What’s my price?

He got my attention and motioned me closer to him to hear what he had to say.

“What’s your price?”

“Excuse me?” I asked, sure that I heard what I had heard, hoping that I hadn’t.

“What’s your price?” He repeated.

His two friends said nothing, but they grew uncomfortable looking at how my face changed to anger.

“Don’t you fucking look at me, touch me, or talk to me again if you don’t want to get fucking punched in the face, you fucking asshole. Go suck your own dick.”

I turned around to the faces of my friends, confused about what just occurred. I can feel him behind me still looking.

“Do you want to go?” My friend Evangelista asked.

I tried to play it cool, like I cared only to tell him off, then when I did it was all okay.

“Whatever you guys want to do.” But I could see their eyes looking passed me at that sorry excuse of a human.

“Let’s just go,” She said, taking hold of my arm. I knew she could feel me trembling.

The second we got out into the filthy street, they all asked what happened.

They couldn’t believe it, just like I couldn’t the first time I heard it. Then a slew of comments:

“You don’t even look like that, what the fuck were they thinking?”

“He was drunk and just an asshole, don’t even listen to him.”

“Yeah, don’t let him get to you.”

My heart was racing.

And not even a minute into our walk, I saw Evangelista react to someone touching her ass as we walked by. She gave him the dirtiest look, then continued walking.

My insides were turning.

“Look at that place! It’s playing latino music! Maybe we should go there,” She suggested.

“Well, it can go one of two ways,” I told her. “It can either be amazing, and no one will talk to us or try to touch us, or it can be the complete opposite and the most sleazy place in town.”

So we took our chances. I bought myself a huge Corona with lime and salt to shake off the tension, then we danced the night away until our heals asked us to give our feet a break. By the time 2am rolled around, we were ready to head back. Evangelista’s idea to take our chanced at that cantina was the first great idea of the night.

We parted ways with some friends. Evangelista, Green Eyes and I all walked back down the street the way we came, trying to stay friendly to our feet as we continually sped up.

Two minutes later…

“Hey Mami! Get me some of that!” This huge black truck drives by slowly, so they could get a good look at the human beings they consider pieces of meat.

“Fuck off,” I said, along with the universal signal. But they weren’t giving up.

The other two girls sped up, not saying a word.

I realized they weren’t going to say anything, so something ridiculous and quiet hilarious took over me.

“You’re fucking ugly!” I shouted at them. They sped off embarrassed, while people around us laughed.

“My sister always did that to gross guys growing up. I was always embarrassed by it, but now I get it.” I spoke fast and confidently, trying to mask my nerves. “It’s empowering to embarrass them instead, especially when you have no other way to gain that power. My sister was right, it feels great!”

I had a false sense of hope that I could have some sort of control over such an uncomfortable situation.

Not even 5 minutes later, I witnessed this hideous gross excuse of a man smack Green Eyes’s ass. She turned and glared at him. I realized she wasn’t going to say a word to him, so I turned around and started walking towards him.

“Don’t! Just stop! It won’t do anything!” She yelled at me.

So I stopped. But my brains were screaming at me, and at him. My insides were still walking with all their might towards him, and my heart was so tense I swore it would tear itself into shreds. But my knees were completely weak.

“I can’t. I can’t do this anymore.”

I completely broke down.

All the feelings that I had been pushing deeper inside me were just spilling out onto the disgusting, grey concrete. My tears were non-stop.

“I’m strong, I know. But I’m not strong enough for this. Not anymore.”

Green Eyes took hold of my left arm, lifting it up in case my knees would give.

“Let’s just get a cab,” Evangelista said, “None of this is worth it at this point. You’ve completely broken down.”

Her second great idea of the night.

We all squeezed in the back seat of a small taxi, not wanting to be more than a few inches from each other. It was too uncomfortable to be apart.

