Daffodils and Strange Persistence: Crip City Walks, Pandemic Feelings, & Signs of Ever-Unknown Futures

{image description: A thin red notebook, closed, atop my purple writing desk. My left hand touches the notebook, beginning to open it. Cluttered on my desk are stickers to the left of my notebook, a black pen above, and a Ziploc bag of more stickers to the right. ‘CARE’ tattoo visible on my left knuckles, and deep violet nailpolish, scratched up, on short nails. Top left shows the corner of my fuchsia laptop peeking into the frame. Most of the stickers are from pen pals.}

Walking with cane in hand, and a mask on one’s face, exhalations fog up one’s glasses, tangle the bodymind system, as so many tasks do, in ways unseen but felt. A kind of disorientation. The thing where you walk into a warm café in Winter and your glasses film over so you can’t see if there’s somewhere to sit, can’t read the chalkboard menu; since one sense is wonked up, another one is, too. Like, you can’t hear the person talking to you either, can’t orient yourself in space, stumbling over a chair as you unwind your scarf, struggle out from your coat, your hoodie. Now do it with a medical mask so facial expressions can’t be read, and your breathing is muffled and laboured, shortened, your hips sore, gait crooked. Re-arrange the scene. Now you’re being accosted by a security guard at the entrance to the drugstore.

“Gloves,” you say to him, holding up one hand. He’s in uniform, spritzing hand sanitizer with consent of each customer entering the store. He’s misheard you and he’s holding up his hand, now, too. A wave. He’s mistaken you for friendly.

“Gloves,” you repeat. “Should I use hand sanitizer on gloves?”

“What’s up with that?” he asks, pointing with his head, you’re not sure where.

“What? Vinyl gloves,” you repeat. You’ve come to the drugstore to see what’s on sale in the grocery section, hoping for bananas, avocados, and discounted peanut butter. You used to gather the pre-made sandwiches and sushi with 50% off stickers, back when you couldn’t prepare food, when your lactose-intolerance wasn’t so debilitating. They slapped the stickers on after 6pm. Then they caught on and switched to only 30% off. He’s younger than you, small, standing straight. He seems to have forgotten the hand sanitizer. The automatic door slides closed behind you.

“The cane. Why do you use that?”

Oh, fuck.

A heavy sigh (further fogging your lenses). You give him a blank stare of exasperation, but he can’t read you. Not with the mask. He’s still smiling. He imagines you’re smiling, too.

“It’s forever,” you say. Refusing this conversation, this conversation again. The space is narrow, cosmetics on display. It’s impossible to keep six feet apart, even though there are red decal reminders on the floor, cardboard signs sticking out from the white shelves.

“What’s forever?”


“You walk so well!” He looks delighted. Like he’s encountered somebody’s adorable pet wearing an even more adorable sweater, or a child brushing the dust off their knees after falling, then hopping back on their training-wheeled bike.

Another man enters the store, strides between the two of you, now with a gap of only two or three inches between his body and yours. You could trip him with your cane if you were more aware of your surroundings. But the senses are dulled, cognition waning.

Continue the blank stare. If your brows furrow, your frames hide them.

“You don’t know me,” you say. “You don’t know anything about me, about my body or my history or my life.”

He doesn’t understand.

“But you look good!”

You’re wearing a purple hoodie and pale-brown-plum tweed blazer over a size large Marilyn Manson t-shirt, Holy Wood era, black denim shorts cut just above-the-knee, frayed, and leopard print tights. You’ve never not been followed by security in drugstores, especially this one. A hostile environment, especially this one.

Even with the mask on – it’s lavender, you’ve used medical masks to navigate the world for a long time – you need to get the fuck out of the perfume section, always located at the goddamned entrance, if you wish not to be forced to return to bed when you get home.

Now the expression on your face is questioning, perplexed. The two of you are participating in entirely different conversations with one another. You want him to feel embarrassed, but he doesn’t. You want him to see the way you’ll be limping if you’re even able to find the food you need, but he won’t. You want him to see the array of prescriptions, the revelatory therapy sessions, the x-rays & MRI’s & surgery & vomit. The years in bed. Everything you wrote.

You accept the hand sanitizer, spritz!, make sure to put some on your cane – that weapon, that middle finger, that begrudging character in so many stories. And you wander off, dazed, almost forgetting why you are here.

