Chaotic Fatigue, or Ordinary Humiliation of Disabled Bodyminds

{content note: suicidal ideation}

{another note: I wrote most of this piece before the COVID-19 global health crisis was being taken seriously within so-called canada. Meaning, the following exploration of the tedium and humiliation of disabled bodyminds, of moving through the city, through waiting rooms and appointments, and through unwanted conversations, happens before our late-Winter & early-Spring & however-long experiences of recommended or required self-isolation began. That’ll be explored in the future, though I can say now that the tedium, humiliation, unwanted conversations have increased, as well as the actual pain, and the rage and alienation I often feel with regards to non-disabled and non-sick people.}

{another note again: Interspersed throughout this piece are slightly-edited versions of shorter works I’d originally published as locked entries on my Patreon page.}

{and another note again again: I thought about words that convey the opposite of ordinary, and the opposite of humiliation, but I just haven’t been feeling it these days, so it seemed disingenuous to pretend that I am.}

At the pharmacy, I was thinking about the role of humiliation for disabled bodies, the unavoidability of humiliation. The day before, I’d called to have prescriptions refilled. They asked which ones. I told them whatever refills are on my file, but the two most important ones are Cymbalta and Seroquel, which I take every night. If I miss a dose, withdrawal happens immediately – I don’t sleep, pain increases, appetite diminishes. Then I become nauseous, then migraine, then bedbound. Then two or three days of sickness and recovery during which I am barely functioning.

Last time I’d seen my doctor was mid-December. I’d been instructed to return in a month; I’d been given two new prescriptions after a pinched nerve in my shoulder (after finishing this piece, I also pinched a nerve in my neck!), and my doctor wanted to know how the meds – Lyrica and Naproxen – had effected me. During that appointment, I’d told her that even when I’m mobile, even though her office is close to home, one reason I have a hard time making appointments and maintaining emotional equilibrium while I’m there is that there’s only one route to take, and the route begins by passing empty old rooming houses from which tenants have been or are being evicted, and then a long series of condos in the process of being built, altering the skyline, casting shadows, longer shadows each time I walk through, pushing out people who belong in the city but now have nowhere to go. I’ve been walking (or taking public transit, or taking WheelTrans) to her office for five years, and the neighbourhood becomes more hostile, more depressing, more frightening, every time.

{image description: Looking downward at my feet and cane on the ground. Concrete sidewalk, grey. Black boots, black tights, lavender cane. On the ground is a fallen flier. The Monopoly Game Man holds a piece of paper and a hammer. He stomps on houses. Text reads: I’VE SEEN THE FUTURE. I CAN’T AFFORD IT.}

She knew what I meant. I had a feeling I wasn’t the only client who’d told her this. From what I can observe from the waiting room and the pharmacy, the building she works in serves a variety of queer and trans clients, poorer people, and then a larger multitude of straight yuppie couples with babies and young children, too. The business next door sells furniture designed exclusively for new condos, and then there’s an overcrowded and underfunded dome-style homeless shelter two blocks away that the wealthy new residents complain about. One direction takes me to the financial district – the other direction takes me to the ODSP office.

{image description: Taken at the ODSP office. A corner, white walls. A notice that we’re on camera, under surveillance. To the right, a green and white poster for a scent-free environment. Text reads: “HELP US KEEP THE AIR WE SHARE HEALTHY.” Symbols below indicate: no body spray, no perfume, no scented hand creams or skin care products, no laundry detergent, no scented hair products, no air fresheners.}

Now almost two months (three months?) have passed, and I haven’t returned to update her on the med situation. As a doctor, I like her. She hasn’t been perfect, and she’s made decisions about my care that I occasionally resent, but she’s one of very, very few doctors who’s listened to me, affirmed my knowledge of my own body, and hasn’t shamed me or condescended to me. She also appreciates my strange sense of humour, and asks me about my creative work. Because it’s queer Toronto, we even have a few friends and acquaintances in common, though we rarely discuss this. My file is flagged for thirty-minute appointments instead of the usual fifteen because my bodymind can’t squish all our issues into fifteen minutes, I often spend a good chunk of time crying, and I can’t cope with health care spaces that push me out or require me to hurry and to show no emotion. She encourages me to take notes and to bring notes – something I’ve actually had professionals actively discourage, which is so dangerous, irresponsible, and invalidating. She’s seen me when I can barely walk the thirty feet from the waiting room to her office, which is more than most people in my life have witnessed.

She usually remembers my pronouns, and frequently corrects others.

{image description: Photo taken on a grey day. To the left, bare-branched tree lining the street. To the right, the edge of a grey building with a wheatpasted poster of a face emerging from a triangle, looking up as if lying down. Lips, nose, and eyelashes extend beyond the frame. The wall around the poster drips paint in rainbow stripes.}

{image description: A boarded up brick building. The small yard is contained behind a blue metal fence to deter trespassers. Red brick, two stories tall. A bit of snow left on the ground. Empty storefront next door. Black leather loveseat with polished wooden arms on the sidewalk. A black bag of trash in the snow.}

When I went to the pharmacy the next day shortly after noon, after having been assured my prescriptions would be ready in the morning, the pharmacist told me they couldn’t find them. I suggested they look under both M and E because often people don’t understand that Elizabeth is my last name, and things get misplaced or misfiled. They searched more and the meds weren’t there.

It’s a body-feeling before words that happens within me during moments like this. The frustration of how often it happens yet how unpredictable it is, how I see a task on my to-do list, Pick-Up Meds, and I forget to think ahead for potential mishaps, to prepare myself, to rekindle some kind of emotional fortitude before these kinds of interactions. To take a fucking Xanax. Meditate? When I’m unprepared for something so banal, so common, in a disabled life, I find myself blaming myself.

*

On an earlier night…

“Why are you here?”

The night before the Full Moon in Leo, I went to a show. A friend from Montréal was staying with me for a few days, and after parting ways for the evening, we were meeting at the show late at night, with other friends invited, my partner at my side. Earlier in the day, I’d had an allergic reaction at the drugstore, so I was still coping with a headache, weakness, and a touch of nausea. Medicated, scamming a ride partway to the venue and walking the rest of the way. Along Ossington, another old building was boarded up and hidden behind a thin wall, the usual bold and austere branding printed on the boards. “You have PERMISSION to tag this wall.”

The structure was new – tagged only twice.

LANDLORDS ARE PARASITES.

PROPERTY DEVELOPERS ARE SCUM.

And I reached for the gold Sharpie in my coat pocket.

MURDER LITERALLY EVERY LANDLORD.

NO CONDOS ON STOLEN LAND.

At the venue, security at the door, two men.

“What happened?” one of them asked me.

“Open your backpack,” the other said.

My mouth dropped open, but I was silent. My cane. There were a lot of stories I could tell. I wanted to. I wanted to tell him stories and scare him away. Early childhood trauma, I could say, sexual trauma, long-term poverty

I’ve provided these answers before, these answers and more.

My brain was scrambled at the nuisance of it, the obliviousness. Words wouldn’t arrange themselves into a coherent order. Instead, I was seeing these thoughts in shapes, colours, and scenes. Not words.

He searched my backpack.

“You don’t have to answer,” he said.

“I KNOW,” I snapped back.

One was silent, watching, the other uncertain what to say next. I think he apologized.

“I’m used to it,” I said. “It’s forever, if you need to know. It’s not one thing that happened.”

He told me to be careful – for the second time. The slippery floor. Be careful. I know.

Inside, I walked through gathering crowds to find the chairs lined up along the wall, to sit down and take off my Winter layers. My partner sat beside me. We put our handknit scarves, my earmuffs, into my backpack, already full of notebooks and pens and meds, etc.

My friend who was staying with me found us, and we hugged. She’d changed her outfit, make-up, hair. We talked about all the cute goths.

“I left my lipstick at home,” I confessed.

“Use mine.”

Earlier, we’d been talking about cheap make-up. At the drugstore, the drugstore where I had an allergic reaction, I’d purchased a different brand of liquid and powder foundation than the cheap Cover Girl I’d been using since I was thirteen. My blemished skin had improved within a day and a half. My friend lent me a tube of MAC lipstick with a matching lipliner, a shade called Sin, and I applied it in the dark bathroom. Truly higher quality than what I’ve been wearing the last twenty years or so. I only have one tube of MAC lipstick of my own. The last time my friend was in town, she told me she’d found her fancy purse in a dumpster. I told her I dumpster a lot, but I’d never found anything as fancy as her purse. Then I went downstairs to the basement bathroom at the bar we were at, and somebody’d forgotten their designer make-up bag filled with designer cosmetics. I swiped the lipstick and lipliner, classic red, a shade named Cherry, barely used. When I came back upstairs, I showed it to her.

I admired my reflection in the small, grimy, graffitied mirror.

{image description: Selfie in a dirty mirror, in a tiny bathroom painted black. My reflection is obscured by shadows and white Sharpie, though a light bulb glows down on my face, my pale forehead, my dark lips. Black floral dress, round glasses, unsmiling, looking to the side, toward my camera, half of which is also reflected in the small mirror.}

The first band, dregqueen, who my friend told me were friends with my twin, started their set, and I emerged from the bathroom, ambled back toward the chairs where my partner was waiting. We stood up and held one another. I could see my friend dancing and I wanted to dance with her, but my body didn’t have the capacity that night. One hand on my cane, the other on my partner’s back, underneath his women’s leather jacket.

Black, lace, leather, florals.

The singer and I had similar Hedwig and the Angry Inch tattoos. I mean, so many of us do. I appreciate these sightings.

I sat down between sets, rested. Sore hips, as always. Inner thighs feeling bruised.

When the second band, Cloud Rat, started, we stood again, dancing vaguely. I held a firm but flexible stance, space between my feet, swaying my hips, cane to the ground, holding hands.

One person tripped over my cane, passing from behind me to find a place to watch the band close-up. The singer was screaming.

No apology.

Next song, somebody else tripped.

Nothing, no acknowledgement.

A kick against my cane, brushing against my arm, my body not a body but an object like a pillar or a coatrack, stumbled into as if I/it were in the way. Nobody looked back to see what or who they’d tripped on. It was a surprise each time, each person tripping against me (tripping me, pushing me) before they were within my line of sight, over my shoulder, a dark, noisy space.

When the next person, fourth or fifth, turned back briefly and apologized (after their partner had not), I thanked them. Thank you, instead of my usual No worries.

A song or two later, the couple left. Somebody else tripped on me, silent still.

