I Hate Nature

Remember that mother’s day when I saw crows killing a baby pigeon and had to feel all creeped out about it?  Tonight was crow’s turn for pain.  Fuckin’ middle of the night going for a walk there’s a crow skipping along the ground looking all skinny.  There’s an interested cat nearby.  A great deal of a crow’s bulk is provided by its wings.  Was it skinny because it already had a wing torn off?  Or just lost a lot of feathers during some torment?  I kept walking, hurt in my heart.

I know that’s how it’s gotta be, but it would be nice to never ever see it.  For me, at least.  I know some of you are cool with doing the dirty work of making animals into food.  I respect that.  But woof.  Not for me.

The Privilege They Believe – Class Privilege

People hear the word privilege and assume it means what most of us have used it for over the previous hundred years – class privilege. Then they think, I’m not rich, and their brain shuts down. That’s fine, I’m not here to convince them. But I’d like to discuss class privilege for a minute because, like many shrieking status quo warrior jackoffs, I am lacking in class privilege – and it has genuinely caused me harm.

This is something we don’t discuss much in the USA compared to the UK, with its more formalized class distinctions. It has been said many times that we need more class awareness here and I’d say that’s true. Social justice discourse could use a little more focus on it, where it won’t derail another important issue. Indeed, a huge problem for black people in the USA is the intersection of race and class oppression. Not all black people are poor, but those that are? Intersectional problems multiply.

Because we have so little focus on class oppression, its effects are seldom laid out. That is why it’s taken me a very very long time to realize what that damage is in myself. First off, from about age ten onward this undefined despair interfered with my schooling. I reached some kind of developmental plateau at that age – maybe something to do with self awareness, or considering the future – which caused me to go from straight As to nearly straight Fs. I never graduated high school.

It was strange because I did have oodles of white, and male, and mental and physical health privilege making me feel like I’m some kind of cool genius, that I’d wake up one day and the world would recognize me and I’d get whatever I wanted. In Fight Club when Tyler Durden said we all thought we’d grow up to be rock stars or astronauts, many people found that unrelatable or absurd. Palahniuk wasn’t talking about you – he was talking about people like me.

I’d have that attitude at a conscious level, but also felt this hopelessness about escaping family strife and poverty, like it was unimaginable. So the weird grandiose expectation on one hand, despair on the other, gave me a kind of license to put off work, throw myself into escapism. I’d doodle and dream and play shoplifted RPGs all day, let school slide completely, because I felt like all I had to do is show my talent to the right person, the right moment, the right way, and opportunity would lift me out of the sewer. It was a little fiction I used to excuse myself from responsibility.

Those responsibilities included hygiene. Ever wonder why some poor people are stanky goblins? When home is a filthy mess where people alternate between sulking and screaming for most of your life, there’s a definite sense of why fucking bother. I was thoroughly disgusting for a pretty long time. Quarantine has me backsliding, unfortunately. Something to watch out for.

After school I spent my entire 20s in fast food and other chump jobs, never learned to drive, never had a car, never could afford a place of my own. I had a few sympathetic friends’ families that let me rent a basement or attic space for a few hundred a month. I was healing from the damage of poverty youth. I got into a scammy art school around thirty, racked up a student debt that makes the remaining FtB legal debt look like chump change, on the promise of getting a good-paying job in the video game or entertainment animation industries. Little did I know the amount of money those jobs pay rocketed into a black hole over the years and I was better off as a security guard by the time I graduated – still without enough money to dream of ever repaying what I owed.

How did I let myself get snowed by my alma mater when all I’d have to do to know the job promises were smoke and mirrors was to google some job listings? Because that combination of despair and grandiosity again. Of course there’s opportunities for me, I’m awesome, right? And bothering to do any work above the bare minimum in life? Too emotionally draining. I have dreams to dream. I probably sound like a huge asshole by now, haha. That is accurate enough.