{image description: Photo framed as above, but now my left hand holds the red notebook open. ‘body’ tattoo visible on my lower left fingers, handwritten. Corners of the cream pages are rounded. No writing on the pages yet. On the left page, I’ve stamped my name and mailing address, and on the right, top corner, I’ve stamped the date – 11 APR 2020, my trusty librarian rubber stamp. Rectangle-shaped stickers with violet-hued photographic images are on each page. The stickers on the address page show dried blossoms in glass bottles, jewelry draped over a person’s collarbones, a stucco motel at dusk with the windows lit up, and a sign that says, ‘Elevator’. Sticker on the dated page shows a hand holding a round mirror, a face softly reflected, arms held over a cross-legged body.}


In mid-March, I went for a long walk. The city was shutting down. The streets were empty. Businesses that are closed now were still open, offering take-out and delivery, and some people were wearing masks, but not many. I had yet to dig out my lavender medical masks from my closest, buried under boxfuls of paperwork and zines and snail mail and other heavy things. I’d purchased a box years ago, when I could barely breathe and was mostly housebound, environmental illness, allergic to everything. Even at home, inside, I had to wear a mask. The cigarette smoke of my neighbours, the exhaust of passing and idling vehicles, polluted my lungs, my head, and caused days-long migraines. In my bachelorex, there was no escape. Only masks, blankets, essential oils, pills, desperation. I have the same allergies now, the same sensitivities, the same symptoms – but they’re less intense. Mannequins in storefront displays were wearing masks, too. I was wearing a thick pinstripe scarf tied around my head and across my face.

“They’re gonna become fashionable,” I told my partner.

We tried to keep an adequate distance from the sparse parade of pedestrians – sometimes they tried, too. Then, as now, the worst of these encounters have been couples who refuse to walk single file for a sec, and joggers. I’m not sure where their sense of entitlement comes from. I feel agitated when me and someone else make distance on the sidewalk, and then a jogger or two breeze right between us, as if we were clearing space for them. No. No we were not.

I try to follow my thoughts and my urges. Angry thoughts, violent urges. And compassionate thoughts and friendly urges. Of these two poles, and the complexities between and around them, I do not lack. I’ve been kind, and I’ve been passive-aggressive, too. I’ve muttered sarcasm under my breath – like when I was physically shoved in a produce market while gathering fresh greens and bananas, by somebody who was purchasing a bouquet of flowers. And I did feel judgemental in that moment, inwardly criticizing how essential these flowers were, how essential being out and refraining from physical distancing was, to acquire a bouquet of flowers. Despite knowing damned well flowers are important at the best of times and at the worst. Despite not knowing if they were buying flowers for themself for the hell of it, or flowers for a suffering or dying friend. Foolishly, I’d hoped that my cane and my mask might indicate illness, might indicate the necessity of physical distance.

This has never been true for me, so I don’t know why I’d have such high expectations now.

{image description: A bright neon neon sign, which spells out: COFFEE. Hot pink letters glow through the window of a small café with a lavender-painted exterior. Sign is at the top of the window, camera pointed upward, showing a flat roof and a corner of the sky. In between the drainpipe and the wall, a small teddy bear hangs in the balance, waving.}

{image description: It may’ve been on that walk that I found two plants to bring home. Two cactus in small planters sit on my desk, a chunk of amethyst beside them, and a small plastic gold star, found on the floor of the yoga studio I was attending until the shutdown. The smaller cactus on the right is a Moon Cactus, hot pink on top. The taller cactus on the left is a variety I don’t know the name of, thin and green cluster with purple on top.}

{image description: Photo taken in Kensington Market. A building under construction, fenced behind blue tarp that’s been graffitied with spraypaint. One half of a splt house turned storefront has its guts exposed after the other half has been demolished. Beams, plywood, drywall, and insulation are visible. To the right, the edge of the building next door is seen: brick painted black, a security camera mounted to the wall. Condos rise in the background: stark, glass, grey, blank.}

{image description: Another storefront, closed and left behind, but not empty quite yet. Behind the glass, bare white chairs are visible. Turquoise letters on the window, all caps. in a branded design that irks me every time I see it, declare: TORONTO IS FOR EVERYBODY. Everytime I see this logo – mostly on t-shirts and sweatshirts of city residents on busy sidewalks – I think, No. Toronto is not for everybody. Toronto evicts everybody. Toronto hates everybody. Toronto is a hostile, unkind, unaffordable, and inaccessible city. One must have a certain kind of wealth, affluence, a certain kind of obliviousness, to read a slogan like this and feel it resonate. There are three red signs propped up at the bottom of the window. One says ‘FOR LEASE’. By a company simply named, ‘LandLord’. The other sign shows a name and contact information. The third sign says, ‘No smoking in this area’. When I was walking by and spotted the nigh empty space, the real estate signs, I was amused by the idea of ‘Toronto is for Everybody’ facing eviction, or being pushed out by increased rent.}

