I am nervous about going to Pride this Saturday. But am I not supposed to go because I’m a little scared? That’s silly. I’m nervous about even going to the movies, to be honest. I remember a few weeks after the shooting, I went to see a matinee of Finding Dory with my mom. A man walked in a few minutes late and immediately my brain went to: Where are the nearest exits? What can I make into a weapon? How fast can I crawl?
I am nervous because when I moved to California and went to a doctor to get my medical marijuana card, he saw that I’d written PTSD on my application and asked, “Are you a veteran?” I told him I just moved here from Orlando, where 49 queer Latinx people were killed at my home nightclub. He shrugged. Not a veteran. I told him I also had carpel tunnel from writing, fully a lie. He nodded in approval.
I am nervous because when I told someone else I felt like I had PTSD, she asked, “Were you even there?” She backpedaled after that, said something like, “Not that it matters.” But like, it was too late. She said it.
I am nervous because when another woman asked about the heartbeat tattoo on my wrist and I answered honestly, she turned and theatrically whispered, “Yikes. You never know what people are going to say.” That’s when I knew to start lying and telling people that it’s just a check-mark. I got it in college when I was drunk. Haha.
A weird thing I wrote about my tattoo that I don’t plan on using for anything:
Back in the sleepy town of Riverside,
California, weeks go by between mentions of Pulse. Discussions of news fatigue
crowd already packed Facebook feeds. How can we balance remembering Pulse and
still find time to follow seemingly never-ending stories of government
corruption, civil rights violations against indigenous people in Dakota,
Russian intervention in the presidential election, African American men, women,
and children murdered by an increasingly militarized police force, the
defunding of Planned Parenthood, novel voter suppression tactics, violence
against transgender men and women who dare to use public restrooms, and so on? How
can we remember the past, when every day the future feels more obscure and volatile
I have not seen a single Pulse t-shirt in
Riverside. There are no murals with rainbows or doves representing the 49
victims, no #OrlandoStrong bumper stickers. When I moved across the country, I
imagined it would be a relief to not be constantly reminded of the shooting,
but I did not imagine that talk of it would completely die.
At a Middle Eastern restaurant, a waitress
recently pointed out the heartbeat tattoo on my wrist. “Does it mean anything?”
she asked, making pleasant small-talk. She had a tattoo of a square on her
index finger and she was interested in knowing if mine hurt.
I thought about telling her. It’s a
heartbeat. A pulse. I got it in the days after the shooting so that I wouldn’t
go a day without remembering.
She looked like she may have been in her
20s, tired but strong enough to do this for a few more hours. The restaurant
was congested. A belly dancer was shaking her hips between the tables, and a
father at a nearby table egged his toddler daughter to go dance with her.
The waitress waited for my answer, her pen
on her pad like a therapist. I could have, like so many other times when I
decided to be honest about the tattoo, ruined her night, or at least made her
momentarily uncomfortable. But there is a fine line between remembering tragedy
on your own terms and springing it on an unsuspecting stranger.
“It’s just a squiggly line,” I told her,
shrugging my shoulders.
Riverside may not remember Pulse, but it has
plenty of scars of its own to confront.
My first week in the city, scoping out my
new school, I found myself passing through a tunnel that leads to campus.
Painted on its walls is a mural. There are black scientists, brown bodies
frozen in yoga poses, indigenous and white children playing with baskets. I
stared blankly at a life-size depiction of an Asian man in a laboratory coat
holding a glass vial, wondering who he was and what he did to warrant being
remembered. The mural had long ago been neglected. When I stepped closer, I
could see cracks in the paint near his face like wrinkles.
In Orlando: The 49
doves painted on the wall of an Einstein Bagels, the hands spelling out the word love in sign language on a pizza shop downtown, the rainbow
section at the Orlando City Soccer stadium. Long after we remember Pulse, is
that all that will be left of us, too? Those who lived will remember the dead,
and when we die and there is no one to look after our murals, then, at last,
will we be done with this mess of remembering and finally free?
