dariaphoebe: (Default)
2017-05-04 12:53 pm
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The light of day was dimming as the stretch of highway named for early colonial settlers in New England drew to a close. Two miles shy of that end, with Hartford enveloping the road, the big green signs above switched to the next control point.


Home was getting close, finally.

The drive was long, as it always was. There were many stories from previous trips along that journey, and I shared some as we drove. One took place a few weeks after driving my then-spouse, siblings, and grandparents to Vermont for my aunt's wedding.

On that particular Sunday, I was returning home after visiting friends in Cambridge. As our path in the opposite direction along the same interstate that day drew near its end, the voicemail indicator flickered to life on my phone. I listened.

My mother's voice addressed me by name before continuing, "It's your mother. Call me." I turned to my spouse as I ended the call and told her, "My grandfather died."

A discussion ensued before I returned the contact, one which included speculation that my grandmother on the other side of the family had passed. But when I did call, my brother answered the phone. "Pap died," he said, before telling me where the viewing would be in the morning.

We slept that night, and the next morning after I told my colleagues I would miss the subsequent several days, we went to the funeral home. As I walked in, my father was waiting in the back of the sitting room. "My mother died last night," he shared as he greeted me.

We wondered at the time how my newly-widowed grandmother would fare. It was only a little surprising that we found ourselves now about 15 years later to have her still with us, but my father had shared mere hours earlier that her health had taken a downturn.

So it was little surprise when just 2 days later I heard that she was not expected to make it through the night, and shortly thereafter that she had passed.

I looked at air travel, knowing I did not have another 19 hours driving in me -- especially alone. On such short notice, the cost was steep. With heavy heart, I resolved to visit the gravesite on a future visit. At last, though, I knew I'd have one less burden on my mind each time I traveled the course between Pittsburgh and Boston: I had no more grandparents to lose.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2017-03-09 10:08 pm
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The small green sign was barely noticeable on a pole; it probably would have escaped my notice yet again had I not paused my bicycle beside it days earlier. "Mass Pike", it beckoned, with an arrow and a caricature of a pilgrim's hat. I knew the history of the logo: an earlier version had portrayed racial stereotypes of the natives who ceded their land to the new settlers in questionable deals nearly 400 years earlier. But I didn't intend to linger in the Central Square of the city next to mine. No, I had an appointment to make.

Shortly collecting the highway, I pushed on southwest. I had a lot on my mind. Despite an improved situation over the prior year, I continue to live at the edge of my capacity, emotionally, fiscally, and given the recent surgery, physically. The last is more worthy of celebration than the others. In fact, I hoped my appointment would bring clearance to do more. I wasn't sure how wise it might be to mention what I was already doing: my check-out appointment six weeks prior came with the suggestion I take it easy and wait for the healing to progress.

I planned to see a friend, recently out of surgery herself, before settling in at another friend's house for the night. Some unexpected car trouble set the plan back, though, and forced me to find repair services along the way. Like so much else in my life, I found myself worrying about things others take for granted. What sort of reaction would I garner? If you are some substantial subset of white, male, cisgender, and not obviously gay or lesbian, you might not give the interaction a second thought. But each of those boxes you can't check might well count against you, depending who you found yourself interacting with.

I opened the door and was offered a friendly greeting. Aside from a single instance where one of the folks I was interacting with called me sir -- a slip he apologized for when I corrected him -- I perceived nothing even slightly amiss. Continuing on, the reduced time to see my friends, and the cost of righting the situation added to my burdens, but at least on this day, the only issue laying at the feet of my gender was the need to make the trip at all.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2017-02-08 05:51 am
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"Would you like to dance?", he asked. I followed him to the floor and introduced myself.

I'd been on the fence about going: would I be up for the exercise? Square dancing was a thing I'd wanted to learn for more than a dozen years, but had never quite managed to. If I skipped the opportunity I was having, there'd be others. Still, I figured it would sting. I decided to try.

My second partner of the evening took me to the floor after the first break. With a few steps under my belt, I had at least a modicum of understanding of the motion. The right choice, I mused, even as I worked mentally through my calendar to confirm I'd be able to hit the upcoming 13 lessons.

