Illustrations by Blacksneakers.

July 25, 2023

grief & other loves

If it is a God that molded me of dirt and clay, He did so in a cemetery.

I already make funeral of this piece that has yet to live. And that, I think, is the heart of it all itself.

Each time I sit down to write about my Death, I try to think of some quirky way to introduce it. And it falls through. Or I think I can't surpass something else I've written. Or I wonder if anyone is going to read this piece anyway. That it won't just end up in some niche internet nether—the cyber equivalent to my own physical standing.

This time, I've settled on an extended analogy via Coraline—a tale of a neglected child in a dystopian world who can't even escape death and disappointment in their dreams. But in my speculative reality, instead of a garden built in the likeness of my face, I tend a graveyard—still in my likeness—where every crypt was an iteration of me. Thousands of versions of me laid to rest, amongst briars and brambleberries, and my current iteration is the groundskeeper—patrolling the aisles and crossroads, kicking corpses back into their crypts, laying flowers to watch them wilt away. The scene ends with me digging a new plot for the body I currently inhabit.

The end date and time are not yet inscribed on the headstone, but I know in my body that both are approaching soon.

As I stand above this metaphysical crypt, I think of how I even became this—the eternally dead. I've managed to live long enough only to die in purgtatoral permanence. And I have undergone so many deaths. Death of pride. Of time. Of innocence. Of respect. Of authenticity. All the metaphysical things most are afraid to name as Death; things we don't often think to name as worthy of mourning. Things all lost to the micro-and-macro cosms-and-chasms of antiBlack violences that dictate I mask my neuroexpansiveness, my Blackness, my transness, my fatness, and my voice. All these mausoleums that house every version of me that's encountered these phenomenons in multiplicity. 

And while language will never give the adequate breadth mourning requires, this is the closest I've gotten to articulation.

How else to describe it: It's like it's torrential downpouring. And I'm on this street where there are all these businesses (places of transaction), and folks are inside, watching the rain. And I run to each store front, and I try opening the doors, but all of them are locked. The people inside don't open the door, but they smile and wave at me through the glass. And as I realize I'm gonna remain in the rain, I get used to the phenomenon. So, I learn to smile and wave back sometimes. Like maybe if I perform well enough, they'll let me inside. Or I adapt to only going to store fronts with awnings—it's not full cover, but it's something where I don't have to stand out in the pouring rain always. And I get so beholden to doing this, I don't think about how there may be other streets. Other shops where someone will open the door. Ones with unlocked doors, even. Because all I know is this street. Are locked doors. Is entertaining these folks who smile and wave behind the glass. And when that's all you know, it's very, very hard to imagine that there are realities outside of that.

Sometimes, I don't even notice moments where the rain stops. Because, mentally, I'm already preparing for the next time it rains.  Or, I'm too shocked. Or, I'm too tired. Or, I'm enjoying the sensation of the sun on my skin for once. And in some exhaustion, or some ecstasy, or some other thing beyond naming, I just lie down in the road. Others take the time to leave the stores because the rain has finally stopped. Doors unlock & they go running. I don't have energy or even want-to to get out the street and make my way inside. New people populate these old stores. And by the time I muster up some of anything to get up & go inside, I feel another raindrop on my face. And my body goes back into survival mode.

During this musing, I realize I did the thing I always do, which is spin a parable that makes the story digestible, yes, but doesn't just explicitly name what the things are. Let me amend that.

In the months that I have been trying to write this piece, I entered my second and third months of unemployment. I left a job I loved back in July because the conditions of this World tend to leave the disabled with choice of death due to illness or death due to neglect, and I chose the one that gave immunocompromised me more room. I spent all of August revamping my hiring materials. I built a website, curated a social presence, did interviews, and have been rejected by many and have yet to hear back from most. In the midst of that, I've been crowdfunding for my life while trying to dodge my family finding it. I wrote a book. In September, I released it, and I can't even share it with them out of fear of retribution. My grandmother died. A family member tried to use her funeral as an excuse to get me to visit and keep me around to do their bidding. I did not attend; I did not want to watch a room of people who neglected her gather to tell of how much they loved her. They said her casket was her favorite color. It was not her favorite color. All proceedings involved in her funeral deadnamed me. A friendship I thought may become more fell through. By the time this piece is published, I will have ended yet another friendship. I have encountered every single one of my triggers surrounding burdenship, love (or my inability to receive/feel deserving of it), abandonment, and guilt—for not being "enough," for not having the spoons, for not being able to perform basic tasks or be the "chipper" face folks are used to, for not having this piece in months ago. For being in survival mode.

