Category Archives: Creative Writing

Post the Ninety-Third or A Breath of Chocolate

Anger comes easy. Anger is something that I’ve always known. It is a hard, bristling carapace that keep out things that hurt me. A scab that has been ripped off and reformed so many times, I no longer feel it. But even still, I don’t mind it. It has its uses. It keeps me safe. I thought that I was impenetrable. Until I met him.

The day was hot. The kind of hot that gets into your lungs and brain. Sluggish heat that makes it hard to breathe and even harder to find motivation to do anything but lay on the floor like a salamander. Stretching one’s limbs so that one can find some whisper of coolness. And yet, the cafe still managed to be filled with regulars. Yuppies and hippes rubbing shoulders in a house turned coffee shop. The wooden floors worn from years of domestic and buisness related traffic. Art of varying degrees of skill adorned the forest green walls. I had just finished cleaning the counter for a second time and I stared at the clock, willing it go faster. It was with relief, than, that he was here. Finally something to do.

“What can I get you, sir?”

He stood with his arms crossed as he studied the menu. “What’s good here?”

I rake my eyes across his body, up and down once, smirking “Well, I really like a tall cup of hot black coffee. Drink you- I mean, it, all day”

He gives me a look that says, you-are-either-trying-really-hard-or-are-you-this-corny-all-the-time.

“I also make a mean Americano. Two shots poured over ice, with a cool breath of chocolate.”

He smiles, “Sounds refreshing. But does it taste as good as it sounds?”

I lean over the counter, trying to emphasize my clevage, “You’ll just have to taste it to find out.”

He licks his lips, looking slightly uncomfortable. “I’ll take one, then.”

I smile wickedly and set about making his drink. I steal covert glances at him over the espresso machine as I grind the coffee and pour the shot, hot and fresh. I noticed the way he carried himself, how he interacted with his surroundings. Gentle, yet I could tell that he did not suffer fools. He seemed cuddly but I knew he could cut me just as easily. It hit me, he was trans*.

The ice melts slightly as I pour the hot shots over it and drizzle the chocolate. I can say without ego that it was probably the best drink I had ever made.

“Here you go, sir.” I say, as I pass him the coffee. Our hands brush past each other, his rough with shared history, mine soft with hidden experiences. He grabs my wrist tightly, turning my hand so that he could examine my palm. He looks up and our eyes meet. A shiver runs down my spine.

“Any-Anything else I can grab you?” It’s my turn to be slightly uncomfortable. And yet, I was strangely aroused. Who was this man?

“No, thank you. How much is it?”

“It’s uh… On the house.”

He smiles, “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. Hey, what’s your name?”

“Säyn.”

“Säyn…” I repeated, feeling the way his name sounded on my tongue. “I’ll be seeing you.”

We saw each other a few more times, that summer in 2010. I was working at this queer coffeeshop and he would come in every once and a while, always when I was working. He would get the same thing and I would always give it to him for free. We would flirt a little, chat about small things. We even exchanged numbers at one point. But for some reason, we never got around to getting together outside of the shop. Sometimes he would come in with his partner, sometimes he wouldn’t. But every time he came in, he smiled and my chest got a little tight.

And then I left, went back to Boston. I reenrolled in school and got several part time jobs. It was a cold winter and I knew with even more certainty that Boston was not the city for me. I was going through the motions but I was never fully present there. I kept looking for a way out, for something different. I knew I need to return to Austin. And I didn’t see him for almost a year.

Its September 2011 and I’m back in Austin working at a queer youth community center. But my time there as an organizer is a story for another time.

At the time, I was leading an effort to restructure the organization and so we need a space to hold our meeting. One of my co-workers offered her home, which she had recently moved into. We, of course, agreed. It was a cool, clear night and the place was packed with young people, adults and queer organizers. I was in the middle of facilitating a discussion about strategies and tactics when the front door opens and who walks in but Säyn.

I stand there dumbfounded, mouth agape. Here was someone who I never thought I would see again, walking into a meeting that I never expected to have.

Once the meeting ended, I moved quickly.

“Hey, Säyn!”

He smiled, eyes brightening with recognition. “Hi, Morgan. Its good to see you again.”

“Its good to see you too. What have you been up too?”

“This and that,” He replied vaguely “You?”

“Oh you know, saving the world, one queer youth at a time.” I returned slyly. I knew that I would have to chase a little harder if I wanted to get anywhere with him.

He laughed, “Step up from slinging coffee, then.”

“Several. We should kick it sometime soon.”

“No doubt. No doubt. I’m having a music video release party this Saturday. You should come.”

I smiled, “Wouldn’t miss it.”

The next 4 weeks were a blur of late night coffee, chain smoking and iPod make out sessions. We would always find some sort of pretense to see each other. The second night we saw each other, he stole my lighter. He said it wasn’t intentional, but I knew better. He would pick me up after work and we would be up until 4 or 5 o clock in the morning, talking about everything from radical politics to the way we liked our Brussels sprouts cooked.