Still, even if it was the right choice, it came with a trade off. In an idle moment I finally accepted as truth that I am way too hard on myself, that my adeptness in the world I find myself traversing is real. But the price of getting to be myself was and is high, and I wonder if paying it will ever not be a punishing burden on my life.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2017-01-16 10:55 pm
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It would be my last real physical activity for a while, and I was determined to make it count. We drove for about 20 minutes before leaving the car to walk a couple hundred feet. After crossing a short bridge, we descended to the red clay path we'd just passed over, and started walking upstream alongside the bed of the disused canal.

"It's frozen," ey observed, as we walked along a section of slackwater that had developed a thin sheet of ice along the banks. We found some rocks and played a bit, skipping them across the ice sometimes, breaking small holes in the sheet at others. After a bit, we continued north.

The trail was not busy, but we were not alone. One person passed with a nod. A jogger, next, intent on the exercise and the music I assumed was in their ears. Next came an older man, and as I passed I softly spoke a greeting.

"Where are you going?", he asked brusquely. Just a walk, we replied in unison. "Why are you dressed like that?" It quickly became clear how it was going to go. "You're not girls!"

The abuse came in streams, and occasionally I bothered to answer. "You must have wealthy parents, that you can afford to be out here doing this." We were walking away, at this point, but I shot over my shoulder, "Poor as dirt." His stream of abuse continued unabated as we slowly moved out of earshot.

Ironically, as we continued walking, I got a call from the hospital about the final timing for my surgery, then barely 16 hours off. I wasn't independently wealthy, nor even dependently so. The funds I fronted were borrowed, and surgery was only in reach because I moved to a place where I knew my non-employer policy would offer coverage by state mandate.

Of course, he knew nothing about what was between my legs. His judgement was made based solely on what I look like, or perhaps what I sound like. To him, I will never be anything but someone I am not, and cannot be. As we walked on, we talked about the vaguely unsettled feeling we both then had, before finally letting the thickly glazed surface of the canal beside us again provide some distraction from a world bent on intolerance, right in the shadow of the haven I'd be spending time recovering in ever so shortly.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2016-12-17 01:56 am
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For just a moment, as I continued along my riverside path, I let my eyes turn inland.

There wasn't much reason to: ahead of me lie the trail I needed to concentrate on, and to my left was the gorgeous expanse of river. In fact, impending cold weather was the point of the ride. I took the scenic route to get to my destination expressly because I wasn't sure when I'd be able to enjoy perhaps my favorite feature of my new home next.

The massive columns of the Beaux-arts building across the road were perhaps the most obvious feature, but I let my eyes fall on the inscription on the colonnade. Reading the name, I remembered a moment probably 18 years earlier where I'd climbed into a car parked on the opposite side of the quaint green parkway that separated me from the structure.

On that day, my destination was home. Pittsburgh was 11 hours away, on average, and I would arrive at my door after midnight. As I closed the door, I looked out at the same building and wondered: "What if I lived here?"

It wasn't a unique or even uncommon question. Any city I'd figured out my way around and felt any real affinity for would typically prompt the reaction. But at the time I felt I would never leave Pittsburgh.

Considering it at that moment, I found it almost funny. Unanticipated events had pushed me away from my old home and allowed me to finally answer the question, if only for this one place where a day could now end with a short bike ride home instead of a flight or a multi-hour drive.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-12-13 10:53 am
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As we stood at the curb, we talked about the city, the place I now called home. Until moments before, it had been business as we walked around an apartment. I carried my phone about while on a video call to be eyes and ears for my sweetie, 2000 miles away. Now, though, ey had hung up, and it was just the two of us.

As he looked up the hill, his eyes settled on my bike. "How do you like riding that?", he asked, his eyes shifting to me. "Funny story," I replied.

I knew exactly what he was asking. My bike wasn't the sort most people were used it. A few months ago, I picked up a recumbent bike. To the uninitiated, a recumbent bike looks like a chair on a long wheeled frame, and so people assume it will be ungainly to operate. Indeed, it definitely requires adapting if you're only used to riding an upright bike, but I've taken to it rather well. The only issue I have is my need to build a new set of muscles to climb hills.