Logically, mentally, yes—I know I deserve more than survival mode. Than endless days of rain, soaking wet clothes, and locked doors. But knowing and feeling can be two different things. And that's current-aged me talking. The version I am—emotionally—in this rain scenario is Little Me. Because, in trauma, I revert. So, I know that in big body, I look silly. I look like I should know better. And, logically, I do. But, emotionally, I'm the version of me in my lil hair twists and bows, who has never been taught anything but this scenario.

As I'm running around from store front to store front, awning to awning, I've got Little Me in tow.

And in Current Me's head, I can't stop because that puts them at risk. I do not notice that in my running around, they are playing in the rain, puddle splashing.

Sometimes, if it's the sunny times and Big Me can't get up & go inside, I'll send Little Me in. They do whatever they gotta do to make a transaction happen. It's usually a breakdown. People who act like they didn't see them outside just moments before suddenly start paying more attention. They give them a jacket and a pat on the head. A resolution. Some sort of solace. Maybe a warm cup of something to drink. And then send them back outside. We're both thankful that at least they got that much, though I, logically, know we deserve better. They have no other frame of reference.

This is what I had modeled for me. Because in this rain scenario, it's Big Me and Little Me. But in reality, it's Little Me and my mom. Or sometimes my sibling. Or sometimes my dad. I'm the person sent in to do the transactions, or the performances. And I receive the pats on the head, a resolution, from them if I've done well. And their disappointment—that I then internalize—if I don't. So, I learn why they're disappointed. I start to notice their weariness. Start inhabiting their anxieties. I stop splashing in puddles. I start running around trying to make the transactions happen myself. They don't resonate as well because I'm not a cute little kid anymore. 

I blink, and now I'm twenty-four. My former "caretakers" long since gone. And now with a "kid"—a smaller version of myself that I have the chance to do better for but don't quite know how to yet—and a desperation that was never supposed to be mine to hold in the first place. A secondhand lonely; a secondhand scared.

So, logically, I know the answer is "find a new road" like a damn Chevy. I do. But if I have to look Little Me in the face, say "we're going elsewhere," pick them up & bring them there, and it's more of the same? It's gonna break my heart in ways I don't yet know. So, I choose to keep breaking my heart in ways I already know. Because at least those places are already calloused over. At least I can't feel myself bleeding myself dry. If I try cutting this new piece of me open, what if it strikes something vital? Then who's gonna take care of us?

It's getting caught up in that loop of fear that makes it all feel so lose-lose. But I also know that's the part that keeps breaking Little Me open. Because they will be alright searching for new roads. They're hopeful. They have the capacity for hope. And it's my old worn ass that's scared, in all actuality. As my folks were. As they passed down to me. And for the love of all things, I don't wanna see the day Little Me sees me grow weary. Because that's the day I'll see the hope in them, in us, start to die. And I can't have that. Which yes, means I have to change things up. But how-to…

If we return to the crypt of my imagination, before I was haint, I was saint.

For one to become a saint, by definition, [they] must have their entire lives examined, must show evidence of heroic virtue, undergo "beautification" in which that individual may be honored by a specific group or region, and then perform at least two miracles posthumously. As examined in Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mother's Gardens, Black women (and for purposes of specificity, I want to name especially Black trans women) are the epitome of this, for they have experienced spiritual death after eons of physical and emotional abuse, oppression, and suppression, only for their bodies and minds to be heralded for whatever manipulations may rise out of others' actualized projections

Thus, in my socialization as a Black woman (and a fat Black woman, at that), though I no longer claim such womanhood for myself, I receive projections of 'sainthood' upon my body, and thus anything else I shall engage in. That is how folks marginalized within Black womanhood, Black queerness (which many falsely interpret as a subsidiary of Black cis-womanhood), and the intersection of the two, get folks outside of our marginalizations 'yaasss queen'ing us for merely existing—it's an 'elevation of spirit' that, in its ill-fated attempts to congratulate, encourage, or what-have-you, ends up reminding me that you already see me as Dead. And for those of minimal margins that visit the works of the Dead, this is the time for funerals. And "funerals are for the Living."

