Sunday, June 30, 2013

This is the kind of interview that makes me so happy and filled with possibility -- thanks so much to Mairead Case for her gorgeous engagement in The Rumpus!!!

I read a lot of memoirs, and I think they contain a lot of amazing information—the kinds of gossip that is a part of history that isn’t anywhere else—but to me the predictable linear form plotting towards packaged revelation or false narrative closure really limits the possibilities. So I’m trying to write a different form that is also memoir. Not memoir in the sense of a how-to, or a guidebook, or a history with defined beginning and ending: memoir in the sense of a book driven by personal vulnerability towards feeling.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yes, after the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, gay marriage proponents were chanting "U-S-A" -- how many times can my heart be broken?!

Speaking of my heart, I will be on KALW's Your Call tomorrow at 10 am Pacific time talking about the morass of gay assimilation -- there will be some guaranteed assimilationists on the program for sure, but it is a call-in show so feel free to call and tell me all about your blood-drenched South African diamonds and red-white-and-blue wedding dress, okay?

Speaking of my red-white-and-blue wedding dress, this is a gorgeous piece...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

When we're done

Finally Ed does leave the hospice, long after everyone who was there when he checked in has already died. The hospice is voluntary admission; Ed is able to walk out. He checks himself in at the Y. The narrator can't find him. No one will tell her where he's gone. They're not supposed to.
It's amazing how Rebecca Brown makes this book so unpredictable. This book about caring for people who are dying.
This guy who recognizes the homecare attendant except she hasn't met him before. Maybe it’s dementia. Except then it turns out that he was Carlos's friend, in his 30s when the attendant was taking care of Carlos but he looked like he still had baby fat. Now his face is thin and he looks like he's 50.
These people want so much, and can only have so little. This attendant, she tries to provide what she can. Maybe more than she can. More than I could, I'm pretty sure about that. This guy, Marty is his name, he helped Carlos to die, it was so painful at the end. He wants to know if the attendant thinks dying can be a relief.
"When the epidemic started there was a shorter time between when people got sick and when they died." That's a line that really gets me, because of Sean. One moment she was telling us — and I didn't believe her, I didn't believe her. It's all frozen in my head now, like we're still standing on the Esplanade and Sean is yelling I'm dying! I'm dying.
But this isn’t the beginning of the epidemic, so how did it happen so fast? Was it just stopping the drugs, and did she mean for it to happen that way? What will happen when I stop the drugs?
And then I'm thinking of other people. Like that queen that came to our house in San Francisco, to interview for a room that was available, and she was talking about the goddess and her special powers and she wanted to do touch healing on everyone. I was appalled. I saw her around a few times, and she always acted like we were really close, and then the next time I heard about her, it was for her memorial.
I never wanted to go to memorials for people I didn't know well, I knew people who went to every memorial they heard about, and it felt like they were exploiting other people’s grief. But now I wonder if there's something important in sharing the gestures of loss, big and small all at once. I wonder if I should have gone to that memorial. If that's what I'm doing now, reading this book with Ned at the dining room table, and what are we going to say when we're done?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Closer to childhood, and away

"There's something about no one else knowing someone is taking care of you." This could mean anything. So could most of the sentences in this book. Taken separately. Here this sentence means that maybe if Mrs. Lindstrom pretends the home-care attendant is just there on a visit. On a visit saying hi. Maybe if she just pretends, all of this can become pretend.
I look at Ned again, and I can't quite place his expression. Concentration, sure, but something else. I guess I've never watched him read before. I used to watch him when we were having sex, or try not to watch him, or both. Now I'm wondering what we’re pretending.
In the next room, the next room in the book, Ed is waiting for a room in the hospice. He’s watching The Young and the Restless when the attendant picks up the call. He doesn't want to go.
There is something about this narrator: she is so caring and detached. She knows too much through this work. There is no mention of the pay, but I'm guessing it's eight dollars an hour. Something like that. And yet she's able to feel so deeply for these people who she doesn't know, or who she only knows through their illness. I wonder if this is what community means.
The narrator tells Ed that he can leave the hospice if he wants to, even though she's never seen anyone come back. Is this an act of kindness?
It's so surprising, when you cry and when you don't. I'm so used to the soothing light of this chandelier. What about these crystal water glasses? Ed isn't crying. I mean Ned. Or, Ed, who, at the end of the chapter turns down the hospice, even though the home-care worker and his case manager both think he should go. At the end of the chapter he's enraged, making contradictory demands. He’s a child, and an adult. He wants to have a garage sale. He wants to have the option to leave his house again on his own. Even if he knows he never will be able to.
On the TV, someone's having someone else's baby. Someone's hiding it. This is what we watch.
At the end of the chapter, Ed is enraged, and crying, except that "something was wrong with his tear ducts and he couldn't."
The chapter is called "The Gift of Tears."
Where is Ned? Oh, behind me, placing a cocktail to my right, thank you. I wonder if I want him to touch my shoulder, but then he doesn't.
"Like everything new is something else you've lost." Another one of those lines. In this case not from the narrator, but from Carlos's friend. In this case the new thing is a catheter, but it could be anything. The walk from the bed to the bathroom. Turning the shower dial with your own hands. Getting up.
The way the narrator washes Carlos's hands, arms, armpits, feet. The way death brings you closer to childhood, does that mean into or away from pain? The innocence of experiencing touch, with and without its implications. And then the fear, and that's the childhood I remember.
I've seen people get close to death. I've known people who’ve died. But always it happened fast, like a drug overdose, and then it was over, except for everyone still alive. Or slowly, like with people in ACT UP who were already experiencing dementia when I met them. So I knew. And they knew. And then they didn't, and they did. Sean was the closest one, but it happened so fast. First I had no idea, and then he was gone. How long did he know? That's what I keep wondering.
Mrs. Lindstrom, now her name is Connie, she seroconverted from a blood transfusion when she had a mastectomy. Before they tested blood for HIV. Apparently she has a gay son, Joe, who tells the attendant that he feels guilty because he thinks he should be the one dying and not his mother, that she never did anything wrong.
How all fags carry this guilt and shame around in our bodies, and what it means.
And then Connie, holding on to her routine, hoping that if they don't talk about the fact that she can't eat, maybe she will be able to. If they don't talk about how afterwards she stumbles to the bathroom and sobs, hoping that no one can hear.
Ed is in the hospice now. No one had ever turned down a room before, and so the other residents hope that maybe he can turn down death too.
How fast this all happens, how there is never an empty bed in the hospice.
Ed says: "There won't be anyone left to remember us when we all die." And I wonder if that's already true. Now Avery has taken Sean’s place at the clubs with all the different-sized vials, and no one even asks, no one even asks about Sean. We sit in his apartment, and it's like there's a ghost there, we’re that ghost.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A nice surprise

Ned gets home and I do that thing where I change my facial expression to look neutral but it's too late and I can't stop crying. Before I thought I couldn’t cry anymore because of the coke cure, which was starting to feel overwhelming and the whole point of the coke cure is not to feel overwhelmed, right? Ned puts his briefcase down and I hand him the book. He takes it in his hands and looks at it for a while like he needs to translate the words on the back cover and on the inside jacket too. What am I doing, I'm thinking, what am I doing crying in front of Ned?
And then he says: I'd like to read this book. I'd like to read this book with you.
And then I really can't stop crying.
I'll go out and purchase it right now, Ned says. They should have it at the bookstore. I'll be right back.
Ned hands me the book again, and I turn the page. The narrator says to Rick: "I'm sorry you hurt so much," and I'm thinking about how much I hurt, how much everyone I’ve ever known hurts, or everyone I’ve ever known that’s meant something to me, and then the ones who act like they don't hurt, like nothing's affecting them at all, they just go and die.
And then the narrator does something that I can hardly believe. She gets on the futon with Nick. She gets on the futon and lies on her side and put her arms around him as he’s sweating and in pain.
I don't think I could ever do something like that for someone I don't know. I’m not sure I could do something like that for anyone.
When Ned and I are done eating, I go to the bathroom to do a bump, and when I get back to the table Ned has already started reading. I'm only on page 7, and this book already means so much to me. The home-care worker is cleaning the apartment while Rick is in the hospital — she’s doing everything thoroughly and methodically; she wants Rick to come home to a place that’s soothing. She avoids the kitchen table, there’s something she saw there and when we find out what it is, when I find out what it is, that's where I'm crying again: "I thought of him planning a nice surprise, of him trying to do what he couldn't."
Rick had gone out to get cinnamon rolls like he used to, after his lover died but before Rick had also gotten sick; he’d gone out to choose the softest ones from the center, one for himself and one for the home-care worker. And now he's in the hospital. The narrator closes her eyes and lowers her head towards the table and I'm thinking of tears, tears at this table with Ned and he's not looking up, which helps me not to try to change anything and I wonder if he knows that.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Gifts

