It leaves halfway through November. The last pieces required for my Irish passport are coming together. The utilities are now in David’s name. An ad for my room is going up on Craigslist this week. I don’t know where I’m going to live. I don’t have reliable work. There is no safety net. And, if I get this right, I’ll never be back again.
SLIP | Dance by @PhillipChbeeb & @ReneeKester | Music by @ElliotMossMusic | Shot by Jerel Mascarinas
I left my name behind during my last trip and found new homes for more of my belongings since I have returned. My life grows smaller and smaller still. Fewer things, fewer people, less and less and less. It is exhausting to be alive and so isolated, to survive this hollow crush of vacuum inside my heart and skin. I do not want any of it. I no longer even have the energy to wish it were different. It just is.
There was a political argument last summer between me and an American that lasted for months. “Healthcare is not a human right,” he said, those literal words dropped from his mouth, and I would not stand for it. (Bad enough he has a thing for guns.) Bitter fire licked the inside of my damaged frame. “And what am I, then? What do I mean to you? What rights do I have, with this crippled body I cannot afford to fix?”
He thought the Canadian system was better than it is, that my injuries must have been mended to the limit of possibility before they were abandoned, but that’s never been the case. I have been broken since I was a teenager, struck by a drunk driver in a truck while crossing a street, and because I have always been poor, I have never been able to afford to see the specialists who could diagnose what ails, let alone heal me. (I have had partners who could have helped me financially, but they did not offer and I did not ask, even when I hurt so much I could not walk.) Because of this, my adult life has never had a day without pain.
The problem, according to my semi-socialist government, (the worst of both systems), is that even though I was on a cane for years and could barely lift my right arm for nearly a decade, my damage does not immediately threaten my life nor, conversely, is it so mild that a GP could stick a pharmaceutical band-aid on it and call it done. Instead I live in the hollow of the system, the trough of suffering in between the two extremes; constant chronic pain destroys my quality of life, but not “enough” to be treated for free.
After his surprise came horror and eventually the offer of a peculiar deal; to stop arguing these politics with me if I agree to let him cover my medical bills. This particular treaty, though gracious, struck me as untenable for a long while. It is not that he cannot afford it, I know he can, but I was steadfast for months. At the heart of it, the unfairness that still remains unaddressed, the countless others who are stuck in my position who are not so lucky to have any patron. Be the change, do not falter.
Yet now, almost a year later, the appointments have begun. Not because of what he offered, but to remove the look that crawls across his face when he sees me wince. It irks me to the marrow to be a burden, I rage against it, but there is one thing that trumps it – I cannot stand to cause pain. I have been well trained by my awful history to pay my own distress little mind in comparison to that of others. (Did you know that the root of “martyr” is “witness”?) My resistance activated both until, unknowingly, he tripped that wire.
So I booked some appointments and started seeing specialists. (Without telling him what it’s cost me, aside from sharing how hard it is to do these things alone. Perhaps he’ll read this confession and ask to address the credit card bills that have been too large for me to pay. Won’t that be another fascinating conversation?) Some of them started talking about having to cut me open. Some of them sent me for tests. But all of them passed me to other specialists, until earlier this week I was examined by an an osteopathic at an expensive sports medicine clinic so foreign to my experience that it looked to me like the set of a dystopian sci-fi film, the background of some medical breakthrough the plebeians aren’t allowed to have. The doctor’s specialties are musculoskeletal problems and athletical medical injuries. He was quick with his diagnosis, but seemed very sure and all the symptoms seem to line up.
The doctor believes I have a severe case of sacroiliitis caused by previous injuries. (The sacroiliac joints are inside the hips and connect the leg to the spine.) He told me my original injury must have been truly serious, it’s “flat-out amazing” that I get around as well as I do, and that the remaining pain is most likely an inflamed sacroiliac joint that originally puffed up when I was walking on even more “impossible pain”. (He guessed that, but correctly. I did so for years.) Also, sacroiliitis will never heal without medical intervention.
To treat it, I’m to go to a chiropractor, be studded with needles run through with electric current to relax the area, and then the doctor will give me an ultrasound guided Sacroiliac Joint Steroid Injection of corticosteroids directly into the space between my bones right after. If his diagnosis is correct, that I’ve mostly healed from the original injury and all that’s left is reactionary protectionist instinct, the pain should evaporate after only one shot. My appointment is at the end of July. I am dreading every part of it.
Fun fact: According to Wikipedia, corticosteroids were voted Allergen of the Year in 2005 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
He had no comment on my other sources of chronic pain, (ankle, shoulder, the mysterious misplaced lump of hot and suffering tissue that lives in my lumbar), or the the blood-where-it-shouldn’t-be and the follow-up ultrasound appointments, but if he is correct about the sacroiliitis, then he will be able to remove the debilitating screwdriver-in-the-flesh source of what cripples me most. I’ll be able to move again. I’ll be able to walk and to run.
I might even be able to dance.
