I’ve been toying with this idea for weeks now, maybe months. It’s hard to say. In some sense, I’ve been toying with this idea for years and only recently did it all come together.
Allow me to explain the “I” of night-hours. I am Molly. I am currently 25. I live in Pittsburgh, PA. (How do you explain yourself? By citing off facts, I suppose. Read this in any order you want. It’s not prioritized, it just is.)
I am Sean’s fiancé. I am Mia Farrow’s mom—in this instance, Mia Farrow is an almost-two-year-old tuxedo cat owned by two lovers of Rosemary’s Baby. Yes, I hate Roman Polanski and yes, I grapple with the issue of loving a piece of work created by a piece of shit.
I am the daughter and youngest child of Chris and Mike. Chris and Mike are wonderful people. Yes, I am one of those lucky people who have a fantastic relationship with their parents. I am the sister of Tim, Tim who lives in California, Tim whose job is saving the environment from collapse, Tim who taught me, Molly, about good music.
I am one of the best friends of Emily, the graphic designer and DIY-queen of Tennessee. I am one of the best friends of Alex, the flower expert and future nutrition educator of DC. I am one of the best friends of Kelly, the bartender and extraordinary poet of Philly. I am one of the best friends of Chanelle, the government employee and comedian and future director-everyone-talks-about of Atlanta.
I have a dual BA in English and History from James Madison University. I have an MA in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University. Between attaining those degrees, I spent two years working at Trader Joe’s and I still talk about it a lot. To be fair, Sean-of-my-apartment and Alex-of-flowers-and-DC currently work there, and as long as they do, I will continue to pretend that I’m an honorary crew member. I’ve also managed a radio station, interned at a tiny quilt museum, sucked at hosting at a shitty restaurant, and babysat countless children.
I work as a content writer now. I work from home. I write about things like personal injury law and whether or not you should cremate a loved one or bury them. I also write about my own life, but we’ll get to that.
Again, these are all just facts because really, how do you explain yourself? Does it get more to the essence of “Molly” to say that I love my friends and family or that I have social anxiety? Do you understand who you’re dealing with when I tell you where I’ve worked and gone to school or should I also mention that I respect Britney Spears as much as I respect Virginia Woolf, which is to say I respect them both a great deal? Does it matter that I love dreary weather? Do you care that lately, I’ve been so worked up about politics that I’ve been watching nature documentaries and painting to calm myself down? Or that in grad school I put on Bob Ross videos when I wrote my final papers? That horror is my preferred movie genre but When Harry Met Sally is in my all-time top five?
Maybe I should ask, “Who are you?” I don’t think I want to just yet because that leads me to the inevitable feeling that “you” don’t really exist, that there is no “you” reading any of this and that there’s only me, Molly, writing to no one at all (except my mom because she is a very kind mom and she reads all of the things that I write, hi Mom!).
I guess this is a good moment to explain why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because I am a writer and because there are a lot of subjects that I want to write about that have no discernable home. I’m doing this in spite of the fact that there’s this part of my brain that keeps saying, “Don’t write things unless someone else will publish them.” That’s how we’re supposed to do this, right? We’re supposed to get published by other people. I still hope to. That, quite obviously, is the goal for me as it is the goal for most writers. Yet, here we are.
Do you (let’s assume “you,” for the time being, are also a writer) ever forget that you started writing because you enjoyed it? Or because it was good for your mental health? Because you didn’t just need to, you wanted to, or maybe because you didn’t just want to, you needed to?
I worry about what’s relatable, what hasn’t been overdone, what editors want to see. I worry about how much of my own soul I have to put on the page to get noticed. I worry that no one wants to hear about the disappearance of Connie Converse or the bizarre scholarship war surrounding Djuna Barnes or the reason that I don’t shave my legs and I worry that unfortunately, whether people want to read it or not, these are the things I want to write about.
I obsess. I get worked up. I get angry or I get intrigued or I get delighted and I don’t know what to do with any of it because I don’t know if anyone wants to read about it.
Sean and I occupy unusual hours. Midnight is not “well after bedtime” for us, it’s more like “time to clock out.” I have a tendency to build up an emotional arsenal all day long, stockpiling whatever emotion I haven’t already spent.