“What about your square?” I asked.
waitress finished jotting something down on her pad, then looked up at me and
“Oh, it’s just a square,” she said. “It
doesn’t mean anything either.”
The belly dancer spun the little girl in
circles. Mimicking the older woman, she pressed her small hands on her hips and
shook them from side to side while her father gave her a thumbs up. The song
ended and they both took a bow. For a moment, the restaurant erupted into
applause, the belly dancer blushing in the limelight. She walked the little
girl to her family and deposited her into her father’s arms. I looked back down
at my tattoo, the ink already fading in places where my friend didn’t stick the
needle deep enough. One-by-one, the clapping dropped away and we all turned our
attention back to our tables.
I am nervous because I have probably one of the strangest essays I’ve ever written coming out on the anniversary. An essay I worked on at the graduate school that I get to go to because I didn’t end up going to the bar that night. An essay that marks the first piece of writing I’m getting a real check from (not $13 for an interview, not $20 for a book review). I’m nervous because I feel guilty succeeding but also have an immense pressure to. Even as a queer, brown, Latinx person from Orlando, I sometimes ask myself, “Who are you to tell this story?”
I’m nervous because I don’t want to have to keep talking about it, but who else is going to keep that place alive?
I don’t have a lot of pictures from Pulse, but these two are my favorite:
When I was 18. This was probably my first or second time there. I had to sneak out of my bedroom window to get into my friend Jose’s car because, duh, my mom wouldn’t have let me go. Jose was a drag queen–and in retrospect, kind of a bad one. He had one dress and used his real eyebrows. But he got me in for free. I was obsessed with Myspace fame at the time, and because I wanted to look like the kind of person who went to bars, I had him stop in the middle of the dance floor and take pictures of me looking cool and distant, too busy to look into the lens or reflect on my own eyebrow journey.
A few years later, I finally found the lens. But by then I had already lost my dang mind.
I asked a girl out on a date this Thursday, we’re going to do some gay hipster shit like go record shopping and eat at the multicultural plaza that has these middle eastern style restaurants. If she doesn’t stand me up, which she probably will (that’s what usually happens anyway), it looks like I have something to look forward to
Can you do the guys of KBTBB reaction to when they find out MC can belly dance?
Here you are, Anon!
Thank you to the wonderful i-amwhat-iam for helping me come up with ideas for some of our lovely men. :)
She had had a few too many drinks that night and was showcasing her skills. Baba had brought home a couple bottles of expensive champagne to celebrate a job well done and Kira had her share of the bubbly drink. Now she stood in the middle of the living room, her body moving seductively to the music in her head.
“I didn’t know you could belly dance,” Baba said with a laugh.
“I took some classes with a friend when I was in college. Anyone can do it!” Without any warning Kira grabbed onto Baba’s hand and gave it a pull, trying to pull him away from the couch. “I can teach you too!”
“Koro, do you know where the—” Ota stopped as he walked into the bedroom, his eyes falling on his girlfriend. “What are you doing?”
Kira’s hand froze, a towel hanging from it, and stared at him with wide eyes. She had been hoping to make it out of the house without him seeing her. “Ah, nothing.” She quickly shoved the rest of her belongings into the gym bag.
“Are you going somewhere? When were you going to tell me?” Ota came forward, a slight pout on his lips. Once he got to her side, he looked into the bag. Reaching in, he pulled out a sports bra.
Kira blushed as he raised an eyebrow. “I’m going to class.”
“What kind of class?”
“Belly dancing,” she whispered, her face growing even hotter.
Ota’s eyes grew wide. “Are you doing this to surprise me, Koro?”
Kira vigorously shook her head. “O-of course not! It’s just really good exercise!”
Kira’s eyes never left the screen as she moved her body. It was the last video of the collection, the master level. Her breathing came out in hard bursts and sweat made her skin sparkle. The burn in her muscles felt amazing. Moving her hips to the music, her full attention was on dancing and she never heard the front door open.
“What are you doing?”
