The Millions

Shifty I’s, ‘Ariel,’ and Fandom

In one of my teenage notebooks I wrote the phrase delicious doom just over a hundred times, filling the unlined page with black 0.5mm Pilot Rollerball ink. I later dubbed this particular notebook the Anxiety Notebook, though I hadn’t intended to theme it when I first unwrapped the paper from its plastic and etched my landline number in the inner cover’s top left corner.

I can’t remember for certain, but the consistency of the ink and spacing makes me think I’d completed the dense, unpunctuated litany in one sitting:

deLICIOUS doOM

D E L I C I O U S  d o o m

deliciousdoomdeliciousdoom

Delicious doom remains the pet name I first gave in high school to the startling, awareness-granting electricity that extends from my feet to my brain when my anxiety flares—worse during an attack but crackling even on a good day. The jolt arrives without warning, the way I imagine the Talmudic God once spoke to men: thunderous and certain, nobody else able to hear a word.

When the speaker in Sylvia Plath’s “Poppies in October,” a poem of hers I first read as a teenager, cries out “Oh my god, what am I / that these late mouths should cry open / in a forest of frosts”—this I embodies the delicious doom feeling. The I feels the anxious panic of a certain but unseeable death. The I also marvels at the stunningly real body who must greet it. Despite my frequent desire to reject it, the body—the delicious doom body—is singular, perhaps even perfectly so: “a gift, a love gift / utterly unasked for / by a sky.”

I remember reading Plath for the first time, but I don’t remember how I learned that she killed herself. I considered, then her immediately next. My distinction, back then, between Plath’s life and her poetry was as thin as a sheet of paper.

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