Category Archives: l’amour

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i was doing really well until i hit my head and now things are hard & awful & hopeless again. last week i read a line in a book, talking to girls about duran duran by rob sheffield. i thought it would be stupid but it actually turned out to be pretty good. there is one line that changed my life a little bit, from a story he wrote about clipping his grandfather’s toenails, even though they bled and he thought he was hurting his grandfather. and the last line is so powerful, i’ve been repeating it aloud to myself all day: “learning, over and over again. the work of love will make you bloody, and it will make you lonely.”

how true, how true, how true. and how many times do i have to learn. and now i am both. now i am both. and the soothing voice in my head saying, “this isn’t real, not really, it’s just a reaction to that hard knock” but oh, the deeper and more real part of me knows it isn’t true. knows it can’t be. i know that this part is the true part. stephanie said yesterday that i think my life will be like this forever and that’s what is making me sad, and i’m not right, because it’s ups & downs like everything else is. but now i have no escape plan & no real hope that things are gonna be better. just this. to live out. just time to get through. somehow.

i rode all the way to the library in the hopes that my hat would be there. my hat is gone. i only had it for a month, but i loved it so much, i felt so adorable and adored in it. o’ryan gave it to me when he left. i saw him last night, and radio too, and it was sweet and warm and fun. yesterday was a really good day.

stephanie made me a quesadilla and i said, “it looks like a face!” and she said, “it looks like YOUR face, with one eye all fucked up!” so of course i had to take a picture.

we walked for a long time, through this abandoned neighborhood near our own. what a great street name!

this was a sweet, strange message in the middle of fucking nowhere.

and this cute, beautiful tile-work, in a house long abandoned, also in the middle of nowhere. it was an inspiring walk, reminding me of the good things that can pop up when you least expect them. today it’s like that hope never existed. but, you know, it does, somewhere.

i am at the library and some ESL tutor is trying to teach an old man something. she keeps saying, in slow, clear tones: “my husband is dead. my husband is dead.” the first time she said it, she laughed in a painful way. and still the man she is tutoring doesn’t understand, so she has to say it again, slowly: my husband is dead. how does she do it? how does she keep saying it.  after all, the work of love will make you bloody & it will make you lonely. we all just express it in different ways, that’s all.

how i live now.

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i brew nettle tea to help with exhaustion & fatigue. i’m doing too much & feeling both weary and exhilarated. i haven’t turned my heat on yet because even though i am fully aware that i have the money to pay a gas bill i still have a scarcity mentality going on. still this little voice in my head that says, “no! you have to hold out until thanksgiving! we can’t pay this, we can’t pay this!” i usually draw the line at when i can see my breath inside, but i crossed that line weeks ago and i still refuse to hit that switch. playing a demented game of chicken with myself. at night i tunnel into my mummy sleeping bag and squirm around my bed like a happy little larva. i sleep in the middle of my queensized bed. it seems inconceivable that i ever shared it with anyone.

all day i see people whose heat is off, not by choice. when they say it’s not possible to stay in a house without heat i don’t want to contradict them. i get to look them in the eyes and tell them that they make too much money for our program because our funding’s been cut, and the funding of everyone who is trying to help anyone has been cut. that’s my job. explain. sugar coat. smile. apologize. who the fuck am i helping? anyone?

they cry at my desk a lot. i try not to.

i got a shot of real love on friday, a beautiful hug across my desk  from a client, after a good conversation. about asking for help & how it’s hard, especially when you’re strong. but you gotta do it sometimes. you can’t do it alone. after i had all her forms filled out and we were done speaking she asked for a hug. i hesitated but then said ok, and she swept me into her arms and held me. and, oh, it was real love. REAL LOVE. i understood so much within the confines of that hug. it changed my fucking life.

i can’t remember her name.

the house is cold but i’m writing a little bit. it’s a mess but who cares. not me. so big. so much space. i oscillate between ferocious happiness leaking out of every pore & an unspeakable sadness. trying to remember that it’s better to feel things than not. better to push yourself. on september 28th i wrote something on this blog about how i knew every day that i struggled up the hill that was taking me to my neighborhood, my legs were getting stronger. november 7th and i can make it up the hill, unless i’m drunk or really tired. i fixed my bike, that helped. but some of it came from me too. don’t forget that. don’t.

what i had to do.

