Proletariat

The first gunshot is preceded by a warning that no one hears. The shots come, not from the semi-automatics hoisted nervously at shoulder height by those struggling closest to the doors, but from a police officer’s standard handgun. It has been wrestled from his hands and is in possession by one of the black-clad figures swarming the building. The face behind the bandana is young but unidentifiable. Their eyes are wide–the kickback is more than they expected–and their hands nearly slip down the butt of the gun with sweat.

The gun, for its part, has fired on its owner. Once in the leg, once in the stomach. The cop is on the ground, clutching at his belly, his mouth moving. If he speaks or screams it is lost in the clatter, the wall of noise a perpetual crescendo. The PVC pipe the youth dropped to grab the gun has been kicked further into the melee, and they let it go, let it all go, hoist the gun up in both hands and cover the backs of their contingent as they descend on the front doors.

From an aerial view, the scene can be divided by color. The outer ring of religious organizations and secular non-violent protesters form a half-circle all the way around the face of the building. They’re at least three- deep, in some places as thick as ten, carrying signs and dressed in street clothes. A few are faith leaders in the robes of their office. A line of priests, pastors, and nuns shoulder to shoulder with imams, side by side with a whole group of rabbis. A rainbow swath of the group has come with pride flags draped around their shoulders, their only armor tin buttons and plastic flower crowns. Their ring is closed to the figures in riot gear, clear plastic shields pressed into their faces. They do not yield. Only the black-bloc slips through them in ones and twos, forming en masse on the other side.

A Jewish girl named Jolena begins to sing, her voice a lonely strain in cacophony for a moment before it is picked up by the crowd. The words are translated from Hebrew, into English, into Spanish, into Arabic, Punjabi, Mandarin.

The black-bloc forming within the outer-defense can’t hear the singing. It’s all white noise, all of it: The chants, the bellows, the static of the walkie-talkies, the alarms blaring from the building and the sirens whitling from a world away.

The security on the inside of the ring hadn’t been dressed for a riot when the amoeba-like arms of the black-bloc began to slip around and in-between the solid wall of protestors. They coalesced into faceless masks and black bandanas above bats wrapped with barbed wire, staffs of PVC pipe, and maces of chunks of timber with nails poking through the wood. The nozzles of the AK-47-style rifles appeared, home-made range weapons of crossbows and slingshots joining them. Most of the guards scattered into the building then, closing those impenetrable doors behind them. But some stayed.

After the first gunshot, all hell breaks loose. Street-medics in red and white arm-bands dash between the police and the black-bloc, pulling the wounded back into the outering.

The riot police on the outside of the semi-circle begin to throw flash-bombs.

It is all white noise.

A boy named Kev blinks blood out of his eye. There’s a gash in his temple, through his beautiful brown curls. Mama will be so upset, he thinks, lying on the ground, somehow untrampled. She loves those curls. He can feel his heart beating beneath the now crushing constriction of his binder. Somehow, he never thought he’d die with it on.

The unified front line has reached the doors. Four of them rush forward with a SWAT-style battering ram. They grip the metal handholds tightly and rush forward with all their might. The shock of the collision reverberates in their collarbones–and they are one in that moment, all four of them feel the lancing pain in their arms, all pull back in the same motion. The second hit makes a dent. On the third the right door begins to shutter.

The riot police are spraying tear-gas. Jolena does not stop singing, not even when everyone around her is screaming, all her friends, the people from her temple. Not even when it hits her and it is the worst pain of her life and oh god her eyes must be bleeding her nose and throat and even her skin is on fire aleinu shachar od ya’ir tiz’rach hashemesh beyom bahir ulai machar. She screams her pain into the song. It is more white noise.

The door falls in and suddenly there is gunfire again and the four-bodied individual holding onto the battering ram becomes four people again. In seconds they are only three as the woman on the front right falls down with a 9mm bullet ripping a hole in her throat.

The AK-47s are ripping more holes above her body. More of the black-bloc falls in the doorway, but they are indistinguishable, imperturbable, one and many. The mixture of police and private security are not. They turn and run when the first two of their number fall across the linoleum floors and the black-bloc presses inside.

