Unknown Variable [x]

There’s a thing about being an unknown. A new face in town. The new kid on the block.

Stranger danger. Nobody trusts you.

On the outset, this seems a fair assessment. Why trust something you have zero experience with? Why not test and challenge, and see who can stand up to the cruelest of storms? And really, it isn’t here where the issue lies. It runs much deeper than that, thereby making itself harder to dig out.

The true problem of this way of approaching what are effectively “strangers of thought” is that there becomes this invisible barrier between “known” and “unknown”. A kind of wall that people must somehow charge through. Which, again, one could rationally understand.

But what do we get as the flip side of this image? A city, walled in. A collection of people whom an individual inherently trusts based on the preordained bias of “these people made it in”.

This community-building practice soon becomes something much uglier: cliquishness. Which easily and quickly lead to cronyism, tribalism — and a long list of other -isms people consciously don’t like. The treatment of one group as if it is inherently of more value than another.

Any time there is a predefined level of acceptance as applied to a specific group simply for having once proven trustworthy, problems quickly arise. The most glaring of which is that those on  the inside are offered unearned benefits while those on the out are withheld necessary resources. An imbalance in privilege and accessibility arise, which births more -isms for those on the outside.

“Rise up to our level. Prove yourselves,” the insiders cry to those pressed hot and hard against the wall.

But the rising and the proving will never work because the wall is inherently set up to keep these “outsiders” out. It mutes the ears and numbs the heart. It effectively tells those without the proper credentials to “eat cake” in the worst of famines.

I see this again and again. In the clash between cultures and individuals. When ideals solidify and calcify into strictures, rules, regulations, and a list of necessary credentials  — there is no entrance and no escape. The in is always in and the out is always out. Change becomes stagnant. Incest is inevitable. And the world of those who remain becomes very small indeed.

The solution, of course, is to break down these walls. Assess each moment and individual with the same openness as any other. Be aware and awake. And fuck using easy fall back words like “friend” or “family” to mean “more worthy” or “worth my time”.

Yes, this is the hard road. Yes, it is a lot of work. Yes, it will — at times — hurt. But my feeling is what can be gained is worth more than is lost.

So what do you say: are you in?

Matters of Time.

With each step taken in the same direction as the last, my feet feel somehow inherently linked to success. As if just because I climb through the stairwells of my dreams, I will become something else.

I have to remind myself when stark white failures still strike me down — this is not the case.

I move in an intentional direction, yes, but against a riptide. The current draws ever out to sea. An onslaught of wind and rain slap my skin and toss white capped waves around me, battering my sides like the vessel of strategies and attempts, schemes and secret plans that I am.

We are each our own boat, tacking and jibing toward some distant island. Sometimes, we catch a good wind. Other times, we get locked in irons. Still other moments, we veer off course and crash together. Hulls smash and we’re left with leaky holes. Patching takes time. The glue of our dashed hopes has to dry before we can set out again.

My year back in the cloudy northern west has left me wary of these collisions. Weary of getting my hull smashed in. So I decided to hug close to the coast. Keep my main sails down.

For ten months, I have drifted. Listless. Searching a map other people had writ. With a compass, seemingly broke, set not to true but moral north. A needle aimed, as it turned out, at my own heart.

I am coming to the end of that route. The edge of the distant horizon is beginning to call. And I am clipping in, preparing to set out. With the stockpiled resources I’ve got aboard, I know I have nothing to fear.

Another storm is another skill earned. Another crash is another thing learned.

I will set out come the blowing in of autumn. A cool breeze and me, going away.

Oh of course I can’t wait.

A winged thing of change I am.
I will always ride the rise and fall. The ebbs and flows. The ups and downs.

And those who miss me will always call me back.
And I will come when the winds change again.

This is how I love.
I know nothing else.
I am a craft with sails and a bird with wings, and if I didn’t move — I’d die.

For now, I prefer the shift.
In a few more weeks, I set out on a new adventure with a chin held high.

Revelation/Commitment.

For those of you who know me personally, you may have seen my attempts to swim in the murky waters of human relationships these last two-three years. It’s been…less than pretty.

The result of having what I thought was solid ground imploding. A sink hole opened up in my heart. I had no idea where all that dark, impossibly icy water had come from. But there it was, and there I was dropped in it. My attempts to climb back out became an ongoing cycle of treading cold water, sinking, gasping and sputtering, finding the surface, treading cold water, ad agnosium.