My eyes were puffing, I could feel their weight. My nose began to run. My mouth ran too, repeating itself over and over, “I’m so angry. I mean look at us. How pathetic is this world that we have to catch a taxi to avoid being touched by disgusting men?”

The second the cab driver heard me crying he turned down the music. It was like he wanted to respect whatever mood we were in. After what I said, I could tell he was listening. It didn’t stop me.

“I hate men right now. I really do.”

“Something needs to change, something big,” Said Green Eyes.

“Yeah, and the fact that you’re so upset by it makes me rethink how I reacted,” said Evangelista. “You being upset tells me that it’s not okay. I’m just so numb to it.”

“But that isn’t okay! You can’t be numb to it. Half the problem is that fact that we let men do it.”

I didn’t mean to scold them. But I couldn’t stand my best friends being violated, then watching them brush it off because they feel helpless to the situation. We have more power than we think.

“But what were you going to do?” Asked Green Eyes, “You had no clue if he was dangerous. He could have hurt you if I had let you go up to him.”

I bit my tongue. I knew she was right but my boiling blood didn’t want her to be.

“So we’re fucked. No matter what we do we’re fucked. I feel so fucking trapped it hurts.”

We arrived to the apartment, handed the guy the fare and got out as quickly as possible. The second we entered the room we completely unwound.

“How funny it is that a place that isn’t yours suddenly feels like home in times like these,” Evangelista said, wiping up some smeared eyeliner from under her eyes.

That night I had the weirdest dream. I was in my kitchen cooking up some food, when I noticed the ugliest cockroach I had ever seen. It was huge, absolutely enormous. I wasn’t scared of it, but I set down newspaper over it to step on it so many times that my kitchen was covered in newsprint. And it still got away. I turned to the roach spray, but I missed every time.

Then I woke up to the sound of my Evangelista’s voice.

“I just had a dream about a cockroach,” I whined.

“Awww, you’re so cute,” Green Eyes said to me, making me feel like I was 10 just waking up from a nightmare.

But then I sat their as they got ready, and I began to pick at my own brain.

Men, or should I say boys, like that are vermin to me. They are the scum of the earth and I only hope that one day they will learn at any cost to them what it feels like to be looked at as inferior. But as vermin that creep around an infested kitchen, these sad excuses for men creep around our lives never to leave. Until we make them. Until other men help correct them.

“I’ve got a solution,” I told them.

“Wait what? For what?” They asked.

“For these sad excuses of men that continually demean women.” I said, softly and somewhat lost in thought. “I’m going to get one of those blow dart things. The solution on the end of the dart? I’m not sure, yet. But what I’m sure of is that it’s small enough to conceal it anywhere. The next time some fucking asshole grabs my ass I’m going to turn around and shoot him in his ass. Maybe he’ll pass out from it, I don’t know. I haven’t decided.”

“What the fuck? That’s hilarious!” The girls congratulated me on my plan.

It’s been two days ever since that night, and I’m still nauseous with anger.

We moved sand with our hands

“Okay, now let’s think about this. Come here, sit with me,” The Bullfighter said to me, motioning me to the floor.
We both sat on our knees, staring at eachother, waiting for the other to say something.
“Face the other way, put your hand together,” he said, “and ohhhhmmmmmmm.”
I tried not to laugh but did what he said. I put my hands together as if to pray to some non-existent being.
“Ohhhhmmmmmm,” I repeated, halfheartedly. He knew.
“No no no, like feel it in your being. Ohhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmm.”
“Ohhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmm.”
Then we changed hand positions.
“Ohhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmm,” we said in unison.
“Now come back here, and sit like a frog.”
“Um, yeah, I don’t think I’ve done that since I was five,” I said, struggling to switch positions.
“Yeah, um ok me, too. Scratch that. Ohhhhmmmmmmmm.”
I tried not to laugh, but my smile was way too obvious.

“Okay, now lets search in the sand.” The Bullfighter moved on to grabbing at the beige carpet, acting like it had more weight and volume than it actually did. He grabbed a handful of sand and tossed it at me. And for some reason I almost felt it.

