The Journey Home or how I learned to love myself via public transit

Photo by Peter Baker

I’m a sado-masochist with a thing for aversion therapy but even I wasn’t ready for this.
I didn’t grow up here.
I hadn’t cultivated the specific boundaries necessary to navigate the tunnels above and underground.

I don’t know if it’s my fatness or my blackness or some combination but people will stand rather than sit next to me.
I can sense their revulsion.
I can see them cut their eyes over at me. Hear them sigh in disgust as they walk past.

And me
folding myself so far into the glass, forcing my thighs together, every muscle taunt and trembling as I try to make myself as small as possible.

It’s impossible to pretend that I don’t see, don’t hear, don’t feel the paradoxical pain of being rendered both invisible and yet so horribly visible.
It’s dehumanizing.
It’s humiliating (which is not a personal kink I engage in btw).

It’s infuriating, especially when my final destination was often a stage where I would be taking my clothes off infront of 50 to a few hundred screaming people who look just like the ones treating me as if my fat black body is a contagious inconvenience.

I had to block it out.

I started reading in transit. It was in a particularly problematic self help book that I found my solution. In The Satanic Witch LaVey said something akin to your power lies in publicly being the most of what others expect. I’m saying it wrong but if people were treating me like I was repulsive I had to be so unrepently.

I did a complete 180. Instead of investing in my normal femme armoring I was lucky if I washed my face before I left the house.
I no longer apologized when someone sat next to me.
I went full honey badger and honey badger don’t give a shit.

One time after a particularly special week that had worn me out in several non consensal ways I threw a snood over my hair and slipped my painter’s frock over a black dress. I was makeup free but several parces removed from fresh faced and I fell asleep
I know my mouth was open
I could feel it
I snored
When I woke up some guy, some hot guy was staring at me but since Our Lady of the Blessed Honey Badger walked strongly with me that day I gave my best sneer and stumbled off the train.

As I stood at the gate searching my boobs for my card Mr Stares sauntered by and gives me the once over up and down appraisal.
I was ready
I had trained for this moment. But before the edge of my lip can curl over my left canine he says
without sarcasm
“Have a good day beautiful” He winks and heads up the escalator

Obviously we went to the same church
Something in that interaction shifted me. Not in a oh cute person thinks I’m cute and validated me. Thank you man saver way!
In a way it gave me space to see how silly I was being and how traumatized I had become from my past experinces of living in this body.

How I had let other people inform me on how I should feel in my body.

How this translated into how I let people even people I loved treat me in terrible ways.

I laugh cried about it for a week
I nearly restarted my live journal again
I did a lot of self love and boundary work.

The boundary work was important because even though people didn’t want to sit next to me they loved looooooved to touch my hair. I started keeping extra in my bag to toss at them. They were not amused.

It hasn’t been all hellfire though.

Once a holy man from another place took my hands in his and prophecised for me while his attendant translated his words into my ear
Once I met a woman who was escaping an abusive relationship. We had the same birthday. It was our birthday that day. I took her home that night and helped get her back to her mother.
Once I had a whole car to myself so I sang and danced around ran up and down the asiles and did everything I always wanted to do in there.

And once

This queer kid, this sweet kid with big brown eyes looked at me. You can tell they love their mother that their grandmother gave them that last slice of pie at every holiday dinner. You can tell that these women we brown and round and they see something of them in me in the 15 seconds it took me to push my way past all those bodies that didn’t want to touch me.

They look at me, their hand grazing mine. “Excuse me. You can have my seat”
“I’m fine”
I smile
They insist
I decline
And then they say it
It is always unexpectedly quiet in that moment. Like when the record cuts out at a party or that pause before something

significant

They say
So sincerely

“Sit. Please. You shouldn’t be standing. If you fall you’ll hurt the baby”

As I look at them over this wide expanse of flesh I am suddenly 12 and a strange old man has his hand on the core of me and is saying “ Damn girl When is the baby due?”
I am standing there and then, here and now 300 pounds with grown flashes of scarlet anger and a child’s flood of tears riding on a held breath.

I exhale

I exhale and I let my belly just swell to full
I put my hand compassionately on this part of myself that everyone sometimes myself included just hates and I do my best waddle walk to that fucking seat because standing on Bart or Muni at rush hour is sweaty monkey balls!

I take a seat
I take up space
I get to be here
I get to ride

I get to reach this destination
of coming home.

Blacklove: Hurr

This moment.

I just want to live in this moment.

Sitting on the floor of my Spiritual Mother’s home between the legs of this magnificent human being that I love while they oil, part and cornrow my hair.

They know the history in this hair
They know being yanked around by mothers on Sundays
They know the sound of grease and heat
They know the tests and trials and trying to tame something that should just be free

They know the secrets of how to pave pale roads from my forehead to the nape of my neck
Just like anyone that got passed the knowledge

But they are not just anyone so they touch it with same tenderness they touch my face with
The same sweetness they touch my heart with
They know that what others see as disastrous territory is actually sacred ground

I now get to add this story to my Black hairstory

Before it was the sucking of teeth, Trinity Broadcast Network and being told my head was too big, my hair too thick, my hair too much

Me too much? The child thinks
Not too much. I now know
Not too much tho very much loved

A violent love

Had a friend
A gay man of color who came from a middle class family, made good money.

When Trump was elected he told me I was being silly for my fears He told me I was being over-emotional, the things I and other people were saying were not going to happen.

