oh beast! nightmares of sheep. goats. fire that sinks like water.

We wait.
I may be here when they lock the doors.

I am here to tell someone about the rate of attrition 
how at dusk

all the people disappear.

I live on the hippest street in the nation
Or the second hippest if you are thinking about the other one I don’t know its name myself although I think I know where it is.
Unless it is someplace else.
But I am certain that my street is hipper than any street there could ever be.

Point being there are always a number of people within a hundred yards of me.
Heading in.
Heading out.
Passing through.

Those that I would or have invited to stay for a moment, though.
persistence is agnostic of all of me and so
I place it upon you
a halo
and its displaced space
almost a dent
a trough
where
for a short time
light will chase its tail
ink-tipped
ravenous

They disappear or that is at dusk I am struck with all of their vanishings at once whether or not anything of note happens to occur wherever they are or were or I imagine them to be. The hush is quite nearly devastating the sidewalks bright and empty the sky congested with shadows horsemen without weight or volume nearly almost partially blocking the sun.

As far as I can tell nobody besides myself feels the chill or is it the uptick in humidity yet entire cities vanish some half century ago the heavenly curtain was to be ripped open it would be for certain or for completely unpredictable but certainly soon but unexpected the great surprise predicted with all assurance whole populations slipping quietly from this earth with an ear-splitting shout TOO LATE or SUCKS TO BE YOU DUNT IT except it would not be everyone only the very holiest airplane captains and the crew also if they all of them were really really really truly baptized the single correct way but even some of those would turn out to have done it all wrong and somehow although their true numbers were meager the disaster would be large enough to be disastrous airships abandoned left and right passengers consigned to the collective gravity of their own worldly sins centered as it is within Lucifer’s own playground all the headless planes converge deep in the earth depositing the unwashed directly into the lake of fire below our feet.

Your feet. My feet.
That was a faster trip than I expected.
Oh we have been waiting for you. Waiting and waiting.

I may have been eight when I learned of this freight train of a rapture the one bearing down with all arrested haste as it had already for the hundred fifty-ish years since it was sifted out of the King James Bible with all the hermeneutic ingenuity one could hope to find in an American preacher. My family had not mentioned anything about it yet but early in the school year a Jack Chick tract somehow landed on the windowsill of my fourth grade classroom and as it was made of words and pictures I had no power not to pick it up I would and did and still do read shampoo labels and pill bottles if they appear in arm’s reach along with a moment to fill but this pamphlet existed only to be read thus I trusted it all the more to be rewarding and useful but instead the little comic was almost terrifying only too confusing at first to be quite so. It told of a cosmic endgame of unbridled divine revenge and posed it without any reason I knew of in the place of a future I had not yet even thought about because the other five billion billion possibilities had always been open and always would be unless they were about to be unceremoniously mowed down beheaded strafed pulverized and buried.

Because god was really mad about..

something. To this day none of the excuses offered neither the simple ones nor the sophisticated have ever been anything but exasperating. Arbitrary. Stark naked all resentment and fear hanging out swollen just past the point of restraint so that you cannot decide whether to laugh or run. 

I took the leaflet home. Mom would know if this stuff was true or real or anything I needed to worry about she explained things all the time and it was clear to me then that she already knew everything I would ever need to know.

It was. Something to worry about. Or it would be. I vaguely recall being told I could put off this worry until some time a little later that I would know was the time because it would be the time and I would know by then I would not have to ask I would just know it which indecipherable moment would shortly become the focus of vicious ellipses of thought so quietly insistent how was I to know then the howling the shrieking the twisted diamond bits exquisitely drilled years they were on tight fine points of doubly bound preacher’s logic.

Time was on their side. They would wait as long as they had to but no longer a couple of decades would make for a vast polish of precision-ground glass. One note so high nobody heard it not me not you not anyone still living. Every now and again I find a shard still singing as though it had landed not an hour before.

I am ahead of myself or I would be if I knew where to go to get there.

But I don’t remember much else about the truly bad news that was to get so much worse and for so long only I recall crawling on her lap for some sort of reassurance. The memory ends there. A vague hint of
shock like that was not what I came up here for oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Where will I go now where do I wait.
Could it be time yet.
How about now.

The rest of that fall is a nighttime serial in which I try to cry myself to sleep over and over and over and over but there is exhuasted crying because you have just had enough of the day and there is I cannot sleep with this unbearable knowledge and

there is no unknowing
and
there is no.

There just was not.

I was unable to say what the problem was when asked. Someone would rub my back while I pretended to fall asleep because I could not explain why that was not working either. What comfort could they possibly offer–clearly they had no more power than I to change the ending of this weird-ass stage play we had all been born into without ever once asking. So I stayed still as they left my room. Sleep would come eventually to swallow the ruined cosmos for a little while. By spring I could see that no crying of mine would bring it back to life and so I gave up.

I could not explain that gods plan had drained life of sense and replaced it with a terrible and ruthless joke. All of the color all of the motion all of the life all of the music the running water the rocks and hills and the grass the forests awash in moss and echoes of every breeze every hoof every breath the taking flight and sitting still all of that for one question. One lousy question and the majority of all of this and all of us would flunk.

It did not matter to me that I did not have to worry for myself right then. Add me to the damned biomass of Earth or subtract me: it made no significant difference in the overall volume of the final kill that would not even be final but ongoing and ongoing and ongoing until even a blind idiot god would have to signal somehow that enough was enough as the balances toppled lopsided with recompense.
I understood this then but could not have said even to myself what it was I understood. Besides which understanding could not overcome my absolute inability to disbelieve what my mother told me. My eight was your six besides who at eight is able to back themselves like that to walk unassisted like that to give themselves the benefit of the doubt like that.

I knew. I knew that I knew.
And I knew that it was not possible to go on knowing.

I had to fold.

It was the end
not the beginning of the end
not the end of the end
all of the end all of it
For once and for all

This would not be the last one
but it was the last one where
I was allowed
to maintain that
nobody had warned me.
 

she wrote it down so I thought ok I will do this one more time

I put a comment on this one blog post that has somehow drawn almost everyone to it: “He Wrote It Down“. I am copying the comment or that is I have already copied the comment I left and plan on pasting it here at the end of this which is mainly just a pointer to where or why or how I decided to make this one comment on the internet.

Because it can happen that I think I have no words until it becomes clear that I do. And also that I don’t.

