Existential Dread

For the past six weeks, I have consumed more documentary film and radio than ever. Sometimes this occurs formally in class, or with friends afterwards, or at home by myself when I’m looking up the many suggestions my peers have offered to me. Notably, Emily shared that we should check out the the podcast Millennial, which I now listen to almost every day. Molly also prompted us all to gather around one evening and watch Bombay Beach (if you haven’t seen it, you need to). Local filmmaker Cambria Matlow even gave us a sneak peek at her upcoming film Woodsrider. All of these examples have evoked strong emotions, given me a fresh perspective, and made me consider my own role as a media maker.

But none of these can compare to my experience watching City of Ghosts. About a week ago, our student cohort got the chance to attend an advance screening at Regal Fox Tower 10, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since then. I can’t begin to explain or give justice to the film’s brilliance, so I’m not going to try. Instead, I will share with you my fervent stream of consciousness that I scribbled out that evening, as soon as I returned home.

7/26 - 10:30pm “City of Ghosts”

I am sitting outside on the ground next to my red bicycle, and I’ve just ridden back from downtown. I feel like all my thoughts might float away as soon as I head inside. The movie we saw was City of Ghosts, and we all sat in a row: Me, Kienna, Jordan, Moira, Theo, Emily, Coral. Usually when I leave a movie theatre, or any social event, I’m already thinking about what’s next: mingling, walking out, saying goodbye, riding home. I’m usually worried about stupid things. But tonight I didn’t care. The world had slowed down because something in that film had given me pause. After the film, we all stood in a circle outside the theatre, wordless. Coral put her arm around Moira and they continued to lean on each other for quite some time. When we finally walked outside, we all looked lost and confused. Kienna and I biked across the Hawthorne Bridge together, then went our separate ways. I rode along the Eastbank Esplanade and felt my heart rate go up every time a stranger walked past me, or a bike whizzed by, or a tree branch crackled. Regardless, at one point I stopped to take a photo because I couldn’t dismiss the beauty of the sunset along the Willamette River. A yacht rolled by, lazily. Later, as I rode up Williams St, I passed by a board game bar, where a couple sat in the window playing Monopoly. I crossed into my neighborhood, where laughter echoed from back patios. Houses were strewn with twinkling lights and surrounded by soft smelling gardens. The crescent moon was shining on my face and I felt simultaneously at ease and on edge. For the entire 38 minutes of my bike ride, as I rode through the city, I felt as though I was noticing everything around me for the first time. As I took in every detail, I considered how the world can be so beautiful and so cruel all at the same time. The idea repeats in my head on an endless loop, as though if I keep it there, maybe I’ll come up with a reason.

I thought about Emily’s response to my question after the movie, as we all stood there in our circle.

“How do we go exist now?” I had asked.

“Go be with people that you love.”

–Madi Stapleton