The couple returned. The first person, as before, tripped on me, and then their partner tripped on me again. It wasn’t a crowded show. It was dark, but there was space. Everyone was dressed in black in this dark space. My cane is lavender, not invisible.

This time, each of them apologized, only because I was startled enough to yelp, and this seemed to make them uncomfortable (actually, I’d inadvertently shout-mumbled a mantra I usually repeat in silence, internal, ELBOWS UP / ICE PICK OUT). Like being questioned at the door, when the couple apologized, again, I was blank. Thoughts forming but not words.

My partner asked me how I was feeling.

When I inhaled, when I opened my mouth to respond, I cried instead.

“I’m not okay,” I said. “I’d rather go home.”

{image description: Returning on a different day, more graffiti had been added to the so-called Permission Wall, the cringe-branding. Some of it is meaningful to me, the same anger. Others are disappointing, almost laughable. In this image, somebody has used a black Sharpie to write on top of ‘PROPERTY DEVELOPERS ARE SCUM.’ Now it also says, ‘DON’T BE MEAN.’ I imagine it written by a trust fund artist who’d call the cops on their noisy neighbours, don’t you?}

{image description: The same wall. FEELINGSBOI sits, holds their knees to their chest. Their speech bubble says, “EAT THE RICH.”}

{image description: Nighttime shot when the wall only had a bit of graffiti.}

{image description: Daytime shot from across the street, showing the wall built around a corner building, two-story brick, painted a green-y beige. More graffiti accumulating.}

Struggled back into my Winter layers, crying. Holding my partner’s hand and walking ahead of him, guiding him through the crowds and down the hall and past security and out the door. The cold, drunk night.

I waited outside while he briefly returned to the venue to explain to my friend what happened, a small change of plans. He’d bring me home to cuddle, and leave when she returned. We were sharing my bed.

Often, the feeling is I don’t belong. The feeling is I am being pushed out.

It was the night before the Full Moon in Leo. Full Moons, the day before and after, I am exhausted. It’s a pattern. I try to be alone or as alone-as-possible on Full and New Moons.

Often, the impulse is to hurt myself. The impulse is to quit.

Like, Fine then. I will never go to another show.

My usual fantasy. Stabbing with the ice-pick clipped to the bottom of my cane. On the feet. Puncturing boots, disabling those who can’t see me.

Most of those thoughts were gone by the time I came home, by the time I fell asleep.

Sometimes the thoughts are too redundant for me to knowingly choose to cling to anymore. As the weekend continued, I followed updates from the Unist’ot’en Camp, the RCMP raids, the red dresses, the solidarity protests. With traintracks blocked across so-called canada, my friend wouldn’t be returning home to Montréal when planned. Neither of us minded, both in solidarity. Friends at the camp with broken phones. We were given another twenty-four hours together before she boarded a last-minute Megabus home. She’d read the entirety of the copy of Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall that I’d lent her.

“What happened?” doesn’t mean what happened. It means “Why are you here?”

*

“My mouth dropped open, but I was silent. My cane… Stories I could tell… My brain scrambled at the nuisance, the obliviousness. Words refused to arrange themselves, incoherent. Instead, seeing these thoughts in shapes, colours, scenes. Not words.”

This is how I felt again at the pharmacy, how I responded. The familiarity of the feeling, the frustration of it, the exhaustion. Need my body always be a topic of conversation? A topic of conversation with/for people I don’t know?

They could fill my prescription for Cymbalta while I waited, but they couldn’t fill my prescription for Seroquel for another two weeks. The other meds weren’t mentioned and I wasn’t gonna bring them up. They kept reminding me about the option for free delivery, but most times I’ve used it, there’s been a similar mistake, a kerfuffle, and I have to wait at my window all day and feel crazy and angry about everything and then act very polite.

With my limited mobility, if I walk to the pharmacy and my meds aren’t there, I cannot simply come back later. How could I forget that one small task can take me days? What is it like not to have to take these possibilities into consideration? Do pharmacists know Spoon Theory? I briefly wondered.

I stumbled through language. Used words I try to avoid, like always and never. This always happens! It’s never easy! I felt irritable and short-tempered, and I felt like a rude customer, and I apologized as it happened, still unable to find the words I wanted.

“It’s not personal, it’s just that every time I come to the pharmacy, I feel like I’m not-a-person.” Exasperated. I made a self-deprecating joke about not having taken a Xanax before coming down.

I stuffed the pill bottles into my backpack, put my mittens back on, and my partner and I left, walked to his place.

Back at home that night, late, I took the bottles from my backpack. Childproof caps, despite a request/demand on file for the last five years to use easy-open caps. Wrist-pain. Usually they forget. If I’m picking up my meds at the pharmacy, I’ll check, and then I’ll ask them to replace the caps. If it’s a delivery, I’ll remind them on the phone, but they’ll still sometimes forget. This time, I felt so flustered and aggravated, I forgot to check at all. The bottles were different sizes from the previous ones, so I couldn’t switch them on my own. Instead, I poured the pills into a Ziploc bag.

Another day, when I went back for the rest of my meds, the same thing happened. But I remembered to check, asked them to fix it.

*

The exhaustion of my body as a constant conversation. A conversation that changes within myself, but not without. An understanding of my body that others can’t see, or understand, or imagine. A confrontation with my body, a confrontation with non-disabled bodyminds, with professionals, with power, with paperwork, with permission.

A week or two earlier…

{image description: Looking downward at my feet at the ground. The sidewalks are snowy. Black boots, lavender cane held in my left hand, a TTC token between my forefinger and thumb. Fuchsia floral dress below-the-knee, black & grey-striped wool socks. A deep violet and forest green checkered wool coat. Black lace tights over fleece-lined purple tights.}

I was meant to have a phone date with a friend at noon and a meet-up with another friend in the evening, but the latter was canceled due to conflicting schedules and the former forgotten, didn’t respond to my texts. I didn’t feel let down this time. I was aware of so much else that needed to be done – when I think about every task, every appointment, every sheet of paperwork, every text and letter to respond to, my breath becomes short and shallow. Aside from my social plans, I wanted to write.

I don’t forget that I have chronic fatigue (I accidentally typed chaotic fatigue, which is not untrue), but I do forget to structure my life such that I’m taking my spoons seriously, and that time, more time than “normal”, is set aside for rest.

Maybe that’s it, the idea of setting time aside, instead of being within that time. Something else I hadn’t thought until I typed.

The day before, my planner said Rest. The day before that was intense. I’d participated in a day-long Imbolc ceremony, ending with me and thirteen others gathered, burning our prayer sticks in a small fire as we stated our intentions, a distillation of messages that had come to us throughout our discussions, meditations, and prayers. A new intention I’ve been repeating to myself each day since. I knew I’d need to sleep. There’d been a blustery storm. I was glad for the snow, the beauty of the snow, as there’s been so little in the city this season, but when I walk through it, my body requires more rest. So I didn’t set an alarm. I gave myself permission to sleep.

I was in bed after midnight and asleep until 1:30 the next afternoon. I journaled throughout the day, and I did nothing. I allowed myself to absorb wordless feelings, to not think about what’s next, what’s owed, etc. I was still drinking my “morning coffee” as the sun set, and I was ready to go back to bed at 10PM.

One of the many tasks on my to-do list was to contact ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) since I’d noticed that one part of my monthly allowance hadn’t been deposited into my account – the part that covers transit fare. I could’ve called them but it’s notoriously impossible to get through. I had mail to send, so after the post office, I went to the ODSP office. I hadn’t allowed myself to overthink it the way I often do, and I’m glad I didn’t, but that also resulted in not thinking ahead to take a Xanax, which I usually need to do for appointments in hostile or otherwise stressful settings, especially institutional settings, as with the not-yet-happened pharmacy incident described above.

Short line-up. I waited with the others. I stretched my sore legs, bent my sore hips. Looked around me at the posters on the walls, the notices of surveillance cameras, the frosted glass walls and closed doors. Framed paintings of city-scenes. A streetcar at night. The pain in my hips, thighs, and the backs of my legs increased, not necessarily from walking and then standing in line, but from the environment itself. I could crouch down to the floor as I have in the past, as I had around the fire on Sunday night. What stopped me.

When one of the receptionists called me to the desk, I explained my situation to him. I asked him if I was supposed to see my doctor and fill out forms again, or if I’d be able to talk to my caseworker and have the allowance approved of an reinstated. He told me I’d have to make an appointment with my doctor, have her fill out the forms, then deliver them to the office. He asked me when I needed the money.

“I need the money four days ago,” I said.

He asked me for ID.

Apologized for the time it took him to find me in the system.

“I spelled your name wrong,” he admitted, passing the card, the card where my name is spelled correctly, back to me. “I’m used to it being spelled M-I, not M-A.”

“It happens a lot,” I said, sliding the card into my wallet. “Maranda with an A, like Anne with an E.”

He was silent, then turned back to the computer screen.

I have a friend who invites me over to her place late at night, where we entangle ourselves together in her bed and watch Anne With An E, as many episodes as we can until our eyes will no longer stay open, until I know I’ll be a little bit sick the next day from staying up too late, taking my meds too late. We’ve promised to bring our Anne dolls with us next time, hold them while we watch, go to a thrift store together to find Anne dresses to wear. We always cry.

I was standing alone in the ODSP office making an Anne of Green Gables joke that nobody understood or cared about.

The receptionist told me he was uncertain after all. I should talk to my caseworker. He left a message with her, and I retreated to the waiting room, took a book out of my backpack to keep me company for the wait.

During the Imbolc ceremony, I’d talked about how reading Anne of Green Gables as a child might’ve been my initial foray into spirituality, how the character Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is still an obsession of mine, an influence.

I read three or four pages until a nearby door was opened, and a caseworker stepped out.

“I’m looking for somebody named… Maaarrrraaandaaaa…?”

“That’s me.”

Picked up my stuff, came into Interview Room #3. Sat across from one another at a large, empty table. Explained my predicament.

I was wearing my Winter layers, my backpack unzipped on the table, a black pen and the book I was reading placed beside it. Prostitute Laundry by Charlotte Shane. Red letters.

The caseworker assured me she’d have the money deposited into my bank account within two to three days. She told me to have my form filled out by my doctor, yes, but in the meantime, the transit fare allowance would be deposited into my account for the next three months.

I was kind but I must’ve appeared stressed. Flustered. Asking questions, voice shaky, scattered. I’d been through various forms of this process with her in the past. She didn’t remember me. Understandable. At the ODSP office, we are numbers. Often, we are numbers in distress. Beside the name on our forms, we’re required to write our “Member ID.”

