Category Archives: tough girls

the burning clock of time.

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I was just sitting on the couch crying at long island medium on netflix, of all things. crying for the simple reason that in every episode, the running theme in what the dead are trying to communicate to their living loved ones is: don’t feel guilty. don’t feel like you could have done more. you did all you could. our beloved dead, they just want us to be happy. I could have used that message a long time ago, but here it is, now. I suppose I will need it again, soon enough.

last week I saw n. for the first time in a decade, really. she’s one of my good friends from high school. we’d lost touch because she was in a supreme downward spiral. she pushed everyone away & then disappeared. I had no idea what happened to her, and her birth name is a very common one, so she’s hard to track on the internet. but then last spring we ran into each other on the street in Oakland. she lives in santa cruz, not far from here, and last weekend I was down there & I gave her a call. she picked me up & we drove to the beach, trying to encapsulate the past decade when there was so much to say.

I said, “I thought you were dead.” she says, “I really did almost die,” and then told me how she came to live. she is healthier than i’d ever seen her. we saw people swimming in the ocean and we decided to go. to the nude beach, because we didn’t have bathing suits. the pacific ocean, in October. I haven’t been in this body of water yet, it’s too cold up where I live. it was kind of too cold then, but the water helped us focus. I put my head under and let out an involuntary yelp and she laughed so hard. it was sunny and here we are, this girl I love so much, who I honestly thought was gone forever, I mean even when I saw her she acted like a ghost, it was impossible to talk, she wasn’t even there. and now she is here, and I am here, and we were there, and I got salt on my face like I was craving, and we were so cold but we didn’t mind, every nerve in our skin firing, the discomfort reminding us that we are still alive.

farewell, bikey. 1998-2013.

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here is a shitty picture of me and a good picture of you, at the beginning of our biggest adventure yet–crossing state lines, living in the woods, really going somewhere. but that was in 2010. let’s start at the beginning.

my dad got you for me when i was sixteen, which was sweet of him, but i didn’t ride bikes then because i smoked too much and worked too much. my town had too many hills. i could walk to work. i could make it back up the hill on foot but not on bike. so i let you languish in the garage for two years. when i was 18 i had a change of heart. realized that one could bike everywhere. that shitty winter, you showed me the magic and fun that could be had on long island. we biked through the drive-thru and all the mcdonald’s employees laughed. i took you on the LIRR, every day, three stops, to a town seven miles away. the conductor always talked to me because of you, and didn’t take my ticket.

i got kicked out. left my family behind and moved to memphis. for the first time in my life i lived in a city. i got pretty much everywhere i needed to go with you. i’ve never known how to drive, always been dependent on other people or public transit. but with you i slogged through the humid heat, in the bike-hating south. my co-workers called you my cadillac, and i smiled and said you were better than one.

i fled back north, to philly. your tire blew out the same time the towers were getting hit a hundred miles north. i pushed you home in a crowd of weeping, panicking philadelphians. i’d spent my last dollar that day. waiting for a sketchy check to get cashed. i tried so hard to repair that hole with no money. patches, duct tape, friends’ old tubes. it just would not work. i got my money and spent $15 getting someone else to fix your flat & felt so stupid. eventually i learned how to change tubes, patch flats.

you were my favorite for so long. so many good times, too many to list here. sharon and i ran a red light to beat that snarling motorcycle and laughed in his face. amanda and i decided we were going to be social. we went to a party despite the snow but the most fun part of the evening was biking by the river singing “parentheses” by the blow. or when we rode around the whole city with aaryn and branden. i know these memories are mostly good because of the people in them, but you were there too.

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you were crappy, ornery, after tens of thousands of miles, too many lousy fixes by people who didn’t quite know what they were doing (mostly me). when i brought you into the fancy bike shop to get tuned up before our big journey, the mechanic called me at work to yell, “i can’t fix this thing. you shouldn’t be riding this. i can’t believe you haven’t gotten killed yet! you’ll never make it to DC, never.” i got my ex to pick it up for me and drop it off at a more low-end shop. got a new chain, and made it all the way to DC with only one flat tire. all the long, slow, heavy miles. we learned something then, but i’m not entirely sure what. about strength, endurance, something, maybe. i don’t know.