I laughed lightly before continuing to reply, "It was actually Savanni who convinced me to get it. I'm having surgery in 5 weeks, and ...". And then I stopped. I'd just met this person. Quickly, though, I finished the sentence. "I'm having a vagina installed. Needless to say, it'll be far easier to sit on a seat like this than on a normal bike. And that's what ey pointed out, so I got this one a few months ago."

For just a moment, I worried whether explaining this to someone who was a stranger but a few minutes ago was proper. His words and his expression indicated he understood, and I quickly relaxed as we finished our discussion.

While it's not reasonable to ask someone about their body, this felt different. I have no qualms explaining my impending surgery. I've been forthright even when the questioner had unreasonable expectations of my obligation to answer. It's important that people understand this is a normal, usual thing that folks may need to do to fully be themselves, to be able to own their own bodies. Talking about the path that led me here and what I expect ahead causes me no burden, and hopefully relieves that weight on others. And so, I will keep sharing.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2016-11-18 11:42 pm
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As the rest of the band stepped away, just one remained. He delivered just a single verse, acoustic, before the others returned for the final song of the evening. I knew what words I was about to hear, but it stung just the same when he delivered it.

And I can tell just what you want.
You don't want to be alone.
You don't want to be alone.

The morning had begun on a plane, with the last open seat taking but a single line off the standby list: mine. I was supposed to be stuck, most of the way across the country another day. Each day I'd found my face plastered to a laptop working, and each night an empty bed awaited me. I couldn't imagine much I wanted less.

The four hours of flying time left but a modicum of sleep, and the short nap I got when I finally arrived in the apartment was little better. There was more work, some at home, some while waiting for the RMV to give me a new license and registration.

But my unexpected early arrival lent me the ability to see a show I'd long assumed I'd miss, and after dinner with a friend I biked to the venue, a university ice hockey arena.

One song, in particular, was one I'd taken loosely as an anthem. It came and went as did several others that held deep meanings to me. Now, we were at the last song of the encore.

The dichotomy was hard: the return home was welcome. I was in a place where I was safe, where I could meet up with friends, where I could on a random night walk up to see a long-missed band.

But at the same time, the return home was no different than the place I'd left.

He finished the verse:

And I can't say it's what you know
But you've known it the whole time
Yeah, you've known it the whole time
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-11-09 10:28 pm
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Only 90 minutes more, I mused, as I peered down upon the capital of the Buckeye State. Places familiar and comfortable fell briefly under my gaze as I scanned the terrain 38000 feet below. How close I'd come to moving there eleven years earlier.

Today, I found myself en route home for just a few nights, a home I hadn't foreseen then. Work would soon draw me most of the way back across the continent, but a moment's rest as I frantically worked through my backlog of tasks lay ahead to my northeast.

My heart ached for what was behind me, though. I knew I'd see em again soon, as ey'd soon be moving Boston-ward emself. The day, and indeed the trip, had been punctuated with moments of joy, passion and love. But there were other moments, too.

The previous evening under other circumstances might have been a moment to cherish, but instead our bodies were curled together from fear. My existence and eirs were both fragile, and we knew it. More troubling, though, were the many friends who had it worse.

With the clarity afforded by sleep, though, I began taking inventory of my life. I understand what I have to lose and how I might lose it: Family. Friends. Employment. Housing. Health. Life itself. Unlike others in similar positions, though, I would relatively not be missed. No one would go homeless or hungry for my absence. No one would be orphaned.

If you are scared for me, for my future, well, you should be.
But I am far from the only one you should be scared for, and I am not the one you should be scared for the most.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2016-10-05 01:41 am
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After making my drop, I slipped quickly from surface streets near the largest train station in the area and headed rapidly toward home. Shortly I emerged from the subterranean world for a brief overwater trip just upstream of the city's eponymous harbor. The wishbone-shaped center pier supporting the massive cable-stayed bridge offered a modernist view that didn't betray the 13-plus year age of the bridge. Afterward, I found myself on somewhat a more aged freeway for the bulk of the remaining trip.

