Monthly Archives: November 2009

brunch

I went to a birthday party today over brunch. A vegan and gluten-free feast. Some of the people I knew, and some of them not. I was anxious because I hate small talk, it makes me so uncomfortable. I feel like strangers ask me questions just to hear themselves talk. I feel boring when I tell people what I do and I feel stupid when I tell them that I’m not in school because I can’t afford it right now. I glued myself to Kevin and Honey Bucket until they had to leave and I mostly had to fend for myself. I was anxious because the house was very fancy. Lots of art and rugs. Alaskana. 

I went to the sitting room to put my card with the others and caught sight of the view out of the large windows. I pressed my forhead against the glass. The freezing Kenai Peninsula. It resembled the bluffs in Portland in some strange way. The window fogged with my breath. I thought of my mother. I remembered I was not in a place where it was appropriate to cry. I wondered if the tree I was looking at was a black spruce. I wondered about the foot prints in the snow. I tried to picture where I was oriented on a map. I drew a heart in the condensation and then wondered if I shouldn’t have.

Back in the kitchen and breakfast nook I submitted to the dreaded small talk and it wasn’t that bad. Emiline showed up, my savior. We sunk into a big love seat and talked about teeth and jokes past lovers made at the expense of our sensitivities. We talked about Boycations and Man Rambles and male nudity in film. We talked about our health and highschool and the journeys we made in college, physically and emotionally.

Matthew and Sarah played the banjo and accordian on the fireplace. Sarah looks like Portland, I thought. Thin flannel, thick rimmed glasses, greasy boyish haircut. She may be the only one in all of Anchorage. It occurred to me that this brunch, this vegan brunch with young people playing covers of Hurray for the Riff Raff, the beards, the flannel, the fact that almost half of the people there were queer, this might be the best of what is here. If this is all there is, I thought, at least I have found it.

Later some of the guests left, some helped clean up. I watched the lady of the house scrape a bowl full of left over cream cheese and a whole stick of left over butter into the garbage disposal. I talked to one of the lingering guests about whether or not God has lips, or any erogenous zones for that matter. We talked about wanting to visit villages but not wanting to live there. I showed him my leg tattoos. I told him about my grandfather’s memorial and it seemed like maybe his eyes got wet for some secret reason. I felt attracted to him. I made up a rule that it was ok to get a crush on someone who was a gender different from ones you normally go for if it was over the holidays.

The birthday girl opened her gifts and cards. I gave her a patch with a bike on it, a tube of glitter glue and a pin that says “I ❤ female orgasm”. Her parents gave her remote start for her car and $1000. I started to realize this friend of mine came from a  class background much different than mine. I hadn’t thought much about her background before. I thought about what I could do with $1000. 

My tires spun in the deep snow as I maneuvered out of the suburban winter hideaway. I passed my old elementary school. Everything looked so different. All the trees cut and a shopping center I didn’t even know existed. I put on that Des Ark CD I’ve been trying to take a break from so I won’t stop liking it from listening too much. I sang along and my voice sounded raspy and I liked it. I thought about my Holiday Crush. I thought about hating feeling stuck up here. I started to get anxious about What I’m Doing With My Life and The Next Step. But then I thought about my mom, and felt an unfamiliar a sense of calm. I realized that right now I’m exactly where I need to be.


a love poem

I stand in the natural food section looking at chocolate. I don’t really know anything about chocolate, but I’m trying to find something made from cocoa that isn’t oppressing someone somewhere. But that’s not even what I care about. Just a thought to distract me from why I am buying chocolate  at all. The one with the raspberries says it has a “love poem” inside and I decide that it’s appropriate. “Give it to someone you love..” it says.

I woke up this morning and it wasn’t a dream that faded like it should have been. My head hurt, dehydrated I suppose.

My aunt says cats are supposed know where people’s tumors are. Mom says Buddhi’s been sleeping on her neck.

I brought her what I thought could help. A big round seed and a pine cone from my house in the Brooklyn neighborhood. A feather and a bit of iridescent shell from the beach, sage Jodie gathered when she was in the desert. She said I could smudge her and I thought that was cute. I fought back tears as she held the sage to her nose. 

I told her not to start treatment over christmas. Wait a week I said, it’s just one week.