the years wore on. many people tried to convince me to give up on you. but i wouldn’t. then i moved to the bay area and everything went to hell with you. brakes, pedals, spokes, seat. 9 flat tires in 6 months. i bought a new back wheel because your spokes wouldn’t stop breaking. as i handed the bike guy my credit card i thought, “this thing’s gonna get stolen.” and i was right. 3 months later, it did. right out of my own backyard.

i’d promised myself, after the wheel, that i was done putting money into this shitty bike. with the amount i’d spent since moving i could’ve bought a new, infinitely nicer bike. i would borrow my housemates’ bikes when you weren’t functioning & i’d get jealous. i’d fantasize about getting a new bike, one that wasn’t so old, so heavy; one that would let me fly. remember how we used to fly?

i guess it makes sense. you were so much a part of my youth and i guess i just don’t feel young anymore. like wild dance parties will never again be a part of my regular life. like biking down the street isn’t an adventure anymore, now it’s just what i do. now it’s just how i live. now you’re in the basement and i won’t ride you again. the last time i rode you was fun, sleep-deprived, heading home from a good show. i guess you (usually) never know when something’s gonna be the end. whitney houston and jawbreaker shuffling on my headphones. i don’t remember too much about this particular ride, just that we were happy.

if there’s a moral to this story, then i wish you’d show me.

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today i was walking to the berkeley library from BART. i was sniffling down shattuck, sick and grumpy but glad to be out of the house & in the sunshine. i heard a little girl’s voice say plaintively, “daddy, why do you keep hurting me?” followed the sound to a red-faced crying girl of about 4, holding her mouth as though she’d just been hit there. she was walking next to a boy who looked about a year older, and they were trailing a man who was eating ice cream and walking quickly. “you’re clumsy,” he said, as though he were trying to convince himself. “you just fell.”

i started feeling upset. wondered if i should intervene but really what can you do? i have worked for child protective services and i would recommend never, ever getting them involved if you can help it at all. nothing but fucked-up horror stories everywhere, ruined lives and trauma compounded upon trauma. i turned back and openly stared at the dude, hoping that i could at least shame him into acting like less of a raging douchebag in public and maybe get him to think about his actions a tiny bit. he looked back at me and our eyes met. i was projecting you are a piece of fucking shit at him so hard. the look in his eyes said, i don’t fucking care. he was about my age, white, tattooed but it was hard to tell if he was punk or just into tattoos. good looking but not devastatingly so. you could tell that women loved him and he treated them like shit and got away with it because of these good looks; it made me hate him even more. i went to the library and cried in the bathroom, which made a difference in no one’s life and changed nothing. i am getting good at managing the rage and powerlessness i feel towards the sadnesses of the world, but sometimes they flare up so hard.

it reminded me of an incident i haven’t thought of since around the time it happened, about five years ago. i was at 23rd & 8th in manhattan, waiting for emily in front of burritoville. i saw a girl who was probably 12, with her brother who was probably 9, screaming at some sort of father figure who was stomping down the street. i can’t remember the exact details too well, but i remember the resignation in her voice, how she sounded so old. he completely took off, just left these two children on a street corner in manhattan, and she was chasing after him but then she stopped. she turned back and looked at me and i knew–in the way that women are so psychic sometimes with each other, in the way that strangers in new york city share connections in ways that are so meaningful and so real even though you know you’ll never see them again–that we recognized a certain pain in each other. and i wanted to say something to her so badly but i absolutely, in that moment, could not think of what.

now if i had to do that moment over again, i would go up to her and say, “hey!” in that way that grabs peoples’ attention. i would meet her eyes, kneeling if i had to (i’m really tall) and say to her, “listen to me. your life will not always be as bad as it is now. you need to stay strong, grow up, and get away.”

maybe you think i am presumptuous? maybe you think that i am crazy? well you can think that all you want. either you get it or you don’t; either you connect with people that way or you don’t.*  if you don’t get it there’s no way for me to explain to you but if you know what i am talking about then you know it so fiercely. of course i don’t know if her life will ever get any better. it certainly could get a lot worse, and while i agree with many of the “it gets better” critiques, i would like to say that i never would have made it out if there wasn’t a voice deep in me saying what i wanted to say to that girl. and i wanted to say it because i am worried that she didn’t have that voice and maybe she needed to borrow mine. and although life as an adult has certainly not been easy, i’d take it any day compared to the powerlessness of being a child. to the daily torment of being a hated child.

in other news (or at least, the other news that i’m willing to talk about here): i have been reading lots of books but finishing none, pondering getting my MSW and/or learning how to drive, listening to one jawbreaker song on almost sickening repeat (it’s “sluttering” if you were wondering) and it’s been oddly healing some residual sludge in my psyche, reading some truly great blogz (current faves: humans, humans and queerfatfemme–check the links bar to yr right if you wanna! they’re both there!) and getting inspired, fretting about my books, and not sleeping enough. goodnight.

