C asked me “Did you see those guys?” The hair on his arms was erect. He had chills. We were eating dinner together in a dark, crowded, stylish pub. “They were like these horrible looking guys.” He was talking about the men who raped and terrorized those young girls for a decade— The ones who recently escaped because a neighbor sensed something wrong. That’s what I heard. I don’t have a TV anymore. C watches the news around the clock. He has anxiety. Wakes up at 3a.m. sometimes, pale blue eyes going bad from staring hard into worry, sipping instant coffee, clenching his neck. Head-to-toe beautiful.
“No,” I said. The hair on my arms matched his—blonde pine needles spooked by the shit of humanity. I didn’t want to see their faces. I didn’t want to imagine their hairy pig noses and pointy teeth. They could be anyone: The neighbor above me walking back and forth in socks, the ceiling creaking as he plays the same short sad rift on piano; the white-haired old man at the gas station who walked up to me one morning as I pumped my gas and said “Love the ponytail.” I thanked him but was angry.
It’s just that—
I want to escape. It’s not a new feeling but it tricks me into thinking so. It hangs around my ankles and crawls up my leg. Drags me up the mountain before the sun comes up and clobbers me all the way down. It fucks up my hip and doesn’t care. It empties me out till I’m numb, blisters my forehead, gives me zits then promises rain. It dresses up like hot date then leaves me hanging. It’s two knees on my chest, then both feet. It’s your name on a loop. It talks me out of every rule I’ve ever had. I don’t drink or take pills or snort heroin or fuck strangers today. Shopping is for suckers. I want to rip my teeth out and smile big through a glory hole in a convalescent home. I’m a clenched fist looking for a cement block to pound, a scream looking for a sock monkey to swallow so I don’t say something bad. I’m gushing with wanting out. It’s reached epic proportions and has universal appeal. It’s giddy Coca-Cola in slick black bondage pants, tits out, claws sharp. It’s like waking up soapy and beautiful then sprinting into a fiery, snapping oven. This sadness is crackling bones and wailing in the night. Basically, everything in this god damned neighborhood and apartment reminded me of him and I needed to get the fuck out of here. A t-shirt he bought for me, the coffee mug we drank from. The shoes he most liked on me. I wanted to crash my car. Throw away all the “us” things. But I didn’t do that.
Instead, I fled to my happy place and swam back into the womb of New Orleans where I would be loved. Philip Shepherd writes: “You cannot reason your way into love. You cannot reason your way into fulfillment. If you wish to be present, you need to submit to the present, and suddenly you find yourself at one with it. You submit to love” (The Sun, Issue 448).
So much has changed: The desk where I write now is really an expandable blonde table where my desktop computer glows. The table/desk belongs to my friend B, who’s on tour and when he’s not, he lives in an airstream trailer in Austin. His refrigerator hums nearby. I sleep on his air mattress that I fill every night because I like the sensation of drifting out to sea on a floaty raft even though I can sometimes hear the neighbor breathing through the walls. Like I said, I don’t have a TV right now, but I have a giant plastic tub of lime green earplugs and a Kindle. I have essays to write and jobs to chase. I have a book coming out! My piles of marked up journals explode with pink post-its. I’m messy and unsexy while organizing my mail in fuzzy Zombie pajamas. I stream Project Runway. I planned a book party show in New Orleans.
Coyotes used to howl their nightly blood song in the backyard near the delicate wall of young bamboo. Now I hear voices: a young couple out in the courtyard calling a stubby, orange dog chasing a yellow ball across a cut lawn. The groundskeepers are fastidious here. They show up on Tuesdays with their blowers and scare the shit out of my cats, who used to vanish in the morning to chase birds and return with blood on their chins from hunting gophers. When I fill the air mattress or the blowers come, they spaz out and race with a mighty bored fury, fight and knock over my piles of journals.
Yes. I brought my slaughterhouse-sadness to New Orleans. Jazz fest was in the air. You could feel it buzzing by night and rising by late morning. It would fill out the noise between my ears. I found the magic candle store and my sweet friend L and drank way too much coffee and ate fried everything. I watched a morbid gorgeous creature with brownish black eyes do the moon walk suspended from a stripper pole and climb the air like it was soft ribbon in her fingers. I fell in love with her strength and grace. I met a man who offered to teach me how to read bones and I took him up on it, but there was no time. I posed naked wearing an Indian headdress and nothing else for several hours for a photographer whose work I respect. I ate lunch with a friend’s partner and his lover and her roommate who had just started stripping. The roommate reminded me of being young and queer in San Francisco and starting to strip and all of those itchy insecurities. The advice I gave her was “Build community.” What I wanted to say was: “Be a person and have integrity and you will stand out. See where you fit in and if you find you don’t then leave.”
I ate melted Parmesan cheese on raw oysters and was served by a waitress named “Minnie” who I remembered from two years ago. I walked in and out of strip clubs and watched women survey the land and pounce. I stomped around on Royal and Bourbon Streets with my heart banging in the night and faced the music. Grow up time. I accept this: Look up. It’s us up there shooting light. Catch it. Open your hands. Love.