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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Open Letter Series: #7

To the concept of brunch:


First of all, well played. Forefront in the hearts and minds of hipsters lined around the block, you have become a staple. And for good reason. You don't discriminate, strictly asserting what belongs on your plates. You are the only place dense, wine-soaked Italian desserts peacefully coexist next to platters of meat and cheese, next to “You know, that one egg and sausage thing?” Chicken and waffles with a side of whatever-the-hell-that-is, or a grilled cheese sandwich with a poached egg and bacon. And you’re not all harsh and hissing consonants like breakfast. You fill my mouth so pleasantly with that deep vowel, evoking images of comfort the second you leave my lips. Spinach dip, pastries, hashbrown casserole, goat cheese and fig crackers. Plates passed from hand to hand, a gathering of friends who might otherwise be suffering quiet and lonesome hangovers.

Speaking of hangovers. Thank you for starting at a reasonable time. I know you’ve seen it. The groggy not-quite-hungover-maybe-still-drunk stumbling, the being scooped up and deposited safely at a corner booth, you bunch of fucking goobers. Or maybe a house where you keep the screen door shut and admire the flowers. Or a house where you don’t look the dog in the eyes and the carpet swallows your bare feet up to the ankles, practically.

Time for some real talk, brunch. If you didn’t intend to last for 12 hours why did you partner up with champagne? I mean mimosas. I mean just a splash of orange juice. For color. You make it so easy to get lost in the pop and sparkle, everything fuzzy around the edges like bubbles rushing to the surface, like the cheekblush of one-or-six too many. But hey. We’ve all got our dragons to slay, sometimes twice, and it’s so much nicer with a drink in hand. A plate of Not Apples passed between friends and one of these nectarines... is not like the other. She prefers the crunch while I stick to the sweet. A muddled crush of berries muddying the stemware.

What if we didn’t have thumbs? What if I could drink lying down and not drown? What if we could be Real People living our Real Lives all the time and not think twice about what anyone else might think? Congruent realities. A drunken grocery store careening. A man shows me pictures of his weed plants like a proud father. Rattles off THC content and expected yields the way a parent might recite GPAs or sports stats. A girl searches for a word and I empty out the dictionary behind my teeth. Hours dissolve into the hold-this-feeling-hostage. A trickle of conversation into sedate quiet. The realization that no morning is infinite, but we can still go back for seconds and thirds.

Brunch. For every morning you’ve saved my life, you’ve probably tried to kill me twice, but I can’t seem to hold a grudge. You make the pursuit of happiness seem so much simpler, time becoming sticky even as it gathers speed. The memories we might not remember in the morning, and I guess all of this is to say thank you. Thank you for the sustenance. For food and friends. For I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes. Sometimes love is a recliner chair and my fingers tangling astrology, spinning starscripts from the internet interface. Sometimes love is a chicken salad sandwich. Or a movie I’ve seen too many times but you humor me anyways.


But also, poached eggs on everything. Am I right?

-b

Thursday, July 7, 2016

California, I'm Coming Home

Hello dream weavers. It’s been a minute, right? Tonight I’m sitting cross-legged in the bedroom where I’ve spent the last four years, with the yellow walls, and the always open windows where That Cat can come and go, scaling the lilac bushes. In less than two months there will be a new body in this room, and I will be magically somewhere else. Everything different the way everything has been different before, but in a new way.

I will have survived a 20 hour drive with a sedated hellbeast in a silly clown car with no air conditioning. My worldly possessions: 3-5 boxes, one guitar, one longboard, as many houseplants as I can safely transport, the table my grandfather built, the blanket I don’t sleep without. Ideally. I’ll have attended two mandatory orientations, met my cohort, enrolled in a publishing internship. I’ll know my faculty’s handshakes, and the way they pronounce their vowels. Who clips their consonants, who lets their language drawl and dribble.

Today I held my graduate course catalog in my hands for the first time, and those 8 pages (printed double sided) made everything somehow real. This fall I’ll live in San Diego. I’ll go to school in San Diego. When I am lonely I’ll drive to my grandparents’ house, and sit next to the pool, and watch the sun set over a desertscape. I’ll study Queer Texts & Contexts, or the Literature of Terrorism, or Living Writers in coffee shops, and cafes and parks. Sunshine. There will be enough sunshine to make a body appreciate rain. For so long now I thought it had to be the other way around, and maybe for a while it did.

