My site got hacked, and Mary’s phone broke, and you start to suspect that maybe you should play outside more. So I gathered kindling, stacked firewood. Thought about my heart. In graduate school, I went through a brief and poorly advised period of makeup wearing. Eyeliner. Mascara. Even lipstick sometimes. I worried about my hair. I fussed with it. The good news: I’m allergic to makeup. Around 10 p.m. every night my eyes would start watering, and they wouldn’t stop until I’d washed all the crap off my face.
During this same period of time, I went out to a sketchy bar with my fiction class, and my professor introduced me to the second out lesbian I had ever met. “You should know her,” he said. She told me later that the cross around my neck was the first thing she’d noticed. I needed every protective charm I could think of. I needed makeup and crosses and a guilt complex and gratuitous affairs. I needed alcohol. I needed shields to keep myself from sleeping with girls. I needed to be a girl. Like, a real one, with a hair style and particular shoes to go with particular outfits. I was so afraid. I was afraid to be noticed. I was afraid to be seen. And so I wore the disguise I thought everyone wore. Don’t look! I’m just like you!
In 2003, I joined a lesbian book club, and after several months, a woman in her fifties said, “This is the only place where I feel safe.” It was heartbreaking. It was a terrible thing to contemplate.
Where are you safe?
You can strangle your own heart. You can shout so loudly that you overwhelm your best instincts. Your truest instincts. You can convince yourself that you aren’t miserly, that the poor are the ones who are greedy. That they want, for nothing. That they want for nothing. Isn’t it enough that you work hard? How can you do more than you already do?
How tight is the grip on your heart? When was the last time you held onto somebody and really let yourself feel loved? When was the last time you held onto somebody else to keep them from falling off the planet? Noise and distraction and shields and under it all, I remember my heart. This stubborn heart that just doesn’t learn. It defies me all the time. It ranges wherever it wants and comes back whenever it chooses. It loves in defiance of good sense. It loves the girl I tried to cloak in makeup and crosses. It loves the men who hate me. It goes on loving as though it has no choice.
Where are you safe? You aren’t safe, friend. You aren’t. You are here to risk. You are here to live. You are here to feel things and be burned and be happy and be miserable. You are here to fuck shit up. And be beautiful. And be ugly. You are here to hurt people. And apologize. And change. You are here. Right fucking here. To love as though you have no choice.