Kira let out a yelp and spun around, finding Soryu standing in the doorway. “I-I as just practicing…”
Trailing his eyes over her revealing outfit, the mobster began to blush deep red. “Make sure you look the door next time…” he mumbled before turning around and leaving again.
It was a business dinner and she was the last person he had expected to see there. When the dancers first came out, the conversation came to a halt and all eyes moved to the women. They were beautiful and definitely knew the proper way to draw a man’s attention.
Eisuke’s eyes travelled over the body of the shortest woman, a body he knew very well. Meeting her surprised gaze, his eyes grew wide and then narrowed. “Gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me…” Eisuke stood abruptly and throw his suit jacket over the young woman’s revealed body before grabbing her arm and dragging her from the private dining room.
“What are you doing here?” he hissed.
Kira’s eyes were downcast as she pulled the jacket tighter around her. “I needed some extra money so I thought ‘why not?’”
Eisuke glared at her. “Why would you need extra money?”
“I’m sick of you paying for everything. I’m a grown woman and I can take care of myself. The restaurant was hiring and I took the job.”
“You are to quit immediately. Do you understand?”
“If you go to work, I’ll have a reward for you when you come back.” The words had been said with a sigh and Kira found herself sighing again.
Lively music played on the stereo and she stood ready in the middle of the room. The clock read 5:43. Mamoru would be home in just a few more seconds.
Click. The sound of the door opening caught her attention. That was her cue. Kira began to rock her body back and forth, ready to put on a good show for her boyfriend. Looking at Mamoru with lowered lids, Kira saw that he stood at the door with his jaw hanging open.
“Damn, Sweetheart. Maybe I’ll go to work more often.”
Omg, Eisuke’s makes MC sound like she works in a strip club. It’s actually a Middle Eastern style restaurant that has belly dancers for entertainment haha.
baby ghanoush (we once went to a middle eastern restaurant and ordered baba ghanoush but he accidentally pronounced it “baby ghanoush” and our server laughed so hard it made Snow blush and then the server went into the kitchen to loudly make fun of him omg)
He calls me
titty fuck (this was after I pointed out that tits is not romantic and he should call me something cute, like cupcake. i should have known better)
love (he calls me this one when i’m feeling down and he’s trying to comfort me. ex: “i believe in you, love”)
kiddo (I HATE THIS ONE I’VE TOLD HIM 8,000 TIMES THAT IT MAKES ME SOUND LIKE HIS GRANDCHILD)
a lame (he says “you’re such a lame” all the time, I don’t understand)
granny panties (IT WAS ONE TIME OKAY I DIDN’T KNOW I WOULD BE HAVING SEX I WAS IN MY PAJAMAS I WAS JUST BEING COMFORTABLE)
There’s Middle Eastern restaurant in my neighborhood that makes this delicious dish with white beans and dill. I tried making my own version, since eating out gets expensive quite quickly, and it turned out really well. I used chickpeas instead of white beans, and I think you could use whatever kind of bean you have on hand. I also added some kale to make it more of a balanced meal. This recipe made about 3 meals for me.
1 28 oz can of chickpeas (or 2 14 oz cans)
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
2-3 cloves garlic
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh or frozen dill
water or broth
a small spoonful of sugar
oil for cooking
salt to taste
optional: 1-2 cups greens, such as spinach or kale
Slice the onion and heat the oil in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring infrequently, until it is golden and caramelized, about 12 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the sugar, raise the heat until they begin to boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes and onions have started to sort of melt together–probably another 8 minutes. I know it sounds weird to add sugar to your vegetables, but it really helps them caramelize and makes the flavor more intense!
When the tomatoes and onions have melted together, add the garlic and stir briefly. Then add the chickpeas, the dill, as much salt as you think tastes good, and enough water or broth to just cover the chickpeas. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook until the chickpeas are tender. I’m not sure exactly how long this step takes, because I added too much water by accident and had to wait for it to cook down.
If you are using the greens: when the rest of the dish looks ready, toss in a cup or two of greens and stir until they are just wilted. You might want to turn up the heat a tiny bit for this step.