 

 

*isn’t it sad that i still feel the need to address potential enemies & frenemies? such are the perils of a public blog, i suppose.

you said the past won’t rest until we jump the fence, until we leave it behind.

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before i start! a VERY SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! i have long since suspected that haterz were reading this blog, but figured that i was just being paranoid. sadly, i was not. to those of you who read this blog to, i don’t know, confirm how much i suck and what an awful person i am, i am asking you politely to stop torturing yourself & stop reading this blog. i understand the urge to read annoying blogs–i’ve certainly done my fair share of it. but, i am just a human being. this blog is a chronicle of my heart and brain. i love with an open heart and i do so imperfectly. i need somewhere to write about it & i don’t appreciate yinz violating my safe space. in summation (in case you did not want to read all that:)  if you hate me, hate my writing, and hate my blog–DON’T READ IT!

anyway. what did i do this past week? oh, just packed up my whole apartment, said goodbye to most of the people i love, and rode a bus for over 2,500 miles. the last time i rode the bus across the country was utterly miserable, but this time wasn’t so bad. thanks to my pills and my pillow. i have seriously never traveled with a full-size pillow before. i don’t know why, i guess it just seemed ridiculously frou-frou, but it made a gigantic difference.

my last week in pittsburgh i was numb. couldn’t comprehend that this was really happening. felt like someone else’s life. got such an outpouring of love from people, it was really inspiring. everyone kept saying, “you know this will always be your home,” which meant so much to me. i had issues with “home” my whole life before i got here–living in unsafe homes, getting kicked out of homes, etc. and that’s why i loved it so, because it really was home, and i think it always will be.

missing the girl with the dichromatic eyes peering lovingly into mine. so much. it was a lot harder than i thought it would be, leaving her behind. it was hard leaving everyone, but it didn’t feel quite as tragic. felt like, oh of course i’ll see you again. and we can just talk and laugh and it’ll be like i never left.

on my last day in my apartment, i laid on the empty living room floor. i remembered laying on my empty bedroom floor of my first apartment in pittsburgh, waiting for a. and the moving van to get there, wondering what was to come. and i laid on my floor this time, knowing. it was an interesting set of bookends.

on the bus, i befriended a family that was also moving to oakland via greyhound. they were from west virginia, so they traveled almost as far as i did. a mom and two middle school aged kids. they were so sweet and welcoming. the 14 year old girl took a shine to me, and we sat on the floor of the salt lake city bus terminal and she told me of her middle school woes. at one point she said, “you’re the only person i can talk to!” which was sweet and sad. i tried to give her advice about how middle and high school isn’t the end of the world, and how usually people who are weird in school grow up to be interesting adults. it was nice.

other than that, i slept a lot, ate over priced snack foods, had terrible luck with vending machines and my water bottles rolling away never to be found again. listened to a lot of the same music, over and over again. didn’t fret too much about where i was headed or obsess too much over what i was leaving behind. which is unusual for me. i ran around downtown st. louis for 20 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the 100+ degree temps. also i walked around columbus ohio for a few minutes in search of a mailbox, that was nice too. ate thai food in rock springs, WY of all places.

and here i am! west oakland. having a good time thus far even though i haven’t done a whole lot. i’ve hardly left the house, hardly left my room since i’ve gotten here. it’s okay, i need to rest.

i’m getting there.