Let's do a bunch of coke, Avery finally says, let's do a bunch of coke and then get on the T and ride every line. We’ll announce every stop, over and over again the whole way just like Sean used to do, over and over again until everyone on the train wants to punch us. I know they already want to punch us but then they'll really want to punch us. Let's make sure we get to every stop. I want to announce every stop. I want to announce every stop for Sean.
And that's when we start crying, finally, both of us, I can’t tell if I start crying because I see tears in Avery’s eyes or if he starts crying because I’m already there, but it feels like such a relief because I wasn’t sure if I could cry anymore. And maybe this sounds awful but crying feels like a celebration, like a celebration of life, maybe Sean's, maybe ours, and when we’re done crying Avery and I do another line, and then another, and another, and then we get ready to ride the T.
The next day, I finally start reading The Gifts of the Body, Rebecca Brown's latest book, about a home-care worker taking care of people dying of AIDS. I read a few sentences and I’m kind of startled by the writing, so simple and straightforward in comparison to her other books and I’m thinking about whether these deaths have changed Rebecca Brown’s writing.
I’m thinking about when I first heard about AIDS, maybe I was 12 and it was Rock Hudson in The Inquirer and I didn't even know who that was, a famous actor my mother said and the headline said he died of AIDS. Maybe he came out first, and then he died. No, I don’t think he ever came out.
Liberace too —pictures of him really scared me, I didn't know what to do with those pictures. I just knew that I was going to die, if anyone knew, knew about me, and they did know, that much I knew.
Even though Sean was a tired bitch, she was maybe my best friend without JoAnne or Abby or Melissa who doesn't call me back anymore. Maybe I'm becoming a tired bitch, sitting here in Ned's dining area, staring up at the chandelier instead of starting The Gifts of the Body. I never noticed before that this is the exact same chandelier as the one in the entryway, only smaller. And the one crystal that's a different color, ruby, I guess that's how you know the chandelier is real, that’s what Ned told me, real what I didn’t ask but on this chandelier the odd crystal is right at the bottom instead of on the side a little bit like the one in the front.
Each chapter in The Gifts of the Body is called the gift of something, like "The Gift of Sweat," or "The Gift of Wholeness." It looks a bit religious with all those gifts arranged in a column down the table of contents and then I wonder, wait, I hope it isn't 12 chapters, 12 steps, that would be awful.
Okay, 11, 11's okay, I counted twice just to make sure. Three times: 11 for sure. I guess I can start now.
I start crying on page 2, which is numbered page 4. I start crying because the narrator is talking about leaving little surprises under the pillow of the person she's taking care of. Or, rearranging his toys so the toys are kissing. "Rick love surprises," Rebecca Brown writes.
And then, on the next page, Rick is on the floor, or no I guess it's not the floor but it feels like the floor. It feels like the floor to me. He's on the futon in the living room, curled up in a fetal position, writhing in pain. The narrator has just arrived.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reaching

Ned doesn't want to get fucked anymore, ever since I told him about Sean. He's never said that exactly, just that he hasn't been in the mood, he doesn’t feel up to it. And honey, what could be better?
But I pretend I'm a little disappointed. Which means Ned is always trying to please me in other ways. By giving me more space. By not asking why I don’t want to go out with his friends.
Now we've drifted into some weird routine where I cook dinner because he says he's trying to get healthy, I mean I know that's a joke since I'm sure he’s eating bacon and eggs for breakfast, and a hamburger for lunch, but it's almost cute how he asks all these questions about my cooking even though he never pays attention to the answers. And then we sit down and talk like husband and wife or father and son or maybe just friends, that's the best part, when it feels like we're friends. Then we sit close to one another on the sofa and drink cocktails until it’s time for Ned to watch the news and I pretend I have to go out to do more studying.
Every now and then, Ned wants me to give him a massage, and then when I get hard he says oh, let me see that, and then he likes to jerk me off until I come on his chest. And then I hate him again.
Avery and I are trying to figure out whether we want to take Sean's place. What that would mean. Back in the day, Abby and I were K dealers for a little while, right, saving money to get out of Boston and look where we are now? And that was only a few thousand dollars, total, and most of that went up Abby’s nose. But we weren’t talking $15,000 a month.
And, coke is different. I'm worried I'll do too much. I already do too much. I'm worried I'll turn into one of those paranoid messes pacing around the room saying who's there? Looking inside the kitchen cabinets, the shower, the dryer, the shampoo, the contact lens solution: who's there who’s there who's there?
Avery's worried we’ll get caught, that we’ll end up raped in prison or chopped up in the Charles River. We're sitting in Sean's kitchen with that glorious poster of Divine in the red dress from Pink Flamingos. I wonder what it will be like when we visit Sean in Lancaster. At her parents’ converted farmhouse.
Oh, there's a message, Sean has a message, should we listen to it?
Why are we so nervous? Should we do another line? Just a little bit. Maybe a cocktail. There's still some Absolut in the freezer, even though I don't like Absolut.
Absolut and tonic. That's better. Finally Avery says: do you think we should just delete it?
But it might be her parents. They said they might call us here.
That's what we’re both worried about. Avery lights a cigarette, one of Sean cigarettes, even though she doesn't smoke. No, wait, I’m the one who doesn’t smoke.
It's Sean's mother. We don't need you to come out here, she says. Sean passed. In his sleep. It was peaceful.
What did she just say, I ask. What the fuck did she just say?
Avery doesn’t say anything.
She did not pass, I'm yelling. I'm yelling at the machine. She did not fucking pass. Avery is still quiet. Sometimes I don't know if it's possible to breathe, if I've ever figured it out. Sometimes I don't know what the point is.
Oh, I say – why can't they just say die? Her fucking homophobic parents are probably glad that she's fucking dead, that they don't have to worry about her anymore. That they don't have to worry about her fucking dying of AIDS because she's dead, she's fucking dead and oh, Avery, do you think it’s true, do you think it’s really true? How could it have happened this fast?
Avery is still quiet. He's staring straight ahead like someone's going to walk in the door. Avery, I say, and he looks over at me like he didn't realize I was in the room. He looks over at me, and his mouth moves like he's saying something.
Avery, I say, oh Avery. And he stands up. And I stand up too, so I can hug him. We stand that way for a while. I feel like we should be crying, but I don't know how. Eventually Avery starts to shake, so I hold him tighter, but still no tears. And then I start to shake, and Avery holds me tighter. I kiss him on the neck, and we stand there like that, my lips reaching for something.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Something stopped

Sean opens the door with a kazoo in her mouth. Of course Abba’s playing in the background. Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday me, she says. And then — oh, oh – I forgot. Not Abba, Mattilda’s here. I forgot. Sorry. And she rushes over to the stereo before I have time to say it's okay, switches it to something so good it makes the whole room vibrate. What is this?
Richie, she says, Richie Rich. The one and only. Or no, not the one and only, since we all know about that one in New York with the bleached hair and rollerskates but that bitch doesn't even look like the right cartoon. She doesn’t have those fabulous cheeks. Our Richie has those cheeks. She’s cheeky and she can spin. Spin with me. Spin. Boston's one and only.
Girls, Sean says, take off your coats. Make yourselves comfortable. Welcome. Welcome. And, welcome. Let me tell you, a lot has happened since you've been gone. A lot. Has. Happened. First of all, another hit. Another hit of ecstasy. Ecstasy you know me as—sextasy. Oh, oh—speaking of sextasy, who has a bigger cock? Tell me, who has a bigger cock?
Sean.
Wait — wait — don't tell me, Miss Mattilda. I have a ruler. I have a ruler here somewhere. I want to know. The world wants to know. Who. Has. A. Bigger. Cock. Oh, hold on — I need to vomit my guts out. I need to vomit my guts out again. I'll be right back.
Avery and I look at one another. We’re starting to do this a lot. She reaches for my hand. I need more pot. Sean’s clothes are piled up on the floor, suitcases on the other sofa. Where do we sit? Sean comes back out of the bathroom.
Much better. Much, much better. I shouldn't have eaten that pizza. Now, where was I? Where. Was. I? Right — which one’s the man, and which one’s the woman?
Sean, that’s gross. You sound like some homophobic asshole.
Wait, wait, speaking of assholes, let me guess – all you did was bump pussies. Scratch and sniff. Go ahead – say it. The world is waiting. The Inquirer. The Star. National Lampoon's Vacation. Pussy Tourette says “He drives a Carmen Ghia,” but I say the world can't wait for pussy. Whose snatch smells like donuts and whose snatch smells like skunk?
Avery laughs, then she looks down.
Oh, Sean says — let me guess: you’re both bottoms. But wait, Dorothy, wait — I forgot. The bedroom. Come in the bedroom. On the left table, kitty cat meow meow come a come a chameleon Dorito crunch sponge Marge Simpson’s ketamine connection. On the right table, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs old-school no school blow school blow blow and blow. The wicked witch of the West, blowing it all down. Blow with me, bitches, it’s time to blow — it’s time to blow our fucking hearts out.
Sean, you're out of your mind.
It's my birthday, and I'll cry if I want to. I’ll cry if I fucking want to. Go ahead — sing it, sing it, sing it! Sing it, bitches, sing it for Miss Sean Severe. Sean Severina. Sean Sever Vivina. Korena. Maltese falcon bleemer kachimer. Oh, wait, wait — did I mention — congratulations.
For what?
Miss Mattilda, don't play coy with me. You did the deed. How was it? Wait — wait. Don't tell me — don't tell me, yet. First I need another line. No, really, I'm happy for you. I'm happy for you both. You're too smart for your own good, and he's too stupid.
Sean.
I'm sorry. I'm getting out of hand. I'm getting out of arm. I'm getting out of chest. I'm getting out of tits and ass. I'm getting out of grass. Grass. That's what's missing – did you bring the grass?
Do you need some pot?
Oh, yes – why didn't you say something before? You two take a walk down lovers’ lane, and I will pause for a moment to catch my breath.
Avery does a line of coke, and when she looks at me I already like her less.
And you? And you, Miss Mattilda? What will it be? Cat tranquilizer, or Colombian cartel?
I don't think I want any more drugs. I need to sleep at some point.
Sleep? Sleep. Who needs sleep? It's my birthday. You can't leave me. You can’t leave me yet.
Sean, nobody's leaving you. I'll do some coke.
I do a line, and as soon as it hits my head I think shit, I just fucked up my high. So then I do some K. Better to balance it out, right? Avery's right behind me. Your turn, I say, and this time I like watching her eyes change.
We smoke some pot. Sean gets a little calmer. The music is really good.
What's going on, Avery says.
What's going on, Sean says. What's. Going. On? Let me take you in the other room.
Sean leads us into the kitchen. The whole table is filled with drug paraphernalia.
Okay, Sean says. Everything is set up. I counted it. 64 vials. 30 quarter grams. 21 half grams. 13, no 14 grams. That makes 65. 65 vials. Do you see how I have it all arranged? Because before, when all the vials were the same size, I had to go in the bathroom to look. Now I can just feel with my fingers. That's what you'll do, you'll just feel with your fingers.
Twattilda, Avarice, please pay attention. Pretend this is Masterpiece Theatre. Or, no — The Twilight Zone. You are about to enter… Xanadu. The City of Lost Children. Pee-wee’s Playhouse. My name is Dawn Davenport.
Well, that's something we can understand. Hi, Dawn.
And I’m a shit-kicker. And a thief. Or is it a thief, and a shit-kicker? But back to business. Listen to my directions. Ask questions later. Oh, wait — I need another line. I'll be right back.
Avery and I look at one another. He leans over and kisses me, just like that, all the bitter taste in his mouth and I'm starting to feel the X again or maybe it's the K and then Sean comes back in.
Oh. I caught you in the act. Did I mention I love it? I. Love. It. But back to business. I'm a shit-kicker and a thief. Ask questions later.
My name is Dawn Davenport, Avery giggles.
No, my name is Dawn Davenport. Okay, I explained the vials. Second step. This is my pager. You know how to work it, work it, work it you know I know you know how to work it. It's still in my name. My contract is on the table. Pay with a money order, and no one will know. Same thing with my apartment. No one knows I'm leaving. Here are the spare keys. What else? What else? You've seen all these gadgets. Waist belt, ankle, shoulder, in case you want to hide anything. If you don't, you can use this one as a headband. Camouflage is very now. What else? What else? Oh – how it works. You see this little wooden door underneath the table. It leads right outside, to a bag of cat litter. Meow. Let me show you. See? That's where they deliver it. You buzz them in, they replace that cat litter with the new cat litter. Oh—oh— you leave the money in the old cat litter. They leave the drugs in the new cat litter. You never see one another. It's fabulous. Do you get it? Fabulous, fierce, and flawless all at once – Flawlessa Contessa. Oh —oh— I didn't tell you. I'm leaving you the business. It's a lot of money. A lot. Of money.
The music just got really loud. Does everyone else notice?
Questions, Sean is saying, questions — does anyone have questions?
Avery says are you saying you don't want to sell anymore?
Sean says 10 points, 10 points for my biggest customer.
And you want us to take over the business?
10 points — 10 points, 10 points for realness. Tens across the board. Keep going, keep going.
But why?
Oh — a stumper. Let's go back in the bedroom. I need another line. Let's celebrate. It's my birthday. I’m 201. I'm making cocktails. I know you like orange juice. Does anyone want a cocktail? No, no — the real question: Does anyone need a cocktail?
We go in the kitchen. I mean we are in the kitchen, but suddenly it feels like we're in the kitchen. Like I can't tell whether it's day or night. Like the music stopped or no, not the music. Something stopped. I still hear the music, but something.
Sean says oh, oh — I have to turn over the tape. Let's go in the other room. And she grabs her bottle of Absolut and takes a swig right from the bottle. Sorry, ladies, she says, I hope you don't mind backwash. We follow her in the bedroom and she does another line of coke. And then Avery. I don't need more, but I do more anyway. K first, then coke. It's better that way.
I'm dying, Sean says.
You're not dying, I say.
No, she says, that's where you're wrong. You're not usually wrong. For example, I am a racist. You got that one right, right away. And, I hate women. Most of the time. Except Tracy Lords. And Betty White. And Cece Peniston. Let's go back in the kitchen, and sit down. The living room is a mess. I'll make you some cocktails. What was I saying? Oh — I'm a liar. But I'm not lying right now. I have five T cells. I'm going home tomorrow. I'm going home tomorrow to die.
How can the room be so quiet, when Sean just turned over the tape?
That's right — five T cells. You know what that means, Mattilda. You’re the activist. That's right. I'm dying. Dawn Davenport is dying. Mother Theresa doesn't have a bed big enough for me. I'm going home tomorrow. My parents are picking me up.
Avery’s eyes are closed, she's squeezing them shut. I move my leg so it's touching hers.
You both look so serious, Sean says — I didn’t mean to fuck up the party.
The music is loud again and someone's knocking on the door, is someone at the door?
No, it's not the door.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Oh, right – here's your periodic reminder that most of the writing I'm posting here right now is part of the first draft of the new novel I'm writing at this very moment, Sketchtasy, which takes place in Boston in 1995/'96, oh my…