So, let’s say I spent all day gritting my teeth in response to a blatant, spineless power-grab of two former presidential candidates mere hours before the biggest election day in the primary season. Let’s say I read about delegates and the DNC until my head hurt. Let’s say I became so overwhelmed with information that I cried and ruined my contact lenses. There lies the tipping point and so, for the rest of the day, I worked and when I stopped, I had no more anger or despair left to give. Let’s say that suddenly, at 11 o’clock at night, I needed to know what Sean loved most about childhood and if he ever wished he could be as imaginative now as he was then. And for an hour or so, we delighted in sharing stories of stories, stories of the imagined worlds we lived in at ages four, five, six.
Now, let’s say I spent all day feeling good, productive, focused on work and happy to chug through the day. Maybe I stayed off Twitter and read a book, instead. Maybe my cat was well-behaved, and not once did I have to blow a recorder in her face or slingshot a ponytail holder across the room to get her away from the fake plants. Maybe I thought more about a certain idea for a certain online writing space and it didn’t feel like a complete waste of time, it didn’t feel like a bad idea. A good day with minimal obsessing and all of it positive—until 2 in the morning when, for apparently the first time in my life, I thought about Hawaii as a US state, I mean really thought about it. Put down my book to find out that yes, we stole that land after promising protection and no, Native Hawaiians do not have sovereignty. A good day ending on a note of, “What did Bill Clinton expect Hawaiians to do with his formal apology?” and, “Why have I never thought about this before?” and, “What do we do about this?” until Sean gently reminded me that it was, after all, 2 in the morning.
All of this to say that when I read and reread “Parturition” by Mina Loy and she said Something in the delirium of night-hours / Confuses while intensifying sensibility, it all clicked.
Sensibility: peculiar susceptibility to a pleasurable or painful impression; awareness of and responsiveness toward something; refined or excessive sensitiveness in emotion and taste with especial responsiveness to the pathetic. So, me at 2 in the morning.
Night-hours: the hours in which you pay too much attention and give too much emotion to things that may or may not be out of your control under normal circumstances but almost definitely are in the middle of the night. Night-hours: the space in which I can dote on my obsessions and hope that you care, where I relish the power to write and post and write and post whether you care or not. (I do, truly, hope that you care.)
I have what I hope isn’t a pipedream to keep up with night-hours. I am Molly, the once-writer of a blog about women authors that I kept up with on and off for less than a year. If you’re one of about 18 people, you may have seen it. I made an Instagram for it too, only to find (and I mean this as inoffensively as possible) that what is known lovingly as “bookstagram” doesn’t really have pockets for readers of modernism and postmodernism. It is a space most devoted to YA and fantasy and other genres that I, admittedly, do not read. My time there was brief. I am Molly, starter of many projects and finisher of few.
I have another what-I-hope-isn’t-a-pipedream, which is to (when I’m not planning a wedding and ripping my hair out over the 2020 election) open night-hours up to submissions. My dilemma? It feels a little weird to run an online literary magazine that is also, for lack of a more dignified term, a personal blog. My whatever-who-cares-do-it-anyway? Harriet Monroe founded Poetry in 1912 and published her own work in every issue for years (alongside poets like Ezra Pound and H.D., no less) and it’s one of the most important literary magazines in existence over one hundred years later. I’ve only heard one person say something derisive about Monroe’s self-publishing habits and it was a professor whose opinions rarely lined up with my own.
So, here we are.
As I read this back, I recognize that I have not answered one of the questions I set out to answer, which is, “What, exactly, is night-hours?”
Plain and simple, it is a place for obsessions of all kinds, a place to make connections between the things that fascinate and personal experience. It is a place for essays that aren’t always logical, that don’t always conclude but just sort of drop off. It is a place for harnessing my own nervous energy into something tangible and maybe, just maybe, letting it go, whatever “it” may be on any given day. It is a place where writing will be fun and if it is not fun, it will be fulfilling and if it is not fulfilling, it will be a challenge and a worthwhile flex of the creative muscles. Ideally, in 2,000 words or less. Ideally.
And so we sit, perched on something like the boat in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, rocketing through a tunnel I may or may not have foreseen. Maybe you’re Violet, asking, “What is this, a freak-out?” or Veruca’s father, yelling, “You can’t possibly see where you’re going, Wonka!”
That makes me Gene Wilder, or should I say Willy, and to you I say, “You’re right. I can’t,” and hope that you don’t get off the boat.