I threaded a path down the ramp whose sign on the gantry called out the name of my new-found home, pausing in traffic at the end as we waited for a light. When green appeared, we started moving before the driver of the vehicle directly in front of me decided to attempt a right turn from the lane where we were otherwise waiting to head west. Upon passing them, I stopped again for some folks crossing the street. As I waited, there was a sudden jolt: I'd been hit, I realized. But there was something else that felt off, and it took me a moment longer to realize what it was.

I'd lost my hair.

There's nothing like that moment of panic when you realize you'll need to interact with someone in a situation that is likely stressful on its own without a very key part of yourself. My gender isn't an issue the vast majority of the time. Would it be here, especially if I lacked the contextual cue that helped compensate for the voice I so despised? I cringed, and groped behind me.

Fumbling to shevel my bangs, I collected my license and went out to exchange information. On this day, all would be okay. No one was injured, neither vehicle made unusable, and calm heads ruled. I bade my elder counterpart a pleasant and less eventful trip for his ride further across the city we shared, and headed off to attempt to extract my bike from its newfound tomb in the back of the vehicle for a late-afternoon ride along the river.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-10-03 12:12 pm
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As the dawn broke, I didn't even stir. I slept in. Well, it's what passes for sleeping in for me. I couldn't tell you which of us awakened first, but shortly we had started our day. I returned to my laptop to see where the compile I'd left running had gotten, doing some work before eventually making myself presentable.

We left, grabbing a quick bite before I deposited her for her appointment and returned home. As I arrived, I noted the street sweeper, and hurried inside to alert my housemate lest she get ticketed. We passed in the hallway, and she moved her car in time. A few minutes later, I heard the sweeper pass.

Having swapped the car for the bike, I recrossed the city for the third time of the morning. The traffic light at the historic Northern Artery changed just as I arrived, ensuring I didn't need to stare at that particular ugly gash across my otherwise attractive neighborhood for long.

The light of the day had replaced the gloom of the weekend, and I basked in the brief ride. Shortly, I dodged off to a side street, crossed another, and then descended to the multiuse path that replaced a long-disused railroad.

A well-dressed group of folks who I guessed might be looking to buy a new place to live stepped aside to let me access the ramp. As they did, I realized the safety orange of my underthings might be showing: the low seat of my recumbent pointed my midsection at the world, far too easily. On the trail, a child mumbled something to their caretaker, and I heard "Yes, she *is* sitting!" as I passed. I smiled.

The ride ended just as quickly as it had started, and I locked the bike outside my usual cafe work spot. One of the other regulars took a moment to chat with me, and we groused about the scaffold over the front that was appearing. Then I went inside, depositing my stuff before collecting a mug of tea. "Hi Daria. Blue crane tea?", I was greeted.

I've found myself right integrating well with my environs, learning the backstory and quirks, meeting the people, and exploring the manifold new options as I go about my life. I've perhaps found myself, inadvertantly, in the midst of a place well-suited for my life, and I hope I can give back and make it the same for others.

I am Somerville. This is home.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-09-28 12:07 am
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Her ears were covered with earphones, stanching the din of the world as though a shield. My left hand loosely held her right. We walked silently in the rain: there was nothing that needed to be said.

I looked down the street through lenses slowly accumulating droplets, my mind quietly mapping away the difference in refraction scattered about my field of vision. As my eyes settled on the flashing white lights around the speed limit sign, a question formed in my brain.

"What am I supposed to want out of life?", it came. I kept walking, not missing a beat. My mind, though, struggled to process the thought.

I'd been married, not once but twice. There'd been the house in the suburbs, the job that was mine as long as I might want it. The wording of what I was asking myself split out in my head: _Supposed To_

I'd worked through the answer to the question of what I did want, again and again. The conclusion was perilously close to the life I have: not an exact match, and with some rather gaping holes, but not so dramatically different as to be unattainable.