We’re asked for our “Member ID” before our name if we get through on the phone. I’ve been on ODSP for thirteen years, and I won’t write it down, won’t remember it.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m not here to make you feel anxious.”

“I know,” I said. I remembered meeting her two years ago, a kerfuffle over the same allowance, the missed deposit with no notification in the mail. The same old common disasters of social assistance. “It’s the building, the space, the architecture that stresses me out. It’s the system that makes me feel anxious, not necessarily the individuals I interact with while navigating it.”

After our brief meeting, I sat in the waiting room for another few minutes. Assessing the situation, my mood, the relief of not having to fight so hard this time (just kidding – after writing this, part of the allowance was denied after all, and I have thirty days to request an appeal…). I took a selfie, and I texted a friend who’d also recently dropped by the ODSP office and texted me from the waiting room, telling me they literally wanted to die. Their partner was with them for support.

From there, I walked to the library. There were more errands to do, but I needed to sit, to rest.

At home in the evening, radio on. Getting ready to go out again, this time to a Thai Restorative yoga class.
Listening to After Dark on CBC. As I reach toward the volume to turn it down before leaving, Odario Williams, the host, says, “If you need permission to do nothing, here it is. Even if it’s just for one song. Listen to this song and do nothing.”

Nothingly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process! ALSO! I have a Patreon now! Please join me.

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One Month Later: food, books, gifts, & gratitude

For the most part, I won’t be cross-posting entries between Patreon and my blog, but I’m making an exception tonight, to be transparent about the money I’m earning and where I’m choosing to spend it, as well as sending a last-minute reminder to my readers that if you’d like to support me through the month of March, you’ve got a little bit of time to sign up.

{image description: A blue payphone booth, photo taken in the night. Traffic lights glow in the background. The blue phonebooth is covered in stickers and graffiti. In black Sharpie ALLCAPS, someone’s written: THIS PHONE DOESN’T COLLECT DATA.}

On the first day of February, my first Patreon payment was deposited into my account. I earned $89 for my first month on Patreon – $10 went toward fees, which meant $79 was mine. Until I looked at my Paypal, I hadn’t realized this was U.S. dollars, which then amounted to $102.52. What a surprise!

As for other numbers: I earned $6.68 on Amazon at the end of January, $9.93 the previous month, $33 in November, and just 0.21¢ in October. Amazon makes it difficult to see exactly how many copies have sold, and which titles – it wasn’t until two years had passed after self-publishing We Are the Weirdos that I was even able to figure out how to have my earnings deposited into my bank account. In those two years, it added up to all of $200.

I plan to be as transparent as possible about where the money I earn through Patreon goes, while maintaining some form of privacy & boundaries, too.

So, here’s where the money went!

Early in the month, I spent $23 on a meal and coffee after a health care appointment. Frequently, after appointments, I need to sit down, process, write, and I’m not ready to go home, especially to the distractions of home, all the tasks calling out to be done. Also, I need to avoid public transit on certain lines and at busier times (rush hour, etc), which means a) needing somewhere to be, and b) aside from libraries, being required to spend money to be somewhere. Usually I’ll buy a coffee – rarely food. This time, I was very hungry, and I knew I’d be sitting for a long time, so I treated myself to a (vegan, gluten-free) meal with my black coffee. It’s not something I’ll do often, but it certainly felt both needed and luxurious at once. I sat alone in a comfortable booth, and I nourished myself before writing. (I’m not vegan, but I’m lactose-intolerant, and each time I test myself to see if I can eat or drink dairy, there are painful consequences over the course of several days.)

Later, I spent $8 on a used book. A paperback copy of Pussy, King of the Pirates by Kathy Acker. I’d been reading O Fallen Angel by Kate Zambreno, another paperback work of fiction, and when I opened it on the streetcar, I was much closer to the end than I realized, and there’d be nothing left to read on the way home. I allowed myself to buy one used book, with a promise to myself that I’d begin reading that day, reading on the streetcar ride home. So that’s what I did – I finished the novel a week or so later, after having attempted to read it a decade ago, back when I was volunteering at the queer library in Guelph, but feeling too lost to understand Kathy Acker’s work back then. This time, it meant much more to me, and became motivation and inspiration for one of the projects I’ve been working on, the novella about the sex club. I have a copy of After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus, and I’d like to begin soon – but that’s how I feel about so many books. It’s hard to know which ones to prioritize.

And then I spent $42 on groceries. Nothing interesting, but certainly unavoidable. I bought a bunch of frozen fruits and vegetables (I still often eat pre-chopped produce since the labour of doing it myself isn’t doable for me with chronic pain), tofu, peanut butter, bananas, and avocados. I can’t dumpster like I had been for a number of years – again, the time, the labour, the pain, the allergies, the risk – and I’m still trying to figure out how much I need to / can budget for food. Ordinary food.

{image description: A bunch of papers and things scattered on my purple writing desk. In the centre, a small spiralbound sketchpad where I tracked my sending in fuchsia ink. To the left, a mug of coffee on a ceramic coaster with an image of lilacs. A floral envelope, a piece of the wrapping paper described in this entry, two pens, and to the right, a five dollar bill with a toonie and two loonies, and a long string of twice with wooden valentine hearts attached – to be hung in my apartment with photos clipped to the clothespins hidden on the back of each heart.}

My partner’s son turned seven this month! Aquarius! Until this Winter, I hadn’t known the joy of finding gifts for small children. I didn’t know I’d like the children’s section of the indie bookstore so much. I’d bought a few gifts for him for Christmas, and had such fun choosing them, finding wrapping paper, and then watching him open them. This time, again, I went to the children’s section with nothing specific in mind, just wandering, knowing I’d know what I want when I saw it. His son loves building Lego, and loves H*rry P*tter and St*r W*rs. I found a new-to-me book, hardcover and illustrated, about a child who’s distracted from school work because he’d rather be designing and building and creating. Iggy Peck, Architect, written by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts. $21. Perfect. In a nearby bin of stuffed animals, I dug through all the characters to see what my options were, and found the sole remaining Chewbacca soft toy. $14. Done. Next door, I looked for wrapping paper. His favourite colour is red. And his dad had mentioned to me they’d been discussing the history of the ampersand – what does it mean, why and when was it created? Around all the cutesie doodles of the red paper-pattern, black ampersands were scribbled. The sheet was $4.

Writing-wise, I’ve posted two patron-only updates this month. On February 4th, I shared “Do nothing.”, where I wrote about attending an Imbolc ceremony, an example of navigating the complicated social assistance system on a stressful afternoon, friendship, and how my childhood – and adulthood – spirituality have been influenced by Anne of Green Gables. On February 11th, I shared “Why are you here?”, where I wrote about the Full Moon in Leo, access intimacy and goth friendship, Sharpie graffiti in gentrifying neighbourhoods, pain, wordlessness, and going home.

On my blog, I shared Toronto Forget-Me-Not (Part Two), in which I discuss the Nine of Cups with Cristy Road’s Next World Tarot, anti-capitalist self-care, and a CJ Sleez lyric I’ve cherished since my teen years: “You’ll never take away my luxury in poverty.” Toronto Forget-Me-Not is a series I’ve been writing about visiting the Toronto addresses on the love letters exchanged between my nana and poppa in 1950, when they were newly courting one another. Content note for Part Two, as I write about grief – my poppa, who I loved very much, died this Winter at the age of 90.

{image description: The top half of my old, grimy cane leaning against a bathroom stall door that had recently been painted hot pink, the familiar graffiti now hidden, but slowly gathering more. My cane is lavender with a small Hello Kitty plush toy hanging from the handle. The lock is slid shut. Brown brick wall visible to the right.}

And that’s it! I spent bit more than $102.50 but I made it work. Just as we turned from Aquarius to Pisces Season, the money was gone. These things: a good and nourishing meal, groceries to last a couple weeks, and birthday presents for my partner’s kiddo, wouldn’t have been possible without the first deposit earned through Patreon, through you. So, thanks so much for being a patron! In the future, I’d like to be able to put more of this money toward regular health care sessions and food, as well as savings for for future expenses or potential emergencies. But this has been a promising start. On the last day of each month, I’ll share a similar update. It really is an adventure and an experiment. I’m glad each of you are here with me. Gratitude!

Fundingly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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Toronto Forget-Me-Not Part Two

Read Part One Here.

{content notes: coma, death}

In Parkdale, sitting on the ground by the garden, I draw another Tarot card.

NINE OF CUPS

“Happiness.”

JUPITER IN PISCES.

Expansion, dreams, emotions, desires. Poetry, joy.

Those are among the first words to come to me.

But it sounds vague. This card dares me to be more specific.

{image description: My left hand hold’s onto the Next World Tarot’s Nine of Cups. Behind, the leaves of morning glories are visible, with green vegetables growing behind a fence in the background, and a tall apartment with beige balconies slightly in view beyond. The figure in the card revels in comfort and pleasure. Their hands are full of sweet and nourishing things, mouth wide open, ready to take them in, and their tattooed shoulder shows a stitched and mended heart. They wear a necklace of peaches and jewelry with spikes and rose quartz, protection and self-love. Their body is held above a flood through a neighbourhood similar to the low-income neighbourhoods where I reside, where I’ve been visiting my family’s past. Brown brick low-rises with curtained windows. Skin almost mauve, sky yellow, drinks pink. Bejewelled cups overflowing, tipsy and dancing. Toenails painted pink, barefoot outdoors in the city.}

This card reminds me of a CJ Sleez lyric, a line I learned as a teenager and continue to repeat to myself: “YOU’LL NEVER TAKE AWAY MY LUXURY IN POVERTY.”

For me, it means and also means beyond ‘poor people deserve nice things’ – which is very true, of course. And the nice things aren’t just things – they are also feelings of contentment, of emotional fulfillment, inhabiting moments of joy and pleasure, food that is fresh and nourishing, a sense of belonging (in place, body, environment, worlds), self-confidence, generosity, and meaning. Feelings of safety, stability, structure. To feel joy without the oft-accompanying guilt and shame.

The first time somebody said to me, “You’re allowed to want nice things,” it was a revelation. It still is.

