The Desire

The Desire

If you lay down your head and feel The Desire

It may be a for a few seconds or fall into a while

Know that even though it has lived inside so many of us

We are still strangers

Trying to fight each other’s desires

 

I have always felt like the freshman, like everyone around me already had their place and were just being polite; making room for me in a space that was already full. That with my addition would be cramped.

 

I haven’t felt much like pushing words out recently. Because that is exactly how they feel, pushed. My brain this year has been more than ever affected by my body. This brown boy walking. This brown boy living. This brown boy existing. This boy pushing. Trying to be a voice, but one that doesn’t push away or disrupt those in the positions of power of the places where I want to be to excavate my thoughts to the audiences that…who I hope that, need to hear me. I am that, I am that ellipses. Omitting words to ensure that I am not upsetting. Leaving them somewhere in the crevices of my own brain, so that I don’t have to shove them into the forefront of yours.

 

I am getting used to it.

 

Did you know that blankets can feel like concrete anchors; binding your body to a bed, already consumed with – covered by your tears, your anxious sweat, some crumbs from late night binging, and above all else your desire. No not sexual – The Desire. The Desire to get up and go off into the world. The Desire to answer a text, to return that call. To engage. It isn’t for lack of want, nor the lack of need, but it can get tricky. Tricky when the brain tells us it wants nothing more than to be alone; tricks us into thinking we are alone. Tricks us into saying our friends don’t really want us, that we are not needed. That we, “us” were just a fleeting moment in time. Add to that the fear of existing in this world as an other. Even worse, as a target.

 

You are alone with your concrete anchor and The Desire is taunting you.

 

How do we demolish the shadow that for many of us is ever present? It goes by many names,for some of us is it our actual self. We can treat some parts of the shadow with pills and substance. But there is no fulfillment. How can there be when the world itself is changing with you? For you?

 

You are filling a cup with tiny holes at the bottom. The stronger the substance the more rapid the water flows from the faucet , overwhelming the holes – and in that moment your glass is suddenly full. But you have never known fullness before. And it proves to be just as overwhelming as being entirely empty. You exist knowing that having far too little is exhausting; and having it all is something you are not worthy of. You walk a tightrope of understanding that it is your place, to always feel out of place. You are a freshman. We allow the faucet to get out of hand from time to time, and allow ourselves to feel excess but we know no limitations for the things we have never had, and won’t be able to hold on to, and so either  we or society decides to reduce the flow, and just like that our cup begins to drain. And just like that we are back to living with the shadow of The Desire.

 

I feel pain that you are gone. That he is gone. That she will be too. I feel, no, I am sorrow – a state that feels constant, familiar, and somehow like a friend harboring in an enemy.  Lingering in everyday life are the reminders of those who used to walk with us. A laugh that sounds too familiar. A hairstyle that you knew well. A story you’ve just read, a movie you want to see, a moment that would have instantly turned into an inside joke; but you take it in alone.

 

So, on those days, when the concrete anchor is on top of our chests. When the cup is all but fully drained. When we are lost in the memories that have brought us to this place. How do we, how do I get the words out to tell you? How do I dig into the crevices I possess, and give you a flashlight? How do I share with you that The Desire lives inside of me? That while I seem like a freshman, I have been here for so long. Purgatory that is fueling The Desire.

 

This brown boy is trying. While I watch so many of my brown skin folk dying.

 

Though we have been here for centuries. America treats us as freshman. So many firsts. Because we have never been given the chance before.

 

This trans boy is trying While so many of my brothers and sisters are being silenced by violence. The Desire of others and theirs as well.

 

Though we have been here forever. We were not always in view. And now our pride, our celebration of self, it is killing us.

 

My black life matters.

Her trans life – which is charged with the same heartbeat as yours.

It matters.

Maybe even more.

 

So we push out these words even though we are tired. Even though we fight The Desire. Even though we. are. so. tired.

We have made ourselves the brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and even the mothers and the fathers

that many of us have lost along the way.

 

If I breathe a day longer, I am fighting.

 

The Desire may take you, as it has taken so many. And if it does please know that we’ll miss you. But that we understand.

