“Eventually you can’t help but figure out that, while gender is a construct, so is a traffic light, and if you ignore either of them, you get hit by cars. Which, also, are constructs.”
Imogen Binnie’s novel Nevada is available here for free or for money in ebook and paperback. I read it over the course of a few days on my scraped and battered old 2011 Kindle, a treasured purchase that, unusually in this era of pre-programmed obsolescence, is still working after almost a decade. Nevada felt like it captured something in the protagonist's inner monologue that echoed the rhythms and thought patterns of my own mind, and in a way nothing else I’ve read ever quite has.
A sweetly poignant novel offering first-hand insight into the trans experience, it elucidates some of the horizons, longings and dead ends of a 20-something transwoman’s life in a way that resonated with me and produced a profoundly empathetic reaction. Binnie's protagonist, Maria, awkwardly stumbles through life, making mistakes, but in a way that’s completely forgivable. The result is a character that's endearing but never unrealistic or saccharine. A lot has been said already about Nevada and how important it has been to people, so I’ll echo that chorus and just strongly recommend it. If there is an overall aesthetic of the novel, I’d say it’s a kind of bleak joy. It's almost startling how light and sweet Binnie makes it feel.
Nevada feels like a sympathetic exteriorization of that part of your inner monologue in which you bargain with reality. In which you're trying to fill in the blanks over what the hell it is exactly you should do next as a supposedly responsible adult vs. what you really want to do as an indulgent post-teenager still searching for the kicks to save you from collapsing into despair. In which you’re at your most vulnerable because you’re at your most honest.
Maria tries to enjoy her life and consoles herself that things aren’t quite completely fucked yet. As readers witnessing her inner thoughts, we can see how she's pleading with herself and just how much she really needs such pleadful hope to get her through. Maria is just trying to maintain and sustain. She's grasping for an idea of herself from the vicissitudes of a present that's starting to disintegrate and a confusing and mostly unknowable future.
Even though nothing much out of the ordinary happens, or precisely because of it, there's something romantic and idyllic of this portrait of the life of a transwoman in the big smoke. Her boss and co-workers seem at best politely hostile to her while she’s quietly conforming and just trying to get by, bit otherwise her life seems initially pretty stable. Binnie manages to make the quotidian travails of Maria's day to day life into a joyfully honest display of vulnerability. Maria, like the rest of us, she babbles a bit, she's vague, she's slightly ditzy and she's definitely not entirely sure what she wants.
Binnie's stylistic choice of an often frenetic 1st person interior monologue narration has resulted in some critics condemning the novel as being diary/blog like (it is, so what?) and leveling at it that oh so common of contemporary slurs: narcissistic. The same tired insult that queer and feminine culture, when it shows any independence and self confidence, is so often dismissed with. As usual, it’s somebody else's narcissism that, as alien as it is, offends those that pretend to be above such needs themselves. Those who seem to want to imply they’re somehow attached to and sustained by loftier and more noble causes outside of themselves, despite usually never revealing what those are or managing to fool the rest of us for very long.
The novel functions as a partial roadmap of the trans journey, in particular it asks the question of what it means and entails to grow as an adult once you get there. It's one that could serve as an invaluable source of validation and perhaps as part of guide that we're all making up as we go along for those who may be in need of it.
“She laid it out and connected all these dots: the sometimes I want to wear dresses dot, the I am addicted to masturbation dot, the I feel like I have been punched in the stomach when I see an un-self-conscious pretty girl dot, the I cried a lot when I was little and don’t think I’ve cried at all since puberty dot. Lots of other dots. A constellation of dots. The oh man do I get more fucked up than I mean to, every time I start drinking dot. The I might hate sex dot. So she figured out that she was trans, told people she was changing her name, got on hormones, it was very difficult and rewarding and painful. Whatever. It was a Very Special Episode.”
Maria is a trans queer indie punk with a job in a bookstore, a girlfriend, an apartment in the city and some semblance of a world that accepts her. She’s made it, unlike many of the rest of us who can only spectate and dream about that kind of big city life. She flits about in a narcissistic reverie, searching for some answer within, or just puzzling out the latest question. And good for her, because what the hell is left for any of us now but our narcissism? Particularly when as transwomen the outside world seems so determined to attack our attempts to find a healthy level of it. After her life begins to unravel, she heads off on a solo roadtrip. Her ultimate destination being, of course, nowhere.
