I Paint You in Bubbles

Together in the bath, I paint you in bubbles. I craft bubble biceps, bubble forearms, bubble shoulders. I build bubble pecs, careful of not to touch your breasts. I ruffle on a soapy beard, but you look like Santa, it’s too full, too fake. With a capped razor, I shave your baby cheeks, scrape and shape a face I think is manly. You smile and your mustache smudges.

When I reach for the cloud between your legs, you flinch, but you don’t stop me. We work together to shape genitals. You cup together balls of suds while I stroke a bubble patch into a shaft, round it, add girth. I trim the length and you add on a bit extra. I circumcise you.

Complete, you shimmer, like an illusion of handsomeness. We sit silent, the steady fizz of evaporating bubbles between us. I look away and pick at the ingrown hairs on my legs until the water turns cold.

When I turn back it’s your familiar body again, shiny smears like scars where the bubbles had been. I meet your eyes and I see him, determined, torn.

A final island of bubbles, the deflated remains of your penis, floats between us. I take a part of it and craft a plaster over the tiny puncture mark on your thigh, the first wound. I swear I can feel the throb of testosterone beneath my fingers. You take the last of the bubbles and, in gentle strokes, place a plaster over my racing heart.


Megan Crosbie is a queer writer and occasional performer from Edinburgh, who often writes in the boundary between flash-fiction and poetry. Her writing has been published in journals such as Firewords Quarterly, Northwords Now and Litro. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, drag shows, and too many vegan donuts. You can support Megan’s work here: https://www.mcrosbie.com/

Orbits

I.

In your own chaos

you reached out

recognizing

the imminence

of mine.

 

Your unexpected touch

turned my gaze.

Eyes locked

we previewed

the bitter darkness to come

–the night in which

your lamplike eyes

would be my only lantern.

 

Together,

you said.

 

II.

Night did come

(your premonitory accuracy

still astounds me).

Hand on my heart

the second time.

 

Together,

you reminded.

 

III.

Your warmth still

tethers me

to sanity–

even on days

when I teeter,

even

when the precipice calls

and I flirt

with answering.

 

IV.

Still one act away

I hesitate

in the shadows of creativity,

my longing

preparing me for another night.

Will I greet her

with your eyes

to guide me?

Or

will your lanterns be

swallowed

by a sea of darkness

in Act V?

 


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

Out of Water

I am a clownfish. I told Aggie this when we met and again after our mothers set us up and she tried to put me in a hot air balloon on an otherwise bland double date.

She didn’t do her research.

“Those them cute ones in the tank at the Chinese restaurant?” she’d said, mimicking some southern belle and winking.

Today, August 21, 1963, she thinks she’s done better with a canoe trip and picnic along Lake Huron. Only we’re in Ontario and she’s packed “fresh” lobster. I wonder how long she’s had it in the basket.

I wish I could have breasts like hers, I think, standing on the beach with my hands shoved deep in my corduroys while she putters around in a yellow bikini and whisks out a table cloth. We need the music from Bewitched. I’d like to try twirling a parasol right now, anything but those fishing poles and the heavy paddles. Man, I’d do anything to get my hands on a perky cross-your-heart bra. For myself.

She lays the pieces of coral crustacean out like surgical tools. I play with a tail and she’s already licking her fingers, gabbing about her friends’ engagements and her progress with tennis and angel food cakes. The sand and everything is too white.

“The girls, you know, they all think you’re a little on the feminine side, can you believe it? But me, I just say, well ladies I like a clean and tidy man. I mean I’m clean and tidy. You must like that about me.”

Under her Rita Hayworth coiffed bangs, she stares over at me before tossing her head to the side, laughing. I feel sick, catching a faint whiff of ammonia from the lobster mixed with the wet algae smell.

The sun is blistering my shoulders and there’s sand in between my molars but I can’t go anywhere because my mother’s already asking too many questions and looking too worried when she catches me with her Chatelaine. It’s just her and I, now that Dad hightailed it to Florida for another woman—the fishing capital of the world, don’t you know it—and she said she wants a new, normal life carved out of the ripples he left. I don’t know how normal can manifest in something like moving water.