All those years though, there was a much bigger aspect of my class damage I never noticed in myself. I felt like a criminal (years after I stopped doing crimes), like I don’t belong wherever the “good people” are. This KILLS me in job interviews. I fucking suuuuuuck at job interviews because in some weird way I don’t feel like I belong where the money is. I feel like a permanent member of the underclass, only allowed to have jobs on my feet, busting my hump.

What allowed me to realize this was that finally, at about the age of 43, I landed my first white collar job. It’s nothing fancy, but I work in an office (presently from home), I earn something close to the median income of my region, and I’m not falling to pieces from physical labor. But I came close to losing that opportunity, felt my face flush with stress, stuttered and flubbed for reasons I didn’t initially understand.

Now I get it. I never felt like I belonged there, in the office. I felt like I was going to get caught, get bounced at any moment, for any little thing. (If my employer was worse, I probably would have been.) I felt like I was trespassing because the building itself was too clean. Like I’m not fit to touch the hem of prosperity’s garment.

If you’ve been poor, how do you think that affected you? I’d really like to hear what people have to say about this, because I hear it so rarely. I’ll even take comments from regressive scumfuckers, if they are insightful and not full of poison. This is what you think “privilege” means, the kind of privilege you might believe exists. Talk about it.

Why that Moral Arc Idea Convinces

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That quote popularized by MLK Jr and originated in a different form by an abolitionist preacher in the 1800s has appeal for a lot of people, not just to our sense of optimism but also to our sense of reason and observation. We see injustice spark resistance, we see how some great injustices of the past were defeated, or at least greatly diminished by long struggle. It makes sense that given enough time, all injustices will fall, right?

With more recent history we can see resurgence, re-empowerment, and expansion of old injustices, which is a really useful reality check for those naturally inclined to optimism like (believe it or not) myself. And while outside of the worst environments for these prejudices (such as being trans in the UK) it can still be easy to see the resistance and feel optimistic they will overcome again, what would that mean long-term, if anything?

I’m not going to say that this process is perfect equilibrium, with history swinging between justice and injustice in equal measure. There does seem to be some staying power in some of the successes justice has achieved. People aren’t willing to lose the freedoms they earn with blood. But the arc idea is too simple to describe how the world works. A more accurate way to look at this fight, I think, is that there is an ecosystem of ideas in which selection plays a role.

Injustice species Misogyny rex rules the land unopposed, king of ideas. But wait, opposition appears. Justice species Feminism ceratops evolves defenses so effective that M rex dies out. But a subset of M rex mutated bigger teeth that can overcome F ceratops defenses, and do so well against them that F ceratops goes extinct. But lo, there were a few survivors of F ceratops and they evolve into the next progressive resistance.

In this model, injustices in their existing forms do go extinct – the phenomenon that makes the moral arc model seem convincing – but something always seems to evolve to replace them. What replaces them isn’t always equally bad, so it is still useful to keep fighting. But without the absolute destruction of these injustices, some form of them always survives and has a chance to grow again.

And now, from my reality-checked place of diminished optimism, I feel like even if every ounce of racism misogyny homophobia transphobia ableism antisemitism islamophobia colonialism etc. were magically extirpated from the minds of our species, some new injustice would arise de novo, due to the angling of the power hungry.

The arc of the natural universe is long, but it bends toward everything going extinct in ways ranging from miserable to horrible. Humans have time and again shown ourselves collectively unable to overcome our animal nature. As much as hippies like to separate man from animals to say industrialism is unnatural, it is not. Human decimation of the biosphere is the natural result of a species becoming too fucking successful – something we’ve seen many many times before in nature. The difference between freshly evolved plants causing a mass extinction and what we’re doing now are mostly cosmetic.

My only hope is in the unnatural. Not Elon Musk pipe dreams of technology saving us. More like Gene Roddenberry pipe dreams – the idea we can somehow overcome human nature to create a lasting utopia. And where I said the difference was mostly cosmetic? There’s a fundamental difference that might offer a sliver of hope. The tool of our decimation is a social construct, and we have the power to change those within the space of a single generation sometimes – if rarely. Whether that happens or not, praise for all of the warriors for justice, whatever your part of the struggle. Power on.