We stopped at the end of the line of people waiting for the bus, and she let go of my hand. My blue hair dripped water onto my face, while my unbuttoned raincoat bared the shoulderless top I had on only slightly. Perhaps the queerness that sometimes felt like armor to me was more than that. It was possible I was supposed to want something unusual: maybe, I was supposed to want exactly what I did.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2016-09-19 10:31 pm
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(no subject)

The day had dragged on, my interminable task lasting until I needed to head in the direction of my evening plans. There'd be no trip to the coffee shop in the offing.

I considered as we left the merits of driving: I could offer friends who might have a more difficult time getting home late a ride, but I'd have to park: annoying, costly or both. We took the subway.

The line for the concert venue was long, but moved shortly after we arrived. Among my party were folks who identified as neither man nor woman; neuroatypical folks; and one person who was using a cane and carrying water.

Bag checks, for me, are easy. I once visited the same venue 6 nights out of 7. But I was an irregularity in this group.

While my purse was quickly vetted, several of the others hit snags. A purse with too many straps. A phone larger than some arbitrary size. A water bottle that was full. A medication bottle with several prescriptions commingled. "Can't you leave these in the car?"

I waited to make sure everyone would get in. The staff got increasingly agitated as they had to deal with the issues, all the while pressing harder to get me to walk away.

It wasn't until one of my party, harried past the point of coping, collapsed that the staff stopped worrying about me and began to figure out ways to stop being obstructive. I accompanied two friends up on the elevator and then got their tickets collected, and we tried to all calm down so we could enjoy the show.

We live in a world constructed around the needs of an idealized person. The core audience this night generally misses that theoretical ideal on several axes.

I can't fix it, at least not this today. But we will only stop seeing the denigration of friends, loved ones, and ourselves when we start calling attention to these issues, taking them seriously, and addressing them. And so here I am at step one. I hope you are with me.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-09-16 12:17 pm
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The car pointed east, and we sped along the freeway. Neither of us spoke. The sign that flashed past told us that we were on route 71. The airplane graphic attached was no coincidence. It wasn't the first time we glided along the same highway in silence, but the previous times I'd been the driver.

As we'd left the reception, I pointed the car toward the end of our evening, confident of my path despite the darkness. Did I need directions, zie mused... "No, I know where I am," I replied before explaining that I could surely pick a route close to optimal with just what I knew of this place I'd never been before. Shortly zie fell asleep, and I was alone with some quiet music as I zipped back toward the city.

Today, though, we were both awake. I looked around me, my mind replaying the events of the previous 13 days. Ahead of me stood moving. Finally I would have a place of my own, for the first time this year. But something to look forward to didn't negate the sadness I had from my impending departure.

As we continued east, traffic quickly congealed as we reached a merge point, and we slowed to a crawl. There was no fear: I knew I would make my flight, and I could tell zie did too: despite our silence, we still were communicating via other channels. Physically, if only by a light touch. Emotionally, our tender souls laid bare.

A wisecrack about the signage broke the silence, and I chuckled as I replied. As we stopped, I collected my belongings, and we exchanged a touching goodbye. The silence enveloped me again as I walked into the building, turning once to blow a kiss before walking out of sight.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2016-09-14 07:44 am
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I looked down into the dusky light. Towns stretched out to the north across Arkansas, the development set in relief by the upward reflection of overzealous street lighting. I recognized none of them, unusual for me. I let my eyes close.

When I was young, I expected to see only what of the world I might someday be able to take a bus, or perhaps drive, to. By the time I became a licensed driver, I'd left the state just once, and the trip was aborted before we reached the erroneous endpoint of Conneaut. The idea that I might someday be able to afford more seemed farfetched.

The plane shook slightly, and I looked down again. The lights of a town danced beneath me. I squinted to finally realize there was nothing magical afoot. A cloud was receding far below, slowly revealing more of the grid. I looked away.

When I got my license, cosmopolitan was knowing my way around cities, towns and countryside in a 150 mile radius of my home like they were mine. But at 18, I traveled further: eastern Pennsylvania, then Boston, by bus. Within four years of that, I reached the other coast, visiting San Francisco by air. Another three found me I stepping off a train in San Antonio. That Texas travel had not been so far from this trip, but the journeys were a lifetime apart, or more.

Looking down again, I mused that the shape I saw outlined was Paducah, before confirming my suspicions online. I resumed my work. The next gaze brought Columbus, Indiana, before we hit western Ohio, and I reached a world I knew well.