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this is my darling friend danny & me, at pittsburgh’s dyke/trans march on saturday.

i made this sign in a burst of inspiration on my living room floor. amanda was on the couch and buggey was on the floor with me. these are amanda’s stamps. they were  a christmas present gone awry. when she opened them, she was shocked at their size. but they’ve come in handy many times since then. the font is called “center of attention”. & isn’t that what i sometimes want to be?

i love this sign. i love this day. i’ve come so far from last year’s march. last year my sign was negative and angry. i was negative and angry and about to go through hell, already going through hell.

this year i was surrounded with so much love. laid in the grass with a bunch of rad ladies, for hours, and talked about important things. it was one of those days when i realized i was really gonna miss pgh. just this act of laying in the grass, talking. half people i’m close with, half virtual strangers. still, we can tell stories to each other. we can talk honestly. we can inspire and do all sorts of good things.

this harsh year has taught me how to love myself. taught me strength and perserverance. i don’t want to go through that again. but, i can’t deny i’ve learned a lot.

i know it’s not over. things are still hard. i am still crazy, and getting crazier by the day. the world wants to punish me for being dykey and genderweird and outlandish. i’m not so shy any more, but it flares up during the most inconvenient moments.

after the long talk, i took m. to dinner at the indian restaurant. she got an awful text and sobbed. i held her in my arms on the street, and then we went to a community garden and lay in the grass. we held each other. i was laying 2″ from a piece of dog shit, but i didn’t notice until m. put her hand in it. gross! but we kept going. on the 31st street bridge, which is mostly closed to cars these days, i took the street and she took the sidewalk. i asked, “what the hell are you doing? don’t you want to be on the street?” because we’d just talked about how great the 31st street bridge is now, in its car-free form. she screeched to a halt, hopped on the metal divider between the sidewalk and the bridge, pulled her bike over her head and heaved onto the bridge. we laughed hysterically, despite everything. despite everything.

all the arms we need!

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laying in bed with my girlfriend i run my fingertips down her arms. her bones are bumpy around her wrists. “oh, that’s because i broke this one twice and the other one three times,” she says casually. i frown at this and she breaks into a smile. “it’s okay! i mostly broke them while i was having fun!” and she’s talking excitedly about some ridiculous skateboarding accident. we are comparing feet–we both have ugly fucked-up feet. her toes are all snaggly and it’s because she broke them all, too. same thing, same luminous smile. she mostly broke them while she was having fun, so it’s okay.

and the not-so-fun bone breaks, we just don’t talk about those.

today i am sad about things that i have absolutely no control over. today i am wondering if i am just doing that classic crazy-person thing of saying, “oh, i’m fine now! i don’t need my meds!” while neglecting to remember that the reason i am fine is because i’ve been on them. wondering if i actually need them or if i just need a buffer from life. aren’t we just supposed to be sad a lot? isn’t this desire for relentless happiness so stupid and american and just generally a bad idea? doesn’t it make us bad, weak people? and don’t i not-so-secretly think i deserve to suffer?

laying in bed, my girlfriend touches my arm. i make a muscle and she whispers how sexy my strong arms are. it’s nice to have a partner who is not intimidated by my strength, both physical and emotional. who needs me to be, and stay, strong for her. my body is the strongest it’s ever been, mostly because i live up a hill. a huge one, a ridiculous one. a cliff, really, but there is a switchback road that gets one up the hill without going straight up. i’m not close with anyone who drives on a regular basis, so it’s me & my bike or me & the city steps, every day that i leave the house. i used to hate that hill so much. used to weep as i struggled up it, partially because everything made me weep when i first moved to this apartment, and partially because i just couldn’t believe that this was my life. that i gave up a sweet house on a tiny hill for this shitty apartment on this giant incline.

now i love the hill. the way the struggle makes my thighs come alive. the awe of my sweat-panted neighbors, sitting on their porch, watching me go. i love how strong it’s made me. love the way my girlfriend squeezes my muscular thighs and says that she loves them.

legacies. & it’s not that easy to pick a side….

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today as i was biking here to the library i was thinking about grandparents because i got a postcard mentioning someone’s grandma. 3/4ths of my grandparents were dead by my 2nd birthday. the only grandparent i’ve ever known was my dad’s dad, who was kind of a jerk. he died when i was 18.

some days i am worried that i am turning into him. he lived alone and was set in his ways. his house was a big pile of old newspapers, “national geographic”s and readers digest condensed books. my house is a big pile of zines and queer/feminist books and clip art and backgrounds and other stuff. i like my mess, even though (in part because) it is alienating to other people. i don’t expect anyone to understand. my grandpa was a mean person but he loved his garden & grew the most delicious stringbeans i’ve ever tasted.

he was a jerk. when i let my bad side dominate, i am a jerk too. i was thinking, “my bad side’s been in hiding for the past few months & that’s great” but then i was thinking, “is there really such a thing as a bad side?” my “bad” side is savvy, street-smart, honest, self-preserving, and tough. my “good” side is naive, silly, ridiculous and a tad lazy. when i was bad, i wasn’t all bad, and when i’m good, i’m not all good. and what is good? and am i really that good now? and was i ever really that bad? isn’t it all a matter of perception? well, duh, of course it is. but which one am i? WHICH ONE AM I?

rhythm is a dancer.