{image description: Selfie in Parkdale. I’m wearing the same yellow & black dress with purple florals and a zippered collar described in Part One, and my heart-shaped shungite necklace. My hair is the same shades of green as the gardens surrounding. I’m wearing round glasses and I am unsmiling, chin held high.}

{image description: close-up of a pansy violet. The petals are open wide, deep purple on the inside and pale lilac on the outer parts. A tiny burst of yellow in the middle. The single flower is surrounded by green leaves of various sorts, low to the ground. To the bottom-right, there’s a thick exposed root that looks like it’s been pulled from the ground, tiny veins reaching outward}

I think about the way I have created my home, Amethyst Cathedral. My need for and focus on physical comfort, natural light with old filigree mirrors to reflect windows, tangible / visible reminders of who I am, what I do and why I do it, the air purifiers and essential oil diffusers that make my musty old apartment breathable, never-ending collection of books, alive plants & dead or dried plants & fake florals, small candles, branches I’ve gathered, colours and textures, my assorted collected of oft-mismatched bedding from thrift stores so I can make and re-make my bed to encourage certain moods (or not run out of pillowcases when I haven’t done laundry for a long time), drawers to tuck my messes away in, fuchsia and violet rugs to pretty up my home and reduce sound/noise between apartments, little altars everywhere…

Cristy Road says: “The 9 of Cups reminds us of the revolutionary role of self-care.”

When Audre Lorde wrote about self-care, she was being treated for, and eventually dying from, cancer. She was a Black lesbian writer articulating the meaning of her place, her life, her body, her illness, her desires, her role in her communities and in the world. Her work on self-care has often been co-opted, capitalized upon, detached from context, and diluted or, in a way, gentrified – I conjure the spirit of her work here in an imperfect effort to connect the necessity of self-care and the meaning that holds for me as someone who struggles to care for themself as an anti-capitalist sick crip writer on social assistance who will never ‘recover’ and cannot rely on others, professional or otherwise, for adequate and meaningful care; and the role of care and self-care in my home, a place that is a place where I am often sick, often debilitated, a place where I’ve experienced severe loneliness and fear, and also a place I am in love with, grateful for, where I’ve experienced love and connection, too. A place that is a home, and the place I have lived the longest since birth, as well as a place that is built on stolen land, and a place where the threat of eviction, of climate catastrophe, is ever-present. Self-care is meant to be anti-capitalist.

Amethyst Cathedral is both a place that has made me sick, and a place that has protected me. A place where I’ve been in danger, and a place where I seek safety, too. A place where I’ve wanted to die, and a place that’s kept me alive. Because I live here alone, it’s also the place where I can be the most “myself.”

{image description: One of many corners in my apartment, named Amethyst Cathedral. The wall is painted lavender, and to the right is a radiator painted silver, chipped. A floating shelf installed on the wall holds a series of jars containing pieces of natures, leaves, flowers, dead butterflies & moths, birch bark, birds’ eggs, feathers, etc., found on the ground over many years, as well as a teacup with lilacs painted on it, animal bones, amethysts, broken chuncks of concrete, and other such trinkets. A narrow blue vase contains dried remnants of some of the plants plucked in Part One. Below is a sturdy pine bookshelf holding many books, a bookshelf built by my poppa shortly after my grandparents were married.}

I learned recently that when my nana was living in the rooming house in Parkdale, she was living in a shack built onto the back of the house, a storage room repurposed to make a bedroom. This was the first time, at the age of eighteen, that she had her own room, the first time she had her own bed. This is where she was living when she got her job at the Eaton Centre, where she met the man who would become her husband, my poppa. When I initially learned about the house, and heard some of her stories, I mistakenly assumed it was a rooming house for young working women. It wasn’t until recently that I learned, or was reminded (I might’ve already known when I was much younger, and then forgotten) that her parents also rented a room in the house, and her sisters rented rooms there, too, which they shared with one another. There were other women renting rooms of their own, and a few older men, at least one of whom was retired. It would’ve been a tough place to start anew, especially after growing up on a farm in the Prairies, but would’ve been a very exciting adventure, too.

Returning to the Nine of Cups, I think about how my dreams are constrained under capitalism. I’m reminded of my fear that my creativity and dreams have a ceiling, that living in poverty = less access to basic needs, less access to learning environments (institutional and otherwise), and less autonomy to write what I need to write, and make and distribute it the ways I want to. I remember how trauma can be described as an injury to the imagination, and how chronic poverty is sustained trauma (then again, wealthy people are not particularly imaginative, huh? To make a generalization…).

I think of my imagination as injured, as in recovery.

Marilyn Manson sings: “I’m in recovery / I’m in recovery / I’m in recovery / from America.”

This card reminds me that other worlds are possible, and that we can find them, create them, as we survive the current state-of-things. That we’re building them and living them right now. This card reminds me that there are no ethical choices under capitalism, but I am allowed to experience pleasure and joy without explanation or apology. Also, that I don’t have to earn these feelings – I can just feel them.

{image description: The camera turns to the left, showing another corner of my apartment. The walls are lavender, art hangs upon them, and another solid and polished pine bookshelf is shown, once again containing many books, as well as a small but loud set of speakers my previous neighbour gave me to me when he moved out. To the left of the bookshelf is a stack of milkcrates, yellow & turquoise & black, containing a stereo I found on the ground, and a whole bunch of CD’s. The top shelf holds three candle holders made with reclaimed branches, prayer candles, books, and a ceramic vase/pitcher designed as a tree trunk with a small brown squirrel hunkered in under the handle. To the right, small elements of the kitchen are hidden in the shadows, with the stove visible on the other side of the wall, a heart-patterned tea towel hanging from the oven handle.}

From where I’m sitting, I see a row of brick houses across the street, many of which are under construction, shielded with scaffolding, yards dug up, renovations (and renovictions?) in-process.

{image description: A three-story duplex house painted down the middle, left side white, right side red. There are fir trees in front of the left side, hiding the porch. The red house on the right is exposed, lawn dug up to bare dirt, a green dumpster planted atop, half-full with debris. Yellow, red, and white scaffolding is built along the front of the house, building permits pasted in the window. Upstairs windows are torn out and boarded up.}

{image description: Camera turns to the right. The red side and the green dumpster are still visible, as well as some of the scaffolding. Next door is a similar house, detached, red brick, trim painted grim black, all windows shut up tight with white, a freshly paved path leading to a small concrete porch with three steps. The door is painted black. A once beautiful home now plain, austere, lacking character. To the right, another red brick building is boarded up, empty.}

{image description: Front-facing view of the empty house on the right of the previous photo. Five steps lead to a porch, with half a dozen skids piled alongside and nearby. On the porch, several unhinged doors lean against one another, blocking one half of the front window. The house has been split into apartments, two doors still in tact at the front, though one wonders if, under renovation, this’ll remain true, and/or how much the place will cost (if rented) afterward. The second-story is fully board up with fresh plywood, with a contractors’ company sign hanging in front.}

{image description: Milky Way Alley. This alleyway would’ve been across the street from my nana’s Parkdale home, a pathway behind the Parkdale Public Library. Red brick buildings on each side, yellow speed bump sign. Walls have been painted with graffiti over murals – the heads of a brown horse and a white horse are seen, with colourful tags everywhere else. At the end of the alleyway, trees are visible.}

{image description: Green green green leaves everywhere, with a wooden sign painted with black letters in Tibetan, information about the garden, with a local phone number.}

{image description: Golden-mango and blush-coloured flowers growing tall amongst a whole bunch of green, with a thin metal fence barely visible.}

Before I was able to finish writing my Toronto Forget-Me-Not series, my poppa died. I’d set the project aside for various reasons, some emotional, others practical. My hard drive crashed. I thought I’d lost everything. When much of it was retrieved, I didn’t want to look at it anymore. Other work distracted me. My birthday came and went. The landscape of Toronto continued changing, and I had frequent panic attacks. As Winter set in, I became more fatigued. Screens hurt my eyes, my brain. I read too many articles about surveillance, gentrification, criminalization of nearly all means of survival, and felt powerless beyond (sometimes) fiction, and I dissociated more often than I had been. I lost my concentration and I could barely read. I helped friends in crisis, and some friends left the city (again). I organized, and then I quit. I pinched a nerve in my right shoulder, limiting the use of dominant hand and arm.

Toward the end of his life, when my poppa was in a coma but still breathing, I was able to visit him at the hospital in my hometown. He was in the Palliative Care Unit, with my nana visiting him and sitting at his bedside everyday from 9am-4pm, when she went back to their retirement home, ate dinner, and went to bed. She told me she’d make sure to go to bed right away. When I arrived, I heard my nana singing to him. Though some had tried to insist he couldn’t hear from inside his coma, I knew this wasn’t true since I’d also been in a coma, but I couldn’t tell them because it wasn’t an appropriate time – in fact, I grappled for quite a while with whether or not I should share this information. When my nana told me on her own that she knew he could hear her, and hear us, I decided only to tell her she was probably right, and not say how I knew. She had a small, portable CD player at the bedside, which was turned off. My poppa looked more small and frail than usual, and his white beard, usually shaveds had begun to grow out. He was breathing on his own, but unmoving, and connected to morphine and nothing else. There was a large window near his bed where birdseed was gathered, and sparrows were fluttering about. My poppa was a birdwatcher, so we knew he’d appreciate this.

I sat at his bedside and described the view to him, the birds. I told him a bit about my current life, and some of my memories of him.

{image description: An expanse of of dusty rose carpet. My feet, in black sandals, are visible, toenails painted magenta, the edges of my purple shorts visible at the bottom edge of the frame. The corner of a white wall juts out on the right, and the edges of a stack of books are visible at the top right, and the tiniest piece of fabric of my poppa’s reading chair to the left. Most of the pink carpet is the same shade, except for a long rectangle to the right, where one of the shelves that’s since become mine has been moved, revealing a deeper, fresher pink underneath. The carpet was laid in the early-90’s, professionally cleaned a handful of times, and the furniture had remained in the same place all this time.}

I know it’s ordinary, but I’ve loved this carpet since childhood. It always felt soft and comforting beneath my feet. Sometimes my nana would lend us slippers to wear. I used to sit on the floor and play with Lincoln Logs and other toys, building tiny cabins and making stories with plastic Fisher Price figurines. I’d drink tea and try not to spill it. There were dinner trays painted a similar shade of pink.

{image description: My left hand holds onto a sheet of paper, which reads, in handwriting, blue ink:

This box of letter’s [sic] go to [sic] Maranda Elizabeth (1950 Feb 14).
Don’t burn
Tear up
Dont [sic] destroy [in] anyway

Norrean & Bob

The note is framed by a red heart-shaped box sitting on the bed where I’m sitting. Corners of aged white envelopes are sticking out.}

When I showed them the box of letters, I thought they’d feel embarrassed about it – and I definitely knew my poppa would tell me to destroy them, even if he were joking or pretending to. It was the first thing he said, of course. So I asked my nana to write this note and enclose it within the heart-shaped box. They told me they didn’t even remember the collection of mail, the valentine box.