Aggie doesn’t seem to mind my inaction when it comes romance. Or conversation. And I know I’m going to have to keep it up and marry this girl who fed lobster to a clownfish and thinks something like blue and pink come from separate oceans.

Maybe one day I can explain about the clownfish.


Renée Francoeur is a 28 year-old Canadian journalist. By day she writes for contractors and by night she blogs, paints nudes and writes poetry.

She won third prize for the 2016 Women Inspirational Poetry Contest. She’s also written for Standard Criteria and Squawk Back and been published in Three Line Poetry and Poetry Quarterly. She is currently working on a chapbook about the intersection of broken heartedness, rebirth and geography.

She loves coconut coffee porter, wild buffalo, striving to bring gender and minority issues to the forefront, old tombstones, baking strange recipes (kale cake anyone?) and sustainable, GMO-free agricultural endeavours.

On Love and Longing – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

Eros and his Hidden Lover
Trapped in my surroundings,
my place of birth, a ray of moonlight
unfolded, revealing the fragrant lavender petals
of a desert flower. I moved closer,
desperate to express my longing,
and calm the madness
in Eros’s eyes.

I found my way to his tent
where voices of distant seas inhabit me,
where fear blinks as I learn to die
from the multiple definitions of East and West,
empty like the cracks in dry desert earth.

A needle stitched my tears.
Two thousand years in the thorny hands
of gods, a bitter pleasure.

Two worlds, two discernments.
Lost in the distracted indiscretion
of time. Stunned
and twisted.

We should rehearse
for the day when we go blind.
We should all learn to read with our fingers
the braille of scars on arms and sperm
of melted candles. Remove for one night,
every fortnight, the white bulb in our bedroom.

Because before death
comes blindness. And Charon will not accept
fear as payment to cross the river.

For a winged birth
steel must cut the meat
and throw away the body.
It is not the sky that grants us flight.
It is the fall.

Think nothing of it
if at the shrine of your life I am cured
of madness, for I taste silence
in the book of words.

Talk to me, soothe my capricious pulse
with the fluttering chants of hummingbirds.
I wrestle blasphemous shadows tonight.

Boots lie under my pillow,
memories of you in love with orchids.
This heartache does not want to be tamed.
There is sorrow on my face, and I have lost
my way out of the woods on the very night
swallows vanished amid strangers.


Sergio A. Ortiz is a queer Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

The Strange Comfort

I can’t stop gaping at my sent messages. The number seems to rise without a reply every day these days. I look back at some of the older messages wondering when I made that first introduction. I spot some messages dating back a few weeks ago and even more still a few months ago. I look at my dating inbox to see if I missed any replies. I never have. I don’t think that I will, either.

I go hunting for new dates anyway because I hope that I will spot someone who I have not assaulted with my genuine nature. The browse page fills up with so many familiar profiles; I feel like an expert on every one of them. I know that Tommy corrected a spelling mistake on his page a few days ago. One that he had up there for years. I know that George updated his favorite books after I suggested a few to him because one of my suggestions appears there. Still, I hunt for someone new.

Maybe it’s because I am desperately hunting that I don’t hear the beep. It’s an earcon that tells people that they have a new message. When I look at my inbox, though, again…there’s an unread message. It’s from a guy I messaged months ago.

“Hi!” it reads, perhaps with a sigh, perhaps not. “I’m Jamie. I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you, but I was debating if we were going to be a good fit, even.”

I value his honesty more than anything, and I begin to compose a novel about how I don’t know what I am even looking for anymore because people are afraid of genuine behavior. So, if he didn’t want to date me, go out with me, or even talk to me, that I’d appreciated it if he just blocked me and moved on because all I want at this very moment is a hug and for someone to tell me I am special, even if it’s not true.