Some of you may have thought, at times, I was waving. I was always drowning.
Some of you knew as much, reached out a hand. But for all our tries, we barely touched. This or that reason. Hard to know for sure. Failures abounded, lining the muddy walls of the hole I was in. If we want explanations, we could take our pick.

The thing is, I’ve come to the end of it. Or, better said: the water has drained. I’ve found a rope by which to climb out. And now, shivering with shovel in hand, I’m ready to fill this goddamn hole in.

Stories are my soil. Taken not from this hobcob ground my life has been made from. Rather, taken from the solid ground of other universes where my life is good, my heart well-rooted,  my dreams planted and growing. The tested magic of imagination brings these realities to my door. I dive in, dig up the riches of those lives, and bring them back.

And with this shovel shaped like a pen, I fill the holes of my brokenness. I scribble endless escape routes should the ground open up like a mawing mouth again. I will be prepared.

So I carry in my mind Fenugreek. Bon. Charcoal. Gravity.
And I bear up in my heart Carbon. Lithium. Akailum. Sekibanga.
I love these otherworldly vapors and atemporal ghosts of  more than I ever loved anything.

The imaginary friends of my early years, it turns out, never let me go.
I find it my duty to do the same.

In the shift, poetry.

Piece by piece, brick by brick
I am building.
Letter by carefully crafted letter,
I get better.

A stairway,
Gold encrusted, marbled maple hewn
Leads ever upward.

Not toward inevitable success.
But toward chambers as yet unseen.
Wide quiet rooms where,
Silent and secret,
I accept of myself.

Infected.

This illness started out as a bite that I (and nobody I asked for that matter) could identify. The first day it burned. An ever present distraction to the work I tried to do. In the midst of that burning, I received several rejections and critiques that felt the same. A day of discomfort, of distracting pain.

I got nothing done but feeling sorry for myself. Check, depression accomplished.

The next day, the bite/swelling progressed into a soreness that I was concerned might become necrotic. But check after check revealed the same mild irritation and lots of nothing. Not even a true lump to speak of. A slightly reddish area on the hard-to-see back of my elbow. Somewhere my fingers and mind can barely get to.

I had to resolve to let it ride. Either that or the walk in clinic, and I’ve had enough experiences in my life with “It’s nothing. Go home and put ice on it.” that cost upwards of all my tip money. So, I chose let it ride.

After the soreness set it, it kept on. Only the next progression had nothing to do with the bite/swelling/sting. It was the brewings of a sore throat I know well because I’ve had sore throats consistently my whole life. Some stretches, it was once a month. Almost on the dot. More regular than most femmes’ menstrual cycle. I got so used to it that I eventually stopped thinking of sore throats as being “ill”. It was just the day-to-day.

So, this sore throat started up on day three as a sort of noticeable discomfort right where the tubes to my ears connect. I know it well because it always starts there. My left ear itcheed off and on all day. I went to sleep knowing that without fail, tomorrow I will be sick.

Sure enough. Full blown throat-nearly-swollen-closed sick. It took me years to realize I had a hard time swallowing because my tonsils were pressing into the back of my throat. That was the situation in the mirror. And my epiglottis was huge and red, hanging limp like a numb limb. I couldn’t raise or lower it. It just flapped around against my tongue. Luckily, I don’t really have a gag reflex so I didn’t want to throw up. Probably because of the repetition of this very issue.

So, I had a sinus infection. No big surprise.

But what unnerved me was this: that bug bite. Were the two connected? Was I dying?

Life imitates art, or vice versa. Actually, both.

And the strangest thing is that one of the rejections that had sent me crashing into the dumps was in response to a story where this exact kind of thing happens.

Someone gets a rash. It’s nothing. It’s gotta be nothing.
This is the future and people don’t die of disease or illness. But then, people don’t get rashes either. So, that’s just fucking weird. Ignore it.

Said someone ignores it and it turns into a real tried and true sickness. Said person dies on the news. It’s huge. Then, everyone around starts getting that same weird rash. And it turns out that it’s a genetically modified disease meant to lower the population of the poorest sectors of a refugee camp. These kids figure that out when they go outside the fence to ask someone named Grim who doesn’t live in the refugee camps. A sort of info gathering outlier.