While I've spent time on both coasts as well as through the hinterlands, so much of my life has been spend within an easy drive of the spot I lived from birth. And my memory provides slices of the moments from so much of it, good, bad, and otherwise.

The Canadian side of Lake Erie became visible in a couple spots, but I saw northeast Ohio’s industrial heart starkly delineated against the murky blackness of the unlit, uninhabited body of water alongside. The swirls of concrete and the patterns of lights made it so easy to pick out so many amazing places I’ve been. After Erie, at least, there'd be a respite until Syracuse. But then things intensified, and I found myself picking out cities, as we converged upon the end of the flight.

After hooking north, our arc traced a pattern I knew. The approach pattern told me which runway I'd see in a moment, and I was not surprised when I saw "9/27" signs flick past on the ground. A friend shortly picked me up at the airport. Inside a half hour I sat upon a bed, greeted by a plate of pickles another friend, my host for so many weeks this year, left as she drifted off to sleep before I arrived.

Eastern Massachusetts and my friends here have cemented a place as loving stewards of a tattered person. If home is where the heart is, then truly I am home.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-08-30 03:10 pm

(no subject)

I wondered if he noticed my brief hesitation as I considered how much I wanted to share in response to what he's just asked. It was an innocent enough question, one about whether I was always a local. How many times had I elaborated variations on this story of late?

"I just moved here after 43 years in Pittsburgh," I replied. "I have an apartment starting the day after tomorrow." I could have stopped there, left it at that. Instead, though, I caught my breath before continuing.

It had been the night before New Years' Eve when my friend showed up. I slumped in his arms as I sobbed briefly, before composing myself. I collected a small pile of clothes and my laptop, and we left to cross the city. For much of the next several months, the spare bedroom at his home would serve as mine.

His family seemed in no rush to have me gone, but I try to take nothing for granted. My barren fiscal standing left me unable to get a place myself, though, and so I hoped I wouldn't be too much of a burden.

"It will be the first time this year I've had my own place to live," I said as I ended the thought. If he was bothered by my explanation, he betrayed nothing. There wasn't really anything different about me anyway: my neat appearance betrayed nothing about my status. Blue hair aside, I looked not much different than anyone else present.

You might well have thought you didn't know anyone who's homeless. Two days, yet, still separate me from a place which is mine, from no longer being transient. In the meantime, I have spent all of this year in places where I had no claim beyond friendship. I leaned harder than I felt any right to. It is an experience which lends additional empathy, but it is not one I'd dare suggest everyone should have.

No, just the opposite: homelessness is an experience *no one* should have.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-08-17 05:37 pm
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Her email arrived mid-morning, and I didn't read it til rather later as I was busy working. Perhaps it was for the best that I'd waited.

"Good morning, Daria Brashear", I'd greeted her at a minute after 8. We'd arranged the call the previous day. She seemed impressed that I'd trivially navigated bureaucracy to tweak an issue with my health insurance, and frankly, so was I. Not that long ago, I avoided making phone calls. Here, in spite of my dislike of my voice, I stepped right up and dealt.

It was the second time we'd talked, and I had already shared the details, good and bad, of my life. My recounting of 2016, particularly, drew sympathy. "But, I live here now," I'd concluded. This time, remembering something from before, she asked about voice therapy. "Yes, absolutely," I replied, and she said she'd send along the information I needed.

The email unfolded in front of me, and I mentally parsed out the details. As I reached the middle, though, I paused, and held back tears.

At the end of the paragraph, after comments about how to get set up with a voice therapist, she told me to get a referral, obtain a letter suggesting follow ups, and submit it. "It will be approved," she explained as she mentioned mandated benefits. The final sentence, though, was the one that made it all so very real for me:

"It is good to live in Massachusetts!!"
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-07-30 12:30 pm
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(no subject)

I pushed myself along the canal towpath, working against the waterlogged clay surface, into the gorgeous morning. On one side of me was the early 1800s canal; On the other, a broad, placid river. I'd failed at self-care for a few days, and it was time to apply some.