His reply comes back quick as a flash. He says he values my honesty. He says he doesn’t get a lot of replies because of his height; he is six foot six and his skin. Apparently, he’s black. I guess I will just have to take him at face value.

We continue to send novels to each other. I tell him about the dance party I attended where I swung my hips with such vigor that a hurricane manifested in downtown Chicago. He explains he missed the disaster because Netflix kept his attention that night. He was watching House of Cards. We reveal how lonely we are and how we have nothing in common with one another. He hates intellectual conversation and loves small talk, and I don’t understand his love of bugs and ants. He doesn’t like my voice, and I don’t like his. Still, we pour our hearts out to each other on the phone and through email.

Neither of us knows why.

Soon after a heated exchange over the phone, one afternoon, I ask him if he can come over and we could argue in person about something. To some people, this seems wildly bizarre, but I have always been a blue traffic light in a world of green and red traffic lights. Nothing is normal to me anymore. When he says that he will visit me in my apartment, I am elated, not terrified that a man who towers over me is going to be in my apartment all alone. My blue traffic signal can’t stop pulsating with anticipation.

He arrives at nine that night and bends over to hug me. Even though I can’t see him or what he looks like online, I picture him as a Denzel Washington clone. His height doesn’t quite fit my mental image, but I figure adding a pink traffic signal to my arsenal won’t hurt the economy any more than normal people will.

When he sits on my bed, the mattress sinks a little. Even when I sit on his lap, I still must look up at his voice to face him.

We start off by talking about our dating accounts. As we talk, we realize that we may not like each other in the slightest, but we are both in the same boat. We are lonely outcasts in our own gaggle of brothers who want a lot of things like; for example, love, marriage rights, and someone who’s true to who they are. I wish  they knew how to say all they want is someone who you can have sex with and never look back. As we talk, we become even more heartbroken and emotional and worried.

His arms shake as his voice trembles with the desperate cry for answers that I am sure we all asked ourselves at some point, “Is there someone out there for me?”

“I have no freaking idea,” I say and hug him back. We hold each other, and we wish the world was better about being honest. We argue about what honesty is. We argue about other gay men. Even though we are not getting along, we need each other, just for tonight. I take his face in my hands and gaze up at his heavy breathing. We continue to hold each other until, finally, his annoying voice and loving embrace steps towards my apartment door. Before he leaves, though, I grab his arm to say a final goodbye. Something weird blurts out of my mouth instead.

“We just can’t give up,” I say. I tell him that there’s someone out there for everybody, even weirdoes like us.

“I hope you’re right.” He says.

“I hope so too,” I answer. I don’t know how loudly our weirdly colored hearts are beating at this moment, but I’d like to hope that someone, somewhere, notices they exist.


Robert Kingett is a bestselling author and award winning journalist who just can’t stop pouring his personal life onto a screen. While most admired for his personal essays, human stories, boldly told, and short memoirs, he also covers various beats, such as satire, politics, crime, travel, food and drink, and entertainment. He is a dating advice columnist and actively campaigns to make the world a better place for disabled people as well as other minority voices. His website is www.blindjournalist.wordpress.com

Deconstructing a Conversation With an Emotionally Abusive Ex

Deconstructing a Conversation With an Emotionally Abusive Ex

Or

“Trans Guys Can Be Assholes to Each Other Too”

When my ex and I were dating, I came to realize that he looked different to me when he was being, as I like to describe it now, a douchecanoe.

I do not mean that I saw him through a different light; I mean that his physical expressions were a tell. His eyes would glaze over as if he were shutting down, shutting himself off from me. His whole face would seem to sag and shift, morphing into a poorly constructed mask. It was different from his pain and grief, different from his boredom, and certainly different from his happiness.

After eight months of radio silence, he wants to talk. We meet at a coffee shop and he walks straight back to the table without ordering. He sits down and when he opens his mouth, I see it in his eyes and the set of his jaw: he’s about to be a dick, again.

He says: “First, I recognize that I hurt you. I am sorry for that. I am sorry that you were hurt, but I do not regret the actions.”