It smells of piss and shit. Even in the abandoned lobby the desperate wash of bleach is not enough to overpower it. The black-bloc presses on. Through the metal-detectors are the first set of cages, young men in standing room only behind several layers of wire mesh. Out come the wire-cutters, the bolt-cutters. The smell is worse here. The men speak in rapid sentences, eager to join, but emaciated, weak with hunger and the poisoning of weeks spent in human waste. The black-bloc absorbs them, sends them back through its ranks where a second-wave of religious leaders wait to take them to the sanctuaries in their places of worship.

The building is only one floor, but its fluorescent-washed hallways stretch out for what feels like miles. Several members of the black-bloc become individuals again as they gag into their bandanas. The smell is even worse here.

The next door is passed and there is no time for the words to describe what they find there. They have to lift many of the children, carrying them in arms and a few on stretches. Many of them are shocked silent, but a baby is screaming. In the muffled sound of footsteps it is more than white noise.

“Mija, somos aqui ayudarte,” croons 60-year-old tia Rosalina, pushing down her black bandana so that the crying baby can see her kind, wrinkled face. “Estas salvado, estas salvado.”

The crying doesn’t stop. All the way through the halls, back out into the surge of bodies where it is absorbed into the sea of sound like any other drop of water. It does not stop in the unmarked van that brings her to the local mosque. It will not stop, not throughout the night, not when her abuerta finally finds her and takes her home, not when she has been issued a certificate proving, in fact ,that she belongs here, that she did all along. It will go on and on, the cry from that day, that life, that pace. It will be the white noise of her life.

And this is terrorism.


Brooklyn Schoenfeld writes under a pseudonym for what the author considers to be obvious reasons. If you would like to submit criticisms or commissions, you can email brooklynschoenfeld@gmail.com.

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Oot

So I wiz oot hittin’ the clubs wae ma besto Tammy. We were at the Rusty Nail cause the music’s gid and the lads dinnae try and touch us up, but anyways, a saw this woman in the middle of the dance floor. I mean, I can admire a lassie’s good looks and aw that but this yin was like WOWZA.

I couldnae take ma eyes aff her. Her big knockers were shoved into this sparkly dress, lookin’ like a pair’a disco balls. And by god she couldnae half dance. I WANT her, like I’ve never wanted a woman in aw ma life. But naw! I shouldnae WANT her, I’m a straight woman, with a straight boyfriend. I cannae be into girls, can I? It’s the drink. It hus tae be the drink. Why do I feel like I want to flirt wae her, dance aw saucy wae her, snog her? I’ve never gone aw lesbian when I’m pished. It must be the Midoori.

“D’ye want a drink, Molly-hen?” Tammy asks me.

I yell something like, “Geez another Midoori and lemonade” as I walk up tae the hottie oan the dancefloor.

I dance up tae her, compliment her oan her amazing hair when she turns roon tae face me.

She wiz a man! And no jist any man, MY MAN, Gaz. Gaz? He wiz wearin’ his sister’s dress and aw. Is he… naw, he canny be. He canny be… gay can he? Why would he lead me on? His mam and da?

God love them, but they’re backwards bastards. They hate gays tae fuck. They think they’ll catch HIV being in the same room as a gay man. Jesus! Am a just a fuckin’ front tae Gaz? The stupit, clueless wee wifey? Does he even mean it when he’s sayin’ he loves me? Yet here he wiz, usin’ ma makeup and drinkin’ some fruity wee cocktail to bum random men in the loos?! And he hus the cheek tae tell me he’s lookin’ after oor dug! Ma heed wiz spinnin’, and I wiz ready tae strangle him.

“Gaz!” I shouted. His face fell. Caught red handed. “A word!” I indicated to the door, and we headed oot.

We walked past the bouncer, and the wind blew aboot my hair and his wig. Gaz looks like he’s aboot to greet.

“Whit the fuck is goan on Gaz?”

“It’s… it’s no what it looks like.” Whimpered Gaz, his glossy lip quiverin’, tears runnin’ doon his face.

“Well whit is it then?”

“I’m no the man you think I am.”

I fumed, “That’s apparent ya great poof.”

“I’m no gay, Molly.”

Another ladyboy clatters out the door and comes towards us. “Gabriella!”

Gaz turns around. The drag queen came out to see us, “It’s my fault hen.” She said to me, “I wanted to take her on her first night out as a lady. She… was going to tell you, soon after.”