The novel seems to take place in that weird moment in the late 00’s/ early 10's in which handheld internet connected devices were beginning to bloom through the social world into the transparent barriers they have now become, but did not yet intermediate everything. As they're now becoming required to socially distance, interrupt and further commodify and reorder all human interactions, it was nice to read a little nostalgic snapshot of the moment just before they took over. But of course, remnants of the pre-digital culture were being refracted into these soon to become omnipresent devices even then. Maria arranges a heroin buy over email and wonders if it's not a bit of a dated thing to do. But she's not yet in a constant state of smartphone communication and surveillance, so she's mostly lost in her own thoughts.
Maria's loneliness and loss, her search for the time and space in which to connect with others seems already a little stilted by the intermediation of books, screens and machines. Maria's interior monologue, like an old diary style blog post, livejournal entry or modernist novel, seems as involuted as the novel's ultimate structure. There is a scattershot, random and distracted air to her thinking, which appear at times like scrambled, disconnected proto-memetic vignettes. She cycles through the noise and narratives and thoughts that cohere into her identity and tries to find some sort of plan. But when it comes to connecting with others, or even truly understanding who she is or what she really wants – she can barely find the words to express anything. You imagine her with the hipsters vagueness, the 'question mark at the end of every sentence' vocal inflection of a valley girl.
The novel is divided into two sections, and though both are consecutive, the beginning and end loop around to the same place. It opens with a psycho-sexual deadlock and concludes with a failed attempt to transcend and resolve it. It opens with Maria’s cis-lesbian girlfriend Steph trying to sexually and emotionally connect with her.
To her disappointment, Steph finds that Maria is as usual inaccessible and is stuck in a numb dissociated passivity and refusal or inability to truly engage with her. Maria can’t find it within herself to show that she even cares that much when her girlfriend announces she has cheated on her. It’s not merely that Maria, too, has already cheated, and with the same person no less, it’s that she can’t really bring herself to show that she feels anything.
Each of them tries to goad the other into a jealous outburst, as if vying for dominance through soliciting a reaction in the other, but they are trapped in a stalemate in which neither wants to admit to even caring. It’s as if the floaty, shallow indifference of the hipster to any real commitment finally breaks down when encountering the possessive passions and lusts of a real relationship. Together, their intimacy becomes forced and then, facing into the awkward void they’ve arrived it, they have to desperately reaffirm it through ‘hours of crying’ and making up. Out in public, spending money they can't really spare on expensive food and drinks at a cafe – one of the few public experiences left even in this dreamy and quaint pre-Covid world - they break up after neither can’t bring herself to care enough about the other. Or perhaps just display enough that she cares about the other while preserving the right amount of internal distance to maintain her sense of self? Or is it a total confusion about what the difference between such things even is? They play a game of bluff and neither blinks.
As well as losing her relationship with her more mature girlfriend, Maria soon also loses her job and, she worries, probably also her apartment. Having amassed some savings from years of numb days at work in the bookstore and numb nights spent at home reading, she purchases a large quantity of heroin, ‘borrows’ her ex-girlfriends car and heads out on a long solo road trip. In one of the novel's most brilliant passages her ex-girlfriend reflects on how Maria has done this exact thing before, ditching out and going on a sudden wild solo excursion to find herself. But in Maria's internal monologue, she doesn’t even seem to remember that she’s done it before. She's been captured all over again by the same slightly mad idea to break out of her life and start everything all over again.
Before embarking, Maria visits Piranha, a transwoman in an even worse situation – alone, unemployed, with health problems, less passable, likely becoming addicted to heroin and with seemingly nothing else going on in her life. We see Maria become enthralled with the punk allure of Piranha, who lives further on the fringe in a kind of wounded authenticity and appeals to Maria precisely because of it. However, it almost feels as if Maria just uses Piranha as a shoulder to cry on and as a source for a heroin dealers email address. She tells Piranha she wants to come stay with her but instead flees to go on her solo roadtrip after she buys a large score of skag. Maria, somewhat sensible, previously employed, renting and in a relationship, has a little slightly scummy holiday with Piranha in hedonistic abandon. She does spend some time with her, she does feel guilty for simply unloading her own woes onto Piranha who clearly has a great many of her own, but she doesn’t bring her along or even tell her that she’s heading off. This is clearly a roadtrip on which Maria is in search of her self and a new future. What she finds instead is a younger version of herself.