We have the same hands. Her soft perfect warm neck. I don’t want to have to wonder how much more time I have with her. I don’t want them to put that toxic shit in her blood. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Kevin got me a travel coffee mug from the thrift store and Emiline has been feeding and watching movies with me.

I’ve had this headache for three days straight. I guess I haven’t been drinking enough water to replace what I’ve been crying out. No matter where my mind circles and races, it comes to the same conclusion. And I am angry and helpless.

Lindsey stood beside me sitting at the kitchen table. Smashed my face into her new puffy jacket with Pepper in her other arm. Her boney hip and belt buckle dug into my shoulder as I sobbed. She said she felt nauseous.

I saw Jodie walking down Spenard in a skirt and no gloves, carrying her sewing machine. I stopped to see if she needed a ride, but the sew ‘n vac was only a block away. She took me into her arms like she always does. I looked into her loving eyes but I couldn’t tell her.

It snowed lastnight. Soft and quiet. It’s snowed so infrequently this winter that each time feels like the first time.


trans day of remembrance prayer

Trans and genderqueer folks are an irreplaceable part of our communities. Those individuals we seek to honor tonight, who have had their lives taken from them, teach us how far we are from goals of living in an environment where personal safety is not dependent on one’s gender identity. We make progress when we open our hearts and listen. Tonight we are opening our hearts. I am so thankful that we have the ability and agency to do so. In the face of these unspeakable truths, truths that must be spoken, we must do our best to understand and love one another.


grandpa’s in the bay

We were all there on the boat in July. In the waters of Silver Bay. It had been years since I had set foot on a boat. Grandpa and my dad used to take me halibut fishing out in that bay.

I was afraid to be sea-sick. Grandma’s eyes were wet and everyone talked quiet and respectful. I held her arm in mine as we bounced and swayed out of the harbor. The breeze was warm inside, and out on the deck the air was clear. As we sped over the waves my stomach flopped and I only panicked for a moment. The captain pointed to the whale spouts and the kids and I all asked to follow it.

Out on the deck the wind blew my little flower printed dress wildly. I forgot to be scared of the water and closed my eyes holding the railing. I could feel the whole world melting around me. There was only this moment. Only the whales and the otters and the seals and Grandma and Grandpa in his tin. Only the wide sky and only the islands and sea birds and glitter on the waves. Being on the water was amazing and I didn’t cry, I laughed and laughed and something unlocked in my heart. Something weary and heavy lifted into the sky.

The captain steered us into Grandpa’s favorite fishing cove far far from the harbor. The engine cut and we floated, silent except for the wet waves lapping. The water was so dark and the cedars on the shores and cliffs were so dark and lush and green. Grandma said a prayer. Each of the three children scooped a little of Grandpa from the tin and let it into the ocean. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. They saved a little of Grandpa in an altoid tin for me to put into a locket. Grandma sniffled and mom ‘s eyes were red. My hot tears were overwhelming, but it was because it was so beautiful.

When we had soaked up enough of the moment the captain started the engine. He slowly turned the boat back towards Sitka. Suddenly I remembered Grandpa’s laugh. In my heart I could hear him just laughing and laughing. He was so happy we put him in the sea.


nina

Nina defied death. I guess I should say defies because to my knowledge, she’s still kicking. She was a reckless, spirited genius, a gorgeous alcoholic.

I had been in Portland for almost two months exactly. My roommate, Stacy and I had driven down the Alcan in August, two days after my twenty-first birthday. We were staying on our friends’ couch, a couple from Alaska, ’til we found a place of our own. Two dogs, one cat, six bikes and four people in a single bedroom on Division. Stacy and I didn’t know much about the bar scene in Portland so we spent the summer nights biking back and forth between the two closest bars: the one with 75 cent “buckets” of PBR and the lesbian bar, The Egyptian Room. Sometimes on our way home we’d drunkenly circle around and around the roses of Ladd’s Addition, losing ourselves in the maze. We thought it was romantic. Its beauty, its novelty, was not lost on us.

We ended our nights at The E Room a lot. They had fairly cheap drinks and “we didn’t have to worry about guys”. Whatever that means. I was straight then. Not like I identified as straight really, but in my head the thought of touching someone else’s vagina kinda grossed me out. I remember we’d sit at the bar and I’d be anxious that all these lesbians could smell it on me that I wasn’t one of them, they’d make fun of me, or worse maybe they’d hit on me.

