Fate is Fatal

Photo Credit: Author

 

Toni Morrison once said that if you can’t find the book you want, write it.

I only discovered that quote two years ago, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve been living it since I was twelve, when I wrote my first novel in a fit of rage.

Or arrogance. I prefer not to wax philosophical about it.

The reason for my rage was that one of my favorite book series at the time had not finished with the outcome I wanted. So, I decided to write my own version of it. I would like it noted that it wasn’t a very well written novel. For example, here’s a small passage: “We all have a purpose in this life, Creston, but this isin’t ours, to destroy everyone else with our greif this is not what our parents wanted from us and you know it!” That was page ninety-seven, in the middle of a very dramatic scene between two villains.

My misspelling of grief and isn’t was intentional. I not only misunderstood the point of contractions, but I had very strict rules about punctuation back then, (meaning I did not believe in the use of it) so the entire book is just one continuous sentence, consisting of about seventeen paragraphs. I thought it was the most ingenious piece of Literature since The Bible, and thus dubbed it Fate is Fatal. I passed it around to close friends and teachers, hungry for feedback.

That fact strikes horror into my soul, for the reasons mentioned above. Why didn’t anyone just force me to use a period? However, back then, I only felt terror at the prospect of other people seeing my work. Did that mean I was a writer? I spent every spare moment editing and adding to this story, compiling a folder of new ones. They loitered on the home screen of my parent’s old desktop computer, which glitched out every few moments. Yet still I wrote. Still I edited. Still, I handed out my improperly punctuated and grammatically incorrect novel.

I wanted more, but I was afraid of what that meant.

After all, DID WRITERS EVEN GET PAID?

As a child, I had always assumed that writing was a volunteer job, similar to working at a soup kitchen on Sundays or picking up diapers from the side of the road. You know, they’re all very noble endeavors, but not an actual job. It was philanthropy. Beautiful and useless. My fear festered years after that first novel, bled into my self-confidence.

Eventually, I stopped shoving my book into the hands of random strangers, I barely mentioned to anyone that I wrote. Yet I cradled the zebra-striped, broke-spine journal that held my first novel close to my chest.

Every day, I would sit at the croaking, stiff computer chair in my family’s living room. I endured the ten-minute long whir of an old desktop as it prepared itself. Those nights when insomnia crept along the shadows and crooks of my imagination, I would sneak into the living room and write. I filled hundreds of word documents with gibberish, which is to say, stories about flying people, knights, queens and shape-shifting wolves. I read ravenously and wrote reinterpretations of what I had read. It was as if I fancied myself a critic, or a fanfic writer, either one.

I dreaded what this meant, to be so in love with what I saw as “useless work.”

Now, I have added poetry (spoken and otherwise) to the files on a subsequently healthier laptop. I stash my old journals in the bottom drawer of my desk; and take them out only when old fears start to rear to the surface. It is the same terror that beleaguers most writers. I fully expect to stumble awake and realize punctuation is real and I live beneath a bridge. I wonder what ignorant mistakes I’ve hidden between paragraphs and sentences now, and if secretly my readers are laughing at my stupidity. In the spare moments when the world slows enough for me to hear my own breath, I contemplate if this passion that seemed so magical when I was thirteen is only a shadow of what the world truly needs. I wonder if I am only a shadow, gesturing desperately at the sunlight behind me.

Yet even as those fears remain, I understand now what useless work looks like. I have observed people who spent their lives doing absolutely nothing, but they did so for good reasons. Those who undertook hurtful actions with good intentions. I empathize with them, because they, too, fear waking up beneath bridges, the world having spun out of orbit.

Yet that empathy only spurs me to write more. Yes, writers don’t get paid the big bucks (or any bucks, commonly) but writing itself is not useless work. I attribute any and all of my successes to the fact that I love books. The skills I use daily, whether it be for a class project or contacting any number of people for fundraising, I have only because I started rage-writing a novel at the age of twelve.

As Toni Morrison said, I understood something was missing, and decided to fill it with myself. Maybe that was a stupid idea. Maybe I should relocate to the nearest bridge now, but I doubt it would help. I’d only keep filling the voids, gesturing desperately at the light, misspelling simple words, and tucked safely into my bottom drawer would be a broke-spine, zebra-printed journal.