Something really soft

Am I okay? I don't know – I don't know I don't know I don't know. But it feels good to be with you. And this time Avery sticks his tongue out before it gets to my mouth so I grab his cheeks and hold him right in front of my face, licking his tongue in a circle down to his chin, sucking on his chin, stubble, around to his ear, bitter, behind his neck, salty, and then holding him from behind, let's go upstairs.
In the bathroom I'm unbuttoning his shirt and he's pulling off my sweater but wait, one at a time. Who goes first? Should we flip a coin? I don't have any. Kiss me again.
I'm unbuttoning Avery's shirt, and he says you're so beautiful.
You're so beautiful.
I don't know about that.
You are — just look at those eyes. And your eyelashes, like in a movie. Your curly hair. The hairs on your chest. Your lips. Your armpits, let me feel your armpits, such soft hairs so soft. The back of your neck, oh I love the back of your neck and the freckles on your back.
I have freckles on my back?
Yeah, little tiny brown freckles, just in the middle and nowhere else.
Let me take off your shirt now.
Wait, I love holding you from behind. I love the way your hair feels in my mouth. I love smelling you when you're not wearing cologne.
I'm never wearing cologne again. I'm never wearing cologne again.
Are you going to talk to me after this? Are you going to talk to me?
Of course. Of course I'm going to talk to you.
Because, remember last time?
There will never be a last time, again.
Okay, your turn.
Oh, I love your skin. I love the color of it. I love how soft you feel. I love your chin. I love the little bit of hair by your belly button. I love the way your skin turns red. I love your ears. I love your eyes, I always wanted blue eyes. I tried blue contacts once, but everyone said I was trying to be white. I wasn't trying to be white. I am white. I was white. I mean I am white, and I am black, and why is everyone so stupid and racist? I've never said that before.
Never?
But I've always thought it. No, not when I was little. But once I realized.
Once you realized what?
Once I realized I wasn't white.
Sean thought you were Asian.
I told him I was Asian. Can I take your pants off?
Let's do it at the same time. Okay, first the button. Now, unzip. Now, start to pull down. Okay, bend your knees. Slowly. Okay, yes. Let them fall to the floor. Okay, kiss me. Step forward. Yes, we did it.
What about underwear? Your underwear?
Okay, let's switch. Turn around. Okay, hand me yours and I'll hand you mine. Turn around again.
You look good in briefs.
You look good in boxer briefs.
I feel fat.
You're not fat. You’re really hot. Can I put my hands in your underwear?
Can I put my hands in yours? I mean mine.
Underneath your balls.
On your thighs. Yeah, I remember you liked that. I remember that from last time.
What else do you remember?
I remember you liked it when I held you from behind.
How did you know?
Because your breathing changed. Your body got softer. It was like we were one body. I like holding you that way. Can I do it again? See. Your breathing. That's the first thing. And then you lean back. And I've got you. I could hold you like this forever.
Will you? Will you hold me like this?
Oh, this feels so good. I love holding you like this. Can I kiss your neck? I love the taste of your skin. I want to give you a massage. I want to give you a massage sometime.
That sounds nice.
I want to give you a massage, and then I want to lie on top of you and hold you, just like this.
Definitely. We can do that right now. Or, after we take a shower.
Right, the shower. You were going to show me the shower. That's why we’re here.
Maybe we should get in bed first, and take a shower afterwards.
I just want to keep holding you.
Let's go in the bedroom. Here, take my hand. Oh, let me pull the curtains shut. I guess we don't want everyone to see.
I want everyone to see.
That's hot. That's really hot.
Except.
I know. Don't worry. The curtains are shut. Should we turn the light on?
Yes. I want to see you.
Okay, take my underwear off. I mean, take your underwear off me.
Take your underwear off me.
Tell me what you want to do, again.
Lie down. I want to give you a massage. Oh, this comforter is so soft.
I know. But should we pull it back? And get under the covers?
Here. You lean back. You lean back, and I'll sit on top of you.
You want me to lean back?
Yes. I want to see you. I want to see you the whole time.
Oh, my shoulders. That feels good. Kiss me.
Can I tell you something?
Sure.
I think I'm getting hard.
That's okay. I don't think I'm going to get hard. I'm too high.
That's okay. I just wanted you to know. We don't have to do anything.
I want to. I want to see it. That's hot. That's really hot. Can I suck your dick?
Only if you want to.
I want to. I really want to.
That feels so good. Mattilda, that feels so good. You're so beautiful. I love watching your face with my dick in your mouth. Is that okay, is it okay that I'm saying this?
Yes, yes, can I ask to do you something?
Sure.
Will you smack my face with your dick?
Like that?
Yeah,
Will you kiss me first? I wish I could kiss you the whole time. Can I suck your dick?
I'm not hard.
That's like that. Okay.
I don't know if I'll like it when I'm not hard.
Oh, okay.
You can try. You can try, and I'll see if I like it. Oh, yeah, that does feel good, that does feel really really really good. Oh, that's so hot. You're so hot. Put your hands on my chest. Let me suck on your fingers. Let me kiss you again. I love feeling your whole body on top of me.
I'm not too heavy?
No, this is great. Hold me, hold me like you were talking about.
From behind?
Let me sit on your lap. Can I sit on your lap? Oh, this feels so good.
Can I tell you something?
What?
I really want to fuck you.
Oh.
I don't have to. I don't have to fuck you.
How did you get so hard? How did you get so hard on X?
It's because of you. It's because you're so hot.
Do you think you'll stay hard? I mean do you think you'll stay hard in a condom? I get nervous. I get nervous because of — no, never mind.
No, tell me.
I don't want to ruin it.
You won't. You can't. You can't ruin it. Kiss me. Kiss me again.
I get nervous because of my father. Do you know what I mean?
I know what you mean.
Are you sure?
Sean told me. Sean told me about your father. It's okay.
I like it when you hold me in your arms. Can we do that again?
We can do that all night long. I mean all day.
What time is it?
10:30. 10:30 am. Is your clock right?
It's 32 minutes fast.
Then we have an extra 32 minutes.
I want you to fuck me.
Are you sure?
As long as you won't get scared tomorrow, and never talk to me again. Because I'm a whore.
Don't say that word.
I like that word.
Oh. Do you think I'm a whore?
No, I mean literally. Maybe you're a slut, but you're not a whore.
Do you think I'm a slut?
I don't know. Maybe. Do you want to be a slut?
Maybe. Maybe when I'm with you.
Well, you're with me now.
Then I guess I'm a slut.
Let me suck your dick again. I can't believe how hard you are. It's like magic. Hold me again. Hold me from behind. Just like that. I want you to fuck me just like that. Let me get a condom. Okay, make sure there aren't any air bubbles. This lube is really good. It’s called Liquid Silk.
It feels like silk.
Yeah, do it really slowly – oh, wow, wow, that feels so good. Kiss me. Yeah, fuck me. Yeah.
Can I tell you something?
What is it? Yeah, that feels so good. Oh, I feel like I'm coming, but I'm not even hard.
I feel like I'm coming, and I am hard.
Are you? Are you coming?
No. Not yet.
Oh, hold me, hold me again.
Can I get on top of you, and fuck you from behind, really hard, with my hands around you the whole time?
Yeah, yeah, let's do that, but don't pull out. Don't pull out, and let's do that. Yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, pull out when you're about to come, okay?
Okay, yeah, okay, oh, I love you. No, I didn't say that. Forget I said that.
It's okay. But not because you’re fucking me, though, right?
No, not because you're fucking me.
Oh, wow, oh.
I think I'm going to come.
Yeah, yeah, come inside me. No, pull out, pull out and come on my back. No, come inside me, okay?
Are you sure?
As long as the condom doesn't break.
Okay, let me pull out.
No, I want to feel it. Yeah, keep holding me, yeah. Oh that's so hot oh, oh. Did you come?
Yeah. Let me pull out. Where should I put the condom?
Here, let me take it. Kiss me. Oh, that was so hot. I hope we can do that again. I hope you'll call me this time.
I'll call you this time. I promise. This won't be like last time. Last time I didn't fuck you.
Oh, is that the only reason?
No, no. This time we're friends. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't call you last time. Can I tell you something?
What is it?
I really like you. I really like you a lot.
I like you too.
Should we take a shower?
Oh, the shower — yes, the shower. Or, maybe a bath. Should we take a shower, or a bath?
We took a bath earlier.
Was that today? Oh, that was today. Oh, yes, the shower. Come here.
Do you want to smoke some pot first?
Oh, yes, pot. You're turning into a pothead. Oh, wait — we can’t open the blinds, because it's light out. We can’t smoke with the windows closed. Should we wait until we get to Sean’s? Or, okay — how about this? We could smoke in the laundry room, and blow the smoke into the washing machine, and then before it comes out, pour detergent in and run the laundry. Do you think that would work? Or, never mind — let's just smoke in Ned's room, but make sure you lean your head all the way out the window, okay?
Okay. I just need a little bit. I'm worried I'm starting to crash. I need some pot, or coke, and Sean has all the coke.
No, don't say that.
What?
Don't say you're starting to crash. Let’s smoke pot. In Ned's room. Okay, come with me.
It's cold with the window open.
I know, I know, soon we’ll be in the shower.
Do you have any coke?
Oh, coke — I don't want to do coke right now.
Okay, I guess there's later. There's always later. I don't need coke yet. I was just thinking about it, because I'm always thinking about it.
Do you do a lot of coke?
I don't know. The same as you. Or Sean.
Sean does a lot more than me. I mean I do coke every day, but not a lot. Except when I'm with Sean.
Me too. Like coffee. Maybe a gram day. Except when I'm with Sean.
A gram a day? That's a lot.
Do you think so?
I don't know. Let's take a shower. Oh, the shower — why didn't I think of this before?
Why doesn't every shower have three shower heads?
That's what I've been wondering. Can I tell you something?
You sound like me.
Wait — you sound like me. But can I tell you something?
Yes. You’ve turned me into a pothead, and now you sound like me. What did you want to tell me?
I can't remember — oh, this water feels so good.
Can I kiss you again?
Yes, yes, kiss me anytime you want. Oh, that feels so good. Look at the light. Oh, the light. Try this one right here, here, let's trade places, yeah, isn't that great? I just want to stay here for the rest of my life. Is that okay?
I like it here. We could set up a little bed in the corner. Room service for all our meals.
Yes, room service. What would you order?
Maybe a banana.
A banana?
That's just the first thing I thought of. I like how warm it is in here. With you.
I think I might be getting too warm. Give me another hug. I'm going to dry off. Oh — it's 11:30. We should hurry up and get dressed. Or, that's okay, I'll call Sean. I'll call Sean, and tell her we’re running late. I'll go downstairs, and clean everything up. Ned is coming home soon. We should leave before he gets here.
I can help.
No, that's okay, it's just a few things. I'll see you downstairs. Have fun. Have fun in the shower.
I'll miss you.
I'll miss you too.
Can I ask you something?
What is it?
Can I borrow a shirt? Mine’s all sweaty.
Oh, yes, let me pick something out for you. How about a sweater? Something soft. Something really soft. I'll be downstairs.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Let the light in

