Thursday, August 13, 2015

The F-Line

Let me set the scene:

It's a Saturday evening in San Francisco, CA. I am heading back to the East Bay after dinner with my girlfriend and her Aunt at a family-managed restaurant on Pier 39.
My girlfriend and I split ways, she jumps into a Lyft to work in the Mission, I walk to the pavilion to wait for the F-line along the Embarcadero back to BART.  We weren't planning to split so early but she was late for work, so I didn't have my iPod or my headphones--things I usually take everywhere when I travel alone. The F-line rolls up, and as per usual is stuffed full. As soon as the doors opened, people on the trolley started telling everyone waiting to board that "it was too full" and they "couldn't take any more passengers." I, being one, fairly small, bagless individual squish myself on anyway, much to the dismay of the passengers aboard (I remind myself "you are just as special as these people!") in order to balance myself, I have to hold a bar right in front of an older man standing in the front-left of me. I say, "thank you.." and he replies softly after a slight hesitation, "you're welcome."

The train jolts forward. There are a lot of tourists on the train, especially apparent were a large non-English speaking group that is spread throughout the trolley--including two members of the group (a boy and a girl who are obviously together) that are standing directly in front of me--occasionally yelling to each other in a Spanish-sounding language and then erupting in laughter. While I am taking this all in, occasionally worried that they are making fun of me for standing so close to this foreign woman in front of me, I feel the person behind me start to sort of bounce. This person is standing very close to me (as would be expected in a trolley this crowded) and now are moving so quickly in their movements I can only describe it as jiggling. I didn't turn around, nervous to embarrass the person behind me who I feel must be very uncomfortable and panicky in a traincar so full, or must have an uncontrollable tremor. Eventually (say 1 minute) I turn around because the bouncing is basically occurring against my body. Behind me a very short Asian man wearing glasses glances at me, and immediately I understand what was just happening. I look at him in disgust, don't say a word, but reposition my body in a way that makes it clear that I know what he was doing, and makes it hard for him to continue his behavior. He moves away from me.

My repositioning is only slight, but it makes the foreign woman slightly to my right, and the older guy I spoke to after first entering the trolley slightly to the left. After only a few moments I realize that the older man has an erection. And I think to myself, "I think that dude has a boner." And then after that realization, I see him move closer to this woman. This woman who I previously established was with this larger group, and even more obviously, with her boyfriend that is standing in front of her. The older man starts to move up and down, starts to rub himself on her. I am standing face to face with him, and he is rubbing his body on this woman. Almost without thought I say, "Excuse me but do you know her?" He looks at me, and without hesitation puts his hand on her waist, and says, "yes." This reaction almost, almost gives me pause. I reply, "You're with all these people?" and gesture around me. He replies, "yeah, I am." And I ask, "Oh really? where are they from?" and he hesitates, "...sounds like South America." At this point, the woman had moved away from him, and turned so he couldn't put his hand on her waist any longer. I give him a look that says, I see you, asshole. The trolley stops at my stop and all I feel is deep disgust as I exit. He exits as well, and no one from the group leaves with him.

This happened three days ago now, and I can't stop thinking about it. I can't stop thinking about how he felt so secure in his actions, he put his hands on this woman that he doesn't know. He put his hands on her in a way that says, "I own you" after rubbing his penis on her. I felt mad. I felt mad at him, and I felt mad at her for not doing anything. But my anger at her is unprecedented. This is anger that is projected, anger that I have at myself for simply moving my body and not saying anything to the man that was doing the same thing to me, just seconds before. Anger at society at large, anger at men who think they can do whatever they want to woman's bodies. Anger at this system we exist in where woman sacrifice themselves, their very bodies to take care of others' feelings, not willing to create conflict. I won't. I won't take care of any of you any longer. I will take care of me, and I will take care of my sisters, in an effort to create a community of social responsibility, where men take care of women, men take care of men, women take care of women, and women take care of men, where people take care of other people.