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at a sleepless, sad 2 a.m. this week i was re-reading an issue of make/shift magazine, which is seriously my new favorite thing. it’s like a 70’s feminist journal for the 10’s. raw, real, intense, diverse and hella queer. i read a sentence that struck me so much that i read it at least ten times before i could continue. it’s written by a person named goldie dartmouth, and it went: “she left me for someone else and it  felt like i’d been split wide open. i was like a punctured water main; i cried constantly. i couldn’t deal with the love no longer being there. when you’re a survivor, with mental health problems and an abusive family of origin, these things hurt in a particular way. the pain of having trusted and felt safe, and then having that extinguished, reverberates deep inside. with her, i felt i could finally relax for the first time in my life.  i felt safe enough to be a child–playful, vulnerable, and precious. my dream had been to stay that way.” and i thought, oh, that’s it. that’s why.

my recent breakup/move has put me in a very, very bad place mentally. the worst place i’ve been in a decade. maybe the worst place ever. in the thick of it, last tuesday, i watched the sun rise joylessly and i thought, over and over again, i’m not going to make it out. i’m not going to get through this. and throughout everything, everything, i have always had the unshakeable belief that, no matter what, i’d be able to get through it. and the loss of this hope was so terrifying. i didn’t know what to do. it looked like things were headed for the bad, the really bad, the irredeemably and irreversibly bad…

but then i had a miracle. literally, and don’t roll your fucking eyes at me. i did a chakra meditation from the amazing book urban tantra and i don’t want to talk too much about it here, but i will tell you that i felt an energy go through me so intense that my eyelids were literally vibrating against my eyeballs. i felt something bad leaving me. when i glanced at the clock, an hour had gone by, but it felt like only a few minutes. and when i got up, i was myself again. still sad & heartbroken but not this half-dead ghost. i do believe, truly, that i experienced a miracle, and that it saved my life.

last week, i searched for a picture of myself taken almost exactly ten years ago. halloween 2001, 19 years old & drunk & pissing on a car. on my face is an expression of pure glee. this was taken during one of the worst years. my first year as a teenage throwaway, marked by poverty & hunger & the genuine belief that i was a terrible person. the genuine belief that nothing was gonna get better, that i would always be this poor & drunk & crazy. but still, still, i had this capacity for joy. i wanted to find that picture to remind myself. that all is not lost. that there is still some hope.

on friday i finally found it. the expression on my face is a little more drunk/insane that i had remembered, but i still like it. i was going to hang it on my refrigerator, but then i came across my baggie of magnetic poetry and decided to hold it up with words. the first word i pulled from the bag was “survive”, and it felt so powerful in my hand. i sat there & held it for so long, then i stuck it to the left of my head. i started putting other words on the refrigerator, occasionally pulling aside one that struck me and adding it to the picture. and i harvested words, for an hour it seemed, until i had this, this message from the universe, this message from my older self to my younger one:

i’ve got visions of hope, the sky, and dry land.

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last week got a little better after i wrote that dramatic post. etta gave me a tarot card reading. the first card, which is the card that illuminates what’s going on with the whole situation, was the tower card. it made etta yell, “holy shit!” the literal meaning of that card is “expulsion from paradise.” and that’s how it feels, i guess.

i don’t know. i’ve been writing this entry in my head all week and now that i’m at the library, in front of a computer, it’s not really coming. i guess all you need to know is that i had a lot of really beautiful intense goodbyes this week. i am at my new place and it’s hard and sad but also good. so much light & so much space. slanty floors and dust that makes me choke, wobbly toilet and no bathtub. it’s the little things that hurt. the knowledge that i can’t go home again.

i found my journal from 1998 while unpacking and was struck by the compulsion to re-read it. that was the summer i cheated on my first girlfriend with an intense older woman, dumped my girlfriend to be with this other person, and then was promptly dumped by the older woman–who was a compulsively-lying alcoholic–for being “too fucked up” and having “too many problems.” it’s funny, the things i wrote to myself then, how they could apply so much to this vastly different situation thirteen years later. my jumbly handwriting, reminding myself that i am strong. wondering why i always want a partner so badly when they never make me happy. i wonder when i am going to learn–and what, exactly, i need to learn anyway.

