About gender harassment, art and love

The sun went down, so it’s night.

Night is writing hour for me—not work, just the letting-it-go, ooze out between the fingers writing. The kind of writing that comes and calls to you at some point in your life, when you’re kid, maybe, or when you are old, or even, i suppose, after a harrowing accident, a break up, a getting-sober or a getting-sane. I think it is only in these places, when the right brain is winning over left, that the intellectual defenses are driven low enough for the crazy faith to happen: that what you are listening to is both yourself and larger than yourself, a voice worth dictating. These hours of the darkness are what make us writers, whether we succumb and grab for pen or laptop, or hold out and only listen to the stream of vowels and consonants rushing beyond and around us–a river drawing circles around the walls of our dwelling-place.

It seems to me that night cannot be the same night everywhere; rather there is Night and there are particular nights, delineated not only by time by also by their distribution over the surface of their earth, their relationship to the plants and animals living them. So, tonight, in Oaxaca, where I will be for only two weeks more, night is Oaxaca de Jimenez night, threaded through with cool breeze and the sounds of cars motoring down the busy streets of the Centro, lantrened by a handful of stars and a blanket of orange electric lights running up and down the muscular humming hillsides.

My hair is longer now than it has been for over a decade, when a sixteen year old I loved ran a pair of silver shears across my scalp and left shiny black snakes of it scattered through the dirt. We were renegades then, because we were teenagers, me and my friends. L cut my hair in the woods by a lake, while J and B looked on. I should say I thought I loved L, even though I would have hated my older self for saying this, yet while it is true that time has not yet made me an expert on love, I do understand now as I didn’t then, that it is something both realer and more rewarding than the quivering reflection you shoot towards the person who contains and creates that that wish you could be. At seventeen, losing my hair to gain myself—the first in a series of small gains, won like pawing for light switch after light switch in a maze of darkened hallways—I believed desperately that that mysterious substance was something L might deliver up to me. I had been raised secular and did not know the story of Yaakov wrestling the angel, but regardless L was my angel and I was set on wrestling hir, through nights of dreaming, until ze finally admitted defeat, holding up a new name to me like a promise, like g-d’s blessing.

I like the way my hair’s length makes it catch in the wind and sing around my head. On certain days, certain times of the day, it’s true, it makes me feel a little like the woman I doubted as a kid that I could ever grow into…but the wind lifts that veil up, also. It runs along my skin like a friend or mother or lover or a writhing, mythic angel, or a snake, and I let it carry me, through the parallel lines of a gendered performance that believes it is life. I feel then how I am not different than the wind. I am only in a different particularity of time and space, and the movement is fast. Being human is a brief way. This body is brief.

A friend of a friend, remarking last summer on my hesitation to swim in front of adolescent strangers, said, “Oh, no one cares!” She was young, a girl with an easy life that made me feel an odd pity for her, an apology on behalf of the world which had not yet given her enough greif of her own to learn its secrets. I did not swim that day, but let my legs trail in the water while watching light braid itself in and out of the silken layers.

It is true that I don’t know why they should care, but it is also true that they do. I wish they (they, the strangers on the dock or in the street or the bus or on tv even) could see how this body is like the wind and water, how it is that free. And perhaps they do. And perhaps that is why it makes them react. There are people who get angry if they are moved, if they are made to feel.

I do not mind being brief. Each night is unlike any other night, so no matter how long I stay, the ones I collect will be few. Soon I will be gone from Oaxaca and it will cease to write me into the narrative of its black hours between day and day again. I’ll be across skeins of land, pulling my handsome, brave young lover to me in a more northern night, dressing one anothers’ skin in stars. Our bodies free and strong and braided along the wind, not minding, but noticing, naming and together letting names go.

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