She? My man… isnae a man? I looked across at his drag queen friend, and then back at Gaz, completely dumbfounded.

“You’re… Gabriella now?” I asked him.

“I’ve- I’ve always been Gabriella.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“My parents… my whole family would disown me. And I could lose you. I love you, Molly.”

“I thought you were an actual…naw, course you’re an actual woman but… I thought you were a different woman, and a damn hot wan, tae.”

Gabriella beamed at me, “You think I’m a beautiful woman?”

I smile and nod, “Aye. I jist wished you’d told me. Ye know I love ye, no matter whit.”

At this point, Tammy came out. She took one look at Gabriella, and said, “Fucks sake Gaz, you look better in that than I dae!”

I look at my girlfriend. She looks at me. We look at her drag queen friend.

We burst oot laughin’.


Jen Hughes is a writer from Ayrshire, Scotland. She has been furiously scribbling ideas and writing elaborate stories from as early as age seven. She has been published in a wide variety of online journals and magazines such as the Pulp Metal Magazine, Idle Ink, McStorytellers and Ogivile Press; as well as having read out at various open mike and spoken word events in her area. Her up-to-date portfolio of short stories, flash fictions and poems can be found on her website www.jenhugheswriter.com. Jen is currently studying English Literature and Film &TV Studies in Glasgow.

Today

Editor’s note: If you are struggling with substance use, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP.


Here’s to the days like today

days of gray, misty clouds

obscuring the future.

The days of pain, stiffness, aches,

when your arthritic fingers can’t grip

and your back won’t relent.

Days of unwelcome solitude

when the dark shadow of loneliness

permeates the brightest room.

 

Here’s to the agony,

the relief that never comes

while the bills pile higher

from doctors who could not

—or would not—

properly diagnose.

 

Here’s to the doom,

to the feeling you are likely

better off

dead.

The feeling that you need to rip off

your skin,

unveil the horrors it masks.

The feeling

that feeling anything

is still better than feeling nothing,

you suppose.

 

Here’s to the days like today,

the days that very nearly

win.

The days that the phrase “harm reduction”

was made for.

 

Here’s to today;

I raise this Vicodin to you.


Malo is a queer artist who oscillates between the fear of being discovered and being forgotten.

Once Again Through the TSA Gallows

“We who think we are about to die will laugh at anything.”
― Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

I’m at the world’s tiniest airport today, traveling home from running the gauntlet of family visits for the winter holidays. All flights leave through the same gate. There are two computerized check-in kiosks to print your boarding pass, but neither works. After a two-minute wait in line to check your bags, you walk 15 feet over to the security line and hand your ID and boarding pass to the TSA agent while you’re going through the metal detector. She actually set my boarding pass on top of the x-ray machine that straddles the conveyor belt in order to mark it up with her little scribbles. There is no TSA pre-check line here, as there is really no difference in screening procedures. As I walked through the metal detector and the agent handed back my boarding pass and ID, a red light flashed.

“I’m sorry sir,” she said, “You’ve been selected for additional screening.”

At a large airport, this sometimes means that your hands are swabbed to check for chemicals. But at such a rural airport in farming country, there are no new-fangled electronic hand-swabbers. Even if the airport could afford them, half the waiting room has most likely been in contact with industrial fertilizer in the last 48 hours judging by the number of Carhartts and Stetsons I count.

I was directed three feet to the left to stand on a rug with footprints printed on it. A bearded man stepped up to me and asked me to place my feet on the footprints. He said he needed to do a pat down from my waist to my knees.

As a trans person, who often travelled in a breast binder prior to chest surgery, I loathe pat downs. At this point in my life, I have have no reason to have any concerns, which is an incredible privilege, but memories of consistently being harassed and molested by TSA officers when my chest tripped the alert on the body scanners don’t fade so easily. Today’s officer said we could complete the pat down in a private room if I preferred. I wondered 1) who would possibly see us in the deserted airport other than my husband, Sam, who had gone through the metal detector just ahead of me, and the TSA screener who had checked my ID as she waved me through the metal detector, and 2) how being in private where there were no witnesses could possibly make me more comfortable.

I told him, “Here is fine,” and he proceeded to run the backs of his hands over the outsides of my thighs, my butt, and then up the inside of one leg from my knee to my crotch–then the other.

