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London Leaves / A – Sarah’le

Calm waves at the seashore
Calm waves at the seashore

Novella in several parts (I’ll post the rest in the coming weeks)

A

Sarah’le

 

The Rabba chanted the holy words, accompanied by the rest of the JGLG[1] members attending the ceremony of Kabalat Shabbat[2]. I love to be here, among friends. It’s better than being alone with my four walls. Two years passed since I told her I can’t cope anymore with her insane bloody attitude to life, to people, to herself and especially to me. Enough is enough, I told myself. I love you, I told her, but this is not how I imagined my life with my spouse. I want more. I need to be loved, to feel I am loved, and of course also to love back, to let out all these feelings that I have in me to give to the right woman. I love you, but I don’t think you are the right woman for me. No, you are not for me.

She was surprised at my rebellion, as I always was so obedient and never before had the courage to express my feelings. I couldn’t do that. I don’t know why I was scared to tell her off before, but I guess that there comes a time when enough is enough. ENOUGH IS really ENOUGH. Before she had the chance to respond, I collected myself and left her behind me. I thought I did…

She was standing there, across the room, leaning against the wall, looking somewhat lost. My heart started humming. Strange. My heart goes out for a stranger I have never met before. Without being able to think about it, my legs moved forward and I found myself standing in front of her, sending a claiming smile to the woman of my dreams. “My love”, I wanted to say, “come, let me take you with me to the Garden of Eden, let me wrap you with my love, let me…” However, I didn’t say any of this, just a polite hello came through my craving lips.

She beamed, her grin inviting. “Hi”, she answered, her calm voice reminding me of fallen leaves in a warm autumn, somewhere far away from here. Hidden yearnings started bubbling deep down, in places I thought I would never feel again. Not since Estelle… Oy vey, that woman doesn’t leave me in peace! She haunts me and still has a hold on me. I can’t be free of her, as if she had imposed a dark spell on me. When will I be free?

The lovely woman in front of me gazed at me. “I hope that you were in a good place, even if here is also nice”, she said playfully, flashing another smile.

“Oh, yes, oh, so sorry”, I hurried to apologize. “I didn’t mean to…” What didn’t I mean? I don’t know. She made my head spin, causing me dizziness. The background noises faded away, as I was caught in her mesmerized flaming gaze. I’m sure the Rabba and the others continue to praise the Lord for creating Shabbat for us to rest and enjoy, but I was praising my guardian angel for creating this lovely woman I was sure they did it especially for me.

“It’s OK, no need to apologize.” Her accent was not local. Polish perhaps? Czech? Is she from one of the former USSR’s countries?

“I’m Sarah”, I introduced myself.

“Jazmin”, she answered curtly. Not a woman of many words, I guess.

“I hope that you won’t find it rude, but your accent seems to me to be east European. May I ask where are you from?”

She straightened her compact limbs and answered: “I’m from Israel, the Jews’ homeland.”

“Oh, how nice!” Oh, an Israeli… how nice… Her accent is not typical Israeli though. I’ve met a few before, but was never involved with any of them. None captured my heart. Now this nice woman… I wonder how long she is here for. She wasn’t here last time. “Did you see the city already?”

“No, I haven’t managed to do that, as I just came here last Sunday.”

“Oh, I see. Would you like to get together and have a coffee someday?” Yes-yes-yes!!! Please, say yes!

Her smile, like the rainbow after a downpour, showed in her lovely blue eyes. “Yes, I would love to, very much.”

She said yes!!! An unrestrained urge drove me to take her in my arms and burst into a stormy Hora dance[3]. Well, I’m Aussie (not to mention Jewish…), so I don’t suffer from the dry restrained self-control the English are known for. My ancestors poured into my veins a need to be gay even in darkest times. I have been in a dark time since I left Estelle, as she didn’t leave me be and I was foolish enough to be persuaded by her seducing alluring words that she poured into my ears over the phone, when she felt alone and needed someone to abuse, and I was handy. Last time, was only a month ago. I went to her place again, yet again hoping we would reconcile, settle things and live happily ever after. The minute I walked through her door and lay my eyes on her, I knew I made a fatal mistake, as usual. Am I dumb? Am I so pathetic? Why do I allow this? She had a long face, as her grave sourpuss gaze faced me acrimoniously. I was familiar with this expression, which portended her forecoming behavior. It was foredooming we weren’t going to have peace. Again, she was going to enjoy herself in her twisted way and I was going to go through hell. Why didn’t I turn around and leave on the spot? I really don’t know. Maybe because I am optimistic in my nature, I always hope for the best, never consider the opposite. Or maybe I am just dumb. I’d rather think about myself as innocent. At the age of 56 plus a few months, I’m still naïve, childlike even. I was hoping her sour appearance would evaporate in a few minutes and we will talk things over and live happily ever after. It didn’t happen.

