Saturday, February 13, 2010

Constant

Kelvline acknowledged this place of crisis in my body; she wanted to help, it felt crucial to her. She would come over my house once a week, and we would get groceries, do laundry, go to the post office; she would chop vegetables and type for me. I would buy groceries for her, pay for memory cards for her music, buy dinner or offer to pay for other things that she needed, so there was a financial dimension, but it wasn’t defined as a response to her assistance. I offered to pay her directly, but she didn’t want our relationship to be monetized; I respected that.

Really what I gave most in return was attention. Every week, Kelvline and I would spend hours and hours talking through the crises that emerged in her life, whether it was about the queen in her building who gave her class shade, even though or especially because they were both black fags living in subsidized housing; the fictitious white profile Kelvline created on chat sites to cruise the guys who would never pay attention to her otherwise; whether it was possible for her to perform in public without becoming another fetish object for white scenesters; the undercover cops outside her window; the way white people fidgeted on the street like she was going to attack them; the way black people on the bus talked about her like she was trash; whether video games were the key to unlocking mass consciousness; rap; the Mission; growing up in a white suburb of Southern California; the white childhood friend who tried to kiss her, but she pushed him away and now she was trying to track him down on some military base, maybe they would become gay lovers; her ex-boyfriend; racialized desire; objectification; consumerism; pubic lice; SSI; whether it was possible to cook and get out of the house too, and the drama in her kitchen when everyone would try to interfere.

We were both obsessed in our own ways with music and graffiti and public space and trying to figure out a sexuality that didn’t just feel like loss, but mostly we connected out of a shared alienation that we had learned to politicize. Or a shared alienation that I had learned to politicize, a strategy Kelvline was in the process of developing. The relative newness of this type of imagining for Kelvline often made her judgmental in that way that usually happens at points of activist emergence, as if there was only one true path to the purely radical engagement. I mean, I remember when I thought anyone who wasn’t vegan was a disaster, right? Or, when I thought I was a horrible person because I’d eaten a piece of chewing gum that might have contained sugar processed with animal bones.

I would talk with Kelvline about everything in my life too, but in a different way -- I rarely asked for help beyond the physical tasks that overwhelmed me. Sometimes it was fun to brainstorm a particularly wacky word choice, but when I did ask for emotional support, I wasn’t even sure that Kelvline noticed; I would hear the keyboard clicking in the background: how could she listen to me if she was on MySpace, or cruising gay.com? But her intervention in the daily tasks of my life felt so generous that it overrode my reservations about other aspects of our friendship. I thought that maybe it balanced itself out when she would help me chop vegetables, so I could cook without hurting myself as much, and in return I would help her think things through, so that everything she did wasn’t so contradictory. Not that either of us planned it that way, just that it was what happened.

Sometimes on those Mondays we spent together I would get frantic too because there was so much I wanted to get done, but still I was trying to appear outwardly calm, to make sure Kelvline knew I felt grateful, even when she made it so hard to actually feel calm. Actually we spent every Saturday together too, after the Gay Shame meeting, and then often another few times for smaller group meetings, wheatpasting, or stenciling. Our friendship became a primary relationship; we weren’t just committed to a queer politic of challenging the violence of the status quo and creating alternatives, we were committed to one another.

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