Struggle Olympics

Photo Credit: Author

To be LGBTQ+ and a person of color is a struggle that often gets overlooked. Overwhelmingly, the portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community in the American media centers on white LGBTs and their experiences. LGBTQ+ persons of color are severely underrepresented in the media in comparison to their actual population within the community. In GLAAD’s annual “We are on TV” report, it was found that out of the 813 broadcast network’s series regular characters, only 13% are black, 8% Latino/Latina, 4% Asian, and 2% multi-racial. Out of the 74 LGBT-identified characters on mainstream broadcast networks, only 11% are black, 11% Latina/Latino, and 5% Asian. People of color therefore make up 27% of characters and 34% of LGBT characters. What people see on television are white stories and experiences.

When I attended a students of color conference, I went expecting to only entertain discussions with the other participants about my experience as a student of color in a predominantly white private school. What I found instead was an enlightening conversation at a caucus for LGBTQ+ people of color. As we sat around in an unused lecture hall for a few hours I heard so many different stories that ended revolving around the same themes, time and time again. Stories of their white counterparts having taken up the whole of the space and subjecting them to strict scrutiny for both skin tone and sometimes even their sexual or gender identity. Themes of being treated lesser or being made to feel as though they couldn’t share their personal struggles in those spaces unless it was with other LGBTQ people of color.

J. told a story of an experience he had with another gay friend. In it, J. had been trying to tell the friend about how he was struggling to find a relationship due to some of the rampant racism he faced as a gay Asian man. Only to have that friend turn on J. and say how he also struggled equally if not more than the student because he was gay. All of us sitting in the circle exclaimed in annoyance that someone could have been so brazen like that. But in the end, we all knew someone who said something similar to us at one point in our lives. That there are white people in the LGBTQ+ community who don’t understand that for people like the ones in this group, they had to fight the unending racism in the LGBTQ+ community on top of daily racism in their lives and the struggles with being LGBTQ+. We all knew how often talking about this subject suddenly made it a “Struggle Olympics,” as we coined it, with white LGBT people.

I detailed a story of my personal struggles with being fetishized as a bisexual Asian woman. Messages riddling my inbox asking for threesomes, and calling me “a born slut,” and even a few death threats from lesbians due to a long-term relationship with a man. And I wasn’t the only one as a few other students, some Black and others Latina, chimed in with similar encounters in their lives. Because of media representation of women of color who are LGBTQ being highly sexualized, these students suffer from those stereotypes and images despite having done nothing.

And the story that nearly all of us could recount was one of being told that we weren’t struggling but rather we just want to be more “special.” That struck with me as how in the world was being marginalized twice or ever three times over beneficial in anyone’s eyes. Who of us would want to be subjected to cruel words and treatment for our skin tone, our sexuality, and for some our gender identity? No one in their right mind, obviously.

The more we discussed it the more we concluded that it was because for many white LGBTQ+ people, their entire identity revolved around being LGBTQ+. Unlike us who viewed our sexual identity and/or gender identity as simply being one facet of our overall identity along with our cultural backgrounds. We joked around at discussions of how suffocating that must be at times to have your entire identity just be about who your romantically and sexually attracted to. That it was really no different than some straight white people we’ve encountered in our lives.

At the very beginning of the conference, the student chair in charge of organizing the conference, Rani, broached to us about spaces of color. In her speech to the room came the notion of how this conference was not intended as a way for students of color to learn how to better include and maintain strong communities of color at their respective schools. While that might be nice of the students to do so what was more important in her mind was the fact that it should never be on the students themselves to maintain an environment of diversity and inclusion, but the school administration.