I was about to reach for the woman of my dreams, when a tall, pale, ugly-looking woman, appeared from nowhere, clinched to Jazmin, then wrapped her gaunt skinny arms around her, as if declaring her ownership. What an ugly woman! This is the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and I’ve seen quite a lot. Too many, as far as I’m concerned. Her tiny eyes, submerged in her faded face, they examined me inquisitively, absorbing my organs one by one. I was sure she X-rayed every bone in my body with her piercing gaze.

Still measuring me, without turning her head, she asked demandingly: “Hey, who are you talking to?” She widened her lips to what appeared to be a smile. My mother used to call this gesture “zuzing mit di tzain[4]“. One could feel her effort to maintain calm.

“This is Sarah,” answered the love of my life, wriggling away from the witch of London. “Sarah, this is P.”

P? What kind of name is P? Why P? Paula Abdul she is not – of this, I am pretty sure. As opposed to the talented singer, she has a harsh, raucous, unpleasant tone of voice, I doubt if she can carry a note. I cleaned my ears very thoroughly before I came here and I will have to do it again when I come home. Her obnoxious, annoying, grating, irksome voice stained their purity. Not to mention her eyes, those two acrimonious blades, going over my whole body, tainting it.

“Hello”, I said politely. “P stands for…” Not for princess as well, as she was wearing these tattered, worn-out ragged schmates[5] called “sport-elegant couture”.

“Her parents called her Paula, but nobody calls her that. She is P.” Jazmin volunteered the explanation, as the woman in question didn’t bother to answer.

Nu, P for pish, I couldn’t resist, Pee. Like in wee-wee… The Pishwoman. Witty, wow! I’m so sharp! The thought planted in her mind, as she felt the need to go and relieve herself of the few warming teacups she had during the evening. Secretly, Sarah examined the belittled woman with contempt. The nickname seems to suit her.

The woman didn’t bother to move her hand in order to shake mine, so I kept my hand to myself and didn’t reach her either. I excused myself, sending a quick smile to the one I wanted and went to release my body of its fluids. Alas, the woman of my dreams was already spoken for. My rotten mazel[6] again. But what could I expect? She looks so nice, it is only natural someone grabbed her. I wonder what Jazmin is doing with her. That P person looks horrible, so not suitable to my dear Jazmin. However, what do I know? I also had my fair share of meeting and being with crazy lesbians. Maybe P is what Jazmin needs. Who knows what is in the heart? My cup of tea is not necessarily the same as the others.

[1] Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group

[2]  The ceremony of lighting Sabbath candles

[3] Israeli folk dance

[4] Yiddish: gnashing a smile

[5] Yiddish: rags

[6] Yiddish: luck

Dear Rachel,

Dear Rachel,

 

Oh love, if only you knew what you know now. If I could give you a glimpse into the future, I promise you life would be so much better. You would breathe easier. You would make smarter choices. You would know that everything, everything, is going to be okay. You would know that you would grow up to be a creative, talented, confident person and that you dream big and work hard to achieve all of your dreams. 

You would know that your parents never ever stop loving you and eventually, not only do they help pay for your wedding to the woman of your dreams, but they show up too. I know you still believe that if someone asked you right now if your parents would be at your wedding, your first answer would be no. I’m here to tell you that they are. I have pictures to prove it.

Right now, you’re still working towards achieving your dreams, but you’re working hard. If you have a chance to go to school, just do it. It sucks and it’s hard and your math classes won’t be easy, but one of the things you wish you had right now was a degree. Don’t worry though. You’re doing just fine without one.

And remember that woman of your dreams I was telling you about? She’s amazing. Her name is Britany and my god she checks every box off your list. Let me let you in on a little secret though. There’s one box she doesn’t check and it’s the reason you two work so well. I’ll give you a hint: she’s not younger than you. Trust me though. It’s a good thing. You two were made for each other. It’s not always perfect or pretty but the fact that you two have made it through what you have made it through is a huge thing.

And let me tell you something, my sweet Rachel. You will not love your name forever. And that is okay. You don’t like the nicknames everyone is giving you now because they are too girly, too feminine. And you know that your name isn’t the right one either, but it’s your name so you stick with it. But I promise you, someone finally gives you a nickname that sticks. You hold onto it and it becomes you. It makes you stand up a little straighter and lift your chin a little higher. Because the moment someone calls you Ray for the first time, something shifts in you and you allow yourself to sink into the person you are a little bit more and your happiness grows each and every time someone uses it.

