in which i have some thoughts about romeo & juliet (and also access to some cabernet)

Once upon a time, so I am told, I was a thirteen-year-old girl. And I took my paperback copy of Romeo & Juliet camping with me and that copy was so well-worn and well-loved that it naturally fell open to Romeo & Juliet’s first meeting at the Capulet party:

If I profane with my unworthiest hand…

Once upon a time, it was suggested to me, I was a thirteen-year-old girl and my drama teacher told me, “You’re already too tall to play Juliet.”

And Gods above, what a simple little introduction to so many of the things I’ve come to despise, particularly the suggestion that my body needs to be a particular way to be worthy of my job, to be worthy of my skill, and in this specific case, to be worthy of being called beautiful.

If I profane with my unworthiest hand, this holy shrine the gentle sin is this…

Once upon a time, I was, I think, 23 or so and my boss- the artistic director of the theatre company whose programs and ticket stubs I dutifully tacked up on my high school bedroom wall said to me, “I’m always on the look-out for a tall Romeo for you.”

What?

Oh, okay, I see. Because Juliet has to be smaller than Romeo, right? Because Shakespeare’s subtext is that she is lesser, that her capacity to be loved comes from her need to reach up on tiptoes to get a fucking celery stick from the tallest cupboard. Surely that’s Will’s actually meaning behind this line:

My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep, the more I give to thee, the more I have for both are infinite.

Infinity. Abundance.

You’re too tall. There’s too much of you. Where would we ever find enough fabric to make you a costume?

Why do we still do these plays if not to challenge our own perception of infinity? If we have condemned Juliet Capulet to be immortal, shouldn’t we afford her the right to take on as many faces and forms and shapes and colors and anything as she deserves? Do we love her because she is conventionally beautiful? Is her death so much more heartbreaking because of her symmetrical, unblemished face?

Or did she trust us with the knowledge that her bounty is as boundless as the sea and did we remember the first time we ourselves felt a love that had the capacity to drown us and buoy us at once and did we gasp into the darkness and say Juliet, I love you?

What’s in a name anyway?

That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?

Perhaps it is a matter of taste, but I do not trust a Juliet with the perfect shade of lipstick any more than I trust a Romeo who can do a perfect smooth pull-up onto the balcony. Give me sweating, bleeding, wobbling dorks who love each other because they choose to and not because the world has told them there is no other way, this is your perfect, height-appropriate match. 

And when he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars…

If Juliet is meant to be so small, then why do we expect Romeo to climb?

turn and face the strange, or: where are we going?

Hey reader pals near and far!

You might have noticed that I have NOT BEEN WRITING MUCH LATELY. Which is super true. I let my Patreon and my newsletter fall apart, I haven’t published fic in a good while, and on and on and on. Which, first of all: Is Fine. Sometimes we all go through things and we have to take breaks from even the pockets of life which bring us the most joy.

Also… writing had stopped giving me joy for a minute, you know? I felt like I was drowning myself in my own sad stories, because maybe they were the only stories I had which were worth telling. I want to undo that train of thought as we creep with trepidation towards a new calendar year.

SO. Request o’clock! If you follow this blog, if you’ve enjoyed anything I’ve written here, there, or anywhere, I would really love to hear from you what you’d like to see more of from this blog. Leave comment, send me an e-mail, I’m not trick to find! I’m going through a lot of personal and professional changes right now and, moving forward, I want to be a little more intentional about the content I create and share here!

Thanks for your thoughts. You’re doing so good.

i guess that’s why they call it the blues (thanks, sir elton)

I did not know my body could hold this much sadness.

(Somebody said that already, right? Somebody smarter, probably a long time ago? I don’t recall.)

I did not know that I could sit at a bakery with the remnants of seasonal vegetable quiche* and latte on my tongue, plants and babies and dogs in my sight line, my own body clean and fresh from shower scrub and a nice sweater… I did not know things could feel so inarguably nice and that I could still feel the panic clawing its way up my throat, the grief thundering in my veins, the possession to stand up on a table and scream and beg.

For what?

I think, probably, for forgiveness.

(*I was led to believe it would be a butternut squash quiche, but I believe it was actually yellow squash and zucchini. Carry on.)

I don’t think this is depression, not today. Depression sits on me differently. It’s heavier to a point of near fucked-up coziness. I think this is probably closer to grief and it confounds me.

I didn’t know that I could sit beside a sunny window on a nice October afternoon and listen to “Loch Lomond” and still want to rip my heart out of my useless fucking chest cavity. I did not know I could wake up with a fat ginger cat sleeping on my ankles and still feel like I was dying.

I have to get out– of town, of my skin… I don’t know which is more pressing, but the point is I can afford to do neither. So, I’ll just sit here and itch and weep into a mislabeled quiche.

I think I still yearn for school, honestly. I just want someone to tell me to read. I just want to be fucking peer reviewed. My senior seminar advisor in undergrad would bring us M&M cookies and other snacks to peer review. I just want to eat M&M cookies and talk about metaphors.

I was such a fucking disaster in undergrad and then for a long time afterward. And, like, I guess, now still. Did I ever tell you about the time I paid $39 for OkCupid premium and then deleted my entire account with the same three hours? Because I am lonely and terrified and I think I am going to die unless someone touches my neck soon and also fucking fucking fucking fuck.