A few weeks ago, sitting with a friend sipping a Mint Thing, which is a real thing concocted from coffee ice cubes, cold brew, cream, magic and muddled mint. The red double-decker bus and the plastic tarping still erected to protect us from the cold, even though the sun was shining that day. How he told me it’s ok to want to be ok, and that’s a hard thing to learn. How a body can become addicted to anything, even tragedy. How we can all write from the rain for as long as we need to, but there’s so much more to us than that.

This last week I’ve been feeling frenetic and raw. The missing takes me by the throat while driving to work. Grocery shopping. Driving from work. Brushing my teeth. It doubles me over while I’m running. The sort of ache that wakes me up at 1am, heart racing so I beg it to stop, stop, stop, please stop and don’t know if I’m talking about the persistent beat, or the thing that causes it.

I tell my friend, who gives the best hugs and loves the color purple, I started this blog so the people I care about would know I’m still alive. The ritual of it keeping me grounded: Thursdays for processing and feelings, Sundays to document hilarious antics. The things coming out of me as true as I could allow. The voice that I discovered something I fell in love with. Reading it now, that wry self-deprecation trying so hard to mask the lonely... I love that desperate, often messy, occasionally insightful human beast. I hope you do too.

I’m leaving this here as a reminder to myself, as a reminder to you, because everything is about to be different the way everything has been different before, but in a new way. Even through the breaking, somewhere at the center of me is a smoothround stone. It is calm, and still, and perfect.

I text the wizard when I feel like I’ve tricked myself into a drowning tank, and I can’t shake the chains I locked around my own wrists and ankles. She says Make a list of the things you’re grateful for. Today I’m grateful for my sock collection, and how I’ve managed to keep them mostly matching for the better part of a year. I’m grateful for pork chops I can eat with my bare hands while sitting in traffic on a long commute. For a body that can run and jump and move, not without pain but despite it. I’m grateful for words; the places they’ve taken me and the places we’ve yet to go together. I’m grateful for That Cat, curled up sleeping so small and warm, because keeping me awake all night is exhausting work.

Here’s to the hilarious antics, and the thoughtful reflections. Soon I’ll be doing this in a new city. I hope you’ll stay with me.

Stay with me?

All my love, you bunch of creeps.


-b

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

When I was a 17 year-old college freshman, I went to a party and I drank too much.


I woke up bruised, bloody, and naked next to one of the two men who had abused my body while I was too inebriated to resist. I could have easily woken up strapped to a gurney, or not at all. My last semi-coherent memory of the night, I’m stumbling up the stairs. I’m standing in the dark entryway of the warehouse on the outskirts of town where a friend’s boyfriend practices with his band. I’m grabbing a girl I don’t know by both hands. I’m begging her to take me with her. She shakes her head. She smiles, just a little, looking sad. She leaves with her boyfriend.


After that, only flashes. Darkness, and bare skin (mine, theirs). An overwhelming desire to sleep. Laughing, and bro talk, and animal grunting sounds. Pain, but somewhere distant, my body blessedly numbed by alcohol and cold and shock.


In the morning I’ll discover the bruises. A bootheel mid-spine, the tender goose egg on the back of my skull. Thumbprints and thumbprints. A gnash of teeth around my inner thighs. Abrasions along my low back and shoulders.


In the morning I’ll retrieve my pile of clothes from a corner of the room where somebody has soaked them in beer and potentially urine. Stooping to pick them up makes my ribs scream.


In the morning I’ll find my missing purse and emptied wallet, and laugh that somebody stole the prescription bottle full of thumbtacks I had borrowed from a dormmate, likely thinking they were Adderall.


Shivering in my damp clothes, I’ll accept a ride from the man it will take me years to label “sexual assailant”. He will laugh about a wild night, and sing along to the radio, and I will make myself small and smaller in the passenger seat of his car. I will find my way back to the dorms where I will crawl into a friend’s bed without explanation, reeking of beer (and potentially urine), and cry myself back to sleep in her arms. A week later, I’ll realize he programmed his number into my phone when I get a text from “Rockstar Mike” asking if I want to “hang out again”. Those words on a screen like a kick in the stomach; a bootheel mid-spine. I block his number without replying.


This autumn marks 10 years since a 17 year-old girl was sexually assaulted by two men in their late 20s. This morning I used the word rape and felt it sink cold into the pit of my stomach. Heavy like shame. The shame that kept me from calling the cops. The shame that kept me from turning to my parents. The shame that made me block his number without replying instead of raging. Instead of telling him my age. Instead of pushing back. Instead of coming forward.


