Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Val Valley Pep Squad

In the kitchen, we would remind each other to breathe and to chew, we were trying to stay calm but we also celebrated our mania; we held each other and made carrot juice with ginger and then we would read, honey we would read. The first person JoAnne read was Garrett, she couldn’t deal with the way that he wanted her to be his mother, that’s what he wanted from all the dykes he was friends with and she thought it was oppressive. That’s when Garrett started getting really depressed, I mean he was always depressed -- all of us were always depressed and that was fine or not fine but it was just a given. But now Garrett would come into the house and slam the door and I would try to get him to understand why JoAnne was angry but then he started slamming the door on me. After that, when he would come into the house, Joanne and I would stay in the kitchen and continue making carrot juice and laughing.

I don’t know who decided this first, but eventually it was Garrett and Angie and everyone around Angie who decided that I was evil, and that I had possessed JoAnne -- trust me, it sounded just as ridiculous then, but it’s really what they decided. Now Garrett was moving out, so JoAnne made these cards that looked kind of like tarot cards but without the illusion: they said things like, "I'm just another brainless woman," and, "Don't ask me, ask Matt," and JoAnne also made cardboard horns for me and I wrote 666 on my forehead with lipstick. And when they all came over to help Garrett move, I sat in the kitchen smoking and staring them in the eyes like I could kill them just like that, yes we must have smoked in the kitchen. JoAnne chased them down the stairs and screamed for the whole neighborhood -- you think you’re feminists, you’re not fucking feminists it’s just misogyny turned the other way.

Another time, we both wrote 666 on our foreheads, and JoAnne taped her mouth shut with duct tape and we went over to that fateful café and handed out cards that said Val Valley Pep Squad. We were trying not to feel silenced -- if they thought we were possessed, then why not show them possessed? But I almost forgot the hardest part, I mean the hardest part for me. Right when Garrett moved out, he spray-painted the sidewalk in front of our door, huge letters that said MATT IS A RAPIST. I felt my whole body pull in, I didn’t know what to do except to call Laurie -- I said: you won’t believe what Garrett wrote on my doorstep. Here he was calling me a rapist, just because it was the worst thing he could say. But Laurie still took Garrett’s side. I guess that was really the end of our relationship -- later, we were friendly again, but it was because of what we had once meant to each other.

I didn’t know if I would ever again believe in this thing called community. When people invoked that word to mean something vague and amorphous, it made me sick; it still does. Even now, 15 or almost 16 years later, just writing this story it’s like I’m there again I can hardly breathe and I’m on the phone with Andee, he says: I never realized all that affected you so much. But it did, honey, it did: at the time I still wanted to be invulnerable, or at least to seem invulnerable, and so I channeled all my emotions into a politicized rage, rage at this culture that had made and betrayed me -- what do you mean community? Kind of like when I’d said to Zee: what do you mean nature? Except that now my scorn was justified. I dissected the betrayal, step by step; I asked what it meant when this was all that community became; I went off on scenesterism, on followers, on the emptiness of Mission dyke rhetoric; but I didn’t talk about how I’d believed, or how it all had hurt me.


Jen Cross said...

I'm just so wildly grateful for your writing, your re-membering, your youness, Mattilda. Love you -

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yay -- thank you so much, Jen!

And, what a great reminder to call you -- I will try right now...

Love --

Jory M. Mickelson said...

Have you seen these palm trees? In Montana they seem to grow at every gas station/casino. There were a lot of letters to the editor about them.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Oh, my -- those are certainly palm trees!

Love --