This is what I wrote over there:

I am not sure how I got here only that I looked at my browser over coffee and here was a tab open right here. From yesterday before I succumbed to what is called sleep.

I am not sure I should leave a comment at all other than to say yes these things happened to me too only not exactly the same things because it is different for everyone only the inability to abide with oneself seems quite similar across all of the way too many stories I have heard from others and the way too many stories I have to tell and have been telling and telling and sometimes I think I am going to

run out of breath and fall right back into the earth and that will be that.

I was a girl when my brother raped me, when my church taught me I was going to burn in the Lake of Fire, when my family let me believe they were going to disappear in the rapture and I would be left behind, when some young man I had never seen before and would never see again tackled me on the beach and led me off behind the dunes and told me to take my clothes off and I remember staring into the sun and then I have my clothes back on and am looking for my grandmother who had left me playing in the sand and she finds me and says there you are and I say here I am and then nothing else.

I tell people I fell silent at 15 and did not learn to talk again for 15 more years which is sort of true although talking even now often feels like not talking at all. There are no words for it or that is no words that will cover it all take care of it all clean it up put clothes on it and take it home somewhere safe except home was not that so somewhere else I have to guess but I have not found it yet.

I am not a girl now perhaps obviously but what gender I am I cannot say or that is I haven’t found a name for it but I look like a middle-aged, balding, bearded, somewhat shall we say bohemian man. I have no idea what it is like to be a male survivor of sexual abuse; what I hear does not resonate with me. For me gender was violently enforced until it wasn’t anymore and I could be who I was except that over the course of one’s lifetime the possibility to be any particular of the ones you thought you would be narrow until maybe you are just you because none of the recognized options fit. It was not clear to me until relatively recently that being a nonbinary-gendered survivor of sexual abuse would be akin to being not a unicorn but more like a..
well there is no word for that either it turns out.

no man’s land. no woman’s land.
land? do you see a place to land?
the map says land here. why do I not see any.

Everyone on my mom’s side of the family has experienced some form of abuse or another–the majority of it sexual. For at least five generations that I know of. Everyone knows but nobody has a clue what to do that won’t upset any of the adults which is apparently the greatest sin there is. The children will be ok. They have to be. We all are ok aren’t we. Didn’t we turn out alright.

Speaking up is a little like talking to earless creatures who stare at you there disrupting the peace so discourteously. It’s not like you are telling us anything new. Can’t we just put it all behind us. We are tired. We did our best. Let it go.

It won’t let me go. Everything you forget I have to remember. The panic you swallow swallows me.
Every drop of denial you squeeze out of your life explodes behind my eyes at the temples the headache almost older than I am now.

I am 53. I was not planning on living this long. My body is starting to need attention in the way bodies will when they spend half a century resisting gravity and friction and oxidation and all the other agents of entropy that will soon catch up with us. I wish I knew what to do. I mean I have a doctor but I am disabled by what is called by some Complex PTSD and the number of symptoms has become bewildering and more than I can even keep up with trying to make appointments for.

And the stories. I dream them, I sing them, I write them, I eat them and drink them for breakfast and lunch by dinner I cannot get any more down so I dream some more and start over.

I am just going to leave this here.

Why lesbians don’t get AIDS

The year I am not sure of but the time span at least manageable I can say for certain that it was at least 1982 and proably not yet 1984 or 5. By 1982 I had figured out that part of the most likely explanation for the last several years of confusion was that I was gay. And by that I mean I was a lesbian except I never did like that word but I don’t think that by 1982 I had tried on ‘dyke’ for size. I had heard the word of course and usually in the pejorative voice of course but I did not recognize myself in it during that time that I was out to myself but had not actually done anything more dykey than go to a gay bar and run into a friend from high school and immediately develop an unbearable crush on her that lasted for several weeks during which I had no idea what to do about this sort of crush and so I did nothing and never saw her again.

I think maybe I had to at least march in my first Pride March before I could consider myself a dyke but that would be a bit later although not much since it would have been June of 1983 unless I waited till I was out of my parents’ house to risk appearing on tv as whatever I was: dyke, lesbian, gay, queer, one of Those.

Gay was enough for Marietta Georgia anyhow: are you gay was a question that could be put to anyone of any gender. Not that there were more than the two regulation genders in the world that I knew at that time but gay covered everyone except when queer was spat out with the lord’s own disgust. It would be a little while before we queers thought to use the word for ourselves although it would also be quite soon and probably many had already begun only until you had got your courage up to go to the most obvious gay bar in the city you wouldn’t have heard it used by those people who turned out to be your people.

Kind of.

But so I was reading the paper and I was reading about either punk rock or about the AIDS crisis and I think maybe the news was on TV and the news anchors in Atlanta were able to say the word even though the president of the US still had not mentioned it even once and to whomever may have been listening my mother pondered out loud.

I wonder why lesbians don’t get AIDS.

I have no doubt that I did not stir even slightly but kept staring at the paper thinking yeah I could answer that and in however much detail was necessary to get the point across that the most probable vectors of transmission had nothing to do with whether one was gay or straight but what sort of sex one might do involving especially semen but also blood and the natural lube that nobody has a name for besides vaginal secretions which seems short-sighted and so at the time we thought maybe also spit but spit appeared so far to be the least dangerous of the bodily fluids that might be exchanged during you know.

Because lesbians don’t as a general rule have penises.

I have since been disabused of this and any other inaccurate notions I began reciting in my head as possible ways to educate my mother on the hows and whys of gay and or lesbian sex and which combinations of which body parts made it more or less likely to catch anything but at the time I was still quite busy learning some very basic things about human sexuality and gender so the vagaries mostly waited in the wings yet.

Because lesbians don’t squirt semen inside each other. (Also as a general rule and not something I had thought about with great discretion yet and so it seemed plain enough right then.)

Because is it not obvious that the question is not why are not all homosexuals sick with AIDS yet but what particular exchanges and interchanges are most likely to spread infection of various types not just this one?

What do you think lesbians do with one another? Do you know how sex works for different people and for different combinations of people and preferences and past present and future modifications and past present and future injuries of all sorts not only those involving down there?

Do you know the most probable routes of transmission of the AIDS pathogen (was it a virus yet? Without a precise time for the memory I cannot say)?