While the world never let you move past being a freshman; know that you were in fact a professor.

 

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Nauseous Nostalgia

The fear of loss is a bond that all humans feel. From the loner to the most social, losing whatever it is that gives you breath every day is detrimental. It is one thing to constantly remind yourself to be thankful for what you have, but it is another to actually put breath back into what is providing you with an IV with your daily medicine, the CPR that you have come to depend on. You can love your garden as much as you want, but if you do not water it, the plants you love so much will die. Give and take, take and give, it is so often that our relationships weigh heavier on one of the two.

My grandfather has always lived strongly by one mantra: Listen to what I say, not how I say it. This has run through his blood for as long as I have known him, and probably in him from the first position of power and influence he took on. But things are changing; his wife, my grandmother is suffering from what we will all come to know, the hands of old age. The hands that creep ever so slowly over us, until they decide to do what they want. We fight them off, and sometimes hold hands with them, understanding each other for the moment, getting along for a common good, but eventually we grow tired and they win. This is life, as it always has been, and even the most cocky of us most eventually succomb to our own ego’s and stop the battle. But while we still have fight in us, how do we deal?

For her it is her mind. It is her hands. An artist who is losing control of both. How do we cope? A lesson to be learned. Hear what I say not how I say it. But now these moments, they are so tender. She may not remember the words, but the tone it matters now. Days are not careless anymore. Each one counts, and each one is for her new memories. Forgotten or not, make them count. Imagine that it took decades to realize how important our delivery is. Words are just the forefront of conversation. If you come with a bite, you may receive a bark back. How have we come this far to only learn this now? And if we had known it yesterday, what would it have changed? Would we know more about each other?

When Monet went blind, he let the colors he had spent a lifetime falling in love with guide him through. Just because you have stopped seeing it does not mean the colors don’t exist. Just because you have stopped breathing, it doesn’t mean what you have left behind can’t still exist. As she holds her paintbrush now, she may not have the concentrated, calculated control that she has become accustomed to, but does that mean she has to stop? I think it means she can’t stop.

The way you thought you would always be, the parts of you that you thought you would never change; all it takes is the dependency of love and in an instant you are the person you thought you could never be. The thought of someone you love immensely going through a pain that you can not take on yourself is itself the greatest pain in the universe.

Moving across the country, away from my family and my friends has given me the space to crash into so many feelings. Not things that were necessarily buried deep, but things that I could not face or deal with while in such close proximity to those who were part of the memory. I look in the mirror and say hey are you ok? It’s become a daily ritual. I don’t think we talk to ourselves enough. We demand things of ourselves yes, we put pressure on ourselves, we judge and feel sorry for ourselves, but how often do we say: whats up? How often do we check in and get real with ourselves? How often do we attempt to talk ourselves down? Living in New York I learned how to amp myself up. How to look in the mirror and demand myself to look sharp, to smile, and charm the shit out of whoever it was I was about to come in contact with. But never did I say, how the fuck are you and what is it exactly that you want and need out of today. I think it was because I was scared to slow down, being alone with your thoughts is horrifying. But once you take the initial jump, it’s refreshing as hell.

Today is a day that I usually dread. This month actually always proves to be the hardest of the year for me. I have for the past decade hated November. It marks to me the day that I woke up and no longer had my mom. Crazy isn’t it, how twenty four hours is all it takes. One day you’re planning for one thing, and the next…We as humans are in a constant state of change. Even if we fail to recognize it, or try and delay it, change is always happening. Time no matter how much you choose to ignore it will at some point demand your attention. I have tried to avoid the books that talk about grief, how to grief, what year one, two, three, mean. The thing is, the way you remember someone you love will change every time you think about them. Sometimes you will be brought to tears, sometimes you’ll find yourself laughing, and sometimes you will just feel empty. Empty in the way that only death can make you feel. Death and nostalgia. Those two things make me feel so eerily the same. It’s this feeling that sits in your stomach and clenches your throat. I suppose being nostalgic can often feel like dying or at least like you’re letting go of something that you will never get back again. No matter how hard you try what is dead is gone, and what has past is now nostalgia. How mind numbing. How frustrating. How have we not created a time machine yet? That’s all you can think in those moments. We as humans are really so helpless. Just like the planet we live on we are crashing through time and space, hoping not to hit anything that will end us before we are ready. But because we will never know when that might happen, we have to live.

