I. I wish I could remember who I was before I was this.
II. If I Get Down On My Knees To Pray, At Least I’ll Be In The Right Position
I’m trying to make space for faith in my life again. Or maybe for the first time, I’m not really sure. I mean, I am sure, I am. I have faith in that, anyway, that I had faith, once, when I was younger, before faith was mixed with politics and the apparent stain of my existence made it too difficult to continue.
“” faggot “”
I actually believed in God back then, if you can imagine. Not just the culture, not just the ceremony, not just the community— I believed in the Christ himself. Though, to be honest, I was always a little shakey on the specifics. Even when I believed, I knew something must have been lost in translation.
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy— Hello? Father?
Is Mom there? Yeah, I just need to ask her something real quick.
How’s the new grill working, by the way?
Oh good, good. Okay, good talking to you. Love you, too.
Talk to you soon.
III. Major Arcana for a Gay Bar, Part One
0 – The Gray Haired Man at the End of the Bar. None of us can know what it was like for him, coming of age back then. And here we are, a lifetime later, and everything is different, and the terrain is strange, and nobody’s fooling anyone.
I – Bobby, the Bartender. When I go to Bobby, there’s never a line, not for me. He comps my drinks, bums me a smoke, has all the hot gossip… In every bar I’ve been to, there’s always been a Bobby, but this is my bar, and my Bobby is special. My Bobby is a magician with vodka and tonic.
II – What’s Her Name, Again? And why is she here? Is she somebody’s sister? I know, I know, everybody loves her. She’s seen so much! She’s almost as old as that Fool at the end of the bar, and she’s certainly not growing any younger, sitting here dispensing ethylic advice, as if she were a priestess on high.
III – The Hostess of the Show. There’s a drag show every Thursday (or maybe on the First Monday, or the Second Wednesday, or on Sundays when there isn’t a party in town) and she’s the empress emcee. She’ll suck your dick in the bathroom; it’s not really sexual, but it does make a good story, and almost everyone can tell it.
IV – The Manager. Wait— does he own the place? He’s been here forever; I remember when he’d let me in when I was only nineteen. He rules his empire with more of a velvet glove than an iron fist, if you know what I mean. Oh, god, though— be careful when he’s off the clock, I remember this one Arbor Day party… I’ll tell you later.
V – The Door Dyke. She’s alright. You just have to get to know her. Yes, she carded you, it’s her job. That’s the law, and she’s the interpreter. Now put your pants on; the anti-buttcrack laws went into effect last night and the cops are out.
VI – The Muscle Bear Couple. Dear god, put me in that lovers’ sandwich. I’m surprised they’re in town— isn’t there a big party in Dallas this weekend?
VII – The DJ. Oh, mama, DJ Cherry Rot is being Quite The Bitch tonight. Somebody said something about Toni Braxton— no, I don’t even know— and now she’s going to spin three hours of Calexico House from the mid 2000s. Like, what the fuck? Somebody should talk to the manager; it’s not his fucking bar. Ughhh, I’d kill for an aux cord right now.
VIII – He’s sober! But like, sober-sober. Yeah, I know. Wow, right? Such strength. Wow. I hope he doesn’t mind if I drink. Wait— does beer count? I would feel so fucking awkward. I couldn’t do it— you know how much I love peer pressure!
IX – Does he live here? Seriously, I can’t think of a single time I’ve been here— day or night, mind you— and he hasn’t been in that same damn stool at the end of the bar. And, like, I asked Bobby, and he’s not, like, dating anyone who works here, so? Yeah. Just sitting there, thinking, I guess. Oh, god, maybe he’s, like, you know. Or something?
X – The Good DJ. He’s only here on Tuesdays, which is such a shame, because like— who comes out on Tuesday? They should let him spin on the weekends.
IV. I’ve got a box full of letters I think you might like to read.
Letters barely register in all the boxes of all the stuff I’ve still got. Letters received from loved ones and lovers, and letters never sent (thank the Graces) to the dozens of people I objectified for my affection. There are letters to myself, written by a me who’s passed, to an I who’s not yet here— an assumption of permanence from the gall of youth. But there are no letters in the opposite direction— past me wouldn’t ever read them anyway.
Boxes of letters and more boxes of photographs, the printed kind with negatives that threaten to melt in the Texas heat, and the digital kind, saved on every technological scrap from the last twenty years, from disks to drives to download codes. Pictures with people laughing, though I’ve forgotten who most of them are, but there you are, in most of them.
Letters and photographs and phonographs, of a sort— boxes of recordings, the sound of us, sitting in a basement, stoned as the cement block walls, podcasting to ourselves before the idea of the pod had even hatched, tapes and discs and DATs and memory sticks, our memories stuck inside technologies that need skilled hands and specific spells if we ever want those ghosts to escape again.
Letters and photographs and phonographs and books.
Boxes of books.
Books I was taught from and books that I taught from, drawing memories tight against the idea of what I woulda/shoulda been. (I was a teacher, once, after all.) Books from lovers, with short inscriptions ex libris, like Paul R—, Seattle or Freddy or Call me, 618.967.xxxx with their teacup memories of an afternoon, of a night, of a weekend. And books from my loves (both lovers and others) framing the text with long missives that spill from the frontispiece into the margins, darkening the manuscript until they find their own colophon, XOX, B.
There are even some books only for reading, but those are in boxes all on their own.
V. Major Arcana for a Gay Bar, Part Two
XII. Hanged Man.
XV.-XVIII. The Devil. The Tower. The Star. The Moon.
XIX. They Turned On The Lights; Time To Go!
XXI. The World.
VI-a. The Lovers.
I still won’t talk about childhood traumas. They’re buried like cicada brood XIX, due to hatch in 2024, but my god if I can’t feel them digging their way out already.
Wriggling, and wiggling, and giggling inside me, the brood is always moving, these critters giving me the jitters, these experiences I had before I knew what they meant, compounded (like a fracture when the bone breaks through the skin).
They’ll grow fat in the next six years, munching on all the things I’ll never say— not just the healing words I still can’t speak to myself, but the things I can’t say to you, too. The confessions of joy that I’ll withhold, the admissions of desire that I’ll smother, the sweet things that are always a little too earnest for anyone to be comfortable with. Every word I swallow will be more food for the brood, a living machine churning love into anxiety (because that’s how trauma wired the toggles). Because I don’t know how not to; and I don’t know how to set these critters free.
VI-b. Six of Swords
What are we supposed to do with the things we never talk about? Not just the traumas, but the lies and the secrets and the unspoken moments, too? If I keep a secret to myself for long enough, will it turn into something else? I’m worried that if I speak, the words will steal my breath and I’ll asphyxiate waiting for your response, or worse, that you’ll give me the wrong one.
Forgotten, dismissed, discarded, boxed, and buried.
There are so many things I need to let go of, [insert metaphor about the six of swords, swords in the hull of a boat, pull out the swords and the boat will sink, we carry our burdens with us, blah blah blah]. And wherever I go, there they are, but I’m tired of searching for peace in their consistency. I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to be whoever I was before I was this. I’m ready to break free
but… [some sort of heavy-handed simile about barnacles and ships and symbiosis; end it with a sigh].
My witch tells me that full moons are a time for release, for letting go, for allowing attachment to past traumas to slough off so that I may be cleared and born anew.
My cleric, however, pointed out that the moon will be full whether we do any releasing or not. Nature, he said, doesn’t give a fuck about us, and that’s what makes it wonderful.
It’s Friday the 13th, and the Moon is full, and I’m howling.