{image description: Another construction site. Photo taken at Bloor and Bathurst, where Honest Ed’s used to be. Foundations dug twenty feet deep with scaffolding and other construction in-process throughout. To the right, exposed brick walls of the building next door where, potentially, the facade of old Toronto architecture is being maintained. Behind the foundation-in-process, the backs of the old houses that were the galleries, cafés, bars, the crystal shop, etc of Mirvish Village, are exposed. Torn up walls, graffiti, etc. Two walls of the foundation are lined with orange tarp. A crane rises from the site, extending beyond the frame of the photo.}

{image description: Nearby, bouquets of synthetic white flowers are wrapped around a hydro pole at the side of the road. Daisies and other blooms, green leaves. Road and skies are clear and grey. To the right, the walls of a yellow brick trick renovated into a theatre, are visible. There’s a large poster for a performance of Cabaret.}

{image description: Camera aims upward, showing a yellow ‘NO EXIT’ sign on a silver-grey hydro pole. In the background, a grey, cloudy sky, and the bare branches of a few trees. On the left, a three-story red brick building, with a café on the main floor, and apartments above. The storefront is painted white, with doodles of teapots, cheesecake, baking utensils, etc. Shortly before I’d walked by here, I’d read an article about how the owner, struggling to get the new business open at all, had been engaged in a fight with the city to use the corner sidewalk as a private patio for customers only, instead of as a public, communal space. The owner won. It’s private. I decided I would never go there. Love of cheesecake be damned.}

{image description: A series of storefronts in Kensington Market, each with For Lease signs, walls tagged with spraypaint. One wall is beige stucco, the other is brick painted black. Two of my most-despised Toronto aesthetics. Between the two storefronts is a wooden gate blocking entrance to the alleyway. Layers of messy paint, graffiti, etc.}


In March, I realized I’d been on disability for thirteen years. One of those magical numbers. I no longer refer to any anniversary in my life as good or bad. At least, I’m trying not to. Over the years, I’ve had practices of noting/noticing those dates on my calendar, and making Cope Ahead plans – dreading the date in some way due to the meaning I’d attached to it. I was often contemplative, wanting to take in the changes that had happened between then and now, wanting it to add up to something. As if the math of a calendar days passing by could mean something, something I could know and remember and hold onto. Only last Autumn was it suggested to me that these dates are neither good or bad. They just are.

I wanted thirteen years on Disability (and a season on welfare preceding) to mean something. It didn’t. Maybe fight or survival or outcast. But nothing coherent came to me, and that’s all right.

Anyway, it was shortly after those thoughts that the COVID-19 crisis became more visible in the city, self-isolation was recommended, and everywhere began shutting down. That’s meant something to those of us on social assistance, too. Outcasts fighting for survival, always. And I/we became observers (and victims of) non-disabled people’s terror of sickness and disability, their terror of lack, of food insecurity, their terror of physical and social isolation. Ordinary daily experiences for us since fucking forever, but new and novel and frightening to them. The way they hoard, the way they panic. Their entitlement. The way they break down at a change in routine – a change in meaning, in purpose. Haunted by the spectre of disability.

But I am friends with ghosts.

I happened to have stocked up on most of the groceries I needed shortly before the usual deliveries I ordered became impossible. I’d also ordered a small box of my favourite pens, since the art supply store had been out of stock for a while, and my compulsive collecting of blank notebooks has been a useful survival skill, too. Postage stamps are always on hand. Then schools were closed, which resulted in drastic changes to daily routines – although I haven’t been a student for twenty years, my primary partner is a full-time father with a former wife who works as a school teacher, so they’ve been directly impacted in myriad ways. For me, it’s indirect. I’m at home as often as ever, and I’m obligated to nearly no one but myself.

Like most, my exposure to how people are responding to… *vague, sweeping hand gestures* …All of This has been through social media feeds. Throughout March, I was triggered frequently. “Legitimately Triggered,” I sometimes say, a term that began as a joke with a friend many years ago, and stuck. To make a distinction between the way a trigger happens with someone with c-(p)TSD, and the way the word “triggered” can be overused when a more accurate term might be more like: agitated, irritated, upset, angry, enraged, sad, depressed, grief-stricken, or, like, having a memory I’d rather not just now, etc. vs. experiences of dissociation, self-harm, out-of-body, numbness, etc. (This, too, is why I use content notes rather than trigger warnings in my writing.)