We get to the water and there are so many colors, I can’t decide which is which. I take my sunglasses off to look. Let's go swimming, I say.
In the Charles River?
In the Charles River.
In the freezing cold?
In the freezing cold. No, maybe not, maybe not in the freezing cold. Look, a bird. A seagull. Did you see that? A seagull, in the winter.
Maybe it was a buoy.
But where did it go? Take your sunglasses off. Look, the sky. Look. Oh my God, the sky. Sean, your eyes — oh, your eyes. Avery, your eyes, do my eyes look like that?
Your hair, Avery says. Your hair is beautiful.
Oh, Sean says, the colors. Mattilda, you're doing that thing with your tongue. Where is the orange juice? Oh, I've got it in my bag.
In your bag? Really? In your bag?
Don't you remember? I even brought a glass. You first. It's a toast. I'm dying.
I'm dying for orange juice. Oh, my throat is so dry, thank you. That's just what I needed. I like this glass. It’s pretty. Where’d you get it?
I don't know, I put it in my bag. I knew I would need it for something. It's not your sugar daddy's. I'm dying. Avery?
Yes, please. Pretty please. Pretty please with sugar on top. Pretty please with sugar on top and a hot fudge sundae. Pretty please with sugar on top and — oh, it's so good. Look at the colors.
Your eyes aren't open.
Yes they are. There’s a head inside my head.
Oh my God you're right —that's the most brilliant thing you've ever said. Sean, close your eyes, close your eyes. And then look. Look at the water.
Look, Sean says, look at the water. And then she takes the glass and throw it up in the air, way out above the water and she starts screaming, screaming at the top of her lungs I'm dying I'm dying I'm dying. I look at Avery. She looks at me. There's no one else around. I don’t hear the glass landing.
And then Sean starts to sob, so I take one of her hands, and Avery takes the other, and we hold her like that, kind of like in the tub but now there’s too much space between us so we squeeze closer. I wonder if Sean took a different kind of ecstasy. It’s starting to feel cold outside. But it's nice to huddle like this for warmth and look out at the water as it starts to get brighter.
What's that over there, Avery says.
MIT. Or Harvard. No, Harvard is further down. Near BU, right?
But on the other side of the water. Where the river’s really small. Like a creek. Sometimes I think you could walk across.
What about the Mass Ave Bridge — oh, should we drive over the bridge? Sean, are you okay? Oh, orange juice, okay, let’s get more orange juice.
We get to Store 24 and yes, it's so warm in here, yes, I love the colors. We should start a club here. Do you think we could get Michael Sheehan to DJ at Store 24? Wow, look at that — a Slurpee machine, a Slurpee. Blueberry, strawberry, orange. Oh, right — orange juice. Where’s the orange juice?
Sean gets some microwave pizza thing and starts chewing on it through the box. Sean, you need to warm that up first.
Oh.
Avery gets a bunch of candy bars and some Lifesavers. See, she says, see. Lifesavers. Life. Savers.
Should I eat something? Maybe a pretzel. No, too dry.
I still can't believe how bright it is outside — sunglasses, don't forget your sunglasses. We get back to the house, and it's like someone's there waiting for us, but it's us. Sean's eating the pizza with her hands, and Avery and I are staring at her. We’re at the dining table. I'm making sure that we use the placemats. I pull open the curtains to let the light in. I hand Sean a napkin. I'm still drinking orange juice. Avery's eating candy. There’s this whistle sound that starts soft and in the distance like a boat until it's closer, some kind of shrieking late-night DJ whistle and I close my eyes.
Mattilda, the tea kettle, Avery says.
Oh, the tea kettle — Sean, do you want more tea?
I'm dying, Sean says.
Do you want more tea?
Yes. The fruity kind.
We sit down together with our white mugs and ruby liquid and I'm trying not to breathe so fast. My hands are shaking, and I'm biting my lips. Sean says it again: I'm dying.
It's just the drugs, I say. I think we did too much. Do you want a Valium? Or Xanax? Do you like Xanax better, or Valium? I wish we could go dancing. Avery?
Do you have more pot?
Oh, pot — I knew I could make you into a pothead. We have to go outside for that. Or, I guess we could go in my bedroom, and open the window all the way. Just make sure you blow the smoke outside.
We go upstairs, to my room. I've never had three people in here before. Like Little House on the Prairie, without the prairie. Wait, did I ever watch that show? Like a boat, without the water. Or the water, without a boat. Oh, the bath — let’s get back in the bath.
Avery's laughing again, and I can feel my head leaning back; Sean doesn’t want any pot. Are you sure? It really brings back the X.
I already drank the orange juice.
What’s next, birthday girl? A bath, do you want to take a bath? Or a nap? I wish we could go dancing. Should I put music on? What time is it? Oh, 9 am. Ned gets home at noon. Let's take a shower, and then go somewhere. Yes, let's take a shower together, in my bathroom. There are three separate showerheads.
Sean says you two go ahead. I think I'm going to walk home.
No, no — it's your birthday. We’ll come with you.
No, I'll walk home, and meet you there.
Are you okay?
Yes, I'll meet you both at noon. Do you need anything?
I don't need anything — I'm so high I can’t even believe it. Avery?
I don't know. I don't know. I'm so high I don't know.
Sean leaves and Avery and I look at one another. I'm chewing on my tongue again —Avery, do you have any gum? I forgot to get gum. Avery’s giving me that look again and then he leans forward and sticks his tongue in my mouth, just like that, and I start chewing on his tongue, just to be funny, and then he grabs my head and my tongue pushes into his throat and I can feel him breathing into me, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale inhale and I’m grabbing his head, sucking tongue into my throat and Lifesavers, yum, lime, I almost forgot about lime but then I have to pull back because I'm choking. And Avery takes my hand and says are you okay? He looks so worried.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lifesavers