Do you know how contagion works? Do you know how many different types of microbes there are and how many different ways they can make their way from one body to another? Do you know that germs of all sorts do not ask for a body’s sexual orientation–or religious beliefs pertaining thereto–before deciding whether that body is habitable?

But there was no chance at all I was actually going to engage my mother in a frank conversation about gay and lesbian sex or the objectively amoral nature of infectious disease. How would I explain that I had acquired this esoteric knowledge, for one. Why do you know what lesbians do. I did not want to have to answer that question or even try to wave it off.

~~~~~~~~~|Ø|~~~~~~~~~~

I did not know many gay men when I first came out but because Lisa’s mom went to drag bars for fun lots of their friends were gay men, some nellies, some queens, all just slightly older than I was and almost all of them had by then shared HIV with each other whether or not it was even possible to know this yet. They were finding out, one by one, when I showed up.

It was just the way it was. I mean it was reality in that way that reality tosses aside your disbelief and your terror and plods on as though time were not a thing that passed with any more or less urgency or not in response to animal wishings or wishings not. And so do you then adjust your pace to its agonal indifference or at least you try because no matter what else you try you cannot demand that time pay attention to you or if you do it will not listen even as it meticulously arranges itself around all of you all of us and allow us slip through without effort: by the time I got to know any of this group of people they were adjusting with all unwilling haste to the question one hardly had to ask at this point. That if they were not positive yet they probably would be soon and from there their lives played out too quickly again and again one right after the other in front of each other each and all of the survivors at whatever point there were too many of them to keep good track. Who was just in the hospital. Who had to go last night. Who might not come home from the hospital. Who had pneumonia and who just got his latest test result back after not feeling well for just that much too long for comfort and yeah. Yeah.

Does his family know.
They aren’t taking his calls.
Will they visit.
Of course not.

As it was: I cannot actually say how it felt to watch almost your entire circle of friends and lovers get sick and die one by one in the course of just a few years and I do not know what it is like to see this going on and not even be able to wonder if your turn will be next because it might not be this time but it will at some time not far enough away. Myself I was lucky to some degree or another not only because I was both a lesbian and just starting out just young enough to see just far enough ahead of time but also because I was locked away so deeply in my own neurophysiological labyrinth that I was not about to develop any close attachments to anyone who was not Lisa. And so her losses, her mother’s losses, and the continued chronic loss of an entire social circle were none of them direct losses for me.

Or not in that sort of what is happening to my friends way or what is going to become of all of us we cannot be dying already we only just figured out how to live sort of way. I did not personally experience that particular sort of grief or terror or despair: AIDS was not personal for me or at least not deeply interpersonal. I knew people who lost many friends. I did not lose many friends myself but I did see many acquaintances fade away and disappear long before I could have hoped to have known them.

Which is not to say that none of their deaths affected me. Like most everything else, it would be years before I noticed that I had noticed way much more than I noticed noticing at the time. I took it in the looks and the conversations and the rage spoken and not and even the utter stark realization that we as queers were not going to be given any quarter even for some time after we began to fight for it like a condemned people who could not possibly lose. I filed all of that away archivist of my own memories carefully placing them together without leaving any prints. As though I could keep all that was at a distance long enough to catalog and shelve it before anyone asked me why I was taking such care to begin with. I would not have been able to answer.

Except that what I did know was that I was a queer. After all that time of trying so hard not to be. I was. And I knew that I was surrounded by large communities full of people who not only thought that AIDS was our just punishment but said so out loud as many different ways as possible every chance they got even and especially if they thought there might be any queers within earshot.

I listened as tacit cultural assumption became iterated and reiterated public commonplace: that queers’ lives were not worth the trouble of emergency funding or particularly urgent mobilization of medical research for a quickly spreading illness with a one hundred percent fatality and rapid as the death of mayflies and I watched as the federal government went to great ethical contortions to justify doing quite nearly nothing for several years while so many members of this new family I had come out into got sick and died and got sick and died and got sick and died and got sick and died.

That thing they say about how Ronald Reagan never said the word AIDS but instead made only the most oblique of references to lifestyles and choices while tsk’ing pitiously and clearly implying that they had brought it on themselves after all so what could he possibly do besides insinuate that the dead and dying deserved most of all to be dead and dying and not at all to be the focus of any effort to keep them from becoming the dead and dying?

That’s how true it is: he performed his moral disdain where one might expect compassion in the face of death every time a camera was trained on him and we watched the audience nod along because they knew what he did not have the balls to say out loud: that god was killing the faggots and it was about time. In its place we saw his viciously polite concern for the decent men and women would never dream of violating the natural order of things or if they did dream or if they dreamed and went on to violate, would take their death penalty lumps as the only just possibility in a universe of strict propriety. Certainly we had no moral duty to those who were less accepting of universal laws.

Which was understood to mean god’s laws but back then there was still some awareness at high levels that god would probably be non-partisan if they were to reveal themself.

We guessed that lesbians must be god’s chosen people but we said that only amongst ourselves for many of the same reasons that led me not to explain to my mother why AIDS was not a gay disease despite what current epidemiological statistics might suggest to someone who was already clear on whom god loved and whom god did not love.

God hates fags was not a wingnut opinion in the Bible Belt in 1983. It was a principle so obvious that nobody needed to add it as explanation for anything. I am not so sure that its plausibility has faded a great deal but I do not think about these things rationally because nothing about them is rational. But I will point out that if you believe only a nutcase would buy such a statement then all of our lives will be absolutely subject to irrationality as long as we continue to not to recognize it in ourselves. May it stumble next on the least life-denying motivations and desires it might meet with. Rather than last.

And soon please.

~~~~~~~~~|Ø|~~~~~~~~~~

Charles may have been his name. I had a sister-in-law for a few short years and she worked. Somewhere. Somewhere there in the north suburbs of Atlanta she worked in an office or shop or studio or something and one of her coworkers was a gay man whose name may have been Charles.

Or Chas.
That faggoty name he wished to be called in place of the properly masculine Charles was one of the primary points of derision wasn’t it. Or the faggoty version of his name if it was not Charles but something else similarly variable.

Chas was tendered with a roll of the eyes followed quickly by Charles and so firmly that Chas’ claims to ordinary personhood were immediately extinguished lest anyone get the idea that faggots were due the regard to call them by their chosen names. Chas… Charles! was disciplined into straight masculinity in over-dinner conversation way too often.

