The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Month: June, 2016

Don’t fix anything or else everything breaks

These nights,
where we had always slept
turned away from each other,
averse to each other’s excessive heat,
we turn towards each other,
afraid that the next morning
you would not turn any more,

until one or both of us fall asleep
and then, inevitably, we
turn away from each other,
averse to each other’s excessive heat,
as we had always done.

And then the broken light was fixed
that leaky tap tightened
the closet door with the wobbly hinge
all tightened
a shelf you had said for months you were going to install
now proudly stands, affixed to the wall,
bearing loads
like your shoulders

that flex with strength
as you hammer nails into wood,
emptying your strength into that
bookshelf you were building
before you are emptied of strength.

But I would rather the lights stay broken
taps leaky
closet door wobbly
wooden planks leaning against the walls of the shed
collecting dust
that build up
each
day
that you ignore them
that could have gone on indefinitely.

“You’re useless at being handy,”

“You’re useless at being tactful,”

“Who has time for pleasantries?”

“We have all the time in the world,”

You have all the time in the world.”

“That’s a lot of time to have, in the world.”

“My world is a lot smaller than yours.”

“But your world is mine. You’re in my world.”

“That’s why mine fits in yours.”

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Sanctuaries

stonewall

Yesterday, I was feeling very affected by the attack on LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, but I wasn’t quite sure why. I did not directly know any of the victims, was not there, nor was I Latino — the majority of the victims — and my only connection to the incident was that I was a QPOC. But it wasn’t that connection that stirred something inside me. It was the idea that our sanctuary has been so easily trashed that struck me.

In 2009, I was bound for New York for college, and it would have been my first foray into the United States. In preparation for the journey, I researched as much as I could about the city, and learned that it was a haven for the LGBT community and the Stonewall Inn was where the LGBT rights movement first started. At the time, I had never experienced or dabbled in anything of that nature — I was too concerned with school and extracurriculars to be even bothered. Never been inside a gay club, never kissed, never held a hand.

But I learned about the concept that there are spaces where one could go and be amongst like people. Places where for while, one could let one’s hair down and not worry — nay not think — about disapproving stares, much less the fear of rebuke and reproach. Sanctuaries.

One of the very first few things when I had landed in New York and had generally unpacked was to pump up my unicycle (my preferred mode of transportation) and go for a ride in the city. I was curious about this Greenwich Village and Chelsea, spoken of in Wikipedia (Hell’s Kitchen had yet to be linked into the Gay Village Wikipedia article at the time, or I wasn’t looking very closely) and unicycled down the legendary Christopher Street I had heard so much of.

I wasn’t too disappointed. Back then in 2009, the West Village was on its way to being gentrified but still clung on to the vestiges of its gay subculture. I still saw, in broad daylight, men in leather suits and heels and caps, LGBT people openly holding hands and kissing, bears, daddies, twinks, dykes and all shades of the rainbow and I smiled.

“This isn’t too bad. I think this place could work,” I thought.

I hit the end of Christopher St, past the leather and daddy bars, past McNulty’s (love that tea/coffee merchant) but did not go to the piers, as I didn’t know about it then. I then made a U-turn and then back up 8th Avenue, all the way into Chelsea.

There, I saw a different gay people of a different ilk. Men with buzzcuts in their 30s and 40s bulked up with muscles exploding out of their inexplicably tight tank tops (I dubbed them the Chelsea gym bunnies), skinny gay men yakking all the time and the smattering of sex shops selling underwear, poppers and porn. I didn’t dare go into any of them then, but yet I still felt safe standing in the streets even as I was among some of the people physically quite unlike me — in skin colour, size, and much more. Yet I felt like I belonged.

I was merely standing in the streets of these gay-bourhoods and already I felt for the first time I was surrounded by a community of people like me, a refreshing change from the dour looks back home. I wasn’t even in a gay club (that’s another story) but even though I was in a strange land, I felt safe, despite having been traipsing New York City roads and traffic on one wheel on one of my first few days here.

“Welcome to sanctuary” the city seemed to be saying to me.

And over the years, I have made many friends, created many communities, have been accepted by many communities, and created my own family here in New York.

The Pulse club was one such sanctuary for many gay men and women to enjoy a night out without the fear of “faggot” being yelled their way. A place where LGBT people who were not yet ready or able to openly hold hands in public without being attacked to hold each other. A space where the only judging going on were eyes sizing you up whether to say “hi” and bring you home for the night, and not whether you were abominable sin.

But that night, all around the country, LGBT people were reminded that they were still from being safe to walk upright. That despite being surrounded by “allies” and the recent developments in gay rights, all it takes is one mentally ill person, one hateful person, any straight person welcomed into a gay space but ultimately striking fear into the gay people around him because he was told to quiet down, to make us question how safe are we, even in our sanctuaries.

And that was why I was perturbed.

Post-Orlando

It has been a couple days since the shooting happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The conversation has been continuing in the days since the shooting, and we are still feeling the emotional outflow of anger, pain, and shock that something like this has happened again. We’ve seen coverage of self-serving political candidates capitalising on this as a self-promotion opportunity, speculation about the sexuality of the shooter, the nation’s inability to act to prevent further shootings because it is crippled by lobbyists, intense coverage of the final moments as victims died, outrage at Muslims, people defending Muslims, Muslims being outraged, so on and so on and so on.

But amid the whirlwind of content outpouring, I find myself thinking about hate. I find myself thinking about what it must feel like to be living with so much hatred. What it must feel like to hate someone’s very existence without even having known them, hating them because they are labelled as something that goes against one’s “values”.

I tried to imagine hating the shooter Omar Mateen that took the lives of 49 sons and daughters that night in the club and I couldn’t do it. I could feel anger as I imagined what might have happened that night, but I feared that if I found myself capable of hating Mateen, I would be no better than anyone else hating someone else without knowing what they’re about. I thought about how I would have done had I been in that club, how I would have felt had any of the victims had been direct friends of mine. I was very cognizant of how removed I was from this incident, yet how connected I was to this issue at large. I was once again reminded that there were people who hated my for no particular reason, and wondered if I had been guilty of similar hatred.

People claim that this incident shouldn’t be about any individual — the problem is a systemic failure of the society at large. But larger problems are expressed at local levels, and if we don’t deal with problems from the ground up, how much less so can we attempt to solve problems at a larger level? I want to learn more about myself as I ingest this incident and I want to grow from it. From there, I hope to become a stronger person equipped to handle such complex issues and will be better equipped to talk to other people around it, and ultimately effect change that matters.