But I want to talk to you today about that piece inside of you that you have buried away so deep that you don’t even realize it’s there. That little voice in the back of your head telling you that something is wrong. You know it. You know something isn’t right, but you don’t have the word yet. And when you hear it for the first time, you ignore it. I know. It isn’t the only time you ignore it. You ignore it the second time, and the third time and the hundredth time. You ignore it because gender is a scary thing for you.

I get it, dear Rachel. Gender is still a scary thing for you. Right now, as you write this to yourself, you think how confused you are. You don’t fully understand it. You don’t have all the answers to all your questions. You don’t have all the answers to everyone else’s questions. You are afraid to tell people because you’re now coming out again, all over again. Coming out as gay was one thing. Coming out as non-binary is completely different and even more terrifying.

Maybe it’s because you’ve been through this process. You’ve felt the backlash. You’ve lost people you loved. You’ve been hurt and you don’t want to be hurt again. But let me tell you something, Rachel. It’s going to be okay. The ones who love you? They don’t care. They support you 110%. They do their best to use the right pronouns. They go to the bathroom with you. They stand up for you when people make comments or give you weird looks. You’re not alone in this. You’re never alone in this.

Rachel, you were born in a female presenting body, but you have never fully felt female. You have felt your body betray you over and over and over. When your chest grew. When your period started. Each betrayal hurt more and more and yet here you are, standing strong and learning to love yourself again.

Rachel, you are non-binary. And that’s okay. You don’t fit into a box, you never have. You are still an amazing person, who loves with all their heart, who dreams big (and I mean big), who has the cutest dog in the world, and who is still learning to accept the skin that they’re in. You’re not a boy, you know that. You’ve never wanted to be a boy and you still don’t want to be one. But you’re not a girl either. And it’s okay. You are you. You are exactly who you are and no one can take that away from you. Your wife has been using they/them pronouns for a while now and every time you hear her use them, your heart swells.

Life may be more difficult now. You may get more weird looks. You may lose a few people in your life. You may have people question you with questions you don’t know the answer to. But this is who you are and you have finally accepted that as a fact. It is time to live your true and authentic self.

Rachel, life is going to be okay. Keep your head up and keep moving forward. You’re going to be okay. I promise you. How can I make that promise? Well, because I am you.

 

Love always,

Ray

Love. Or some shit.

Today is Valentines day. I figured I would write about love or some shit. I could talk about how much I love my wife and how amazing she is and how she deserves so much more than chocolate and flowers. I could write about how this year, gifts just isn’t really an option due to finances. I can talk about how I learned about the biggest way I could show her I love her is through all the little things in life. I could tell you all about my relationship and how it works and our love.


Have a cute photo of us anyway though

But I’m not going to. 

 

Instead, I’m going to talk about what I hope my relationship someday becomes. I’m going to talk about the GOAT of relationships in my life. I’m going to talk about my grandparents. My grandparents, who in our family were lovingly referred to as Ganny and Papa, had a relationship that I have always strived to obtain. They were old school. Papa was the provider. Ganny was the matriarch. Papa would fix things and build things and bbq. Ganny baked and sewed and knitted. But growing up, they were perfect. 


This was them. All the time.

I had them up on a high pedestal: they always held hands. They kissed just because. Papa gardened and he would always bring in a flower or two for Ganny. Ganny would always make sure Papa’s stains came out of his nice shirts. She would make him dinners she knew he would enjoy. She would patch up his clothes so it always seemed like he never needed new ones. 

 

But one of my favorite things about their relationship was their valentines day tradition. Every year, Papa would hand make Ganny a valentine. It would be heart shaped usually but sometimes it was out of paper. Or wood. Or felt. And he would always write some cheesy valentine line on it. 

 

“Now you have my heart. Happy Valentines Day.” 

“I wood be nothing without you. Happy Valentines Day.”

“My love grows for you each and every day. Happy Valentines Day”

 

I loved coming over around Valentines day because Ganny would display the valentine Papa made for her on their mantle and I loved seeing what Papa would come up with every year. Ganny would always tell the story of how he presented it with pride while Papa sat in his spot on the couch with a humble smile on his face. Every once in a while he’d pipe in with a detail Ganny may or may not have known. I lived for these stories from them. They always made me extremely happy. 

 

I lost Ganny in 2016. Papa passed away last year. I could tell how lonely Papa had gotten once Ganny had passed. My mom and I would go over once a week for dinner and I loved our dinners, but it never felt like enough. I always felt bad leaving at the end of the night. You could tell he missed his wife.


I hope my marriage lasts just like theirs. Strong and fully in love.