I remember being in his car on those first few nights. He said to me, “I’m in an open relationship. But we can’t have anything serious. This is just casual.”

Famous last words.

For those first weeks, we didn’t kiss. We barely had any physical contact at all. The first night I slept over at his house, I made sure to sleep stark naked. But we didn’t fuck. We didn’t even cuddle! At first I was worried that he was only interested in a platonic relationship but then I would look into his eyes and feel how his body reacted to mine. I knew he wanted me, could feel the intensity of his ardor for me. But it was one of the few times that anyone wanted my whole self, not just my body and what it could do for them.

It was a strange and not unpleasant sensation, feeling that want for me that was deeper than the skin.

I, of course, was throughly in love. Or at the very least, in very, very, very deep like. But one thing was certain; there was nothing casual between us.

He quickly and insidiously worked his way beneath the prickly steel that I encased myself in. He eased his way gently into the soft chinks of my armor, pried them loose and tranquilized the raw, chafed skin underneath. By the time I noticed that he had gotten past my defenses, it was already to late. He had me.

And I had him.

We had each other and our passion for one another opened my eyes to knew ways of being. Suddenly, I was thinking about babies and houses and what particular dish I wanted to cook for dinner and would you mind if we used the purple tablecloth tonight? I, the jaded radical who laughed at the thought of anything so soft as love, was in love. But the open scorn I had for love was merely a facade that masked my desire to be soft with someone. I would wake up some nights cold with the longing to have someone near me. Anyone to press their tender flesh against mine and share those intimate parts of myself. Something different than the raw, animal fetishization that I was used to.

I longed to be seen. Wholly and holistically seen.

And so I was. Seen with a clarity that still scares me, excites me, makes me smile. Sweet, secret smiles that arise unbidden, tugging the side of my lips up in spite of myself.

Anger still comes easily. But the contours of my anger are angled differently, today. Sharpened in some places, tempered in others. Encased in suppleness.

Being loved in spite of my fear has allowed me to breathe.


Post the Thirtieth or Mi Madres

What I am about to tell you is a lie but it is the utter truth. 

Indígena

I remember when I first encountered the white man. At first, I could not believe the rumors. People with pale skin and hairy limbs, it could not be possible. And yet there they were. I remember the councils that we had before their arrival. Some of us wanted to welcome them and learn from them, use them against our enemies. But the curanderos, the wise ones, told us that nothing good would come of our meeting. If only we had listened.

I remember those first men. White skin that was weather beaten and sun burnt. I remember their arrogance and their hard metal. I remember how they looked at us with disgust and contempt. And yet I could not understand why. We had done them no harm. But most of all, I remember their guns. The sound it made like a relámpago, thunder that could rip the sky in two.

I remembered the chaos that followed their arrival. The pestilence brought by the whites that our curanderos could not cure.  I remember the battles and the pillaging. I remember seeing my people enslaved and fighting against themselves. I saw my people betray our own cause.

I remember the violence and raping of my sisters. I remember my own rape. I remember running, trying to escape my pursuers. I remember the crashing gunshots and yelling in that foreign, guttural tongue. I remember the fear, the terror that I felt as when I knew there was no escape. I remember crashing through the brush and I remember stopping when I saw Her, Mictecacihuatl. She was dressed in rags, her fleshless skull grinning at me and yet knowing that she possessed an infinite sadness for me, for our people.  She knew as much as I that there was no escape for any of us.

I sensed more than felt what killed me and I was off.

Running.

Running..

Running…

Puta

            Running. Through the ravaged city streets. It hasn’t been 10 years since our subjugation and still nuestra ciudad, nuestra pueblo, is in ruins. I was running from my white john. He refused to pay me, so I kicked him in the nuts. He didn’t like that.

I could feel him behind me, his sword unsheathed. It seemed like he wanted to enter me a second time. I wasn’t going to let him. I took a quick left, and then a right and a right again. This part of the city was winding and confusing, it would be easy for anyone who hasn’t lived here their whole lives to get lost.

But somehow, my knowledge of the city had failed me and after the second right, I was lost. Perhaps it was destruction that still littered the streets. Or perhaps it was all the white invaders inhabiting homes that had once belonged to friends, family of mine. Or perhaps it was los Dioses, spitting on me again.

I heard the heavy footsteps of his boots behind me and knew that I needed to keep moving. I started forward, narrowly missing a fruit stand. I darted around a corner, hugging the wall. He rushed past me, not even giving me a backwards glance. I grinned. Another white man fooled.

I looked up at the rapidly setting sun and knew that I didn’t have enough time to find another john, nor did I want to risk getting caught. I sighed as I began to pick my way in the direction I thought my home was, knowing that I would go hungry tonight, again.

As I was walking down the ally I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It looked like a woman, clad in rags. She was impossibly thin, impossibly old. Her skin was stretched so taut over her bones that it almost seemed as if she didn’t have any skin. I turned my head to look and saw that there was nothing there.