I think this experience is especially shocking to me because I have always prided myself on my empathic approach to the world, to look deeper than surface level to understand what is happening in any given circumstance. I was reminded that my empathy, while many times built upon true-to-life experience, is also very much founded in the abstract. In considering how I would treat another individual in certain circumstances. This is the first time that I have experienced myself in the middle of one of those circumstances, and what I felt was little to no empathy for these human beings.

I've told this story so many times now, and I often apologize afterwards for "bringing down the conversation." But that blame doesn't belong to me. That blames belongs to the men on the F-line who brought down and broke my moral and physical boundaries of the world that I live in. That made it a little scarier to exist as a woman. That made me look behind myself every few seconds after leaving the trolley to make sure I was safe, because I called out a man and his disgusting, sexist acts towards another. In any regards, I feel the need to spread this story. To let people know that they can do something, and they should do something. This woman now exists in a world where men are allowed to touch her body, (touch it sexually) without her consent (she has always existed here, but now she is aware of it). I now exist in this world, and because of this, we all do.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

To the Intended: Never Received

Originally composed on November 20th, 2014:

I don’t know who I am anymore, I started much too young
Presumptuous, egotistical, my lifetime story sung

I stop and start, question and feel completely valid
It’s confusing and exhilarating, terrifying, pallid.

I devote my days to strangers and my evenings to friends
The night hours are for lovers, to warm from chill winds

We choose solitary partners, then fret and worry over our choice
Will they love me now or then? Is it enough? The endless whir of the inner voice

We go to bed chatting, arguing over needs
One will always win, frustration and tension breed

It’s unfair to say “monogamy!” and then wait for your partner to comply
Sexually are needs differ, and the attention will always be vied.

I automatically have to want less in order to be with you
Or you have to give in to more—which isn’t fair or true

We woke up to rain, but choose to get wet indoors
Covering ourselves from nature’s shower, the skies we beg/implore

The train clanks by and I watch the cars stuffed
With moisture and bodies, faces pulled rough.

So very many people, train after train
I am the only one who wishes to live on a simpler plane?

A group of marauding rovers exchanging love and devotion
Rarely we come across others, mostly enjoy the company of the ocean

The choices are simple, cut out, not even really a thought
Parsing out needs/wants of two people is hard, but worth a shot. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cloud Theory

I have this idea that souls are fragmented, made out of a lot of other souls. They exist in a cloud. When someone is born, a bunch of soul fragments rush together into their body to create the soul that will become that person, and when they die the soul is released back into the cloud in many parts and bits, each section having learned something from their experience within that body, each section bringing part of that experience into the new body that they will then inhabit. So in a sense, while we are all unique, we each carry experience from hundreds of lives before us. We are a conglomeration of struggle, passion, love, loss. And in some sense, when we die, we continue on as a glimmer of presence of hundreds of other individuals that have yet to be born.
In this sense, if one soul was meant for another, it was meant for a myriad, and while it can love one wholly and truly, it has the ability to love many. One soul is meant for another in a moment, in a location, in a lifetime.

Souls can sense one another. In that second that you meet someone, your soul reads theirs--and perhaps they share fragments, or their bits are complimentary, or perhaps they aren't--but both can distinguish that. Sometimes one is better at observing/reading/noticing than another, but when both souls see each other for what they are, recognize their familiarity and bond in a past life, or a possibility for a future together in this life or the next, (and the bodies that house them allow those souls touch), that is love.

We don't choose who we love. Hundreds of soul bits and fragments that have experienced life and love many times choose that for us.  Trust your soul.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The American Dream

