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Thursday, December 29, 2016

For the hardest mile you ever walk

There are nights I lie on my living room floor and watch the moon rise over the three palm trees in my neighbor’s backyard, and I lie there until the moon is replaced by stars, and I lie there until the cold from the concrete has numbed my hands and feet, and I lie there until that cold drives me to brew a cup of tea and wrap myself in a blanket soft and warm as water. Two years ago, I sent myself an email, typed into the subject line For the hardest mile you ever walk and in that email is a link, and it's an article about break-ups but I still read it, and it tells me:

Even though sometimes the world seems about six sizes too small for our pain, the amazing shit is that no matter how deep purple the bruise is, no matter how dark and overwhelming and miserable and worthless it all seems, the world will get a fraction of an inch bigger every day.

It isn’t pain that floors me these days; it’s something more like gravity or breathing maybe. There’s something beautiful and necessary in the stillness, in the way my body presses into the ground and the ground presses back, and the sky unfolds, predictable and clear, the way the sky should unfold.

Last week I printed 48 pages of critical and creative writing and walked to my professors’ offices, and slipped my hours of caffeine and booze-fueled rhetoric under their doors. I turned in my key and my library books and I drove to Sunset Boulevard and parked in a dirt lot overlooking the ocean. I walked as close to those sheer and unstable cliffs as I dared, even though all those signs say Caution: Sheer and Unstable Cliffs, and to be honest, as close as I dared wasn’t even that close because I hate the way my fingers feel full of electricity when I stand too close to a long drop from a high place. It was sunny, and my eyes didn’t know how to handle the bright but my legs liked the way the ground felt underneath them after all of those hours of sitting in chairs and desks, on couches and floors, lying in bed with my back propped against the headboard and my feet falling asleep folded in front of me.

Last week it rained, the sound on the roof like homesick and nostalgia. Reminded me of why I left; reminded me why I would have stayed. Some part of me has been viewing this as temporary, like I’m just play-acting at school and life until I get to go home. But it’s the end of the semester, and I’m still here because this is where I live, and it will be where I live for probably three years, unless something goes terribly awry. I’m passing through the in-between, shedding one life while the other is still raw and pink underneath, all tender around the edges where I’ll eventually grow into it.

Last week we drove through a snowstorm like travelling at warp speed, snowflakes little galaxies blurring at the periphery and I remembered growing up, the cab of my dad’s pickup truck. Gordon Lightfoot through the speakers and the heater cranked so loud the snow practically evanesced as it touched the windshield, leaving just a kiss of moisture, somehow sticky like memory, and I’m thinking about the night before. How our aunt introduced us as You remember, my nieces from Montana that I talk about all the time? and how I am so far gone from that person and description that it took a few beats to realize she was talking about me.

Today I spread the cards out on my couch, asked them What have I learned, and what do I need to know next? They said the easiest way to arrive is to know where you’re going. They said embrace the stillness, there will always be more motion. They said just because you’ve never been on this road, doesn't make it any less traveled; you still have to open your eyes to see the signs. The world feels six sizes too small. The world feels boundless, and chaotic, and unmanageable. The world feels. I feel it. Sitting on this couch. Lying on that floor. Walking along the sheer and unstable edges. Caught up in this in-between where I’m both home and 1,000 miles from it.

My heart says it’s going to be ok. Even when the gravity is too heavy to pick up my head and the texture of my words is wet ashes, and everything feels like a flattened version of itself. The world still feels. I feel it.

All my love, babies.

-b

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Final Will & Testament of Murphy S. Law (Probably)

Dear readers. I must write to you of this dark night of the soul, the icy depths of which I've been awash in since my horrific encounter with the devil himself. You'll recall my first brief and glorious sip of freedom. How the cool nectar of independence quenched the burning desires of this heart, if only for a fleeting moment. Of course the illusion of safety was shattered by a brutal assault on both body and mind. This world is a cruel place indeed, when devils such as Beelzebub strut shamelessly in the streets while innocents like myself are resigned to the torturous interior of hell.