It is such a strange concept to think back on this year and say: I learned to live. I have always been terrified of dying. I have carefully avoided getting too close to those I could fall madly in love with as friends and as lovers, because you see time and nature could take them away from me. But I think that’s selfish. I think it’s stupidity. It is definitely destructive. So though it isn’t yet time for resolutions there’s mine. To love without question, and look inside myself. To fall to nostalgia’s spell when it takes over my thoughts, but not allow it to blanket me and push me away from the present. You are always told not to forget your past, but I think what we should be told, is to respect our past and let it live inside us, but to always keep an extinguisher at a hand when it’s flames tickle us too harshly. Calling us back. You can’t go back, and I think that’s a good thing.

And Here We Are.

And all at once you feel a merging of what seems like every feeling your body is capable of. This must be living. This must be dying. This must be the answer to why or what or when or how you got here. Here being Earth, here being in this moment, here being with her. 

And all at once you are at peace. You have always been taught that peace and calm is better than war and conflict. But really, at least for you peace comes with conflict. It comes with bumps, it comes with daggers that cut deep. Peace is not the silence of the things that hurt you. It is dealing with those things and not letting them control you. 

You stand next to things that started breathing millions of years ago. And while you are with them your body catches their air. How beautifully overwhelming. Waves crash onto the shore, the way branches crash into the ground. They are not necessarily unkind, they are however completely independent. Nature is a freedom that many of us will never ever even have a taste of. And rightfully so, for look at how we treat her – or him. We are tourists that have overstayed our welcome and instead become parasitic. 

And all at once I am guilty. Look at what we have done. Trees slaughtered for shopping malls and mansions. Who will be filled with consumers who know nothing else but to consume more and more. Mansions that will house families, who will barely say “how are you’s” over dinners that were prepared out of necessity, not out of love. 

The sun and you have never spoken. Yet the sun provides you with everything. Even on the coldest days of winter, there above you beaming, she never stops. 

And all of a sudden you are crying. The tears you hold inside are the fears you wish you could bury the ones you hope one day will die, and leave you feeling more alive. The shore is always changing, because the ocean has no time for the complacency that for humans is simply a way of life. 

For you it’s always been the quest. The search for love, for laughter, for mornings that don’t make you hit the snooze button in anger. Because you are turning over to the eyes you’ve waited all night to see. You have always wanted to shake the insatiability that was so valuable to you as a kid. If you stayed hungry for something more than what you were being given, then what you didn’t have didn’t have to matter as much.

Learn to live with possibility. 

Every heart knows heaviness. God knows, if your heart was further away from your lungs it probably wouldn’t be able to beat. And because of that, for that reason you should never forget to breathe. 

And all at once I know what I want. But am skeptical of if the world will agree. I know that I never want to know what the future holds. I can’t pave a road before I walk it. They say to look before you leap, but I think it’s really that you should invest in the commitment of the water being either much to shallow or way too deep. Nothing is ever as it seems, but that’s what makes this. This life. This struggle, this beautiful yet terrifyingly stabbing sometimes majestic but often times debilitating. This is why your heart need your lungs. You need to breathe in the things that will make your heart sing. Because when you don’t, if you don’t, that’s heartbreak. 

And there is no point in living, with a broken heart.  

The Party

It’s like constantly showing up late to a party; my life that is. A party where everyone else already knows each other. They have inside jokes and stories, have known each other’s partners, had dinner with each other’s parents. A party whose guests accept you yet don’t really know you past the game of flip cup you just played together.

I have always felt late to the party.

My family is my family. There is no confusion in my heart or head that the people who adopted me as an infant fill the roles of mom and dad, of aunt and uncle, of grandparent. They talk of a past that isn’t mine. My ancestors weren’t Russian immigrants. My birth family were never called kykes or denied jobs because they were Jewish. They knew no Holocaust.

