9 min read

I'm in a polycule with the Ocean

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks driving around Californian roads. That’s what you do in California: drive. You can hike, too if you like — but first, you have to drive. I spent the last year and a half yearning for these big mountains, big skies, the smell of salt in the air.

Now I have it and after the initial astonishment, after the shocking vision of the endless churning Pacific and the surreal hugeness of Yosemite valley — comes alienation. This trip doesn’t feel like coming home, it feels like visiting someplace new. I feel, mostly, estranged.

Anyway. I’ve been driving around these Californian roads trying to make progress on my manuscript, maintaining the food blog, and trying to come up with an idea for what to write for this newsletter with whatever’s leftover in my heart. I tried to write about my obsessive personality, tried to write advice about navigating polyamory, I even found 8 year old emails that I sent out while I was hunting for dick on Craigslist thinking maybe I could do something with this. I felt stuck. All I had in me are half baked thoughts and vague metaphors about water. Like, isn’t this newsletter that’s supposed to be about fucking? What’s with all the feelings and the metaphors lately? I set out to write about sex and gender and romance and desire and whatever else it is I’ve been telling people lately. I wanted it to be honest and vulnerable and funny and explicit. And while I’d like to say I’ve been slutting it up, living for the plot, mining a salacious love life for the memoir — I’ve been kind of a chaste romantic. I’ve sent friends back in Chicago some sappy postcards from Yosemite, given advice over FaceTime, and buried my nose in a pile of books. I’ve been holing up with my family – chosen and otherwise – making meals, sitting around. I’m in a waning period, a dry spell.

Okay, I’m not really in a true dry spell if we’re nitpicking. There was one guy I slept with right at the beginning of my trip who bit my lip so hard while we were making out that he took a chunk of flesh off. I had to read at the DOPAMINE Fundraiser with a cut on my mouth. I’ll probably try to fuck him again when I’m back in L.A. and just pray that he does not take more skin off my body. He was a little bit of an asshole, but he had good opinions. And he was hot. So there was that. I’ve also got a sexy long distance friend to send Instagram posts to and fantasize about. I’ve got some uninteresting Feeld matches to idly sext. It’s less of a dry spell and more of an unseasonably dry season. We expected 25% more precipitation around this time but the crops are like, fine.

A dry spell usually feels like a moment in time that happens to me when I want something and can’t have it. It’s frustration, despair. It's me on my knees in the dirt shouting at the barren sky PLEASE, JUST A DROP, PLEASE

But what if this dry spell is intentional? As in, I’m casting a dry spell over my love life, invoking the waning period on purpose. On a normal day I'm down to fuck around and find out. I find myself falling in love all the time. Even here in Pleasanton comma California I could go find a body to bump uglies with if I wanted. But I guess I don’t want to that bad.

A lot of my life has been motivated by that aforementioned urge to fuck and then find out. There's always a curiosity about life on the other end. The first guy I ever fucked I sought out because I wanted to know what life was like for the sexually initiated, I wanted to see how I’d change. I transitioned because I had the feeling that being a girl might be a little more fun and I was curious to see if that was true (it was). I went to college for a semester and joined the staff at the student newspaper because I thought it’d be interesting to play the role of journalist for a while. Now, I guess, I want to see what it’s like if I make peace with being single and not hooking up with anyone for a while. I'm waving a wand over my pot and casting a dry spell. Maketh her a volcel!

Perhaps saying what I'm in right now is a dry spell is cheating. I mean, I’ve got a bonafide lover waiting for me back home. It’s true — I’ve fallen in love with Lake Michigan. I miss her as much as I miss the rest of my friends. Maybe she misses me, too. I used to visit her a couple times a week over summer just to share a meal, admire her beauty. I might have spent more time with Lake Michigan than anyone else during my last few months in Chicago.

Like the clueless lead in a romcom, I didn’t realize how much I felt for Lake Michigan until after I left. I mean, I've kind of been in this fling with the Sierra Nevadas while I'm out here. A non-consummate love affair. But those little sparks with California’s mountains, its rivers, valleys, are what showed me the contrast in my heart. The difference between this flirtationship with California and the deep well I've dug out in my soul for the Great Lakes.

I'll rewind: it so worked out that after my trip to L.A. i was planning on coming up to the Bay Area to see my family – and Jena, my queer sibling/childhood internet friend/bestie – was already planning a trip with their college friends up to Yosemite. So, I hopped on, like an old-fashioned hitch hiker. On the road, I could see the centuries of markings left by the wind on rock walls, the resilience of plant life that regularly lives through wildfires, earthquakes, and floods. I did feel a stirring in my heart at all of it, yeah, but if I’m being honest it’s nothing like what I feel for the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

After a couple hours of driving we sprawled out on the floor of Jena’s friend’s spot in Richmond (the first stop before our trip to Yosemite) cushioned by a mossy green shag rug (sooo comfy. I want one) and vegged out before heading out to see the ocean.