my move, itself, was intense. lots of hard work, lots of love. at one point there was a cuddle puddle on my bed. i was in the middle, with 2 of my best friends on one side and my expartner on the other. i jokingly said, “it’s like i’m transitioning from cuddling with r. to cuddling with my friends, and you’re all cuddling with me at once so i don’t get too scared!” and everyone laughed, but there was a sadness afterwards.

i lost my voice during the move. the last 2 days with him. squeaking, growling, it hurt to talk but i kept doing it anyway because there was so much i needed to say. i realized that the last time i lost my voice was also in the throes of an intense breakup. and yesterday, 2 separate people i talked to mentioned that they’d known people who lost their voice in a breakup, or in a period of stress & extreme sadness. sounds symbolic.

that first night in my apartment, people trickled off one by one, until it was just me and amanda. late at night, my voice barely a whisper at that point. we had a moment of quiet, and i said, “i guess this is my life now.” amanda turned to me, grinning all big and wild, and said, “welcome!”

the world is my oyster, the road is my home

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i haven’t been updating because i have nothing to say worth sharing. i’m in a bad place, emotionally. i’ve been there for almost 2 weeks, but it feels like forever. i haven’t felt this bad in years and years. crying until i choke. i can’t eat. i see palindromes everywhere and i think they’re sending me a message and that message is: you’re fucked, you’re fucked, you’re fucked.

sometimes little things get through. one of my best friends wrote this amazing blog post that she said was inspired by me. and it was so good, so strong and so beautiful. another friend, who i am not super close with, heard that i was doing badly, and passed along a message for me: “tell ocean i know she’ll pull through.” he’s not the kind of person who shares empty comfort, so i knew it meant something real.

i’m leaving the house that used to be my home. 3.5 days. i never thought i’d be counting down like this. i never thought i’d want to leave so badly. i am putting a lot of faith that going to my new house and leaving behind this bad situation will be my saving grace. if that doesn’t help, well…i don’t know. this home has meant so much to me, has been so good, a real safe space like i have never had before. and it changed my life. for real. the boy i’m leaving behind there changed my life a whole lot too, even though everything is poisoned now.

it’s so stupid, when you’re with someone and things are going well, how much you take them for granted. how you think they’ll always be around, even when you’ve had people die and had people disappear before and you know that life is changeable. you think you can be crappy and they’ll forgive you. you think that you can sit on the couch and spend mediocre time. you can wait to go to paris, you can wait to meet their best friend. you have time. newsflash to everyone: YOU ACTUALLY DON’T HAVE TIME. DO IT, DO IT NOW.

but where is home?

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so. i am home now, whatever that means. spent my whole time on the road crying, obsessing, feeling as though all is lost. all is not lost. i signed a lease yesterday. i’m really leaving–not going too far, 4.3 miles away according to google maps. but i’ve been in this neighborhood for 4 years & this house for 3. so much has happened,

but i’m ready to go. ready to do what i gotta do again. ready to remember that i’m not meant for safe, for easy. today i had a potentially scary conversation with someone i’d thought of as my enemy. but it actually went really well. i love taking the power out of negative situations simply by confronting them head-on. by not being afraid.

i’m thinking about detouring my travel plans so i can go to the philly naked bike ride, but, i don’t know. i was feeling pretty excited about it but last night i had a horrible dream about philly, about being in a liquor store that was held up by a nerdy nervous white dude who made it clear that he would kill us all if we didn’t stroke his ego in the exact right way. and me & the other people being held hostage, we were able to communicate without speaking because we knew that if we didn’t, we’d all be dead. and at one point i thought, “i really wish i had never come to philly.” it all felt so real. is that a sign, or just my brain being weird? it’s so hard to tell!

i’m scared to write about good things on the internet. because usually when i write about things on the internet, they contradict themselves. i know that’s ridiculous, but it’s how my brain works. but i’m feeling good right now. hopeful. peaceful. i hope that this doesn’t become untrue, simply by virtue of me typing it.

i’ve got a lot more to say, but i forget. i’m going to new york tomorrow. thinking about oyster mushrooms, about lasagna, about concrete, about forgiveness, about love. about living in a way that honors the beloved dead, that honors every good thing i have gotten to experience. thinking about cute genderqueer legos and libraries and the ocean. thinking about cities and the past. thinking about subways, and the future.

no title for this one.

