Ennui consumes me at the Dunkin’ when I walk in and I’m greeted by a sole employee who appears to be tending to this donut shop by herself. To be fair, ennui is already ebbing at the edges of my brain for reasons that I will perhaps be ready to talk about later. But something about the gray sky and the empty Dunkin’ takes me all the way there. I smile when I order but I do feel like I could just start crying in the middle of asking for an apple fritter.
As I sit down, a loud man comes in and it’s hard to tell if he’s yelling at me or the employee or at someone in his bluetooth headset. I think both the employee and I are worried that the serenity of an empty fast food joint is going to be ruined by an evil customer. Because I am a polite girl quietly crying as I eat my tater tots, I do not believe I am ruining this lady’s shift.
Loud Man does leave, though. And in ten minutes we both relax again, I fully settle in with my iced coffee and A Little Devil in America. Hanif Abdurraqib tells me about afrofuturism and his mother singing along with Patti Labelle’s girl group from early in her career, Labelle. In this chapter Hanif is talking about a performance where Labelle is singing from some undisclosed location in space with beautiful black hair and space suits, looking casual and cool as they belt away. Hanif is talking about the times he saw Black people in space while growing up and I’m imagining a beautiful future where the humans that visit the galaxy are melanated. To be incredibly simple, the whole thing with afrofuturism is that it is incredibly healing and incredibly fun to imagine a future in which white supremacists did not win.
Back on Earth, here in this Dunkin’, the employee, and I’m really sorry I didn’t read her name tag, she’s singing to a song I don’t know. In the lobby, they’re playing N*SYNC from what I assume is a pre-approved corporate Pandora radio but back there her phone plays a different song in a different language that maybe reminds her of her family but who am I to really say? Maybe she just likes Bollywood songs. I listen to Filipino disco and it reminds me of my family and home and makes me feel safe but I’ve never been to the Philippines at any time let alone during a time when disco was popular. My parents listened to Aegis (who, by the way, rule) if they listened to songs in Tagalog but mostly they liked Journey and The Eagles and Michael Jackson and Cher.
My life is full of people who love me and sometimes I cannot see them and I do not call them and they do not call me and I try to send a text and sometimes we talk for ten minutes and maybe that's enough. And I’m holding back tears in this Dunkin’ because I want to become friends with the woman who served me an apple fritter and I want to tell her sorry for intruding on her alone time at work when she could sing to her music and clean and look at her phone and I wish I could feel loved all the time but sometimes you can practice gratitude for what you have and still feel like you’ve been abandoned and that perhaps you don’t have everything you need.
I’m a graduate of Tumblr university and so I know that it’ll behoove me to sit with feelings of sadness and trying to not wash it away with a beer or weed or candy or dating apps and I just wonder why we have to be lonely when we all have each other and the only thing separating me and the employee at this dunkin is a 2 foot long plastic top counter?
I think that's why the dating apps got to me, why the rejections and the ghostings stung so much. That's how the game is, dating and slutting around. Not everyone wants a piece. But maybe its because I'm delusional but I believe that every one of us could be connected, good friends, family, lovers, if the circumstances were right. If we tried. That every time something doesn’t work out it’s a failure of this timeline — two of us humans just estranged mammals incapable of communicating. And I guess I’m saying I could be convinced to take a bullet for the Dunkin’ employee but what would hurt more is that some other human shot it and how can it be true that we are all the same species when some of us are so malicious and murderous and mean. And maybe if someone held a gun to the employee at this dunkin and I had a knife I guess i would stab the shooter in the chest and somehow his death would be better than hers. And I don’t understand it at all.
Rejection is a big feeling for me to deal with. It’s not like anyone is really good at dealing with rejection (unless you are, in which case please let me have some of your magical power) but for me, being rejected brings up complicated feelings. It is what many may call, a “trigger.”
Growing up as a fag will enshrine your life in rejection. You can make a home in the big empty space void of being left behind. Teenage fags are left out in so many ways - the first to be excluded from all girl-dominated friend groups. I’ve always loved hags and always will, but hags can occasionally leave a fag behind, intentionally or not. All-girl sleepovers might immediately bar a 14 year old gay boy from entry. More than once I have been left behind while my hag friends took a group visit to the girl’s restroom.
Teenagers are horny little bottles of pent up emotions and sometimes fags interact with bicurious boys who like to tap at the glass but never really want to see the specimen up close. First kisses, romances, those aren’t really within the domain of a young fag. What I’m saying is faggots get left out and maybe thats why we all get so cunty.
After a while, a fag can get accustomed to this sort of regular exclusion, a subtle ever-present rejection. For me, though, rather than get used to this constant rejection I think I only became more sensitive. Another no, another not good enough, another way that the shape of my body and my personality were just wrong for the occasion.
When a fag becomes a tranny, a lot of things start to make sense. We start to fit into places we always wish we did - in the magical community of women and dykes and other trans girls. But in a lot of ways, the frequency and volume of rejection goes up exponentially. Especially these days, anti-trans sentiment is pervasive and constant and loud. It’s in the streets, it’s in the news, it’s on your phone. Somtimes, you don’t feel like a woman you feel like an advanced level faggot.
And I don’t want or need anyone to feel bad for a lowly tranny such as myself, but I just want to maybe figure out why I can feel so afraid to sit in this Dunkin’. It’s not that I can’t be alone but that I’m heartbroken no one’s chosen me. In this minute of this hour of this day, I’m no one’s priority.
There are so many kinds of heartbreak, so many volumes and shapes and flavors and colors. There’s the hard stop: a breakup, a “no.” Then there’s a million other ways to feel pushed out: there’s “not now.” There’s the halfhearted yes. We’ve all been someone’s “I guess, why not.”It doesn’t make you feel lucky for being chosen, it makes you feel like garbage that someone’s deigned to pick up.
I’d like to stop being a romantic and fantasizing about meet cutes and tender love and a meal paid for and chivalry and thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. I’d like to stop looking for it so that I could stop feeling that familiar feeling, the shattering of a dream.
I remember before I transitioned there was a dullness - not happiness definitely not, but the sadness came at me through a thick layer of cotton. Bearable. Because I was asleep to some truth about how I was and how the world was, everything didn’t hurt. As much. And maybe its because taking estradiol gave me visions of the swirling vortex of the void at the center of the earth that made me so prone to episodes of ennui or maybe its because my eyes are open and transitioning allowed me to access greater joys and happiness than ever before but that means that i also feel everything bad.
And I guess I feel lonely in this Dunkin’ but when I’m having a picnic in the park in a big flowy dress dress or when i’m watching a gag and a stunt at a drag show or I'm watching my friends play a video game over the internet and sending chats from my laptop i can feel like a part of something big and beautiful and fun. And maybe the saddest part is not everyone gets those glimpses of community and being together and joy. I promise I'm grateful, I’m grateful.
But, alas, not only am I trans. I am unfortunately an optimist. Carta Monir once said, “Being trans is a prayer for and belief in something better.” It’s kind of in my nature to compulsively believe in a better version. A better, more complete version of myself. A better version of my life. A better version of other humans who not only treat trans people with tolerance or indifference but, perhaps, love us. Big and loud. Even now, I can’t help but dream of it because it feels so close. And I just want to be friends with this woman at Dunkin’.