Cigars and conversation are habits I prefer infrequent but savored. Fixations of the mouth. I considered cigarettes—even dabbled—but never submitted to the habit. Too many childhood prayers, hoping my mother’s parents would quit so that I could know them when I was older. They did, and they are with us still.
One woman’s indulgences are another woman’s habits. I used to say men were a vice, but I should have said power. In New York I treated bars like a refuge from the sidewalks and their drinks like an elixir that might cure boredom. They did, sometimes. Evenings passed quickly with the taste of gin. Days smudged. Failures softened. I do not want any years back, but there are days I would do over and bar sits I would stand from.
The womb of a hot shower. Pie: all pie, every pie. Picking at skin and scabs. Listening to one—and only one—album for three months. Staying too long in the sun. Roadtrips with no plan. Being tardy at school, staying too late with friends. Laughing too loud. Museums, alone. Four quilts on the bed. A new nail polish from the drugstore. Watching women. The smell of a Georgia spring.
Self-destruction is not in my vocabulary the way I have witnessed it deployed by other friends. Vices may be for pleasure, but the danger in any vice is too much relief. I have seen women and men choose the assuaging offered by their vices over the boredom of an hour, empty and ticking towards more of the same. A vice offers purpose, if not meaning. When I have sat alone and ordered the four course meal, I have known I would rise sated. The habits become ritual. The rituals become markers between the life before and the life after.
God can be a vice. I have seen the divine used to justify public ecstasy as often as group cohesion, judgment, and othering. The small sphere of self-congratulation. The God that spares one child and takes another. The divine as a drug against anxiety. What gets called devotion, what is often desperation. But, despite what most secular minds would prefer to admit, a look towards the mystical can be as broadening as the epiphanies of an evening walk or a mushroom trip on the beach. We all reach for that other-living beyond the petty obsessions of our own minds; we are ever like infants first grasping at the mobile above the bed.
My transcendence comes most often in small choices. I indulge myself in treat and time, sneaking candy from the drawer in my desk or sitting too long with my coffee, staring at the morning light through the slits in the blinds. In these and other habits, the heart of the vice is privacy. The private mind. The private body. The private space. Privacy as a sacred stillness against the noise. It stands unbought and fresh with each renewal.
So, then, I am an evangelist of vice(s). I prefer their purpose to other occupations. Nothing is more edifying than a desire studied and embraced. I am, fundamentally, reluctant to judge the inclinations of humans towards comfort, often wholly against or outside the socially prescribed methods of placation. Every one of us errs, if the error be a stretch towards joy. Every one of us has wanted to be lost—if only for a moment—just to be found again with new knowledge, self-assured and free.
Laura Jean Moore’s poetry, essays, and stories have been featured in VICE, [PANK], the EEEL, FLUX WEEKLY, ENTROPY, the Brooklyn Rail, Corium, the Cobalt Review, and Change Seven, where she is a monthly columnist. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Reed College. http://laurajeanmoore.com/
Read All Columns by Laura Jean Moore
- What Gets Missed
- Low Country
- A Dark Graceful Wilderness
- Before and After
- On Greatness
- Whiteness, A Study
- New York
- American Dreams
- Body Talk
- Habits, Simple and Austere
- On Love