Following the incident, mother was so distraught she presumably forgot how to navigate her way back to the domicile for some interminable time. Luckily, delicate creature that she is, she had the foresight to find a biologically similar substitute before her tenuous grip on reality shattered. This pseudo-mother shunned the established structure and rules of the household. She rose unprompted from slumber each day (before I even thought to demand she awaken), and promptly left the premises. Every day I assumed I had been abandoned, only to be shocked by her eventual return! It is worth noting, she was able to find her way back long before mother’s typical 4am. Despite her abnormal schedule, I can bear no grudge against this False Mother. My rations were provided and ears scritched with some regularity. Soon enough we fell into an uneasy parlay of sorts.

I know not to where mother went, or from whence she returned. But I do know she eventually stumbled wearily through the door, consumed everything in the refrigerator, and proceeded to become unconscious in our bed. Alarmed, I joined her in repose, situating my face near enough hers to feel the comforting warmth of each shallow exhalation. Finally, a modicum of order!

I don’t mean to be melodramatic. But as of yet, neither of us suspected the insidious contaminant festering vilely beneath my skin.

Following mother’s return I drifted along in a liminal daze. I floated ephemerally from couch to food dish, from bed to sun mat. I passed in and out of consciousness, marking the passage of time by the sun’s daily mechanical drift past the window. I began to suspect something was amiss. Fatigue tangled its greedy fingers into the very core of me. Though weeks had passed, I still felt that fiend Beelzebub’s hatred coursing through my veins, as if it meant to ignite my soul.

Trying to convince mother
nothing was amiss within my health
or disposition.
One morning I awoke in my cat tree (where I was born. My sanctuary, the only true home I've ever had) to find mother poised above me, poking at me with one of her bony primate fingers. “Have you always looked like that?” she questioned, turning her head skeptically from side to side. She was referring, of course, to the physical manifestation of Beelzebub’s demonic spite: the pus-filled, putrefying flesh of my flank. Afraid any signs of distress might trigger in mother another psychological break, I displayed nothing but stoic placidity. Each jab rippled with fiery agony, but I gritted my teeth and endured for her sake. Placated by my seeming lack of distress, mother concluded I was “really packing on the pounds,” and our lives resumed their peaceful predictability.

Oh, but friends! Even the strongest willpower cannot override the weakness of the flesh!

The faulty machinery of my body finally failed me nearly a moon after my hellish encounter. Febrile, unable to tolerate the agony of mother’s touch, I lolled helplessly on the couch as she examined my swollen flank. Unable to protest, I was subjected to nearly an hour of her ineffectual simpering. She showered me in worthless apologies. She paced, weeping and mashing her stupid paws on the electronic brick she carries to comfort herself in times of great distress. Finally, having reached some sort of unspoken resolve, the greatest betrayal: she pried apart my clenched jaws to force one of her paralytic capsules down my throat.

In the waiting room of my tormentors.
The ensuing hours are a chaotic nightmare. Once mother was able to gather her wits, I was subjected to the indignity of the so-called “cat purse.” Thus enmeshed, we raced in the rumbling belly of the metal beast to a horror show of unprecedented ilk. There strangers weighed and prodded me like a delectable Christmas ham. The one redeeming quality was the interlopers’ continuous stream of compliments, though I was already well aware of my unchallenged status as “the prettiest kitty in the whole wide world.” I will spare you the details of what happened next. Suffice it to say, though my limbs were paralyzed by mother’s poison, the force of my vocalized rage shook the very rafters of that torture chamber.

At the end of their ministrations I willingly dragged myself into the cat purse, grateful for the thin barrier of mesh between my body and my tormentors.