{image description: My nana and poppa sitting beside one another on their bed at the retirement home, holding hands with one another. My poppa is on the left, both hands clasped around my nana’s right, while her left hand holds onto the heart-shaped box, now closed. A faded pinkish-red ribbon with a bow encloses the box, more decorative than functional. My nana and poppa, not knowing I’d be bringing them this valentine, had inadvertantly both dressed in red, matching. My poppa wears a red short-sleeved polo shirt and blue jeans. My nana wears a pink, red, and beige short-sleeved button-up shirt with a patchwork floral pattern and pale beige pants. She’s leaning over to kiss my poppa on the cheek as he leans toward her. In the background, one of my nana’s many handmade dolls rests against the pillows, as well as a stuffed brown and white dog. A turquoise rollator is seen to the right, and a wooden cane leaning against the wall behind them.}

I didn’t know this’d be the last time I took a photo of them together.

{image description: Another very purple corner of my apartment. One of the beautiful, polished pine furniture pieces my poppa built – an unfolding desk and dresser, currently folded closed. On top, prayer candles, a fuchsia essential oil diffuser, floral teacup and saucer, and a wooden document tray holding planters and ceramic animals with pens and pencil crayons, etc., stored within. Crystals and notes hang on my wall. My entrance door is to the left, locked, lavender, with a few empty totebags hanging from the doorknob.}

A piece of furniture I’ve always found romantic.

My twin and I often had morbid interests when we were growing up. I’ve written about this is in the past, but: as children, we would “call” items we get to keep when they die. One of the items I “called” as a child was this folding desk. My poppa used it to store files and documents, small containers with smaller toys, pictures. When the desk unfolds, smaller nooks and crannies are revealed. I forget what he kept in there except for his cigarettes and lighters, pens and paper, and small pieces of leather in various shades of brown – he made small leather crafts, which I always liked the smell of. It’s one of the skills I wish had been passed onto me. (But it’s not something I asked to be taught.) On top, ceramic trinkets, my nana’s camera, red and grey.

Now that the furniture is mine, it holds pens and papers, too. It holds a collection of snail mail supplies, old mugs re-purposed to hold writing and craft supplies, a few books, some trinkets passed onto me from my grandparents, and some of my poppa’s small leather-working tools. Other semi-organized things… The drawers hold vintage fabrics, knitting supplies, envelopes to re-use…

When it squeaks open and closed, when the handles gently clang against one another, the tiny sounds are so familiar and comforting. Almost out of place, though, or renewed somehow…

To be continued…

Pinefully Yours,

P.S.: Did you know that I recently launched a Patreon?! You can read more about my reasons for doing so, and my intentions, at Writing for weirdos, dreamers, survivors, and the dead, and you can take a look at the page itself at patreon/MarandaElizabeth.

P.P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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Writing for weirdos, dreamers, survivors, & the dead

I’m here for weirdos, dreamers, & survivors (and, frankly, the dead, the lineages).

When I drafted a Patreon profile four and a half years ago, this line was included. Upon the page’s completion, I saved the draft, set it aside, and didn’t look at it again until yesterday. I’m someone who dreams up plans and schemes and projects and ideas all the time, but haven’t been able too see all of them through (yet), due to a complex mix of illness, self-doubt, poverty, and difficulty with the long-term, with committing to long-term plans. Then, too, a lack of access to ongoing, meaningful health care and other resources impact my creativity, my healing, and my ability to connect. This is one of multiple things I hope my Patreon page will help me to change.

Please click here to take a look at my new Patreon page!

I’m asking for financial support from those who are able to offer it to help me with the basic costs of living & eating & breathing, access to meaningful bodymind health care, & creating a life worth living within the difficult barriers and limitations built by poverty, chronic pain, and recovery with complex-PTSD and fibromyalgia. As my biography notes, I’ve been writing and self-publishing for over fifteen years, and I have no intention to stop. I have meaningful contributions to continue offering to queer, poor, mad, cripple, misfit communities – it’s one of my purposes or callings, and I know this even at times when I’m fatigued and dissociated with deep despair.

Over the years, I’ve written more than fifty zines, dozens of blog entries, a handful of essays, three novels, 10,000 tweets, provided countless Tarot readings, and most of what I’ve done has been low-cost or free. Once upon a time, I was able to tour and to give readings in public, but illness and inaccessibility changed that. Hundreds of people have told me that my work has been life-altering for them, and has even prevented them from attempting suicide. I’ve never had access to institutional learning or support, to grants, to mentors, to traditional avenues for publishing, etc… I still don’t have wifi at home. Everything is DIY and likely to remain so. However, the work does become less sustainable as I continue to struggle with fluctuating illnesses and mobility, with the ever-rising costs of living that come without an increased income, with food insecurity and housing precarity, and with heightening online and IRL surveillance culture. Writing, and writing as vulnerable as mine, is always a risk, and there’ve always been consequences. But I refuse to quit.

I want to write longer-form work. I want to write more fiction of varying lengths and genres, I want to study, I want to write about the books I’m reading and the feelings I’m feeling, and I want to continue providing low-cost Tarot readings that offer insight and guidance and concrete suggestions toward decision-making, healing, and fighting, and I want to be able to share it with those who need it. I want to rid myself of all the stuck and stale energy accumulated in my bodymind and home and soul that mere survival has given me, and become more soft, slow, skilled, vulnerable, protected, supported, and embodied.

I want to keep as little of my online writing behind a paywall as possible. While the occasional locked entry is probable – especially for drafts of fiction, or other words or sensitive information I’m not ready to make so visible – my writing is for poor people, especially those who, like me, are on social assistance, and thus considered nobody, considered disposable.

I’ve decided to use a monthly payment schedule on Patreon in the hopes that I’ll be able, eventually, to rely on something steady and predictable, rather than stress myself out about ~productivity~ and completion and end-goals. Also, although the ‘rewards’ could change over time, I’ve intentionally chosen not to include too much physical stuff. This has been the case with past crowdfunding efforts of mine, too, because I want to focus on the writing and the process, and not making merch-like stuff one can hold in their hands, as it feels extremely unnecessary to me. When I’ve contributed to similar projects over the years, it’s been the artists and the works themselves I want to support, and not the souvenir sent in the mail that’s enticed me to send some cash. I hope my readers will understand and feel the same.

Also, one reason I’ve stopped printing my zines was that my chronic pain and reduced mobility made getting to and from the copy shop, carrying the papers and assembling them, literally impossible for quite some time – while I’d like to make more zines in the future, I don’t want it to become a chore or an obligation, don’t want it to become something I do with resentment or painful, unseen labour.

Money-wise, my hope is that those who cannot afford to make a monthly contribution will continue to read/feel the work, and that those who can afford to make a monthly contribution – anywhere between $3 – $100 – will understand not only how valuable their support and appreciation are, but that their contribution isn’t solely on their own behalf, but to keep the work as accessible as possible for others, too.

This is a new experience for me, and as such, an experiment. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m feeling comfortable with that uncertainty, and curious about the future. In Autumn, I made a Twitter poll to anonymously ask readers if they’ve be willing to contribute to such an endeavor. In that thread, I emphasized that it’s true that poor people often get by with the support of other poor people, and that while I don’t expect every reader to have much to give, I do think it’s possible to find a way to make this work more sustainable, and I hope that with a monthly income, I’ll no longer need to worry about urgent crowdfunds, etc. I also made note that as I contemplate this project, I’ll do my best not to allow numbers and economics to impact my own feelings of self-worth. Though I’d been considering making a Patreon for quite a while, the timing hadn’t felt right until now.

Writingly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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What I Was Thinking About the Day Elizabeth Wurtzel Died

{content notes: death, grief, porn}

The night before, I’d taken my bedtime meds, plus an extra half of a sleeping pill, at 8PM, in the second night’s attempt to rapidly-ish reset my body-clock to awaken in the morning. I hoped to be up at sunrise, making coffee, making plans. The current wave of depression had been happening for maybe a week, since New Year’s Eve, or maybe a month, since my Poppa’s memorial in my hometown on the first of December, or maybe two weeks longer, to the day he died, or maybe since my thirty-fourth birthday back in mid-October, when my friends stood me up, or maybe since Pride weekend back at the end of June.

I was still coping with the pinched nerve in my right shoulder, an injury from carrying five bananas in my totebag two weeks prior, plus two bouquets of convenience store flowers I bought for my partner / boyfriend / baby / etc, a red totebag reading, in Gothic script, black screenprint ink, Capitalism Ruins Everything Around Me. I was thinking about how to make money. I was thinking about going out to pick up some groceries, including another bunch of bananas. I was sitting on my purple swivel chair, SAD lamp on. With my right hand, picking at the dry skin on my face, exacerbating the pinched nerve pain as well as the acne scars. With my left hand, picking at the dry skin on my right shoulder, risking pulling more ink out of the tattoo I’ve had for nearly fifteen years. When I had it done, it was the artist’s largest piece, took two sessions, and she and I were both proud. The tattoo had an age-tinged banner with black script, a quote from one of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s books.

Although I’d been on something like a social-media-hiatus, but not quite, I briefly logged into Twitter to tell my followers about an upcoming Total Betty show in Hamilton. My twin sister’s band. When I logged in, the top of my feed was audrey wollen writing about sad girl literature, and of course I paused to read. I read her tweet three or four times before I began to understand that she wasn’t just writing about Elizabeth Wurtzel, she was writing about Elizabeth Wurtzel’s death.

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A writer can write about suicide, depression, cancer, and illness her whole life, and still have a death that comes as a surprise.

I was thinking about all my unfinished writing projects, and my finished writing projects that remain unsatisfactory. I was thinking about reading an essay even though I’d already narrowed it down to sixty-eight windows open in one browser on my phone, twenty-three windows in another browser, mostly unread. I was wondering whether or not I should take a painkiller (an hour later, I did). I was wondering if I’d make it outside before the sun set (no), or if I’d make it outside at all (I did, at 7:30pm, three hours after the sun set). I was wondering if I should write the thing that had just sprung up in my head, or if I should go out and run errands, if I should clean the litterbox, or if I should finish writing something I’d already started.

I was trying to remember a) if I’d sent a photo of my tattoo to Elizabeth Wurtzel via Twitter once upon a time, and if yes, b) if she’d acknowledged it. I was remembering talking about Prozac Nation with my LiveJournal friends when I was 17, 18, 19. I was remembering bringing them with me the first time I moved out, already broken-spined faded torn. (The books, but the friends, too.)

