trigger warning for BDSM, sex. take care of yourself!

 

I dreamt about you this morning. Up until recently, you were the kindest man in my life. You are doe-eyed blue, or were, and I imagine you still this way—tangled in rope, clothes cut to ribbons, skin flushed and belly arched to late afternoon. What love I had for you, and have for you still. Not a staying kind of love, as time has revealed. A ravishing love, an appreciation of your great healing powers, your gentleness, your virtuousness. It surprised me that you were angry when I broke your heart. You weathered so many of my storms that year, early 20s piss-drunk and punching concrete, talking about suicide though my whole life was ahead of me, is still ahead of me, tho I feel the ways are closing in.

Sometimes the way that I moved on and away from you makes me feel guilty, like I sucked dry from you what I needed and cast off the rest. You were a nurturer, a nourisher. Then I think of my own hands, the way  they pulled and taught your flesh, broken open to make it more whole, and I remember that I too am nurturer, nourisher, my hands those blades of the tiller that make planting possible.

I like best this thing: breaking open bodies to connection after long dry spells, letting them back to the sexual self, hand in hand from the far-off dissociation of despair and isolation. I feel like I need someone to do this for me now, and there is no-one I can trust enough with this most precious thing.

Up here, I have these mental polaroids of the things we did together, the rites I enacted with you, worship of your benign athletic flesh. You submitted to me, and it was a grace.

I’m always looking for it. Art that feels like holding up a mirror. Sometimes I seek and find. What I want most lately is art that reflects people of similar genders to mine. Maybe not the same gender, but close enough to home. But sometimes when you can’t find it you have to make it yourself, and thus begins the challenge.

I feel a little bit closer to found in Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues and Lynnee Breedlove’s Godspeed–but even then, I don’t feel like I’m reading quite what I want. These novels center on CAFAB people whose primary sexual and romantic relationships are with women (cis- and trans), and the main characters identify themselves as lesbians or dykes. In SBB there are a couple of characters who are also “he-shes” (Feinberg’s term for masculine CAFAB folks) who love men, but they are peripheral at best, and the object of some level of scorn for some of the supporting characters.

It’s hard to explain the draw that lesbian fiction has for me, despite not actually identifying as a lesbian. My primary romantic and sexual relationships are with masculine-identified folks, and ‘fag’ is a word I use to describe myself, but I have yet to find fiction that delves into non-binary gender identities and presentations the way that lesbian fiction does, and so it feels almost like being next door to home.

My favorite book of short stories is Patrick Califia’s Melting Point, which in essence is a book of pansexual/queer BDSM erotica, but also manages to be compelling from socio-political and literary standpoints, as well. The characters in this book have a variety of binary and non-binary genders, and couple in various kinky and queer ways. I also appreciate that the book actually confronts race and class dynamics in relationships, and I’ve thumbed its pages many times and owned at least 2 or 3 copies by now (maybe more!), and hope it will come back into print some day, or that I’ll find another book of short stories that my thoughtful heart and topsy-turvy libido can enjoy so fully, even with repeated visitation.

But I’m still looking for the art that imitates my life, so I guess I’ll have to make it myself. I read a good interview in the NYT magazine with Junot Díaz (author of the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) recently, and he talked about what feels like a familiar phenomenon, as a writer, needing to read in order to fuel one’s writing:

I’m old enough and experienced enough to know when I’m reading to avoid. And then you gotta get back to work. And I also know — you get old enough, you know when you’re forcing the writing, so you need to go hit the books.

Right now the problem feels like I need more of the literature I am attempting to create!

Well, time to go hit the books. Any reading about non-binary gendered or transgender characters you’d recommend?