I’m horrified that we
Those who took to the streets
Those who started planning
Those who rushed to government offices
Those who broke in night and the weeks after are right.

I cut this man from my life on all avenues of contact.
I’m thinking of him now what his face looks like, what he feels if anything as these people and countless others are dead because of murderers getting fueled up under a false and blood-soaked banner of nationalism they call patriotism.

The white supremacist with the gun
The white supremacist with the bombs
The white supremacist who is your doctor
The white supremacist who is your lover
The white supremacist who is your teacher
The white supremacist who is your manager
The white supremacist who is your neighborhood officer

Killing you in literal ways quickly and slowly.

The entitlement of the white supremacist to our bodies, to our knowledge, to our history, to our lives

The white supremacist who expects to be met, told and taught about their present-day and historical impact by marginalized people with gentle smiles and open arms and love.

You’d be surprised how violent acts can be committed with a heart full to bursting of love.

I have a heart that has been broken by this, by the weeks and months before, by Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland, by rocks thrown at my head at a football game for being on the “wrong side”, from being denied access to a sleep over in kindergarten because of the color of my skin by the mother of a friend who was also the school’s counselor…

A heart so broken, enlarged by the size of it’s scars
And full to bursting with a violent love.

Mothering self

A few months ago I yelled at my birth mother.
Not raise my voice yelling
Lost my shit yelling

We’re Black and Southern and raised in the church and debutantes.
We don’t yell
We’ll Jenifer Jeanette Lewis each other to death but we don’t do yelling

I remember being simultaneously horrified and relieved. We said some pretty rancid and in hindsight hilarious things to each other.
I remember screaming “I’m so angry. We need space. This is just a moment mother. I love you Mommy Dearest but I’m taking my inner child and we’re leaving this conversation!” 24 hours later we were hella southern civil with each other even though it took weeks for us to come to center again.

As I seethed for a solid month I vowed to never be so idealistic again with her (that didn’t last 😂) I held tight to the child she stung. I told her I was her fucking mother now.

This was the best thing to have ever happened.

It has allowed me a way to give myself the gentle nurturing my mother, our single black mothers working two jobs and dealing with systemic oppression and the church didn’t always have the space to give.
We chat now
This child I was and I

Today she tugged on my arm and said “Am I too sensitive?” The response came swift and easy
No child.
You’re also asking if you’re weak. If you’re too soft. You’re not weak and softness is not a bad thing. Consider that some people are fucking ass hats and cunt faces and that’s their cross to bear. Instead of being decent and doing change work these punk ass bitches will make you think you need to change.

Your sensitivity has given us access to compassion
It is a double edge sword and we bleed but we feel and we have joy even if all we can feel right now is sorrow.

Wield your sword child.
Don’t worry.
I’ll always be there to punch the people who fuck with you in the throat.
I love you.
I love me.

Tasting the sun

TW: Eating disorder

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I live with an eating disorder.
I don’t talk about it because I’m not sure if I can keep my slap hand off of people who will inevitably respond “oh that’s why you’re fat”

Depending on the trigger I’ll either stop eating or won’t stop eating.

I’m struggling right now with the world but today I’m reminding myself that food can be medicine and I can think of it like medicine instead of good or bad or shame or congratulation points

I’m reminding myself of how smart my body is
I’m reminding myself to breathe before and after every bite
I’m reminding myself to taste the sun
I’m reminding myself to take in wholeness and not stuff down or silence grief sorrow or rage

I’m reminding myself that I get to feel the full range of emotion, that I don’t have to fear it or worry about being seen as less than because I have it.

I’m here in it.
And I’ll be here after it.

Re:Smell

I can’t smell

It’s fucked up but I’m like that dog in “Lady and the Tramp”. Flowers and farts go unnoticed but I can smell important things
Not that flowers and farts aren’t necessarily important…

I can smell the dead
I can smell how they died or lived
I can smell when I need to stay somewhere or leave
I can smell connection

I’ve straight up fallen in love over the way someone hit my nose. My first crush was the approaching storm and dust being heated in sunbeams on an upright piano.

My first girlfriend bathed in Tommy Girl and Vanilla but under all that was carnival candy apples and black pepper

My ex, the big EX was a box being opened for the first time and for all of his awfulness a type of innocence. I imagine Peter Pan would have the same scent. Together we were coffee.
The expensive shit
Kona
Until it got bad
We became sour, mold and acid. I smelled like burning flesh without the sickly sweet
He never noticed the change

After that I stopped paying attention to my nose

Until last night

I couldn’t stop sniffing the air or touching places I forgot were there. Our hands, our lips sent up our scent like smoke for a prayer.

This aroma is sankofa.

I follow it back to a time when I regarded this body of mine as a sacred wonder and wanted nothing more than mutual worship with an other’s sacred wonder.

Then became now.

Later,
as we floated down a San Francisco street
our fingers twined like legs, a couple walked past us.

One of them turned his head for a moment to look at us. “Ya’ll smell so good!”
His boyfriend agreed.

I think we laughed

I think we said “that’s because we smell like each other”

I think

I don’t know… I don’t remember if the words actually made it out. But I do know they were correct.

We smelled of new earth, a hatching egg, a spark, the first page in a fresh note book, sunrise orange and Lilith making love to herself.

A perfume that should be bottled and labeled “thank god” and “finally”

We smelled like hope
and depending on your demographic
dangerous