Seventy dollars, right, and the punch line is that it’ll buy you a man, seventy dollars, a man, but we're all a little more expensive than that. Maybe not all the time. And Sean says oh, this is what I've always wanted.
What, I say, what have you always wanted?
Oh my God she's crying, she’s fucking crying and I look at Avery. He starts rubbing Sean’s back so that’s what I do to, our hands meeting in the middle and then I kiss Sean on the cheek, and then Avery kisses her on the cheek, and then I have an idea, I start licking Sean’s face and she’s giggling, saying what, what are you doing, and now I’m making a slurping sound and Sean’s still giggling and then Avery kisses my cheek so I kiss his cheek, and then Sean’s, and Sean says: I think I'm starting to crash.
Maybe the water’s too warm.
So then we sit up a little higher, with our feet in the water, and Sean says oh, wait a minute, oh, and she stands up to reaches for one of her tool belts, undoes a few zippers, dries her hand off with a towel, and then turns back to face us with a glass of orange juice in her hand and, no way, three more capsules. I look at Avery. Avery’s looking at the pills.
I don't know if I want any more.
Sean says you have to, it’s my birthday. So I open my mouth and she puts the capsule inside, I take the orange juice and swallow, here we go, Pussy Tourette. In Hi-fi. I sit back in the tub. Avery grabs me from behind and Sean says you’re right, I was jealous. I never admitted it, but I was jealous.
And I say birthday girl in the middle again, and then we sit there like that until the water gets cold, let it all drain and fill it up again. Sean goes downstairs to press play again on the music, she wants to hear the last song again and I tell her there’s a repeat button, we can just play it over and over and over. It’s not Pussy Tourette who sings this one it’s some woman who must be an opera singer saying “I hope he’s not a fag, I hope he’s not a drag queen. I hope he’s not a queer, I hope he’s not a Miss Thing and when she says Miss Thing she rolls it into her throat and we’re all saying Miss Thing Miss Thing to one another Miss Thing, Miss Thing, that’s the story of our lives, until suddenly it's like the whole room is pulsating and is that my heart or my head or my intestines and oh, I need to shit, good thing we have two bathrooms and when I open my eyes I realize I'm covered in sweat, no it's not sweat it's just the water from the tub and when I get back in the other bathroom Sean and Avery are drying off and Sean says: Act Two. The Esplanade.
Now Sean and Avery are in my room. So soft, Avery says, petting the comforter. I rush downstairs to change the music. We need sunrise music. Something with a drumroll. Oh, Armand.
Back upstairs and Avery is rolling naked on my bed so I lie down too, and then Sean, we’re all still naked but somehow it doesn’t feel like we’re naked or maybe it just feels like we should always be naked, that’s what it is, what’s the point of clothes when you can feel like this but is my heart still racing? Put your hand on my chest, I say, can you feel it? Can you feel it, Sean is saying, can you feel it can you feel it can you feel it. Should we get dressed, I say. Should we get dressed should we get dressed should we get dressed, Sean says, and it’s funny how she kind of sounds like Avery the way we all take little parts of one another and that’s what it means to become friends, as long as you don’t take too much, right? Give it take it make it break it work, wasn’t I saying that last night and this is what it means.
I go to my closet in Ned’s room and I guess this is why people like carpet, under your feet, because it’s so soft. But I don't know how to decide what to wear. Something soft. The black velvet pants. The burgundy shirt. The green sweater. Sean wants a hat, so I bring her the one with blue and yellow and white flowers. Avery wants a scarf, maybe the red one with pom-poms? Yes, pom-poms.
Oh that horn that horn that horn, do you hear that horn? A boat in the distance until it’s here, right here and oh, I never noticed the way there’s someone breathing in between the horn and the beat and the shriek no not shriek, what is that sound between a yell and a clap and a monkey in a tree on the beach and then that horn again, it’s not a horn and it’s not a siren except the way I need to shake out the shoulders into hips down to feet into ground, flip around, yes wrap my body into the floor, this is what carpet is good for, witch doctor, which doctor, witch doctor, doctor, Doctor Armand Van Helden, thank you.
Okay, shake, shake your hips down the stairs, back up, down, down back up and down, down back up and down, down back up and down, back up, back up, back up, I didn’t like this song before, the second one, but honey this was made for the stairs, oh the stairs, the rattle, repeat, repeat, repeat, what are they saying, do you know what they’re saying, maybe they’re saying it’s all about the stairs, this song was made for the stairs, but do you think it’s racist how they add in all these African-sounding drums and call that tribal but wait, oh the drums, oh, please more drums and oh, orange juice, oh, that’s what we need, okay, should we leave the stairs?
Oh, look at all this space, look at all this space down here and yes, yes, this orange juice is so good, so so so SO good, isn’t it? Isn’t it? But should we make tea?
Oh, tea.
Tea. Something fruity.
Something fruity yes fruity fruity fruity.
Sunglasses? Do we need sunglasses to go outside? Oh, let me get my sunglasses purse.
Sean decides on the big square old-lady blind person’s glasses, they make her look even bossier. Avery picks the purple rhinestone cat lady professor glasses, the better to read you with. I decide on the big round raver floral print glasses because spring is here on this snowy Boston February morning and this tea, oh, look at the color!
Ruby.
Raspberry.
Fruity pebbles.
Fruit loops. Lifesavers.
Oh, Lifesavers — let’s get Lifesavers. Lime. Are you ready? Do you think it's cold? Do you need gloves? Oh my God it’s so bright — are you sure we’re ready?
Commonwealth Avenue in the snow. No one’s around, but it’s already shoveled. The city is ours. Welcome. Welcome. And, welcome.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And, it's true – I'm now planning the fall tour for The End of San Francisco – Midwest and East Coast starting in October – in the grand tradition of independent presses, this tour will be entirely self-funded, so please let me know if you want to bring me to your town or university!!!

And, here is a glamorous summary of some of the amazing press the book has been getting…

“One of the most important memoirs of the decade.”
—Ariel Gore, Psychology Today

“[A] frantic kaleidoscope of mourning and survival… recklessly transfigured through language and imagination.”
—Michael Bronski, San Francisco Chronicle

“Delivered in a free-form, associative writing style, Sycamore’s effort to exorcise the demons from her past is blunt, dynamic and original.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore… is the posterchild for all that was culturally alternative in San Francisco in that pierced-lip poser decade [the '90s], while at the same time possessing one of the loudest voices cutting through the bullshit clamor back then and questioning it all. She's also a brilliant writer… Her new memoir… is written in such a hypnotically elliptical style (summoning City Lights' Beat poet legacy) and contains so many spot-on observations and era-damning epigrams that anyone who lived through the period described will cling to its pages while wishing to hurl the book at a wall in embarrassed self-recognition. Searing, funny, maudlin, elegiac, infuriating, and confessional, The End of San Francisco is a deliberately disordered collection of vignettes dealing mostly with Sycamore's span living in the city… Along the way we get drug overdoses, AIDS, lesbian potlucks, heroin chic, crystal meth, ACT UP, the birth of the Internet, the dot-com boom, the dot-com bust, mental breakdowns, outdoor cruising, phony spirituality, Craigslist hookups, hipster gentrification, Polk Street hustling, fag-bashing, shoplifting, house music, the Matrix Program, crappy SoMa live/work lofts, "Care Not Cash," gallons of bleach and hair dye, and processing, processing, and more processing… As we weather another dot-com boom of homogenizing gentrification, The End of San Francisco is a timely reminder of the community that can spring from resistance.”
—Marke B., San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Leave it to Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore to have us all excited about the end of San Francisco… Her writing is furious and unlike anything you’ve ever read… Drunk on language that ought to be incomprehensible but is somehow piercingly lucid, [Sycamore] wails elegiac for the dream of a transcendent queer culture once glimpsed with such promise here."
—Evan Karp, SF Weekly

“Can memoir be honest, emotionally or otherwise? Is counterculture actually possible as a way to live? What happens to those who dream of a radical queer community when the dream fails? Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s latest book, The End of San Francisco, is a despairing memoir of loss—the loss of the dream of radical queer San Francisco, the loss of formative friendships, the loss of personal and political innocence. Written in a free-associative style and merging personal and social history, it is—like all of Sycamore’s work— innovative both formally and politically… The End of San Francisco is the opposite of nostalgia. Nostalgia is fundamentally conservative, and its conservatism is often embedded in the form in which stories are told. The End of San Francisco seems to me radical, not just in content, but formally, in insisting on other ways of remembering and documenting.”
—Jessica Hoffmann, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s long awaited memoir… will rip you open; crack your rib-cage and pour glitter into your heart… Brutal and brilliant, the memoir weaves in and out of time, bringing readers into the intimate details of Sycamore’s adolescence and early activist days. Never defaulting to tidy recounts, cleaned with the passage of time, Sycamore invites readers to share in the complexities of growing up and finding yourself… There is no rose-colored revisionist memory here. Expertly, Sycamore tells not only the story of her past, but also gives a glimpse into the world of anyone who was ever young, idealistic, and too queer.”
—Sassafras Lowrey, Lambda Literary

“The End of San Francisco begins and ends with intense wants for recognition and connectivity. Throughout, there isn’t one part where [Sycamore] is disengaged from this intensity. But that want for more, for something deeper, for integrative relationships and structural change, which is so often mistaken for cynicism, is fueled by love and aspirations.”
—Peter Cochrane, BOMB

"This autobiography is a story of the way people fail each other, whether out of malice or exhaustion or just not knowing how to be there. It’s a chronicle of the ways that we need each other, and the way that need can be turned around, inside-out, torn in all the wrong places but still the only blanket that you have. It’s about critiquing out of love and loving despite critique, despite failure, until you can't do it anymore, until you genuinely feel as though an entire city has come to an end."
—Ocean Capewell, Maximum Rocknroll

"A trenchant observer, [Sycamore’s] denunciation of racism, classism and homophobia is fierce and she does not spare queer communities for their refusal to reject hetero-normativity—marriage and children—or capitalist consumption."
—Eleanor Bader, TruthOut