This year is the first year they will be back together again for Valentines day and I know Papa is making Ganny something amazing wherever they are. It will be handmade and cheesy and full of love and it will be wonderful.

 

They weren’t perfect people, but they loved with their entire hearts. They taught me that love is the greatest gift you have to give and when executed correctly, it is fun and silly and meaningful and isn’t something one overthinks and is never harmful and is always amazing. But most importantly, they taught me that sometimes, the best gifts are the simple ones made with love.

You vs. God vs. Me.

If I was God I would drown the world too.
But first I would pick up my people like dolls
and carve gills into the thin skin of their necks,
and call it preparation, call it guidance, call it love.
It hurts like hell, but now you can breathe, my child,
stop gasping, please, I did this for you.
God lived in my room, in the corner,
seated on the particle board desk,
pressed like weeds between the thin sheets of
the new and old testaments.
God may have wept as He watched,
but He watched my muscles twist beneath his,
and suddenly God was out of miracles,
suddenly God became man.

Does God give His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers
or to His worst disciples?

When you crashed your car your mother
sat you down and pled with you,
Baby, God is warning you, so please listen,
please think about what He’s trying to teach you, my child, my love.
Of course God wanted us dead.
You, His youth group leader in training,
Me, your brief queen hissing heresy every time I said I love you.
I wept for you and watched as you learned to call yourself
a dyke before you would ever say the word lesbian.
I didn’t listen to the warnings He gave you,
just as much mine as they were yours, like all of your pain became.
And He took you from me, from yourself, quickly.
And then He took me too.

You said you were afraid of dying.
You were afraid of the hell that yearned to catch up to us,
like we weren’t already living the hot punishment
of a boiled-over love.

In the wake of disaster,
I can see how maybe we really were wrong.
We should have listened, heeded the call.
Or maybe we were never
Me vs. Your Family,
Us vs. Your God.
It was You vs. Yourself.
And you could have won.

If the world began flooding around us,
I would have swam to you everytime,
I would have carved our necks,
I would have learned to fly
helicopters to the tops of mountains,
I would have sent a final avalanche
and we’d leave the stratosphere in a homemade spaceship.

God cannot find us if we hide,
if we just keep refilling the gas tank,
if we reread Leviticus,
and cross out the parts that we don’t like.

Trans Empathy – Or, You misgendered me & I thanked you.

Today, my boss apologizes for misgendering me and I thank her.

I work in a very grey office out of a very grey cubicle in a big grey building where a little grey headset streams to me a constant flood of angry patrons who every day find a new way to assume my womanhood based on my voice. My boss, who is by all accounts a very nice woman, is usually very good about my pronouns. I know that every time she talks to or about me I would be able to breathe for a moment – something I do very rarely on the job.

For some reason, however, she misgendered me last week.

I felt as though my one tie to reality in a place where I constantly feel unreal had betrayed me. Office atmospheres are deceiving – they turn everything into the mundane.  It is easy to seem like you are not crushed because everybody behind a computer screen and a cubicle is always some level of crushed. Pain simply fades into the white noise of the place.

I knew this and I couldn’t stand it. I had to make sure she knew this mattered to me. I needed to know I could look hold onto this tiny anchor of sanity to which my boss was the tether.

I sent an email. This was a big deal for me. The last time I tried to assert my pronouns in a work setting, I was assaulted and then fired.

Queeries comes back tomorrow!

Bright eyed and ready for the new year, Queeries returns with new content starting tomorrow!

A lot has happened in the world since we last wrote for you.

Like, a lot a lot.

Let’s make some art about it.

Check back every Monday and Friday for new work! 


And keep in mind we’re still selling the second Volume of Queeries Zine – “SAFE” to benefit Trans Lifeline! Pick up a digital or print copy at a pay-what-you-can price here! The zine will only be on sale until we release our new seasonal zine come March, so purchase it to while you still can and start your collection today!

We’re on Break!

Image Caption: Black and rainbow text on a rainbow background that reads “We’re taking a short break. See you all on January 15th! Hope your holidays are merry and gay from all of us at Queeries Blog.

I am Too Tired

I am too tired to write

I am too tired to fight

For my existence,

My seat at the table.

You say I’m only allowed

If I follow your rules:

To be quiet

To be nice

I’m growing old and I wanna go home

Trigger Warning: Depression, loss, loss of family

I went to a party last night. It was a Halloween party. Specifically, Halsey’s Almost Famous Halloween party. I went with someone who I consider a close friend. And I had a blast. I made new friends, I got to hang out with old friends. I allowed myself one drink (someone had to drive home). I played video games. I ate free grilled cheese. I danced like no one was watching. I smiled. I laughed. I took pictures. I stayed up way past my bedtime. I had fun.