I’d forgotten about an article that referred to Elizabeth Wurtzel as “Sylvia Plath with the ego of Madonna,” until, in searching Twitter, I found myself commenting that it was ‘too perfect’ and should become her online bio. Clicking to her profile now, I was reminded (or learned anew?) that she had indeed made this her online bio at my suggestion. I thought about sharing it (I did), and I thought about that feeling of possession so many of us have when it comes to our favourite writers, musicians, etc (I still am). I thought about how we criticize people when they’re alive (yes, I’ve written on how frustrated and enraged I eventually became with seeking out crazy people memoirs and finding books almost exclusively by wealthy, educated, (mostly white) women, almost always women attending prestigious universities and having their parents fly to them or fly them out when they had a nervous breakdown, pay for professional care, etc), and love them when they’re dead. I screencapped it (the bad review as online bio) and tweeted it (the bad review as online bio, the day she died, and the frustration and rage, a few years ago, but then again, it is moreso a criticism of genre and access and ableist racist capitalist hellscape, right? and not a criticism of the individual, who I hold within my mad lineage). Wouldn’t you?

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In my diary, I’d been attempting to write about “this current depression.” Maybe it began with the first snowfall, when I was unprepared and couldn’t pick up my new prescriptions for a whole week, and couldn’t have them delivered because “narcotics,” because narcotics give me the ability to walk? Maybe it was when I tried to talk about unresolved issues around mistreatment within an organization, or maybe it was shortly thereafter, when I quit said organization? Maybe it began when my toilet tank broke during the snowstorm, flooded my bathroom multiple times, and my landlord took three days to drop by and take a look, fixed it but broke another part? Maybe it was a few days afterward, when the snow melted, and my kitchen ceiling leaked, and I awoke to my reading chair soaked, pile of laundry soaked, meditation cushions and restorative yoga cushion soaked. And as I pulled my reading chair back from the mess, I threw out my back and, yet again, couldn’t walk. And I stopped riding my portable exercise bike because my kitchen was ruined, I was in too much pain to clean it up, and I was too lazy or too depressed to bring it into the next room.

Maybe it was everything I was reminded of each time I tried to label the beginning of a wave, the consequences of each moment, the way my thoughts branch out into too many thoughts, and I can’t write because there’s too much to write about, and I can’t describe why I’m depressed because there’s too much to be depressed about. And I’ve been writing about depression for twenty years.

And I’ve been writing about depression for twenty years.

I was noticing that each potential “beginning” of “this current wave” was also part of one or more unfinished creative projects.

I was thinking about how Marilyn Manson had just turned 51, and how I’m afraid of him dying. I was thinking about how I’ve been spending too much time in bed because it feels like all I can do. I was thinking about how I haven’t been able to go outside for days. I was trying to figure out the littlest things I could do to keep going. While I was in the shower, I thought of all kinds of little things I could do, and by the time I’d come out of the shower, they all seemed too big again.

I was thinking about the body parts that hurt.

What parts didn’t hurt when I started reading her, what parts hurt now.

What parts I didn’t feel at all when I started reading her, what parts I feel now.

What didn’t hurt when I started writing and does now. What I didn’t feel and do now.

*

I dreamed about Girl, Interrupted and Brittany Murphy, as if my brain spilled reference tabs in the night and reshuffled them as it tried to get the stories back together. I also dreamed about my abusive mom. I dreamed about being on a road trip in Girl, Interrupted, the van with the hippies, making out with girls, but it was Brittany Murphy instead of Angelina Jolie, like my mind remembered Christina Ricci as Elizabeth Wurtzel. I was following them around, wondering why they liked me, why they let me into their inner circle. Me and Susanna Kaysen and Brittany Murphy went swimming in a bright aqua pool. Elizabeth Wurtzel was somehow all of them, somehow me too, and at the same time, not there. Missing. Not there to speak her own lines, to be in conversation with us.

In my waking hours, I’d been contemplating re-reading Prozac Nation. Wondering if I’d have time. Or make time. I’d thought about it a few days before she died, unknowing. I used to not own a lot of books, and I was too agoraphobic to walk the aisles of the small town library where I grew up, or learn how to use their computer retrieval system. I read each book I owned at least five times before turning twenty-one. I read Francesca Lia Block, and I read books about vampires, witches, call girls in the 80’s and 90’s, and old Hollywood. Now I have too many books and too many books to read, too many books I want to re-read, too many stacked up library books with fines owing. To re-read Prozac Nation would be a sacrifice on multiple levels. Let alone More, Now, Again, the book that inspired my tattoo before I’d even left Lindsay, but as I was approaching double-digits of psych med prescriptions.

I make porn. In some of my porn, I read out loud. I read out loud, strip, masturbate. I thought about shooting a quick clip reading Prozac Nation out loud the night she died. Would she appreciate it? Maybe (a younger?) Merri Lisa Johnson would, or (a younger?) Stacey Pershall. The Strange Grrrls. Am I too old to be doing this, to even be contemplating this? (No.) Too immature? (No.) Too self-absorbed? (Elizabeth Wurtzel would say, not self-absorbed. Absorbed. Absorbed.)

I didn’t make Elizabeth Wurtzel porn. Or I haven’t, not yet. I went to bed early. The following evening, I did make porn, I did make book porn. I dressed in a vintage tweed jacket with an odd cut, a strapless black lace bra, PVC garter belt with silver studs, black lace thigh-highs with vertical stripes, and I hid my fuzzy cat slippers under the camera frame, read Edna St. Vincent Millay, poverty and death, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver, stripped, slowly. Holding open my copy of Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford. Ran out of storage before I could take off my bright violet scalloped-lace underwear. Sometimes I don’t like my face at certain angles. But I like my voice. Or, I like listening to my voice.

On the day Elizabeth Wurtzel died, I was wondering if I’d ever write again. I hadn’t felt so uncreative for more than a decade. I was scared there’d be no more words, no more new ideas, nothing, no one. Abandoned, unfinished drafts. “I used to write.”

I wouldn’t have made my Edna St. Vincent Millay porn if I hadn’t been invited out for an unexpected coffee date. I wouldn’t even have gotten dressed. When I arrived at the café, the sun was out. Half hour date, dark by the end.

Memoirishly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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Magical Concoctions for Sober Witches (And a Deadline, Too!)

It’s been a little while. It’s not ~officially Winter~ yet, but it’s Winter. Snow on the ground, almost-bare branches, reduced mobility for crip-bodies, and fingerless gloves to type. I feel like it should still be Halloween. But my sense of time, date, month, season, has been deeply skewed. Dissociation and detachment, etc. Med changes. You know how that goes.

I write with fun news, though! I was recently invited to participate as a Tarot consultant with Temperance Cocktails – they’re rad folks who make non-alcoholic cocktails, truly magical concoctions. If you’re sober, like me and like so many of us are, you’re probably sick of ginger ale and Coke, of the sugary Shirley Temple when you’re feeling fancy. These days, I’ve got eight and a half years sober. When my body can, I like to go out and dance, and I like to write in dark bars. But there are so few options of yummy things to drink, and I can only hang out for free for so long.

Temperance Cocktails have a really cute story.

“A year and a half ago, I (Audra Williams, noted online emoter and lifelong non-drinker) fell in love with a bartender (Haritha Gnanaratna, fastidious drink inventor and infrequent drink-drinker). Our first date required me to leave my house and go to a bar, both things I think are pretty overrated. But when someone tells you that they carry cat treats in their backpack in case they see any cats throughout their day, you obviously have to meet that person.

A week later, the bar where Haritha was working closed without warning on his birthday. Three days after that, I asked “Do you think cocktails need alcohol in them?” He looked off into space for a few minutes and replied no. Six weeks later, we launched our non-alcoholic beverage company, Temperance Cocktails.”

They’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign – it’s been successful so far, with multiple rewards added along the way, some of which have sold out. As of tonight, we’ve got five days left to raise the final $11,000. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but we’ve already raised $26,000, and I really believe we can make this happen! This campaign is all-or-nothing. Please check out their page, share with your friends, and consider making a pledge!
Temperance Cocktails are making drink recipes based on the Major Arcana, with illustrations by Cindy Fan, consultations by me, with a whole lot of other excellent people involved. Among the rewards are Tarot readings with me, along with the book of recipes, the deck of cards, and more.

Of note: This is a rare thing for me. I love to collaborate with other artists, writers, and creators when I have the chance, but just as I am a solitary witch, I am also frequently a solitary artist. Not only is this a lovely opportunity for connection and creativity, it’s also – as long as it’s fully funded – a paying gig, and y’all know how rare and cherished those can be, too! It means a lot to me that Audra Williams, a local pal of mine, had my name in mind for this project, and reached out at just the right time. I’ve been re-connecting with the Tarot more frequently these days, writing about the Tarot online again (like in my recent blog entry, Toronto Forget-Me-Not, where I visited addresses in Toronto where my nana received love letters in 1950), and teaching my partner about the Tarot as well. For two years, I wrote See the Cripple Dance, a column where I explored Tarot through a lens of disability, madness, poverty, and anti-capitalism. I’ve been revisiting some of those pieces during this current period of Mercury Retrograde, and it’s still giving me so much to think about. Consider this one: The Six of Swords and Celebrating Sobriety.

Temperancingly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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Toronto Forget-Me-Not Part One

After having found a heart-shaped box filled with love letters exchanged between my grandparents in 1950, two years before they were married, I decided to visit the places they were addressed to. My nana, my mom’s mom, was in her late-teens, working at Woolworth’s in the Eaton Centre at Queen and Yonge, living in a series of short-term rentals, rooming houses with other girls her age. She’d told me about living at Queen and Gladstone, but none of the envelopes in the heart-shaped box contained that address. Instead, there were two other addresses: one in Regent Park, the other in Parkdale. Both places I’m at frequently, so it wouldn’t be difficult to find the homes of her youth, of her romance.

{image description: Close-up of the inside of a heart-shaped box, frayed and stained with age. My nana and poppa have signed their names in blue ink, dated February 14th, 1950.}

{image description: Heart-shaped box, laid flat and open, letters revealed. The box is red with a sot pink ribbon tied across the lid, wrapped in a flattened bow. To the left is a stack of white envelopes, postage stamps 4 cents. To the right, an unfolded letter from my poppa to my nana, from a time when their relationship had become long-distance. His handwriting is right-slanted and difficult to read.}

I didn’t read the letters. At least not all of them. Or, I read a few of them, but didn’t take enough pictures to retain memory, and I didn’t tell them that I read some of their letters. My grandparents have been together about seventy years now (!), and this Summer, they sold the little wartime house where they’d been living for twenty-five years. They brought a small amount of belongings with them to their room at a retirement home a few blocks away, and invited their children and grandchildren to see the house one more time and take what we wanted. While it was still in their possession, they referred to it as “The Cottage Up North.” Three blocks North. When they got married, they had almost nothing – a green trunk they used as a couch, and a few orange crates re-purposed as shelves.