Mainly I did not live at my parents’ house after about April or May 1983 but I was not formally proclaimed to have left home until that October. In between and for some time after I would occasionally go home for dinner andor laundry. Sometimes Lisa came along with me. We were together constantly but I never came out to my family. When exactly they figured out what was going on is still a mystery to me but probably once Lisa and I got on the airplane and moved across the country together to Seattle I imagine any doubt was erased but that was not going to happen for another four and a half years. I do not know precisely when unthinkable hunch became dread suspicion turned into somewhat desperate hope evaporated into sacred vestiges of doubt but surely those were no longer viable by the time we landed around midday in November to become suddenly introduced to a winter that more closely deserved its name than it ever had in Georgia.

I do not know for sure but I did sometimes wonder if my sister-in-law talked about Charles on purpose. A birthday maybe or some other office party and Charles had brought a cake and nobody touched it nobody wanted to get AIDS from a cake some old queer had made. That is the only real story I recall the rest were a series of eager snorts of disgust at the queer mostly unaccompanied by anything that was worth the narrative bother to provide them with a rationale. No rationale was needed: everyone already knew all about those dirty diseased queers and their kitchens filled with AIDS measuring spoons and AIDS serving dishes and AIDS coffee cups and AIDS drinking straws. Sometimes instead of baking an AIDS cake the queer would volunteer to bring some of his AIDS paper plates or AIDS plastic forks and then nobody knew what to do because there was nothing to eat the food with he was so inconsiderate not to just keep everything to himself in his little AIDS house.

I do not recall whether anyone knew Charles to be HIV positive for fact and it is very unlikely that he would have revealed his status if he was. Not there. Not then. But it did not matter at all: being openly gay was enough to drive most everyone else to jump at conclusions that would most fully nourish their most carefully tended fears so that to display them overblown and irrational was not only pardonable but a necessary, elaborate act of communal cleansing. The relief at not having to consider themselves vulnerable to or worse deserving of mortality filled living rooms and houses and warehouses and districts until anyone knowing themselves to be queer could find no adequate footing quite nearly anywhere they might try to stand.

The territory I was ever going to be able to call home had been shrinking for some time but it was not until after I knew for certain that my lottery card was indeed at least as improbable as I had intuited for as long as I had been able to intuit anything and that it might turn out to be even more improbable but for now yes I was a homosexual it was at that point or after the point at which I said this and it was true I am gay that was when home as a feeling and as a known place was shifted so far from where it had been first nominated that for a very long time I could not begin to tell you where home was but it was clearly very far away and on such an obscure route and so small that no map worthy of the name would be able to chart it.

And this was also just how it was. It was not alarming to me for home to lose most if not all of its sense. It had been draining away for a very long time already. Nor was it alarming for me to spend most of my energy folding up my thoughts and reactions and stowing them securely where they could not bother anyone whose bother was for me a terror not of physical harm but of more explicit castings out than a disgusted but generic and imprecise “queers!”.

Which itself is odd because I knew I was a priori cast out and had known this for most of my life but my survival had depended so long on not noticing anything that even now I exercise almost painful vigilance over any- and everything that might be best left unremarked. To speak at all I must first meet that vigilance with something like sufficient urgency or desire or necessity to stand it down. The first methods I discovered were all violent to some degree although the violence was not always apparent even when directed only at myself.

As most of it was.

plain speech

This is not finished or at least I know I have plenty more to say but today if the voices in my head were still saying things very loudly they would be saying post some shit already!

There are tons of unfinished things and this is one of them. I am going to go start on something else now and if I do not finish it maybe I will still be compelled to post some shit when I wake up tomorrow.

This was written specifically for a certain Thing so if it reads sometimes as though you are hearing only one side of a conversation that might be why. The gist of the Thing was Tell your story in 25,0000 characters or more and since that is more or less the gist to which most of my writing responds–that and Post some shit already–I decided to put it here as well.

20140412 2032 -0800

It’s Sunday. I am not sure I can write this today but I can at least put my name down or in and I can probably figure out how to begin to describe what occupies me much of the time so here those are:

I am named Erik Joseph Martin Schneider and maybe it is overenthusiastic to write it all out like that but there it is all of it so far. I started out with a different name and only became Erik Martin Setc at 35 and there is a story behind that and I will tell a little of it a little further on. We were a few years Erik Martin and then what I really wanted to do was name myself Will after my great-grandfather–Elsie Schneider’s father–but my uncle was named William long before I showed up and then he named my cousin Karl William and so I thought maybe William was mostly spoken for so I took Will Brugger’s middle name Joseph and moved Martin over.

Martin Schneider was my great-grandfather who was gone by the time I could have remembered seeing him or maybe even before that. I have a picture but it says almost nothing to me. If there are stories nobody has told them where I could hear.

Now I am inclined to somehow take on also Maggie Phillips Wilcox’ name but I do not know where to put what remains of her in such a way that I can promise her some rest and if not exactly safety maybe better odds on most days and I wonder was it she who was buried there underneath stones and books and chests of old clothes in the house that visits me still although I have not in some time been pulled down the long hallway dark at the far end with death at the least and sometimes cold soundings through the basement of the earth steep and always narrower and narrower but never reaching the absolute zero itself rushing up and rushing up and rushing up but never taking my wrist as I knew it would if it ever arrived but it never did.

This hell was unrecognizable all the others I used to dream up appropriately aflame and glinting and hot and complete with those recordings of ordinary human voices slowed down and detuned just enough to emphasize that devil’s note the one my mother always hears first before anyone else would suspect a thing.

She knows what evil is she says. Don’t you think that music is sick. No it is precisely the sort of melody I will learn to write as soon as I am out of your earshot but I never said that just shrug or maybe well you know they’re just trying to be shocking because that was my stock answer to throw off any possibility of meaningful connection in the face of such immense and cynical irony or disaffected and ironic cynicism. I threw whole theaters between myself and her questions so that no more questions would make any sense at all.

It worked insofar as the questions would stop but whether she believed me to be as earnestly jaded as all that–well it was not important whether she truly believed it as long as she had an excuse to pretend to so that we did not have to cross words. We were both relieved at the opportunity to say nothing.

But she knew that too already and I knew that she knew but I did not know very much at all about what I knew yet and so I only noted down at the bottom of the list what next never to admit loving until you have studied all the faces for however many years it takes to detect even the faintest distaste some milliseconds before it arises.