One unexpected side effect of this ordeal: I appear to have purged myself of Beelzebub’s toxins. I can only suppose that the pure, shimmering fire of my fury incinerated the impurities in my body. Mother, however, seems to have been influenced by the sadism of my torturers. Since that fateful day she has been determined to make my life a waking hell. Every morning she plies me with “antibiotics,” a capsule with no notable effect other than my discomfort in their administration. Additionally, she continues to prod and poke at the sight of my gravest wound. She subjects me to what she has deemed “ouchy peroxide” and “nice, warm, compresses. Mmmm, see how nice?” No, mother. Not nice. Not nice at all.

I do not know how much longer I can withstand these small, daily indignities. I feel my willpower being sapped away, even as the last dregs of pain medication filter through my system. In an attempt to break the treacherous chains that bind my weak-willed mother, I have taken to singing her praises. Day in and day out, I confront her with my soulful cries, urging her to reconsider this pact with the devil. This seems only to aggravate the spirits of darkness running rampant within her. Often, these last few days, she interrupts my song by yelling in my face such vulgar phrases as “WHAAAAT?! What do you WAAAAANT? I don’t know why you’re YELLLLLYIIIIING at me!”

Regardless of what breaks first, my own spirit or the malevolent forces entangling my mother’s feeble human mind, I rejoice in the opportunity to share my trials and tribulations with the world. As I recline in my cat tower (the only stable thing in this ever-shifting kaleidoscope of experience and emotion), it is my sincere hope that good will triumph over evil. Furthermore, I can only dedicate my own banal existence to the empowerment of future generations. If there was one lesson I’ve learned from this ordeal, it’s that freedom is worth risking the sulphuric bite of Hell’s tongue, so long as you make it out alive. Your body (and mother’s credit card) can certainly handle the repercussions. Should I succumb to the temptation of death in light of mother’s most recent madness, know that I lived every moment to its fullest. Especially the ones where I was screaming into the darkness for no apparent reason at 2am.

Be well, my people. Be well.

Murphy S. Law (by cooperation of her stenographer, b)



Here I contemplate my imminent demise, and urge you all
to be strong in the wake of my passing, 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hold your head up, oh Hold your head high.

The first time I watched V for Vendetta I was 17 years old. I was on my very first Real Adult Roadtrip, driving to Seattle for a Melissa Ferrick concert with my new college friends. We were staying with a friend of theirs in the city, and after a few PBRs everybody had stumbled off to their respective sleeping spaces, leaving me wide awake and alone in a stranger’s living room.

That stranger’s parting words to me had thankfully been a tutorial on working her DVD player. So there I huddled, cross-legged on her floor, watching a movie whose title caught my eye because an English teacher I admire had once proclaimed it the greatest film ever made. In that sleeping house I kept the volume low and sat too-close to the screen so I could hear every word. When I got to Valerie’s letter, I cried. I cried quietly and for a long time. I cried because I had recognized a deep, unacknowledged desire wrapped around the core of me. I cried because I was also immediately confronted with the hatred and violence that desire could inspire.

I have lived the past 10 years of my life as an Out and Proud lesbian. I realize how much privilege I am exercising when I write that sentence. I am able to write this as a white, cisgender, able-bodied lesbian who spent the last five years in Portland, Oregon. I have lived in geographic locations, and in a body, where my orientation might not always be lauded, but it’s always been tolerated. I've marched in parades, and held hands with my partners walking down streets and streets and streets. I've kissed in cafes, and coffee shops, and theaters, and bars. I stood on the steps of the Supreme Court the morning marriage was legalized, and I cried literal tears of joy while the gay men's choir sang the Star-Spangled Banner, because for the first time I felt a sense of alignment between my identity as a lesbian and my identity as an American.

Still, Wednesday I woke up to the very real prospect of a future with no roses; a future where the people I love are in danger because of the people they love. A future where I am potentially in danger for loving. I’m sorry, this post is a lot about me just crying on various floors.