In many ways, Black women [and/or those socialized as them] are the only saints who are worshipped and not venerated. But if they must be 'saints' in a manner that they die a spiritual death, then let them still hold enough power to perform miracles posthumously. Let not the brokenness of their spirits be their legacy.

As for me, a Being now considered too accursed for even the World's empty, arbitrary, and backhanded platitudes of sainthood: I am already in a state of perpetual Death, which means I am in a state of perpetual mourning. And the Living will have nothing to do with the Dead if the latter does not make itself more palatable to the former; in made-up, morticianed and mortified silence. Thus, in posthumous miracle, I must be necromancer of my own body. I must make veneration of my own spirit. Must be able to hold and wield the darkness—the place where we all say secrets and shame go to hide. And by all definitions of the World, must find comfort in this place. Must be the void, in definition. And must also not speak of it as the burial it is.

Mourning, like Death, and unlike Life, is inevitable. Which I don't think those who made these Worldly constructions took account for. Just as Morrison named that racism is a thing of distraction, so is the pursuit of categorization within the Living. From my positionality within the Harrison-defined World (a series of constructions) as the World's crypt, as Slave, as Other, as perpetually Dead,  I write from a place of truth, and truth is always alive. Like how all constructions only know their place in positionality to the Black, it is only by b/Being in proximity to Death that you have any concept of non-Death, which many would deem "Life," or for those of us within the multi-margins that Blackness so encapsulates, the purgatory that is perpetual mourning. 

As a Being at that veil, I learn to necromance these mournings into memories, into lessons, into oral traditions, into histories. Into articles in the internet nether whose code will outlast my physical body.

The many, many laps around this gravesite give me plenty of time to think. To study and relearn my history. To get back to the places where we all were nothing more than the existence pre-big-bang, where all that was known was darkness and potentiality. And that usually leads my feet back to the plot that houses a five-year-old me. A me right before I became of this World instead of merely on/in this World. The Little Me who runs with Big Me in the rain.

A deep part of my mourning, in any and all contexts, is just wanting and needing to be loved, and seeking security wherever I can because I deeply fear I won't get it again. And it is only in rooting myself in the very things that call for my perpetual Death that I find those things. In relishing in my Blackness, I find others who do the same. Same for my transness; same for my neuroexpansiveness; same for my disability; same for my fatness; same for my voice.

So, my lesson is melding Little Me's hope, energy, and ok with uncertainty (faith) & Big Me's know-how. Because I've been operating out of fear for so long. And calling it logic. But that's not enough. I have to feel it, too. And that's the much harder part. But we're, I'm, working and resting on it. So, I call that growth. I pat myself on the head. And I work on no longer seeing that as the resolution, but as "keep going." 

These last months have not just been hardship—they've been me realizing who my community actually is. They've been goals met. They've been celebrations full of love and pride in the steady strides I've been making.

In being honest and authentic about myself, my needs, my wants, and my passions, I've found I'll walk around to a grave and find flowers I did not put there myself. I've found a nickel and dime at the crossroads. Others' footprints in the mud.

Little things that remind me that, sometimes, life comes and visits this old graveyard. And it makes the mourning that much easier to bear.

As I continue to move authentically in this earthen body, and more come to call upon my name, I grow stronger in my convictions as the haint I've come to be.

This piece very well may end up in the inter-nether. But as I've learned in this existence, there are plenty of us who exist in that space. It will reach who it needs to. And we will mourn together, no matter how ephemerally. Which means we will love together. We will live as we died: simultaneously, in tandem. And be passing haints in the night, patrolling neighboring graveyards. Becoming only stronger as our histories grow longer.

To my fellow haints—those who exist at the mind recesses no one wants to play in; those whose young graveyards are also thousands of sites wide and deep—take your mournings as they come, and do so communally, if you can. Even if the community in question is your returning to this piece. The Living will not give you the time to adequately mourn in your fullness. Bend time.

The date and time on the headstone from the start of this piece now says its publication date. Because this piece now, too, has become a funeral.

And funerals are for the Living.

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