"Sycamore identifies the complicated messiness of identities wrestling with belonging, activism and being instruments of gentrification. . . Her style—emotional and conversational—creates a rich, satisfying, evocative and deeply relatable world."
—Sarah Mangle, Broken Pencil

The End of San Francisco is as much social critique about the impossibility of collective dreams as it is a memoir looking back at queer and feminist community building in the ‘90s. And it feels life changing reading this book in the midst of the marriage debates… As a reader I felt like I was inside my own memories while I was given access to the formative moments of someone else’s life. I kept wanting Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore to be sitting next to me so I could say, “Right, me too”... The End of San Francisco is a reminder of the ways hopefulness runs alongside longing. It is a model for turning internalized pain into unabashedly anti-assimilationist liberatory politics.
—Jessica Lawless, HTMLGiant

"The End of San Francisco could be the most insightful break-up memoir the city has ever received."
—Ingrid Rojas Contreras, KQED Arts

“Shirking the idea that time unfolds linearly and our lives are both affectively lived and narrated chronologically, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's The End of San Francisco gives us memoir as "an active process of remembering" to be experienced simultaneously by author and reader. At its core, The End of San Francisco is a narrative of emotions loosely tied together in constellations of events. It's a trippy read—in multiple senses of the word—but at the same time profoundly honest and raw.”
—Marcie Bianco, Velvet Park

“A fin-de-siècle late '90s narrative that captures the city's underground demimondaine of artists, punks, activists, anarchists and addicts whose ranks will soon be, if not completely swept away by the tech boom's false promises, then severely thinned by gentrification.”
—Tomas Mournian, Huffington Post

“Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's whip-raw memoir… feels like emerging from a chrysalis...”
—Paul Constant, The Stranger

How each toe leads to a different window in my head

Oh, Cats, Sean says — let's watch Cats.
I'll go upstairs and run the water.
Yes, I think, as I throw my clothes into the laundry, just enough time to take a shower, oh, a shower, yes, the cold floor under my feet, yes, the way the light sparkles on the glass, on the blue tiles, yes, the mirror and my body, this body, the smell of my sweat, they’re right when they say soft skin. And the water in my nose, this peppermint soap, oh, I love this peppermint soap.
But wait, I’m supposed to be running the water for a bath, right, a bath. Okay, better dry off, better dry off — oh, this towel is so soft, so so soft, I love this towel. Okay, time to go in the other bathroom and get the tub ready, right, that’s what I was doing, getting the tub ready. Yes, this robe, oh, this robe. Oh, bubble bath, smells like strawberry I like strawberry – yes, these bubbles are so pretty, I love the way each bubble is a different size, all the colors inside and maybe even little people are those really little people — hello, little people, hello.
Let me adjust the lights — up, or down? Or up?
Downstairs and I sit on the sofa with the girls. Avery says oh, this robe. You are so soft. I touch her hand: oh.
Sean says wait, it's almost the ending.
I go in the kitchen — I love this kitchen. There’s so much light. Does anyone want orange juice? Vitamin C. Yes, vitamin C. wait, did they hear me? Orange juice, does anyone want orange juice?
Oh, the bath — shit, the bath. I rush upstairs and the bubbles are spilling over the edge — that’s okay, it’s fun to wipe them up. I get back downstairs downstairs just as Sean is pressing off on the remote control.
Oh, how was it? No, don’t say it — don’t say it! What music? What music should we put on? Moby, Everything Is Wrong? No, that doesn't sound right. Moby Ambient? That might be too quiet. Pussy Tourette. You love Pussy Tourette.
Pussy Tourette. In Hi-Fi.
Let's bring the orange juice upstairs. Towels — let me get towels.
Oh, no, Sean knows all the words: “"Hey good-looking daddy, you're looking kind of spent—searching for a baby, who needs to make the rent."
I'm the first in the tub because all I need to do is throw my robe on the hook, good planning. Avery’s looking at me in that way again. I actually like her shirt now, the flowers are really pretty, I didn’t notice the flowers before, pink on pink.
I guess I'm looking at her in that way too, even though I'm trying not to.
When Sean takes off her clothes, you can see her ribs and it’s kind of scary. I guess you can see my ribs too, but hers are poking out. She has all these pouches with straps on underneath her khakis, like she's in the military or on a camping trip. Camping, right, camping.
I guess I'm staring, because Sean says what, my dick isn't big enough for you? And then she jumps in the tub and I turn the jets on — oh, the jets.
“Je suis oh so hot, vous voulez ma twat.”
And Avery's saying vous voulez ma twat, vous voulez ma twat. Twat twat twat twat twat.
I lean back and close my eyes. Avery's rubbing my foot and it feels so good. Sean says French bitch, French bitch, French bitch. And then my other foot, and it’s amazing how each toe leads to a different window in my head and when I open my eyes I realize Avery’s rubbing one foot and Sean the other and I can feel myself getting hard or not getting hard but feeling like I'm going to get a hard and I wonder what they notice.
Let's sit together, I say, so we all move over to one side of the bathtub, even if it means that we can’t all feel the jets. First I'm in the middle and it’s almost like we’re all one big body breathing in and out except I can feel my edges or no, Sean’s edges poking against me and maybe it’s too much the way I can feel the look in Avery’s eyes or is it my eyes and so then I say let’s switch places, birthday girl in the middle!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Who lives here

And someone’s saying happy birthday, Mama snatch. Happy snatchy birthday. Avery, of course, and I’m leaning against the wall so I can get a closer look at all the lights in the sky and the snow in my face tasting it and look, look at the colors: yellow and blue and brown and red and white blue and green, even green, the streetlight, look at the streetlight, and the way the lights in Andrea’s windows shake and move around and shimmer and this must’ve been planned, right, it must have been planned.
And when I turned back around there’s some woman wearing fur, is that really fur, and she’s saying: whose birthday? And Avery says hers, and the woman looks at me and says it's my birthday too: how old are you? And Sean says: do you need anything?
But it's getting cold out here, so I head back downstairs and into the heat, now it feels good, pushing through the crowd that spills off the dance floor, almost blocking the pathway to the bathroom, where there’s a line and some guy with even more cologne than Avery looking at me with big eyes to ask if I know where he can get some coke. On the roof, I say – head up to the roof, and if you don't see her, come back and I'll show you the way. Thank you, he says, and kisses me on the lips like we’ve been friends forever, and we have.
Eventually I’m at the urinal but oh this always happens, right, I can’t piss and everyone’s waiting and I can’t even tell how long I’ve been here, just that first there’s one guy and then another, and then another, and then another so I zip back up and fix my hair in the mirror, pat the sweat off my face with a paper towel. In the other room it's “gonna drop a house, drop a house, drop by house — gonna drop a house on that bitch,” so I rush onto the dance floor, right into a laser light stream, are those lights new? I think it was only red before, right? Now it's red, blue, green, purple, yellow even, oh, I love the yellow and some queen is yelling work mama and Sage and Juniper are on the sides in their platforms with silver fans and every other clubkid mess oh I love these messes we are all one big twirling runway combustion suction cufflink tiara but then Sean's waving to me from the side so I go over and she says they're about to close, should we go before the rush?
What do you mean they're about to close?
I mean they're about to close — Mattilda, it's 5:45.
But it can’t be 5:45 already, can it? Wait — listen. Yes, yes fucking yes it's “10,000 Screaming Faggots.”
And we’re all screaming, screaming as the horns go into air raid sirens go into nothing but a clack clack runway beat and “10,000 screaming, 10,000 screaming, 10,000 screaming” and I don't know what Michael is mixing this with but it’s the best it’s ever been. And then the music stops. And Sean already has my coat, how did she get my coat? And Avery, when did they sneak off? We wave goodbye to Michael and then down the stairs — oh, we forgot to say hi to Richie, who’s already packing up and she says: Are you girls? Leaving? So early?
Outside — oh, right, the snow the snow the snow and the snow! Give it, take it, make it break it and work, walk, glide, ride the shimmery sidewalk breathtaking ice crunchy winter runway. Sean's already walking fast up ahead and we have to run to catch up but oh no, Avery, oh no, Avery, are you okay?
Oh, okay, she’s laughing. And when we catch up to Sean, she says sorry, I needed to get away, there was someone, there was someone. There was someone.
But are you having a good birthday?
Oh, it's fabulous, Mattilda, it's fabulous — I can't wait. For the fabulous hot tub.
Oh, right — the hot tub.
The hot tub, Avery says. The hot tub.
Somehow it helps us stay warm just to think about it, although then I love the feeling of the snow in my eyes with my eyes closed or not closed but almost closed the wind and the streetlamps everything blinking and I’m cold yes cold licking my lips and my teeth oh I’m doing that thing, we’re walking hand-in-hand down the street and there must be a foot of snow already, no don’t fall, don’t fall. Okay. Walk for me. And walk.
And walk. We finally get to the house and yes, that chandelier, did you see that? Did you see that? Did you see that chandelier? I turn the lights all the way up — so much white — oh, I love it here, I don’t ever want to leave. Except maybe to go to The Loft. Oh, wait — let me take your coats, let me take your coats. Do you need anything?
Sean says do you have any porn?
Porn?
Yes, porn.
Do I have any porn? I don’t know. What about Cats?