Seeing the house sold and slowly emptied out was a devastating process – I’m still heartbroken, frustrated, and discontent. As small children, my twin and I planted twin pines in the backyard. We watched them grow from saplings to taller-than-the-house. We watered them when we visited on Sundays, and ate fresh peas and beans from the vegetable garden, admiring the poppies and tigerlilies that grew around them. This house was the only stable place – our mom moved a lot, and once we moved out, we continued moving, too – evictions, break-ups, breakdowns, etc. Nowhere to plant our own roots, and a fascination with plants that we also could not root – small pots of herbs and jades and succulents that would dry out or rot and die too soon.

With the vegetable garden no longer tended to in their older age, the property, the land, became overgrown. (But what does overgrown mean? What is undergrown, what perfect-grown?) Flowers taller, stalks thicker, the ground hidden beneath the so-called weeds. Wildflowers no longer only on the edges of the house, the garden, the fence, the borders of the so-called property, but everywhere. Forget-me-nots and harebells. My poppa, a quiet and crafty person who’s acquired most of his belongings from yard sales and discount racks, proudly told me that he purchased none if his plants – instead, he transplanted them from roadsides while on short day-trips on the outskirts of town, re-rooted and cultivated them at home.

{image description: Portrait of me holding onto a small bouquet of wildflowers I’ve been collecting in the backyard. I’m standing in front of and between the two pine trees my twin and I planted as small children. My eyes are bright, hazel, looking upward, smiling, my hair is green, greasy and curled in the humidity, glittery barrettes of purple bows, round glasses. I’m wearing a Hole t-shirt. The bouquet I’m holding is mostly made of forget-me-nots and pale purple asters. A handmade birdfeeder, which I brought home that day, hangs in the tree to the left.}

Had I more time at the house before it was out of our possession (now I am in its possession, I think, through dreams and rumination), I would have done the same thing, transplanting my grandparents’ wildflowers to my home in the city. Instead, I picked a handful and let them dry. I was late to my arrival in my hometown, my partner and I having rented a van and then daydreamed out loud on the road until I realized we’d missed our exit an hour ago. Pull over, turn around.

*

In early-August, I set aside an afternoon to visit the addresses from the love letters. Both were in neighbourhoods I find myself often, neighbourhoods I have a connection to, have my own memories of, my own histories and knowledges, live on the edges of, write, organize, trashpick. Neighbourhoods I saw on the news when I was growing up, not knowing my connections. Referred to as “troubled” and then referred to as “revitalizing” or “up and coming” or other terms that mean, We’re Getting Rid of Poor People, Please Come Shopping Here. We’re Demolishing Homes and Hearts and Souls, Please Come Live in Luxury On Top of the Remains.

*

505 Dundas bus Eastbound.

Tense hips, thighs holding my cane steady between my knees, pain on my mind. Since learning the house is gone, my the pain in my body has increased – the old, familiar feelings of sore, bruised thighs, of pelvic region joints that lock and snap and glitch, spasms of electric shock through the backs of my legs, raw burn on my lower back.

Heavy backpack on my lap, book open. I’m reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I’m sitting at the front of the bus because I want/need to be close to the exit. A woman is resting her bags on the Priority seats, talking on her cell phone. At Spadina, an older white woman enters the bus, sits beside me, rests her bag on my lap. I’m still passive-aggressive in these moments. Ordinary moments on public transit can fuck me up, dysregulate me. I wiggle my leg until she picks up her bag and rests it on her own lap.

A few stops later, she exits the bus. But the woman who takes her place also rests her purse on my lap, shopping bag against my thigh. She adjusts her things, her purse taking up more space on my own lap, and this time I politely address her. “Can you please not put your bags on my lap?” I point at her purse, her own empty lap. I’m not furniture, I’m not nothing.

The bus is noisy, busy. Two o’clock in the afternoon. Two or three people with rollators. Kids, strollers, Cell phones. Bus exhaust, exhaustion of buses. I’m mostly looking down. My book, my cane, my feet. Not looking out the windows. Losing track of where we are except for the robot voice that announces each stop, a computerized system that mispronounces nearly every name.

Greyhound station, Denny’s.

A cab driver once told me the Canadian Tire kitty-corner to the bus terminal was once a park, and that’s where he met his wife.

I sit close to the exits on public transit because my crip-body will not be able to push through the other bodies to find a way out, the bodies standing in the aisles, distracted, headphones on, dissociated, wherever they’re at.

Yonge is always a nightmare. Yonge and Dundas, an intersection I avoid as much as I can. Sometimes the traffic is so jammed, the bus doesn’t move for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. People become more cranky, more frustrated, more aggressive. But I’ve always got a book, a Xanax, a mantra, a meditation practice.

An older homeless person sits across from me, wearing a pin that says ASK ME ABOUT MY PRONOUNS, trans flag behind the text. The woman beside me adjusts, rests her purse on my lap again. The bus follows the curves of Dundas, passes a strip club, the condo development across the street where I’ve graffitied their signs once or twice, wheatpasted posters for protests. A man offers a seat to a woman carrying heavy grocery bags.

I exit the bus at Parliament.

{image description: A small green bin with the Toronto city logo in white, with long-stemmed trumpet-shaped red flowers overflowing beyond the lid of the container. For more on the meaning of flowers in dumpsters and why I adore them, read my essay in Becoming Dangerous, Trash-Magic: Signs and Rituals for the Unwanted. Behind the small trash bin is a large green and white For Sale sign, with a name and phone number in bold type. A few old, tattered mattresses lean against the sign to the right. To the left, an electric mobility scooter is seen parked beside the brick wall. The ground is exposed dirt, dry, with scattered trash and petals.}

I’m near the intersection of Dundas East and Parliament, where there’s a new FreshCo, the Regent Park Community Health Centre, and the Toronto Council Fire Native Centre. There’s a burger place, a pizza place. Plenty of buildings with plenty of stories, histories, lives, futures. Cops are present, as they too often are. Slightly North, the CHC, where OCAP hosts their monthly Speakers Series. My nana’s old address is only a block or two away, around the corner.

{image description: Looking down at my feet. My lavender cane is visible to the left. Along with the handle, I’m holding onto a small spiral-bound memo pad, with a purple pen hooked to the open page. I’ve been taking notes. I’m wearing an above-the-knee dress with yellow, black, and white vertical stripes, overlaid with a floral print of clusters of roses in various shades of purple. Opaque purple knee-length tights, tattoos peeking out. Hair legs, pale. Purple socks slightly visible above my classic black Blundstone’s. Sidewalk, bright sun. The shadow of my cane crosses my feet.}

{image description: When I look up, I see the wide road with streetcar tracks, and old brick buildings on each corner. Dundas East and Berkeley. A one-way road with red and white Do Not Enter signs. The building on the Northwest corner is old red brick and three stories tall, like so many in Toronto. The building is overgrown with lush, deep green ivy, but clearly maintained by somebody, trimmed in straight lines and corners around windows that look shiny and new. The main floor is floor-to-ceiling windows, white blinds closed. It’s unclear if it’s a storefront, home, or office. The building has been all these things and more, I’m sure. The skies are cloudless, aqua. The building across the street, the Northeast corner, is old red brick, with trim and awnings painted forest green, large windows on the main floor, bay window on the second floor, and a black iron railing containing a small balcony on the third floor, accessible via the attic-alcove.}

Turn left, walk South, look for numbers on the buildings. They’re similar to the old houses on the corner, but smaller, more narrow, still containing homes, not storefronts. Only a few doors down, I see the number I’m looking for. The house my nana lived in as a teenager is still here! It hasn’t been torn down, nor built around or over. There’s no sign indicating ~a change proposed to the site~. The house is set back from the street, and a garden has been planted, blooming over the entire yard. Stakes emerge from the ground where tomatoes are beginning to grow, and there are all kinds of plants, flowers, rose bushes. I don’t know how to name all the plants, but some of them are labeled.

The flowers are planted not only for beauty, but for bees and butterflies, too. Princess Lilies, Majestic Louis Lilies, violets… Cabbage White butterflies, Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Little Yellows… They’re fluttering amongst the flowers, and all over the city.

The house still has six doorbells. I don’t want to intrude (or, I don’t want to be caught intruding, I don’t want to be seen as suspicious, I’m never quite sure how strangers read me…), but I want to be closer to the house, examine the details. The garden is separated from the garden by a series of wooden beams, neither a fence nor a curb, but a kind of elevated border, which I’m able to sit on. All the blinds are closed. Maybe I’m just a stranger resting my hips, my legs – I’ve got my cane, maybe they’ll know. If anybody sees me, wonders what I’m up to, why I’m here.

{image description: Selfie, Summer 2019, taken as I sit in front of the rooming house where my nana lived in 1950. I’m shown from the chest up, wearing a black cord necklace with a heart-shaped shungite crystal, my asymmetrical below-the-shoulders hair dyed clover green, wavy, no bangs. Round, mauve tortoiseshell glasses, unsmiling and many feels, lipstick a shade called Spellbound, bright magenta. Purple plastic flower barrette, roots growing out golden. Pale skin, zits always visible under make-up and sunscreen. Outside of the frame, my elbows are resting on my knees. The dress described earlier, yellow, black, and white vertical stripes, overlaid with a floral print of clusters of roses in various shades of purple, it’s sleeveless, shoulders exposed, a golden zipper following the collar. Behind me, orange flowers, red bricks, green leaves, everything glowing in the sun.}

Since the blinds are closed, I decide I might as well walk up the brick path, might as well climb the four cement steps to the wooden porch. The door is one of the most beautiful details of the house. Wood. Oak? Naming polished woods in/on buildings is not within my skillset (yet), but I like to imagine oak. It could be pine, it could be maple. I don’t know. It’s a split door, narrow, opens in the middle. There’s a mail-slot on the left side. I aim my camera. If anybody comes to the door, I’ll be honest. Maybe ask if I can look inside. I could also ring the doorbell, see if anybody’s home. But I won’t.