So on Halloween night we had been given tickets to an employee party at The Montage. It was a great party. Free drinks, flame throwers and other performances, lot’s of people. But we didn’t know anyone and everyone was in masks besides. We decided we wanted to go somewhere more familiar and took a cab to The E Room. After we got our drinks I went to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror I decided I didn’t feel comfortable in my costume (“heterosexism”- I was dressed butch with a black eye). I washed the gel out of my hair and the make-up off of my face and then dried my hair with the electric hand dryer. When I came out of the bathroom Stacy was pissed. She was upset that I had taken my costume off because she still had hers on (she was a Greek goddess). I tried to explain to her that my costume didn’t match my gender presentation like hers did and that I wasn’t being a poor sport I had just been wearing it all day, even at school. It didn’t matter, she ended up leaving me at the bar. I was hurt that she left me, but I wasn’t going home early, not on Halloween.

By the time last call came I was pretty drunk. I asked someone for a cigarette and went outside. After a few drags I remembered that I didn’t smoke anymore and held out the cigarette asking who wanted it. A tall woman with a skate board raised her hand and trotted over to get it. She said her name was Nina. The man she had been talking to followed her over to me. We chatted for a bit until the man said he had to get up early and walked off. He had been covered in blue yarn. When I asked what he was she wrapped her arm around him and proclaimed proudly, “He’s Tangled Up In Blue! It’s genius right? He didn’t have a costume when I picked him up!” It was good, I had to admit.

So Nina and I were standing alone watching the other drunk people stumble out of the closing bar. I can’t for the life of me remember how it happened but suddenly we started making out there on the sidewalk. I remember standing with my fingers hooked in her jean pockets, eyes closed thinking: this is weird, this is different, this is what it feels like to kiss a guy. I had made out with girls before, I had even had sex with women. But it wasn’t like this. I hadn’t felt desire or passion or pleasure, not until this moment. She pulled away from me, her eyes were green like mine. “I gotta go” she said. And she skateboarded off into the night.

I stood there stunned. What the fuck just happened? The bar was closed so I made my way home. I walked down the middle of Clinton St. because I was afraid of the unlit sidewalks. It was like someone had just unlocked some secret part of me. I just kept gasping aloud, “I’m gay…? I’m…gay. Oh my god, I’m gay!?”

Halloween had been on a Wednesday, so that Friday I went back to the E Room hoping I’d run into Nina again. To my surprise she was there playing pool with some people. I was nervous, but I walked over and said hello. She seemed glad to see me. I assumed the people she was with were her friends, but when they weren’t paying attention she pulled me into the bathroom and told me that they had followed her there from some sports bar. She asked me pretend we were going home together so the aggressive bull dyke would stop trying to get in her pants. I was happy to play the part. But then as we were plotting, the scary dyke burst into the bathroom angrily and got up in my face “Are you taking Nina home tonight???” she snarled. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do, I had only been a dyke for like two days. Nina grabbed my hand and said “Yeah, she is.” The scary dyke huffed out of the bathroom and Nina and I grabbed our things at the table and bolted for the door tripping over our stuff and laughing. We ran to my car and I gave her a ride home. She told me she had a crush on me and we made out again. She said she wanted to take me on a date. I was elated. I was gay. The world suddenly made sense.

Nina was not the kind of woman I would ever date now, but how could I have known my type? She was intensely beautiful. Dark hair in some weird freak haircut I can’t even explain because it won’t sound hot, and it was. She had piercing green eyes, not just because they were beautiful, but because she had this way of looking at you like she knew the secret of the universe and was just waiting for you to hurry up and realize it too. Her body was tall and medium sized, but she had a good hand full of ass. A very nice ass. She was a poet, a lyricist. She would take me to open mics where she would animatedly rattle off pieces about the cops or peace or fucking or abuse. None of them were about me. Actually, I’m pretty sure I was just a place holder. Someone to get drunk and go on adventures with. She would grab me by the waist and kiss me obviously on the MAX. She would shout at anyone who didn’t approve. She was always picking fights, stealing, and dropping her bottle of whiskey out from underneath her jacket at the wrong moments. But the bus drivers, the bartenders, the strangers, no one cared. It was like she was immune to getting in real trouble. I enjoyed being her sidekick. I fought the urge to tell her I loved her.

