There’s a wandering man. Where does he go? There’s a wandering man out in the snow. There’s a wandering man. He walks slow. There’s a wandering man. He breathes smoke. There’s a wandering man. He looks cold. There’s a wandering man. He turns a corner. There’s a wandering man. I can see him no longer. There’s a wandering man. Is that my father?
This house is breathing its warm breath. That’s why we live here. It’s symbiotic. We entertain it, provide it with life, and it breathes its warm breath in the winter and shelters us from thunderstorms in the summer. We laugh with this house. We love this house. It loves us back, as it’s done for decades. We won’t be here forever, however, but it does not know this. Like a dog, this house does not know time. Everything is always. Everything is all at once. Nothing starts and nothing stops. That means it has no trouble moving on from one guest to the next. It transitions well. It will be okay, this house. It will keep breathing its spell.
Content note: this piece contains several references to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On our pandemic date, we walk with masks around a snowy park. We run into an old teacher of yours and make polite conversation. Then we fall into the snow. It takes us on our separate paths. Our trains pull into different stations. We’re looking for something we won’t find here. Not at this time, not in this place. Not with each other.
I try to find easier ways of doing things, but nothing gets any easier. I am exhausted. I haven’t stopped working. My wrists ache from typing. My days off aren’t that at all. Sometimes, I think about giving up this way of living and pursuing what I love. I think about it in an abstract way because abstract is better for fantasy. When I try to pin down the details, they flutter away. These butterflies are alive. They can still fly.
I still don’t know what kind of writer or person I am. I want to read a book called The Courage to Be Disliked. I want to be courageous. I want to publish my book, but I’m terrified of putting my story out there. It’s painfully vulnerable and I don’t know if I could stand having it picked apart. I need to figure out how to separate myself from my story. Can that be done?
I watch another trans person come out and I almost cry several times. I think about voice training again. I think about binding. I think about growing my hair out. I think about cutting it off. It’s good I’m not trying to access healthcare right now. I can rarely get a hold of my doctor.
The routines I create save me and crush me simultaneously. The rules are necessary and I hate them (but also, not really).
My house has a big window and the man who builds my shower tells me I need curtains to keep warm. Blankets, even, if I can find them. I buy shower curtains at the grocery store. Nothing else is open.
I say when the pandemic ends and my date says if. I should text them, tell them I’m not cut out for this. I’ve tried. Trust me, I’ve tried.
I find meaning in everything and I am usually wrong about what things really mean.
Identity is troublesome and fleeting. Identity can be expansive or reductive. Identity can be as hard to pin down as a live butterfly, and as painful. Why are you trying to pin this poor creature? Why am I?
I talk to the gods almost every morning. It’s helping.
I play music in the background to make my writing feel more profound. I have never done mushrooms alone. I want to. I am curious and afraid. That would give me a way to go somewhere without having to travel.
I’m tired of going on dates, of glowing screens, video chats, and socially distant walks. Even if things were normal, however, I think I’d still be tired of them. There’s something notably unromantic about dating.
Time is a precious resource and it bleeds out of everything. I’m trying to hold time in a cheesecloth. I bought margarine because butter is hard and because butter runs out. Margarine is, apparently, not good for you. I don’t really care.
I’m tired of dichotomies. I’m tired of routines. I’m tired of typing.
I begin in pieces, in parts. I begin where my date ends. I begin in motel rooms. Cheap, seedy motel rooms that are surprisingly clean. I begin to write, to really write, and I begin to feel better.
Content note: this piece contains abstract references to trauma.
Sometimes, you want to stay in the dark because the light is too much to take. Sometimes, you choose the dark. Sometimes, you say no to new information. Yes, even in the information age. Yes, even in the disinformation age. Sometimes, you say no. Sometimes, you go for solitary walks at night. Sometimes, you don’t respond to messages. Sometimes, you choose to be alone. Sometimes, you just don’t want to know.
You’re tired of knowing. You wish you could know less. You wish you could go back to knowing less because you know the regret of knowing. When given the option, the choice, sometimes you say no to more knowing. Sometimes, you say yes to the dark and you slide slowly into its embrace. It’s safer here. It’s quieter. It hurts less. You can tend to your scars here, rub the raised skin with lightly-scented oil. You don’t need any new gashes. Not yet, not now, maybe not ever.
Your friends may not understand. Aren’t you curious? They’ll ask. I’d be curious. I couldn’t stand not knowing.
