My first experience with Magic was when I was 8 years old.
My mom took us to the desert. It was hot and uncomfortable. I hated it. I complained all day – I want to go home already.
We pitched our tents and mom warmed up some ham, pineapple n’ cheese sandwiches. I had been waiting all day – God, those things are deliciously good, especially how mom toasts them.
The sun descends and night rises.
I had escaped into yet another Sweet Valley High novel; in the background, the sound of my brothers playing near the campfire.
At some point, I looked up to the smell of bread toasting and ham sizzling.
And I nearly lost my shit.
There in front of me, all around me, were a million stars. A gazillion of them.
Mom must’ve clocked my surprise cuz she says, “Put your book down and breathe it in.”
You know that song by Coldplay? Look at the stars, look how they shine for you?
One of my favorite songs.
When that song plays, I often think about that moment in the desert; book in hand, ham sizzling, brothers laughing, and pure Magic painted across the sky.
Speechless, humbling Magic right above us.
That was the first time I was certain there was a God.
FADE IN: two men.
And then I would be a cis hetero male.
What does that mean?
I am a person whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth, align.
So, no more calling yourself straight guy?
There’s also agender; we refer to them as “them”. They see themselves as existing without gender.
And we have a queer and a couple of lesbians.
Gone are the days when I used to say, “we’re here, we’re queer, let’s go have a beer.”
Yeah, you can’t say that anymore cuz you’re not queer and you’re making a joke at the expense of a queer.
But I’m not, really.
No, I get it, it’s just times are changing.
FADE IN: two women sit facing the ocean.
It was 5 days of hell. You don’t even know. And we’re not even completely out of it yet. I can never tell anyone what we’ve done. I mean, this is unorthodox in America. Oh, it kills me. We’ve had to endure this alone, not even my mother wanted a part of it. Listening to him ugly cry for up to 40 minutes before we could intervene – it sounds like I’m torturing my child, but believe me there’s a method to the madness. Five days and then he finally slept through the night. I wanted to run in and stop this, smother him with all my love, but that would push us back to square one. I don’t even know if I’m doing the right thing. I blamed that Nazi sleep trainer every day. But I did what she asked. God, she’s tough.
She had to be or you wouldn’t get through it.
I think she’s Argentinian but she has a German accent, I swear she does. She was relentless and so unempathetic. But her methods worked. Five days and now he sleeps 12 hours straight.
And how’s he doing?
Great! So much better. He’s so happy now and energized when he’s awake.
He was so cranky at first —
— Yeah, that’s cuz he wasn’t sleeping. We both weren’t.
He’s a trouper.
You know, this experience has shaken me. If it took him 5 days to completely rearrange a structure that was in place since birth; five days to change his life and he did it? Imagine what we’re capable of. If we only just commit. This little boy is an example that there really is no excuses.
Yup. Can you sleep through the night?
Not yet. I’m still worried I’ve done something wrong. I hope that changes..
I can’t hardly sleep no more. I useta be able to leave the TV on for hours, and not hear a peep.
Life man, it’s exhausting, and then I can’t sleep.
I got a new home now, a kid. A kid, man!
A kid that –
Listen, the other day he came over to me and said, “For Christmas, I want an X-Box One X. Don’t make me tell you twice.”
I was like, “Ok, fool, whatever.”
A few minutes later, he comes back to me, “Dad, don’t forget I want an X-Box One X for Christmas. Don’t make me tell you twice.”
At this point, I’m like, “Why you tellin’ me twice then?”
And then it dawned on me, this kid doesn’t understand what that phrase means.
So, I explain it to him.
He looks at me and says, “You always saying it at the end of your sentences, and you’re always saying it mad-like.”
That’s a mirror to my fuckin’ face.
They’re watching us too much.
FADE IN: masseuse at work.
I don’t know who started it but I don’t like it (she laughs).
Why doesn’t the man take on a married name like the woman does? Women have been branded like a cow (she laughs). You say, “Oh, hi Mr. Smith,” and you have no idea if he’s married or not. How many married men actually wear their rings? I see women proud to sport around a big rock on their finger, but men? (she laughs).
These are old social habits that we accept as the normal. I want to know who made these things up? Do you know who? (she laughs).
Haha, it’s our culture.
Yes, but no. I do not agree and I will not allow it. Not in my home and not with my girls. My girls are going to know independence. They see their mom working a full-time job, going to school, putting her own money in the bank. My girls know that a woman does not need to rely on anyone but herself. No rock will make them feel powerful. Education, confidence, intelligence, virtue, yes, those things will make them feel proud. And my girls are beautiful – half Russian, half Thai. Oh my goodness, I have a big road ahead of me (she laughs). No, they will not be dumb girls. I am a fantastic mother, and student and daughter and friend. Yes, I have my husband but we are two independent people, we are equals. I like it like that, and I am setting an example for my girls.
This is my shadow.
A life a few feet behind me.
That shirt. God, I thought I tossed it.
This smell..brings me back to here.
When it was then.
I sat at this very table processing, organizing, dreaming, concocting.
He sat catching a show on the tube.
I would go to sleep full of dreams and plans and, well, darkness.
How can you build on unsteady ground?
This work is hard and real and very necessary.
These pants. I hope they fit.
Do I still want the books, the socks, the dusty makeup?
Maybe not the makeup.
The muffled city outside taps on my window.
Tomorrow, lovely one. Tomorrow.
My little treetop of goodness.
How it fills my soul.
Silence. No dog. No schedule. No errands.
Not yet. Just. Me.
Hard work happens on an exhaustive plane home,
Unpacking and sifting and embracing my fragile heart.
Eyes like thick drops of oil.
Body like a sleepy kitten. Make that an older cat.
Mind swimming uphill with zest, or maybe desperation.
Tomorrow, lovely one. Tomorrow.
FADE IN: a couple who have been arguing.
Let’s pretend for a while. Let’s be two different people with different pasts and different heartaches.
What are you talking about?
Let’s forget we’re fighting and pretend we don’t know each other. “Hey there,” (he smiles)
“How’s the coffee?”
I’m not playing this stupid game
“That’s a pretty dress.”
“Thank you,” (she mutters as she rolls her eyes)
“Got something special happening today?”
“Nope, just waiting for my boyfriend to wake the fuck up.”
“Oh, he’s a late sleeper?”
“No, he’s a dickhead who can’t see what’s in front of him.”
“Well, if he forgets to tell you, know that you heard it from me: you look beautiful.”
(she looks away)
“You are beautiful.”
Stop it (she looks away again)
“Can I get you a blueberry muffin to go with your coffee?”