On this roadtrip to nowhere, Maria comes across James. James is something like a version of her younger, repressed, pre-transition self. She encounters him precisely at the moment when she is at most risk of regressing and abandoning the hard but at least somewhat independent (if not quite possibly dead end) life in the big city. James is a small town Walmart employee who is in deep denial about his trans desires. James’ life is in a similar but in some ways more stable dead end. He just works his shifts at the Walmart and privately indulges in his trans desires at home, before disassociating himself from his shame in a hazey hotbox of weed smoke, then going back to being a normie nobody in the straight world.
Maria notices the signs of burgeoning transfemininity immediately. So fast that if you didn't know any better you'd wonder if she wasn't just wishfully projecting them onto a stranger. She sees that James hasn’t really come to terms and fully dealt with it himself yet. In James’ internal monologue, his excitement and anxiety battle it out with each other as he goes off with Maria on a journey to Nevada to gamble and live recklessly. They talk about autogynephilia, Maria knows exactly what James is going through because she once went through the same thing. But James was previously at least temporarily secure in the habit of getting stoned dissociate to cope with the terror of what he hopes is merely a fetish. He has been hoping that it might be overcome through staying half in denial and half in the closet with a bong in his hand.
Just as his desire/anxiety seems about to give way, he freaks. He excuses himself, steals half of Maria’s heroin and flees. He scrounges a ride home from his own cis-girlfriend whom he of course hides his secret dresses and porn from and who clearly doesn't entirely satisfy him sexually (just like Maria had been so bored with her girlfriend Steph) but who at least supports, for now, the faltering facade of James’ trad cishetmasc identity.
Here the novel ends, a dead end that also loops back to the same crisis Maria started off in. James ditches the strange but exciting transwoman he has just met and seems to pray that he can stay closeted indefinitely. Maria, having herself just fled her once sort of successful trans adult life and regressed, has nothing left of her inevitably doomed escapade other than perhaps blowing through her money, taking the rest of her heroin alone to blot out the pain and for now at least, not having to deal.
What trajectory does this put her on? A step closer to heroin addiction and then where? Maybe fleeing back to her small childhood ‘cow town’ and becoming a sheltered NEET (an option that Piranha doesn't seem to have). Maybe putting the brakes on her adventure like a real adult should before she blows through all her money. Maybe then heading back to the city, getting a new job, either trying to patch things up with ex-gf Steph, or crashing with Piranha for as long as that could last, or getting a new apartment and hopefully not too much more heroin.
Reflecting on my reaction to this aspect of the story, I wondered if I wasn't perhaps too strongly projecting my own issues as a recovering addict. However, I have already lost several friends to heroin, those who also thought they could merely holiday in it. One friend whom I have long lost contact with told me heroin is simply so good that you actually can’t just keep taking the odd recreational indulgence in it. Heroin addiction is obviously an easy trap, and it always seems to be too late before you even realize and are stuck in potentially lifelong descent into degradation.
However, perhaps Steph will not take Maria back this time. Steph initiated the breakup because of the return of the very dissociated numbness that Maria, we hope, now realizes, through encountering James, she developed as a protection mechanism. It is Steph whose car Maria has ‘borrowed’ for this trip, and it has now been reported as stolen. If their relationship was truly over, it would seem to leave Maria stranded in an even more painful loneliness. She'd have to try and climb her way back up to where she started in the city by herself. Would Piranha be a salvation or a hindrace? Or would she turn her stress relieving holiday into something truly reckless that could potentially ruin her?
It’s clear why James appeals to Maria, he is her younger self. She wants to appear to him as more mature and masterful, as confident and secure in her transness. This is as much probably to convince herself as it is to help him. In her relationship with Steph, she became distant because Steph, the ‘power lesbian’ embodied a maturity that made her feel inadequate. Steph is a real person with real, complex needs of her own, but Maria can just cuddle up beside her, read some books and stay safe (but no longer alone) within her own fantasy bubble.
Maria can justify her road to nowhere as a journey to liberate this poor, confused and isolated potential transwoman who is stuck in a conservative backwater, living a miserable lie, bottling up his feelings in order to present to both himself and others as normal and masc. Maria wants to be the cool older trans sister she never had to someone who it turns out is not ready for one. It is after just one brief public encounter with this stranger that Maria devises this new role for herself, as if she’s perhaps trying to resolve feelings of incompleteness in her own identity by asserting its security and experience through mentoring James towards the possibility of transition.