A Love Life – Emotional Bookkeeping

Randomly meeting people from your past, people that you had some kind of big feelings about, there’s a tendency to see that as significant, a chance to rekindle something or make up for whatever.  That is a mistake.  It means nothing.  I’ve randomly come across people I loved several times in my life.  In a region with millions of people, up to a hundred miles afield of where you met them, it feels unlikely.

But how unlikely is it?  I only knew those people in the first place because we have lives that are similar in some way or another.  The same forces that sent me down certain paths would send them down similar.  For example, I have always been a poor child of neglect, so I never could afford a car and never learned to drive one when I was young.  A boy I knew had those things in common with me, we’ve randomly crossed paths at bus stations.  I always romanticized gothy weirdos, I ended up dating one again, and while out on those dates at some obscure gothy movies, I randomly ran into the first goth girl I crushed on.

Not all that unexpected, but it felt shocking or significant to me anyways.  And years after those moments happened, I find myself thinking about them in the middle of the night when I should be going to sleep.

These things hang in the mind – loves lost.  Romance says love is big and important, that it should never be forgotten, and programmed with that shit, I will never forget these people.  But not being able to let a love die out completely, that leads people to all sorts of terrible crimes.  It’s a failing of our sometimes hard-earned emotional maturity.  Every relationship I’ve had was bad on some level, but they taught me lessons that made the ones that follow better, until I got with my current guy fifteen years ago.  We’re good – our travails aren’t because of flaws in our relationship, just global misfortune.  So I’d like to be able to kick the others out of my heart.

I’m just going to put some thoughts into writing and see if it helps exorcise them from my head.  I’ve heard PTSD is associated with sense memory, and that turning traumatic experiences into verbal memory weakens their power.  Then again, repetition of a verbal idea can turn it into a mantra, give it a type of reality that is hard to shake.  What’s the best way to go about this?  Exorcism feels right.  I continue.

The first person I ever confessed my love to was a boy.  I was deep in the thrall of homophobia at that time, and so I assumed that my surprising uncontrolled outburst was platonic in nature.  Looking back, nuh, I’m a fucking jackass.  I recall telling that boy he was good looking more than once as well.  I’m not sure how I missed myself on that whole situation.  What’s worse is that as time went by I had two more random encounters and a phone call from him that would have been good opportunities to find out if we could be lovers.  During the first random encounter there were pretty heavy hints he was into dudes but I was still waxing homophobic.  Some time after that, the phone call was a confession of love from him, and I was feeling so remote from our childhood at that time, chasing ladies like Don Quixote, and said some bullshit about how time faded my feelings.

No, of course time didn’t fade my feelings, or I wouldn’t be writing this.  It might have felt true while I was on the phone, but from where I sit now I can’t help but think my life could have been profoundly different if I’d had my shit right in that moment.  He joined the navy after that.  The more recent time I met him, he was in functional alcoholic mode working toward cirrhosis and there were no pictures of cocks on his wall.  I can’t help but wonder if I sent him that direction.  A morbid form of self-aggrandizement, or self-awareness?  I just think about my relationship with him and it haunts me like a motherfucker.  Did I fuck up somebody’s life?  He was always a very dark person emotionally – too dark for me, we probably would have been a bad match.  But again, could I have done something about that?  It’s disturbing.

I objectified women.  On one level, there’s the obvious aspect of that – sexual commodification.  I felt like they were something to be chosen from, something to be had.  Their inner lives as humans had no emotional reality for me.  What made that hard to see was that on a rational, conscious level, I didn’t feel like that at all.  I was well aware that they are real humans with their own rights and prerogatives and such.  But in my heart I didn’t feel it, and I didn’t notice that about myself.

So there was this that goth girl I used to love.  I spent a lot of hours of my life courting her, talking to her, going in circles around her.  I heard about her interests but I didn’t partake of them, didn’t come to understand them.  Why not?  Years later while courting another goth I finally, very belatedly, got into Twin Peaks and The Cure and such.  Then it clicked.  When I was lavishing attention on that young lady, she thought I was paying real attention to her.  I thought I was too, but it was utterly superficial.