Friday, June 07, 2013

Anything at all

It's funny having guests here. I open the liquor cabinet and then go upstairs to take a shower, and I feel like I'm in a different world. I don't think I'll ever get used to this shower, I mean I don't think I'll ever get used to anything else, after this shower. Why doesn’t every shower have three different heads spraying exactly the amount of water you need on your head your dick your asshole all at once, shouldn’t this mesmerizing massage be a requirement for modern living?
I'm kind of drunk, how did I get drunk? I think it's the Valium. I go downstairs in my robe, and Sean says that's what you're wearing to The Loft? She and Avery are sitting on one of the sofas, watching TV.
Sean says Mattilda, it's better than Cats.
And Avery says: no, bitches, it is Cats.
There’s Sean's little mirror out on the table, covered in white powder. This is going to be a messy night. It already is a messy night, and we haven't even started. I do a pretty big line. Okay, that's better. I sit down to watch. No, I can’t watch this.
Sean says let's do the ecstasy as soon as this is over, okay? I go upstairs to get dressed, can't decide what to wear, the skirt that looks like a carpet, with the tulip tights? Okay, with the blue sheer shirt, silver phone cords wrapped around my arms, no, that's uncomfortable. Just the usual pipe clamp bracelets. What should I do with my hair? Something different. Maybe I'll spike up the back, yes, yes a halo of yellow behind the purple and green in front — oh, that's amazing. I go downstairs, and Sean says look, snatch attack. And Avery is wearing a shirt I haven't seen before, some pink silk thing with puffy sleeves like a troubadour and she says look, we match, don't we?
At least the TV’s off. Sean hands me and Avery our magic capsules, and then we toast with Ned's crystal glasses. To the birthday girl, for bringing so much joy to our lives!
And snatch, Avery says.
I wish she would stop saying snatch just to annoy me.
I hope we're not doing the ecstasy too early — oh, it's already 1:30, how did that happen? Two o'clock and we are leaving – that's the plan. We're going to make it to The Loft on time for once. We open the door and wow, so much snow, everywhere, and then there's that ice cold wind. Are we really going to walk there? I guess it's only a few blocks. Good thing Sean isn’t wearing her heels. I'll never wear heels again, she keeps saying. Whatever that means.
When we get to The Loft, we tell them it's Sean's birthday but they’re not impressed. Avery pays, she says it's the least I can do for you two snatches. We shake our coats off at the bottom of the stairs before heading up to stash everything in the DJ booth. I think Michael says he likes my outfit. At least it looks like that’s what he’s saying. He probably thinks I'm some clueless druggie club child. I am a druggie club child, but I’m definitely not clueless, okay?
Oh, these lights, I never noticed these lights before. I look at Sean and her eyes are huge. The beat is pounding, and then, no way, really?
“She works up the block, she lives up the block.”
Avery says: it's your song!
It is my song.
Avery’s a pretty good dancer, actually — she stays in the same place, but really shakes out her head and she knows how to turn at just the right time so we’re like wheels on different machines with magnetic sensors and the song is going double-speed until it’s stuck on “Eternity, Eternity, Eternity, Eternity…” — oh my God it is eternity and everyone is shrieking because we all know what’s next except it doesn’t happen because Michael Fucking Sheehan goes right into the bubble song, oh that bitch is cunt, I can’t believe I just said that: “just listen just listen just listen” and then: “mother fucker, mother mother fucker,” I don’t think I’ve heard this one before “mother mother fucker” and damn, there it is, just when we’re least expecting it: “Because you’re ugly forever” and their I am yelling work Mama work like the clubkid I just said I wasn’t know I said I wasn’t clueless, okay?
And then the beat drops deep into the floor, how does he fucking do that damn and suddenly it feels like there’s nowhere to move, did someone turn the heat up, I want to take a break but I can’t take a break while the music is this good so I step to the side to ask our favorite 21-year-old drug dealer what's going on. Yes, she says yes, Mattilda, this ecstasy is so good, yes.
Now you can’t even move on the dance floor, it's hard for me even to reach Avery and when I get to him he pulls me close and says I love you. Mattilda. I love you.
I love you, I say, because why not? But could you do me a favor? In the future? And not wear so much cologne?
I kiss her on the lips. She says: I'll do that, I'll do that for you. I'll wear a hippy deodorant rock. Around my neck.
I think I have an extra.
Now the music is back to clanky knock-you-down bitch queen madness and I'm trying to clear some space around me, all these sweaty shirtless muscle boys tonight with their sweaty chest shining in the light and Sean’s trying to part the crowd, just as the drums start to really shake the floors, is that the drums or all these feet or my head or just everything at once and Avery grabs me from behind to try and grind, I give in for a moment and then twirl right around her, into someone else's arms, someone else who says ooh girl and then the beats get so layered that the only thing I can do is jump up in the air with my special kick, fling myself to the ground and around, good thing I didn't hit anyone, and when I stand up there’s Sean saying Mattilda, you better work.
Sean waves to Avery and then she's with us, there's a flood of people pouring up the stairs, I never even realized there were stairs going up and yes, there's air coming in, yes, and who are all these people? Oh, there's Jon B, sticking her tongue out from way up top. Some bitch with bleached hair and the usual eyebrows says he needs something from Sean. Of course, she says, of course, and holds out her hand, just like that, if you didn't know what was happening you wouldn't even notice.
Oh my God, it's not another floor, it's the roof. The snow is still falling fast and it's like walking into the sky. Andrea from this angle before, like she's coming right out of the other buildings: I’ve never seen her before from this angle. Everyone’s falling into one another, collapsing in the snow and someone’s yelling shit, shit I just broke my ankle and I can’t help it, I'm twirling around and then I almost slip — oh, I see what’s going on.
Sean says do you need anything? No. I don't need anything, I don’t need anything, I don’t need anything at all.

Just what I needed to feel safe...

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

But where to next? Oh, Bertucci's, right, Bertucci's. We get there and it’s packed, I've never even been there before when it's been crowded. Valium, anyone? I'm not hungry, Sean says. Me neither, Avery says. Oh, pot — we need more pot. So we go back outside, the snow is making that crunching sound underneath our feet. Even Andrea looks excited. Oh, my, this car is getting smoky, too smoky — help, open the window. Okay good, let's go back inside.
Back inside and now Bertucci's is hilarious. There's a full band playing jazz standards, but aren’t they playing backwards? Isn’t that Dolly Parton’s sister over there? “Back to the middle round round again,” why can’t they play “back to the middle round round again?” I’m gonna be your underwear! Ooh-ooh.
Your underwear’s on me, I say, and Avery says take the jeans off. I mean dinner. Dinner’s on me. Okay, we’ll split it. There’s a line, so we wait at the bar, the perfect place to watch all these Murphy Browns. Yuppies and guppies, I say, yuppies and guppies.
What are guppies, Avery asks.
Like Sean, if she wasn't such a mess.
No Heavy-handed Wendy in sight, but this cocktail is still the answer. Whoever invented cocktails should get the lifetime achievement award.
Just what I needed, Sean says — bitch, you are reading my mind!
Bitch, you are reading my mind!
Bitch, you are reading both of my minds, Avery says. Oops.
Avery starts laughing, and then I'm laughing, and then Sean’s laughing and the bartender’s looking over like something’s suspicious so we raise our glasses in a toast — to a snowy year, I say.
To a year without fear, Sean says.
To fear without my ear, Avery says, and starts laughing again. You get it, you get it?
And, it's time for our seat -- yes, this one, Sean says, like there’s any other choice.
Avery wants to get pepperoni but Sean says no, Mattilda is here, it has to be vegan.
Sean should have her birthday every day.
Avery says that's okay, I'm trying to lose weight.
But what should we get, I ask. Spinach, Sean says, I know you like spinach. Artichokes, I say — Abby's favorite. Avery says extra cheese — oops. Sean says broccoli, to fight cancer. I say sun-dried tomatoes — JoAnne's favorite. Sean says stop it with JoAnne and Abby. I say no, we are banishing them, it's a ritual. When we eat those sun-dried tomatoes, and those artichokes, it's all going through our digestion.
And into our shit.
And then it's over — “darling I love you but can’t you see.”
“It’s over for me.”
Okay — spinach, artichokes, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes — anything else? Mushrooms, Avery says, I love mushrooms. Magic mushrooms. Magic magic mushrooms
Another round of cocktails?
Cheers, Sean says — to the best day of my life.
Your whole life?
My whole life. “Darling I love you but can’t you see.”
The band is playing "Will You Still Love Me, Tomorrow" and Sean starts singing along; everyone looks over. Avery and Sean are fighting over the last pizza dough roll. I should carry pot around with me all the time, just to get other people to eat more — three meals a day, right?
A doctor a day keeps the apple away, Avery says, and giggles again.
An apple for pay means Snapple in the hay.
Crapple for pineapple fish tackle.
Miami crabapple for snazzy White Castle.
Bitch, you did not just say snazzy White Castle.
Girl, this feels like the first meal I’ve ever eaten in my life, Sean says. And the best.
We should take her out for her birthday every day.
When we get back outside, there must be at least 6 inches of snow already. Should we leave the car here? Tomorrow’s Sunday.
It's my birthday, Sean says — I'm 21. I look over and she's talking to some preppy monster on the street.
Twenty-one? You don’t look a day older than 50.
And I don't feel a day older than 51.
Who was that bitch, I say, and when the bitch looks back I say yes, you, bitch. You in the Brooks Brothers blazer working Michael J. Fox on a bad hair day.
Brooks Brothers? This is Neiman Marcus.
Ignore her, Sean says — oh, shit, ecstasy. We need to get the ecstasy. Let's drive.
Are you sure you're sober enough, I ask Avery, and she starts laughing. I guess it's not that far.
We get to the purple house, that's what we’ve started calling it but I can’t remember why since it’s not purple it’s brown but I guess it’s easier than saying Sage, Juniper, and Lisa’s. Plus, some people would say Sage’s, some would say Juniper’s, and I felt bad for Lisa. Anyway, we’ve arrived, and Sean says I’ll go up and get it.
But it's your birthday, Avery and I both say.
Sean says don't worry, I made $15,000 last month.
Well that shuts us up. Sean goes inside, and Avery asks if I think she's telling the truth. I don't know. $15,000 sounds like a lot.
But wait until you see my sugar daddy’s place, I say. It’s ridiculous.
I don't think I've called Ned my sugar daddy before. I can't decide how it sounds. Avery says is he okay?
What do you mean?
Is he attractive?
Oh, honey — you have got to be kidding.
Is he old?
Older than my father and your father put together.
No.
Well, okay, maybe not, but he's definitely not attractive.
How do you do it?
I don't know.
Would you ever talk to your mother again?
I don't know.
I'm thinking of telling my mother that I'm gay, and I don't think it's going to go well.
Are you an only child?
Isn’t that obvious?
Me too.
Sean comes back into the car and says what are you cunts up to?
Just talking about your smelly snatch, Avery says.
We get to Ned’s, and I feel like it's been a long day. I can’t believe I’ve done so much coke but I still feel like I need a nap.

"Youth Is a City, and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore Used to Live There"

Ha! A review of The End of San Francisco in today’s Stranger...