The previous night, after foolishly moving my car, I hoofed it a few blocks to find a late dinner. As I looked north after walking over the canal, a bright light caught my eye. I stepped away from the road, and walked toward the railroad station. I kept moving toward the building so the station sign would come into the view.

We were coming up on a year since I'd first found myself alone aside the river, just as I had the after last night's dinner. On that first occasion, I wept. I realized a month or so prior what I needed to do, but I felt the means to do it would be out of reach, and I feared the consequences of pushing on.

The previous August had brought the realization that the surgery I thought I could do without wasn't optional. By September, I had a plan to pay. In October, I finally told my spouse. By the end of November, I lost that way to pay, and as December ended, so did my marriage. The consequences had all been realized and my fears had come home to roost.

As I came to the next town, I turned the bike off the towpath. Shortly I found myself riding over the river, and shortly turned north. The towpath for the canal along the other side of the river featured a powdered limestone surface, where the railroad that replaced it had previously been. The ride got easier.

With this year, there were changes. Friends took me in as my life fell apart. Throughout the moments where I found myself struggling to keep moving ahead, folks held me up when I foundered. I worked out a plan, arranged to move, and got myself scheduled for surgery.

I turned back across the river, pointed at the spot I'd walked past the night before. As I reached the shore on the Pennsylvania side, the sign naming the municipality echoed the one I'd finally seen when I got close enough to the train station to take a photo.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-07-27 11:51 am
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(no subject)

We'd left the hospital before dusk, when our friend told us she planned to sleep. When I got back to the hotel, I changed into a dress for exercise, pulled my bike out of the car, and clambered aboard for a canalside trip through a park separated from us by a hundred feet of highwayside sidewalk.

The placid pool of the long-dormant canal reflected the things around it as I rode into the increasing darkness. The occasional buzz of traffic on the road nearby pierced the trees as I pushed myself along, but a roar, after a while, reminded me that trains were buzzing by close to 100mph just slightly further away.

It was odd to think that it had been less than 24 hours that I'd been here, but that flight that had pushed back late got only later as we went. We rerouted south due to weather. When finally we emerged from the clouds, I picked out the intersection of interstates 81 and 64 below me, before we headed to the lower Potomac basin and then up the river towards the nation's capitol.

After circling briefly, we were told things were bad, and we'd be landing at Harrisburg. I knew then that it'd be a long night. A direct flight usually means that once you're airborne, you'll make it. But as soon as you are on the ground somewhere, all bets are off. The route into MDT allowed me to pick out the Baltimore inner harbor, York, I-83, the turnpike, and I-81 from the air before we curved gently around to get a gorgeous view of the state capitol on final approach.

When we did land, it took about 90 minutes to fuel and resume the journey, another 45 minutes to fly, and in the end I reached my destination at 2:20am. My friend was due at the hospital at 6. No surprise, then, that rest eluded me.

I allowed myself the luxury of enjoying the canalside jaunt before returning to my laptop to work, take a brief goodnight call, and fall over. If I were to be supportive for the rest of the week, taking the rest when I could seemed like a necessity.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
2016-07-25 11:57 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

"We were supposed to be airborne 90 minutes ago," I thought, as we pivoted onto the end of the runway. The sign we'd just passed pointed the way to 34R.

I closed the e-book I'd been reading, and directed my focus to the window. My mind was elsewhere, reeling with the memories, and had been all morning. A number rolled by outside as we accelerated along the runway.


I'd arrived in Seattle by rail, 4 days prior. I'd been working from the train, but took a break to get myself and my stuff to the flat I'd be sharing before continuing. After a bit more work, I met a friend for dinner before getting some flowers and heading to the airport.

Distracted by the window, I watched another number flash past outside.


The first of my companions arrived. The flowers weren't for her, but she half-suspected I'd surprise her at the airport. We hoofed it to the light rail and got a small bite one stop over before returning to the airport to wait. Our time was a mix of light chatter, heavier conversation, and flirting.