As reports of LGBT+ specific hate crimes flooded my social media, something broke inside me. It continues to break for each and every member of my chosen family experiencing violence and trauma in the wake of election night. Wednesday afternoon, I weighed my clothing options a little more carefully, afraid I’d draw hostile attention. Because I’m legitimately scared. Scared of the men who think my attraction to other women is for their pleasure and consumption. The men who think my love for women threatens their masculinity. The men who don’t accept the first, second, or even third No. The men who have claimed the right fuck will “fix” me. The men I have been afraid of defending myself against because they might try to prove that claim.

Wednesday, for the first time in ten years, I considered tucking my identity safely out of sight.

I realize this too is a privilege. But it’s not one I’m willing to exercise. To my LGBT+ family in places where it is not currently safe to exist and love the way you were born to exist and love, I’m so sorry. Please do what you have to do to stay safe. There is no shame in self-preservation, and I need you all to make it through this madness with me. To my LGBT+ family struggling with anxiety, depression, and self-harming or suicidal impulses, I’m here. I see you. I love you. Keep calling the hotlines, keep looking out for each other. To those of you making yourselves vocal and visible, thank you for your courage. Thank you for becoming rallying points so that others can be courageous too. To my straight allies, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Let’s keep doing this hard work, ok?

My heart says she is afraid for me. Honestly, I am afraid for me too. But I'm more afraid of what my silence means for my community.

"I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch. But one. An inch. It is small and it is fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I hope that - whoever you are - you escape this place. I hope that the world turns, and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may not meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you: I love you. With all my heart. I love you. -Valerie."




So, there it is: I’m here, I’m queer, I probably need a beer… And I’m not going anywhere.

Be safe, my darlings.

-b

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Wikipedia (kinda): Homo prosōdia, colloquially known as Bendi

The following is a detailed description of Homo prosōdia, colloquially known as Bendi, the Brender, little b, or (confusingly), a “Proper Lady”. Description Homo prosōdia is a bipedal mammal with characteristically small ears and no tail. Weight varies, though they are notably twice as heavy in the winter. Their compact frame and comically short legs create a low center of gravity beneficial to contact sports, touching their toes, and picking heavy things up off the ground. Their small forepaws are typically clumsy, and they use them to gesticulate wildly when engaged in conversation. This has earned them the affectionate moniker, “Ol’ Iron Paws”. They are less than skillful at activities requiring fine motor skills.
A domesticated Bendi teeters
on the edge of reverting to its
feral state.

Large-mouthed with a toothy grin, most Bendi’s could “bite halfway through a pumpkin without touching gum”. It is unclear what benefits this adaptation serves. They are nearsighted with no sense of smell, and have difficulty triangulating the origin of sounds. As such, the majority of their lives are spent stumbling about, with little to no awareness of their surroundings.

The Californian Brender is easily identified by the criss-crossed tanning pattern across the tops of its broad, paddle-like feet.

Ecology and Behavior

Originally discovered in the lush Bitterroot Valley of Montana, Homo prosōdia seems to be exhibiting a southwestern migration pattern. Though it is well-suited to a variety of climates, it seems to favor a semi-arid Mediterranean climate. Most recent sightings have placed the majestic Proper Lady in San Diego, California, where it has been glimpsed galumphing across beaches.

A feral Brender attempting to situate itself within
a new social group.
If Homo prosōdia were to take one of those stupid Facebook quizzes that tell you whether you’re an Introvert or an Extrovert, the result would be Both. While the Brender often considers itself a social creature, it in fact displays many of the behaviors associated with social anxiety. They tend to be wary of strangers, preferring to observe social situations from the periphery.

In the wild, they form strong, lifelong bonds with a select few. This primary social circle provides a comfortable, supportive environment for the Brender to express their affectionate and gregarious nature. Social behaviors include sharing food/drink, serenading with random snippets of song, and spontaneous dance parties. Bendis who have been displaced from their primary social circle quickly form strong bonds with a new group of peers, subjecting this chosen pack to persistent presence and affection until they’ve fully integrated.

In general they avoid energy-wasting aggressive behavior.