James also embodies a foreclosed path, James is what Maria would have perhaps been had she not transitioned and moved to the big city. James is maybe almost what Maria could be again if she, as she at one point ponders, gives up on adulthood and move back home.
Maria is left holding the lever of a gambling machine. She will soon realize she’s alone. We know she’ll be forced to make big, life changing decisions that will affect her future, or try to put them off indefinitely and find out just how much further things can fall apart. And we know this all the more because she’s managed to completely avoid thinking about it and successfully distracted herself.
She's like the rest of us, doomed to navigate a confusing and painful world. One in which every grown up decision we face determines how secure we are and how far we stay from ruin. As we are also taunted with the misery of having to deal and the irresistible allure of indulgences we can often neither afford or at times resist.
It’s easy to get why this story has connected with so many people, why so many transitioning women would see hopes for their own future and recognition of their present in Maria's life. Although this is a bittersweet story, it’s notably how rather than being bullied, beaten up or otherwise abused in some way, as is so often the case in queer narratives, Maria is simply ditched. This abandonment is of course a humiliation, (and a familiar one to many brave queers who display themselves in all their vulnerability to the straight world), but we know that it's because James is also hurting and also has issues he doesn't know how to deal with.
Ending things like that isn't nice, but it allows James to at least hold onto something of himself. The consequence is that Maria, who has tried to give, gets pushed back into her own lonelier interior after another rejection. James' response to Maria isn’t the traditional jealous or merely hateful cruelty and aggression. It’s something far more complex. Since the novel wisely ends before Maria discovers she’s been ditched, we're left to wonder if it will turn out to be more or less painful. Maria is simply ghosted, ignored, not treated as a person at all, spared the common decency of recognition and courtesy and not respected enough to be given a simple goodbye.
Where next for Maria? Back to try and make it again in the big city? Where you dose yourself with wine and TV to stave off the stress and the exhaustion makes you barely able to work on your relationships if you even have any. Maria's job in a bookstore might sound idyllic but it's of course barely paid and has no real opportunity for advancement. The manager and boss, while forced to obey the kind of progressive political pressure the liberal city puts on them, still find ways to vent their displeasure at Maria, who transitioned in front of their eyes. The novel here seems to understand that no matter how much you legislate and fight for your rights, you’ll never be able to make them like you, and they’ll always find a way to treat you slightly abnormally.
If she’s no longer with her gf, Maria will be forced to rent somewhere alone and have to pay even more rent, or perhaps find shared accommodation (even more difficult for a transwoman). The easiest thing, the thing with some emotional comfort, is to go live with Piranha and languish on heroin, a path which will be the kind of blissful relief (initially) that can save one from a stress induced nervous breakdown, but which will soon turn into disaster if she pushes it too far and doesn’t backtrack. If Maria can’t make it in the respectable capitalism of the city, where she has to show up 9-5, endure some mild bullying, be a responsible adult and strive, is there any other option apart from risking being swallowed up and used up by its illicit capitalism? The type that, at its worst, depletes your funds, hijacks your nervous system into an obedient cash collecting bot for your dealers profit and pays you back in hours of blissful opiate oblivion that dwindles as your tolerance grows, until you find yourself lost longer and longer stretches of a panicked, broke, increasingly squalid and dangerous normality consumed almost entirely by craving and the desperate need for more cash than you can ever get. That initial relief of saying ‘Fuck it!’ to your responsibilities and making ‘Let’s party!’ your only plan. That which eventually turns into disease and misery if you can’t find a way to make normal life tolerable without it. The type of thing were by the time it’s too late you live solely to scrape up an obscene amount of money to get enough smack to get through the day, as you become increasingly incapable of doing anything else. The parallel is clear, the transwoman, with her need of regular doses of Estradiol, starts off in a position of similar precarity to the drug addict. Both are it's products, and both suffer exceptional violence within it.
Maria tries to exist as her own singular spirit in the spaces between things, but perpetually crashes into a miserable and quotidian reality. Her roadtrip is a quest to not have to think about what comes after it, the kind of release that all of us so desperately need to spare our sanity when our grown up life becomes too real, too stultifying, too definite and to inevitable while our emotional resilience in dealing with it wavers. But of course, in the end, there is no way out and by fleeing from adult responsibilities and indulging one depletes ones funds and can never find that true escape into an alternative way of being that all experimental cultures strive for.
