My back is pressed against warm metal. The heat becomes tactile comfort as it absorbs through my ratty t-shirt. Tears dry on my face leaving tightening trails of salt on my otherwise perspiring skin. i’m 15 years old and i’m lying on the hood of my friend’s car, the engine still hot from the drive.
My heart is broken. A love lost seems to afford infinite pain without the chance of healing. This is worsened by the fact that i do not know who or what i am, and i am painfully aware of this lack of knowledge i purse my lips around an illicit cigarette in hopes of finding comfort in this act of embracing destruction. This is met with some degree of success. My sobs have faded into breath, yet i remain hopeless. How can life ever be worthwhile? Without love? Without self?
My eyes meet the brilliant Wisconsin sky, stars no longer obscured and fractured by saline sadness. Tiny points of light come into crystalline focus. i notice one pattern in particular. Seven distant points of light have sent waves across eons to meet me in this moment.
i recognize Orion and stare in wonder. i become infinitely small and feel my body in waves. i begin to resonate with the universe. This pain is a part of the spiral shape of the universe, meted out semi-formulaically to all who draw breath. Somehow this fatalistic perspective affords me further comfort. i smoke and eventually i doze. i awake with the morning dew and meet a new day.
Fast forward. It’s five years later and i’m wearing black, all black, from my knit cap to my shoes, even my keffiyeh is black. i’m also wearing points of light. My clothes are covered in broken glass. A not-so-close friend and i had gotten in a car-totaling crash during an Appalachian blizzard.
We had been stranded for a few days before i could catch a bus out of Clearwater, PA. i had taken 2 buses already, am on a third, with the daunting reality of two more to go. The fact that i cannot attain a more direct route is confounding.
i press my face against cold glass, the buttons on my black cap ticking against the window with each jolt. Sighing, i stare off the edge of a mountain into the oblivion beyond the atmosphere. i feel alone. Even when i eventually reach my destination i will still feel alienated from all of my surroundings, and i still do not know myself. This fact has become even more acute in the years after the moment in Wisconsin.
Again i am greeted by seven distant balls of heat. i inhale deeply, the crisp air cooling the depths of my lungs, and i remember. i remember that i can see Orion from home. i’ve been able to see Orion from every place that i have ever thought of as home. i recognize it as a touchstone and i realize that perhaps home is something that is with me.
Flash ahead again. The next year i am still wearing black. i’m attempting to push down a consistent alienation from myself with desperate grasps at identity. Tonight though, i’m also wearing pink. My floppy mohawk has been brightly dyed to cast a queer contrast to my ostensible militancy.
i’m lying on my back on the roof of the Pilsen apartment i’m staying at. i’d spent most of the preceding summer in a valium haze, giving myself temporal distance from a rape that i blocked out of my psyche after it happened.
Apparently i couldn’t block it out forever. i had read something that led me to remember. Remembrance in a flush of feeling. A body memory. A reliving. How had that happened? i immediately recognize my subconscious’ capacity and motivation, but i cannot not imagine a way forward and question its wisdom in cluing me in at this moment.
So i’m lying on my roof, drinking shamelessly out of a bottle of merlot. This is a love affair that will last quite some time. i look to the street for answers. Seeing only pollution and trucks and desolate streets i look skyward. It’s a cloudy night. It’s windy and cold. But i won’t go back inside, or else i can’t.
i look skyward and eventually the clouds break. They reveal an archer, pointing toward a truth. i open my mouth and i scream into the emptiness and i cry. i am not open to guidance from the universe. i cry. i want this to be circumstance and i try to believe that it is. Eventually my sobbing becomes too heavy and i too tired. As i lay on the tar roof, resigned, i become open. i will give myself time and space to heal. i do not yet recognize that this will be a life-long process. i breathe.
A couple years and a couple genders later i am in Iowa City. i’m generally more in tune with myself. My struggles have shifted to a place of explicit self-awareness. Again i have lost love. i’d worked to learn to trust again after a long abusive relationship. That trust has been hurt, as have i.
i’ve come to visit a friend and am hoping to clear my head. My friend invites me out to their back porch for a cigarette. Some comforts seem ageless, so i accept. As i step outside i meet a friend older than time. i can only discern one constellation between the clouds. i breathe deeply, i haven’t thought about Orion in a long while.
i press my back against the house to feel something other than spiritual conspiracy. This has the added effect of shielding me from the wind. i look at my friend, who somehow seems to understand the significance of the moment. i look back at the sky, tears beginning to well, an old pain settles in and overwhelms. “You just somehow know, don’t you?” i become grounded. i resolve to try to trust in my own strength.