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“purple represents, brings about, and is present during radical transformation from one state of being to another. purple appears at twilight and predawn. it stands at the gate between the land of material flesh in one world and the land of the spirit or soul in another and is present in the envelope of energy that surrounds the body, usually called the ‘aura’. […] I asked a traditional Witch to tell me the qualities of purple. […] [she said,] ‘purple has always meant power, spiritual power. it’s connected to the birth and death and all kinds of transformations, and to the number seven. And it’s also a color associated with the moon. but more than anything, it means power.'” -judy grahn, another mother tongue: gay words, gay worlds [an amaaaazing book! please read!]

so. i feel a little silly being 30 and dyeing my hair purple. but you know what? i never got to be 16 when i was 16. i had a job and a lot of family burdens and i was very old back then. and having fun hair was impossible (mainly because my job wouldn’t allow it).  i’m not so old now. and then i thought that anyone who might criticize me for this probably got to be a teenager at the age-appropriate time, and to them i have nothing to say but: fuck you! i’m reclaiming my youth, now that i’m old enough to enjoy it.

anyway. i just came back from a trip down south with two of my favorite heart-friends. it was wonderful. we slept outside & made a lot of silly jokes. listened to mix cd’s and talked openly. amanda went to a wedding in durham, NC while ben & i rode our bikes all around and cooled our hot feet in a fountain. it was just perfect.

i asked them, “did you ever have good vacations with your family?” amanda had. ben & i hadn’t. family vacations, for me, were just a new place for us all to fight and be unhappy. in fact, we often fought more and were more unhappy because there was the stress of traveling. i said that this vacation we were on now felt like a good family vacation. the way they’re supposed to (& yes i know they’re a privilege and i was lucky to go on any at all, no matter how miserable). i felt relaxed and loved. got to see some new things. i messed up a few times but it was okay. nobody yelled at me, we all worked together to figure out how to make things right again. and i did the same when amanda or ben needed me to. amanda said i was the MVP of snack-sharing on the trip & i’m glad.

last night i was biking home from my sweetie’s house at 2am. i’d been wearing a miniskirt and biking around all day. it made me feel awkward, the skirt, but i wanted to wear it. but i didn’t want to give pervy guys a thrill when i rolled by on my byke. but at 2am nobody was out. i felt safe. just hiked my skirt up so i could pedal faster. i thought, “soon there will be no more feeling safe at 2am. there will be no more sweetheart. [at least not this particular one]. soon i will be on guard every second again.” but i think it’s okay. think i’ve been nurtured enough, think i’ve been safe enough, to be able to fight again. safety. i never had it before i came here. and it has changed my life. i hope i don’t forget.

super moon & mayday & love & living.

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whoa, this weekend was off the CHAIN! i don’t think i’ve ever had a day like the one i had on friday. or saturday.

friday was the mayday variety show in bloomfield. i had one of those moments, sitting in a sweaty clump surrounded by friends, watching etta and suzy on stage–suzy dressed like a beautiful & strange & ethereal tree, etta draped in christmas lights. i tried to take a picture with my phone, but of course it doesn’t capture the moment at all–suzy is a mass of blinding white light (aura?). but it was one of those moments, so safe and cozy, where i realized how desperately i will miss all this, that weird magic that i’ve only found in pittsburgh. how will i live without it, & what will happen to my heart? i don’t know. but i guess i’ll find out. i guess i’ll manage.

i read marge piercy’s poem “for two women shot to death in brookline, massachusetts” which got a good response. it was the first time i’ve read that poem aloud and not cried at the last stanza, which was good because i hate crying in public, but also a little strange. i blame the anti-depressants. & it’s a relief to take a vay-cay from being over-emotional but it’s a little strange too! anyway. the guy who went after me gave marshmallows to the audience & we all threw them at him & he tried to catch them in his mouth while jumping rope. i love that these two acts can co-exist side-by-side & i love that people cheered for us both.

