As a refuge, as a threat, as a place to live
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For a Catholic kid, there was nothing good about Good Friday. From dawn to dusk, we had to fast on toast and tea, and then, when we were good and starving, we had to choke down a bowl of my mom’s fish stew. We couldn’t cut loose or even watch TV. We were supposed to mope around looking glum. We spent the entire afternoon in church.
Whether I was at the Sambeauxs’ or the Millers’ or the Carrs’, or just out in the street with my little buddies, it was always the same. They were like hothouse tomatoes pushing hard for what they thought was the light. We would hide in a bush, or cluster in the treehouse, or lean back among the interstices of the towering, ragged, catwalk hedge, and the topic would invariably arise, spelled out in red letters above our heads: S-E-X.
This body only appears to be an enclosure. It is actually a passageway — like an entry to a cave or a cathedral. It is quite the opposite of the way we’ve been taught to perceive it.
Something was drastically wrong with my lungs: every night, they made sounds like a basketful of squealing kittens. I was always coughing, had pains under the sternum, and could not push a car or even run up a flight of stairs without gasping like an old melodeon full of holes.
A Crip gang member approached the woman for whom I was building a vegetable garden — an old woman on welfare, an ex-prostitute, ex-waitress, ex-chicken-butchering plant worker. He said he was tired, pimping was hard work.
Sitting has become very difficult. Each day, I can manage about three hours in a chair. Consequently, “up time” is of great value. It is cherished, planned for, and jealously guarded.
Figuring out what you really want, barely making ends meet, looking busy
It seems she was surprised to hear from me. “Marion,” she wrote back a week later, “I kinda liked you when I met you, and then I learned to love you, but now you’re just the skank that fucked my man when I was struggling to make a family.”
Early on I thought about wiping your memory. I might as well admit this to you now. I thought maybe if you stopped believing you were something else on the inside, then you wouldn’t be sad anymore. And you wouldn’t change. This was before your body really began to transform.