I was thinking about trauma and grief – and experiencing trauma and grief (many of us are right now, though our nervous might be responding in radically different ways from one another, and we may be coping in radically different ways, too). The grief of disability, chronic illness, and madness in and of themselves, and then the grief of loss and inaccessibility, too. They come to me in waves. I don’t know when or how I’ll be reminded, or when and how I’ll be triggered or otherwise activated. When that happens, I remind myself of what I’m grateful for, too; what I like about being disabled, sick, poor. Alienated or outcast. (I like the way the words alienated and outcast function as both verbs and nouns.) I think about what I’ve learned through being housebound, bedbound. What words, images, politics, emotions, literature, embodied-knowledge, etc. I’ve come to connect with. When I couldn’t access food, transit, love, care, friendship, library books. When I had to crawl. The skills I’ve learned. Everything I know that non-disabled people can’t. Crip wisdom. You know what I mean.

It’s been distressing to witness so many individuals and institutions suddenly able (and excited!) to provide the kinds of accessibility and mutual aid they’re now organizing, when so many are historically and continuously reluctant to do so, avoidant, ignorant – when they’d so constantly refused to become accessible to and supportive of disabled comrades.

As I witnessed this, one observation of note I made was on the experience of sickness and disability, vs. the spectre of disability. I wondered if (and strongly felt that) those individuals and institutions who were now offering forms of accessibility they hadn’t been willing to devote their resolve and energy to in the past were/are doing so because they hate sick and disabled people. We were cast out, and then when those individuals and institutions casting us out saw their own risk of becoming sick and disabled, accessibility gained importance. Within days, they made changes some of us had been demanding for generations.

Again, I remind myself of everything I’ve learned and continue to learn through lack of access, through being left behind. (What does that lack of access make space for? What takes its place? Where am I left behind? Left behind with what, with who?)

As it happened, as I began to learn about the coronavirus and COVID-19, I was reminded of some of the ways my own illness happened, what certain phases looked and felt like. There’s no true beginning to my illness – physical or emotional – because I was never a person in optimal health, never a person considered “well-adjusted” or “well-behaved” and because there wasn’t single event that injured me or traumatized me. Complex, chronic, you know. But there were, and continue to be, stages throughout my experience of fibromyalgia, of chronic fatigue, and of environmental illness.

In my early-20’s – a so-far lifetime of poverty, food insecurity, social isolation, and institutional trauma had already caused me to develop chronic pain and fatigue. While I was traveling via Megabus – the magical $1 tickets were still available and not difficult to stumble into – I contracted what was either a flu or mono, and I was unable to access adequate care. I was traveling from Guelph to Toronto (bus transfer) to New York City (Feminist Zinefest 2012), back to Toronto, then to Chicago (Chicago Zinefest 2012), then Toronto, then the outskirts of Lindsay (my hometown), then back to my current home in Guelph. By the time I reached New York City, I was becoming symptomatic. I may’ve brought the illness with me from Guelph (although no one I’d spent time with in those days got sick, and I’d been making out and playing and dancing and stuff)), or I may’ve picked it up on the Megabus or in New York. I’ll never know where it originated, and back then, I also didn’t know that I would not recover.

I didn’t know what I was sick with and I couldn’t find out because I was in the so-called states. The onset was sudden: I was so fatigued that I could barely walk, barely stand. And when I tried to do those things, I’d become short of breath – not briefly winded, like when you run to catch a bus, but literally unable to breathe. I lost my appetite and I lost my voice. I bought bottles of cough syrup and drank them like juice. People walked too quickly, way ahead of me, and when I tried to tell them to slow down – it was my first time in NYC, and it was before I had a smartphone, ie a map – I didn’t have the voice, nor the breath. I remember that enraged feeling of being left behind and being unheard, and I didn’t know it wasn’t gonna be just a particularly lousy week or so.

That was eight years ago. In between NYC and Chicago, I began craving meat – I’d been vegan for a few years – and when I finally decided to eat meat again, it was a chicken sandwich from a past-midnight convenience store on a rural highway. I’d become physically weak in a way I hadn’t before, and my energy never returned. I was already sick and crazy, and I’d already been writing about it for a long time. But this impacted Everything Forever.

Contemplating this sickness-process, that it became chronic in a way I couldn’t have predicted at the same time, I found myself pondering those who will contract COVID-19, get tremendously and unspeakably sick, and then recover. Sorta. But who’ll also notice at some point that they haven’t fully recovered. Their lives will marked by their unexpected illness, and they’ll remember their pre-COVID years as they adapt to their post-COVID years.