I just spent the weekend working from one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It’s an olive grove in Southern California, lit at night only by candles, fire, and fairy lights, with music playing and clever people around white tables. Thirty-five hackers, their partners, their children, and me. Total number: just under sixty. Almost everyone wears black. Almost everyone has a custom flask. I’m probably the only person present who doesn’t own a t-shirt.
William Blake said that there is the land of the living and the land of the dead and the only bridge between them is love. The only survival. The only meaning.
I am relatively new to this particular tribe, but I am loved enough to pass. They drink and they swear and make fun of me for having to work while on vacation. I reply that my office is too pretty to possibly complain about and that seems to settle the topic.
The sounds here are different than I’m accustomed to, but I like it. I love how twisted the trees are, the delicate sounds of their leaves in the breeze. There are horses at the ranch next store and someone, somewhere, unmistakably has peacocks.
The olive grove is in the middle of the drought blighted lands, but where we are is green and luscious. There’s natural ground water here that makes for two little ponds, a small lake, and easy irrigation. Plus, however unlikely, it has rained every afternoon with a small roll of thunder and casual damp that crawls slowly over us during what otherwise would be the hottest part of the day. The light when that happens is unspeakably beautiful. I miss storms with passion like I miss my heart. Both losses ache inside of me.
We sit in camp chairs, circles of humming conversation chasing the shade during the day or around bonfires at night. We’ve been smoking an entire pig every night in a cement brick oven made for the purpose and making bonfires too big to jump over with the left over wood. (The pigs were progressively more delicious. We cut them open at midnight and sliced cubes of pork sushi out with combat knives and ate them with our fingers.)
Today some of us pulled a kitten from the wild litter of seven that’s underneath the robin’s egg blue vintage car that’s slowly rusting out next to the outdoor bar. It’s orange and soft and impossibly fluffy and I’m looking forward to visiting it later in Seattle. If I could have found other people to adopt the rest, I would have taken jacks from people’s trunks to lift up the car and pull out the entire litter. A silver lining looking for a cloud. Solving for fuffle.
The air bit with a chill that didn’t match the bright sunlight. I was on a bus traveling from my apartment to a doctor’s office I’d never visited at the university of British Columbia. The view from the bridge might have been pretty, but to me it was nothing but a view of the recent oil spill. I did not know what to expect at the doctor’s office. Someone over the phone had dropped the word “cancer” into conversation as innocuously as a sugarcube into coffee. I didn’t have enough data, so I did not know what to expect. As a result, I failed to have any expectations. The unknown no longer holds any fear after the worst has happened.
I was recently in Los Angeles for three weeks. I stayed up an entire night and watched the moon’s light be eaten by our planet’s shadow from a barren desert near the border of Mexico. I learned how to drive an ATV and I sped in a race car on a track for the first time. I drove my first go-kart and only partially dislocated my shoulder doing so. I was introduced to shooting skeet and never missed, not even once, until the assault rifle jammed. I had dinner at the Magic Castle and discovered a secret door. I visited the spaceship Endeavor and a Banksy piece and the Echo Lake chandelier tree.
Luck was mostly with me. My company was always kind and funny and smart. My days were spent working and exploring, unearthing new places and experiences, and my evenings were often spent in the company of my host, one of my sweetest ex-partners, a man who pet my hair when he caught me keening with pain in my sleep.
Every day I think about Michael, his smile, his kindness, how much I would do if it would let me see him and hold him and let him loose on the world again. I would do unspeakable things. His smile, his wit. I would burn down houses. I would burn down cities. A life for a life. Ten lives for his. A hundred. He would be horrified and justified. He would be validated. I cannot say his name without twisting inside.
Everything in California made for easy stories. The sun shone almost every day, there were flowers everywhere, a downy brown hummingbird in the front yard, a familiar taste like metal in the back of my throat from the pollution in the air. I touched a tiny wild lizard, I bought books at The Last Bookstore, and sobbed until I thought I might die on the perfect sand beach at Santa Monica. I danced until last call in my underwear in a borrowed bear suit open to my waist in a bar on Hollywood Boulevard.
I try not to think about my coward of a most recent ex, M., and how much pain he’s left unaddressed inside of me. I shy away from it the way I now avoid mirrors, as if he literally slashed me with knives and then declared me too ugly instead of only figuratively. I cannot bear my unwanted reflection as I cannot rely on my heart. It is too broken. I am too ruined. Both have fractured and cracked and crumbled. The abuse, such a surprise, was too much. The trauma, as unexpected, destroyed what was left. I am used up and there is not enough left to put anything back together. I cannot say his name, nor that of the planet he named himself after. I can barely utter my own.
The difficult stories are harder to see, but they are bigger and deeper and wider and greedy.
Being in the desert was triggering, (he grew up out here, he told me stories, fixing his jeep with the gusset of his underwear, getting lost in gullies while looking for ghost towns, his words a footnote to every stone), but who alive has eyes that could see such a thing?