I know enough to know I won’t be able to stand knowing more. I’ve known too much. I’ve known too much too young. I’ve had too much knowing. I want to unknow. I can’t do that, but I can say no to more. I can exit the conversation. I can leave the letter on the floor. I can put down the phone. I can go for a walk in the dark. I can fade into the peace of night. I can dwell in the peace of not knowing.
Please, let me stay here. Please, don’t share any more. I can’t take knowing more. And of what I have, I plan to… if not let it drain away, at least let it fade. Let it fade so it doesn’t hurt so much. I will always have this knowing, but I can choose, now, how much more to take and what to do with what I have.
I choose to leave the pages untouched
I choose to say no
I choose to let this knowing fade.
I have been so many places, so many people. I have been with so many people. What does it say that I am still alone? Maybe I found my person, maybe I already found them, and what I did was simply fail to be with them. Maybe I can’t look anymore. Maybe I’ve already found what I’m looking for and I just don’t know it.
And so I am a lost soul, a soul lost, lost and searching. What could I possibly still be looking for? Under every rock, in every crevice, all over the earth, Sage is searching, searching for what they’ve already found, searching for someone else, searching for themselves. Under every rock, in every crevice. When will I know that I’ve found it? When will I stop? When will I settle under a rock?
It’s painful, this searching, this wandering. This insatiable loneliness is consuming. This desire to be desired, to find desire. Love can soothe this ache, can make it stop, but only for a little while, because the reality is that love isn’t enough. Love isn’t enough to fix this, this emptiness. Love is flawed, and what I’m looking for is flawless, and what I’m looking for doesn’t exist…
But I don’t know how to stop looking for it.
I’m afraid, while I do, that I will cast off everything that is good, everything for this mission of mine, this mission to find something I’ll never find. Perfect something, perfect nothing. It’s perfectly nothing. I’m perfectly fine.
Why am I searching, and when did I start? I don’t know how to let go of this expectation that life owes me this thing, this thing that I am never finding, that I will never find… That maybe I’ve already found, already found and let slip through my fingers.
I’m grasping at everything, but holding onto nothing. My fingers are flippers. They’re wet, they’re slippery. I’m grasping, grasping, grasping… It’s ridiculous, really. I can’t see my true nature. I’ve never looked in a mirror. There are no mirrors here. I am alone, alone in a sea of others, alone all by ourselves. Alone, together, searching, grasping, slipping, wanting.
You have been the year of bad fucking breakups and shit luck.
You have been the year of challenges and disruptions and obstacles.
You have been the year of “if it can go wrong, then it will”.
You have been an endless, unstoppable bulldozer of a year.
You have been the year of anxiety, panic, and fear.
You have been the year of a loss of control on a mass scale.
You have been the year of pushing me beyond my limits over and over,
And discovering I’m a lot more resilient than I give myself credit for.
2020, you have taken and taken and taken,
And what you have given has been less obvious,
But it’s what I will carry with me into the next year.
I’ve been telling myself to let go of what I cannot control,
Not an easy feat for someone like me,
But that is what you come down to, 2020:
The stark reality of everything I cannot control.
You have wiped away illusion after illusion after illusion,
Exposing the magician that is me.
2020, I can’t keep track of my griefs anymore.
They weave, white wisps of thread, throughout my body.
Each one connected to my heart and branching out in its own unruly direction.
My mother says I need to grieve, but which hurt do I tend to first?
Which thread do I begin to weave?
2020, you have been a gift,
A terrible, smelly gift in ugly wrapping paper,
A gift I did not want nor ask for,
But a gift nonetheless.
You have shown me where my limits really are.
You have shown me reality, exposed the illusionists.
You have shown me friends and family who care about me.
You have shown me what I cannot control, yes, but also, what I can.
You have revealed my humanity, and that of others, in a significant way.
My flaws have been laid bare before me by you,
And the flaws of others just seem so fucking human too.
2020, you have worn me down, beaten me up, and made me cry,
But you have also prepared me to take on 2021,
And I’m a better fighter than when this year had just begun.
2020, I’m grateful for what you have given, and even for what you have taken.
I’m ready to say goodbye to you and move into a new year
With bruises and bloody knuckles and no more fear.
No, this broken and unruly heart contains hope,
Hope that this will be a better year.
I’m on a date and it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but I’m grateful because I get to be around other people, meeting a new person. There won’t be a second date, or maybe there will, just because we’ll want an excuse to go out again. That happens a lot these days. I look into this other person’s eyes as we speak and I don’t see a potential partner there, no, but I do see a human, and I’m enraptured by the beauty of another human being’s non-pixelated eyes.
