i’ve always been taught that it’s bad form to answer a question with a question, but i don’t know how to do anything else. maybe there’s a yet for that. if i don’t ask them tho, i scramble to write them down, giving them a slightly increased chance of becoming more than a tangent.
they are scattered everywhere in untitled google docs, wordpress drafts and voice recordings on my phone and too many notebooks whose themes i remember when i encounter them. there are pencils everywhere, yes pencils, because they slow me down enough that it’s still legible later. in another few years i will chance upon that turquoise-covered one that says aloha across the front and contains only one thing: a Hawaiian saga that outlined itself as I was walking around an ancient, sacred place and that I had eventually transcribed from a voice recording.
I would probably never write that.
I don’t feel I occupy the place or space to tell that story, but what a fascinating plot it was.
I have been to Hawai’i once. My daughter was four when a class action lawsuit I was part of was finally resolved in my favor. Whoever was overseeing that process fought, for ten years, for the rights of around 2000 people who’d been put in cages, subjected to industrial chemicals, disconnected from necessary medications, deprived of sleep, kept from hygiene practices and shoved into cells with five times the amount of people those cells were designed to hold. Accused of misdemeanor crimes, we were legally supposed to be released after 24 hours. I was released a week later.
My experience with the human cage in this instance was several hellish days long, and it’s only thanks to distance and neurofeedback that I can handle observing the level of panic I experienced then to reflect on a fonder moment or two.
When they locked us up, they put trans guys in a cell with anyone else they identified as women. Our cell now had two cute guys in it, one of whom had cigarettes and a cell phone. Daddy had someone in his lap almost always.
We used the cell phone to call Amy Goodman at Democracy Now and after that families and loved ones until it died, and twice a day while we were all still together, Daddy would light a cigarette as we devotees kneeled at his feet, holding it up to our lips in turn.
Still, crowds for me require witchcraft, and after a point, I had little with which to summon magic anymore. I relied on whatever might induce transcendence or catatonia and I lost my shit fairly regularly in between breathing and chants and shoulder rubs and attempts to check out.
It was also the last thing I remember about New York City (door, meet ass). With the panic attacks I lost track of a day and when I got out I had just enough time to run home, take the kind of shower required to wash that off and throw a duffel bag together before getting on a plane to portland, oregon. It would be five years before I returned, briefly and then never again.
Within ten years I would be settled into a small town in far northern California at the base of a sleeping volcano, where it was easy and affordable to raise a kid without paying someone else do it instead and where one day I came home to find a check for several thousand dollars in my mailbox.
I turned the paper over, held it up to the light and then called the number to ask “if this is real and if not this is a really fucked-up thing to do to someone” and then I screamed a little as I read the article in the NY Times about how the city had to pay us all out a total of 18 million dollars and then I went and outfitted my daughter and me with good travel and camping gear that would hopefully last us the next decade or so and then I booked two round trip tickets to Hawaii from Portland and then I paid a lot of rent in advance and a bunch of bills and then it was gone.
I honestly can’t say for sure whether I might have had a different experience if I’d known I’d eventually collect a small windfall for it. Money makes good lube, but the level of anxiety I suffered in a week’s time there was nearly unsustainable for me. when I got out, though, there were hundreds of people in the parking lot who had been coming back and forth for days with healthy food and herbal remedies, help for physical and mental health crises, tobacco, hugs, phones to make phone calls on, flowers, massages, and they all cheered loudly when we were released. They had painted signs. Someone got me a cab ride home with a few other people who lived in my neighborhood and I had a known destination when I left, far removed from it all.
There are camps now set up just like the system they had us in, but they’re much larger and there are a lot more people and they are in there longer some of them have been separated from their children and crowds of people waiting to help them aren’t circulating outside and no one is waiting to put them in taxis to deliver them to hot showers and airline flights away from trauma. I would lose my fucking mind in one of those camps. I damn near did after four days. These camps are unholy and cannot be justified.
Trauma can happen quickly and intensely sometimes. It either introduces you to the world of damage or builds on whatever else has not been resolved. Anxiety of that sort is no easy thing no matter when or for how long you experience it. Like trauma, it either transforms you or it adds on to what you already have. There are breaking points. Most of us try to avoid them. We process them with therapy and fetishes and habits good and bad and maybe we look at them on a whole and think about what we’re doing and fill notebooks full of panic or if we don’t we pass them on, since we already have cages at the ready.
suddenly it’s dark out and the day slid by.