I cannot reliably keep down anything I eat. I have lost fifteen pounds. People are constantly saying, “Oh wow, you look so good!”.
This is also a trigger.
A terrible winter, leading into a spring that only looks better with eyes that cannot see.
Being alive is triggering. Everything hurts. Everything. Always.
My life since October has been a near comprehensive list of tragedy, injury, pain, disappointment, disability, death, and every wrenching heartbreak. I constantly wake violently throughout every night, usually crying, my endoctrine system certain that I am always under threat. Why else this much pain? I live stunned with it, trapped in the suffering cage of my own failure of a body, forcing myself to try to move normally through each moment even though its roar is deafening.
I try to be the sort of person who does not bring the tone down, does not to contribute to the disappointment, and I am sick of the world, so mostly I have been quiet. But, in truth, I am sick of living. I want to quit. Yet these habits die hard. When asked about such things, I have been telling the easy stories. “Magic!” “Race cars!” Tone. Keep it light, (keep it pointless), keep it bright.
I might say we went to the Salton Sea, went to Slab City, and looked at the art. I might say that the art was unexpected, that it was good to see the piano still present. Those are the outside stories, not the experience, not how I only went to East Jesus to visit a dear friend’s grave to try and make a genuine connection with his unexpected death, only to encounter a tourist destination and be force-fed a rote and rehearsed tour and a bizarre and misplaced lecture about my lack of respect. Both happened, but the latter is more important to me than the first fact.
When pressed further by people who know about the other narratives, the shadow, less superficial stories, I have been still replying defensively until very recently, habitually, with the only good thing left unharmed – “but the pets are fine!”
Even this, however, is no longer true.
The day before I flew back to Canada, my flatmate David sent me a panicked note over Facebook. The unthinkable had occurred; Tanith the cat swatted Selenium the ferret and ruptured her eye.
He was worried she was going to be blinded and didn’t know what to do. I arranged for hospital care, I arranged a ride there, I arranged to borrow space on a credit card to pay for it all. I did everything from California, hoping her vision could be saved, stressed out and over stretched, breaking down whenever I thought about how much she must be hurting, no matter where I was or what I was doing. All of our options were scary and expensive. The vet referred us to an optical surgeon. Two hundred dollars. The optical surgeon suggested her eye be removed. Another two hundred. We scheduled the surgery. Eight hundred. She had a rough time on the table. Another hundred. The mask became harder to keep in place.
Posting to social media about Selenium’s needs and ordeal covered the costs. I am grateful, we’re not going to be wiped out, but my grateful allayment is muddled. I am conflicted. There is no justice. She is home now, looking more like a prize fighter than a pirate. This is the Red Queen Paradox with a knee to the kidney for good measure; we run and run and run to stay in place, everyone throw in! Yet no matter how much is given, how much support is offered, (where was this before?), the best that can be possibly attained is a new equilibrium worse than the previous norm. It’s like my life’s theme, if such things existed outside of the convenient packaging of construct or English lit.
Now that April’s Big Bad Trauma has arrived and (mostly, as best it can, a bankruptcy disguised as success) been neutralized, I am waiting for whatever happens in May. It will be rough, it will be tumble, and I refuse to try to imagine what awful unexpected there is left. Who’s next? What’s next?
It’s my birthday this month. Thirty-three on the twenty:ninth. Ten years plus one from when I promised Michael I would fight to stay alive and try, no matter what, to find joy. Ten years “and a day” of failure and pain. If I can’t succeed at such a small thing, in that length of time, I can’t succeed, full stop. My promise runs out on my birthday. It’s almost a relief. Ten years and a day of fighting and struggle, just to confirm: My best isn’t good enough and it never will be.
San Fermin – Sonsick – Audiotree Live
I found me a hopeless case and resolved to love
Maybe we can find a decent place when I’m old enough
Found love in an empty gaze, tried to fix it up
I found me a hopeless case, oh, oh.
I’ve been fueled by single size candy-bars this week, returning to Canada face first into my stash of kit-kats and candy scooped from various Google offices. I would say the amount of sugar I’ve consumed this week would be a problem, but it’s keeping my brain going.
My problem, more, is where to start. I want to dive in to all of the stories that I have been living, but I am stymied by the staggering number of moments that I should be sharing, should be documenting but instead have been allowing to slip past me, unrecorded, and so, eventually, unremembered. Our grandparents probably did not write very often, our parents probably only wrote a little bit more, but our generation knows The Word, knows its power, understands that literacy is a window into history. Our own as well as that of others. Society seems nostalgic for what came before, but really, we have never had it better than this. Yet here I am, wasting the page, spending my Friday night sitting in front of a screen.
My chemicals problems feel like they have swallowed me whole. Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, epinephrine, norepinephrine. Long words for relatively simple things. Call and response. But when they should trigger, failures. Call and then nothing. The grapes shrivel on the vine.
