99 Thousand Bottles of Tears on the Wall
I’ve been struggling with this, meaning this. What you’re reading. What you haven’t been reading for the last couple of weeks. I’m struggling, personally and artistically. Ha! As if I’m an artist. (I decided a few days ago that I’m an “illustrator,“ not an artist.) I’ve been wanting to write (to you), but I’ve been kind of all up in myself trying to just… survive, stay safe, sane…
But shit, goddamnit! I’m a fucking cishet white guy, the world is supposed to be my oyster, and I am fucking terrified of what’s happening right here, right now, in the world, this, our world, that we all have to occupy simultaneously.
Oh, those pesky environmentalists, all they care about is their prissy little environment. You know, the one we all depend on for our fucking ability to breathe.
Oh, those pesky non-conforming genders, all they care about is not being defined by a few body parts, not being defined by people who would hate them out of existence.
I remember tucking my teenage genitals between my legs and admiring my sleek, feminine pudenda in the mirror. I remember dressing in Rocky Horror drag and how sexy I felt dancing in front of people in black silk panties and fishnets. Am I not a man?
Pam and I have been in our newly built home for three years, and we still don’t have a Certificate of Occupancy. I wrote (yet another) email this morning to the people that are supposed to be doing this for us, and I said, “I am moving from frustration into despair.” Really? Despair? Talk about first-world problems. Do I have a right to be upset or stressed by this? No. Unequivocally, no. I do not.
But here’s the rub: it’s rarely about what it’s about. Right? You feel me? What’s not right is, well, there’s a litany. We all have our litanies.
It’s not paranoia if they are really out to get you.
This is what it’s about: saying the part that isn’t supposed to be said. Saying the quiet part out loud. Racists can’t be allowed to corner that market. On the one hand, it’s good that they’re not hiding anymore, that they’re telling us who they really are. On the other, they are literally telling us that they want to kill people who don’t belong to their Christofascist churches.
They are trying to make us afraid. To intimidate us back into our closets. They would prefer that we be dead and gone but they will be almost as satisfied if we were invisible. They are trying to silence us.
I heard a sad story yesterday. It was brief, and I will be so in my retelling...
A young boy was confronted by his older brother, “Why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut!?” The younger boy replied, “What was done to us was wrong! It shouldn’t have happened.” The older boy yelled, “Fuck all that! There are some things you just don’t talk about!”
I’ve always been the kid who sits in the back of the room and wisecracks to the class about the (unspoken) rules that we were expected to abide by. It wasn’t about getting attention. It was signaling that I was wise to the charade. That I understood about bullies, and power, and coercion, and abuse. No, not always, of course. I was as innocent as the rest of you for the first however many months, or hopefully years before I was initiated. But by age ten or so, I was living in full survival mode. Eat or be eaten.
OK, it was also about getting attention.
I wasn’t a bully. I was a scrapper. In a lot of fights but never badly hurt or, better still, never having seriously hurt anyone. But I began living on instinct and intuition. I learned to read a room, and body language, and facial expressions. And it paid off. It has kept me safe. To this day.
I’m not saying I’m immune. From harm or anything else. I’m just saying that I’m still here. And I will never not be that wary, cagey, sarcastic, challenging brat who thinks he’s one step ahead of everyone else.
But tonight? I wept. And it made me want to tell you.
I mentioned the yogic mythology about us humans having a finite number of breaths available to us before we die. The idea is meant to inspire long, slow, deep breathing. Well, I hold a parallel belief about tears. I’ve got a certain, rather large, I’m afraid, amount of tears I am required to shed before I am allowed to leave this earthly plane. I don’t particularly like crying, so, like most of you, I often try not to. I suppress them. Because come on, really, isn’t there just too much to cry about these days? It’s just common sense to squelch. To suck it up in order to keep plodding. To stay in the game (by not being in the game). It’s survival, for fuck’s sake!
But cry, I must. My fate (my past) (our present) requires it of me. There’s like, I don’t know, a few hundred thousand tears that I have to shed before I die (escape). They always find a way.
It’s always a relief when they come. Like a homecoming. Every time, it’s the same: I’m sorry. I’m sad. I’m lost. I’m here. I’m still here. I’m alive. I’m feeling something. I’m still me.
The trigger isn’t always obvious, so I’m often taken by surprise. As I was tonight.
What’s the point? Great question. What’s my point? What’s the point of it all? What’s the point of anything? I’m not going to tell you there is no point. There has to be a point. There can be a point if you want there to be one. You can make up a point if you can’t find one outside yourself.
You know they come for allies, too, right?
My point is this: someone told me that these words made a difference. That me telling my story was empowering for them. Enabling. That they were ready to break their silence. That I made a difference. I wept with gratitude. With relief and validation. I wept with recognition.
I wept with sorrow for my friend. I wept with grief for the two little boys that we were. I wept with gratitude for them. I wept with pride that they’re both still here, able to write the words, to tell the stories that need to be told, to break the silence that perpetuates the legacy (the institutions) of abuse that surrounds us.
In that weeping, I became complete. I figured something out. I write because I write. It’s that simple. I write because I weep.
So, what’s your story? And how do you tell it? How will you tell it? Will you tell it? To whom will you tell it?
(It might be all that we have.)