summer turned me into a glutton.

making almond cake with peach caramel and blueberry lavender scones. peach caramel congeals in my pocket. baking chocolate cake in a muscle shirt, trying not to stain it. slow, luxurious little bits of bliss, melting on my tongue.

home is not a physical location. it is a random assortment of things that you spend the rest of your life trying to find. it’s the sound of my mother’s voice, because my own accent changed. has changed irrevocably, i think, every time, until i call her and it comes back again for a while. changed so much i don’t hear myself when i speak anymore. i hear someone else.

someone different. 

different enough that i called my tax office and broke out in a sweat when they asked for my “unique voice print” as a security measure.

home is not a physical location but a song you can’t quite remember the words to, though you hum the melody just fine. little moments in your memory. 

the way you say ‘basil’ and i respond ‘basil’. pikelets, a huge tower piled so high, eaten fresh, without butter or jam. pikelets auto-corrected to pickles, by the way. even my word processor doesn’t know what they are. 

what else? god there’s so many things. 

so many things i feel like i’ve forgotten. maybe when i come home for christmas i’ll remember them. 

it’s mostly that you can make me smile so easily. 

i cleaned the kitchen, top to bottom the other day. did the dishes. wiped down the counters. swept the floor. mopped it clean. took out the trash. then i realised, you weren’t here to help me with chores and hadn’t been for a year. 

a year. 

the scary part is feeling like i’m forgetting all of my favourite things about you all the time. 

when i lived with you, i used to learn a new thing about you every day. 

at least i have christmas, though. christmas — hot and sticky. backwards, because we still use the same decorations everywhere. snow, ice, fir trees. while i’m wearing a maxi dress that reaches the floor and letting mango run down my chin. 

i’m learning fermentation. kimchi. sriracha. garlic honey. 

it really is an art. and a science too. the first time i made kimchi, it was my best batch. i had no idea what i was doing. 

but it turned out great anyway. 

the second time, the house was too hot. or i added too much sugar. or not enough sugar. or too much salt. or not enough salt. 

the sriracha turned out wonderfully, though. 

i don’t want to say that fermentation feels like memory, but there’s something a little magic in suddenly remembering something i thought i’d forgotten all those years ago. 

often, i’ll stand in the kitchen and think of you, and wish i could offer you food. count up all the things i didn’t get time to make you while you were here. 

creaming butter, eggs, and sugar together becomes a quiet act of worship. 

i remember when i was 14 and you showed me how to make spaghetti bolognese. cutting the onion was the worst part. 

i can make it with my eyes closed now. by taste. by feel. more balsamic. more fresh herbs. 

my love for cooking isn’t necessarily something i got from you, but it’s something that i had that came through you. 

home is not a physical location. it’s the taste of the chocolate you sent me in the post for my birthday. it’s the tea you sent me that i have every day, with honey. 

it’s making something and knowing one day i’ll make it for you and you’ll love it too. 

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badly photoshopped banners

of bible verses

john 11:25-26

 

tweets about hypocrisy

and tweets about anal sex

bared flesh on beaches

“want casual sex near u?”

 

 

demanding respect

demeaning female forms

demanding validation

providing humiliation

 

only humans

are capable of creating

such contradictions as these

 

 

i wanted to be one of the boys

 

when i was 17

 

and so they would test me

and ask me

if i was a tits man

or an ass man

 

never mind the fact

that i was not a man at all

 

my response did not matter much

as long as it was one of the two

 

thus began the gentle mockery

of all things feminine

while they waited for me to engage too

 

as if

degrading my sex

would deepen the bond between us

 

you’re not really gay

one said one day

and, in a moment of defiance

where there had previously only been agreements

of nods, and yeahs, and fuck yeahs,

 

i said no

 

you cannot bend my queerness

to your will

for it will not break

 

you cannot shape it with your hands

because you cannot touch it

 

you cannot hunt it down

because it is not prey

 

my queerness was here long before you were here

and it will be here long after you are gone

 

it is a fire inside me

burning

 

 

i walked past her

at first

 

she held a sign that said

please help

i have 4 kids

and no job

and need diapers

and food

 

and i walked past her

and wondered what size of diapers

she needed

 

i put peaches

and strawberries

and lychees

in my cart

 

and then said to my wife

“i need to buy her diapers”

and she said

“okay, i’ll be right here”

 

and when i went to find her again

she was already gone

 

she’d been asked to leave

by the staff

and she’d left

because she’s a good person

 

but i’d wanted to be too

it happened because she was nice

she thought he was homeless

so she’d given him spare change

 

he’d spoken to her

over her?

in mandarin

before she said

english or japanese, please

i haven’t spoken mandarin since i was a kid

 

he’d asked about her dojo

tearing down the sign

she’d just put up

and asks her

for a job

 

she says no

and walks away

 

he finds her

at her dojo

the next day

and says

why don’t you teach kung fu

even though he knows

what a dojo is, how all the art forms she’s learnt are japanese

 

even though

she’s a samurai

a master swordsman

a warrior

 

he interrupts her classes

hitting a young man across the heels, even though he’d told her the pain of the cane

and how the bamboo made his bones burn

when he was being taught

in a monastery

in the mountains

 

but he apologises

but he’s good

but he’s kind

but he likes donkey stew from the remotest parts of china

and she does too

 

he fights to protect her

when men break into her dojo

looking for him

for his power

for his violence

 

the night nurse

tends to colleen’s wounds

says

he’s dangerous

says

he needs help

says

he’s traumatised

 

colleen nods

agrees

tells her

use your elbow, your shin,

use all your bones

strike your enemy

with something unbreakable

something like you

 

he comes in

smiling, grinning

says he brought dinner

she looks for the pizza box

for the white containers

wrapped in plastic bags

 

but instead

it’s white tablecloths

heavy linen napkins

and cutlery with weight

 

she looks at claire

with a look all women understand

and can read in a breath

 

the look says:

stay

 

and claire grins

and says i’m starving

and

stays

 

her samurai code says

men must grudge money

for riches hinder wisdom

but there’s a leak under her sink

and rent is due

and the men of the old tokogawan period

have never lived in new york city

 

she starts fighting in a cage

for money

taking down men twice her size

and three times her weight

and it feels good

and she’s good at it

 

she’s crouching tiger

daughter of the dragon

 

when she mentions this to danny

he says he must protect her

and buys her building

 

she realises

with a sinking feeling

he’s her landlord now

he can come into her dojo

into her home

whenever he likes

 

but he’s nice

and kind

he just wants to protect her

and he kisses her

and she kisses him

 

he’s never had sex before

he’s so eager

he almost hurts her

 

so she teaches him

and he’s sweet

and he’s gentle

and he has so many ideas

of what he wants to do to her

and with her

and inside her

 

that she giggles

and holds his hair

in her hands

curls winding

around her fingertips

 

but still more people come

after him

after his power

after his violence

 

and his phone calls to her

become more desperate

and more distraught

 

colleen

i need you

 

colleen

please

 

colleen

you can’t leave

 

she retells all this

in the lucky star super coffee cafe

in new york city

to a man with red-tinted glasses

whose business cards are embossed with braille

who dances around legal terms like a crane

 

she leaves the cafe

thumbing his card

kept under her pillow

 

while it’s too hot to sleep

she turns the phrase

emotionally manipulative

over and over on her tongue

 

the one her therapist gave her

after danny left

 

and she wonders

in the apartment

by her damaged dojo

 

if she really could

start over again

 

 

her will replies

yes

i will be enough