I went to the doctor today to ask for a test to gauge the levels of depletion, in order to add them to my file, to try and see what could be fixed. The doctor refused, says I need to “talk it out”, but he is wrong. It is physical and I am tired of being permanently defused. I want to be lifted up by life again. I want to be able to touch the world and feel it.
Meanwhile, I have been put in the position of needing to dismantle some of the only care and intimacy that I ever have found completely satisfying. Bloody difficult. Needful, but the logistics slay me. How does this even work? This isn’t a task I’ve built a tool-set for.
Instead, we play the question game. We entertain ourselves, we put off the inevitable for a few hours more. I quote Shakespeare. He claims I am risking his life. On the surface, this is very little. Peel through the layers, it is the world. When I ask why he continues the dance, we are no longer playing. He stays. I stay. He calms me. It is enough.
Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones, as wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire. — François de la Rochefoucauld
We set off fireworks for my birthday when I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. My dearest and I, scouting along the river at midnight, along with one of my best friends. All of the romance of shifting with a left hand. Explosions, incredible, gigantic explosions.
We texted a handful of our people, looking for co-conspirators, fellow anarchists ready and willing to break a handful of small laws. Only one replied, but he took awhile to drive south enough to meet us, so this fey creature and I found ourselves by the river, booting about a park the size of a postage stamp, a discarded piece of land too small for even the city to care about. I was in heels, fool I, as I had walked through my sandals when I was in San Francisco, but the rough chunks of cement proved to be easier to clamber over than I would have expected. I almost fell anyway, slipping in the dirty, industrial dark, but he was there, elegant as calligraphy, the odd way he moves, this man, this boy I would love some day.
All of these things I write about, but I do not write about him. Again. Yes, again.
Let me tell you instead of other people, other parts and pieces of my history. The one who lied, lied as I watched, as I suddenly knew. Silver at his temples, silver and silver, thirty plus two pieces, some better future offered in the palm of his hand. Take it, he offers, take it and forgive me and help me and we will conquer. He looks at me as if I am the one who keeps the keys to the prison of his life. When he looks at me like this, as if I am needed, a requirement for breathing, I cannot deny him anything. Who am I to judge the lost? We are the same.
Or another, the one who omitted, who erased. How he read what I wrote and felt, slightly, like he was dying, even though I held him through it, wrapped him in a cloak of my care. “That might be making it worse.” I understood but I wasn’t going to let go. We were in a park, a beautiful place I had never been that he knew I would like. In that space, his favourite tree. We watched the ferries come in and leave again. What an interesting thing to care about, I originally thought, a favourite tree. I was struck by the novelty, but in that moment came the realization that it matters to me that it matters to him. It was like listening to a motionless heart start beating. I carry it, that recognition. I am incapable of forgetting. Through his eyes, the red wood is new and beautiful. I am redefined. “It makes me happy to make you happy,” he said, our selves clasped together. What else is a definition of love?
Now that I have started writing again, I am shocked that it has taken so long to do this again. Here are the words, the letters, the language. Tied to these men, to these memories, tied to the bare winter branches of everything I have left. It is only the middle of summer, but it feels like I have lived an entire year since January.
The fireworks; our own thing, finally shared. The thick sulfur smoke stayed in the air, praise for our work. A grubby stranger paused in robbing a local stock yard, stripping it of metal, to watch. We laughed, argued with lighters, dashed to the illusion of safety and back again. I lightly burned part of my left hand, sparks from a short fuse. He kissed it later, unknowingly, and I felt the sting again. Electric flares, willows of light. The concussives were so large they punched holes in the air, slammed into our rib-cages, forced my mind to focus. I almost felt like I was under water, how it has been described to me, the voices stilled, as if music were playing to drown out the entire world underneath the shock of the sound of the bombs.
They were almost bright enough, almost loud enough, almost enough, almost, almost, to get through.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” ~ Maya Angelou
“What are you doing, can I help?” I murmured, softly pulled from sleep by the man who was quietly getting ready to leave for work. It was the day before my birthday. He had been very careful, but the sound of a suitcase zipper had been enough to wake me. He chuckled and sat down on the hotel bed beside me, his weight creating a curve in the mattress that pulled my body to his. I gratefully curled against his broad torso like a cat to warmth in the winter. “You sweet girl,” he said, “how delicious of you. I can think of a way.” He reached out and stroked my hair, then leaned down and tilted my face to meet his. I was sleepy and soft. His hand was gentle on my face, as were his lips on mine. It was perfect.
(Writing this is difficult.)
Another hotel, another man, someone I used to love. We unexpectedly tumbled into each other years after we had last been close, a surprise coda to an awful time, and after I remarked on how strange a beast memory can be. “This.” I said, pressing my hand against his shoulder for emphasis. “I remembered exactly how your hands fit with mine, the geometry of your fingers, but this, how the length of my arm is precisely the width of your shoulders when you cradle in my grasp, this I had forgotten. I still know you while I do not. It surprises me.” He smiled wryly, “You’re not writing about us in your head again, are you? Writers. Incorrigible.” But I hadn’t been. I had lost the knack when I lost my heart. Yet now I am, months and months later. My time since has opened the gate.