At the end of the 3-hour long caucus, even though the events of the conference were, for the most part, done for the chilly day, we in the circle weren’t quite done. Instead, we linger draped over chairs and sprawled on the floor, slowly grabbing our coats and bags spread around the room. Someone chimes in to follow his Instagram. Another rushes to write her Twitter handle on the white board with a hot pink marker. Few of us joke about creating a group chat so that we can keep talking, read complaining. The moderator, J, starts talking about heading to a bar for dinner so that we can all keep riding on the high mood of the afternoon. A few underage kids respectfully bow out, a few others pout at not being able to drink with their new friends. I shake my head at the offer, explaining that I’m a month underage, which got me some shocked looks given my status as a senior. Grabbing a few stickers being offered, I catch up with another student on the way out and we chatter about our athletic rivalry before I end up running into students from my group. I never found out what got discussed that night in the bar. But that’s just another struggle to deal with next time.

Flavortown Sickboy Blues

Photo Credit: Texas Monthly

 

Guy Fieri is my blood relative,

Please, nobody look that up.  


     I’ve, primarily, been two kinds of kid in my life, the sick kid & the funny kid; usually at the same time. Sick can be funny, funny can be sick, but the connection between the two has yet to be unveiled in any number of 300-dollar appointment with my shrink. He does not see my silly boy antics as a psychiatric concern, and he may be right, but the joy of being a funny sick kid is that I never know if I’m being funny or exercising my sickness.


Seriously, don’t look it up,

Just believe me.

 

This year

On Father’s Day,

And Mother’s Day,

And on both of their birthday,

I posted a picture of my

Real life relative Guy Fieri

And talked about what a good job he is doing.

 

It is unclear if this makes either of my parents sad.


     When I was a small kid, around 2, I got scarlet fever. It was Hawaii in 1996, Kona was small and isolated and hot, it happened sometimes. They had to take the blood from me hourly. I am scared of doctors’ offices now. A small known issue associated with young kids getting bad infections of this type is Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (or PANDAS, kinda cute, right?), which basically states that the disease cooked part of my brain to the point of causing early and severe onsets of OCD and other Tic disorders.

I Also have ADHD, which I got from my father.

And Bi-polar disorder, which I think came from my maternal grandfather.

     I don’t want this to sound like complaining I’ve had a LONG time to come to terms with all of these, but I just wanted to catch you up.


Do you watch the news?

You know the moment when the

“On the scene reporter” is

On a delay from the main anchor?

So the anchor will say

“and now to Tim who is on the scene

At the world-famous Taranto cannoli fest,

Tim?”

Then they cut too him

But it’s like 7 seconds before Tim answers,

Like “Tim?”


     My mother says she had to hold me down while they took my blood, that I would kick and scream and now doctors make my heart beat fast and hot; needles make all the muscles in my body turn to a fist and punch. I get made fun of sometimes by friends and family for fearing needles but at the same time I am adorned in ink like my skin is thin paper, but a tattoo artist has never held me down and taken the warmth from my arm using a tattoo machine.


“That’s right Henry…”

How has nothing bad ever

Happened in those seven seconds?

It only takes one second to be crushed by a

Vending matching, and one of those seven

Seconds is never that funny one second.


     Justin, my shrink, thinks my mother made me sicker. That she liked having a sick kid. I’m not sure I believe him. At most, she just taught me to be vocal about it. To talk about myself in useful ways, to communicate my existence to anybody who would listen. To tell my story so that even though people couldn’t, like, relate; they would still be able to understand me.


My partner also has OCD but she got it the normal way. her brain has never been seared or brûléed.

My brain was once cooked medium rare, like a steak.

I wonder if all medium rare things have OCD? Just cooked enough to be

Interesting to those who consume them.


     I have set out to make a career as a writer, a comedy writer, and for a long time I didn’t think I could do it if I was sick/sad/anxious/hungry; but I don’t think that anymore.

     Comedy comes in 2 forms, I believe: taking a funny situation very seriously and taking a very real situation lightly; this polar rule rules for this bipolar boy, as I swing my jokes swing with me and the sick boy and the funny boy can exist alongside each other.  

It’s a beautiful thought; I’ll let you know if it ever works for me.


Guy Fieri is my blood relative.

Not an uncle, that is too specific.

A distance, a cepheid blinking

On the edges of a family tree I have

Never looked at.

 

Nobody look it up,

Please, it is not that I am

Attached to the concept

So much as it has become

Attached to me.

People ask me every day

If it is true.

 

I say yes,

Why ruin the sick kids fun?

 

By: Brennan Staffieri