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Anyone else

Maybe today is better than I thought: Five Seasons is actually open. Even Sean and Avery say the tempeh tastes good. Like caramel, Sean says. Oops – better get over to the five o'clock meeting — but wait, maybe that doesn't make sense. It's that church, but I guess we don't want her to see us before the meeting, do we? Oh, wait — there's a parking spot, perfect. But are we really going to sit in the car for a whole hour? Sean says don't worry, I have something we can do, and she takes out more coke. I'm studying the crowd intensely – so many chain-smokers but no JoAnne. I don't even know why we’re here: What will I say to her?
Baby you can drive my car, I say to Avery.
But you would never drive a Mercedes, Sean says.
Truth, sister, truth. My parents only gave me a Volvo.
Can't believe I said that. That's the coke speaking. No one notices.
Let's go on a walk, I say. Sean says it's freezing. I say where is your coat?
Mattilda, are you my mother?
It's what a mother does.
Don't make me read you, Miss One.
Whatever happened to that bitch?
I don't know, maybe she works at Filene's. Okay, let's go on a walk.
And walk.
And, walk.
Oh, the snow is amazing, it clears my head, freshens the moment, makes me wired again I mean I was already wired but now I’m really wired, jumping up and down and skipping in the snow and no I don't know where we’re going but this is so much fun. Sean, are you having a fun birthday?
Yes, I just love freezing to death.
On our way back, there's a bigger crowd — is it six already? This must be the right meeting — a bunch of dykes who look like they’re coming from softball practice. I don't see her — let's just keep walking. Sean stops to stare, I wonder why she's so invested. That's when I see JoAnne. It’s the jacket that I recognize – the army green parka we got at Dollar-A-Pound, or not Dollar-A-Pound but the store upstairs that’s still cheap, but not that cheap. What the hell is that store called?
But JoAnne, this is horrible — she's wearing gold hoop earrings and a baseball cap. Red lipstick. I hope she doesn't see me. I hope Sean doesn't notice that I see her.
Let's go, I say, and we start walking again in the snow, yes the snow, just notice the snow. When we get in the car, I can do another bump. Okay, we're there. Wait, who is this standing right in front of me, who is this person right in front of me, I mean I know immediately but I don't want to know.
It's Tina. Tina who’s saying Matt, right, Matt? And holding out her hand. She has gold studs in her ears; I didn't expect she would be wearing makeup, but I guess this is Boston.
Excuse me, I say, and she says Matt, right, Matt? Avery and Sean are already in the car with the motor running.
Who the fuck are you, I say.
Tina, she says, like I don't know that, and I say my name isn't Matt.
Well what do you want me to call you, she asks.
I don't want you to call me at all. I look over at the meeting, or what's left of it — I don’t see JoAnne anymore.
Matt, Tina says, are you paying attention?
Who the fuck are you, I say again. I already told you my name isn't Matt.
That's the name your mother gave you, right?
Right, that's what matters, the name my mother gave me. Actually it's not the name my mother gave me.
I wanted to come up and introduce myself, because I know you mean a lot to JoAnne. I wanted to let you know that it's not healthy for her to see you right now. It's not good for her recovery.
Who the fuck are you, I say again. Why can’t I think of anything else to say?
Tina says I thought you should know.
JoAnne moved here because I was good for her recovery.
You know she did heroin when you left.
No, I did not know she did heroin when I left. What the fuck does that have to do with me?
Listen, JoAnne is only on step one. She hasn't progressed. You were enabling her.
What the fuck are you talking about?
We both know that JoAnne was drinking.
Who cares if JoAnne was drinking? I was not fucking enabling her. She was enabling herself. Why did you come over here to talk to me? You're just telling me a bunch of bullshit.
JoAnne and I are building a life together.
You have got to be kidding. You have got to be fucking kidding.
I wanted you to know that we’re not on different sides.
Oh, great — are you going to give me your number? Are you going to give me your number so I can call? Maybe we can get cocktails.
You're not being helpful.
Sean's out of the car now, I heard her doing a bump earlier. Front or back seat, she says as Tina holds out her hand again and I turn away. I don't know, I say. I don't know.
I told you she was using you, Sean says. She was using you, and now she's using that bulldyke. Why don’t you get in the back seat?
I don't know, I say. I don't know.
So we get in the car, and Avery turns the stereo on. Sean passes back a vial, but I'm already too wired. All I can think about is JoAnne's art, I have to get rid of JoAnne's art. Can we stop by my place, I say – I mean Ned’s. I know we're not supposed to go there ‘til later, but I need to get something.
Whatever you want, Sean says. I've never heard her say that before.
Are you okay, Avery asks. He's never said that either.
We get to Ned’s, and Sean and Avery wait in the car. It's still weird to walk in here like I live here. I mean I guess I live here. That’s what I realize when I get to my room, the room with my lists on the wall across from the bed, the curtains pulled back to let in the streetlight. It's gorgeous outside, the snow is really starting to stick. I grab a bottle of Valium, and the portfolio of JoAnne's art. All of it arranged so carefully, sheets of paper in between each piece so that nothing smudges. I grab the portfolio of JoAnne’s art, and rush back outside.
That was fast, Sean says — we didn't even have time to do another bump. What's up with the portfolio?
It’s JoAnne’s art.
What are you going to do with it?
Burn it.
Oh, this is getting good.
Let's go to the Fens.
Even better.
Do you think it will burn in the snow?
Maybe if we get lighter fluid.
Avery, can we stop for lighter fluid? Lighter fluid, and water. A couple gallons of water, so we can put it out.
We get to the Fens and everything is white, no footprints yet except ours.
Yes, underneath that tree — oh, perfect, that tree. You know about that tree, right, that tree?
Mattilda, everyone knows about your dirty knees, but that wasn’t what we were here for, right?
I open the portfolio, take out the art, all these Medusas and pain, I hate the way you make me turn to stone.
It's a ritual, I say.
A ritual, Avery repeats.
A ritual, Sean says. A coked-out ritual.
Yes, I say, a coked-out ritual — give me a bump.
In the snow?
White on white.
Avery and Sean are smoking, I mean they've been smoking all day but for some reason I notice it right now. Maybe because I feel like I should be smoking too. It's like Sean is reading my mind. She hands me her cigarette — want a drag?
Sure, I say — oh, that's awful. Avery giggles. Sean says well, at least something hasn't changed. And she hands me the vial. I do two huge bumps and it feels like we’re in a club, almost, but what do I mean by that? Maybe the way everything is close and far at the same time.
Well, now you're catching up, Avery says.
Not quite, Sean says. But there's still time. Avery giggles again. Is this making her nervous?
Okay, a ritual, I say. We’re burning Medusa so we don't turn to stone. I take out all the artwork, separate it from the blank paper, crumple it up and then Sean throws lighter fluid on it. Avery flicks his lighter and boom, that was easy. I read each one as I drop it into the flames — repeat after me, I say.
Medusa Oblongata. That one burns fast.
Medusa Fermata. Slower. More lighter fluid.
Medusa Desiderata. A gem. Yellow flames.
Medusa Stigmata, Medusa Tomato Insalata, Medusa Carne Asada, Medusa Yada Yada, Medusa Piñata — yes, five at once. More lighter fluid.
Medusa Regatta, Medusa Dada, Medusa Messiah. The Messiah always burns.
Medusa Matzoh. The best for last. I don't know why it's the best. I know its last.
We stand there for a while, or not a while really, just until the flames die down and there’s a gross charred smell but I actually feel warm. Someone's watching from the distance. Or maybe they're not watching, but there is someone in the distance, coming toward us. We pour the water on the flames. And then I realize I'm thirsty, really thirsty, I drink almost a half gallon at once. Anyone else?

Monday, June 03, 2013

And, if you're in Seattle on Thursday, this is where you'll want to be…

In 2003, Amber Dawn and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore read together at a strip club in Vancouver. Now, 10 years later, they reunite for a reading in an auditorium at an STD clinic in Seattle. Do you sense a theme? Yes, darling--glamour--it’s all about glamour! Bring it on…

Together again at last--Amber Dawn & Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore read from their new memoirs!
Thursday June 6, 6 pm
Calamus Auditorium at Gay City
517 E. Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 860-6969
Co-sponsored by Elliott Bay Book Company, who will be on hand to sell books

And, here’s the Facebook invite

Praise for How Poetry Saved My Life by Amber Dawn (Arsenal Pulp 2013):

“Lit by compassion and courage, How Poetry Saved My Life is a tribute to the marginalized and maligned.”
--Georgia Straight

Elegiac, documentary, queerly nostalgic, politicized … [d]efiant and proud, [Amber Dawn’s] memoir categorically refuses silence, daring to imagine a better world.
--Vancouver Sun

Praise for The End of San Francisco by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (City Lights 2013):

“[A] frantic kaleidoscope of mourning and survival… recklessly transfigured through language and imagination.”
--San Francisco Chronicle

“One of the most important memoirs of the decade.”
--Psychology Today

Author of Lambda Award-winning novel Sub Rosa, Amber Dawn toured for three years with the infamous Sex Workers’ Art Show. Her award-winning docuporn, Girl on Girl, was screened in eight countries and added to the gender studies curriculum at major universities. Until August 2012, she was director of programming for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Amber Dawn was the 2012 winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT writers as well as the 2012 Eli Coppola Memorial Chapbook Prize from RADAR Productions. Amber Dawn currently teaches Speculative Fiction Writing at Douglas College, the first accredited speculative fiction writing course in Canada. She also teaches creative writing to queer and at-risk youth.
amberdawnwrites.com

Described as "startlingly bold and provocative" by Howard Zinn, "a cross between Tinkerbell and a honky Malcolm X with a queer agenda” by the Austin Chronicle, and “a gender-fucking tower of pure pulsing purple fabulous’ by The Stranger, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the author of two novels, most recently So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, and the editor of five nonfiction anthologies, including Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book and a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.
mattildabernsteinsycamore.com

Check out Amber Dawn & Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore in conversation in The Advocate:

http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/books/2013/04/18/sex-work-violence-and-queer-community

This event is free, wheelchair accessible, and open to the public.

Nobody knows I'm 40! (Thanks to Charlie Stephens for the gorgeous photo)