(Writing that was easier.)
Neither of these men are people I could claim as mine, but they were, just as I was theirs. How near we all are to disaster at all times. I’m starting to type this from a plane, finding comfort in the turbulence that is distressing the other passengers. To such tolerances airplanes are made! With such cleverness and scientific understanding! The wings flex even as the snout pushes forward through the air unconcerned, the shaking accounted for, the math figured. This is not how airline disasters are made. Each engineered piece interlocks to create a miraculous whole. The more we jostle, the safer I feel.
If only it were so in relationships.
My heart, lightly returning to me, feels haunted. I shuffle through our time together, examining every interaction and conversation like tarot cards for clues. I find nothing. He was honest in every particular, but one. His family.
I met him on the dance-floor at a conference, completely unexpected. (The odds are good there, but the goods odd.) I wasn’t certain our first few dates. I was hesitant to kiss him goodbye, hesitant to start something long-distance again, yet we found magic writing together on-line. He was well read, political, and his sharp wit inspired me. He was smart, funny, and harassed me without mercy. Eventually I point-blank asked what the catch was, “How is it that you’re single?” He explained that he travels too much for work, the same problem that plagues plenty of my more interesting friends. I felt encouraged, cared for, and delighted, enough that I shelved my long-distance relationship concerns and replied, “I can live with that.” “I hoped so.” It was two in the morning. He got us a hotel room. We had a pillow fight. It was on.
We were meant to have another night together for my birthday, I was going to ditch Vancouver to travel down to see him, but he had to cancel. Work scheduled him away that week. This was not unexpected, this was part of the engagement, so I told him I understood and expressed the appropriate California-envy. Fourty-eight hours later, he proposed flying me down with some of his endless air-miles. If I could find somewhere to stay after he head home to Seattle, he told me, I could stay as long as I like.
I stumbled, but I recovered. Gladly, gratefully. And blind. I didn’t know where we were staying or when I was flying out. I knew nothing. Eventually it was puzzled that my flight left on a Tuesday, but I didn’t have an itinerary until 4:30 Monday morning. And that was fine. It’s was trust exercise. It was fun. I was happy.
He picked me up at the airport, checked us into a hotel in San Jose, and kissed me like I had been missing for years. Once his work-trip was done, we moved into my ex’s flat in the Castro in San Francisco.
I was smitten. I hesitate to speak for him, but he seemed equally so. He met my friends, we went on little exploratory ventures, he sang flawless, soul-shattering, classically trained opera in the shower. Everything was all splendid. He was incredible. We, together, were marvelous. We get on so well it was improbable. He was generous, kind, and effortlessly carried me up a tall flight of stairs when my ankle gave out like I was stuffed full of feathers instead of chagrin and admiration. I felt blessed and adored and adored him in turn. We didn’t sleep at night. He smiled all the time. I blossomed.
My urge to write about us is basic. I can’t not. He’s not mine, but he was. And he risked his entire personal life to be. It is sad and tragic and hurts, yet I respect how much that’s worth. I want to write about everything. Honor his indisputably stupid sacrifice by capturing every moment of our time together in amber, sweetly displayed in this glass screened case as an exhibit of That Time. “This is what he risked his world for. It was not small, nor tawdry.” We felt lucky, we found joy, what we made together was satisfying and darling. Was it worth it? It’s not for me to say, but I would guess no, not for him.
He didn’t betray me, but himself. The tragedy isn’t mine, but his and theirs.
He left after a week, singing so loudly out the window of the rental car that I could hear him from a block away. Even as he left, he made sure I was alright. Then I moved in with Heather for a bonus week full of good people and happenings. It was an enriching time. There were long walks through new places, a cocktail party, a rooftop BBQ, a rave in an abandoned train station, time with new friends and with people I already love. Then I flew back to Seattle for more fun and good people. I went dancing, I made new connections, I had a tai chi lesson on a roof downtown in the sunshine. Life was good. My sweetheart was in Colorado for work, but I was looking forward to seeing him the next time I could.
Then I went for lunch with a friend who I met through the same conference, though years ago. New information. To say I was suddenly having a bad day is an understatement. We were hopeful, there was a lot of benefit of the doubt, but then the phone numbers matched. The phone number of my sweetheart and “my friend of ten years whose wife is…” Oh. Pregnant. Not with their first child.
Our relationship was obviously not a thought out decision. Aside from the deletion of his family and claiming to be single, he didn’t hide a thing. Everything else he told me checked out.
I was in Vancouver less than 48 hours once I came back from Seattle. Time enough to put my passport in for renewal, basically, then repack and head to an airport to sleep, so I could head back east to visit Toronto and Montreal for Recon.