I’m at a party and the music isn’t any good and the beer is swill and the people are just okay, but I’m having the best night of my life because I get to be around other people and some of them are new and that is amazing. We’re shouting over the unfortunate music and no one is listening. Our eyes and voices are animated. You’d think we’re all high, but only a few of us are. Someone tells a joke that isn’t very funny and we all fall over laughing.
I’m walking around a mall looking at the pretty lights and colours even though I hate malls, but I’m having such a lovely time because there are people, people everywhere, and I have no reason to be afraid of them now. As I move, I catch bits and pieces of mundane conversations that are made interesting by over a year of isolation. I go into stores and don’t buy anything and the shopkeepers smile and say hello. I get an ice-cream cone and sit on a bench in the centre of it all and breathe in the stale air with a sigh of gratitude.
I get on a bus and then a train and both are delayed, so it takes a long time to get to my destination, but I’m not irritated in the slightest. I’m going somewhere, somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages. I watch pavement disappear and then I leave tracks behind. The buildings grow taller, taller, taller until they enter the mist. The train arrives in the station and then we must wait to walk down the stairs with the size of the crowd that pours out. I am overjoyed. The city is a place of fun again, not fear, and I can come here for a day without worrying about fatal consequences.
I’m sitting in a cafe writing and the noise is actually helping me work. It was difficult to find a chair. Lots of people go out for no reason now. The seats are uncomfortable. I’m typing away on my computer. My latte is burnt and lukewarm and delicious. I’m happily writing nonsense. Someone bumps into my table, spilling my drink and disturbing my focus. I love them for it. “Sorry!” They say, reaching out a hand to steady my situation. I smile up at them. They smile back.
I select a piece and pick it apart and put it together and click submit and there it is,
at the mercy of the world.
It’s not really what we’re looking for,
but we’re glad you submitted and hope you do so again!
It’s not really what we’re looking for, but it’s good that you found it.
You’re not really what we’re looking for, but we’re glad you exist! Hooray!
There’s probably something you can do with that.
It is what you’re looking for.
You are what you’re looking for
and there isn’t an email template in the world that can take that away.
Content note: this piece contains references to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I miss sitting somewhere in public and writing even though I never did that. I want to go to Fran’s All Night Diner at some ridiculous hour and eat greasy food and pull out my notebook and write about it. I’ll ask if they have decaf and they’ll have to put on a pot and I’ll feel bad, but don’t worry, I’ll drink a lot. The refills are endless. I’ll get through the whole pot. They’ll ask if they should put on another and I’ll say no, that’s alright, thanks, it’s time to go visit my brother. And they’ll say their shift isn’t up yet. And I’ll say, no, not you, silly, me. It’s time for me to go visit my brother. And they’ll say, oh, yeah, isn’t that that guy who works at the café? Yeah, that’s the one. I’ll get the bill, please. Oh, certainly. Then I’ll be off, off to where the buildings are tall. You know, I’ve actually never visited my brother before because of the pandemic. What pandemic? Oh, have we forgotten already? Thank goodness.
Then I’ll be up and outta there, quicker than a streetcar can say surprise. I’ll be crossing that old town at lightning speed just to see the only other redhead for miles. Now that can’t be right, we use kilometres in Canada, but you know what I mean.
I’ll cross that old town and be haunted by its memories, but hey, at least I can actually be there without the fear of catching my death and spreading it. No one will look directly at me because they’ll know I’m not from around there and I won’t mind one bit. I’ll keep quiet and we’ll all agree that it’s better they don’t look. But you just wait, just wait until I get to my brother’s place because then, I’ll talk. They’ll all talk. Not about anything specific. Not about anything that matters, just the kind of talk you use to make everyone feel better. You know the kind. You use it all the time.
I’ll get to my brother’s place and I won’t have the door code, so he’ll have to buzz me in. The building he lives in is 83 floors tall. It rivals the CN Tower. No, it doesn’t, don’t make me laugh. But the CN Tower is right over there, see? He’ll buzz me in from above and I’ll walk into a lobby I’ve never seen. It’ll be unremarkable. Elevator doors will open and my brother will step out. Where’s the red hair? I’ll wonder. It’ll be dark blue, but he’ll still be my brother.
Would you like some coffee? He’ll ask.
He brings his work home with him (quite literally).
Would you mind putting on a pot of decaf?