{image description: Close-up of the door described above, with a focus on the mail-slot. It’s aluminum-plated steel, the silver peeling back from weather and age. It’s unlikely to be the same one my nana received her letters through, but I like to imagine it happening that way anyway. In one of her letters, she mentioned that if a letter from my poppa was delivered while she was at a work, a roommate would call her to let her know, and then she’d have something to look forward to when she was finished her shift. The doorknob and lock to the right are bronze and aged.}

{image description: Close-up of a series of doorbells to the right of the door. Most seems to have been installed at different times, mismatched from the others. Some are round, black rubber, others are rectangular, white, etc.}

I brought the Next World Tarot with me, Cristy Road’s deck. Visions of radical futures. Packed my backpack with a plan to draw one card on each property.

Here (back at the edge of the garden, no longer on the porch), I shuffle the deck and draw a card. See how I feel, absorb the image, watch my thoughts.

King of Cups.

“The Throne of Movement.”

I like the juxtaposition of stillness and motion, power and action.

The figure in this card holds a blooming lotus flower in their brown hands, sits in an electric mobility scooter on a small precipice over the sea. They are barefoot, an orange mug of tea to their right. They wear a leis, their long black hair entranced by the breeze, blowing in thin tendrils reminiscent of the vines of morning glories or other delicate plants that vine. When I hold the card before me, as in the image below, the figure’s outfit and accessories match the garden where I sit.

{image description: My left hand holds the card described above, with garden and shadows in the background.}

Cristy Road writes: “The King of Cups is the space between gentle and tough love. She runs on awareness of logic while maintaining a soft open heart. She is a healed healer who fights through unlimited access to her highest self… She can navigate intellect and emotion without demeaning her own, or anyone else’s, humanity. She asks you to articulate your wounds and vulnerabilities in order to watch them heal.”

Sounds of birds and traffic, sounds of pedestrians but only a few, lots of trees.

What does it feel like, holding the card in my hand, imagining what happened here seventy years ago, everything that’s passed since, and what’s come to be?

I’m not a healed healer. And that’s not necessarily somebody I want to become, but the idea of a healed healer is still somebody I can learn from, learn with. There is a ceiling to healing under capitalism, and I come from a traumatized family with a pattern of miscommunication, non-communication, passive-aggressive communication. The figure on the card is somebody I see in the city often, the same as the butterflies, the trash bins filled with flowers, used up mattresses, old houses renovated to convey wealth…

My highest self doesn’t always feel accessible to me. Then again, sometimes I forget to look for them. Especially this Summer – I was vaguely dissociated much of the season, but couldn’t recognize it until something in the world drew my attention to where I was, that my mind was elsewhere from my body. The next stop would be called, the public transit robot voice, and I’d be going the wrong way on a route I know and take frequently. I would lose myself with other people, not know how to answer simple questions, not know what I needed. I wouldn’t realize I was hungry until I was starving and nearly fainting. Everyday, it felt like it was three or four hours later than it was, kept losing time. I wanted mornings to last all day. Quiet mornings, when life feels possible. I couldn’t keep track of what day it was, sometimes not even what month.

Early days of Autumn, as I write this piece, the same dissociative states continue. An example: When Kink Boutique, a local queer sex shop, announced they were going out-of-business after three years and having a clearance sale, I dropped by to pick up a few things. One of those things was a silly-sexy costume, cheap, $9. The worker behind the counter mentioned it’d be a good costume for Halloween.

“Yeah, you’re right, too bad Halloween isn’t coming up,” I agreed.

Except it is, of course. My brain thought it was Spring, maybe May. It’s mid-September.

*

After sitting in contemplation for some time, I walked South, wanting to move my body before getting on the streetcar and looking for the next address. I took pictures of murals painted on brick buildings, fliers for local events, feet on the ground. At Moss Park, security cameras and warning signs, public space hostile to the people who need it.

{image description: A squat, two-story building of yellow brick, paved pathway and square, grass trimmed short. A mural is painted on the first-story of the wall, cherry blossom trees in bloom, silhouettes of cityscapes. Beyond the building, small trees, silver skyscrapers, too many condos, a clear sky.}

{image description: Close-up of the brick wall, pink puffs of cherry blossoms blooming, with a sign posted in the centre: Black allcaps on white: WARNING. NEIGHBORHOOD CRIME WATCH AREA. White allcaps on bold red: WE CALL THE POLICE. Street-sign style illustration of mysterious figure in black, crossed out in red.}

{image description: Corner of the same building, a locked door on the right, a painted door on the left.}

{image description: Close-up on detail of the mural, looking up toward the sky, now in view. Bright pink cherry blossoms, black branches, clear skies reflected in second-story windows.}

{image description: The same corner, looking up. Security camera affixed to the right. Ivy growing over a painted tree to the left.}

{image description: Turning to the left, standing in the same place. Another corner, another locked door, the cherry blossom mural, windows painted on the wall. Another security camera keeping an eye on the scene.}

Wander onward. I see another mobility scooter parked on the sidewalk, labeled Fortress 2000. Moss Park is the closest park to my nana’s old home, gold lions guarding the Rec Centre. I think about mobility aids as bodies, as homes. As depicted in the card, a cozy place from which to organize, to breathe, to create. My own, my fifth limb. How I’ve slowly taught my grandparents to be okay with their own canes, to actually use them. Like me, my nana covers hers in stickers. She also attaches a label with her name and address, prone to forgetting it places.

Down the street, a series of homeless men, of disabled men, are sitting along the edges of the sidewalk.

“YO, THERE’S A WOMAN COMING,” one of them says.

I pretend not to hear, as I so often do. Stroll by, they catcall. I don’t look in their direction, but I see their heads turn my way.

501 Queen streetcar, Westbound. Hundreds and hundreds of storefronts, less indie, more chains. I like watching poor people jaywalk in poor neighbourhoods, in used-to-be poor neighbourhoods where we haven’t been fully pushed out yet. The way poor people own the streets, know the traffic, become invincible. Regent Park and Parkdale are two of these places. Long, long histories, resisting gentrification, refusing to be pushed out, resisting racism, fighting the BIA’s and local businesses and city officials who put spikes on benches or remove them altogether, resisting landlords, real estate landlords, the bigots and capitalists and white supremacists in and out of office.

The streetcar passes by places with memories, places that have been erased, some which still stand but nobody knows for how long. The streetcar passes the hospital where I had my hysterectomy. 20-somethings hug each other on the sidewalk at Queen and Yonge, where my grandparents met. City Hall, tourists and protests. Non-disabled men sit in the accessible seats again. Sometimes I sneak photos of them, not their faces, but the space they take up. A thin, non-disabled man in a suit often chooses to use three seats – one for his body, one for his leather satchel, one for his hand holding onto his cell phone. The streetcar passes my home, passes Trinity Bellwoods, passes the places where the good dumpsters are. Starbucks logos don’t plaster every corner anymore. They’re going under, too. There’s a punk with lilac hair, a man playing googlemaps directions with no headphones. Black Market’s still here but moving, moving across the street. Torn down buildings. The empty parking lot that housed weekend fairs with jewelry and Tarot readings and crystals and buskers has been built upon. Now it’s a MEC. An ugly cube, members only. Pop-up galleries, construction sites. Legendary venues like Horseshoe Tavern and Cameron House, still here. Cranes in the distance on Spadina. Craft supplies, beads, fabrics, ghost signs under fresh signs. Velvet Underground, always read the marquee. The windows of Call & Response, where I’ve admired outfits and never gone inside. A new café with Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album art painted on the wall. Red umbrellas on patios, is it intentional? Do they know what it means? The convenience store is being replaced with a place that sells “gourmet nuts.” The place that used to sell lingerie, used to have a portrait of Bettie Page painted on the wall, I love her because she stabbed her landlord, it’s been new-in-business and out-of-business more than once since I moved to the neighbourhood, I walked by when they painted beige over Bettie Page. But she was still there when I moved here, a landmark to find my place. Lipstick and Dynamite, classic Queen West, and the free art gallery for crazy and disabled and mad people. At Dovercourt, a Starbucks went empty then became another café then went empty. Now it houses the headquarters of yet another condo development. The sign says something like “The first and last luxury experience on Queen West,” UGH. The Beaver, always wish it were open during the day. Security cameras all over the streetcar, everywhere, every angle.

Arrive at my destination. My nana’s old address is around the corner from the Parkdale Library, my home branch. Much of my writing has been done there, essays and diaries and letters to friends. The place I pick up every book I reserve online, sign out books when I’m wandering the aisles or see something interesting on display. There’s an elderly couple fighting with one another by the Polish church. And old man is pushing an old woman, likely his wife of many, many years, in her wheelchair. Her hair is a poof of lavender tint perm. We pass by one another a few times, and they’re arguing each time.

It’s becoming evident as I check the number of each building that the one I’m looking for is no longer there. I search for it on googlemaps to see if the address still exists. It does. It’s a park now, and a community garden. Of all the things demolished homes can become, this is among the best. I’m glad one of my nana’s teenage homes has become not a condo, not a chain, but public space, gardens, free food, reclaimed land for Indigenous gardeners, teachers, seekers. Free community space. A vegetable garden named HOPE, established with the local Tibetan community in Parkdale.

{image description: Looking down at my feet again, standing in the grass, same outfit described in previous photos, my left hand holding my lavender cane. One sticker on my cane says EVICT THIS, illustration of a middle finger with sharp nails. Another sticker is the classic yellow Nirvana face. I’m standing in the park, between the community centre and a church. My notepad is also in my left hand, along with a card I found on the ground.}

It’s another one-way street, cars parked on one side. Small children play on a swingset, splash in a nearby wading pool. There are old brick houses across the street, near Milky Way Lane. Many of them are under construction, in a process of renovation, renoviction, one surmises. Some are boarded up as construction happens. Another tree-lined street. Sounds of children at play, the water fountain, planes, homeless people pushing shopping carts of their belongings. The elderly couple returns, still fighting. Her wheelchair is not the self-propelled sort, but the kind built to be pushed by somebody else, often used when disabling situation is temporary. He arranges the wheelchair beside a bench, sits down. They light cigarettes together.

{image description: Close-up of a card in my hand, held between thumb and forefinger, nails painted deep violet, short. I found the card on the ground as I recognized the address I was seeking out no longer held a building. Illustration of a stingray, labeled STINGRAY in bold black allcaps.}

{image description: Close-up of the back of the same card. Description reads: STINGRAY. Fish. The stingray is a flat fish with a long tail. The tail has two spines with teeth on their edges. From glands beneath these teeth, the stingray can eject poison. The stingray swings its tail upward to wound its prey, releasing the poison. The longest stingray lives near Australia and can grow to be as long as 14 feet. Stingrays live at the bottom of the ocean in mud or sand. They are also called “stingarees.”}

Sit on the ground, draw another card.

Torontoingly Yours,

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