What that looks like:  I can see that she likes Twin Peaks and The Cure and Crispin Glover’s weird art shit, I can see that she has razor blades in her purse for art reasons, but this is all just details of her appearance – like her velvet coat or her patent leather shoes.  If I’d wanted to genuinely understand her mind, I’d have bothered to look into that art, see what it is she likes about it.  I thought I wanted her body and soul, but I was utterly blind to the reality of women’s souls.  Fucking bizarre, in retrospect.

So she thought I could be a close friend, when I had a huge barrier to ever achieving that, and I wanted quite badly for her to be my lover.  She couldn’t love me physically and I couldn’t *genuinely* love her mentally, so we wasted each other’s time for years.  And that was mostly my fault, my pursuit.

Much later, I saw her in movie theaters, Jan Svankmajer and Kiyoshi Kurosawa movies.  I came in with my date in a timely fashion, she had a seat saved for her by a friend and came in at the last minute.  Both times, she ended up one row in front of me and a few seats to the right.  Weird coincidence, that.  But it means nothing.  Any excuses my rational mind comes up with for reaching out to her are just sublimated vestiges of that romance that never dies, some ludicrous fantasy that there could be a relationship there, where there was never anything but bullshit in the first place.

I don’t want that.  I don’t want relationships with either of these people.  Even if I tried to be friends with them, my past would fuck that up.  I want them to be well and I want their lives to go well.  And I want myself to be well and my life to go well – and my best relationship ever to continue for the rest of my life, as it likely will.  But Romance.  You’re not allowed to forget, just like you’re not allowed to forget any given moment of embarrassment from ages three to thirty.

You Couldn’t Pay Me

Watching the debate?  Paying any attention whatsoever to the shitshow that is US politics, outside of the bare-ass minimum it takes to vote?  You couldn’t pay me to do it.  Not a fucking chance.  Not happening.  It’s all too upsetting and vile and fucked up.  But you know, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  Maybe somebody could pay me to do it.  Let me figure out how much…

I would have to quit work in order to make mental bandwidth for it, so you have to pay enough to cover my expenses for two years in case it takes a while to get rehired.  I make about $30,000 per year, so $60,000 is the price floor.  But exposing myself to this would make me less emotionally available to my family, so you gotta pick up the therapy bills for them.  Assuming two hours a night at $90 an hour from now through mid November (assuming this isn’t gonna go smooth), another $8,100.  And that’s just getting by, if I want compensation to make it feel like I came out ahead in the deal, how much will I charge to feel like it was worth it?

$100,000.  Anybody want me to cover the election, or even look upon the faces of our rock ’em sock ’em wannabe lich kings?  Full payment in advance, or you get nothing.  Thank you for your understanding.

Edit to Add:  I forgot about the cost of healthcare in the US – going out of pocket for health insurance.  $400 a month for that Obamacare, $9600 more.  Assuming some medical expenses actually will come up, even with insurance I’m currently paying a few thousand a year for dental and such.  Let’s bump this up to $125,000, just for incidentals I haven’t planned for.

Interview With The Abyss

Content Warning: Depression thoughts.

Hello. I have a healthy level of self esteem. I don’t always feel great about myself, but it’s unequivocally when I deserve to feel bad about something. I can tell the line, bright and clear. And my mind practically has a wolverine healing factor for keeping me feeling hunkydory most of the time.

Most people feel worse about themselves than I do. Hard for me to relate, to know why or what it’s like. But I’ve had a long association with somebody who has an especially rare mix of high levels of self respect and black hole levels of self esteem. It’s a window into another world that can be educational to look into – if you’re brave enough to deal with the damage of it looking back.

Here I present a loose conversation on the topic of self esteem, between somebody who has it and somebody who will never know what it’s like to be OK with one’s self. I introduce you once again to The Abyss, my mans The Beast from Seattle.

 

 

GAS: Beast, how do you like being on the Great American Satan Show?

 

 

BfS: It’s just swell, thank you.