My plans shivered a bit once I was out there, and I ended up spending more time than expected in Waterloo with one of my best friends, Ian, his charming wife, and two lively children. We all spent one warm night in his back yard, their daughter cuddled against my body, our feet in the pool while Ian dove and twisted like an otter through the water. We lay on our backs and watched the sky. I pointed out the International Space Station as it drifted overhead. Their daughter sighed and lay her head on my shoulder, asked about the stars as I explained constellations. His wife’s laughter was just beautiful as the heavens.
Is this what my lover had balanced me against? This sort of home? This ease and grace and care and trust? I’ve never had anything so honeyed as this small slice of family. No one has ever tried to build so much with me. How divine it seemed! I wondered what my presence could have pumped through his veins. How much did his heart race? There are easier ways to find adrenaline. Lying there, surrounded by their life, I didn’t feel worthy of the sacrifice. I was grateful the darkness meant that no one could see me cry.
I was attacked the morning of my birthday on my way to the Facebook campus for lunch. Pedestrian sexual street harassment that I stood up against until he escalated too far, until I had to run. Eventually I fled along a train from car to car, concerned for my physical safety, desperately searching for a conductor while a stranger stalked after me shouting awful things, “Cunt, whore, I’m going to break you.”
He was thrown off the train, but it rattled my entire day, threw me off my stride.
My lover salvaged even that. He arrived too late to join the hot-tub evening, I was being kicked out for the night when he came to the gate, but he was late because he’d brought a surprise. We sat at an iron table outside my friend’s apartment, (an anonymous place in a terrible suburb of anonymous buildings and fussy street security), while he produced a tub of ice-cream from a bag, then a package of candles that spelled H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y, and a birthday card and a lighter.
No one sang and I forgot to make a wish, but I felt more cared for in that gesture of grace than I had in a very long time. It was darling and sweet. “I understand it’s late,” he said with some satisfaction, “but we had to celebrate!”
My distress fell away. I may have been attacked, but I was in California, swathed in adventure, and this man had sent for me, flown me down for a romantic birthday get-away, to be embraced in his care. This man, this thoughtful, considerate, and brilliant man, he liked me back. The world was unexpected, but finally benevolent. It was the best birthday I’ve ever had.
(Have mercy on me, even knowing the truth, I do miss him.)
Everyone else who knows is furious, but I have a lot of hope for him. For his relationship, for his family. (He’s a good communicator. I don’t know anything about her as a person, past her name, but if they’re together, I expect she must be excellent as well.) It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be hard. As it should be. I am sorry that his choices led him to test his home in this fashion, but I don’t hate him, I’m not angry, and I’m not bitter. I feel for him, even. How afraid and sad he must be.
I’m down a relationship that was gracious, compassionate, and loving, and a friend, but it was a new thing. I’m just abruptly single again. New things fail all the time. He may have lost something much greater.
So that’s that. I am disappointed, but mostly I am sorry for his partner. I’ve been somewhat in her position, though certainly never to such an extreme. I wonder what will happen. If it has happened before. If this will be the end of either his affair(s?) or their relationship.
I wonder and I wait and I know, soon, we will again say hello. It took a few weeks, but he finally reached out and replied to one of my messages while I was in Toronto. I’m leaving for Seattle today for ToorCamp. He has asked to meet up to talk as soon as our schedules can allow. I gratefully said yes. He is cancelling travel in order to make it right away. We should be in the same place at the same time next week.
I can barely wait to find out what he has to say.
San Francisco 2008
My summer is about to explode. It has already started, a little, (I sneaked into a rave on Friday night, spent Saturday on a cross-Atlantic guitar lesson with Richard, Saturday night with dear friends at a dinner, blowing people’s minds with synchronicity, and Sunday at an epic wedding that involved a boat, a full-sized, bright red, radio controlled dalek wedding cake that shouted EXTERMINATE, (part gluten free, too!), a hexacopter ring-bearer, and friends from six or seven countries), but this past weekend was just the amuse bouche.
My comrade Nathan is taking us to Cirque Du Soliex’s Totem tonight for my upcoming birthday, then we’re leaving on Thursday evening for the Sasquatch Music Festival. The line-up is absolutely fantastic, many of my favourite bands are playing, (Elbow, Mogwai, Die Antwood, The National, Cut Copy, TuNe-YaRds, etc.), and it’s going to be our first road-trip. I almost cannot wait. I feel like a little kid, counting sleeps.
Then, on the way back, Nathan is dropping me off in Seattle and I’m going to California for my birthday, courtesy of my ability to fit into a suitcase AKA a sweetheart’s business trip to the Google mothership! Flexibility pays off. Apparently I’ll be flying from Seattle on the 26th or 27th and staying for approximately two weeks.