They call that hypervigilance or that is I recall the long hours of practice that began there. Today I can always tell you where the cats are or who is walking up the stairs.

Except right this minute I am not sure where one of the cats is and it is making me very anxious even though his distress call is loud and unmistakable and currently not to be heard at all so he is probably napping in one of those spots I never can find when I am looking for him while he silently cats along as he always has.

I am still in San Francisco. This was not the plan but whether that is because there was some other plan I cannot say for sure. I can say that I think I have learned by now that the part you cannot imagine happening even though you need it to will probably not happen in the way you cannot imagine it. The Rhetoric program produced teachers and therefore if I completed my degree I was to have been made into someone who could teach without first having to subdue panic that grew wilder with each and every time it was time to teach.

To be brief, that did not happen in precisely that way. I can teach just like I can sometimes get up on stage and sing or read which is about once a month for short bursts and then not at all for another year or sometimes a handful of years.

So I have the degree and once in a great while I have some chops but most of the time I practice alone or occasionally with a proven ally the rest of the time I cannot face them audiences or students or anyone who wants anything from me even if I do in fact want to give it to them. Sometimes especially then.

This is sort of how I also did not become a rock star even though I was in a band in Atlanta GA at just the right time and then when that did not work we moved to Seattle at just the right time which also did not work or not so much as we would have liked. That said, we do still have fans mostly in Europe. We are not big in Japan. We also have not made music together since 1992 when I decided to return to school to try for that magical transformation into a member of the professoriat.

We mainly referring to myself and the first family member that I chose upon leaving the family that had forced itself on me since the very beginning. I used to walk around as a body sort of recognizable as what is called female–in 1962 the Doctor was quite sure I was female and my parents were quite sure I was female then and mostly later while I myself remember puzzling over why I could not grow up to be a man since I identified with them so but I was a girl they told me so I guessed that was just something I would get used to somehow only I never did and then later on I sort of got distracted with other problems and so I was a tomboy for a very long time and that was that–and since Lisa recognized even herself as female we were lesbians at first that is not just best friends and then I was a dyke a little while later and we were partnered for eleven years and something. She still lives in Seattle where we moved from Atlanta in 1987 and although we are no longer not just best friends we are at least best friends and still even family although we cannot come up with a name for what we are to each other and we celebrate our whateversary every January 19 even if we cannot meet up that year.

In 1996 I left Seattle for San Francisco to start grad school at Berkeley and also to transition physically to what I called at the time male. It took me less than a year to figure out where to go and whom to talk to about the possibilities which were wider here even than I had guessed, and so I have been Erik since early 1997 or that is when the name began calling me out loud. To be slightly clearer, I have been taking injections of testosterone since 1 July 1997 and they have worked pretty much the way I had hoped they would physiologically speaking.

There is way too much story to tell about what my gender is or is not now so I will just note that I do answer to the pronouns labeled masculine but I did not become a man as it turns out which is fine since I did not transition from being a woman either. I think I may be too old to be genderqueer and besides I do not have the energy to perform various permutations of those genders that do not refer to me I just put on whatever smells ok when it is time to get dressed. This is just one of the many points at which I find myself looking over at the language I learned to speak the first time around while it looks at its feet and toes the dirt because it has nothing readymade for me to wear. Which is why when asked for my gender I answer with a short persuasive essay unless it is clear that either I need a long one or I can get by with a deflecting shrug.

Mostly I tell people I am transsexual and that I used to be a dyke. From there I let them add it up so at least they can get an idea of whose stories they might have heard that sounded similar to girl -> dyke -> transsexual -> bearded deep voiced person.

So at this point maybe it is looking like I grew up queer in a fundamentalist Christian family and it may have taken place in the Deep South or somehow I was there when the major record labels descended on Athens GA in the early 1980s? Yes all of that is the case although I only laughed at the stars on friends’ roofs in Athens from time to time I never lived there myself but Atlanta was just down the street and so it was easy to visit.

I do not know where I am from: born near Tacoma WA but shortly afterward my father got the same layoff from Boeing that everyone else was getting around the same time and then he found a job at Lockheed Georgia and so off we went. We moved to Marietta GA along with a small influx of other non-Southerners. I attended school with the children of Lockheed engineers from all over the country. One of our neighbors was from Ohio. Another was from Utah. All the native Georgians lived in houses a little older than ours there in that new subdivision carved out of a huge forested tract of land that may have been homesteaded by a family named Shaw.

My parents never meant to stay but they are still there or close anyway. Not so long ago they retired to a new house about twenty or thirty miles further north where the city of Atlanta has not quite reached yet. The one thing I do not regret picking up from them was their obsession with moving back to Seattle. They got over theirs but I never did and that is why when I moved here to San Francisco I was from Seattle but while I was in Seattle as an adult I was from Atlanta at least whenever its proximity to Athens was a topic and this was the late 80s and into the 90s and I hung out with other music geeks so it came up rather often. Starting from age two until I got back there at 25, I was from Seattle.

Now when I visit Seattle I am from San Francisco and I have been here long enough that it is credible to say so.

So for the most part I think I may be from the West Coast but a bizarre and awful 23-year detour into the very hide of the Bible Belt made me the non-specifically-gendered person I am today: wary and tenacious; not fond of sudden movement when humans are doing the moving; obsessive . . . [what. obsessive what. I am overcome with spontaneous bedtime!]

Yes there was, over and above the sheer abusiveness of telling a seven-year-old apparent girl that she will be going to Hell unless she follows instructions very closely and those instructions include at least one thing she will be terrified to do right up to and past the moment where she finally does do it about six more years after that and even then only after mortifying intervention from three church ladies. Yes there was other abuse also and so with my current permanent PTSD sideshow I get flashbacks as they may be popularly called of all sorts.

All I want to say right now about the other abuse is that everyone on my mother’s side of the family has experienced it and probably they continue to but I moved far away from almost everyone and I do not hear from many of them anymore just I know of my very large array of cousins many are becoming grandparents one by one as the family is far too fertile for its own good.

The salient details to the central points of my autobiography are these: my brother molested me after he had reached puberty but before I had and a year later I was raped by a total stranger who was probably completely grown up as far as I could tell then on a beach when I had been left alone for a moment. Because all this happened, you know, in the short life span that is childhood and so it all overlaps and collides and nearly any trivial innocuous event that might happen on Earth has the potential to stir up confusion andor panic andor paralysis andor that feeling that does not sink but plummets its leaden cosmic rays shooting right out your feet and through the ground and through the molten iron engine that spins us round and out the other side of the planet into deep interstellar space where nobody can touch it.