GAS: Nice, nice.  So you’re a specimen today, if that’s alright.  Can you bear the scrutiny of the howling masses of I think seven people who see my articles and probably won’t read them if the word count creeps up like this?

BfS: I think I can handle it.

GAS: So in our past discussions, we’ve reached some ideas about what self esteem is.  Until I gained some perspective on what it’s like for someone without, I didn’t even notice it was a thing.  But now I can see it, and I feel I should preface this with the vague operating definition we’ll be using.

It seems that as social creatures we have an instinct for ranking ourselves with regards to others – we can’t escape a compulsion to form a self valuation, often at an absurdly young age.  I was among peers, middle childing.  We both suffered a great deal of neglect and abuse (myself more the former, you more of the latter), but I had peers in my siblings, which helped me establish a baseline sense of myself as acceptable.

This is the thing: Self esteem is, in part, our baseline valuation of ourselves.  You’re the abyss, I’m Bazooka Joe chewing gum.  The perverse twist here is that you have self respect.  How would you differentiate self esteem and self respect?  For the listeners.

BfS: I hope they can’t really hear me… well… It’s funny that I don’t know that I would have made the distinction between the two myself, until we began to talk more about it. I knew I had lousy self esteem, but never would have thought of my self respect as being anything remarkable. I guess I would say that it’s a feature of having a strong sense of justice. Even though I can’t regard myself, I know that I don’t deserve to be treated poorly. Seems stranger for someone to have the reverse.

GAS: That is exactly how I would have stated it.  We’ve talked about your dreams before, and an occasional theme of them is righteous indignation.  You stand up for the oppressed, or call situations out as unreasonable.  It’s part of who you are.

You can’t love yourself in the tiniest degree, but you can say, hey, the unlovable deserve a baseline level of respect and rights.  It’s a deeply weird combination.  It makes sense to develop the one to make up for the lack of the other, as a kind of defense mechanism maybe.  The remarkable thing about it is that you have probably better self-respect than most people.  It’s impressive.

BfS: Thanks? 🙂 I like to imagine it’s a bit more dignified than the other way.

GAS: It is.  Self esteem is a funny beast because I think it puts someone like myself on a grade to narcissism, capable of some loathsome levels of disregard for others.  And people like myself can’t help but show our ass at every opportunity.  We feel entitled to share our opinions at all times and in all venues, whether that’s sensible or not.  The difference between a commenter and a lurker.  The lurker is never embarrassed.

BfS: Interesting you should mention that, as I once did a research project on ‘lurkers’ — AKA the majority of people on the internet.

GAS: I’ll take this aside for a moment.  Any interesting conclusions, or was it too hard to find anything out about the ghosts in our machines?

BfS: It probably would have been more interesting to focus on the commenters, as they’re such a small fraction of users, less than one percent in many cases. Probably the most interesting thing I gleaned was asking people why they didn’t comment, and they generally said ‘I didn’t think anyone would care.’ Which is mostly true. So what makes commenters think otherwise?

GAS: Self esteem!  Back to the point, seamlessly.  I didn’t notice this about myself until I got to know somebody better who formed a stark contrast to it.  I have something inside, not like a voice but just as powerful as if it was.  It’s a sense of entitlement, maybe.

I just don’t doubt for a second that I’m important enough to matter in a conversation, despite all evidence to the contrary.  Does that make sense?  I can see the vast size of the human species, in our billions, and our cosmic insignificance.  And yet I feel like I could be one of the grandiose npr liberals @ing the fascist orange on twitter, if I used that platform.

BfS: Sounds pretty wild, my dude.

GAS: They say you have a slow wave in your brain.  Something isn’t as powerful as it should be, hence the depression and such.  But to you it’s like time is standing still, stretching out into a horrid infinity.  This is a little off topic, getting into depression more generally.

The reason I bring it up is that it seems like as powerfully intelligent as you are, and as much as you get done compared to the rest of us, wiling away your dark infinities, how could there be anything slow about you?  But science mans said there is.

