#36 - I woke up with a hippo sitting on my chest
Some days are like that.
N.B: I will be taking three weeks off to spend time outdoors (apparently I agreed to a portage trip), write grants and set up my new studio to clear space for fall/winter projects. See you soon and as always, thank you for reading, feeling, and engaging with my work <3
Want to take a ‘dream walk’ (IRL in T’karonto or virtually) with me this summer? I would love to share some writing and artistic projects I am working on, hear about yours, and offer each other feedback and insight. Book some time in my calendar here.
some days are like that
I woke up with a hippo sitting on my chest. When I asked it to move, it belched crudely and settled in more spaciously. Looking up from bed, rattled, the ceiling felt farther than usual, and I wondered what the spider in the dusty corner thought about me and the hippo. If they thought we looked ridiculous, or if the discomfort of it all made them wince. At least we were all companions in this quiet impasse, I reasoned. My arm managed to stretch just enough through the molasses air to grab my phone and unlock the screen without disturbing the hippo. In response to the question, ‘what do you do if a hippo is sitting on your chest?’ Google produced zero results, instead, warning me that this herbivorous, semiaquatic animal was decreasing in population, and highly vulnerable. Me too?
I decided to set the timer on the phone for 2 minutes and close my eyes. If I just felt the hippo, all 1,500 kgs, and let it swaddle me in its leathered hide, surely it would vanish, or at least shrink. At least, that is what the psychotherapist told me once, twice, 200 times. When the beep alarmed hastily, I could tell the hippo was still there before my lids arose. Its ivory teeth, the ones it is voraciously hunted for, flashed before me as it yawned like Sunday afternoon. Right, I remembered, trying to figure out why you woke up with a hippo on your chest is not feeling the hippo on your chest. blaming them for the hippo on your chest is not feeling the hippo on your chest. reciting revenge fantasies for the hippo on your chest is not feeling the hippo on your chest.
Another 2 minutes went on the timer, along with a deep breath, and a call for focus. Let the hippo melt like butter on a frying pan, coat your body like silk, and merge with the particles of matter. Just as my body began to levitate, the beep taunted me again. This time, I didn’t need to open my eyes to know the hippo was still there as a drop of its blood sweat had already soiled my mouth. I grasped a clump of hair to solidify my frustration and made eye contact with the spider, hoping they might beam back some metaphors of wisdom. Was I the spider and the hippo the ant? Or was the hippo the spider, and me, the ant? Who was about to swallow the other whole?
The hippo was kind enough, but they did not care for my growing agitation, for my desire to be vertical and in bipedal locomotion. My body was its residence, for now. We would be together until we weren’t. Wearily, I resigned to scrolling through endless pages of rugs. Shag rugs and Persian Rugs. Washable rugs and Moroccan rugs. Rugs on sale and vintage rugs, ignoring the hippo and diverting my fatigued brain to woven art. But no amount of visual beauty moved or inspired the hippo away. I called a friend, and when I told them there was a hippo on my chest, they were as stumped, as they were supportive. ‘Maybe you should just rest today.’
Finally, I plead with the hippo to join me in the shower, though I was unsure if there would be room for the both of us. As far as I could tell, the spider was rooting for our state change, and I imagined them clapping their two front fibril legs. When I carried the hippo up the stairs, I almost slipped from their heft, but I was determined to let the water cleanse us both from the stench of forced idleness. More awake, I slipped on a dress with a bounce, hoping it would keep the hippo on a leash - still attached to my hip, but off my chest. Relentlessly, they followed me when I grabbed a yogurt from the fridge and put yesterday’s collection of stained mugs in the dishwasher. They sat politely on my legs beneath the table while I sipped my coffee and looked at even more rugs.
Foolishly, I tried to run for the door, escaping the hippo for the outside, but they briskly mauled my chest, holding me down on the ground, captive. Eye to eye, we gazed for a moment, but the agony whiplashed them shut. There was a pending email to send, and so I wiggled my way up the stairs with the hippo on my back, each step a prayer. The email was coherent, but not elegant, and that felt okay while the hippo sat on my head, even when I mentioned it was throbbing faster than my heart.
As the sun boiled, I became increasingly flummoxed on how to live with a hippo that seemed to flattened my bones and only leave the ashes to spread. Surrendered, I leaned down to meet the hippo for the first time, who was now clinging to me like lint. Softly, I suggested we go for a walk, and reach for new sources of oxygen, of life. Around the block, we went, passing rows of picnic tables, a stop sign, and gardens with leaning violet lupines protecting the pink daisies. Movers balancing silver shelves, a passenger running into a waiting carriage, and an older woman in a mobility device, also accompanied by a hippo, walked past us. When we arrived at the starting point, we circled again, and again, holding time and space in our pockets, until both of us were dripping in sweat and tears.
Finally, I turned to the hippo, and before any words could be said, we grinned. And that was enough to know the drama of loss was necessary and silly. I had yet to hear the hippo laugh, but not surprisingly when they did, its bellows broke reality altogether and suddenly nothing was so bad or insurmountable anymore.
‘I think I will go now,’ the hippo, now smaller, announced cogently. ‘Already?’ I gasped, having finally welcomed it into my arms. ‘I will be back,’ it said, and turned around, wistfully blurring into the breeze.
Reading: Butter, Honey, Pig, Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi, who is a Nigerian writer living in Halifax, and it is exquisite. Being excited to read fiction in the evenings is a pleasure I haven’t had in a while and thank you to Fatima Kamenge for the recommendation.
Reflecting: On this raw piece in NiemanLab by Sarah Miller in NiemanLab and is tired of writing about climate as the heat becomes increasingly unbearable at her home in Nevada. ‘What kind of awareness quotient are we looking for? What more about climate change does anyone need to know? What else is there to say? We’re in a climate threshold moment, as we begin to feel the fatal impact in new and real ways and it’s a lot.
Fascinated: By the fact that the game Sims has its own language (!) called Simlish (naturally), which is spoken in SimNation. TikToker, @beberexha, wrote a song in Simlish, and I recommend you listen and sing along. New language is such a formative part of shaping possible futures, and I’m so curious what the etymology of Simlish is rooted in. We’re living in worlds on worlds in worlds!
Listening to: Love Tonight by Shouse on repeat (which is basically my music style) and this collaborative dance video by Just John, for the song ‘Hot,’ that will instantly make you bop and just so mesmerized by all the ways the body bops.
Spotted: Ciaran and I are in the new ReadyWhen commercial — a neat and thoughtful platform to support you in the sensitive process of death planning and storing all your documents. Key question: what happens to your journals when you die?!!?!?!? Watch me have an existential crisis at the end here.
Cautiously optimistic: About all the shade we’re giving billionaires (aka Branson, Musk, and Bozo-Bezos) for the major cringe space race they are all using to wag their small peens around, while we have fully entered the climate crisis back on Earth amongst other things. Friends, am I delusional to believe this is progress on our shared narrative against capitalism? Or am I living in a bubble? Though, according to this piece in Jacobin by Paris Marx - the space thing is all a PR distraction for the gross disaster capitalism happening right now (aka purchasing distressed real estate assets) - so I don’t even know what counts as progress anymore.
Learning: It’s #NonBinaryAwareness week, and here are some definitions to support your growth in the work of gender abolition (which is intertwined with dismantling patriarchy). But also…
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