You know that feeling?

The older I get the more appalling this all seems. It was normal then.

I think maybe I will try to go backwards from here now. I do not claim any religion in particular but I practice zazen–Zen meditation–nearly every day and I vastly prefer Zen Buddhism’s take on almost everything to any other of the takes my culture has offered me as serious alternatives. That is I prefer it to, say, Christianity certainly but also wider Anglo-European-American mythologies and ontologies not that those two things are distinct at any point that I have been able to tell so far.

I think I stumbled upon Zen in two ways: I had to attend NA/AA meetings for a short while but every single one of them freaked me out because they are inevitably structured like Protestant church services in some alarming way or another. The only one I have ever been to that did not freak me out in this way and I mean by that I was in full panic for a few days after each one was the meeting held at the San Francisco Zen Center. And so I went to that one only for the necessary duration but I went back to the Zen Center to learn zazen not long after my required NA/AA attendance was no longer required.

The other vector was Dialectical Behavior Therapy which although I was not formally doing it did provide me with some remarkable and valuable insights when I read about it on the internet and since it is partially grounded in mindfulness and in acceptance without judgment it folded almost without a ripple into the zazen I was sitting at least occasionally and occasionally even regularly.

My current practice string began last winter that is the one that spanned 2012 and 2013. I was taken off of the ‘atypical’ antipsychotic Zyprexa in August of 2012 after something like fourteen years on it and if all the things you hear about withdrawal or what they call protracted discontinuation syndrome so they don’t have to call it withdrawal are bad it has been at least as bad as you have heard.

If you haven’t heard then it has been way worse than you might have guessed otherwise and it also is another story that will blossom quite out of hand if I begin to tell it so for short: I lost fifty pounds but that was ok they were mostly Zyprexa Pounds™ but losing all of them in one year’s time was rough especially since here at the other side of those fifty pounds I am not very big at all and so now I have to work very hard to get in enough protein to keep from getting smaller still. Most every other symptom made it and still makes it sometimes difficult to eat. Or walk very far. Or sometimes use my eyes.

I am fortunate though because all of the involuntary muscle twitches that remain are usually too small for others to be able to see because if they were bigger my face would be all bunched up all of the time now. Instead the bridge of my nose aches. And aches. And aches.

So I started meditating about six months into this because what else was there to do there is no cure that is not worse than the condition ie more of the same or similarly-classed medications and I am not interested in taking more of those than I am still on. The other alternative is wait until you feel better. Which is happening slowly and I think I can expect it to continue slowly to happen.

Also as I tell my therapist without the sedating effects of the Zyprexa all my emotional responses go to eleven now. Sometimes approaching twelve. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is interesting and the meditation helps me not to be reactive and not to freak out when some slight neurological shift manifests itself as something I am not sure what to do with. Oh hello full force of grief and terror that I swallowed in 1973. Um, come on in? Have a seat? You.. you would rather pace. OK. You can do that. Can I get you anything? Clothes? You would like clothes? I can get you some clothes; take my jacket and I will be right back. Don’t leave the room? OK. Here is a blanket. It’s sort of old but it is warm.

And then we sit because in zazen it is easier to hear what those parts of me who never learned to talk the first time around have to say and most of them have to say at least something and some of them pepper us with questions like bewildered rip van winkle children waking up thirty, forty, fifty years later to see that not only did we all survive but we even made it to San Francisco which was a mythical land on the six o’clock news with Walter Cronkite in the 60s and 70s all in black and white but colorful enough to spark my imagination to fashion my hippie self who of course grew long hair but was always puzzled about where the beard was going to come from.

This happened just the other night: I came home from a longish walk through the Mission in the evening where I saw that my whole neighborhood had been swapped out for some other neighborhood while I was mostly at home recovering from neurotransmitter/receptor assault the last almost two years. I was so stunned by what I saw that by the time I got home I did not even recognize my own kitchen at first.

We live here?
Yes.
It’s kind of dingy.

[See we live in an old-fashioned Mission flat where the lease is someone else’s distant memory and the maintenance is DIY and many of the furnishings were chosen by some other punk rock queers in the 1980s or 90s and it is easier to use what is already here than to go buy new things especially when the old ones work just fine. But so some of the dirt is also vintage MTV era and we some of the few remaining longterm residents in this part of town are also a little unkempt because this is where the unkempt people used to find places they could afford among people who knew enough not to stare.

By vast contrast, what I saw on my walk the other night were spotless new condos and storefronts and freshly-painted and redecorated Victorians and restaurants where I could not possibly afford even the tip for walking into one. This is a national story by now but I myself have not been paying close attention until very recently.]

Yeah it’s not as clean as Mom would have liked.
Fly paper? People use that?
My housemates do. You and I we just talk to the flies and try to keep them confined to the compost bin if they prefer to stay in rather than fly out the window when we open it for them.

I don’t feel safe here.
Honey we have been here for over sixteen years and it has been safe this whole time.
It has?
Uh-huh.

Where’s Mom?

::deep breath::
She doesn’t want to see us. You remember.

Yeah.

We have other people now. The people we live with here are not afraid of you. Or me. We’ve known S__ for almost twenty-five years. You remember? Nobody here is afraid of any of us in any way.

::nods::

And so on. This conversation went on for half an hour or so: the questions voiced in my head and the answers spoken quietly out loud so as to sound no different from the various topics I discuss with myself even when my housemates were home which they were at this point but in the other room. When I got to my bedroom finally things looked more familiar and it was clear that whichever of me had just seen the kitchen for the first time had been awake and aware here where I can close the door and be even safer than out in the kitchen.

If I had to specify I would say I was talking to an eight year old girl me. When I was about that age I had been told enough times that I was a girl that I believed that it had to be the case even though I could not imagine growing up to be a woman. And so I started at least that young to stop imagining growing up at all because nothing that was foretold to me concerning my eventual life as a grown-up made the slightest lick of sense.

I did not learn self-compassion. Or that is I was not taught it while I was being taught all the other things that were supposed to be the pillars of security and happiness in this world or maybe just the next I am not sure any of the teachers really knew which or even why they thought it was a good idea to tell young kids that Jesus loved them but they had better make damned sure to demonstrate how much they loved him back or he would do very very very very mean things to them for much much longer than they could ever conceive of having to wait even in the most awful boring ugly empty doctor’s office waiting room ever.