BfS: That’s true, my neurologist said it would be normal for a 70 year old man. Does seem strange, doesn’t it? That people being able to sit still to watch a TV show have more active energy in their brains than I do. Takes a lot of energy to feel okay, apparently.

GAS: And that’s the magical mystery.  I feel like I am not doing anything extra at all.  When I see you hating yourself, it seems so energetic, so much like that is the extra.  That is the energy.  But no, I am the one with energy.  It’s an invisible energy that says, hey dude, the world is yours.

BfS: You got tha power.

GAS: But you say it seems like everyone around you is bottomed out barbiturate zombies.  Nobody has the energy for a real conversation at your speed, or at least depth.  You say something meaningful and one of us is like, “Cool bro.  Imma go watch commercials for laundry detergent now.”  It just seems funny to think that slow wave produces more thought than whatever energy it is that allows me to live in comparative bliss.

BfS: Yeah, that it takes more juice to sit around and watch the Avengers for the 10000th time than to have a decent conversation. Does really astound me how difficult it is for some people to think about anything. Nothing to do with intelligence, it could be about their opinion on peanut butter cups. I’ve had better conversations with four year olds than some adults. And to think, that being an undead on downers is actually more processor-intensive?

GAS: I’m probably a little aberrant in this respect, a little more chatty.  But I’m a lot closer to them than I am to you.  Something that’s become a topic of discussion in our lives pretty often is the difference between passive and active media.  Writing, RPGs, even some video games require some active engagement.  Reading books, watching movies, listening to music, perusing social media – these are the things that can wash over you.  Minimal effort, passive.

For a person like myself, passive media is an anesthetic to chill me out after the tension of a day’s work.  But you have no attention span for passive media.  Can hardly watch TV and movies, always have to be doing something active.  It seems exhausting.  You are allowed no anesthetic.

BfS: Even listening to music seems a bit beyond most people these days. They gotta hear it 10+ times before they can decide if they like it or not. I guess to me, if I was chilling out that much, I’d just go to sleep! And I hate going to sleep.

GAS: Guess that’s getting off topic into the undiagnosed ADHD territory.  Bringing it back, you have the major depression / nega self-esteem combo, even if it’s higher speed than people expect.  It’s vexing.

It’s one of the things that convinces me there is no justice or inherent goodness in the universe, certainly no god: that humans are cursed with having this self-valuation.  We can’t just be – we have to rank ourselves.  And for some people that means never knowing what it’s like to feel alright.

What’s the best you’re able to feel, and how do you do it?

BfS: Oh man, I have this app that tracks your mood, and I’m basically ‘fine,’ tops. I went to a couple good concerts that bumped it all the way up to ‘good’ back in 2019. Best for me is being able to focus on something I’m interested in and forget I exist.

GAS: For me, it feels like I always forget I exist.  I can lose myself in anything that catches my eye.  I’m not a consideration or sticking point in my own life, which is one reason self esteem is invisible to me – feels like a non-thing.  But it seems like, if this slow wave of yours is related, maybe my self esteem is a constant reassurance that I am OK, and can safely be forgotten.  Sound about right?

BfS: It could be, might be a secondary thing. I’ve met people with lousy self esteem that can seem to forget while they veg out, and only feel bad when they get reminded of their own existence.

GAS: The other way this difference between us manifests is in loneliness.  I rarely feel lonely, but you often feel that way.  I’m not socializing any more than you are.  Why the difference?  Is my self esteem, my fast wave if you will, something like company to me?  An unspoken voice in my head?  Or is it just that the pain of hating yourself makes you feel the need to be more engaged – as a way of getting outside of your own mind?

BfS: It could be as simple as an extrovert/introvert thing, I might be some kind of repressed extrovert for all I know. We know some people with bad self esteem that are also extreme loners, so it’s hard to say.

GAS: It’s vexing to know I can be over here chilling, and just being in the same room as you without speaking, I’ll feel good about that.  Like I have whatever company my mind needs.  Meanwhile, the reverse can never be true.  I am insufficient funds for your social needs.  I’m not offended, exactly, but I do feel sad for you on the regular.