So I followed. I reached out my hand and took hold of some sand, then held it up and watched it pour slowly down in a straight line. The wind picked up some sand dust and spun it around us. I spread my fingers and ran them through the sand, “I’m searching for an answer. I see something dark, and bold. Dark and bold. And I see something real.”

“Will I be ugly?” asked The Bullfighter.

“Sure, if you want to be.”

“I want to be just real, myself. Just flat out ragged.” He explained.

“Well yeah, you. Whatever is you. As real as you can be.”

Just barely before I finished talking, another band member brought over a magnetic board with word magnets. So randomly necessary.

“Oh god, I’m glad there aren’t any kids around,” The Bullfighter said.

“What? Why?”

“Because I’m about to write the most inappropriate sentence ever.”

We dove into the word magnets, pulling them off, sticking them back on. Arranging, rearranging, borrowing from one another. I got so into my word play that I didn’t even notice what he was trying to spell out.

“Do you have the contracted word ‘don’t’?”

“I don’t see one,” I answered, not really trying to find one. “I’m picking out words to describe the shoot.”

“How does it make you feel? How do you want others to feel?” He asked.

We fought over words and stole from each other. It felt like a race against our own minds and creativity. I stopped only because I ran out of words to describe what I wanted.

“Bold, black, dark, inspired, raw, photo, emotion, true, creative, tattered, anger,” The Bullfighter read my words aloud. “Yeah, I see you.” We then stopped, and looked at each other, into our inner workings. “Hey everyone,” He said to the group, “Listen up! She’s got something to say.”

Everyone quieted down without a fight. 

“Everyone is going to take this plain white paper, and a marker. Go into that room alone, and just write. Whatever. Just write. About the music, about your day, about your life or philosophy on life. On anything that moves you.”

The Trombonist got up first, grabbed his necessities and left the room. Music blared through the hallway and we turned down the lighting. Somewhere in the midst of silly banter, The Bullfighter took my camera and told me it was my turn. This is rare, but when it happens I try to set the example of a good model–not that it always works, but why not?

We went into the kitchen, and my clothes happend to match the scenery so perfectly. He swung open cabinets and centered me in the room. 

“That look you did earlier, do it. Now clench your fists, like you blew open the cabinets.”

I did what he said at first, with a half an ounce of doubt. So this is what it feels like. Shit, this is hard. 

“Yes that! Right there! keep that.” The Bullfighter said, stepping back between the refrigerator and the table to get a better angle. “Yes! Right there!”

I occasionally turned the camera to fix the settings, resulting in occasional photos of me reaching out. In the end, bright, tungsten-tinted portraits in a wrath of kitchen supplies and alcohol bottles. Teal, orange, yellow, brown. Young, alive. 

Brilliant.

And all in a matter of minutes. 

I sat there looking at him, and he looked at me. For a split second, our artistic minds seemed to switch. Music was on my mind and photography was on his. 

One of the best part of being an artist? Collaborating with other artists, to the point that brainwaves sync up into a harmony of sounds and colors. Ultimately high from the experience, it reminded me why I do what I do. 

 

Hammock eyes

We laid in the hammock, The Thinker and I, underneath the ceiling of a welcoming home to friends and those we didn’t really know. Just minutes before we walked down the street around 1AM, planning to call it a night, when we heard yells from a porch across the street. “Hey you guys! Come hang out with us!” We had no clue who it could be, but for some reason couldn’t resist. A huge hug from a cuddly friend, and an embrace from a new one. More followed as we entered the house. Hula-hooping, hammock swinging, singing and dancing and kissing and laughing. New people to get to know and a few friends who probably knew my middle name. Such a random, yet meant-to-be encounter. After we talked a bit, then danced and sang a bit, we laid a bit in that hammock. As we swung slightly from side to side, your arm under my neck, we talked about absurd things I can’t even remember now–and probably some serious things. All I knew, and know, is that it felt so right at that moment. The swinging and laughing in the background, and the fact that it didn’t phase anyone if we hula-hooped, danced, chugged 50 beers, or just laid together apart from everyone else enjoying only each others words. All of it was surreal, with a hint of truth. The mixture of it all, and your eyes, kept me consumed.