“A general piece of advice: Be wary of anyone who apologizes for your feelings and not for their actions.”

A general piece of advice: Be wary of anyone who apologizes for your feelings and not for their actions.

I don’t truly remember what his second point was because I was busy sighing to myself for having agreed to meet with him, but he says: “Third, you crossed a serious line with me.”

He pauses and I meet his glazed eyes and hear my heart starting to thud. I remember how long it took me to reconcile his behavior for what it was. I remember the months of not knowing what exactly I was apologizing for, just that everything was wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it and I thought it all must be my fault because he was good and I was bad. I remember the supernova inside my chest when things had started going wrong between us.

He continues: “You tried to talk to me when I told you I didn’t want to talk. That’s not okay.”

Let me present a scenario: Say that someone who I am in a relationship with punches me in the face. I’m shocked. I don’t understand why or where this came from or what I did. I know in the back of my mind that it’s not okay, but I love this person, and I think “There must be an explanation.”

So I try to ask. Maybe I’m even shocked enough that I can’t ask at first, that it’s not until I’m crying on a bus the next day that I realize something was wrong about what happened. I ask them to help me understand what happened, what I did, why they did this, and they tell me they don’t want to talk about it right then. And maybe I let them get away with that for awhile before I bring it up again, or maybe I push. Either way, they never give me an explanation. The next time they punch me in the face, I ask again. I think, “I just need help understanding. It’s okay. It’s okay, I just need their perspective.”

This time, they tell me they’re not in the mood to talk at all and put me through a week of silence. When we speak again, I’m so relieved to be talking to them that I don’t bring it up at all. If I did, they might withdraw again and ignore me entirely. I’m hurt and confused and I don’t know what to do.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

“I’ve promised myself two things about this meeting: I am not going to apologize and I am not going to argue.”

He sits there after he says this and I almost want to laugh at him. It isn’t funny, but it’s ludicrous. I take a deep breath. I’ve promised myself two things about this meeting: I am not going to apologize and I am not going to argue.

I say: “Interesting apology.”

I take another breath and I consider the argument, consider trying to make him see. But I don’t need him to see. I don’t need anything from him. “I’m not going to argue with you. I recognize that you live in a very different reality from mine, and at this point in my life I don’t think it would do me any good to try and get you to understand my reality.”

He huffs something and I repeat: “I’m not going to argue with you.”

He says: “But you’re not going to talk to me either.”

I say: “At this point, talking to you would be arguing with you.”

He tips himself back in his chair and mutters “Nor are you going to apologize, apparently.”

Scenario: Someone I’m dating punches me in the face, then asks me to apologize for my reaction.

Okay, Dick Cheney. Sorry you shot me.

“Scenario: Someone I’m dating punches me in the face, then asks me to apologize for my reaction.

Okay, Dick Cheney. Sorry you shot me.”

I’m not sure if I laugh out loud, but a tiny spark of morbid enjoyment has grown up inside of me. He has no power over me anymore. I might be imagining it, but it seems to me as if he’s realizing this and he doesn’t like it.

I say: “Well, considering your apology wasn’t particularly apologetic, no, I don’t really feel the need to at this point.”

He asks me what my reality is, even though I’ve just said I’m not going to try and explain it to him. Here he is, asking me for something that uncannily resembles that which so offended him eight months ago.

I tell him that the universe is a strange place. I tell him how it was weird timing to hear from him because I had just finished writing an article about our relationship, an article about emotional abuse and empathy. I don’t give him details, just the broad concepts.

He says: “Can you recognize that you did things that hurt me, too?”

This guts me. I’ve spent all this time trying to accept his behavior as abusive. I’ve thought a lot about what it would take to make him see that, and how I wish he would open his eyes enough to try to see my experience. How to talk to him about what he did without his immediate response being defensive rejection.

So how can I justify my own immediate defensiveness? What if I’m wrong and he’s on the other side of this table, thinking about how he spent six months trying and failing to justify my actions until he was forced to form the words “emotional abuse” and slap them across his memories of me?