I leave Canada in four days, but know zero about my flights or even where or when I’m to meet up with my dear B. It is so strange and yet delightful to know I am to be travelling, but not know when or precisely where to. It’s like a trust exercise with the universe that I am surprisingly completely fine with. Are we meeting in Seattle? In California? Where? No idea. I have zero information, but it’s.. gratifying? It feels proper. Makes it more of an adventure, for sure.
I imagine I’ll be taking the train a lot back and forth between SF and Silicon Valley for the first week and tucking in for work during the days, but other than that, my time is open. B. will only be there for the first week and mostly busy with work, which is a bit sad, he is smart and sassy and wonderful, but I’m still thrilled. Once I wave my kerchief goodbye to him at the airport, I’ll couch-float with friends in the Mission or the Castro or the Tenderloin.
The only plans I have so far: Jed and I are making sultry eyes at Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind on May 30th, (come with us!), and Richard has informed me that must visit him at the Vulcan on the first Thursday in June. And Morissa says I can use her house for a birthday dinner party! (Party date as yet to be determined). Other than that, it’s almost all a giant question mark. Do you know of anything going on in SF between May 26th and June 6th-ish? Let’s adventure!
Then I’m back to Seattle for a week to go to the the Georgetown Carnival and the Power Tool Drag Races and all that fun stuff. Maybe play some flaming tether ball. Mars and I are learning to be friends again, too, which makes Seattle much better to visit. I don’t know if B. will be around, but I hope so. (If he isn’t totally sick of me after sharing a hotel room for a week, that is. “Why are all the towels stained scarlet?”, “Why is my pillow purple?”, “How did the room ceiling end up covered in glow-in-the-dark stars? Are those constellations.. accurate?”)
I plan to return to Vancouver on June 15th, immediately put my passport in for renewal the day I get back!, collect certain papers from my mother, Vicki, that she’s bringing back from Ireland, do all of the laundry in the world, maybe throw a quick Vancouver-based birthday party, then head out to Ontario. The plan is to go to REcon (June 23rd – 29th) in Montreal via Waterloo courtesy of Ian, my besty who wants to drive up from Ontario in my fine company. Improbable, yes. Possible, very. I owe his cat Dewie about a thousand snuggles. And I think he’s starting to get tired of carrying his favourite Internet Girl around in his phone à la Her. And Audra has offered us her charming AirBnB apartment in Toronto for a couple of nights, (she has a cotton candy machine!!!), so we could home base out of Toronto and visit with people and stay up late in the city rather than having to go back to Waterloo. I’m sure we’ll use it, as I’m five or six years overdue for a visit and the good people just keep piling up. I even have an uncle there I’ve never met who seems supracool. Why don’t I live in Toronto? I Do Not Even Know.
We’ll be stopping by in Ottawa on our way to Montreal, too, to stop by the river market and stuff our faces with scrumptious berries and sugary beaver tails and APPLY FOR MY IRISH PASSPORT WITH THE EMBASSY! Happy birthday to me! I’m Irish! I HAVE EU AND EVERYTHING. As of, like, six days ago. My mother, bless her, went to Ireland as part of a Canada Council art project with Paul and took the packet of my needful documents with her, followed the very detailed instructions, and has filed my birth with the Irish government!
REcon is apparently a marvelous time, too. It’s run by Hugo, who I love to hang out with at CanSec. I’ve never spent as much time with him or his friends as I would like, so this is perfect. And apparently the Circus Festival starts in Montreal on July 2nd, so maybe we’ll get away with sticking around for a day or two longer for that. Either way, I plan to get fat and happy on delicious food, hug a lot of people, dance my face off, and ride a lot of city bikes. Christine wants to go to the new Cirque show, Kurios, too. I approve. There will also be chocolate and a stop by Santropol. Oh yes.
And no, I don’t know anything solid about flight dates on this trip yet either. IT IS ALL A FANTASTIC MYSTERY.
And then I’m in Vancouver until ToorCamp. (That might be for less than a week, oi). ToorCamp is another hacker event, but in Washington State on July 9th. Nathan wants me to go with him, so of course I said yes. Hopefully my passport will have come back by then and I’ll be good to go. I don’t know much about it, except that the people I know who’ve gone in the past are all excellent.
I have also been tapped to work as the Art Director for Hacked Festival, another hacker event from August 11th – 14th, but this one in Vancouver. It’s their inaugural year and maybe I’ll be able to help, even though I’m barely going to be around for the next few months. (Apply to be a speaker or an artist naow!) I’ve told them about my travel schedule, but the founder met me at BIL and he seems to want me involved anyway, so I might end up going through with it just because. If that ends up being the case, that will fit in right after ToorCamp. And right before Burning Man.
I have a number of options for Burning Man this year, but I think I might be tossing a bunch of them over to stay with a lawyer friend from Seattle. Not only do I appreciate him a metric ton just in general, I cannot get enough of his art project, an infrared photobooth. People step inside into pitch blackness, the infrared flash goes off, and though all they see is a small red light, the pictures look like they were taken in daylight.
