This was originally published on October 10, 2022 back when this newsletter was on Tinyletter. It's quick, rough, and perhaps in need of an edit. I hope you enjoy it in its full, messy glory.
Sometimes, I imagine what would happen if I died right this moment. It happens while I’m laughing with my friends in the living room, while I’m eating myself full and that numb cottony feeling wraps around my senses. The thought occurs while I’m walking around the city alone following some errant train of thought about laundry or chores or my career – what if a car skidded across the street and crushed me right now? In bed, when nothing is happening and I’m staring at my ceiling I wonder if I’ve done enough for the people in my life, for the people I don’t know. I wonder if I’ve lifted my weight for the people coming in ahead of me, after I die. Will I have done my part to make everything better?
It’s dad’s birthday today and I’m kind of mad that I remembered. We don’t talk anymore and it feels like he’s won a secret battle by staying in my memory like this. I thought this kind of estrangement might come after one of those explosive scary war-zone kind of fights. Instead, it happened during one of our armistices, a time of peace. I’d moved out, begun transitioning. Moving out was good for our relationship – less space to fight and we only saw each other on purpose. I didn’t realize just how much he hated me. I mean I’ve always looked like a fag and he’d always subtly ask me to be more handsome or good looking or put together. But now I had swallowed some estrogen, wore skirts and dresses and tights. I’d come to visit him at his new house under my new name. It wasn’t until years later that I’d realize, after my mom pointed it out, that he never called me by name – old or new, and he didn’t want to look at me directly during those visits. Sometime during this passive aggressive peace, we drifted apart. Life pushed us away and we never tried to stay together Just distance and a palpable lack of trying. There were so many fights before. Quiet ones, one-sided ones, big blowouts at someone else’s party. But it came slowly. I realized all at once that we had become estranged when I realized we hadn’t called each other for two months. The two months became three, then five, then a year, then years.
It would be easier to say that Dad sucked from beginning to end, but his love was confusing – half good half bad. He taught me how to throw a big party, how to laugh, how to make others feel cared for. He taught me the world could always end tomorrow. I internalized all of the lessons.
1) It’s important to party, hard.
2) Someone could take everything away from you tomorrow.
These were the facts: I had less than a lot of people. I’d had my sister and my friends, but whatever money I’d make, my dad would take. There was always a pretense or a guilt trip or a sudden emergency but somehow my money would always end up with him. We really shouldn’t have been so riddled with scarcity. My sister and I never asked for big gifts and we knew how to cook filling meals with basic ingredients, plus dad made like so much money both officially and through suspicious means. He just liked to gamble and take big loans and buy big gifts for himself – his shoe collection, his shiny car, his big TV and leather couches. Suddenly his bank account would be empty for a few days and only a couple of hundred dollars from me, his offspring whom he had raised he reminded me, would keep him from being catatonically depressed. One day we were rich, the next we had nothing. His lesson was true: you never knew what you could always have, so party today.
“Apocalypse,” feels like a hollow word – like a word that inherently carries a lie within its core. If there was such a thing as “the complete and final destruction of the world” then why do we love stories set in the post-apocalypse? It feels like I come from people who have faced an apocalypse many times over – the Philippines was attacked and colonized so many times. Queers constantly pushed out, erased, left to die in the shadows. But we’re still here. Facing down another apocalypse, another and another again and again.
When white, cis people say “we’re sending emails at the end of the world” when they make jokes about impending doom, I have to suppress a laugh. The end of the world seems so novel to them, so scary. Maybe it’s unbearable to think about the end, their end, because this is the first time they might not see a vast expanse of possibility ahead of them. Maybe, for some people, the threat of The End, or an end, hasn’t become real until very recently. I think those people need to catch up.
I want to die with dignity. I don’t want to go out like so many of us have to – randomly, inhumanely. When I read about death it scares me. Even important people die in unglamorous ways: they fall off a ladder, they’re hit by a hydroplaning car, they drink the milk of a cow that’s eaten a poisonous root, they have some minor injury and the doctors at a hospital mistreat them and they die. I’m not even important, and all these important people die in such crude ways. What are my odds of having a death in old age or an ending on my own terms? What if it all ends one day because I slip on a puddle and hit my head the wrong way on a concrete planter?
Before a hook up, I always wonder if they’ll feel a sudden betrayal by my gender. I usually put the tranny fag shit up front and center so it’s at least obvious what they’re getting. Passing seems like a dangerous game to play, honestly. Because what if they’ll remember I’m a girl / remember I’m a boy right in the middle / right after we’re fucking and be upset with what they’ve done. What if they hurt me – or what if they wanted to hurt me from the beginning and this was just a way to pull me in - like a fly into a venus flytrap? What if that’s the end? When you take a good selfie, it runs the risk of disappointing in real life. Maybe the girl in the picture is worth fucking, but the girl in front of you deserves to die. What if that’s how I die – in some angry John’s hallway?
What if I come home and my father’s had enough and he strikes me and my head caves in and I see nothing but the void? What if I die in a fire? What if a series of nuclear bombs wipes out this part of the country?
In 6th grade, our humanities teacher taught us about the endangered species list. It was a running list of animals who were on the way to being wiped of the face of the Earth, I felt an extreme and heavy sense of responsibility. Another list she showed us contained a collection of animals that were functionally extinct. There were a few of them left, sure, but there was no way to recuperate their population or habitat and they were gone. It was our responsibility to save the animals that we could.
I don’t understand how everyone isn’t constantly burdened by the soul-crushing apocalypse of everything around them all the time. It’s like always, always on my mind. I have to suppress a sob when I see maintenance men are taking a buzz saw to the edges of a tree so that all of its growth is reduced to bald stubs – this public disfiguration taking place so casually in front of everyone. It’s so vulgar and horrifying. We let so much casual, apocalyptic violence pass us by every day. We let fill lakes and rivers with poison so that all the fish slowly rise up, lifeless. We watch people die, slowly, en masse. I’m afraid people will watch me die and not give two fucks while I’m bleeding out. I’m too afraid to check that endangered species list anymore.