Grim says everyone with the rash is gonna die. But hey, you already-rashed-up kids can help us try to find a way to stop it. I mean, since you have it already. What do you lose? You’re going to die. Might as well be an experiment. Am I right?

One kid goes for it. Sounds cushy. But Protag thinks — no. I’d rather help my friends who we left behind.

Now, the thing is that I don’t think the story is so clear. Hence the rejection that threw me into a tailspin. And I think now I’m on the other side of exactly that experience (I mean, minus Grim and the dying and killing my friends inadvertently part) – I might have just been given the opportunity to sit with this story in a way I hadn’t anticipated. But, in a way that might just fix it.

I am going to go talk to Grim…

Invisible.

Being a hard-to-see minority is painful. It’s beyond invisibility. It’s a daily struggle of  being mis-identified. Called, every day, by the wrong name.

You begin to develop this social flinch. Every time someone opens their mouth, you worry. What’ll it be this time? What fight will I have to fight? Who is going to tell me I’m wrong, weird, bad. It isn’t just strangers. It’s the ones you love. The ones who know you deeply. They try but still the slip-ups occur. Still, the questions come. Still, every day is a struggle to defend not who you are, but what.

You begin to see yourself on the sidelines of your own life. A secondary character in your own story. The plot goes on elsewhere. Heroes (and sometimes heroines) save the day. While, you are the flavor text on the barstool, in the sitting room, on the couch whose texture is more noteworthy than you.

And when you are most exhausted, you fight yourself.

Because the voice that says: “It’s fine” and “They’re right”  is always the loudest.

And rather than fight today, you think — I’d rather just lie. Pretend. Fake it. Hide.
Just for today.

Those days stack like stairs. The more steps you take down, the easier it is to keep going. The harder to get back up.

Until you look in the mirror, make eye contact, and realize you’ve been crying. Silently so nobody sees. But the look is there: the swelling, the redness around the rims, the bloodshot eyes, the dilated irises. You stare at yourself and try this convincing line:

“I don’t exist. It’s fine.”

It isn’t fine.

But you walk away telling yourself it is because you know yourself better than the rest of the world. And if you’re going to win one of these fights, it’ll be against yourself. You’ve done it before. Done it for years.

Played along. Looked the part. Pretended they know your heart. Your guts. Your innermost parts.

They don’t, but this lie is so much easier to sing along to.

So, we sing. As we have for generations of humanity. The trans-folk around you. The non-gender folks. The asexuals and aromantics. The intersex. The bisexuals, pansexuals, sapiosexuals. The non-binary and the non-conforming. The gender-queer, gender-fluid, gender-fuck it.

Whatever you want to call us.

We don’t fit your labels. We don’t belong in your bi-partisan universe. And for that, we aren’t wrong. We’re just different than you.

Time, you say. It takes time.

Yes. It does. The majority is massive and slow to turn its lumbering head.
If anyone knows, we do.
So, we wait for the day when we feel free. Accepted. Seen.

And in the meantime?

We’ll exist and struggle on. Used to being looked past. Used to being mis-identified. Used to being scolded, shouted at, shamed, and torn down. Used to being told we’re wrong. Used to flinching when we hear you call.

Oppression has it’s number one ally tucked neatly in our hearts.

We hurt ourselves the worst.

Please, cut us a little slack.

Feedback, carbon copy.

For as simple, cool, and collected as your words come across, you make me want to try harder.

Your rejection, time after time, proves only to make me stronger.

“Thank you” is simply inadequate to express what role you’ve stepped into.
“Inadvertent mentor” may approach. “Life line in the dark cold” is nearer, but oh so melodramatic. “A lighthouse in the storm” might be close. One I can’t always see for the deadly shore.

But still, I sail on. Even when the wind comes at me wrong. My sails start luffing, my little boat jibes too soon, and I get turned around. Even then, I come on. Drawing ever nearer to the promise of land.

I wonder if you even know?

I think you must. But what if you don’t? Is it possible that this is one-sided, this feeling?

Yes, of course. It always is. Exclusively, this obsessive insanity is a fulfillment of my own need. Expression of a desire I’ve composed. A grasping at my own fragile, glass-like hope.

Don’t worry.
The way my heart takes you is my secret, and I’m not spilling.