They looked like me.
Black like me.

My parents divorced when I was still a baby, and both remarried. Two new families where I felt the outcast. My dad and his wife had a child together and suddenly my life at home was divided. I was a tag along. The third wheel of a family whose house I happened to share. I was a target, and on my own. I threw myself into friends, people who had known each other since they were babies. This was the suburbs, you had your friends from childhood but I was new. I came from the city, wide eyed and mystified by these tight knit circles.

Late to the party once again.

I squeezed in. Loud, opinionated, but soft hearted and funny; it was never hard for me to hop from group to group at school.

I never opened up about my family. My friends were from cookie cutter homes with moms who cooked dinner and dads who played basketball on Saturday mornings with them in the driveway. But every family is good at pretending. Every kid goes to school with secrets slammed behind their locker doors. In reality so few of our families were perfect. So few marriages were working. But being an outcast at school, would make being one at home too even worse.

What does it feel like to have people tell you that you look just like your brother? Have the face of your mother? Your fathers laugh and your families knack for sports?

Tall and black. Thin and athletic. Emotional and sympathetic. Scared and anxious. An extrovert with overwhelming needs to be alone. They are not like me.

My acting teachers always said that I had excellent projection. My dad and his father are easily better than me. Anger that resides in me results in words on paper. Either reading or writing, for me the fighting gets done between a book cover. I want to talk to you for hours. I want to your voice, your past, your choice, what led you here. Why that thing I did triggered you then. And when and if it happens again, how to deflect the tension. Amend it. Jesus would they yell. To see red in someone face as they storm around and pace. My dad would throw tantrums like a child. Break things and curse like a fuming bull charging through the streets. And then he would break. And sigh and often cry and hold me.

If this is the party, I would like to leave.

We deal with death. But we really never deal with death. If life is a joke, death is the punch line that went over everyone’s head. Everyone should feel the feeling of being on a roller coaster without a harness. Because as you feel yourself falling, grieving, twisting and screaming, you realize that you’re going to be ok.

I don’t know what her last words were. But I can guess her thoughts. Summers spent outside painting each other’s nails. Christmas stockings whose contents overflowed on to the mantle. Trips to bookstores where hours were spent, where I was allowed to roam and explore. The smell of coffee every morning as we shared the bathroom getting ready. Flowers.

Always fresh like Spring. Colors like a Pollock. A laugh that was louder than most car horns. Eyelids that were always ready to shed tears. Arms always willing to cuddle. A mouth unafraid to sound off. Love times a million the kind that radiates from so deep within, that you wonder if their is a trap door.

Fall off that coaster into darkness. But realize that breathing eventually becomes easier and the wind around you dies down. As you finally touch down.

I miss you at the party.

If I ran into one if my siblings on the street, would they notice me?

Have we ever crossed paths?

We have the internet now. This is could be so easy.

But do I want it to be?

Do I want to crash another family? Another group that’s had it’s history. Who know each other inside and out and maybe have always thought about; that baby that left them years ago. Maybe wonder how that kid came to be and if they had grown, tall like their father. If they have laugh lines like their mother. Passing thoughts as they have moments alone. But not enough to press the issue. And what about my other set of parents? The ones whose genetics make me into whatever it is this body can be.

Sometimes I walk for hours to quell my anxiety. If I leave town for a day or two when I get back the mundane will feel new. I often feel like a polka dot. The literal black sheep. I fear that they can’t hear me, that I showed up too late for them to get me. I am a vortex of change in every way. My gender picks up where nature left off and strays. My sexuality is magnetic towards so femininity and beauty. The men of my family are so different than the boi I’ve come to be and we all know there’s love there. But it can be so hard to show it.

The backgrounds of our slide show keep changing so rapidly. The projection of his light and not my light and the colors don’t exactly feel right when they bounce off the wall together. Yet they have been told that they are bound and belong together. So they stay illuminated for the party.

Waiting for the guests to leave.