We’ll be welcoming newly sick and disabled people into our worlds.

Queer crips, notably queer crips of colour, talk about the idea of ‘crip doulas’. People with lived experiences of sickness and disability who can welcome those newly sick & disabled, guide them into these realms, offer care and support and trusted people to rage with, offer ideas and politics and dreams and ways of living that were not available to them before they became sick and disabled. It’s something I didn’t have as I became more sick, and as my mobility because significantly limited. The kind of trip I was able to do in 2012 is not one I’ve been able to do since, and it’s not likely one I’ll regain the ability to do.

When I was traveling, I was with my twin, and we stayed in the beautiful apartments of zinesters and artists I hadn’t met before – some I’d been corresponding with beforehand, some not. I became bedbound in their homes, voiceless, exhausted, and hopelessly disoriented. I worried about being the very worst guest. But there was nothing I could do about it.

{image description: Another empty storefront of beige stucco with a For Lease sign in the window. The front of the building is plain. Big windows, sliding glass doors, concrete. The side of the building, where there’s a small gravel alley, is painted with a mural of a blue-skinned femme, profile shown, wearing black sunglasses, flowing dreads tied up behind a pair of goggles repurposed as a headband. Down the road, a series of A-frame houses with porches, shrubs, trees with bare branches.}

{image description: Close-up of a note written on a sheet of white paper and taped to the bottom corner of a storefront window. “CLOSED DUE TO FiRE UNTiL FURTHER NOTiCE. Twitter @kensingtonfruit.” Windowframe is painted green. Window is blocked with brown paper.}

{image description: The view when I turn from the window above and look across the street. Another independently-owned produce market in Kensington Market, on a corner, also closed. Boarded up, painted black, and freshly tagged. Real estate signs are wrapped around the awning. An empty sidewalk wraps around the building, with a No Parking sign and a yellow fire hydrant. A row of A-framed houses with porches lines the street. At the left of the frame, the back of a delivery truck is visible, silver.}

{image description: Another brick storefront painted black, another For Lease sign in the empty window. Behind the window are black bars and a black curtain. The storefront has been tagged with white spraypaint.}

{image description: A red brick building on a concrete corner, with a step to the glass door entrance, and a step to the sidewalk patio, black gate open to the space, where there is construction equipment rather than tables and chairs. The floor-to-ceiling windows are hidden with newspapers taped to them. Newspapers also cover the front door and windows. There are gaps where bricks have fallen off the building, and discolouration where old signs have been removed. Toward the back, remnants of a past mural.}

{image description: Another empty storefront, white bars and white curtain behind the window, with a red For Rent sign propped against the sill. Storefront is otherwise various shades of brown, with glass doors. Graffiti tags everywhere, including, in red paint above the rent sign, ‘GHOST’.}

{image description: Another empty storefront on another city corner. This place used to be a cash-only used bookstore with an interesting but generally-cranky old lady behind the counter. I say that without disdain – her crankiness is valid, I’m sure she earned it and then some. Red brick building with entrance on a diagonal, and a pillar painted blue in front, with a step to the doors. For a long time, there was a going-out-of-business sale in the window, with all books 50% off. One day, when I went in to gather discounted paperbacks, I heard a fellow come in and ask the old lady something like, ‘How’s it going?’ Her response: “You saw the sign outside. Whatta you think?” Now, in the photo, all the signs are gone, the name of the bookstore is gone, and the tall windows have been painted, blotted out with solid brown. Next door, attached: brick painted black, a black door, an empty window. Bikes locked to an empty bike rack. A small amount of snow melting on the sidewalk.}

{image description: A commissioned mural on the side of yet another brick building painted black. Once a storefront, it’s now a real estate office. The mural shows a woman with pale brown skin and long, flowing purple hair riding a bike, a vintage cruiser. I think the mural has been here for a year or two – but I don’t fully trust my memory with placing it on a timeline. Anyway, it’s something I noticed one day and felt drawn toward, until my eyes gazed upward and read the Re/Max logo installed above, thick red and blue allcaps, with gallery lights above, aiming downward to keep the logo lit up at night. Then I became enraged, especially as I imagined the consultation process: the idea of real estate agents and advertising / marketing professionals collaborating with artists to develop an aesthetic that’d somehow resonate with downtown yuppies considering home ownership. And they came up with a purple-haired punk in a violet crop top and blue jeans, purple Converse-style shoes with lavender socks merrily biking along the Toronto city skyline, her bike basket filled with… HOUSES. Then, too, I noticed the white, round security camera installed on the black brick, watching the scene. These thoughts become repetitive each time I walk by… and it’s close to home, so I see it often. To the left side of the frame, faceless pedestrians stroll by.}

