Thursday, May 31, 2012

Syllabus

We get outside and he says why? I hate that fucking song, I say, but where are we going? Do you want to go to Babyhead, I ask -- it's really straight, but the music is great, I wouldn't mind dancing. Okay, Aaron says, but then I realize no, I need to sit down somewhere first, but there aren't any cafés downtown, or nothing open this late. We could go back to the hill, Aaron says, but fuck the hill. I know – what about the video bar, so we head in that direction. Sure enough, there's no one inside except the friendliest bartender on earth with her big curly bleached hair – hey hon, she says like we're best friends and she hasn't seen me in a while, what will it be tonight? I say a screwdriver for my friend, but I'm just going to have a glass of water with no ice if you don't mind, and then I tip her two dollars when she brings the drinks and Aaron and I sit down at a booth.

Aaron’s looking in the mirrors, which is hard not to, since they are on all sides, underneath the video screens that are never on. Aaron's starting to look a little messy, they were selling two-dollar margaritas at the Galaxy. I say I feel like AIDS doesn't even exist at Brown, and I'm not sure he really gets what I'm saying but he says I know. I just don't know what to do about being here, I say – maybe I should move to Boston. And stay in school, he asks, and looks a little scared. I guess so, I say – just until the end of the year, so I can get off academic probation. Just until the end of the year sounds like something my mother would say – you mean the end of my life.

Aaron and I met in English 19 – he had a barrette in his hair the first day so he kind of looked like a riot grrrl and I thought oh, we're going to be friends. I wouldn't have necessarily thought that in San Francisco, because he also kind of looked like a 15-year-old but this wasn’t San Francisco so I had to act fast. I think I said something about how he needed to get away, before he became one of those people. Not the first time we met, but pretty soon. I’d just gotten back, and I was stunned at what everyone had become. When I left it was like I was fleeing everything I was supposed to be, no time to finish classes when everything I learned was from organizing against the administration. Three years later and I was a different person, trying to figure out what classes to take that wouldn't make me feel like my life was pointless. I tried to register for the senior seminar in queer theory, which didn't really make sense because I wasn't a senior and I'd never taken a queer theory class, but Laurie and I had gotten married to get off-campus housing and then we moved to San Francisco for the summer and never came back, and everyone knew I was an activist and a hooker so I guess they figured that meant I could take the senior seminar. So I went along with Letha and James who had become the queer theory pets, and the professor asked me what I wanted to research. I said I want to write about the role of incest in the work of David Wojnarowicz and Pedro Almodovar, and the first thing he said was: have you read Gender Trouble?

I guess I must've looked confused, so he said Gender Trouble, by Judith Butler, and I said I’ve read some of her work, which was kind of true because when that book Inside/Out came out I read the essay by Judith Butler, or tried to read it, or anyway I thought it was brilliant but at some point I realized wait, it’s taking me 10 minutes to read each page, and then I still have to go back because I have no idea what I just read, and if Judith Butler is so fucking smart, why can't she write so that people will actually understand? That was the end of queer theory for me.

But back to Brown, that professor said it again: have you read Gender Trouble? No, I said, and he said well this wouldn't be a good fit for you because that's the work that's going to undergird our investigation here, and he suggested I take his English 125 class, but then it turned out I couldn't take that one until I took Intro to Gay and Lesbian Studies, so that's how I met Aaron. And actually it's my only good class – the teacher didn't even look confused when I told her I went by a different last name than the one on my registration, because my father sexually abused me and I didn't want his name – she just changed it right away and when I asked her why there wasn't any David Wojnarowicz on the syllabus, she asked me if there was a particular piece I would recommend.

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