Isn't it weird when you just know that someone is talking to you?
Even when you are asleep, just a voice guided in your direction (not even your name) is enough to pull you from your slumber.
I was napping in my front yard, sun glaring down on my already burnt body, when I heard a call: "excuse me. Excuse me. EXCUSE ME." even as the first words had barely left her mouth I knew that she was talking to me, the second the sound hit my ears my brain (and I say brain here and not mind with utter confidence) began to rouse me.
"My brother threw the ball over the fence, can you get it for us?"
I rolled over, and stood up, my hair between wet and dry, my bangs sticking up in all directions. As I walked towards the side yard, I pulled the hair together with my hands and twisted it on top of my head.
I opened the side gate, making sure that I propped a rock in front of it to keep it open. I looked back at the gaggle of black children just beyond my white picket fence, "the big pink one?"
I carefully placed my un-shoed feet on the grass that I knew to be teeming with glass and other fun bits, and rolled the ball into my hands, big enough that I needed both to keep it in place. I picked my way back to the front of the house and tossed the ball into the arms of the girl who had woken me.
"Of course." I fell back onto the blanket that I had deserted as the children began to walk away, in the direction of the park.
"You tryin' to get a tan?" the leader asked.
"Tryin'." I said.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thoughts on Graduate School

It has come to my attention (once again)
That I haven't been writing enough my friends

Creativity used to flow
"I've GOT to blog this!" and to the computer I'd go

But recently, within the past few years
I've lost my passions and replaced them with fears

School this, school that, and start your dissertation this summer!
I'll I want to do is lay in the sun, and slumber

I want to think, share my ideas, and dream
I want to love and laugh, cook with cream

But all is lost in the therapy room
I take on others' emotions, and mine turn to doom

What if I quit, just stopped one day
What would I do to replace my time, my bills, who would pay?

There's got to be a way to marry the two
To feel like I am doing something for me, not you

I love people! That's why I got here at all
I didn't know I'd feel lost, questioning the long haul

I should be doing something else, more of an entertainer
But it's true, I am confused. God, I'm such a complainer

Monday, April 7, 2014


Tango music has been playing in my mind all day
Its haunting rhythms burning poise and allure into my step
I can't shake the sounds and no one else can feel it. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Laundry Service

I was at a friend's house recently, and he was dreading doing laundry. He confided to me that he just hates folding laundry, and I was entreated for my help. I was promised a back rub, at least I think that's how it went (in actuality my eyes were darting around the room looking for anything I could do to get a good rub) and the deal was sealed.  I stood up from my reclining position on the floor where I had lain, watching him unpack his bags from a ski trip that weekend, and stretched a good long stretch, then traipsed over to the pile of clothes on the bed. I reached for the first twisted shirt, pulled it towards me deftly turning it right side out and quickly folding it into a perfect square.  I commented, "I never fold laundry, I hang most of my things. I actually haven't folded laundry in a really long time..."

We weren't allowed any TV-watching during the week, but there was one little exception--if you were helping to fold laundry.  There were so many kids in the Harrison household that the laundry itself was quite a sight to behold.  We had an extremely organized system (hashtag: military family) that included blue and green square plastic buckets, their corners white where the plastic had slowly stretched over time.  The buckets would be filled with clothing in the master bedroom, then delivered to each child's room in turn.  We were expected to put the clothes away within a day or so, and then deposit the buckets back into the master bedroom, alongside the tall dresser by the door.  They stacked perfectly.
My mother would sort the clothes into darks, lights, and whites, and the warm articles of cloth would cascade onto the foot-end of the water bed in the master bedroom directly from the dryer, the weight causing ripples to erupt across the bed as well as the buckets on the head-end of the bed to knock into one another with a dull, plastic-y sound.  The buckets were lined up in an orderly fashion, sides touching sides, creating a big square of squares.  Mother and child would stand next to one another, the mother: folding, whistling, watching; the child: clutching a piece of clothing in their limp arms, staring at the TV, slack-jawed.  The whistling was constantly interrupted with a, "keep folding!" and the child's hands would search out a new piece of clothing to fold ever so slowly, all the while eyes glued to the precious shapes of light emitted from the television.

I prattled on for some time, and then my mind was deposited into a scene from many years ago:

My mother is in the master bedroom standing along side the bed, facing a TV that sits on a tall wooden dresser, flowers carved on its cupboards and drawers, across from her.  It's nighttime, but the windows are open, and the cool desert air softly floats into the room, the sound of crickets on its waves. My mother is whistling and watching Law & Order, she smiles as I enter, "want to help fold?"