Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just to be provocative

When JoAnne died, it was important to all of us to say that she didn’t die of an overdose. She died because the hospital refused her health care. She was kicking heroin and they admitted hooked her up to an IV for two days but then said you need to leave. She had active TB and a bladder infection. They gave her Tylenol. She couldn’t walk, her roommates carried her home. Later that night, they found her in the backyard, naked in the grass and laughing. The next day she was dead.

I don’t know why it mattered so much for us to say that she didn’t die of an overdose. Either way, the hospital had killed her. JoAnne never made it to visit me in Boston, where I was still living; New York would come several years down the line. I’d just confronted my parents and it was awful, I thought I’d feel some kind of release but I guess I felt all the release I would get while preparing a 15-page document saying what I remembered and what it had done to me and how I was healing, and that I wouldn’t talk to my father ever again unless he could come to terms with it. And then I sent that document to my four grandparents and my sister, Express Mail so they would get it at the same time as when I confronted my parents. I planned all this so that my father couldn’t twist everything around, everything I wanted to say was in that document. I knew he wouldn’t let me speak so I handed him the envelope first and said I know that you sexually abused me that you raped me that you molested me and right then he started screaming; he told me I was psychotic. We were in a public park and I walked away, away from my father’s screaming I was worried he was going to come after me and when I looked up at the buildings for a minute I couldn’t figure out where I was. Then I was stuck in Boston with nothing really except Gabby and drugs, and I was trying not to do drugs. A few weeks later I got a call from Laurie saying that JoAnne had died and I flew out to San Francisco the next day.

I didn’t want JoAnne’s parents to get her journals, that was the most important thing to me at the time. San Francisco welcomed me like a widow and that’s why I decided to move back. I returned to Boston to prepare, decided to take the train cross-country in a few months -- in those days, you could buy one ticket and travel anywhere you wanted for 30 days, I guess I knew I was going back to San Francisco but first I wanted to spend some time in Minneapolis and Chicago and Seattle, just to see. A friend of JoAnne’s from Seattle leant me her one-bedroom apartment in Chicago, she went to stay with her girlfriend -- I couldn’t believe she had so much space, in a fancy neighborhood even; Chicago was still cheap back then. I was in Chicago for the music, the music that I lived for, that hard clanky knock-you-down magic. The problem was, I didn’t know where to find it exactly -- it wasn’t what they called the Chicago sound, deep and soulful, it was the new Chicago sound. But I found the place that sounded right, from the description, and I put together an outfit that was relaxed enough for a Thursday but not too relaxed -- this was when I was really into tights with shorts, when my grandmothers came together to visit me in Boston I wore the crazy neon plaid ones, with contrasting polyester plaid cut-off shorts, of course, and maybe clips in my neon hair and they couldn’t believe I wasn’t doing this just to be provocative.

I wanted them to see me as me. I showed them the photo booth pictures from the clubs and they asked if I was a transvestite. I told him that language was outdated. Do you wear dresses? When I’m in the mood. In Chicago, I was wearing the silver tights, which were thigh-highs so I used the clips that looks like garters too, with striped red polyester cut-offs, a big mohair sweater and a pink scarf. On my way I stopped at a bank machine, maybe I noticed two guys in a car looking over at me like I didn’t deserve to live, but this happened all the time. I realized I’d walked the wrong way, so I went back down the same street, a dark street really but I hadn’t thought about it -- that’s when they jumped out of the car, from behind, one of them held a gun to my head and the other one said give me all your money, so I did, but it was only 20 dollars, they said something like let’s teach this faggot a lesson or maybe they didn’t say anything but I knew.

No, first I remember thinking: what are you supposed to do, what are you supposed to do when they have a gun? Oh, scream, scream for help and so that’s what I did, and then they hit me in the face with the gun, several times, and then slammed my head against a brick wall, and then they got in the car and drove away and there was blood everywhere, pouring down my face and onto my pink scarf and I remember thinking okay, at least I know where I am, I’m right by the apartment, I can get back, I’m right by the apartment. And then, once I got upstairs, I thought: don’t get blood on the carpet. In the mirror everything was red, especially the pink scarf and I didn’t know what to do so I wiped off the blood with paper towels and got some ice for my face but there was too much to cover. I called Melissa in San Francisco, maybe because her roommate was a nurse or maybe I didn’t remember that, I’m not sure, but her roommate said Mattilda should go to the hospital right away, with a head wound she might have a concussion, and then I remembered her roommate was from Chicago, so I said where should I go? And she said oh, she’s in Chicago, don’t go to the hospital -- wait until tomorrow, and go to a clinic.

No comments: