Transport to the Outer Rim

I got out.

I don’t know how long I can stay. Canada has refused to employ me despite (because of?) my advanced degree, and if anything goes awry in my immigration process, they might yet force me back.

But I got out.

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Transport to the Outer Rim
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My Place in the Palms

Images of people in my culture don’t look like me.

There’s a trivial sense in which that’s not true. My dark, angled eyes, curly hair, curvaceous figure, and diminutive stature all betray my origins. Our beauty queens and pop stars in particular look like me, conspicuously lighter in hue than even our own relatives. As distinctive as I always am in family photos, someone else who looked like me would not have seemed out of place.

But the image of us isn’t a scientist. She isn’t an atheist or a socialist. She isn’t dating outside her race. She isn’t deliberately far away from her parents. She isn’t autistic. She isn’t transgender. She isn’t gay.

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My Place in the Palms

Flamboyán Al Fin

He hoarded his Christmas gifts. We would get him cologne, ties, shirts, tchotchkes from our travels, treatments to soften his overworked hands, and they would all find their ways into drawers and cabinets, untouched for years. His clothing had to wear to nothing before he would discard it and start the next one’s slow disintegration. New, untouched things are a treasure to save for when they are needed, not an indulgence for in between. Scarcity is behind every shadow and over every hill, and a good hoard is insurance against doing without. It’s a habit my father, my grandfather, and I all share, to each other’s bemused frustration. They tangled with Communists, I grew up autistic, and we all hoard.

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Flamboyán Al Fin

Lilacs, Kiełbasa, and Why New Jersey Deserves Better

“Well, I give up. What’s the catch?”

“Oh, no catch. Although we are technically in New Jersey.”

The way American television talks about New Jersey, one would think the apocalypse already happened, but only there. The air is semisolid industrial waste and the beaches are made of finely ground syringes. The people are ruder than the rudest New York stereotype, bizarrely puffed-up Italian-American caricatures, elitist Princeton heirs, and immigrants from all over Asia and Latin America, somehow all at once, with only racism letting anyone have something other than the most impossibly overwrought “New Jersey accent.” It’s treated as New York’s leavings and the USA’s armpit, in media as obnoxiously cliché as How I Met Your Mother and as original and usually-compassionate as Steven Universe.

None of that is the New Jersey I remember from the eleven years I lived there.

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Lilacs, Kiełbasa, and Why New Jersey Deserves Better

Immigrant Gems

It is not possible to run out of reasons to love Steven Universe. This show’s explicitly queer representation is staggeringly high for a show as mainstream as it is; its psychological depth is impressive; it tells us forthrightly and aggressively that our genders should not constrain our possibilities; most of the characters are women or people of color (and largely voiced by people of color); there is a plot arc that is unambiguously about consent and another about being willing to seek comfort from one’s friends in crisis; onward and onward.

It’s also an impressively diverse treatment of immigrants’ and refugees’ feelings about the place they used to call home.

Spoilers out to episode 83 follow.

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Immigrant Gems

The Most I've Ever Been Hurt

I learned something this week.

I learned that I can beg and plead, at the brink of tears, more emotional than you have heard or seen me in more than ten years, for over an hour, and you’ll be unmoved.

I learned that I can pour my soul out for you on the page, in the form of communication in which I’m most comfortable, and you won’t bother reading it for comprehension.

I learned that you’ll always default to trying to be my emotional inverse, calm and collected when I am urgently emotional, shrieking and yelling when I’m quiet, because you never had any higher end than trying to make me doubt my own feelings and replace them with yours.

I learned that I can make a tiny request, that means more to me than anything, and the measure of your response will be how inconvenient it is for you.

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The Most I've Ever Been Hurt

When It Crashes

Things are about to get very difficult for us.

I’m near the end of my Ph.D. studies.  What should be a time of, if not hope, at least anticipation is a period of constant dread, because of two things I’ve learned.

My supervisor is, in all likelihood, signing the form he has to deliver to the Department of Biology indicating what his financial contribution to me next semester is going to be, and everything he’s said to me since the beginning of last semester says that that amount is about to drop from about $6300 to $0.  He has “incentivized” me to get my degree this semester by hanging the specter of his half of my salary no longer showing up in my bank accounts if I take any longer than that, because the stress of homelessness and lapsed prescriptions somehow does not get between scientists and their work.  I won’t know until he tells me, or I ask the department what he sent them.

But that’s small potatoes compared to the latest development.

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When It Crashes

Stir Crazy

I sit here, almost perfectly still, but inside I’m thrumming. I have this urge to move, fast, in some random direction.

All winter I’ve been trapped inside. Trapped by the cold, by my lack of mobility, my lack of money. I only leave the home for errands, doctor visits, and the rare outing. My whole world becomes defined by the same set of streets, the same spot in the apartment. Day after day, dragging on. The sun sets too early, and I sit, surrounded by darkness except for the small light and the glare from my computer screen.

I am trapped still.

Driving in my car, to the store or back home, I am seized with this urge to just keep driving. To go somewhere new, see something different, do something outside the norm. I just want to go somewhere. See what’s around the corner, what’s around the river bend. I want to explore. I want to escape, if only for a little while. I want to see where the wind takes me.

I just want to keep driving and see where I end up. Maybe with some goal in mind: maybe seeing a friend I’ve been dying to meet in person, or helping another friend for a few days as she tries to get settled. Maybe without some goal, just driving where my instincts take me, till I find some place I can sit in the sun and let my head clear.

I want the wind blowing through me and around me to clear away the cobwebs and the dust of the last few months. I want to sun to warm up the dark places inside me. I want a few moments of self-imposed solitude, rather than the loneliness forced on me through circumstance.

I want change, just for a little while. Just to refresh me, so that I can come back just a little bit lighter, reminded of the fact that freedom still exists.

But reality traps me. I am imprisoned in a cage made of poverty and disability. I can’t afford to go on an adventure. I can barely afford my medication to keep my body free from pain. I can’t afford a vacation, to escape from my existence. I can’t take a break for even a moment, to forget that I have to scramble constantly, to make sure we can find some way to make sure that are lives are a little more stable, just that little bit less desperate. To find some way to afford Alyssa’s transition, and maybe get what I need to make my meds stop hurting my throat.

I am trapped by my own body, which won’t let me explore in any way without the mobility assistance of a vehicle. I am trapped by pain, which makes it unreasonable for me to travel anywhere where I cannot access my medication.

So inside I thrum, with unspent mental energy desperately looking for an outlet. With a fierce wanderlust, almost like pain, beckoning me elsewhere. I feel trapped and so I close in further on myself. I become claustrophobic, not of the space I am in, but in the trapped feeling inside my own mind. Old thoughts start to swirl around, scolding me for all the ways in which I am a disappointment. My feeling of being trapped drains my motivation, making it that much harder to finish orders, or write new posts, or work on other stories that I could maybe sell.

I seek refuge in sleep, in the escape dreams afford me, but even that is not enough anymore.

I just want just a few short moments of freedom.


 

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Stir Crazy

Salsa Fuerte, Vergüenza Profunda

Yesterday was Ontario’s provincial election, a frustrating event for this American citizen.  Even if Canada were just enough to enfranchise its permanent non-citizen residents, that would not give me a say in how this peculiar country runs itself.  My status in Canada is, for now, temporary, and my voting will continue to be in the far more globally significant Florida, where a handful of badly filled ballots or a rash of felony convictions can be the difference between a drawl-feigning warmongering theocrat or an environmentalist deciding what the world’s largest army will do.  As it was, Ontario’s Liberal Party sailed into a majority government with no particular difficulty, a source of both elation and disappointment for Ontario’s progressive constituents.

Canada’s parliamentary system affords a much larger niche for third parties than the United States’s legislature.  In Canada, if one party’s candidates get 35% of the seats, a second party gets 40%, and a third party 25%, that 40% party will have to form a coalition with one of the others, and that coalition will select the Prime Minister and otherwise set the government’s agenda.  If a particular attempted coalition cannot get along well enough to form the government, the coalition dissolves and another one tries.  This entanglement between the executive and legislative branches means that the leaders of Canada cannot, usually, afford to ignore people who didn’t vote for them, and it means that third parties that manage substantial segments of the vote don’t necessarily disappear behind the ones that got slightly more, because they can become necessary coalition partners.  A system like this one still eventually converges on two parties—it takes a much more complicated system to preserve more than two poles indefinitely—but it takes much longer and affords those third parties and their constituents a much greater voice in the meantime.

Suffice to say, there’s a much greater possibility to vote one’s conscience in Canada, even if some situations demand voting for whoever stands the greatest shot at keeping the Conservatives out of a particular seat.

So it was with curiosity and interest that I surveyed the pamphlets and cards that the various candidates and advocacy groups kept leaving in our mailboxes.  Most of them were political boilerplate, a series of minor promises next to a candidate putting on the best trustworthy-and-not-smug mug xe could manage.  But I had to give one of them a lot of extra attention.

Did you know Canada has a Communist Party?

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Salsa Fuerte, Vergüenza Profunda

Chickadee

I don’t belong here.

The paths are the same, the same Australian umbrella trees and thickets of palms and little yappy dogs, the same pervasive sun and smell of car exhaust, but they feel foreign now.  I walk the 33 blocks to the grocery store that sells all the Latin specialties I quickly learn to miss when I’m away, and it doesn’t feel like coming home to something.  It feels like traveling a long way away for my weird exotic tastes, bits of the old country I like to keep around, like the immigrants who define my past.

I lived here from 1999 to 2009, but I got used to counting it as eleven years in my mind.  And I’ve finished with this place.

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Chickadee