on sag szn, or the neverending escape
Text and images by Tiana Reid
The blogs say one of the most honorary (or notorious) traits of the Sagittarius is her desire to escape. This strong escapist will—revealing itself as addiction, daydreams, travel—exists year-round, I’m sure, but with the full-bloomed energy of Sagittarius season, I almost certainly find myself elsewhere. The physical absenteeism tends to follow the psychic. Yes, my sun sign is Sagittarius, whatever that means, beyond that I was born sometime between November 22 and December 21 (December 13, bitch!). I had no control over this. I did not ask to be born, let alone be born in Canada during the coldest time of our year.
Perhaps my most stubborn trait is that I feel like I cannot be represented. I read because I cannot represent myself. I write because I cannot represent myself. I find myself in other people, like Nicki Minaj, who is a Sagittarius. She left the building this year, and yet I still did not want to watch her go. This summer, I saw a tweet from Astro Poets that says, “Somewhere a Sagittarius is getting off a plane & saying ‘yeah I could live here’ before even leaving the airport.” My relation to this tweet sums up my relation to astrology: a skewed relation of the self to the self but a relation nonetheless. I’m like, yeah…true, but I can just as easily list a number of ways in which things could be otherwise.
I’ve learned from Ashon Crawley that things can always be otherwise—politics, possibility, everyday fictions, reality. Last year, right before a Sag szn break-up, I found myself alone in Paris for a month. I was doing research for my dissertation, sure, but what seemed most important then was that I was Not There. This year, when Sagittarius season broke, I was in Asia for the first time: Tokyo then Taipei. Before I left, I could tell things were getting freaky because I was less my usual apathetic self (a defense mechanism) and way more obsessive (with A Star is Born, Ariana Grande, the social accoutrements of academicized afro-pessimism, a girl). In “Look What I’ve Found,” Lady Gaga’s all like: “I’m alone in my house / I’m out on the town / I’m at the bottom of the bottle / I’ve been knocking em down.” I’M ALONE IN MY HOUSE. I scream it. Lady is not a Sagittarius but I do share a birthday with another white lady, Taylor Swift, who attempted to escape her reputation in her last album.
I’m no astrophile, let alone an astrologist, but I do like stars. Who doesn’t look up at the sky when there’s nothing left to be done? An astrologist (in fact I’m taking this from Co-Star) might say Sagittarians are restless, curious, independent, and like to travel. No matter where I go, I’ve learned, I just don’t want to be where I am.
But there I was, alone in Tokyo, as the Lianne La Havas song goes, “I am neon / Cold neon Not a mystery / All I've every known is / How to be alone / It comes naturally.” Several days before I arrived at Narita International Airport, I considered not showing up for the flight. In the past year I have not had the best of luck with planes, and yet I’ve taken more than any previous year of my life. I’ve been in bed in Brooklyn at the exact minute my scheduled flight was taking off. Another time I was crying in the bathroom as the flight attendants were making their final boarding call. For months, I medicated myself through a fear of flying. I thought of these times fondly, for some reason, and booked my hotel in Tokyo the day before I left and got on the plane after all. Better to be restless elsewhere than restless at home.
Turns out I became less emotionally uneasy and more literally sleepless. In Tokyo I slept intermittently. I would walk around in the day — to Meiji Shrine, Yogogi Park, Shibuya Crossing, around Ginza and Harajuku. I’d grab something to eat and then at about 7 or 8 pm pass out till just after midnight. I’d be up working from then till about 5 or 6am, and then I’d either have a short nap or head back out. I was staying in a residential area west of Shinjuku, so I didn’t get into too much trouble in the early hours of the morning. Instead, I would go to a 7-11, a gyūdon chain, or a bathhouse.
In Harajuku I try to be someone else, someone younger, cooler, lighter. I buy stupid-ass shit: Fila disruptors, a velcro wallet made by Kim Gordon’s X-Girl brand, and a Mary J. Blige “Real Love” hoodie. My friend called the look “mall goth.”
I become a glutton for texting. Seconds out of the shower, I paw my phone with my dripping wet hands. The 14-hour time difference offers the fortuity of opposite conditions: a totally non-functional and absolutely hot way to sext. I’d get drunk texts while I was having lunch and goodnight texts while I was waking up.
Escapism is sometimes considered superfluous, a tone-deaf distraction. Old man Freud, of course, thought that measured fantasy was crucial to everyday life. The task, however naive, is a self-defense that destroys the self and imagines how we might all live our lives without forgetting the dreamlives of others.
Some day in Tokyo, don’t ask me which one, my grandmother dies. Through her flight off of earth, I am brought back to mine. My mother, who is in her early sixties, texts me and tells me she is an orphan now. I’ve always felt like one, too.
Tiana Reid lives and works in Manhattan, New York. She is a writer, editor at The New Inquiry, PHD student in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Follow her thoughts and like her images.