And then, come September, rest. Playing with ferrets. Adventure is fine, (dying is fine)but Death), but I’m going to miss my ferrets. Pepper and Selenium are the best.
TLDR; If all goes well, I’m going to live out of a suitcase this summer.
My early morning consisted of more cold pizza, updates from the uprising in Turkey, and stark wonder at the absolute disaster area my room has turned into. What is your place like? Mine looks like I've kept the motor running. I tore it apart before my trip, unable to find something, (plus my coat rack fell down just as I was leaving, taking a shelf with it), returned to the mess, then threw a party, then left town again, and now I'm sitting in the middle of it, overwhelmed. I've put on some music and managed a shower, but now I'm shuffling things around, unable to see an end to the jumble. Piles of books, paper, and electronics all over my desk, a strange miscellany of taxidermy, teacups, and laundry everywhere else. I've been sleeping in a small cocoon of pillows, as the majority of my bed has been turned into a stuff sorting table.
Now I'm tucked in at Kyle's place, situated in an entirely different cocoon of pillows as I write and he tinkers with red velvet waffles with cream cheese sauce. I'm checking mail, writing snippets to people, arranging the pieces of my life into an immediate future. He has just explained to me that red velvet is just a prettied up chocolate, though he doesn't understand why. I returned that the red is to make it sexy, to show it's chocolate that's ready to mate. My music from earlier is still playing. The buttermilk I brought over has gone into the batter. Kyle is making chocolate truffle coffee in time to the tapping of my keys on the keyboard. There are two teenage girls at the kitchen table, quietly in recovery from whatever they were up to last night.
I feel like I'm borrowing someone else's domesticity. I am the house-cat, rock and roll purring, a gray and black creature come in from the cold. I can't express how much I wish I had this myself.
“He shook me awake saying, The most horrible thing has happened. The most horrible thing has happened! Y- just sucked N-‘s dick. I took a video.” The porch was crowded with people sharing cigarettes and thin beer in red disposable plastic cups. The woman telling the story shook her head, laughing a little, her black tank top beginning to slip from one shoulder. “And then he showed it to me, the video, right there on the little screen.” Her audience, a woman with short blue and silver hair and matching make-up, pretty like she just sucked down an electric milkshake, nodded as if she wasn’t quite sure what she’d just gotten into then looked over to Y-. A strong, swarthy man, dark haired and handsome in a rough sort of way, Y- is an incredible creature, a literal tomcat, endlessly affectionate, but with a streak of easy, distractible violence when he’s been drinking, a living testament to Hunter S. Thompson’s writing. When he talks, he sounds just like Tom Waits. “Why would you do that?” the blue woman asked him, incredulous, but wary, tight, as if she didn’t want to admit she was curious or maybe about to laugh. He shrugged, as expressive as a train-wreck at a thousand frames per second, and replied, very matter-of-fact, “Because N- said I could have sex with her if I sucked her boyfriend’s dick and then they gave me a yellow pill that they said was ecstasy and it made me gay.”
“Because I’ll Never Swim in Every Ocean”
by Catherine Pierce
Want is ten thousand blue feathers falling
all around me, and me unable to stomach
that I might catch five but never ten thousand.
So I drop my hands to my sides and wait
to be buried. I open a book and the words
spring and taunt. Flashes—motel, lapidary,
piranha—of every story, every poem I’ll never
know well enough to conjure in sleep.
What’s the point of words if I can’t
own them all? I toss book after book
into my imaginary trashcan fire.
Or I think I’ll learn piano. At the first lesson,
we’re clapping whole and half notes
and this is childish, I’m better than this.
I’d like to leave playing Ravel. I’d like
to give a concerto on Saturday. So I quit.
I have standards. Then on Saturday,
I have a beer, watch a telethon. Or
we watch a documentary on Antarctica.
The interviewees are from Belarus, Lima, Berlin.
Everyone speaks English. Everyone names
a philosopher, an ethos. One man carries a raft
on his back at all times. I went to Nebraska once
and swore it was a great adventure. It was.
I think of how I’ll never go to Antarctica,
mainly because I don’t much want to. But
I should want to. I should be the girl
with a raft on her back. When I think
of all the mountains and monuments
and skyscapes I haven’t seen, all the trains
I should take, all the camels and mopeds
and ferries I should ride, all the scorching
hikes I should nearly die on, I press
my body down, down into the vast green
couch. If I step out the door, the infinity
of what I’ve missed will zorro me across
the face with a big L for Lazy. Sometimes
I watch finches at the feeder, their wings small
suns, and have to grab the sill to steady myself.
Metaphorically, of course. I’m no loon.
Look—even my awestruck is half-assed.
But I’m so tired of the small steps—
the pentatonic scale, the frequent flyer
hoarding, the one exquisite sentence
in a forest of exquisite sentences.
There is a globe welling up inside of me.
Mountain ranges ridging my skin,
oceans filling my mouth. If I stay still
long enough, I could become my own world.