For a long time nothing I did was going to get me any brownie points with the Father or the Son or even for that matter with the angels who would be casting me into the Lake of Fire at the Last Judgment if I did not Repent and accept Jesus as my Personal Savior.

It was not enough that I believed with absolute credulity everything my mother told me, everything the Sunday School teachers told me, everything the preacher told anyone even when he probably was not aware of how absurdly dangerous it was to be lecturing adults and children at the same time in the same way. It was not enough that I had done precisely what I was told the Bible said to do ie ask Jesus into my heart and repent my sins and die to my old self by the time I was thirteen I was doing all of these things several times a week but it never took. Because there was this one last thing I was scared to death to do.

In our church, you had to walk.

You know: the aisle. Walk the aisle.

At the end of every service we of course sang the invitation while the preacher stood up front waiting for anyone who wanted to humble themselves before God and the congregation for whatever reason: to give testimony, to ask for salvation, to publicly humiliate themselves for any of a list of mostly petty and inoffensive sins. This was also the only way to make your decision and to be saved, to be born again. The one rationale for this that I recall clearly is that walking somehow counted as Publicly Professing Your Faith or rather that walking was the only thing that counted as such and if you had not yet publicly professed your faith you were still bound for the Lake of Fire no matter how many times you begged Jesus to let you off the hook for this one thing pleeeeeeeease.

Sorry. No. You know this is not going to work no matter how many times you try to get away with it and eventually you will give in and you will walk but no nobody is going to volunteer to walk with you or anything you have to do this by yourself or it does not count. And if you don’t do it soon we are just going to start the Rapture without you in fact we just did!

**panic**

until I heard the car our 1966 Plymouth Barracuda could be heard half a mile away or at least I could hear it and it was a midnight-hour reprieve each and every time but it motivated me not at all to do anything but cower when a late-afternoon thunderstorm made everyone else late and tortured me with bolts and crashes and the fury of a god who had no patience for girls who did not even know why they were terrified of walking they just were to the point that not even hellfire could move my feet out of the safety of the pew. The aisle was carpeted and it pointed a straight line between rows and rows of stares: the penetrating gauntlet that knew all your secrets as soon as they heard a rustle and plod behind them telling them to turn their heads to get a look at who had been sufficiently overcome by conviction to leave the anonymity of the congregation for the aisle that never held more than one traveler at a time.

As I got older, most of the other kids whose parents brought them to church more than a few times a year walked at some point or the other, got sobbed over by the older ladies, then baptized and sent on to witness to their friends or wait to be called to be missionaries or just to get married and have babies who would then be sorted out by the same mechanism to see who was going to enter the Kingdom and who was going to throw away the marvelous gift they had been given of this choice that was no choice at all: walk or burn forever.

Everyone waited for me to walk. I wouldn’t do it.

I am but thirty years behind myself. Here are five minutes only it took all day.

This week I am almost in the mood to construct a long, wide-ranging, single draft from beginning to end and yet relatively coherent manifesto. 

Almost.

I have become preoccupied with voice. Voices, even: those whose near- but not-quite-appearance earned me the “psychotic features” feature of my Official Psychiatric Diagnosis–well, one of them. I have several spread through time and space and now in binary code–but not just those voices. And my voice, or those voices I can describe as available for me to use consciously and willfully even if I have my skepticisms regarding will including a question nobody has answered yet in a way I find useful which question goes mainly like will: what the fuck is it and why are we so attached to the idea of it. I confess I do not “get” will as an entity or function or even faculty although I sometimes get some little where if I approach will as a name that gets passed around among a small circle of verbs having to do with wishing and desiring and commanding and otherwise employing agents of action with or without their consent.

But not just my own voices those which seem to obey what is called me and those which seem to obey the more occult me’s whose functions are not clear beyond their our being indiscriminate attempts to survive the world as they we see it: double-binds chained up into triple- and quadruple-binds to the point that uncertainty issues as its own exponential feedback loop quickly pegging the meters and shredding paper wire and splintered wooden cabinets who crash to the ground and into the crowds huddled around the stacks as though distorted signals were only nutritious if embraced bodily the bass notes picking us up off our feet and setting us back down again 120 times every minute.

But also voice in general: who made the first vocal noise on Earth and what did it sound like when mineral and salt and metal and gas all gathered their breath at once to voice almost nothing other than the interminable lines of divisions and multiplications and the branches and the flowerings and wanings and the iterations and the iterations and the daily business of securing stellar energy in some digestible form or another enough to live through the next day or night or month or winter.

Was it a croak or a squeak or a peal of lungs over ossified vocal folds in announcement of announcement.

We are here.

Where.

Here.
 
 
Here.
 
 
 
Here.

So I have been reading and I have been writing but I have not been speaking or that is I whose life’s work has been determining what to say.

to all of this.

have been keeping mum.

It is an ancient imperative I suspect at least as old as my ancestors’ graves on that Asian peninsula we call Europe wherever they might have been lain some thousand or so places who no longer have names that they themselves know to answer to.

This was going to be a cut and paste. Here is one from a letter I wrote to a friend not long ago.

I have some observations and I have some hunches and I have some ideas but mostly I cannot make out whether or not I have a voice. I may have one. I do not really know if I do or maybe it is that I exercise my own voices for my own auditors and everyone in here is fine with that but when I consider any degree of broadcasting any of these voices even in the smallest ways (should I be writing this? I do not know but I seem to be able to keep writing today so I am going to keep writing today) we bombard ourselves with questions and second and third and fourth guesses about the propriety of ourselves, we, myself, all of me speaking at all.

All of the accounts I read whether of my immediate family or my more distant relations in time and space to the extent that these accounts are fitted to typically heterocompulsive protestant imperatives to that extent I cannot find my place in any of them. I could not possibly have existed before now or that is what they tell me or that is what they tell me in not telling me anything more than what they do the covers of family bibles recording sons and daughters of sons and daughters of sons and daughters as though this were all that ever proceeded from the mouths of humanity or even the only possible terrestrial issue these accounts do not account for me at all.

