i started writing this book eight years ago,
in a cheap bedroom in philadelphia. i was afraid
to leave the house. i rode my bike for money, $4 an hour plus tips
risking my life for other people’s pizza. on good days i was stoked
that i got paid for writing my bike. on bad days i felt the knowledge deeply within my bones
that all it would take was one un-flicked turn signal, one sip of a latte
in a SUV beverage holder–and my bones would be crushed. the pizza cold.
i was only 24. i hadn’t done anything yet, not really.
i felt so expendable.
so i started writing: to make my girlfriend laugh. because i didn’t have
money to go out and do anything. because i was hungry,
not just for food but for connection. because i wanted to shoplift
this book from barnes & noble, wanted to read it and learn something
about myself, about my people, about the wild life that we all lived,
the struggle and the beauty, the gorgeous potential, rotting away,
but it didn’t exist yet. and it wasn’t going to exist,
unless i did the work.
i started writing because when i left the house, i was threatened. if i smiled,
that was an invitation. if i didn’t, i was a fucking dyke bitch, or worse, a faggot.
my life had already been threatened twice. twice i escaped and i didn’t know how,
besides luck, besides some vague notion that i wasn’t done yet–
i wrote because when i left my house, i put on what i called my game face.
took off my skirts, put on carharts. wouldn’t allow myself to think of anything funny
because smiles were invitations. eye contact was invitation. existing was invitation.
i wrote because i needed somewhere to be vulnerable, to laugh, to feel,
and i wasn’t getting it anywhere back then,
besides on my trashpicked futon, giggling in my girlfriend’s arms,
and curled up reading books that almost got it,
and writing, writing, writing. i needed to make a new world
because the one i was in was terrible.
i wrote because when axi died i promised her i’d do some of the stuff she didn’t get a chance to do.
because, a few months later, i read this line in the zine “emergency”
and it made me cry until i gasped. it burned itself into my brain
and, even years later, i had to pull a receipt out of my pocket
and scrawl it, and hand it across the bar to arthur
when we were drinking & talking about our dead loves
because i couldn’t say it without crying
and i was too embarrassed to cry in front of people back then.
the line was this:
“there are things that only she could do,
and now that she’s gone they won’t get done.
you don’t understand.
she was non-negotiable.”
for years, i was too overwhelmed by the enormity of this promise.
i felt completely unequipped to fulfill it.
and it’s true, there are things that won’t get done
because she isn’t there to do them.
but i wrote because i wanted to get started.
now let’s flash forward to the future. i will be 32 tomorrow.
i live in oakland, california.
i didn’t die, not yet.
i make $20 an hour doing work that is hard and scary
but that i love deeply.
after four years of writing, and four additional years of self-doubt,
this book is in the realm of the physical
because i made it happen. & because enough people supported me
and believed in me, donated money for the first print run.
yesterday at work, one of my co-workers told the clients that
i’d written a book. i usually don’t talk about it with them
because i want them to talk about them, i want it to be about them
and as an aries i struggle every day with the notion that it’s not all about me.
but the word was out, and they were excited.
two of them asked what the title was, and i told them,
and i wandered away to find them looking at my book blog (this!) on a smartphone.
they were so excited,
so happy for me,
despite everything that is going on in their lives.
it was so fucking touching.
this is not a happy ending.
i am still fucked up
that line still makes me cry
every day i see the residue of racism, transphobia, homophobia, poverty, addiction and the prison industrial complex
played out in the lives & bodies of people i love deeply
and there is nothing i can do but be present, and listen,
and it’s something; but it’s not enough.
i still feel hopeless and overwhelmed
my grief and trauma still affects nearly everything i do
a man spit at me on the street just last month
when i was twenty-four i could not have imagined this:
this city, this job, this level of support.
this notion, deep in my bones, that my life is not expendable.
that i have done something with it.
this book took eight fucking years
it will probably not sell more than a thousand copies
but that’s okay. because i dance in my kitchen
to my Song Of The Moment (“the food” by common)
and yell along with him (well he doesn’t yell it,
i’m the only one yelling):
“slow motion better than no motion!”
and it’s true
even when everything felt so hopeless
i was still moving, slowly
and eventually, eventually, i wound up here.