How to Live When it Comes to Dying

I’m at a really interesting point on my year, and it’s only the beginning. For the past few weeks I’ve seen my name – both my birth and chosen name splattered around the internet. It has been overwhelming and amazing. Both feelings simultaneously. I’m trying to understand how to take hold of both of those feelings, and own them.

A few months ago my uncle, great uncle if we’re being particular. Came to the states for his annual holiday visit. He retired to the Dominican Republic years ago. His house there is breathtaking. It sits in the mountains overlooking a rolling rapid river. His house has no actual windows, just shutters so that you can hear the river from basically anywhere in his house. Outside there is a mango tree, he has a swimming pool and a marvelous garden. At night you have to sleep under mosquito nets, which isn’t actually that bad when you have the sound of a river to lull you to sleep.

He is still here now. Not next to that rolling river, but instead in Long Island. He is going though his second round of chemo.

My mom died unexpectantly when I was 14. It was shocking and it was painful but it was brief. My family doesn’t grieve. We do not talk about the sadness that comes with death. The pain associated with loss. The repercussions of what happens to you after someone you love is gone. I went back to school a day later. Went to boarding school a year later. And didn’t shed tears over what had happened for years.

One year, a few days after when my moms birthday would have been. I cornered my dad. He hadn’t called me that weekend to check up on me. My father and I have always had a relationship that wavers from extremely close to painfully far apart. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties not speaking to him. I spent most of that time angry at him for choosing his new wife over me. For allowing her into his families life.

We met for lunch and I ripped into him. I broke down, maybe for the first time in years about how alone I felt. How much I missed my mom, and how much I despised him for not being there. My mom and him were high shook sweethearts. How could he have forgotten her birthday? How could he have forgotten his kid? To my surprise, my father who had always been the type to attack when confronted started crying. He told me he had never stopped loving her, and didn’t know how to voice his loss. His sadness.

For the first time I saw how he must have felt when she died. For the first time I realized how my stepfather must have felt. I thought about what it would feel like to have the woman you loved ripped from you. I broke down again.

My family doesn’t deal with heart. My dad’s father was a businessman as was his father. My dad and his sister are architects. Their worlds are numbers. It’s funny though because those numbers are highlighted with beauty; of gorgeous buildings. But there are no words. Just images and structures.

My world has always been words. But they have always had to stay written. My household didn’t allow for me to be outwardly expressive. As a kid I read everything I could get my hands on. I would lock myself away and write everything I felt. Everything I wanted to feel. My grandpa often says to me what are you going to do if someone stumbles across your notebooks when you’re gone? They’ll think you were always so angry or so sad. Whenever I write he says I always make a note explaining that’s just how I was feeling in that moment, so no one will take away whatever is in those books as who I am.

That is my family in a nutshell. We have feelings but they are meant to open they are meant to be suppressed.

My uncle is sick. I have no idea how sick because again my family is all business. I don’t know anything about cancer, or really watching someone die. My mom died while I was home, and those sounds still haunt me. I didn’t say goodbye to her. That will always haunt me.

My family speaks about doctors. About surgeries and about medicine. They don’t talk about how he feels. He doesn’t talk about how he feels. And I’m realizing I have no idea how to ask. Conversations are about doctors appointments. About how he feels physically; what foods he can keep down.

He goes to get his chemo treatments in Manhattan he goes alone and comes back filled with medicine – poison. I stop myself before I ask what it felt like. What it feels like to have all of that medicine running through you. What it must feel like to spend the winter of one of your golden years in the cold of New York, when for years you’ve basked in the sun of the Dominican Republic.

I am trying to find the words to let him know that I’m there. If he wants to talk. But I’m failing at those words. He instead asks about me. About gender and about sexuality. He is gay but his experience is extraordinarily different than mine. He grew up in the 40’s. His life was a secret. When he did come out it wasn’t to a world with shows like Modern Family. It was a world where he was a faggot, a Jewish one at that. A world where gay men were the punch line. His love life was not celebrated.

My grandfather tells me about how he felt when my uncle came out. How confused he was that a man could love another man. I was so attracted to women he told me once. I couldn’t understand how he looked at a man and felt those same feelings.