My wife was Cyndi Lauper. I was Billie Joe Armstrong.

Today, I was exhausted. My body let me sleep a solid 6 hours before it woke me up. Every little thing I did today took more energy than I had. Getting up to pee. Brushing my teeth. Making my bed. All I wanted to do today was lay on my couch and watch Grey’s Anatomy. But Petsmart was having their puppy trick or treat event today and Stella’s best friend was going to be there. So I put clothes I could go out in public in on and went to Petsmart. Once we finished there, I dropped off my wife and my dog and went and got my haircut and put gas in my car. I then came home and threw some chips and cheese on a plate and called it lunch. For the next few hours we binged Grey’s but then Brit got an email about a candle sale going on at Bath and Body Works, so clothes went back on and we went to the mall. After that, we wanted to try a new place for dinner and drove 20 minutes out of our way to do so but the place didn’t exist. So we got Chipotle instead. We talked on the phone with a friend having problems with her relationship for 45 minutes. 3 hours later we made it back home.

My dog Stella is on the right. Her best friend Mia, a 2 pound yorkie is in the giant dogs arms.

We just watched Grey’s for the last 3 hours. I’m exhausted. I just want to sleep. We just got back from taking our pup for a walk and we’re in bed and my brain, my stupid brain, decided it wanted to think about all the things I’m angry at and upset about and sad about all at once and I haven’t stopped crying in half an hour.

I talked to Brit about it. I talked about how people keep talking about how they like it when I let my hair grow out but I hate when my hair is long because I feel like it makes me look fat and I don’t feel like I’m in control because it’s too long to do anything about. I talked about how I hate my body because ever since I got injured, I haven’t been as active as I was and I feel like I’m just getting fatter and fatter each and every day. I talked about how I feel like I’m in a creative funk and how I’ve wanted to film videos for my YouTube channel or go out and take pictures but every time I try even a little, I feel like nothings good enough so I stopped trying. I talked about how I don’t like talking about it but I have very little interest in anything right now because I kinda just feel like a failure.

I told her that last night, when we were driving home and we were talking about stuff and she said that she feels lucky that she got a good one, it made me feel good for the first time in a long time.

I didn’t talk about how I miss my grandparents more than ever right now. Not this time at least. I bring it up at least once a week. I feel like she knows. She doesn’t need me to remind her again. I didn’t talk about how I think about all the people I consider close friends, the people I love and care about deeply, the people who I feel know me better than i know myself sometimes and how a lot of them don’t even talk to me anymore. I didn’t talk about how many people I’ve texted and reached out to multiple times and still haven’t heard back. I didn’t talk about how I feel like a shitty friend because I don’t wanna leave my house after 8 because I’m a home body. I didn’t talk about how I feel like people don’t want to be my friend anymore because of it. I didn’t talk about how many times I’ve silently said goodbye to people and felt a broken heart over because I’m no longer important to them like I once was. I didn’t talk about how alone I feel.

My grandparents, thankfully, made it to my wedding. My grandmother, Ganny, had dementia. This was the last day I ever saw her as
the woman I grew up with. I lost my grandfather, Papa, in June of this year. I think that started everything for me.

I did say I wish I could afford to talk to someone. But I don’t even know if I’m gonna afford rent this month. I did apologize over and over and over for my stupid brain making me cry. She kept asking me why I was sorry. I kept telling her because my brain is stupid.

I’ve been battling with this depression since June. It’s been one of the longest bouts of real fucked up depression in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever struggled with my body and my brain and my value ever like this before. I don’t think I’ve ever avoided looking at myself in the mirror because I thought I was disgusting. I don’t think I’ve ever changed an outfit three, four, five times in one morning because everything I put on fits wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry at friends because they aren’t texting me, because they aren’t reaching out to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy and yet felt so sad and lonely at the same time.

Last night I went to a halloween party. For one night, I dressed up as someone else and I put on a mask and I allowed myself to have fun. This morning, my brain couldn’t handle it anymore and I’ve now been crying for the last hour. I’m tired. I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m frustrated. I’m lonely. I don’t feel creative. I don’t feel excited. I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel valued. I don’t feel important. I don’t feel motivated. I struggle each and every day just to get out of bed.

I took this picture a few weeks ago. I feel like I’ve perfected that smile.

We were playing Pokemon Go. I felt happy for a moment. It didn’t last long.

As the gates open

God grabs a trumpet and plays taps,

and together we mourn the years

I wasted, wondering

if I would ever get to go inside.

The air here is

so crisp, so clean.

I relish in the feeling of finally

breathing easy.