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in minneapolis, walking down the street, to my zine reading in fact, wearing a dress. two teen boys. i’m walking by them. “hey fag.” i say nothing. maybe it’s not about me, even though i’m the only one there. louder: “fag!” no response, still. “fucking faggot!” “fag!” “faggot!” “fag!” louder and louder.

i’ve been called a faggot multiple times in my life, both in a loving way and in a not-so-loving way. i am tall and androgynous. often read as a man, but i dress brightly and have a feminine walk. this means, to the world, that i am a faggot. usually getting this name hurled at me is kinda funny, maybe a little threatening. i have the get out of jail free card–womanhood! so ha ha, the joke’s on you.

except this time it wasn’t so funny. this time i could hear the real hatred in their voices. bored midwestern boys with nothing to do. why not. i walked faster. i expected to see them behind me. steeled myself for a fist. what do i do? do i say that i’m a woman. and in some ways, what does it matter.

nothing happened. i walked and went to my reading. i sat on a chair surrounded by smiling faces and read my stories to people. they clapped and cheered and you’d almost never believe that those two boys hated me. you’d almost never believe that lots of people do.

for the most part, zine tour has been going swimmingly. it’s been exhausting, exhilarating, exciting, extreme. fun & obnoxious & hilarious & heartbreaking. i’ve met pretty much nothing but nice people. i kinda wanted to go home throughout, but now i feel like i’ve really reached my groove and could travel forever.

i thought it would be easier to travel while heartbroken, because i wouldn’t want to go home. i was wrong. i still want to go home sometimes & it is compounded with remembering that i don’t really have a home right now. remembering that soon i will be moving out of the place i’ve lived in for years (my choice, but still). soon i will have to see my ex-partner and his new lover out & about. i will have to deal with his presence in my small community.

i’ve been crying a lot. in public, even (although not in front of anyone i’m staying with, thank gawd). it’s embarrassing. i can always tell when my ex is with his new lover–partially because my ex stops texting me and partially because i just KNOW. it feels awful. that is when i cry the most, that is when i can’t sleep, that is when i lie awake remembering that i was not enough. remembering what i had and feeling like i’ll never get it back, with my ex or with anyone. i know these are common things to think about when one has a breakup. i know that i am strong, independent, a survivor. i know i will probably be fine eventually & if not fine than i will probably just be able to deal with it & keep living & isn’t that the important thing. i wonder who out of our group of friends will still support me. i wonder when my ex and i will stop kissing each other hello. i wonder when he’ll stop calling me, or answer my phone calls. i wonder when it won’t be okay to hold him for more than a few seconds, to fit my face in the space between his shoulder blades at night. i wonder how i will be able to keep on going when that happens.

this is only a small part of my life. there is so much else going on. but, it dominates. it’s at the forefront. it stops me from enjoying this tour as much. people have been so sweet and helpful, regardless of whether or not they know what is going on. jami and i were sitting by the shore of lake michigan in chicago, watching the waves (are they still called waves when it’s a lake & not the ocean? i don’t know these things) crash. we were talking about astrology and i said something like, “the bad thing about arieses is that it’s easy to like us and so hard to love us,” and she held my hand, even though i wasn’t sad when i said it, even though i was just stating what i have observed from myself & other aries peeps. she held my hand & didn’t let it go, said, “loving people is hard,” and we lay there, in the sunshine, in chicago, so far away from the one that i love beyond the hardness, from the one who loves me despite my impossible aries-ness, and every other thing that’s wrong with me. it was a beautiful moment, one that gives me strength & hope, even after everything.

i’m in madison, wi

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i want a hug and a cigarette. haven’t had a hug in 24 hours and a cigarette in nearly 5 years. both feel urgent.

i’m mostly doing okay. on day 3 of zine tour but it feels like years! i had a lot of wonderful moments yesterday. today is a little bit harder, but i’m still trying. i’m tired of trying. i’m tired of pretending to be okay. tired of thinking about what i’ve lost and how it seems so impossible to get it back. no going back.

closure weekend/annotated heartbreak.

