inside/outside: loathe to explain

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.

moving in on the first date

Once upon a time when time was shivering apart and memories seemed more real than reality, the girl who fell from the sky and the west coast hacker king came to an agreement.

Today was gloriously stressful, much more than I bargained for. April 1st is my one-year nonniversary with Antony, which struck me in the heart like the world wanted me to understand the word “smite” in a pure, holy way. Every living cell in my body misses him, they take turns reminding me. Today, however, they ganged up and jumped me. All today, as the last of the SecWest cool kids came down from Whistler and connected with the airport and chores, I could rewind a year back and see exactly where I was, minute by minute, 365 days ago. As I write this, we were smiling. He was saving me from darkness, I was inviting him back to my place. It was a Saturday, then, and we had gone to dinner and dancing, as if we had drawn a straight line on a map from meeting to what would be. Any minute now, we’ll have kissed.

I called him tonight after I got home, half an hour after midnight, and left a message. I told him I miss him, that I love him, that of everyone in the world, it’s his blessed voice I would like to hear the most.

Editor’s Note: To wit, my life took a left turn and fell apart and came back together and all those things that lives tend to do, but all in one day instead of stretched over a reasonable amount of time. I’m back from madcap Whistler, I met keen new people, Dragos came over, Nicole took me out, I called home, and now I’m alright. Watch the Brothers Quay video, it’s splendid and makes me glad the world exists.

I can’t help but think of Baraka

Originally uploaded by Foxtongue.

Alastair is thin, putting my arms around him is like putting flesh over bones. Until today, I’d forgotten how that felt. When I think of him, I think of what he looks like – how he smiled crookedly at me once while standing naked in front of a mirror, how he moved, quickly and fiercely, his drawn angles matching in some brilliant sketch of a walking man – and I glow for a moment, remembering.

When I met him, I thought we would be together a year. Months piling into months, days a flow of photographs and dance music. We would go to clubs together, we did when we were here and we did when we were in L.A. He would always look better than me, but I liked that. That he cared made me happy. I dance like a goth hippy, all waving hands and jutting curves, but he dances like a spider might, crouched black and thin with side to side movements. I can’t blend in as well as he does.

When he ran up to me today, he looked slightly different, like there had been a re-adjust of the system since I said goodbye at the airport. I imagine I might look a tiny different as well. I’ve lost weight again, and my hair’s turned red and gold as well as plum. It was hard to say goodbye, to decide to take that first step toward the plane.

We never were the same after a certain conversation.

Tomorrow we’re going for tea. He’s going to call in the morning. As always, I’ve not any idea what we’ll talk about, but I don’t think I have to. It will be enough to see him, imprint his cellular structure again in my mind.

I sat here (j’vous dit pas la fumée dans l’atelier…)

From where I sit, I can look up to three black birds I brought back from L.A. They rest on a garland of sage that I’ve carried with me since I first started having sex with boys. It was an afternoon of singing for strangers in a strange land. Six years ago I was beginning to claim this city for my own. The birds look alert, like they could spread their fake wings and fly through the wall to some place I’ve never been. Pop out the other side of the white stucco and into a night sky with unfamiliar constellations. I can’t imagine them having any natural sound. I can imagine the computer hiss of an old modem maybe or the blurry tone of a rotary phone. Blackbird call home, blackbird eat the clouds, blackbirds that carry an analog name that I don’t know.

I’ve got days hanging from a dreaming tree, branches tearing upward and leaving contrails behind. The sound of shoes in an airport, the hallway, the picture I took there, the way the pictures were the same coming back. I fly and I follow by accident, by motorway, by the wrong direction.

This is a simple transition in my mind, Los Angeles to Vancouver to Toronto. There’s no disorder, only misplaced moments melding themselves into the best home movie. Hands in every shot, the evolution of devotion lagging behind the reality as my eyes sweep past out plane windows and I try to find my way home. There’s a dead child out there, hanging from a damned red moon, but I don’t see it, I’m blind from the panel glare, the colours that are printed in three little dots at a time. Something broken seems to flutter from my hair and the world changes, the person in the seat next to me has seen me cry.