-RD

The Zombie Thumb

08/26/2012

I had not understood love
is a kind of grief. It was your name on my tongue
cracked the shell of nightmare

-Samuel Green, from Vertebrae: Poems 1978-1994

The zombie thumb has been neatly severed
halfway from the tip again.
I call it the zombie thumb because
once it is whole again, it will wander
senseless and hungry
pitching and rolling in search of warm flesh
while skin peels back from the wound
gaping flakes rasping
against the face it longs to consume
imprint upon sensory memory
the precise scrub of your jaw
or the delicate understory of peach fuzz
that belies the dark wiry hairs at the small of your back.
Sadly, it will be years before the ability returns
and familiarity with your face may not stay the distance between.
The last time I revealed the blood moon of lipid inside
I had not even put your name to my mouth.
I was drunk, a solitary beer on an empty stomach
and the impending doom of a long term relationship crumbling,
brick after brick removed while I held my breath
not yet ready to call the finale Jenga.
I was in the kitchen with my brother
revealing the latest passive aggression
not aware that in a year I’d have pulled the curtain
same as he was telling me I ought to, then.
But how could I have known?
It took another year for the boom to become bust.
That night instead of repairing to silence I came home still bleeding
and had to break the unspoken terms of our childish disagreement
by asking him to dress the wound.
He pressed it with gauze and wound with tape
brows knitted, fingers coolly collected.
The gash ameliorated, we sank into his bed
side by side in the dark
until sometime after midnight
I threw my arm over the freckled crescent of his back
and drew us together, attempting to erase the earlier slight.
Now I have slivered the same scar
and staunched the bleeding on my own.
Tho it took the night and day to close
the watchcap flap is finally fastened
knitting itself to bed
comforted by a single bandage.
The night I gored myself I was alone, and singing
putting up a crock of sauerkraut to feed myself
tart and salt for the month
when the dull knife slipped and twinned the former injury
tho not the pomp or circumstance.
I’ve learned so much in the intervening years.
This time I tamped down tight to slow the bleeding
elevated the foreshortened digit above my heart.
And tho the throbbing in time to pulse tempted,
I swallowed not the blood-thinning aspirin nor pain-nulling narcotics.
After a few hours the pain dulled and the bleeding feathered out
enough to warrant gauze, but certainly no fountain for concern.
Experience tells me there are long months and years of healing ahead
that even after the flesh itself appears repaired from severance
years will come and go before I can
take joy in the sensation of stroking
that thumb along another jaw
tho it will search
until it finds.

haymarket affair

10/14/2011

i have taken on the task of once a week braving book mold and dust at the local anarchist bookshop, caressing spines, straightening shelves, updating the card catalogue. the books and i are developing a close relationship through dialogue. we shoot heady phrases back and forth, pantomiming understanding, attempting to clarify our mutual ethos thru that most and least adequate form, print. my brain is still digging the passage to instant recall: “where would I find Zizek?” i wander for a few moments before the obvious. just behind your left hip–literally. i am allergic to old books and so like any vice, i of course adore them. they pile up on my shelves. i’d been meaning to take you home with me when the time was right i murmur covetously, palming some long out-of-print title. it is as circular as thrift, that one reader’s cast-off is another’s paradise lost. books have singular lives all their own, soon they will pass to other caressing or careless hands, grow dogeared and yellow with age (as some of them already have) with coffee stains and ballpoint marginalia. some bear stamps to denote they were once the property of a personal or public library, their presence here at the market as sure a symbol of parting as a certificate of divorce. who marks a book theirs, anyways? it seems like evidence of dysfunction to guard a book so jealously as to emboss your name into its ivory cover page. after all, highlighted passages shine best not when shelved but out in the open, spread for others to appreciate. but haven’t i done the same in leaner years? yes, i once entombed my volumes with that telltale idolatry of my name, so as to signify: please do not dissipate my talismans too far from the shelves where they accumulate. but i’ve grown to pass these tomes off lightly, glad to know their power as they illuminate other lives, too, rather than just my selfish own.

the lending life is short, but this affair is bound to last.

como la flor

09/15/2011

I fucking love this song and it is VERY VERY CHEESY. fucking deal while I dance around the living room, daaawwwg.

***

In 1985 I am born. In 1986 when I am 9 months old, my abuela dies of cancer that has spread through her whole body. She is not yet 45 years old. My abuelita (her mother) returns to Mexico to tend to the lives of her remaining children, several more of whom she will lose to gunshots and car accidents in coming years.