I resisted the urge to tell him that I generally expect a fellow to take me to dinner before I let him get to third base because, 1) I’m sure he hears that one all the time, 2) it’s not true: I’ll put out for anyone, and 3) with this asinine government shut-down he is working on Christmas Day without any guarantee that he’ll be back-paid for these hours. In the benevolence that I’m told the holiday requires (I’m an atheist), I managed to bite my tongue.

A slight furrow passed over his brow as he ran his hand up my second leg, but he straightened up and waved me onward. I grabbed my coat from the conveyer belt and rounded the corner into the single tiny waiting area of the only gate. Sam’s eyebrows were raised, silently asking me how it went. As a fellow trans man, he knows all-too-well how uncomfortable TSA pat downs can be.

“He didn’t find anything,” I smirked, “including a few things he was expecting.”

Sam sniggered, “It’s a fun life, isn’t it?”


Malo is a queer artist who oscillates between the fear of being discovered and being forgotten.

I saw beautiful masculinities today

 

I saw beautiful masculinities today.

The moment shouldn’t have been beautiful. It should have been wholly unremarkable. Normal. Quotidian.

But in a world that teaches men to be hard, to conduct themselves with swagger and violence, it’s a rarity to see such tenderness.

First of all, Trey is a shit-talker.

He goes home for the holidays and comes back decked out in White Sox and Bulls gear. He knows which teams other students support, and harasses them when their teams lose.

Trey thinks he’s got game.

He challenges our other young employees to pick-up games, and goes on and on about how he’s going to kick so much ass. The games never come to fruition. On the one occasion a young lady called his bluff and actually took him to the court, he rolled his ankle 30-seconds in and was laid up for weeks.

Trey brags about his work.

If his output is good, he’s a total boss. If it’s bad, it’s cause he didn’t really try. Or so he tells himself (and everyone else).

Trey tells stories about his many varied friends. The only people I’ve ever seen him around are in his assigned work group. Whenever I run into him elsewhere at work or around town, he’s alone.

Trey is like many of the young men who come through our doors: bravado without backbone. He’s still trying to figure out how to be a man, particularly when he’s a man who is insecure about his athletic ability. He’s short. He’s thin. He’s not especially coordinated.

But today Trey wrote a holiday card for one of my coworkers, Rafael, who asked me to read it. In the card, Trey told Rafael that he appreciated him and that he was going to miss Rafael when he leaves to go back to grad school next year. It was a heartwarming sentiment, and altogether surprising, given that Trey and Rafael don’t have a particularly deep relationship and that 21-year-old cis straight men rarely take the time to handwrite emotional holiday cards for their coworkers.

As I read at the card, Rafael began to cry. It was a heartwarming sentiment, and altogether surprising, given that 27-year-old cis straight men rarely are moved to tears by a greeting card.

We must normalize men and boys loving one another, appreciating one another, expressing themselves in caring and healthy ways. This little exchange shouldn’t be worth writing about; it should be so ordinary and commonplace that it wouldn’t register as interesting.

When my partner transitioned more than fifteen years ago, I began watching men closely, so that I could help him identify the rules of how to conduct himself, as he taught himself how to do gender “correctly.” I’ve watched the spectrum of acceptable masculinities change greatly, even in the last ten years, and for the most part, I’ve seen it change for the better.

We still have so far to go, but today I saw beautiful masculinities, and for now that is enough.


E.L. Axford is an angry, Roller Derby DykeTM who would prefer to keep her identity a mystery before her online persona gets her real-world persona into more trouble than she can handle. When she’s not angry (which is rarely) she enjoys drinking loose-leaf tea.