We arrived back at the airport just as our other companion landed. Zie was quite late, but it was a small wonder zie made it at all. Hir connecting flight had been cancelled that morning, and it was only by the other two of us nudging hard and coughing up some miles that zie got there at all. When zie entered the concourse, we popped out to surprise hir, with the flowers, but also simply by being there. Shortly, we'd summoned a ride and were heading back to the flat. Before sleeping, we collapsed into a pile of cuddles. The day had been stressful, but moreover we'd been apart a while, and that period had been rife with its own stresses.


After too little sleep, we arrived for the first day of the conference. Unlike most other tech conferences I'd been to, this one was much more about people than the technology itself. The focus was divided between taking care of the people building the technology, and ensuring those affected by it were also carefully considered by those doing the building. The first day covered a range from bringing rehabilitation back to prisons, to bringing diversity and inclusivity to a workplace with outward-facing functions, to expanding how we empathize. An ice cream social followed dinner, with the sprouts of a new relationship showing for one of us as the other two looked on, before the day ended as the previous one did: a moment of shared emotional intimacy and vulnerability amongst the three of us, before we collapsed to sleep.


The second day was no less deep than the first, as we heard about human factors in complex systems, ethical concerns in the the world where all our devices are connected, and so many aspects of bringing empathy into your work.

Dinner followed, then hanging at a coffeeshop. At the conclusion of the evening, we parted company. Upon returning again to our flat, we first unwound together before collectively collapsing in a tired, snuggly heap on the bed. In many ways it felt for me not just like coming home, but coming home to people who loved me. It was a luxury 2016 had not been especially forthcoming with.

The numbers were flicking past rather quickly now.


Unlike the previous days, Sunday morning would be unrushed. We awoke without an alarm, in that same heap. A trip south toward the center of the city followed, with a lovely bookstore, an elegant brunch, a leisurely stroll, a ferry ride, and dinner with a longtime friend of one of my companions, as all the while in the background the budding relationship that had started the weekend began to bloom around us.

The evening ended again with we three together, with the comedown from a fantastic conference washing across us amongst a sea of other emotions. In a continually changing series of awkward poses on the floor, we took turns listening and holding each other up -- literally and figuratively -- before collapsing on the bed for one final night.

Outside my window, we took to the air, finally, lifting slowly away from the ground.


Cleaning up the flat was quick work, and we shortly headed to the airport. Our flights were spaced such that we'd see off one person, then I'd go, then the last of us would board hir delayed plane last. There was plenty of time for emotional goodbyes at each step, though we expected to see each other again in weeks instead of months. Still, each of us climbed aboard our planes carrying our own emotional weight. I wondered if I'd make it off the ground before I cried. Thanks to the 90 minute delay, I didn't.

The numbers, the runway, the land, peeled slowly away below me, count ended short. Once again I had no home. Most of the width of the continent stood between me and my next itinerant stop.
dariaphoebe: (Default)
2016-07-15 09:11 am
Entry tags:

(no subject)

I'd excused myself after the meal for a moment, telling her I'd be back after dealing with my biological imperative. Stepping around the corner, I was rebuffed as one of the staff held the door to the women's room open for her colleague as he tried to clean. "It's pretty bad in there," she explained as she asked me to wait.

After a few moments where I was awkwardly pressed against the wall to stay out of the way of the staff passing in the narrow hallway, they conspired amongst themselves to confirm the men's room was empty. "I'll guard the door for you," she told me. Two others repeated the offer.

I might have been tempted to decline were my need not so urgent. I knew what to expect. Indeed, I left the busser outside the door to step inside, and found that it hadn't changed since I last saw it in 2013. Slipping into the stall as I always had before, I took care of my need, washed my hands, and walked back out, thanking him as I passed.

Perhaps it's an overcompensation: even when faced with a single-occupant restroom, a colloquial "one-holer", I reliably bypass the ones marked men unless there's obvious signage explaining why there's no other option. After being forced in the moment to contemplate my reasons, I wondered if perhaps I could afford to be pragmatic even as I contemplated my peers for whom it wasn't and might never be true.

As countless friends had pointed out, I'd gone from being scared of who I might be perceived as to being unapologetically myself. It's a gift I hope others can find in themselves, and if I can figure out how to help them find it, I owe it to them to do that.