Before Maria loses her job, there are repeated references to the Irish History section of the bookstore. This is a place in which Maria can retreat to read alone and in silence, only occasionally bothered by a customer. It represents a relief, a release and a pleasure, the place in which Maria can escape into her imagination through books. In this precious space she can cocoon herself from the intolerable anxiety of the world and the burden of having to desperately manage it. Its precarious financial horizons, its lures and threats of ruin and her relationships with others within it. But of course, in our era there’s almost no way to truly flee reality into ones own imagination, and the more one tries to do that, the more the consequences of the world one is neglecting can seem to all the more fiercely and disorientatingly resume.
“She was this self-conscious mess who liked books a lot because sometimes people in books seemed as bewildered by the world and themselves as she was.”
Maria performs useless apologias in her own internal monologue for her lack of sufficient wokeness, her white middle class privilege etc. etc. Like any good free thinking punk individualist apparently should. It's the era when the new left puritans and witchhunters are solidifying the networked power structures by which they can organize a shametrain on anyone whose digital footprint can be fitted up with the crime of prejudice. Perhaps Maria, like the rest of us, is just practicing early for the time when our very thoughts are scanned by the social media machine. Her solo internalised punk rock struggle session training will hopefully see her through. But she's at least no Karen, and it doesn’t quite grate since she’s sincere and not scolding anybody but herself. It comes across more like the somewhat stilted remnants of an adolescent identity formation process. Maria can seem a bit oppressively internally policed by her own wokeleft credentials. But of course, the entire point of this 'critique' is that it fixes and changes nothing, so it doesn't really matter.
You need money to survive, and it's way harder to hang onto it in the big city, and no amount of left theory will save you from that. The gentrifiers in the city are ‘appropriating’ all the ‘authentic’ culture, and purging their guilt or signalling their virtue through auto-critiquing themselves. Little quasi-moral narratives that change nothing and help none of the people they’re supposedly concerned about. The rent has still gotta be paid and whether your landlord is a hipster or not, the rent is, obviously, always too damn high. It's probably the landlords that own the bookstore that Maria works at that are the real winners of the story.
Even in the bleakness, Maria’s beauty shines through, and her better moments of wistful and carefree self reflection endear her to us. Still, we can't help but wonder, after the novel ends, what will Maria do next? Will she go crawling back to Steph, who might decide that it was perhaps her turn to be the baby in the relationship? Or would Maria really cash in on her privilege, shack up with Piranha, do enough heroin to blow through her savings, realize it had gotten out of hand then go crawling home to her middle class cowtown parents to dry out, leaving Piranha in the lurch? Many readers have enthusiastically shipped Maria and Piranha, yet it seems an open question if Maria is prepared to put the emotional work in to that potential relationship that she seemed incapable of putting into her relationship with Steph. There is of course something wonderfully pure about the idea of Maria and Piranha going T4T.
It’s these two moments of flight, both Maria’s and James’, that allow an escape from the strictures of identity into something like autonomy. But both are, in a way, doomed. James is doomed to his miserable dysphoria, his terrified schizoid oscillation, his fear of being outed, the eventual psychological damage that endlessly smoking weed to dissociate will cause. Maria is doomed to have to eventually resume her working life and grapple with ageing and the loss of her already lost adolescence. She will have to go back to the city, almost broke, alone, and start all over again only this time perhaps one step closer to a full fledged heroin addiction and with either no partner to support her or a partner that will very possibly no longer tolerate her bullshit if she decides to pull this kind of thing again. No amount of extended holidays in irresponsibility, your own or someone else's, will likely ever answer the the question that motivates her, that led her to ditch out on a mad journey of self discovery in the first place. Piranha, we hope, can at least stay off the street and maintain her small apartment. If my speculation about Maria and Piranhas futures are overly negative it’s only because articulating exactly what a positive outcome for both characters would look like is not impossible, but is far more cleverly left out of the story as hauntings of the unfulfilled desires and strivings that motivate it.
