I recently wrote a piece to be read at a local story telling event. The theme was Flirting with Disaster. I’m not sure that I know another way to flirt.
A few months ago, I told someone that something could be really dangerous and she replied, or really beautiful. Yes. Like this.
Flirting with Disaster
The first time I kissed a lover, we didn’t kiss. I was 13. She was older than me. And I was the brave one. She’s always older than me. And I’m always the brave one. We were lying on the bottom bunk, under my sister, facing each other, bodies so close it hurt. It was this time of year. I couldn’t kiss her. So instead, I ran my tongue over the surface of her lips. When I stopped, she ran hers over mine. And we danced like this for hours, as if kissing was more dangerous than what we were already doing.
The first time you try to let someone touch the body your father raped.
When I realized that my 4 year-old niece was calling my friend “Auntie” because she read our interactions as partnership, as romantic. Where children cannot see societal boundaries they fully feel emotions. We were having an ordinary conversation. I said, “That’s her husband.” And with that tiny string of words, I broke my niece’s heart for the first time. Through sobs she kept yelling, “Auntie Nik, fix it!” “No, please.” “Fix it.” Until she needed it so desperately that she slapped me across the face.
My young niece doesn’t yet understand the power in friendship.
When I was 12, or 13, I was a witness of the state, living in a foster home, ordered to testify against my parents. My social worker asked me to list folks who felt safe, who were my support. I gave her my girlfriend’s name. She told me that I shouldn’t tell anyone about that, or I would lose the support I did have. I found a boyfriend.
I’m raising a child who is now 13.
Being the executive director of a nonprofit organization.
Have you ever been kind to someone?
Have you ever been kind to someone who is desperate to be loved?
When he proposed and I let him put the diamond ring on my finger and practiced signing his last name as if it would become mine. It didn’t.
When I couldn’t tell if we were communicating to each other in jewelry, like hankies in our pockets, the things we were too afraid, or unwilling, or desperately trying, to say.
Have you ever dated someone with children?
There is no sense in trying not to fall in love.
Everyone is desperate to be loved.
Straight women who expect their boyfriend to love them the way you love them.
Especially when you’re just friends.
The first time you let someone enter your mind as you bring yourself to orgasm.
The first time you let someone enter your mind when someone else is bringing you to orgasm.
When she proposed and we put square rings on each other’s round fingers and then fed each other pasta with them the week after I had written a poem describing our kisses as manufactured brownies, the kind you don’t actually want, but eat because they are there. We hyphenated our last names.
I’m supposed to tell you that threesomes are disaster. I won’t.
She keeps reaching for my hand. Sometimes,
I let her find it.
Multiple times a day, I walk past a note in my own handwriting, giving me permission, or commanding me, to fall in love again today.
I started 9th grade at a new school. A girl a year older than me stopped me at the water fountain and asked me if I was bi. I asked her why she was asking me. She told me because she was my friend and she’d tell people to stop spreading lies. I told her to let them talk and walked away. The next day “Dyke” was etched in my locker.
Have you ever loved someone more than they loved themselves?
Have you ever let someone love you more than you love yourself?
Any time you welcome someone to the body your father raped. But, of course, it’s not that same body.
When the world dissolves and suddenly you’re fucking her in the airport bathroom, at the train station, on the piano bench, outside the rock concert, outside the folk concert, against the tree, she’s inside you while you drive, in the bar bathroom, after your mother’s funeral, at the abandoned mini golf course you’re both pretending you’re going to buy and run together, which you’re calling Paradise. When the police show up at your door to check on your wellness because entirely out of character, you didn’t show up to teach your class. When the world dissolves and neither of you has ever uttered the phrase “making love” but now you can’t call it anything else.
Knowing we only get one body. That all the things we live, stay in our body.
Reading this out loud to you.
When I found her hair in the shower the first time,
my knees bent as if she left me a love poem.
I wrapped my hand around it,
like I would never let her go.
I watched another make its way down the drain
and realized I was holding it like
I understood she would probably go.
Knuckles white-red from grasping so tight,
her hair-poem made fists for loving.
I loved her before
I kissed her. Which is the hardest way to fall.
All heart. The way a balloon keeps filling until
it bursts. The way a robin’s egg falls out of the nest
just before it births flight. I swallow down the yellow
yoke of her, lick her words like frosting from my face.
One little hair and I am folded naked in the tub,
knees to my chest, water drowning my grin–
wondering if she understands how brilliantly she feels
or how beautifully she knows. I curl around her questions as if
the desperation behind questions have been answers the whole time.
I am huge on respecting my elders. Still, I am thankful that I grew up in a place that taught me to call adults by their first names. As if their marriage status was irrelevant to holding a conversation with them. As if I was a human too, and not hoping to grow into one.
A few years ago, in trying to express to my child that I am a whole person–
not just the one who picks up his dirty socks
or the one who cooks his meals
or the one who works for his shelter
or holds his pain
or tickles his laughter
— I asked him to call me Nik, out of respect.
