There is a form of psychological warfare inflicted upon Facebook users by its Memories function, algorithm, however you’d like to categorize it — in that daily reminder to reflect back upon your life, five years ago today, two, whatever it is. The response elicited in the user (in this case, me) tends to function on a number of levels, depending on the tone of the memory. For instance — in knowing, that a friend is likely seeing the same memory as I am, this friend being someone I was flirting with a year ago & is now basically married to someone else; in horror, resulting from my simplistic choice of words in an update about writing a paper at City College six years ago; and, of course, in outright, abject failure.
I’d already had a handful of false starts, by then, as it was. I’d wanted to publish before Commencement, in May, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen when, in March, I was still waiting for notes that would never end up coming. Then graduation, the move from Zoo House. I’d also made the difficult choice of ceasing contact with my Father, he as frail physically as he’d always been in spirit and soon to be dead, followed by a joe-job of the shittiest order. The thread, my constant in this most unpleasant one after the other, another one of the Muses, a chaos fairy of the finest order, who brought with her lover — a Republican bro who I, thankfully, never hooked-up with. I was at my end, emotionally, and I knew it. I had been weeping on the daily, the battle rattling in my chest below — between the person I know that I am and the delicate, hurt little girl, still very much bruised from the past, resentful at having had to face my Hooks alone. I wanted the battles to stop. Just enough so I could catch my breath.
It was one of those fake it till you make it sort of posts, an attempt to hold myself accountable. Or something like that. The Muse’s voice in my head over and over, “Just get it out,” though it didn’t feel right. Nothing did. I had no idea that, in a matter of days, on Thanksgiving, she’d make her final exit, another Wendy fled, grown up, her window closed to me, forever.
The weight of the year heavy on my shoulders, I craved release, someplace to funnel my anger, the rage that pulsed in my body, and writing wasn’t it. I just didn’t feel strong enough. That requires a different sort of fire.
I made the decision to go out that night on impulse, it was nihilistic. The streets were calm on both sides, which surprised me, given it was Oakland. I’d met the march late and at the end, the skies opened up above us as we strolled the middle of the street, another solitary walk with others. I tilted my head back and closed my eyes, letting the water flow over my face and soak into my clothes. I wasn’t the only one, either. I felt myself cleansed, if only for that moment.
The following night, in Berkeley, they struck first and came after us hard. They kettled us twice. The first time on a residential street, I was certain that was it. Then a group of kids tore down a chain-link fence and gave us our only escape. It was a beautiful thing to see, the three hundred or so of us, offering hands to help each other over. Urban warfare lite. We were saved from the second by a crowd of kids, just having reveled in the bars on Telegraph. That was before the cops shot back with tear gas and bag rounds.
Our number had grown to one thousand strong two nights later. We strolled down University singing hymns and working problems on the fly. A group had stopped an Amtrak train before another two large took the freeway.
I stood there in the lane, a dark blanket of sky laying over us, the Little Comrade by my side, as she had been from the start, the two of us running towards the danger together those nights, silent chemistry guiding our way. A line of police began taking their places to form a line in front of us, then murmurings through the crowd before the first wave of us broke through. She took my hand and we ran together in the second wave, into a moment of clarity as we broke through the line together, the realization washing over me, that I had finally begun to shed the weight from my shoulders and the ropes that had been binding me.
Later that night I’d be sitting in the parking lot of the Ross Dress for Less in Emeryville with hundreds of others, our wrists in zips, my Little Comrade smoking a cig beside me in her. I saw clearly the weight of the year lead to those nights in the street, and those nights in the street let me see myself as the warrior goddess the Muse always said I was.
By the end of the year Leelah took my hand and I was finally able to step out of the shadows. And when I picked up the Fairytale again I saw that my feeling was right. The story hadn’t been ready. I found my direction in waiting, this grand experiment finally crystallized in my mind. I needed the life I lived in that eight months of abject failure. Not to write about, but to bring to the page.