This other thing too: the language I have been given or the terms with which I have heard my life or lives similar to mine explained and described and discounted and disposed of issues from and reiterates such monstrously outsized shame as a throttle and lash that it is hard to maneuver around without sustaining multiple lacerations at my own hands. It is as though the abusive methods that trained me up in the way I should go worked so as to establish internal agents unable to do other than continue to offer abuse.

I was very well trained as I was growing up to exceed expectations especially when I perceived those expectations as having their hopes bound in some point above. Above me, that is: in stature, power, authority, and all that go with them to render the whole deal of growing up quite awful. Which is not so different from what other children felt. On the other hand I do not know many others who had a Lake of Fire held over their heads or under their feet as the consequences of not only not exceeding expectations but of not examining yourself minutely for other signs of rebellion–and this was just one item on a very very long list of things to do and not do and you had to be very careful and watchful because Satan could trick you into thinking you were doing the right thing when really you were doing the opposite and even though that might seem like it was all on Satan it turned out in the end to be your fault or you were going to be tortured forever as a result and this was certainly reasonable even if by the time you were 16 it would begin to show its absurdity at 7 you took it all very very literally. That is I did.

It was inconceivable to doubt what the preacher said even only to oneself. Your opinion was not only emphatically unsolicited but understood as refuted without hearing: silly, selfish, sinful–a scale yes but usually involving divine judgment as early in the process as necessary to make a clearly open-and-shut case whose sentence needed be no more than one single sentence if it were in need of pronouncing at all.

“I never had to spank her. I could just look at her a certain way and she would be crushed.”

It was true. Crushed I was.

It occurs to me to mention something about cultural social capital and how it is constructed by others and by oneself under conditions where oneself is expected always to be speaking from the seat of shame and where this extends to gender and sexuality in particular to make certain subject positions–let’s say however many might be on the “ftm trans* spectrum” in sociological discourse but on a sort of spun off trajectory into a wtf is gender and I may have a beard and I do love it yes but please stop assuming I am a man sort of spot or station or region or place–difficult even to describe much less speak from as though anyone would be tending their ear in a direction nobody would know even where or how to point.

It would not be theoretical exactly although it would have to be no matter what else it was.

For now though the mention is the best I can do for it.

There may be more.

There is more.
In fact.
In fact there is more. Already. In so many words. So many that I am running out of storage space again.

so I said this is not finished so I said post it anyway so I said ok I hope you know what you are doing so I said of course I do

I do not even know where to begin.

I have begun. I have begun and I have begun.

So many starts that by now fifty thousand or so of me are deeply involved with their chosen labyrinths each one as necessary and urgent as all of the others combined which presents a logical difficulty but not a phenomenological one.

I cannot wait.

I cannot hold my tongue.
I cannot hold my water.
I cannot hold my liquor.

I cannot hold myself to any promises this I only learned in the last couple of years. Apologies if I promised you anything before approximately now. I would give you the world but I probably would not be able to complete the process of packaging it and printing out the postage and taking it to wherever it needed to be taken in order for you to receive it in this lifetime. It is not a matter of will or laziness or disregard nor have I yet been able to articulate what it is a matter of so far I can only watch myself spend hours trying to choose a direction to move in and being unable to intervene in the thought process that takes each direction up to look at its pros and cons and trace its dependencies over and over again until I run up against the hitch enough times to recognize it for what it is at which point I must deliberate how to resolve the hitch which usually requires much the same process in a slightly different direction and this can repeat indefinitely until if I find the lynchpin before five years have gone by I congratulate myself for a job well done.

Because it is a job well done even when the original job gets lost in the trash heap of what I could not do at the time some months or years prior to that.

We learn to heap praise upon ourselves for brushing our teeth.
For putting on shoes.
For washing something. Anything.
For walking down the street without panic on one side or exhaustion on another.
This is not me complaining. This is me carrying water and chopping wood.
This is life. This is what life is.
Trimming your nails without shame.
Can you do that.
Looking in the mirror without averting your eyes.
Can you do that.
Hercules himself would have collapsed in the effort.
Which does not make me a hero.

I cannot find the right words at the right time.
I cannot allow myself to speak even and especially when I have finally worked out with exquisite detail and exacting turns of phrase to evoke precisely the right scene with precisely the right amount of pathos supported by clear but not overbearing arguments to show that I mean no harm and I do not wish to win or that is I do not wish to be able to defeat or conquer even when I cannot do without what are called fighting words because the occasion calls for them and I cannot ignore that call.

There is no way as it turns out to keep everyone comforted or comfortable and so there is no way to guarantee my own safety even when the last word for me must be to stay out of harm’s way. Nothing I say (saw was the typo that snuck out before I caught it) can be without painful consequences because it is the issue of painful consequences which were the issue of painful consequences: the terror of generations terrorized into clinging to and defending to their deaths the most ruthless most bare and absurd imposters of comfort or calm or peace because comfort and calm and peace themselves fled so long ago none of us can remember when they last showed up as anything other than violation under gag orders.

It is not only that one side of my family is abusive without realizing it except when it looks into the windows of a sister or brother to see someone misbehaving and then all is consternation and confusion. That I recall the hushed conversations and puzzlement over why this kid was being bad or why this one here was showing signs of being unable to maintain even through grit teeth the brittle naivete that had brought us along so far to wherever it i was we had got which was itself widely known to be completely unknown. Nor is this the whole story because I am only here where I am and was only there where I was and only saw and heard what I saw and heard and only remember what I remember if that much.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

It is not only that another side of my family has successfully ridden its own stoicism all the way to the underworld enough times that at this point there is practically nobody left to answer to. All of us amiable ciphers to all of us or maybe that was just me. In any case we the survivors are of a loose knit to put it in amiable terms. There would be other stories to be told but the storytellers are dying out.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

It is not only that I live in a culture that enshrines violent domination exploitation and competition over its naturalized delusions of unending lack as not just necessary because hey life is hard toughen up but because we actually believe these things to be divine givens, moral imperatives, and the most perfect and just ideals ever conceived by human beings. To judge our own lives as miserable and in need of salvation immediately upon leaving the womb: the fetus is innocent and even sacred until it crowns into original sin and a personal responsibility so abject as to suggest that all of history is reset at every moment of birth in turn starting over and over and over and over until we are not only each our own island but each our own universe with time and space immaculate for that instant before the mark of Cain sets us against all the others vying for the reassurance that ours and only ours is the righteous and sanctioned path. Even the irreligious believe this religiously.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.