{image description: A closer view of part of the mural: the girl on the bike, the basketful of houses, the logo for the real estate agency. Also, the security camera. Cloudy skies above, high-contrast.}

{image description: Close-up of a sign in the window of the main storefront, around the corner from the mural. The sign is red and white. It reads: SMILE. YOU ARE BEING FILMED.}


As noted in previous writings, some of the ‘allowances’ on my monthly disability income are being reviewed. I applied for the Special Diet allowance, citing lactose-intolerance, and was approved for another $30/month, but my travel allowance, which typically covers the cost of a monthly Metropass, was scaled by $50. That means that even though I was approved for an allowance I didn’t have before, my monthly income is still slightly lower than it was in December 2019. If one does not agree with the decision made in a review, there’s thirty days in which we can file an appeal. With the appeal forms unavailable to me (no wifi, no printer, no walk-ins with caseworkers), I wrote a letter.

“[caseworker’s name],

I am writing to request an internal review. For several years, I’ve been receiving the travel benefit, which covers the cost of a monthly Metropass. Despite the cost now being over $150.00 per month, my benefit was reduced to $110.50 when I was due to reapply. I think this reduction is unjustified, absurd, and cruel.

Having to reapply for benefits when the conditions I live with are permanent is humiliating enough – being forced to live on less is that much worse. Not only during this time of isolation and increased food insecurity and lack of supports for disabled people, including the need for transit rides, cab rides, etc., to access basic needs, which were already so difficult to begin with, but in general – to reduce my already unliveable income is a cheap and callous thing for somebody to make the decision to do. Please reinstate the full travel benefit immediately.

Thank you.

P.S.: Without an internet connection or printer at home, due to the shutdown, I cannot access the Appeal Form. Please accept the letter enclosed.”

Years ago, before I had a doctor in the same city where I lived, I was granted this benefit every few months to cover traveling to and from my hometown to see my family doctor for prescriptions and refills. It was inadequate back then – they covered the cost of travel to my hometown, but not the return to where I lived – but at least it was something. And again, still, at least it’s something. But reducing such an income is so unnecessary, and the process itself, as noted above, as detailed in so much of my writing, is not only tremendously tedious, but humiliating, too. And even though I’d recently been accepted for the Special Diet benefit, my total monthly income is still reduced from what it was in December 2019.

The letter is in the mail. I’m awaiting response…

{image description: The P.S. written above, handwritten in black ink on the back of a sealed white envelope. The envelope is laid flat on my purple desk, my left hand holding it down. Envelope is sealed with squirrel-and-acorn-themed deco tape.}


{image description: A wooden bench painted green. Long, built before hostile design had become so ubiquitous in Toronto. In all caps black Sharpie along the back, someone has written, LIFE IS A HEIST. Like many innocuous ‘signs’ in the city, it’s become a point of contemplation for me. Resting on the bench is a pair of vibrant vintage leather gloves, purple. A gift from a friend, passed onto them from a now deceased grandmother.}

Recently, a friend of mine in the city texted me to tell me she’d used her new cane for the first time that day. “A lot of people stared at me,” she wrote. “Is that normal?”

Unfortunately, yeah. They’ll stare, they’ll comment, they’ll ask intrusive questions. “You’ll find a thousand ways to tell them to fuck off,” I wrote. “Most people can’t fathom why a young person would need a cane, and they have few qualms about asking personal questions.”

Two years ago, I wrote about seven years of sobriety and the Six of Swords in my See the Cripple Dance column. On April 20th, I celebrated nine years sober. Nine years sober! I celebrated by making cocktails with a kit gifted to me by Audra and Haritha at Temperance Cocktails. I mixed The Tower (containing tamarind, smoked tea, cinnamon, cardamom, and lime), and my partner mixed The Empress (containing hibiscus, rosehip, verjus rouge, and blackcurrant). Last Summer, while my grandparents were cleaning out their little home after they sold it and moved into a retirement home, they passed onto me some furniture my Poppa had built, some books and trinkets, etc. Among those items was an emerald green punch bowl set – so vintage it included a matching ashtray! The set has been sitting on top of my kitchen cupboards, looking pretty and gathering dust. On my soberiversary, I finally retrieved two glasses from which we drank.