How to Read “Lolita” as a Trauma Survivor

  1. Don’t.
  2. Seriously, if you can avoid it, don’t. There is no literary work of any staggering merit worth your well being.
  3. If you must, try to recognize that the book is, for better or worse, part of canonical literature. If you must read Lolita, disregard Humbert Humbert’s claim that it’s a love story. You know better. It’s a horror story written from the monster’s point of view. The scariest thing is that the villain bears no marking scars and claims no tragic backstory. He offers no pathology for the evil he visits upon his victim. The scariest thing is the truth of fiction.
  4. Since this is an academic requirement (why else except for simple masochism would you be doing this to yourself?), separate the work from the author, the assignment from the professor.
  5. Read it in the middle of the night with comfort food and coffee. You clearly won’t be sleeping anyway. Might as well do something more productive than slow blinking at the ceiling all night.
  6. Speaking of assignments, take a lesson: The world will always make more room for shitty dudes than the people they hurt.
  7. Surviving is what you’ve been assigned by your life and your abuser. All you must do to pass is keep living.
  8. To the end of surviving: Do what you must. Self care and endurance look different for everyone and anyone who wants to judge yours can fuck right off.
  9. Take the best care of yourself (through the reading of Lolita and beyond, obviously) that you can. If that seems pointless or hard, consider doing it in order to be a better resource for the people that you love, especially when your own mental health looks more like Pollock than Vermeer.
  10. Let this trash book do what it will for you. If you’re pissed off, let it kindle the fires of your rage. If you’re reaching for compassion or forgiveness, you’re a better person than me. But … y’know. Best of luck.
  11. Consider taking a lot of breaks from reading. Read outdoors or in the company of a fluffy dog or protective spouse.
  12. Take a lot of day naps. Do you know how much less scary it is to wake up when you can see the room around you?
  13. Know that you aren’t the first of us to read Lolita. Know that the book ends and life goes on. That there are other books to bury yourself in like a security blanket.
  14. Watch a lot of really dumb TV. I suggest bookending your reading with cartoons and breakfast cereal.
  15. Predatory behavior isn’t okay and abusive men aren’t romantic. You’ve known this. Correct people who misread the text and don’t get that the whole point of having been written in first person was to create an unreliable narrator, not to craft an unlikely love story.
  16. Know when to put the book down. It’s a book, an assignment, a grade. Your life, your sanity, and your well being are worth more. There are no exceptions to this.

Sawyer Lovett is a writer who lives in Philadelphia with his wife, a dog, and a hedgehog. He’s a part-time bookseller and a full time MFA student who occasionally reviews books for Kirkus and Lambda Lit. He is the author of two books and his work has appeared in Apiary, Hoax, and Cleaver.

It’s Raining Inside the Bus

We are commanded to stand. Out of respect, recognition, loyalty, and patriotism. I know the command. I know the pledge. Each line is etched into my grade school memory.

It’s raining inside the bus. I sit at the back in an empty row, holding desperately to my coffee tumbler to keep my fingers warm. Drip. Drip. Drip. One of the few dry areas on my pants, that wasn’t soaked from the walk to the bus stop, is now a matching shade of dark blue. I shrug; sometimes it rains inside the bus.

At the next stop a woman in the row next to me moves into the last dry vacant seat to avoid the splashing water. Drip. Drip. Drip. There is now an empty seat below the drip. New passengers now stand because there are no more desirable seats.

Stand up or lose your job, career, family, friends, community, life.

I peer up from my book as a massive raindrop thuds onto the page and splashes my glasses. The emergency hatch is open. No one seems to know who opened it or why, but we collectively ignore the dripping, move away from it, stare at it, sip our coffee, accept the nuisance. Drip. Drip. Drip. We’re at the last stop before interstate.

I read today that Nike is now sponsoring (exploiting?) Colin Kaepernick. Radical or trendy? Where was this corporate support last year, I wonder.

I put my book away and gently fold my rain-splattered glasses back into their case, zipping my bag, holding it close to my chest to avoid the incoming rain. “Why would anyone open that fucking hatch?” I think to myself.

We’ll stand until our legs give out. We’ll do just about anything to avoid getting a little wet.

I hesitantly stand, tucking my bag and umbrella behind me on the now vacant seat. I look around at my fellow commuters, and then up at the hatch. I reach up and grab the red latch and shift it to the “To Exit” position before I pull sharply down on the surprisingly light emergency hatch. The texture of the hatch reminds me of the square plastic scooters we sat on, and inevitably ran over our fingers with, from elementary school P.E. It never occurred to us to change our grips on the handles to avoid smashing our fingers.

It still doesn’t occur to us to close the damn emergency hatch.

I’m too late. Everyone one the bus who was seated near the hatch is already standing.


K.M. Shultz is a transfabulous activist and future clinical mental health counselor. Currently, he works with college students with disabilities to make campuses more accessible. His true medium is mixed-media art, but he’s starting to dabble in writing.