This was my grandfathers first of what would prove to be many surprises in the family. All of my grandparents grandchildren are either mixed or black. Both of their kids; my dad and my aunt married black spouses. My mom who was also white married my father and they adopted me. Years later my grandfather would deal with me coming out of the closet and then coming out again as trans*.

My grandfather and I always push and pull at each other. He, like my father reacts to frustration with rage. They both have horrible tempers that end up isolating them from the people they love the moat. At their core they are both anxious kittens. Kittens cloaked with the mask of lions. My childhood was spent hearing my father roar.

My grandfather always wants to talk business. Even when it isn’t business, it’s business. Everything had an answer. And everything if you break it down for long enough becomes black and white. This way of thinking has proven to be very difficult when talking about gender and sexuality. It has also proven to be difficult when talking about sadness. About the fears associated with losing someone. When I speak about my mom it is one sided. I’ve never felt solace going to my grandfather or my dad. It’s top overwhelming for them.

I want to talk about my uncle. I want to talk to him. It kills me to think that he could be gone, and I will have missed out on knowing someone and equally as important he will have missed out on knowing me. Someone that I love that is. God that is a hard word amongst my family.

My mom would smother me with love. She loved flowers and fruit. The art of Matisse and O’Keefe. We would paint each other’s nails in the summer, outside in our cement coated backyard in Queens. I would struggle away when she locked me in bear hugs. When she would overwhelm me with kisses and tells how beautiful I was.

Those are memories now.

I’m not sure how to share them. I’m not sure who will listen.

My mom died like a wave crashing into shore. It was quick and before I knew it it was gone. Her memory fading into the sand. You can curse at the stars you can curse at the sky but once death takes over well it’s infinite goodbye.

I know that will happen with my uncle eventually. This is his second battle with cancer. He is older this time and this winter is so cold. I’m not counting him out, but I’m realizing how much of a risk life is on it’s own never mind after you add cancer to the mix.

Sometimes we have to realize that we have to reach outside of our own comfort zones to comfort those we love. I am learning how to do that, and I hope that he and I can make contact.

Nomad.

Take a piece of this temperamental heart and tell it that in due time it can be fixed that the tension that it holds within will eventually get sick of being sick. Tired of being whatever it means to be not quite exactly know of what you are doing is right or if this city, this apartment, this job is where you’re meant to be. Question after question with very few answers on sight. You take it all out on dance floors and have gotten used to the comfort of strangers bodies flying and sliding to the DJ under neon lights. You wonder when the wander will end. When your feet will touch down on a place and never want to leave it or go anywhere else again. Nomad. You are not quite lost you just see the point in ever stopping. Life’s curse is that eventually we’ll all stop forever so while we’re breathing why would we give in to being tired or sore you can always exhaust yourself a little more because that pounding in your chest that shortness of breath it’s your life raft. Float towards something float towards whatever your dreams are still being dreamt and if you let them can go on forever.

Belated

I wash my face at night with the soap you always used to use
Because then it’s like you’re kissing me
Not a bedtime ritual
More like tucking myself in
Taking you in
For a second – in that moment
I forget everything

Sometimes I wander into perfume stores
And spray my skin
And then I stand there
I stand still
Because you see then it is almost like you just left the room
I pretend that you just went somewhere else
To another room in the house
As the scent lingers in the air in front of me
You’re there
For a second I see you
I hear your laugh
And I hear you saying my name
Nina baby

Because I could not say it
To anyone but the air
I’ll say it here
Happy Birthday
Belated of course
Because you know how I am on that day
I would apologize
But you wouldn’t hear my sorry any way

I love you
And I thank you
For showing me that love is something that doesn’t have to fade
But more importantly love is something I am capable of
Loving is something I can give away

One day I’ll do right by you
One day I will make her happier than anyone ever has
One day I will walk down an aisle
And I swear as I say I do
Under my breath I will be saying
It’s ok you couldn’t make it
I have taken this life and I will make it
Mom – I love you
And no matter what death has done to tear us apart
I won’t shake it