Abuelita, so in love with her first great-grandchild, sends trinkets from home as demonstration. A wooden serving tray, painstakingly adorned by hand with intricate designs and golden trim. Tiny brightly embroidered delantal in floral Pure’pecha motif. Even at 3 years old I know how precious these artifacts are, and moon over them–I run my finger jealously over the carved edge of the serving tray, catching dust before it can dull the glossy finish.

Our lives are spinning with quick-changes. When my parents fight I pray to my abuela, envisioning her spectral figure as the faerie godmother from Cinderella or God, a small dark figure in a lavender cloak.

The next time I see abuelita is after my parents have separated, she accompanies my grandfather and his new wife, already with another baby on the way. I try to imagine how that must have been for her–accompanying her son-in-law with his new wife to this country, but all I can remember is her joyous face. And her blouse, zebra print inexplicably (but beautifully) adorned with roses, a kind of garishness that somehow also succeeds as lovely. We have the same smile, the one that fills the entire face, a sun, and she is instantly familiar. Did she lift me up? Spin me in the air? Que bonita! ah! que linda chulita! she exclaims. My mother teased/praised me like this even up through my teens, and I find myself saying it to babies, too–lifting my friends’ newborn daughter and in my head abuela whispers joyfully, “que linda! ah, que bonita!” so full of life, child.

After abuelita goes back to Mexico for the last time, my contact with that part of my family fades. My mother tries (and fails) to assimilate me to her European in-laws’ continental ways, but I still love the garishness of bright ethnic costumes, even those not native to my familial origins, and flaunt bright skirts and dance moves anywhere I can. In some decaying basement I find a skirt from the Baltic region my step-family hails from, and I dub it my gypsy skirt in an effort to avoid the filth of my father’s baccalaureate households after my mother tells me that “Mexicans are dirty, RD, it’s just how they are,” and I (still learning logic) internalize her prejudice.

I am surrounded by my mother and stepfather’s cultures. Y’all is the first gender-neutral pronoun I ever use (and my favorite, even now). The other denizens of my household speak, variously: English, Estonian, French, Hungarian, and German. The child’s tongue becomes agile to foreign consonants, customs, cuisines. I love biscuits, palacsinta, schnitzel, makloubeh, pico de gallo, gyoza–a palate with a diversity of sounds and flavors.

uno.  My first crush is a beautiful mestizo girl with big dark eyes and a velvety mustache, shiny black ringlettes frame her perfect face. She tells me that my people are descended from the Aztecs (she is Maya), and that I should honor them. I start reading my family history and prying at my father’s memory, as many histories as I can find (tho they all seem to favor the Spaniards as conquering heroes), trying to uncover the legacy of colonialism in our lives. Abuelita’s origins are shrouded in mystery, he knows that she is native, but not from where. Her husband was named for an Aztec king (much to the local clergy’s dismay!), but his family were Spaniards (possibly more like Southern Italian peasants who passed as Spaniards) who lost their hacienda in the war. Her origins were deemed too unimportant to document, I could never figure out if this was because she was a woman or because she was indigenous. I suspect some mixture of both, particularly from the eye of the likely white and certainly Mormon relative who wrote our family history book.

dos. My maternal grandmother with her endearing sense of Texan multiculturalism (the majority of her grandchildren are mixed of varying shades) sends me a copy of Selena’s crossover album, Dreaming of You, and a t-shirt.  I dance around my room singing in Spanish, dreaming of ____, enveloping her brown skin in a thick fragrant leather jacket like my dad’s, leading her steps with big black boots and my hair slicked back. I want to be like the Mexican James Dean. I want to open doors for her. I want to press my lips to her peach fuzz cheek.

tres. On the rare weekends that he makes the visit, my father and I practice the simplest of Spanish together, culminating in visits to Mexican restaurants, where we consume our favorite dishes (pollo en mole, arroz con pollo, posole) and practice Spanish with the waitstaff, who are kind enough to be patient. como se dice…? muchas gracias. de nada. te llamo, papi. yo soy un poco mal. por favor. es moy humide! no tienes. sabroso. On one occasion, my father fumbles for what feels like half an hour just to remember how to ask for a spoon. As a toddler he translated between abuelita and a neighbor over the backyard fence, as an adult he struggles to remember the words for things as simple as cutlery. Assimilation what?

