In the last days of this past summer, I was walking in a pre-dusk yellow, surrounded by flowers. I wasn’t alone. I was with my queer mother, Camille, and one of my closest friends, F. Busy schedules and personal drama had finally given way to a respite of summer meandering. My queer mother bought us tickets to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and there we were, snapping photos, listening to Camille’s knowledge of wild blossoms, while balancing on fountain edges, and giving the bucolic borough our God-given laughter and noise. Camille had a bubble gun in her purse. She handed it to F, who shot sun-glistened bulbs out of it throughout the afternoon. He gripped it joyfully, as if it were the only kind of gun he would ever need…
Part of why I love summer, is that when it dissipates, the warmth and palpability of its memories still linger fresh for some time. Like on another late summer evening, when F’s building caught fire on a lower level and I waited for him on the street below. He was optimistically waving to me from his window, as I waved back and asked the fire fighters when it would be safe for him to come down. When it finally was safe, he came down, looking fresh as hell, hair braided back, with his arm dramatically veiled over his forehead. I walked forward to meet him at the main entrance of his building where there was a huddle of sturdy firemen. F swerved around in a circle, elatedly eyeing them all.
“Oh my goodness!” he gasped. “Am I dreaming?”
ARENA: Runway, mirror, street corner, fountain, river pier, stairwell…
MOVE: Fierce, iconic, care-free, cunt, glorious…
I’ve been dreaming a lot about New York City streets. Somehow, they’ve been appearing to me as stages. Full of entrances, exits, full of strange light… And like any stage with an audience, the nearby crowd might tremor, but they don’t help move the story… And yet how is it the gold of Trump Tower, literally TOWERS over the same City in which my Queer siblings and I make life…?
I wake up a few days after the administration has announced that they do not consider Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming people to exist. It’s October. I wake up and the sun doesn’t feel different. I’m still in my skin and I wake up next to the same man, in the same cluttered apartment bedroom. I see the same mid-twenty-year-old body and lavender-soaked hair in the mirror. I text to check up on the same friends… There is nothing unreal about this. Whatever else is in this world is unreal, like that which is underneath a well-fitting mask, was unreal before, and will remain hidden until the mask lifted. It’s the lies we are told to estrange us from ourselves that are farthest removed from the Real.
I’m commuting, like I do any other Tuesday, on a Q34 bus that is beaming with morning sun, the kind of glow that is central to itself—think, somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 am. Think, fuchsia-tinted gold—not yellow. If it’s a millennium sun that we’re under, it feels at its most radiant here in transit.
My queer mother calls:
“He’s at Kings! No. Don’t pick him up. I’ll go and get him. I almost died at Kings, once.”
Her low theatrical voice in full crescendo (she is a burlesque performer), my queer mother is talking about F. She has only met him once, on that serene afternoon in Brooklyn. This is what care is I tell myself. I clutch my pocket book. F gave it to me in the early summertime and I’ve worn it ever since.
Inside the bag is:
Polar Ice Gum (The brand is EXTRA), larger than comfortable bottle of mace, lip-stick, pens, crammed up notepad, eyeliner, metrocard.
Again, I clutch the bag, losing my arm in its tangle, thankful for what my queer mother said she will do, hoping I am able to get the message to F that she will be picking him up. His phone was taken when it happened. I know he’s terrified and I try not to wonder how much pain he’s in. I try not to think about where it hurts or whether he is being properly taken care of at the hospital, but, of course, I think about these things like any real person would. Strangely, the painting that Camille gave to F, the first time they met, is sharp in my mind. The colors and shapes. The indigo, the figure hovering over a child.
F was gay-bashed about two weeks prior to my writing this. It happened in Brooklyn and it was awful. I will not put the details of the bashing into language because I want to keep F’s privacy, and honor the respect he deserves. I will say that I’m desperately glad he’s alive and thankful he has the capacity to physically heal. He tells me he’s been having nightmares.
When I go to F’s apartment, he is drowsy on pain meds. We eat deli food together and catch each other up on our daily lives. I have much less to say than he does this evening. F puts on horror movies to celebrate the season—our favorite kind of entertainment to watch together. F lies down and I’m perched on his bed, wide awake. He drifts into sleep. A woman in the movie screams and there’s the sound of a blood-shrilling struggle—as if the woman is escaping a killer.
Tomorrow is Halloween. New York will be a masquerade of grotesque and iconic fem queens.
But right now, F looks so peaceful under the flicker of movie light. It seems like the medicine is taking him somewhere closer to himself, to that rapturous giddy way he laughs and twerks and dances to Guyanese beats in front of the mirror, the way he ignites a loving commotion on any streetscape as if it were a runway stage for some God to applaud and beam down His light upon. If our sun-drenched afternoon among the Brooklyn flowers last summer was God-sent, than so, too, is this evening. F’s body under movie light emitting another kind of glow. A glow refusing to not be at home in itself.
When I tiptoe out of his apartment, and descend down the elevator of his tall building, I’m on Mermaid Avenue, stretching out ahead like a deserted runway. It’s brisker than I remember it being down here. It’s well past midnight, and quiet on this side of the City. The Atlantic’s waves almost shiver through the crevices of buildings. A wide-eyed man drinking a bottle of Paul Masson grins and nods at me from inside a closed barbershop, as if he’s known me his entire life. A kind of scarlet neon animates him from in there. I get a text from another friend: “Bitch, what are we doing later!? It’s Halloween, bitch!”
On the platform, the D train’s orange strobe barrels in to take me home. When I arrive, I drop my stuff on the floor and rush into my bedroom where Paul, the man who, now, sleeps next to me almost every night jolts awake to my entering.
“What the fuck! Where were you?”
I can tell he’s coming out of a dream. “Baby, what is it? I was just at F’s…”
His eye’s are dilated, his breath heaving in a way I’m not used to. He wraps his arms around me tightly for a few moments and then releases. He puts his hand over his eyes, reclining back onto the part of the bed where his imprint shadows it.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
He lifts his hand from his face. “They couldn’t find you. The police, nobody… Nobody could find you.”
I lie down next to him. The concern in his eyes light them up. This, too, is care I tell myself. He mutters something strange like don’t ever leave me again… and drifts back off to sleep. I think of F and how he’s peacefully sleeping a few subway stops south. I never want F to be taken from that kind of peace again. The kind that washes over him in sleep unmarred by nightmares. What is that? I wonder. What is that kind of sleep? All I can think is that someone must have found him shuddering, that night, there in dreams. His gentle shadow-self, perhaps, taking his own hand and moving him toward the uncanny spotlight of this world. Unmasked, in a way and on the precipice of waking, ready to receive morning. I let my eyes close, thinking that maybe F will want to strut out a little for Halloween, come morning, bruised face and all, in whatever God-ordained ricochet of sun dares show us its face.