January 12, 2019
As usual, nobody was at work yet to see me get in late.
The library was all but abandoned—everyone was on winter break, and our manager was at a meeting most of the day. My coworker and I took turns organizing books in the stacks while the other manned the empty circulation desk and scrolled through Firefox homepage trending articles on the staff computers. When I got bored of that, I made a personalized e-love letter for my partner with the promotional ad program I used to use to publicize community theatre.
On my lunch break, I listened to a queer fantasy audiobook on my way to a deli. I bought pickled vegetables and drafted some tweets while I waited for my coffee.
When I went back to shelve more books, I started finding little handwritten notes of encouragement taped to hazelnut chocolates all around the second floor of the library. My coworker and manager told me they had been finding them for weeks, and I added my finds to our growing pile.
After work, I was writing an email on the side of the street when a man named Attitude approached me and asked for some cash, and I fished for some to give him.
He told me he liked my name and asked how I got it, so I lied and said it was Polish. This is how I take compliments about my name without hinting at my transsexuality. He called me “a cool glass of water, dude” and told me I should keep growing my hair out.
We exchanged overly-familiar shoulder claps and “safe travels” before launching into a sort of improvisational semaphore routine. Then we floated down the street in opposite directions.
I bought a pack of Camels before I barged into my friend Blue’s house.
They showed me their WIP gay cowboy collage, and I showed them IN MY MOUTH, my new favorite song, while they drove us to the bookstore. Every time I get in their car there’s something new and small wrong with it. We walked towards the store, trailing behind what we speculated could be a lesbian couple holding hands, but as they veered off into the boho boutique, closer inspection revealed that the tall one was probably a cis dude.
We drifted freely around the bookstore, and eventually bounded up the stairs to peruse the meager “LGBT” section aimlessly. We found a thoroughly boring comic book about pronouns from in between eight million trillion biographies. Unsurprised but disappointed, and having run out of jokes to make about how big their collection on Freud was, I headed downstairs. At the register, I asked if they could see if they had anything by Michael Foucault.
Blue grabbed a copy of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, I paid for Madness and Civilization, and we stepped outside for cigarettes on a wet bench. I insisted that they put their denim jacket down for me to sit on, because I’m a lady, and they’re every gender.
On the way back home we stopped at the Safeway pharmacy so that I could pick up my spironolactone pills. On the other side of the automated sliding-door threshold, we began the glorious unspoken competition that is queer shitposting in public. In any place with enough signage, there is an expectation that at least a few announcements will be inadvertently kind of gay. Sometimes it requires some intentional mispronunciation or a phantom comma, but if you stare language down long enough, it always reveals itself to be a gay joke. This particular round went by without much success for either of us, since we spent most of the time speculating about whether “Butcher” counted on its own or not.
While we were in line, we both tried to tell each other bad news, though we couldn’t quite say it. But we confirmed we both knew that one of the cashiers here had been hit by a train last week.
Neither of us had heard enough details to make anything significant out of the news and didn’t know what to say. We were both guilty and doleful: “oof” mixed with “oops.” Genuine sadness at the thought of a death mixed with a sort of apology for not knowing her well enough to grieve her.
She was the favorite cashier of everyone we know, mostly because of her wry, canine-like smile. She called people “sweetie” or “honey.” I think I remember someone speculating that she might have been queer, which is how trans people express that they like someone who is almost definitely not queer.
Blue took me home, and I took myself into the bathtub for the third night in a row.