{image description: My left hand holds onto two small glass bottles with gold lids. Each bottle has a wraparound label with a Tarot card, illustrated by Cindy Fan. One bottle is The Empress, a figure painted white with rosy cheeks, dressed in deep fuchsia, a monarch butterfly and pale blossoms over her shoulder. The other bottle is Fortitude (aka Strength), a brown-skinned figure with a long, black beard flowing over his shoulder, wearing a white turban, with almost-bare branches in the background, and a tiger at his side. In the background of the photo, my rumpled sheets of violet florals and plum damask is seen, out-of-focus.}

{image description: Framed as previous photo, but bottles are The Tower and The Fool, left and right. The Tower shows a stormy scene, a clock tower struck by lightning. The Fool shows a futuristic figure, a painted human body holding a fan, preparing for adventure, for new worlds and experiences.}

{image description: A selfie! I am seen from the shoulders up – wearing a black & white v-necked floral dress, a lavender cardigan, and no jewelry. One hand is held to my pale chest – I’m wearing a pinkish-red shade of nailpolish called Mad Women. My hair, deep-purplish but faded, has grown longer than it has since childhood, a few inches below my shoulders, and I’ve got a fresh sideshave. I’m wearing an old pair of glasses from my mid-20’s, black frames with a silver heart to the edge of each eye. In the background, a lavender wall, and plants on top of a bookshelf – a butterfly lavender plant in a purple pot, and a cactus. On the wall, a screenprint of a hand holding onto lilacs. From the top of the frame, the bottom of a poster from The Collective Tarot is seen: Seeker of Bones, aka Page of Pentacles. I am unsmiling, soft purple lipstick, chin up. Hazel eyes, no eye make-up.}

It was when my friend texted me about her new cane that I realized my cane-anniversary was happening, too – I forget the exact date and I’m not in the mood to dig out those journals (oh! April 15th, according to my blog, when I wrote just another genderqueer femme with a cane), but I do remember buying my first cane at the drugstore in April. Six years ago, a couple months before I deactivated my Facebook account. I’d needed a cane for a long time and I knew it. As a form of self-accountability, I posted a status update telling anybody who cared to read it that I PROMISE TO FIIINALLY GET A FUCKING CANE TOMORROW NO MATTER WHAT. Being obligated to update when I did so was the motivation I needed. I don’t remember who or how many people commented, ‘liked’, and encouraged me, and as I type this out, I wonder who among them are still in my life today, still a friend.

When I deactivated my account, I didn’t know I was making a permanent decision. I’d deleted my account before – usually when I was distressed, activated, and/or suicidal. This time, my mental health was still a factor, of course, but I think back then I had ‘self-care’ on my mind moreso than ‘pure rage’. It was meant to be for a month or for a season or somesuch, I think. Anyway, I never felt the urge to reactivate my account, and the more time goes on, the more I know that doing so would be a disaster.

{image description: In the centre of the paved parking lot of the laundromat around the corner from my place – which I haven’t been using since the shutdown – lies a classic black witch hat, pointed tip aimed at the sky. In the background, a scuffed up wooden bench painted blue and white sits against a yellow brick wall. That day, I’d stepped out of my apartment briefly and encountered an inquisitive black cat who often makes appearances in the alleyway behind my home, who I hadn’t since Autumn. I have fed this cat on occasion, let it nuzzle against me. The cat was wearing a red collar, peering at me from around a corner. It felt like a sign, as these things do, and when I turned another corner and spotted the witch hat, I just had a good feeling, a feeling of comfort and silliness – much-needed right now.}

A couple years ago, I was commissioned to write an essay for an anthology called Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers and Magical Rebels on Summoning the Power to Resist, and I chose to write about such signs. Envisioning myself as a black cat, a visualization that helps me cope with being outside and in the world, especially when I’m in pain, when I’m anxious, when I’m sick, etc. Crossing the paths of the people around me, good luck to some, a curse to others. I wrote about my slow, crooked body, and about dumpsters. I named the essay Trash Magic: Signs & Rituals for the Unwanted. I learned a few days ago that the small press that published this anthology, among others, is closing. Fiction & Feeling, like so many, cannot afford to stay afloat during the pandemic. Until May 2nd, you can still purchase their books – which I very much encourage you to do – and then, no longer. If you already have a copy, consider ordering another to add to your local library, or to give to a friend or a partner. Trash-Magic is one of my pieces that I love the most. Some of the authors who’ve contributed to this collection are: Catherine Hernandez, Avery Edison, Gabriela Herstik, Mey Rude, Larissa Pham, Sophie Saint Thomas, Kim Boekbinder, Leigh Alexander, and more.