Maria's self, her identity, is always liminal, if not through her own crisis then through the isolation that is inherent to Maria's life and increasingly most adult lives these days. James’ ultimate decision to ditch her and refuse to continue the exploration of transness she offers him is a form of dejected consistency which mirrors the mixed up and abjected trajectory that Maria is on. James flees to escape facing another person knowing about his transness and it becoming real. Although he’s initially both freaked and thrilled, he becomes overwhelmed that Maria is offering to share her own secure trans identity as a model for James. That she has arrived out of nowhere and is dragging this stranger along on an adventure that leads to an eventual confrontation with the one aspect of his identity he does not want to face. So when James steals about half of Maria’s heroin then flees, he deludes himself that Maria has somehow ditched and rejected him. Precisely because his anxiety is threatening to turn into desire and finally free him from what’s being obsessing him so much.
“Maria’s already gone. Maybe she already forgot about him. He was a project she thought she could solve, but since he’s not doing whatever she wants now he’s old news. She’s practically saying, out loud, Fuck you, James H., get the fuck out. So he’s like, All right. Bye.”
In the end, all anybody is left with is their broken, lonely, imperfect self and a cowardly fleeing and stranded distance from the other people that might connect with it and make it feel whole into lonely consumer painkillers.
Since the story is told almost exclusively through Maria’s inner monologue and centred around Maria’s journey, and because Maria is trying to find something on her roadtrip that allows her to both escape and then readjust to reality, the novel must end precisely then. Just before the moment Maria will be forced to the shock realization that the project she found to distract herself with has abruptly concluded, cruelly stranding her back into her own, semi-intolerable solitude. If James had got angry and told her to fuck off she could have at least kept her pride and chalked it up to her being an overwhelming reminder of James’ repressed truth. But instead James simply abandons her. She can hardly go back and ask this stranger why, she can hardly interrupt his life and expose his secret to the world.
After James runs off to find his girlfriend who drives him home, he immediately tries to reassert his cis-hetero-masculinity.
“He wonders whether the yellow light and nostalgia can turn his body inconsequential enough to get hard.”
This choice of imagery freezes him in a moment of doubt over his ability to narcissistically self reflect, to find in the presence of his own body what he tells himself he should want to maintain. He is frozen in a moment he worries he will lose the grounded safety of and perhaps see, in the light, the haunting image of the body he fantasizes about.
But even though she's long gone, something of what Maria represents may still yet seep through James’ defensive shell, opening a portal to a potentiality that he will perhaps one day finally chose to accept, or, perhaps even reject.
If Maria and James’ encounter seems on the surface like a bit of a disaster, there is also clearly a way to read it as something profoundly beneficial. Maria appears, ex nihilo, into James’ solitary world, encountering him privately, never quite crossing the boundary into intruding into the rest of his life or outing him. In a crucial way, somehow nothing has been disturbed, yet everything has been burst open. She embodies a realization of his desire, but does not force him to come to any definite conclusion over it.
But we are left to wonder which gift Maria has given to James – has she unwittingly introduced him to heroin, a drug that could replace his weed habit by offering an even stronger form of denial and dissociation from the pain of his repressed feminine longings, or has she served as some example, however imperfect, of what James could perhaps become?
It’s as if Nevada is about a transwoman’s lost adolescence and the difficulty of navigating the many dead end horizons of her adulthood. At a certain point it does not know where to go next, not for lack of authorial insight or ability, but precisely because the work is so brilliantly honest. It is because Maria is trying to flee her responsibilities that not mentioning what comes next, their inevitable return, is an absence that makes the narrative all the more effective.
We don’t want to have to go back to where we always are, back to work, to money, to adulthood, to the reality we want to believe we can escape. We can’t entirely deal with it. It’s intolerable because we’re striving unto death, striving to avoid a worse kind of death (we hope). We’re working, always, or resting from work, but to quote an old Modest Mouse song, all we’re really working on is working on leaving the living. Maria’s life falls apart not because of any great fault in herself, but because coping methods fail and everybody hurts each other. Mostly in ways they can’t even help and don't even intend, ways that always, inevitably, fall out of the ways they genuinely try to heal both themselves and each other.
“She buys a vegetable slice and walks back to work in the rain. Further, being irresponsible totally works out for her. The only way she’s been able to keep this job and not lose her shit completely is by taking lots of trips outside, spending lots of time reading instead of working, helping wingnut old man customers for hours at a time even though they’re not going to buy anything. Or riding her bike dangerously: she got doored yesterday, her hip is still sore, and guess what, that is a pretty good story. Or even this morning, on the train! She spilled coffee all over herself, took up tons of space, and ended up reminding herself how much she enjoys writing total bullshit in her journal.”