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.
Seven days ago, I quit smoking.
Seven days ago, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of same-gender marriage.
Seven days ago, my sister shaved my head.
The first time I started smoking, I was a teenager voluntarily trapped in a psych ward.
The first time I realized same-gender marriage could be possible was the first time I could legally vote. I didn’t.
The first time I shaved my head, my mother was still dying from cancer. She did.
Nine days ago, a nurse told me that I have high-grade precancerous cells inside my vaginal canal.
Nine days ago, my ex-girlfriend left me a voicemail that said: “Remember me?” She doesn’t understand that my love for her overlaps together and apart.
Nine days ago, I was growing out my hair.
First, on the phone with the nurse, I cried about losing my insurance to capitalism.
Then, on the phone with the nurse, I cried about wanting to birth another child.
I still haven’t cried about wanting to keep living. To keep living.
Today, I had lunch with a stranger.
I just don’t get how one can look at all of these wrinkly, white haired people finally married and kissing publicly and be pissed off.
Whether it’s because one is homophobic or the mission not radical enough.
I am going to go ahead and assume I am not talking to the Westboro fan club.
Yes, there is a lot of work to do. And hopefully we will see our visions realized before we die.
But for one moment, can we stop and acknowledge that we didn’t start this journey and maybe with all of our energy and anger and hope and youth, we cannot fully realize what was lost for it? What was offered to it? What it means in so many different contexts to so many generations of queer people? People who on average experienced discrimination, or fear, like we’ve only heard of.
Working within the system does nothing to dismantle the system. Except for the system’s idea of division? Or the system’s tendency to erase and rewrite history to pretend like there was no struggle, were no people, before the latest mission showed up?
Marriage is a fucked up system, I know. But behind all the rainbow lights and tiered cakes, this is about legal rights and feeling like a human.
And sometimes humans measure their feeling of humanness/self-worth by conditioned standards. Like when you put on make-up today. Like when you shaved. Like when you went to a gendered department for clothing. Like when you said thank you. Like something everyday you breathed air. Because that’s what humans do. Because it is about belonging.
Today I heard a young woman on the radio say that young queers don’t want to belong, that they want to embrace their otherness. I thought, she doesn’t understand two things. 1. The feeling of the history of the word queer. 2. Young queer people often have some safe community these days.
I agree that queer activism is not radical enough. I agree that marriage equality is not enough. In fact, with black kids being shot by police officers, I really don’t give a fuck about same gender marriage right now. Still, I acknowledge its worth to so many and to all of the visions I have for equality.
And I don’t need to boo someone else’s pride parade to create my own.