Updated: Feb 3, 2021
At the start of COVID, I had been planning on creating a one person show. Intially, the thought had been to write a cute lil' soujourn into my childhood in the quaint slopes of the Minnesota riverbed. What came out was something a little more twisty as I scraped through the muck and mire that is self reflection. My advisors erringly called it the "old church basement ladies" show. And maybe that's what it had intended to be, the name coming from the cookbook I grew up with, created by the women that celebrated or mourned every birth, death and tragedy with some flavor of Olio or Jell-O mould. Women who were only given their salutation and husband's name as a recognizable moniker. "Mrs. Harold Svenson" "Mrs. Robert Oleander" The collective widow wagon, still bearing the names of their dead spouse.
God, what a weight, to carry a dead thing with you for the rest of your years.
All that aside, I have this massive file of work that I love and hate in equal measures depending on the day, and I want to start sharing rather than keeping it in the crypt of my Google Drive. So, here is a more recent chapter, Skeletons and Closets.
When I was little, my dad dug up a headstone from the front garden.We’d been trying to remove an old stump, and there it was, creamy white and tangled up in roots and dirt. It belonged to the family before: The Tasches. The first family in that house, in 1800. The folks that had left the home empty and hollow for years before my family arrived. It was the weirdest sort of buried treasure, the strangest kind of living mausoleum, all of us rattling around the halls.
We had to bring in the police to see if there was a body under that rock.
Knees scrubbed raw in grass stains and sun bleached hair snarled with briars, I watched everything with awe: old bones churned in black earth, something beautiful and elemental and strong after all the years of rot.
This year has been an exhumation of the interred: old things that I didn’t want to examine, that I had buried way down deep under my own roots and dirt.
An example: how in god’s name did I not know i was queer as hell?
I have been asking myself that question every ten seconds these days.
How did I not know.
I walked over bones and blew bubbles while sitting on that stump. A life had ended, had been planted under my feet and how could I never have known?
We had both been buried down deep, both been forgotten. I’m the dumbass tearing up the front yard these days, stones like landmines every couple of feet.
OH, I might say to myself, oh...I really was in love with my best friend, wasn’t I? In 6th grade, when we kissed at that slumber party, then in the pool at the end of the school year...that warmth in my stomach and chest fluttering when we held hands, brushed fingers. Why I cried so hard when they moved away, felt like my heart was being ripped out. Kristina, Emily, Samantha, in that order, best friends. Possibly. That’s what I was told they had to be: don’t hold her hand in public, or everyone will think you’re gay. Do you want that? Who knows. Anything else was buried way underneath.
I should have known when I was ten, watching A Philadelphia Story. Did I want to be Katherine Hepburn or kiss her? Because my god could she wear the hell out of trousers. And after that point I would rarely wear skirts or dresses. I mean Christ, have you seen the woman? Trousers. Suits. Rolled sleeve Oxfords.
Or this: How did I not know that this was assault? The boy down the street forcing me to suffer his kisses, so he could practice for the older girls, but oh isn’t it darling that he gave you a ring to be your husband? You’re going to be a heartbreaker. You’re going to have a lot of guys swooning at your feet. Remember, you can love a rich man just as easily as a poor man. I say this to make you aware, to make your life better. They took me to look at wedding rings and engagement set when I was six, plant the expectation of what my life and my worth were to be: youth and prettiness are your only currency when you have a uterus.
How did I not know that so many things stem from fear and rage, a deep deep deep rage that digs its heels in deep and fights every monster that has told me that I am lesser. That it stems from my mom and my dad and the long line of miserable emotional misers that loved to pose the prompt of “not enough”. And I am not sure. I am not sure if this is a question for myself that’s been tapping it’s way through my bones, or if it’s the words I want to rail against the world, pose to any of those that should have known better when I was small and did have the words or the strength to name what hurt me. I have beat my head against so many, many walls, used myself as a battering ram of righteous fury for the voiceless and I am nearly out of heart-sleeve blood to bleed.
Bury your gays and a few decades later you dig up the skeletons that haunt your closets.
How did I not know. And how did they know and refuse to tell me.
I am so goddamn angry all the time, and these stones are so heavy. Yet here I still am, rattling around tired with more questions than answers, after all this rot, hoping beyond anything that when I’m finally dug up, it’ll be something beautiful and elemental in the front yard.