journal: how i am

A little after week in California’s Safer At Home restrictions, a girlfriend and myself text each other at nearly the exact same time. She tells me that, in her family’s language, they say “the heart is on the heart” but that it doesn’t quite exactly translate to English. I tell her that my family says “you’re going to live a hundred years”, which is spoken as blessing. It only sounds like a curse in English.

English, she says, has a way of manipulating things, but of course, that is why both of us love this language so much, and why we’ve chosen careers that depend on our ability to manipulate it back.

It has not been an easy year for either of us and maybe that’s why we don’t ever dwell too much on how we’re doing. My personal how-i-am-doing thermometer is broken. It’s only pass/fail now.

I’m passing, and I’m proud of it, but of course this has not been an easy time.

I did not get the grants I applied to. Thus, I’m pulling Sack Nasty from shelves, and will wait on creating the updated version until someday, when I figure out what I have to say about incarceration that could pull it to the top of a stack. Something to say that would make it worthwhile of the money it needs to say anything at all. All of this is for after, of course. Nothing is happening now, not even dentist appointments which is why I have a temporary crown in my mouth and I am hoping it will last till after.

After.

My city is boarded up right now. It’s hard to see. I know it is for temporary safety, not for forever as of yet, but I worry.

Image description: Retro Row in Long Beach, CA, known for small businesses touting indie, and vintage goods is boarded up. Photo by Joshua P. Stroder

So much of what I know and love here is built in the industry of togetherness. Small business, artists, poets only thrive because people can gather and appreciate it, and sometimes pay for that appreciation. I live in an oasis of such things, and though I believe the waters will run again, it is hard to look at the bottom of the basin.

I worry that my friends will run out of food. I worry that my favorite small businesses will not survive this storm.

My own small business– a tiny t-shirt company started out of love for this city– is also not doing so well. We recently ordered a bunch of product for Pride, and summer in general, and well, we will see.

Image Description: Enamel pin that says “Long Beach” in rainbow colors, on a denim jacket. Pin will hopefully eventually be available via WearSilverStar.com. Photo by Joshua P. Stroder

The other company, the publishing company, released a book on February 22nd. It is, for those interested in that sort of thing, my boyfriend’s book and it’s been heartbreaking to have such a pulse on small bookstores around this country at this time. To hear them go silent.

Sometimes the stress of these ancillary pandemic worries presses down on my brain and reminds me of the year I’ve had. Sometimes it reminds that I truly cannot afford to get sick, to be so worried– not in a money way, but in a your-money-AND-your-life sort of way.

Yesterday, I could barely see. Last night and today, I’ve had something I can’t quite describe. A ribbit in the well of my throat. A gulp lost in my upper chest. Google says it could be a heart palpitation, my doctor says that he can’t risk me coming near the hospital unless I know it’s an emergency.

I should tell Donny– there, the boyfriend has a name now here– because we are isolating together, but there’s so little that can be done. I hurt my brain, my body is always wonky, and hospitals are not available to me unless I am past the point of reckoning.

I reckon still.

I watch the numbers rise, every day. I try not to fixate, just to spend a few moments remembering that they are not only numbers. They are faces. Someone lost their Dave. I send them love.

I watch the posts go up. Someone is worried they will lose their Dave. I send love. Someone feels trapped inside, isolated. I know this feeling in a different way. I know that you can get lost it in, so I send love.

I still have love to send, so how am I? Well. I am not failing.

It has been a time of disappointments and reassessments, and mourning, and a sweet slow loving of my people. Reminding them that I am here, and that there is an exit out of this journey into a new one that we simply have to pass through.

With a million hearts resting on my heart, it is beating with a limp.

I hope I continue to pass.