afterwards there was a punk show under the bridge & people got arrested. don’t want to say anything besides that here. walking back to larryville to get my bike, i ran into j. who was fleeing a hipster bar and we drunkenly played on the playground.

the next day was the mayday parade! no time for 8 hours of sleep, just go go go! oatmeal, coffee, sunscreen. sequinned gold booty shorts. bike up that damn hill, fast, that hill that used to seem so imposing and impossible. herron ave, you ain’t no thing anymore, my thighs are practically machines now, you don’t fuckin’ scare me. made it there in time, lots of good people and fabulous costumes, gorgeously decorated umbrellas, amazing vibes. i passed this along the way:

& it was so appropriate. i felt like i was living up to the urgings of this little metal doodad chained to a random polish hill fence. & then a bbq full of delicious free food. jail solidarity meeting, we decided to head down there. i went home to change out of my booty shorts, shower, and frantically cook and bake. released prisoners need food, jail solidarity people also need food. lentils and peanutbutter oatmeal cookies.

the tone was serious at the jail but the vibes were good. we commandeered a corner, set up our food and umbrellas, making each other laugh throughout this shitty circumstance. don’t forget to bring beautiful things to ugly places.

i can’t even describe how jail solidarity was, so i won’t. all you need to know is that i accidentally brought a lady bug into the jail and felt terrible. a wild bunny visited us. we all had each others’ backs. i made so many new pals! i was there for 7 hours, some people were there for 12+. waiting until everyone gets out. nobody left behind. the day felt like it had months of activity crammed into it. like we lived and laughed and cried and raged enough for it to count for at least a month.

i crapped out before everyone got out, but i was there for the first 3, and it was so good, marching towards them twirling the umbrellas, their huge smiles at seeing us. M and P and some boy i don’t know & i were all watching the supermoon from the upper corner of the parking lot. the jail almost obscured it, but it couldn’t. it couldn’t reach that high. the eerie light made the glass-y weed-y parking lot gorgeous. M said, “i’m always going to remember this,” in a way that makes you notice. makes you look around at what’s going on, makes you aware that you’re really living it.

this little poem was propped up against the light pole when i got there. i like to think that it wasn’t one of our crew who placed it there, i like to think it was a random person who believed in words and synchronicity and strangeness. who believed in the power of little, tiny things like this. because we all know it’s the little things, right?

my friends are so smart.

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kelsey says she wants to go to one place she’s never been every month this year. i text aaryn and tell him that the song “san francisco” keeps shuffling on my ipod and i think it’s a sign, and he texts me back, “follow the signs…take the detours…it’s time for change!!!’ he’s right, of course, and not only because he’s moving back to the bay and wants me to come, too.

at work, frank starts singing, loudly and off-key, a song about loving danger and not being afraid to die. barry sighs, “this is the best place ever.” and in that moment it feels that way.

i’m feeling confessional and so i tell arthur on the phone, in a furtive whisper: “i got a britney spears cd out of the library and i’ve been dancing around my kitchen to it! i can’t stop!” he sighs, “oh, you’re such a fag!” and i brightened because he always knows exactly what to say somehow. but that happened last winter, why am i pretending it was recently? now i dance around my kitchen to rihanna. so much has changed.

lying in bed with D i tell her that i am learning how to date people without throwing my whole life away. her face brightens up. she gasps and says, “that’s SUCH a good idea!” in a way that is so adorable that i can’t help but smooch her again. but it’s a good quest, a necessary quest. being on anti-depressants and dating multiple people and knowing that i’m leaving soon helps. loving fiercely but not overwhelmingly. it’s all a balance, right?

at work again, i tell myla that my name is actually ocean–or rather, my email address does it for me, when i send her something from my personal account. i expect her to think it’s weird. she says, “oh, that’s your nickname? my nickname is egypt!’ without missing a beat.

sharon n. (who is more of a friend of a friend than a friend) said, “when in doubt, freak ’em out!” sharon k. said, years ago, perched on my toilet lid in brooklyn: “not all happiness is punishable. you have to understand that. you have to understand that!” and, oh, this is only a little, tiny bit. only a fraction of the good things that people tell me, that i am so lucky to hear. thanks.