And I was struck once again at how different my life was today than it was ten years ago. And as I remembered those hard years that I suffered and the hardness of my life now, I felt it come on again. That heart-stopping, head-pounding panic that starts in the gut and rips its way up my chest into my head and back down into my heart. I fell to my knees and clutched at my head, leaning against the wall. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. The only thing that was real was the panic, the fear.

I knew I had to breathe.

Breathe..

Breathe…

Por el Hueco

Breathe. It was so hard to breathe. Cramped inside this van, people stacked upon people. No room to move, no room to even think. The heat of the summer sun made the walls of the van scald to the touch; it was unbearable. But the worst part was the smell. The smell of the people pressed together. The smell of sweat, of feces, of fear. The smell of death.

And all the while worrying. Worrying that la migra will catch us. That I will be sent back to my war-torn country with no opportunity to do anything but die. Worrying that I will end up like my brothers, killed or exploited. Worrying about what lay ahead of me, in Ameríca. Knowing that my life there will be just as hard. But what choice do I have?

After centuries of economic co-dependence and exploitation, there was no choice. My country is a war-ravaged slum and my only chance at living a life that I want, without fear of death by starvation or worse, is to go North. And the only way to get there is by risking my life.

But I had hope. Hope that, despite all my worrying and the hardship that I knew awaited me, I would survive this harrowing journey and arrive in Ameríca. I had hope that I would be able to make my own life for myself. I had hope that I would happy and most of all safe.

I had hope.

Sometime later, we stopped. The heat had abated so I knew that it was dark. Something didn’t feel right. I felt like we had stopped too soon. I heard voices outside and my heart nearly stopped. I couldn’t tell if they were the voices of the truck drivers or of others. I could feel the tenseness of the van triple. The stopping and the voices could only mean one thing.

We were caught.

The door flew open. The sudden brightness of the flashlight, after so much darkness, blinded me. People were being pulled out of the van roughly. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to escape too. They grabbed me by the arms and shoulders, hauled me bodily off the van and dumped me unceremoniously onto the ground.

The night was clear. The half moon already high in the sky, providing some illumination of the surroundings. Desolation and scrub land as far as I could see. When they got all of us out they told us that they were leaving us here. That we needed to walk the rest of the way. They had guns pointed at us, to emphasize the gravity of their words.

But I had had enough.

I had enough of being thrown around like some rag doll, with no say or input into what was to be done with me. I was through with others controlling my own destiny. I was finished with being powerless.

I pulled out the makeshift knife that I had hidden in my boot and cried that there were more of us than there was of them, that we could take them and force them to take us further North. We wouldn’t be stranded here to die.

I rushed forward and stumbled, for the enemy that I was rushing had suddenly become Her. La Santisima Muerte. Our Holy Lady of Death. I stopped, agape. I heard the gunshot, but I did not feel the bullet enter me. I collapsed to the ground and it seemed that her bony hand caressed my face. I felt no pain. And as my lifeblood spilled upon the earth, I was at peace. I felt myself rise again and take Her hand.

And I wandered

Wandered..

Wandered…

Colegio

Wandered. Through the corridors of academia. Wandered lost through rooms full of white liberal academics that told me the way things were, the way things are, the way things will become.

But their story rang hollow in my ears. For their stories were not my stories. They did not tell my story. They could not tell my story.

They could not understand what it meant to be colonized, for they were the colonizer. They could not understand what it meant to be subjugated, exploited because they were the exploiter. They could not know how it felt to die a thousand little deaths everyday because they were the murderers.

And yet I clung to it. I clung to the structure and the proponents of that structure. Because it was safe.  I clung to it because I was “accepted”. I had numbed myself to all those small deaths. I felt comfortable in that nagging discomfort that something was wrong. That nagging thought that, yes they said they accepted me as their equal, but they acted in these subtle ways that told me that I was still their property, their play thing. They were humoring me.

But most of all I clung to it because I had forgotten all the old ways of knowing. I had forgotten all of the olds ways of being. Forgot the memories and the scars that my body held, down the deepest strand of DNA. Forgotten the feel my mi madre teirra underneath my feet. I forgot where I came from. Forgot the miles that my people traversed to get here, so far north. Forgot the Diaspora that comes with colonization.

Olvidé a mi famila.

But this state of numbness, this state of forgetfulness could last for only so long.

In a dream, She came to me. Dressed in sumptuous robes the color of midnight; she touched her skinless finger to my forehead. And I remembered.  Remembered the lives of mi madres antepasado. The lives of those strong women on whose shoulders I stand on. Remembered the truth of my blood, my body, my spirit. In that dream, I was awake.

Now awakened, I could not return to the sterile, white halls of academia. I could not return to the cold, dispassionate nature of those people, those rooms. I needed the warmth of family, the heat of community.

I needed the understanding of those who know as I know, who feel as I feel.

And I knew, in that family, in that community is where we can truly decolonize our bodies. It is only when we remember our beloved dead, when we reach into the past and know as they knew, feel as they felt, live as they lived, that we can heal the wound that colonization has inflicted on us. It is only by returning to that point of spiritual origin that we can throw off the chains of mind and soul.

And reclaim what is ours.