I feel the apology lick up my throat and I clamp it down hard. Later, I will spend the next three days asking myself “Why is this different? Do I believe in my experiences? Is this all a continuation of the invalidation in our relationship? Did he want me to apologize for my actions when he couldn’t apologize for his?” but for now:

I will not apologize and I will not argue.

I say: “…Sure. Yes. Our relationship was toxic and I recognize that it wasn’t good for you either.”

He huffs some more and pivots back to the article. He says: “I’m really pissed off that you used me as research without my permission.”

I say: “Well, it’s not about you. It’s about my experiences in our relationship. And those experiences belong to me as much as to you.”

He says: “It’s really hard for me to see you as human when you’re like this.”

I can’t help it. This conversation is ridiculous. “As opposed to what? A frog?”

He says: “When you’re sitting there, diagnosing me.”

More deep, deep breaths.

I facilitate a support group and in that space we talk a lot about “I” statements. I think about reframing this for him. That what I hear is not him accusing me of not being human, but of him feeling that I am not thinking of him as human.

I say: “Remember, when we were dating, and I would try to ask you about things that were going on with us? And I wouldn’t try to assume, but I was just trying to ask, and you would get really upset and accuse me of trying to tell you what you were thinking or feeling? You’re kind of doing that right now.”

He ignores this. He says: “If I could go back… I should have left sooner.”

I don’t need him to see. I say: “Yes. I shouldn’t have stayed.”

He says: “I tried to make you see that I believe relationships happen if they’re supposed to happen, when they’re supposed to happen, and you can’t force them. It’s clear that you were more in-love with me than I was ever going to be with you –“

I finally let out the incredulous laugh that’s been building since this conversation started. “Again, with the assuming feelings thing.”

He looks startled, but he keeps going. He says: “I’m going off of the patterns that I had seen from you, and you just kept wanting to rehash conversations and it felt like nothing was ever over. And I tried every way of saying that I believe relationships just are, they just happen.”

Again, why did I keep asking about being punched? Why couldn’t I accept things as resolved after days or weeks of silent treatment? Why couldn’t I see that if a relationship wasn’t perfect on its own with absolutely no effort or emotional labor, then it was never going to work?

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I say: “I’m not going to argue with you.”

“I could have given in and told him I was sorry that I hurt him, but not for my actions. Except that is not a real apology, and it goes against my principles to give false apologies.”

There’s more. He keeps talking and I keep telling him that I’m not going to argue. I’m proud of myself for more or less sticking to my resolve. I could have given in and told him I was sorry that I hurt him, but not for my actions. Except that is not a real apology, and it goes against my principles to give false apologies.

The truth is that I never wanted to hurt him, and I’m sure that I did. I realized while we were still dating that he lives in a very different reality from mine, but I imagine that reality is as real to him as my own is to me. I could analyze his accusations as projections, as with the reframing of “seeing me as human,” but whatever happens in his reality happens. And in the context of it, he has to do what is before him to do. I can’t change that, but I won’t give in to it.

When he leaves abruptly, on his way out he says: “If you see me around, you can say hi.”

Before this meeting, the last time I saw him was at Pride, two months after we broke up. I waved and he couldn’t even acknowledge me, except to glare. But he’s out the door now and I don’t call after him.

Another piece of general advice: You don’t owe toxic people anything. Not apologies. Not explanations. Not the time of day.


Gideon C. Elliott is a Seattle-based queer trans man whose previous written work has been mostly academic in nature. He has an essay published in Manifest: Transitional Wisdom on Male Privilege edited by Meghan Kohrer and Zander Keig and spends some time writing bad poetry about the state of our political environment. When not at work, he can usually be found volunteering or in a park crying over other people’s dogs. You can contact him at gideoncelliott@gmail.com or follow him on instagram: @theimmortaljellyfish.