BfS: LOL it’s okay, man. Life sucks.

GAS: Well, per the words of the great sage Dr. Phil, I think there is a cure for your bad self esteem that you could try.  Might help.  Next time you feel inclined to hate on yourself, just simply STOP DOIN’ THAT.  It’s the wisdom of Texas.

BfS: (Insert thinking emoji) Will do.

And with that, he was cured!

I Got Sexually Harassed Thursday

Content Warning: Explicit Talk of Sexual Harassment.

I’m six foot tall, 250 pounds, AMAB, masc-looking with a big white beard at the moment.  But I got full-on sexually harassed yesterday on the bus.  Leering, repeated explicit come-ons, not accepting rejection, a weird racial element, and being unwillingly exposed to a stranger’s penis.  This is a new experience for this 43-year old,  and that novelty probably has some of my AFAB readers feeling jealous.  I didn’t feel like my life was in danger, but on the way home from the bus I did look over my shoulder to see if I was being followed.

There was a bit of foreshadowing to this experience.  Within the last week on the bus, a drunk lady who may have been trying to hook on me dropped a come-on line that was verbatim the sort of thing men often tell women.  “I just wanted to tell you I think you’re cute… I’m not bothering you, am I?”  To that I said, “Thank you, no bother, I just prefer to listen to my headphones in the morning.”

Why am I so irresistibly hot right now?  I guess with the beard I’m kind of a bear.  And I’m more stylish for the office than I was for the mega-retailer.  But the A.M. drunk lady was the first time I could remember hearing anything overtly positive about my appearance in over ten years.  (I used to catch a few smiles from fellas and ladies back in my 20s, which was nice.)   I had my doubts about her motives, but it was almost pleasant for me.  That did not prepare me for the dude who was sleazing on me last night.  I didn’t do anything about it and probably will not (unless I see that guy again), except tell him to chill out or he’ll get himself arrested, on my way the hell out the door.

I don’t know how I felt about this.  At first there was bewilderment and amusement, but there’s a lingering sensation in my head I’d like to get rid of.  I’m a little disturbed.  At no point did I fear violence, and yet?  My body is kind of reacting like I did.  I’m taking a sick day.  I’d rather not take the same bus home at night within 24 hours of that experience.

But I will almost certainly get over this, and soon.  It is not part of a pattern of abuse that preceded puberty for me, unlike the experience many AFAB people have to contend with.  That may make it a little more of a shock at the moment, but it doesn’t feel like society affirming its fundamental disrespect for my bodily autonomy, like an atom in a sea of degradation that defines my life.

Moral of the story?  Public transit sucks.

Ghost Cats and Gauntlets

You get used to a cat being a presence, like any given movement or patch of appropriate color the right size in your peripheral vision could be the cat. Walk in the room, dark spot on the bed. Did you leave your t-shirt there or is it your black cat? Your eyes adjust, it’s the cat.

When I get tired I get minor hallucinations of movement. Might be something to do with the floating debris on my eyeball that I can see well due to nearsightedness. I see that stuff sliding by and my eye chases after it, imagines a more substantial source to the motion.

So sometimes I see a movement, not dark enough to be my alive cat Hecubus, and forgetting her recent passing, fills in my deceased cat Momo. She’s ghosting about my room, animated by the frailty of human senses and endurance.

This coming week is the most likely yet to cause me to flame out of my new job. Every day I work there I feel like my brain is being taken apart and put back together. My chest is hollow and my arms weak. I might find it easier with less direct oversight. With fewer interruptions from someone trying to catch my mistakes, I may be able to relax into things more. Or without close supervision I might get flustered with difficult customers and get shouted down, broken like a dog.

This weekend is half over and too fucking short. The shit we’re expected to do for the right to not be homeless, amirite peoples?