I wanted him to see me as a person in the world, not just a person who meets his needs.
I wanted him to understand me as human and dismantle the pedestal he had built for me to serve him from.
Not because I am afraid of heights.
Because it is difficult to hold his hand from up there.
Because I am more than his mother.
Because when he declares, “This is what a feminist looks like” I want it to be because he cares about women, as humans, not because he has a mother. Not because he is supposed to.
Because it is his truth.
I have been invited to church, to lodge, to pray in the woods.
To make art, to build alters for the dead, to study the Bible.
She, and then she, reads my cards and counts my stars,
she prays on her knees,
while I look up at the moon.
I have been invited
and often I go,
somehow I arrive
in these spaces
nothing feels more real or beautiful
Have you ever cried during someone else’s song of praise?
Have you ever trembled during the baptism of a stranger?
Outside of these spaces I think: missionaries, sheep, rape and war.
Capitalist communion. Cultural appropriation. Deflection and pacification.
Have you ever wondered what you’re taking in exchange for offering your God?
Have you ever wondered what you’re offering in exchange for worshiping their gods?
Offering; spirituality for profit.
Even yoga makes me uncomfortable.
But to watch someone interact with their faith,
Not attend church, but to show up
This is what I have always been searching for
Waiting as a girl on church steps for
. my friends and their families to come out
. to believe in something so completely that I forget that everything fails
And then, she curled up in this communal space, front row, her legs folded beneath her,
And she took notes.
I don’t know what she wrote
But I read colors spiraling inside like the northern lights,
the kind of intensely gentle touch that heals.
She offers it to herself.
I sway to the notes that are not for me
as the congregation sings, moves
Eyes closed, lungs filled with praise.
. Breathing fresh
air is something I cannot see.
But faith, she holds up
She reads it to me like the embrace of
a bedtime story
. with a surprise ending.
Or a bright light
shining through a man-made tree,
reimagined. Multiplied by three.
I just made myself one of my grandmother’s favorite foods, but I prepared it the way my mother would have eaten it. I cannot decide who I am seeking comfort from, or for.
And I wonder if nourishing my body in the autumn will always feel like this now. Like I watched my mother starve for three days until she died.
Have you ever not have the resources you needed but trusted that everything would find its way?
Told yourself it would all work out?
That is what my sister has been doing for over a year in planning her wedding. And then their shared car needed new brakes. And then they saved again. And then they needed a new tire. And so on. And here we are, a month before their celebration.
I kept telling her it would all find its way and we worked hard to make that reality. And I trust that it will. Still, with the wedding a month away and the invites waiting until payday for stamps to be sent out and my sister in tears, I wanted to do more. She works hard and loves even harder and deserves better than this. So, I created a GoFundMe campaign and I posted this on FB:
“I am not sure I have ever been so nervous in my life.
But here we are.
My sister and I have both gone without food to feed our children in the last few years and we’d do it again if we had to. Maybe that is why I want this so passionately for her. Maybe that is why I am nervous.
I don’t want to get into why the stigma of sharing exists, not here, only acknowledge that it is real. Tremble in my hands real.
I am here, creating this top secret campaign for Ashley and Drew’s wedding and she sends me this text: “Its so much, my head hurts. i wish mom was here, idk if that would help anything but id feel better… Everything comes down to money and its gross and im scared to ask anyone for anymore help… I just feel exhausted and I cry all the time” and then she was trying to schedule a Biolife appointment, but couldn’t. I once drove her to the emergency room after donating plasma, it makes her so sick.
So often in her life she has been made to feel like she screwed things up and her inability to afford things is her fault. So often in her life she has been told she should be more like me. Especially this time, it just isn’t true. She works hard and she doesn’t have extra money for her wedding because she has spent it in every responsible way. She is one of my best role models of living and loving life. ❤
For me, this is not about the institution of marriage, but the desire to celebrate the beauty of committed love and partnership.
I agree with my sister’s repetition, she is blessed.”
If you have $5 to offer toward a ribbon for her hair or a seat for someone who cannot stand the duration of the 20 minute ceremony, your love of love will be deeply felt and carried forward into the next chapters of all of our lives. ❤
Please feel free to share.
the sudden hesitation in my brother’s voice when he is telling me about loving women
the way he would talk to my other brothers about women
the way he talks to his friends
“I can’t talk to you about this, it’s weird.”
we dance around my sexuality as if it’s the thing always making everything weird
a women loving woman
and suddenly he realizes that I am a woman
. what’s weird for him is that he respects me
I am considering getting my son a “pizza rolls, not gender roles” shirt, because no middle school wardrobe should be without it.
Except he doesn’t like pizza rolls and I am not sure that I want to endorse the advertisement of almost foodness to young people getting food choice freedom for the first time (at school lunch at least).
And “broccoli not gender roles” is just weird.
This is your official challenge to come up with a “__________ not gender roles” shirt slogan for middle schoolers.