One night at an open mic at a dive in Northwest we got kicked out. Her for leaving empty liquor bottles under her seat, me for writing “N, YOU ARE THE HOTTEST BITCH EVER! LOVE, J” in a bathroom stall. I didn’t tell her it was the first time I had been kicked out of a bar. It was probably just her first time that week.

I also hadn’t told her that I had never dated a woman before. She was actually the perfect first woman to go gay for. The sex was like training wheels because she was always so wasted that if I messed up or didn’t know what to do she wouldn’t remember it in the morning. Still, I don’t know how she didn’t pick up on it. I remember the first time we had sex. It was the first time I had made a woman come, or seen a woman come for that matter. I remember being breathless. I told her that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She must have thought it was just flattering pillow talk. We had been sleeping together nearly a month when I confessed that she was my first. She was weirded out and if things hadn’t started to fizzle between us, they definitely did after that.

Eventually I got tired of dealing with her drinking. Our dates weren’t fun anymore, it was just me babysitting a twenty-eight year old drunk. Trying not to get kicked off the bus before we got home, trying to avoid her puking on my carpet, making sure she didn’t sleep through her alarm and get written up at work again. Plus I had developed crushes on two of my classmates who I had more things in common with anyway. I stopped calling her on the weeknights, she stopped calling on the weekends. Our last date was seeing Tori Amos at the Schnitzer. We ran into one of my crushes from school and she could tell I liked them.

After that night she just kind of disappeared. I saw her a year or so later and we exchanged numbers. We talked about getting a drink together sometime. I wanted to sleep with her again out of nostalgia, but we never did end up getting that drink.


winter is taming me

Snow is clear. But on days like this it washes out everything beyond the block you’re on and I am suddenly content that there is nothing more than this.

I like it when I go to the yarn store and the yarn ladies follow me around asking if they can help me every five minutes like I am going to run out with arm loads of wool blends under my jacket.

I like that my boss is out of town for the next few weeks and I can knit all day at work without fear of being caught.

I like it when my friend George’s accent changes depending on if he’s out with friends or working at his father’s taco cart.

I like my secret plan to steal his girlfriend and make her gay even though it’s not very nice of me.

I like my dog’s bored sighs that fog the window she gazes out of when we run errands.

I like that I am plagued by this wild inspiration that only seems to rush around inside of me while I’m driving so I have to scratch frantic notes or I’ll forget it all. And why is it that my memory lets certain things slip but others I remember so vividly? Like that time I was fucking Little Bird and a cut was stinging on my hand or Friend’s mouth on my palm.

I liked discovering the Womyn’s Dance downtown. I remember thinking that I should go every month and then hearing that the next one wasn’t until April of next year.

I like it when my therapist asks me why I have to go all the way to Fairbanks in order to teach myself to play music and I have to sheepishly admit that maybe it has something to do with my crush on Friend.

I like that I frantically tried to write really intense poems about my abusive ex trying to publicly embarrass me last weekend. But now I am content with these few lines here.

I like this tiny handmade book that Kevin found on the ground that goes like this:

5. Bat’s are more interesting than spiders.
9. Bats are the most useful to farmers.
1. Seeing a bat is a lucky sign.
13. Bats look funny hanging upside down.
7. A bat would make a fun pet.
17. Bat caves are spooky.
16. Bats should live far away from people.
8. Bats are ugly.

The snow flurries on the road make me feel like I am home. The wind pushes at the car and the lanes have disappeared but I am calm and handle the road like no time has passed at all.


friends become our chosen family

My mother had a little wooden plaque that hung in kitchen windows and hallways wherever we lived that said this: Friends Become Our Chosen Family.

Some of us don’t know what family means in that Hallmark sort of way. Some of us don’t know what it means to have fathers. Some of us are distanced from our families by religion or beliefs or space or time or death or abuse.

We want so badly to comfort each other in the face of such challenges. And we do, even though sometimes we don’t know how. Sometimes we say the really bad wrong thing at the wrong time. But we know we mean well. We forgive each other and we work on our shit. Because we know the power of communication and messy love is what saves us. We loan each other spare parts to build patch-work Macgyver kinda shit out of our hearts. We know how one another really feels about the world. And when we are apart we send each other hope in the mail.

A family’s function is to promote survival. Together we are surviving. And even though we don’t always feel it all the time, we are thriving.