Wet dandelion eyelashes

Your eyelashes damp and gathered together with teardrops, like the lashes of a dandelion on a rainy day. You cried until the clouds disappeared, clearing out the sinuses of the great skies until your face withered dry. Cracked like the deserts grounded in the world of regret. I told you moving forward is the only option for someone stranded.
You could have, I know you know.

I’ll Be Fine

A few days ago I was on my way to pick up my best friend from the airport, 3 hours away. For some reason, at some odd moment in the car ride, I decided to call my dad with the intention that by the time we said our good byes, he would know I liked both women and men. So I told him, with the expectation that he would be upset or annoyed or even disown me. Instead I shed tears of relief the second he said, “you know I will always love you.”

And I thought that was going to be bad. It wasn’t at all. I think it helps being 2thousand miles away, when they realize that they actually do miss me no matter who I like.

Then last night I decided to tell my mom. Thinking I had the more difficult of the two out of the way, I felt confident. “This is a lot for me to handle right now,” she said. “Take care of yourself.” I told her I don’t know what she means. “Don’t expose yourself. You know as your mom I’ll always worry about you.”

I love you, too.

I hope she comes to realize that out of everyone in my family, I am very aware of my location. It is not “liberal” west coast, it is not the best place for people like me on many levels. I am very aware of my surroundings, and even more so aware that I am not white. Overall, not that I am going to try to hide it anymore, but my sexual orientation is something that isn’t obvious. It never has been even when I was home. Little does she know that I worry more about my safety out here because I am a woman and because I am not white. After years of dealing with that, this is easy.

I’ll be fine mom.

Breakable

I used to converse through email with a teacher of mine. I miss him dearly. People may even think I’m weird because I ask him advice still, like he’s still around. But I guess he is. He always will be. He sent me these lyrics once. I miss him. 

Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts?

Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts

So it’s fairly simple to cut right through the mess,

And to stop the muscle that makes us confess

And we are so fragile,

And our cracking bones make noise,

And we are just,

Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys

And you fasten my seat belt because it is the law

In your two ton death trap I finally saw

A piece of love in your face that bathed me in regret

Then you drove me to places I’ll never forget

And we are so fragile,

And our cracking bones make noise,

And we are just,

Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys

And we are so fragile,

And our cracking bones make noise,

And we are just,

Breakable, breakable, breakable girls-

Breakable, breakable, breakable girls-

Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys

The coffee shop window

Sitting in this coffee shop. The warmth from within against the cold windows has frosted them over completely. And as I sit here attempting to focus on my work, I can’t stop watching this young girl drawing her imagination in the fogginess across a 6 foot long window. I can watch this forever, I swear. Handprints everywhere, along with their masterful renditions of rainbows and self portraits. This is amazing.

The coffee shop window

Sitting in this coffee shop. The warmth from within against the cold windows has frosted them over completely. And as I sit here attempting to focus on my work, I can’t stop watching this young girl drawing her imagination in the fogginess across a 6 foot long window. I can watch this forever, I swear. Handprints everywhere, along with their masterful renditions of rainbows and self portraits. This is amazing.

Her Perfume

I usually cry when I see those familiar faces I missed months long. This time I didn’t. I saw them from a distance and ran up to them for the homecoming hugs. And right after the thought slipped into my mind, “Hey, this time I’m not crying!” the tears poured out. My Mother’s perfume has a way of doing that. There’s nothing like it, really. And her strong arms enveloped me, making me feel so small and so big at the same time. How much I missed her warmth. I love her so much.