I wanted to make him sweat. I wanted to do damage. The truth is I was afraid of the backlash. 

The truth is I’m still afraid of the backlash.


This week, reading the accounts of Brock Allen Turner’s sexual violence and lenient sentencing by Judge Aaron Persky, I have felt heartsick and angry. Because entitled pieces of shit like Brock exist in the world. Because a “young man’s promising future” is valued over a woman’s emotional and physical personhood. Because victim-shaming/blaming. Because we exist in a broken and dishonest system. Because 20-25% of women will be raped during their college career, and this is only one of thousands of instances receiving media coverage. Because only 5% of attempted or completed rapes will be reported to law enforcement. Because even when we do report rape, assailants are rarely convicted or punished.


But this week, I also saw something else. I saw women getting angry. I saw women sharing their stories of abuse, from daily microaggressions to rape and survival stories. I saw men and women alike coming together to rage against the broken and dishonest system. I saw an opportunity to share my own story, hoping it will fuel the fire. Hoping it will chip away at the shame that keeps so many assault survivors bound in silence.


Rape affects the people we know and love. I repeat, rape affects the people we know and love. It is not a statistic to gloss over. It is not a dark alley aberrant behavior by a few violent offenders. It is never something the victim was "asking for". 

Each and every one of us are surrounded by rape survivors.


We can drag the Brock Allen Turners of the world through the mud (only figuratively, unfortunately). But until we begin to dismantle the system and society that created him and men like him, we will not enact real change. Until we begin to acknowledge and validate the lived experiences of women, we will not enact real change. Luckily, you can start today by signing this petition to remove Judge Aaron Persky from his ELECTED position of power. Luckily, you can share your story; join your voice to the collective until we’re too loud to be ignored. I stand in solidarity with the woman who wrote this letter. Will you stand with me?


All my love, dearhearts.


-b


P.S. Male survivors of sexual assault. I see you, I promise I do. I acknowledge you. I know you exist. I know you hurt too.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Brief & Incomplete List: #5


Things I consider exercise that probably aren’t exercise:

  1. Sitting on a yoga mat in any capacity for any amount of time. Somehow this includes napping in my backyard.
  2. Walking up and down my stairs seven times before leaving the house. Because I forgot my water bottle. And my phone. Wallet? Probably upstairs. Oh wait, no. It’s in my jacket pocket. What about the keys… definitely upstairs…. Or definitely not upstairs. Obviously they’re on the bathroom windowsill. Where did this stain come from? When did I even eat mustard last? Dammit, shirt. How dare you pretend to be clean when I was getting dressed!
  3. That thing where I’m really thirsty, but also lying flat on my back in bed, so I just kind of contract my abs enough to pick my head off the pillow while tilting my water bottle towards my face hole and hoping for the best.
  4. Walking the 0.6 miles to and from the beer airstream on Foster. Or the 0.8 miles to and from my favorite breakfast sandwich. Really just walking anywhere to consume anything. See also: thinking about walking somewhere, but then the weather looks like it could turn at any minute, so I stand on my porch deliberating for a few minutes, and end up driving even though its only a few blocks.
  5. Showering. I understand showering doesn’t require much actual exertion, but it requires an exercise-level amount of ambition.
  6. Standing on one foot.
  7. Driving with a manual transmission. Using both feet to operate a vehicle is pretty much identical to those stupid toe press machines at the gym, except I’m not paying a monthly membership fee, and I can use my “toe press machine” to get drive through tacos. Also my right arm moves a lot, which has to count for something.
  8. Thinking about exercising. See also: saying things like “I should probably go for a run”. See also: dreaming about moving my body in any capacity, including flying.
  9. Vigorous stirring.
  10. Picking up/putting down anything that weighs more than 2 pounds for any amount of time. This may or may not include moving my wet laundry from the washer to the dryer.
  11. Watching sports.
  12. Being really cold. Conversely, being really hot. I assume both shivering and sweating require a comparable amount of calories.
  13. Just, whatever. Everything. You guys, life is hard and it all requires so much effort. We're just ambulatory meat sacks animated by a constant input/output of energy, and thinking about existing too long is exhausting. Can that count as exercise? Contemplating the mundane details of living as a human being in a body. Yes.