The ocean. My old lover. The one that got away. The one I never had. I never really knew the Pacific ocean but I spent years dreaming about her when I lived in Vegas and then again, in Chicago. But now that I’m here, I realized that maybe I’ve built her up too much in my head. She’s beautiful – amazing, even. But I don’t know her like that. She’s so vast. She’s kind of scary, actually. Maybe one day I’ll live adjacent to the Pacific Ocean again and we can start a real relationship. But for now, I’m done with my days of obsessing about her.

I’m staying in Pleasanton comma California for a bit. It’s not a place I heard about growing up but it’s been here since like, 1876 or something. It’s, well, pleasant. Good food, nice people. Admittedly, I’m feeling a little wayward. I set out on this journey to get a grip; to stop anxiously peering into the future and grappling for a sense of control. Well, it worked. I’ve not fretted at all for most of the last month. In fact, now I feel oppressively trapped in the present moment, in my body, in the now. I can't really imagine how I'm going to get to Point A to Point B.

Originally, I planned to score an apartment or a sublet at some point so that I would have a solid spot to land in October when I got back. But sublets are not really panning out, and finding an apartment to lease on my own seems a little daunting to do from afar while I’m writing a book, working at my day job, and #healing. The narrative is getting a little lost, which is making me feel a little lost. I’m supposed to be the writer here, not the hapless character who cannot see the arc of her own story. And god, won’t they invent another way out that isn’t through?

So yeah, maybe I miss that feeling of peeking into the near future, even if it's an imaginary one.

I’m understimulated here in Pleasanton comma California. Which means every other day I get back on those Californian roads and drive to some place else in the bay, go on a little adventure to see what treasures its hiding. I’ve gone to see some hiking trails where I’ve learned of the existence of burrowing ground squirrels (cool), and walked around the bay area’s shorelines that seem to be mysteriously covered in ancient rubble. What’s with that?

I’ve also driven out to a couple of “lakes” that are scattered around the bay. I hate to pit beautiful women against each other, but these puny little puddles don’t hold a candle up to Lake Michigan and mostly, they remind me of home. My friends and family here on the West Coast have made it feel like I’m at home in their living rooms, spare bedrooms. Over shared meals and long drives, I don’t feel like I’m away. But when I look at these lakes and I see clear to the otherside, it reminds me of the Great Lakes - how they stretch on to infinity, but politely. Not like the scary waves of the Pacific, how she chops and cuts and shoves. I miss sitting right on the edge of a huge city and staring up at skyscrapers on one side and cold, fresh water on the other.

I brought all of this up to my friend Paige, the better half of this year’s AF Weekly Fellowship cohort, and she reminded me of something so obvious and fundamental: in theory, all water on planet Earth is connected. The water cycle shifts around, changes, the rivers and the oceans and surely us, humans, move water from place to place, from one state of material to another.

When you’re looking at the Pacific Ocean you’re also looking at Lake Michigan. When you look at Lake Michigan you’re looking at the Pacific Ocean. Paige. Paige!

The loves of my life are all connected, I suppose. That’s what the water cycle is saying, right? As water melts off the ice on a mountain, down a stream, into a lake then a river then the ocean, it eventually evaporates back into mist, floating around and connecting every place and organism on the planet. It’s the same water that our primordial ancestors slushed around in, the same water that dinosaurs drank and pissed. It’s been through so much and still, it's the same. My affection for the Great Lakes and my fear of the Ocean, it’s not two separate things. It’s a singular love that is ever deepening and continually surprising.

On one of my mini road trips, I meandered out to the Berkeley Marina just before sunset. I stared out at the bay and realized I could see the general area where I was born. This is where I’m from and all I could do was stare out at the ocean in strange bewilderment. A bundle of water fell from the sky and landed right about here, 27 years ago. I’ve been carrying around the same vessel of spit and blood and jizz, tripping and stumbling and managing not to crack the whole thing open as I fell down. One day, I’ll fall over for the last time and spill it all back into the earth, the vessel obliterated. Eventually, that spill will find its way to the nearest body of water, and maybe someday it’ll flow back into the Pacific. Maybe it’ll evaporate, dance up into the troposphere.

Maybe then, when I’m an array of hydrogen and oxygen molecules glittering together as a cloud in the sky, when I’m fully absorbed into the oceans’ grand polycule on earth, it’ll all make sense.