quatro. The Spanish-English dictionary, prized garage sale addition to my bookshelf, is displaced during one move (in a series of many) and never replaced. My father displaces himself around the same time, disappears for months, weeks, sometimes over a year. Spanish becomes an intermittent concern, then a distant memory.

cinco. The year that I leave my mother’s house my closest friend dies in my absence, and I start dreaming fervently in Spanish. My abuela, long-dead, takes walks with me and __. We go barefoot on the red sand and drink tea. Her laugh is a bright flourish, a trumpet, a joyful noise. His is a tinkle, a sad noise.

ses. When I am 15 we visit Mexico for the first time that I can remember. Mi tio takes my face in his hands, he says, “you look just like her, just like Theresa.”

siete. A boy I will later love like a brother tells me, “I love how you get an accent when you’re drunk!” and I flush rhododendron red, explain about my years of speech therapy, resolve not to get drunk anymore and check my speech more carefully for the impudence of my impediments.


Debaser

08/28/2011

Going into the basement of the self.

I feel like I am in the middle of a deep and powerful therapy, but I have to be the one who asks the hard questions and gives the hard answers. Journal frantically while shutting everyone else out but for bits and spurts. Occasionally I hold out some snapshot, C. and I sit out on the porch and I tell a story but then go down, under the spell of introversion again. Slip back to the basement where it is cool and damp, my stories can filter thru the lacy frame of plants and windows.

And it feels…safe here, with the exception of how my body is unearthing all the neglect I have tolled upon it in previous weeks, months, years–coming up with all this at the same time.

Using fiction, that attentive lens, to approximate dialogues I do not trust anyone enough to have. Do not want to trust anyone else with, sifting thru the fuzz from my own asshole. That’s some introspection, yo.

This was a little bit what adolescence was like for me, a sense of having an intense inner life and very little connection to my external life. A sense that other things might exist in the future, but they were not close enough for me to really be terribly interested in them. Suddenly I wonder: if my father had not raised to me the night I left, would I ever have left at all? Yes, but it might have been by hanging rather than by the door.

I will go out of this place by the door, sword in hand. Maybe I will burn it down, too. You never know.

help me unpack.

08/02/2011

“if you come help me unpack, i’ll show you my dresses! i tried so hard to be a girl!” almost hysterical with sadness while trying to bolt it down with humor. each object is a salt mine, testament to the laborious ways i tried to perform acceptable femininity: swooping necklines and painted lips, high heels and a-line skirts. all for show, but i was trying to emphasize a body i could recognize as beautiful, but not as my own.

how will i make my self fit this body, or this body fit my self? the medical industry rolls fat checks off of people like me, cutting and stitching us back together as creatures. calls us not-men, not-women. other. i am an other, sure, but it’s…so much more than that. and oh, people always want to know if i’ll get the surgery. “what fucking difference does it make to you?” i ever-always want to ask.

i began the slow drag of transition by accident. picked up another bike and followed it, but when i looked down a year later my entire body had changed, herded into sinew and taut muscle. mine, i thought, pushing my thumb into the crescent ring that underlies my navel. mine, i thought, his mouth on my cock and my hands in his hair. mine, i thought, looking into the mirror after successfully binding my chest to almost-not-noticeable for the first time.

it feels less like performance, more like living, but i’m not sure i’ll ever want to pass for any reason other than safety’s sake.

my body: small hands and big questions.

06/17/2011

Updated.

RehearsalsDepartures does not have all the answers. RehearsalsDepartures is probably not what you were looking for. RehearsalsDepartures is an angry feminist.  RehearsalsDepartures finds joy in assertion. RehearsalsDepartures believes that the personal is political. RehearsalsDepartures is just one voice in a crowd of many. RehearsalsDepartures believes a hard rain is, indeed, a-gonna fall.