel a Sisyphean urge to add my voice to the flurry of words and noise which we outpour into the “net” (although, for its name, very little seems to catch) in a plea to be heard or maybe to be felt or perhaps just to be a part of something. This will become a single blog post, which will register a micro-fraction of a decibel loud on some inconsequential scale. But I need to convey to myself the loudness of the moment, of the movement, of the silence when the chants died out and the hollowness was revealed underneath.

I walked against that movement- a stuttered but thick stream of chanting young people- with a myriad of homemade slogans shouted in small moving chunks, like my High School Homecoming parades. I have no way to know if the chants were actually thought up by the marchers of Boston, but they weren’t hashtags I had seen before, they were a part of an oral history: “HEY HEY, HO HO, DONALD TRUMP HAS GOT TO GO.” “WE DON’T NEED NO GODDAMN WALL, USA HAS ROOM FOR ALL.” “SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE: THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.” “NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO FASCIST USA.”

I imagined myself veering off from my projected course, which was against the flow, walking bleary eyed on the sidewalk occupied by photographers perched like vultures but wearing my clothing and my slow sense of awe, and jumping into the marching crowd as a slogan I liked passed by. Maybe, “THEIR BODY THEIR CHOICE,” and the girls marching behind with, “MY BODY MY CHOICE.” Just like any river, this one possessed its own current; it called to me with a promise of civil disobedience, of looking like those pretty women in Good Girls Revolt (the TV show I was watching earlier in the night) who wore long beads and did LSD in the sixties and fucked the patriarchy hard. I could understand, for the first time, the reason why counterculture existed: because there is nothing more thrilling than being one of a swarm of people, standing firmly on the moral high ground, and ignoring social convention with impunity.

The crowd gathered around The Gazebo, which was already occupied by a dangling row of white 18-21 year olds, one who had a megaphone, someone else with a noisemaker that sounded like police sirens. A girl in black leggings scrambled up the cement siding with the help of some guy in a hoodie, and, when she had accomplished her goal, stood up on her pedestal like a man with a foam finger who had made it onto the Fenway Jumbotron. I watched as the crowd pressed inward with searching eyes, concertgoers jostling for recognition from their favorite celebrity, except on the stage there were just more college students, and no news trucks to make them famous, and they knew it, too. They guzzled up obscenities like gasoline to keep the noise going. When “TRANS LIVES MATTER” started to fizzle out, there again would be “FUCK DONALD TRUMP” or fuck this or whoever or fuck everything, and even now, as “adults,” the joy of saying these words is the same joy as stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.

So I left.

I walked back toward my home past the smattered rows of Boston Police in iridescent vests who seemed more like loiterers than anyone, and met eyes with a few of the scattered people walking to and from and around the T stations, carrying out normal lives or leaving the protest like I was. It occurred to me when I met eyes with an Asian woman that everyone on this mostly-empty street with the piles of leaves must also be sure that they are the center of the universe, must also be experiencing my feeling, that the universe is large and incredible, that I am a tiny pinprick of light, and that the vast observable galaxies are mainly there to circulate around me.

I passed a girl from my floor, the girl with the baby face who apparently knows where there are parties. She was smoking a cigarette and leaning against the cold gray side of the T stop looking like she felt lonely and afraid. As I crossed the street, blue light flashed across my face from the police car parked parallel to the crosswalk. There was that girl Amy Houghman by the doors of the lobby, catching my eye for a split second. We’re Facebook friends. She was huddled with a group of five other girls, all dressed in white dresses and heels under pea coats and the flashes of their front-facing cameras. I think I heard something about white being a symbol for the Suffragettes. I’m sure I’ll find out later on Amy’s instagram.

As I climbed the stairs towards my dorm I heard someone ask the time, and then “You’re gonna miss American Horror Story?” and then the first girl, the one holding a protest sign like a textbook under her arm, “I don’t get why they couldn’t come, I’m really annoyed actually.”

I knew as I climbed those stairs that I was being pretentious. Everywhere I looked I saw through a lens of disdain, and, of course, just because I didn’t walk outside with the express intent to march in the protest didn’t mean that I hadn’t been there, or that I wasn’t white and young and privileged, or that I didn’t have an Instagram.

I wonder how exactly it helps to look down upon people just because I think their hearts aren’t behind their actions. I wonder what it would matter even if their motives were completely and objectively “genuine,” if we could even collectively decide on what “genuine” is. I wonder how it was in the sixties, which stands in our public lexicon as the real era of protest: if white college students looked at other white college students playacting at anger and felt a little far away from it all. If only I could tap into the Woodstock generation and feel what they felt. I wonder how I can get a slice of that magic, a hit of that bong, draw a needle of that urge in my stomach to light my bras on fire in the middle of the Common because FUCK SYSTEMIC SEXISM, FUCK FEELING AFRAID FOR MY LIFE, FUCK ‘LOCKER ROOM TALK’ AND FUCK THE MAN WHO STANDS FOR IT AND FUCK ALL THE PEOPLE WHO JUST MADE IT ALL ADMISSIBLE.

But the sixties are over, aren’t they? The protests fizzled out. As anyone who’s had sex, marched in a protest, or eaten a stolen cookie knows, you can only screw or screw the man for so long before you get tired and sick. Counterculture is simply a social Viagra; the best way for people who feel isolated and unheard and like they need to get away with something to actually get it up.

I don’t know. Maybe it was easier five decades ago. People were having orgies and their drugs did their thinking for them. Maybe my young, liberal professor is right, and things were better back then. /