Foraging and Activities

Bendis are predominantly active at night and spend most of their waking hours feeding. They are strictly omnivorous. When left to their own devices, these little garbage guts subsist primarily on potato chips, hot sauce, and any variety of Mexican cuisine (though they have a particular fondness for burritos the size of a human infant). They also have an insatiable craving for Asian Bistro once the clock strikes 2AM. The average Brender can consume up to 5% of its body weight when set in front of a sushi conveyor belt. You should trick your domesticated Brender into eating a variety of greens by treacherously sneaking them into seemingly innocent meatloaves, lasagnas, and other one-dish meals.

Horrifically allergic to gin, they probably die if they even think about drinking it. Probably. They’ve overcome this by developing a fondness for red wine and tequila.

An over-socialized Bendi stares out
drunkenly from its recovery pod
They are masterful foragers, capable of scaling kitchen cabinets up to three times their height in search of snacks. Unless you’re willing to keep them under lock and key, treats should be kept secret or out of the house completely. They prefer salty and greasy snacks, but have been known to eat boxes of cookies, entire cakes, and pints of ice cream in times of desperation. With their voracious appetites, activity is very important to the well-being of any domesticated Brender!

As previously mentioned, the Bendi considers itself a social creature. As such, you should plan group activities for your Bendi 2-4 nights per week. Preferred activities include team sports, sweaty dance parties, and general “running amok”. Be sure to carefully monitor your Brender for social-fatigue, as they will ignore the symptoms to the point of total emotional meltdown. Should this occur, swaddle them in one large Costco blanket (woven from the very fabric of heaven itself), and prop them up in front of a blank wall until they fully recover.

Health and Domestication

Homo prosōdia tend towards general good health, though they are prone to occasional bouts of existential crisis. During these periods of emotional malaise they may drape themselves over various structures while sighing dramatically and pondering the eventual demise of everything and everybody they know/love. The effects of these episodes may last mere minutes, or persist for up to a week. If your Homo prosōdia is still droopy after several weeks, consider getting them a Netflix subscription, some tacos, and/or a therapist.

In addition to the occasional “Dark Night of the Soul”, they’re prone to seasonal allergies and hyperbole. They’re also sensitive to lactose and lunar shifts.

If you’re considering adding one to your family, remember they require plenty of open spaces and activity! Under-exercised, they’ve been known to play with lit matches, eat all of the M&Ms out of any open containers of trail mix, and chew off their own left foot for entertainment. We all know the old saying: a physically exhausted Homo prosōdia is a physically exhausted Homo prosōdia.

While they certainly can be kept as pets, successful domestication hinges on the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest. Without proper care they make fickle companions. In absence of daily handling, they quickly revert to a feral form. They have been seen wandering the late-night streets with alarming and increasing frequency, especially in southern California cities.

When approaching a feral Homo prosōdia, remember to speak in low, soothing tones. If they become excited, they may launch unprompted into the intricate social bonding display known as “Ass Wars”. During Ass Wars, the subject will challenge you with repeated gluteal contact, attempting to drive you backward over some arbitrary and invisible line. This is an attempt to win both your friendship, and the respect of any onlookers. Should you find yourself accidentally embroiled in a game of Ass Wars, these simple creatures can be distracted with music and/or snacks.

This picture is only here because I love it
When properly fed and exercised, this critter can make a charming, albeit aggressively affectionate, companion!

Mythology

Many believe that leaving a full glass of red wine next to your bed while you sleep will attract these mythological creatures. Several witnesses claim to have woken to an empty wine glass and the lingering scent of Old Spice Pure Sport. The verifiability of the Chacos prints were questionable in all cases.

November is Bendi awareness month! The best way to support the continued mental and physical well-being of these animals is to support the causes they believe in. Please consider donating, sharing, or promoting the following groups affiliated with the Brender Well-Being Conservation Association:

1) Donate to the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund (Stand with Standing Rock)