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boarding the bus to DC, i heard the bus drivers making fun of the guy a few spaces ahead of us. “damn, look at all the scars on his arms!” “he cut himself up, ugh!” “ahh, must have fallen in a pricker bush!” and then raucous, hateful laughter. i wondered if people ever say that about me.

by the magic of fate, ray wound up sitting next to this guy. he was semi-obviously trans and his arms were covered in really thick scars. meticulous. we both wanted to reach out to him. ray thought about slipping him a note that said, “i’m trans too!” with a smiley face, because ray is stealth and totally passes. while that makes his life a lot easier, it also makes him unable to nod meaningfully at strangers. (incidentally, this guy shared a “what’s up?” nod with me. a lot of you gender-nonconformers know what i’m talking about. being genderqueer sucks in so many ways, but exchanging solidarity nods with strangers can be so sweet, sometimes.)

random bus guy seemed so sad. he got off in fredrick, MD, which also seemed kind of awful. we got off the bus too, for a ten minute smoke break. we were running around the parking lot, trying to get to the train station to exchange a kiss (because ray used to pick me up at the train station here, back when he lived in maryland) and we saw random bus guy get swooped into the arms of a tough, mouthy femme. they both looked so happy! it made us both feel kind of hopeful.

and now we are in DC, for the zinefest. we bought our bus tickets as a couple and are going together as broken-up-but-still-best-friends, as he-lets-me-cry-all-over-his-chest-after-reading-this-article-which-reminded-me-a-little-too-much-of-us. as more-than-friends-less-than-partners. as heartwrenching-but-loving. (gawd, have i used enough hyphens yet?). i don’t know what to introduce him as tomorrow. ex-boyfriend? friend? sweetheart? all of these words feel wrong. but i guess that’s the least of my problems.

dc was where things started for us, in a way, and it’s where things are ending. of course, they’d started before DC, and probably will not be over when we get home. on that magical DC trip it was bone-chillingly cold, now it’s stifilingly hot. the windchill was around 10 then, the heat index is around 107 today. nearly a hundred degrees. i always fall in love with people when it’s cold out and we break up when it’s hot. why is that. he says it’s because the cold makes you want to hold people close and the heat makes you want to push them away.

but i’m ok, i’m ok. probably moving out real soon. i can’t even think about it, really. i’m going to be traveling for 19 days in august. not all in a row, of course. i’m excited & scared. i think traveling for a long stretch is easier when you’re not looking forward to going home. when yr life is at a crossroads. so here’s to the chaos! today we went to the art museum and ate delicious food at busboys & poets. we held hands and whispered at the museum and it felt okay, like just a few degrees away from normal. i’ll take it, i guess.

your heart felt good, it was dripping pitch & made of wood.

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so. last night i broke up with my live-in partner. we have been friends for over six years and partners for nearly three years. we got into an argument. he had stopped speaking or engaging with me at all about halfway through the argument, and i had stomped away but then came back. i laid down in the hammock with him and we laid there, in silence, for hours. wrapped up in each others bodies, despite the sticky heat and humidity. in the darkness we stared into each others’ eyes. he traced the contours of my face with his hand and i could tell that he was memorizing me. i could tell that he was planning on no longer having me there, an arm’s length away, a face to touch, as familiar as your own face, almost–

and at one point i squeezed my eyes shut tight, i’m sure it looked like i was holding back tears or trying to disengage from the situation. instead i was thinking about my first night in europe, in may. i was on an uncomfortable bunk on a 6-person sleeper car, heading to berlin from paris. i hadn’t slept in over 36 hours at that point but i still couldn’t sleep. i missed my sweetheart and i was acutely aware of how many thousands of miles away he was. i concentrated on the exact feeling of being in his arms, the contentment and safety, and i was able to re-create it, that exact feeling, so far away, and drifted off to sleep, happily. when i came home, that feeling was nowhere to be found. i worried that i’d left it somewhere in europe. and last night, i was concentrating on sucking it back, across the ocean, across the void. i was trying to get it back to pittsburgh, where it should be. my face scrunched, doing everything i could to remember that feeling, how i felt in his arms the night before i left. but i just couldn’t do it. i couldn’t undo it. i couldn’t bring it back.

a while later, i could hear the train whistle blowing. we live not too far from a freight train yard, and i remember at the beginning, when he was still in maryland, 250 miles away, we would talk on the phone all night. he would hear a train whistle blowing and then i’d hear one about two hours later and we’d pretend it was the same train, from his part of the country to mine. same train, same conversation. i thought about how on those phone conversations he seemed closer to me than he did right now, with my sweaty cheek on his clammy chest. i hoped that that train was bringing that feeling back. i hoped it would fly out of an open boxcar and float over us, insert itself into our bones, make his hug more sinewy & safe. but i knew it wouldn’t.