{image description: A hydro pole slashes through the middle of the frame, the bottom and the top outside the frame. Camera is aimed upward, showing bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds. A yellow traffic sign with bold black letters is posted on the hydro pole. It says: SLOW. When I started using a cane, I also started taking pictures of signs that urge slowness, as well as lanes and parking lots where SLOW is painted on the concrete. The top of a garage is visible to the left. I took this picture while walking through an empty alleyway on a sunny but chilly day.}

{image description: The lavender plant that appeared in my selfie above, closer-up. Butterfly lavender blooms in a purple pot, with aforementioned cactus plant and lilac print. To the left, sun shines brightly through a dusty-rose lace curtain. One of my sure signs of Spring is the first day of the season when I bring a lavender plant home. Garden centres et al are closed right now, but there are some nearby convenience stores that sell plants, seeds, and soil, for which I am grateful.}

There are certain flowers that have become particularly important to me right now because they show the passage of time – they embody the passage of time. I’m someone who often relies on tangible evidence of intangible things as a way to place myself, to hold memories and processes, to dissociate less, have anchors to return to when I am unmoored or adrift. A kind of orientation around objects – be they found rocks, florals, bones, etc. Taking pictures helps.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been watching the daffodils that grow under my window. I didn’t plant them. The bulbs of daffodils and tulips were planted before I moved here, and during my six years in this apartment, the ground between the windows and sidewalks has been neglected and ignored, consisting of so-called weeds, some not-very-healthy-looking boxbush shrubs, garbage, always garbage, dog shit, broken glass, and cigarette butts. Once, while afore-mentioned friend-with-a-new-cane were cleaning up the garbage, I found the skull of a squirrel! Then the daffodils and tulips, perennials, and sometimes scattered sweet violets and star-shaped pale purple flowers low-to-the-ground. Last year, I started planting a garden. Herbs, vegetables, and berries. Also neglected at times, but with dreams and futures and more time to devote, especially now. There’s always the first day that I notice the tiniest little green shoots emerging from the ground. Yes, I take pictures. And then I check on them everyday from then on.

In my rare and brief excursions around the city – small trips to check my p.o. and send mail, ordinary errands turned that much more stressful, etc. – I noticed everybody else’s daffodils blooming first, bright sunshine mango butter petals opening to the sun, the sky, stalks held upward. At home, my daffodils had grown tall, but drooped downward, their petals still cocooned, melancholy and morose.

It was on April 20th, a Monday / Moon Day, my soberiversary, that the first daffodil opened up. I saw it from my window first, the only open flower among the bunch, and I smiled.

{image description: A close-up of a bright yellow daffodil. I’m holding it in my left hand to show off its petals – otherwise, it droops back to the ground, refusing to face me, let alone the camera. Even daffodils can be goth, yes. Bright yellow, pointy petals (I accidentally typed ‘portals’), layered and lush, turned slightly to the left. In the background, dirt, tall green leaves, and closed tulips, not ready to be seen just yet.}

The next day, I awoke to bright sun. But as I sat at my desk, gazing out the window, unsure where to focus (creatively, emotionally), the atmosphere turned grey, and suddenly: hail! The second hail I’d witnessed in the early days of Spring, gathering on the damp-dead-leaf sludge at the edges of the road, glowing white against the rot, and then whistling winds sending the hail sideways. This lasted only for a few minutes. Over before noon. Sunshine again.

A cliché to compare weather to moods. Twelve or thirteen years ago, when counselors leading group therapy at various hospitals made this observation, I heard it as invalidating. It felt over-simplistic and limiting. Their comparisons had been drawn from workbooks and modalities influenced by Buddhism 101, and then shared without context – to say the least. No wonder it didn’t resonate. No wonder I was labeled ‘non-compliant’ and couldn’t hear these analogies without eye-rolls, laughter, intense disagreement. They tried to teach us the difference between feelings and action – but I was unable to make much of a distinction back then. They tried to tell us that ‘suicidal’ was a thought, not a feeling. I still disagree. It’s both/and both/and both/and.

But the weather thing. The clouds in the sky, the leaves on a river, you know. Sometimes it resonates. It wouldn’t have, for me, without knowledge gathered and observed and felt through therapy, through somatics and yoga and meditation, through disability and madness and strange persistence, through study and practice and alienation.

Isolatingly 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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