Like Any Relationship, Really

I knew if I ended up with America, I ran the risk of losing my friends who remained on the fence. But they respected that I wanted that intensity, and teased me whenever we saw him at the bar.

“Trista, look, there’s America,” and I’d look over to his smooth jaw line and dark bourbon drink, “Do you want to go over?”

“No, I think I’ll give him some space, the financial crisis just happened and he’s probably not looking for any company. Maybe in a few months.”

And that’s what I did. A few months later I went up to him and ordered the same but neat. As I suspected we were more alike than different. I thought about his request for a relationship over sorbet and I felt he was being genuine. He whispered how “he’s seen people succeed beyond their wildest dreams with my strengths and ambition” and that’s when I leaned in for a kiss and a possible nest egg.

“America had his friends who wanted to work with me, offering a bank account, a lease and a high-interest loan. I passed on the loan, but I knew I could ask for anything: I was with America.”

The first year together was bright eyed and festive; there wasn’t a bad memory to recall.  It felt like only sunny days and warm nights, a welcomed change from the Northern cold. America had his friends who wanted to work with me, offering a bank account, a lease and a high-interest loan. I passed on the loan, but I knew I could ask for anything: I was with America.

A couple years later he asked me to move in as we had a drawer at each other’s place and I started to anticipate that he wanted to spend the night. So we agreed and had a key made, I put it on my ring and stapled in the visa. That night we went shopping for new sheets. When I saw America reaching for the auburn and beige paisley set I knew this was love. I realized in that aisle that this stability is what I had needed this whole time.

For hours we would hold each other, and for nights make dinner with fresh ingredients. He would tell me his problems and we’d work on a solution on ways to get out of some fiscal issues and politically lead on others. Some topics might not get the reaction he desired, but it needed to be said: this is the time to expose. I promised him I would stay by his side and he confessed how he needed us, that he couldn’t go through these huge leaps alone.

“I wanted to scream from the rooftops – America is mine, all mine and we’ll be together forever. So when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry with a green card in a princess cut, I smiled.”

When he spoke, the world listened. I wanted to scream from the rooftops – America is mine, all mine and we’ll be together forever. So when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry with a green card in a princess cut, I smiled. I didn’t show my disappointment in his choice as I’m an oval type and simply nodded ‘yes.’

This felt right and it was a good time in my life. I loved him and he loved me. I’ve never experienced so much emotional growth in such a short period of time, so why would I doubt this won’t last forever? And then I felt his phone ring in his jacket pocket and I read the caller ID, it was his ex.

It was not the reasonable one who I can see calling him to wish him well on the engagement and to ensure their colleagues were still connected. This was the unreasonable one, the one I never understood why they lasted so long. The one who stalked us online at the beginning  and created fake profiles to ‘like’ my public photos. He said that for months at the end of their relationship she couldn’t cope with the idea that they were over. In her mind she thought they were still a couple, so would show up at his place. And I know America; I know he invited her inside.

I always felt he preferred girls like her, the ones who adorn themselves in his presence and hang off his every word. I refused to see how he enjoyed those kinds of games and her call showed to me how blind I was. When I told him that I was breaking up with him, America thought I was being unreasonable, that I should give him a chance to create a healthy boundary.

But I know better.

I heard she moved in a few weeks later. She likely threw out the sheets and immediately replaced the towels with ones that are monogrammed. Our lamps, curtains and utensils are still around, being judged and kept as a reminder of the time he had that mutual stability.

“To this day I know America and I could have been something real, with a low-interest mortgage.”

To this day I know America and I could have been something real, with a low-interest mortgage. I was desperate for the hope of change and always knew under the surface there were signs that were louder than America’s desire to enact that change. I opened my heart and it was broken with no regrets – just lessons and an escape plan.


Trista Hurley-Waxali is an immigrant from Toronto, who finally listened to her parents advice and moved South. She has performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore and internationally at O’bheal Poetry Series in Cork, Ireland and a TransLate Night show from Helsinki Poetry Connection. She is writes weird short stories and is working on her novel, At This Juncture.