The Black Coach of Sorrow

…or Darby O’Gill and the Goodbye Momo

content warning: animal death, dismal feelings

A long time ago film companies had studios. There are vestiges of this arrangement, but as exploitative and sheisty as the studio system was, it had too much overhead for modern capitalism. They had to go. Once upon a time, though, Disney was in a system where they had a film studio and a sense of obligation to use it. It was just how things were done. Get a studio, use it or lose it. So they cranked out some really bizarre little films for a few decades, like The Absent-minded Professor and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. Did they do Herbie the Love Bug and The Parent Trap? The Shaggy DA? I think they did.

Eventually the production values dwindled until there was nothing left but made for TV fare. But back in the halcyon days before pomade quite fell completely out of style, they made a goofy Irish-sploitation leprechaun movie called “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.” Now it’s mostly used in clip form to show Sean Connery singing romantically a few years before he became James Bond. But believe me, it’s an entire-ass film. I saw it on TV when I was a child and a few things stuck with me.

Darby O’Gill catches a leprechaun king and tries to be smart about his wishes. But something (karma?) something, his young daughter was going to die, and he had to use his last wish to take her place in hell. The leprechaun king lets him off the hook and they live happily ever after. But it was a bit dark for small children.

I remember him yelling “The BawnSHEEeee!” when the spectres started appearing, and that Death wasn’t a guy with a boat. He had a flying horse-drawn carriage. Maybe it influenced Jowling Kowling Rowling’s thestrals. I just remember that element being pretty spooktacular. Translucent horses show up and you get inside, resigned, nowhere to go but beyond that veil.

About 5:20 AM today, my sickly old cat Momo woke me up making these rhythmic choking sounds. I knew she was going to die real soon. I had been intending to schedule her to be put down on Saturday – after my work week and a little more time to keep her company, say goodbye. She’d been given subdermal hydration and an appetite stimulant to prop her up for a little while, but apparently her various lethal afflictions had a different agenda as goes the timeline of this.

So I roused my boyfriend’s mom to drive us to the emergency veterinarian, where we knew they would be ending her pain. It was dark out and the closest emergency vet was a few towns over. We went this way and that, through dark pre-dawn valleys, highways, freeways, and winding hillside roads. Along one such road we had to slow to not hit a raccoon. It was leaning into the road with one very human-like hand on the ground, ghostly and silver, teeth slightly bared, eyes glowing.

We all draw our own standards as to what constitutes respect for non-human animals. Cultures and religions factor into it, take away some of our choice, but at the end of the day we know what we want to do. Some people want to kill raccoons on sight, thinking about their overpopulation and menace to domestic animals, their spread of rabies. Or they just like killing for fun, because they’re gross creeps. Me and my ride are not the kind of people who want to kill a raccoon, so we gave it a chance to stay on the side of the road like a good boy.

We were on a mission to ease the suffering of an animal, our minds wracked with sympathy for her, locked in a box with some towels, on the back seat as it sloshed this way and that in the hilly terrain, who knows what happening in her abdomen. The dark chaotic ride, the silver goblin on the roadside, the boxes within boxes. I was put in mind of Darby O’Gill and the carriage of Death.

We were the carriage of Death, as we had been on a similar night a few years ago when Mochi was dying. He’d been in horrible condition and was screaming in pain as much as he was able. When I found out it was gonna be over for Momo soon, I thought she had at least a little more time, that it wouldn’t have to be like that. I was wrong. Maybe she was in less pain? Her heart rate was slow, temperature low.

Anyway, I feel like shit for having guessed wrong on her expiration date. My boyfriend said I should be with her and I said I’d see if I could try. But when we got there she wasn’t making noises anymore. I didn’t know if she was alive. They said she was, but wasn’t tracking on anything. Even so, I also feel like shit for not looking into her eyes as she went. Or at least facing her with eyes closed. Cats like that. I just wanted them to let her go as quickly as possible, so I didn’t go there.

My boyfriend and I got Momo and Mochi about a year after we moved in together, if that. Now they’re both gone. And I got to be one of the sad coachman for both those rides into the abyss. Then it was straight to work for a full day of crapola. I’m dead like the studio system. Good night.

momo the cat, a fresh young dilute calico american shorthair.