But I don’t want to do it on a fucking phone screen, but I guess that’s how we do things? Look, I am a fussy snob and I HATE IT. Can’t someone just see me across a library in perfect October afternoon lighting and notice my tattoo and come to tell me their favorite line of Whitman and then we can hold hands and kiss over fallen leaves and toasted marshmallows?

(I am fucking gay.)

But I feel like poison and so I dare not reach out. Dare not try again. And, like, that’s probably fine, yeah? What’s that old expression? Some of us are dancers, some of us cry into quiches?

I am expert quiche crier.

(I can dance, too, though. Only really the one sort and I only know how to spin to fast songs. I cannot imagine someone dancing with me and taking their time with it. Just flay me alive, okay? I don’t know how to go slow.)

So, in conclusion, I suppose I just don’t know.

“Hello,” I think.

Hello to you. You’re doing so well. We’re gonna get there, I think. If you beat me to it (you will), save me an M&M cookie and a seat by the window, please.

of digging

Oh, fuck, I don’t know.

This isn’t really writing today, I must confess; this is more akin to bloodletting. I need to draw the words out of my stupid veins with a fucking thumbtack because this is what I’m supposed to do, right? THIS is what I said I wanted, so I have to write, if only because I will not be a liar in this regard as well.

I don’t feel like a person anymore. Or maybe I just don’t want to be a person anymore, so I choose not to feel it. I am a dig site. I am layers and layers of badlands atop of peanut butter cracker crumbs and ripped pages from notebooks and what I wouldn’t give for someone to excavate me.

For someone else to find these remnants of bones and teeth and set it back together correctly, you know?

I’m just still so sad. History is quicksand, if you’re not careful, and I am fucking fucking fucking stuck here, trying at least not to flail too wildly.

I’M STILL SO SAD.

But what do you do? Do you climb on a roof somewhere and announce it to the townsfolk and hope that someone has an extra magic elixir in their satchel? Or do you sit alone in the dark and navigate health insurance, sliding scales, this and that specialty, does my trauma count as Trauma?, why is this happening to me?, why don’t I just go back to sleep and try again tomorrow?

I sleep a lot lately.

And I don’t know, but I think I might be worried. I think I thought I was setting my own path forward brick by brick, but when I look up and look around, I think I have actually constructed walls. I think I might be burying myself and I don’t know how to stop. I don’t feel like I don’t deserve to be buried, after all, and isn’t that the problem?

I was beautiful upon a single day and I cannot get that day off of my chest, I cannot get out from beneath the memory of it, I cannot unravel the tangle I have made in my own head trying to figure out what I did to become ugly instead.

When I dare, I dream these days of a little house by the sea. I dream of lots of space inside for Clem to wander and explore. I dream of coffee and sweaters and sunshine and never feeling cold ever again. I dream of sitting on the sand and letting the sounds of the ocean drown out all the venom in my brain.

If I am to be buried, I dream, at least, of being the foundation for your sandcastle.

was it you that said, how long?

I was walking home today with an iced dirty chai in my hand and there was just the tiniest hint of a late summer breeze in the air and for the first time in a really long time it seemed like breathing might actually be worth it.

Inventory, self, of the twenty-ninth of August:

Short red hair, long considered.

Old Navy jeans, because I am too tired to be creative about fashion, size sixteen.

This button-up from the “men’s section” of Target. Fuck your rules and double-fuck slim fits.

A brain, recently mostly comprised of oatmeal and terror. A heart, frantic and fractured and desperate to swallow anything but sadness.

The aforementioned iced dirty chai. Medium, whole milk, I am not cool.

Earbuds in my ear, Kansas fucking blaring:

I heard the men saying something
The captains tell they pay you well
And they say they need sailing men to

Show the way and leave today
Was it you that said, how long?
How long?

How long?

How long does it take to return to yourself? How much longer until I gently knock upon the door of my own fucking sternum and request entry? Hi, it’s me again, I brought muffins, can we be cool yet?

Can we just be fucking cool yet?

There is still the voice in my head that catalogues my failures: not good enough for grad school, not good enough for this job or that play, not good enough for you.

I think tomorrow is the day, for no other reason than the forecast is only cloudy. I want tomorrow to be the day. I am ready to breathe and sip iced chais and put one foot in front of the other day and move back toward myself, whoever they are, whoever they want to be next.

My dad suggested I write it all down and burn it in the front yard before I go for my First Run Again. (He bought me new shoes, I have no excuse.)

I’m not burning anything, mostly because I can’t really figure out the safest logistics. But I guess tomorrow I have to actually, purposefully, intentionally: let. it. all. go.

I release you from the prison of my grief. I will stop watering this garden of my own perceived sins. I didn’t do anything wrong but be a person. I won’t make the same mistakes again: I will make newer, more thoughtful ones, and that is as much as I can guarantee.

There’s Dragon Con this weekend, which feels completely fucking bonkers, but dammit if I’m not ready to sip a Mai Tai and use my hands too much while talking about Star Wars and, if you are there, I hope you have a nice time.

They say the sea turns so dark that
You know it’s time, you see the sign
They say the point demons guard is
An ocean grave for all the brave
Was it you that said, how long, how long
How long to the point of no return?

(I know it’s time.)

How long?

reaches into where i cannot hide

There is this phantom of a Week I Had Once which haunts me. A year and a half later and it is still around every corner, it is lurking in every storm drain, it is in the eyes of the moth at my window, it winds its nails around my throat while I sleep, it tears at my stomach lining.

And I feel like I’m supposed to be Over It by now, you know? That’s the most satisfying linear narrative, right?

Trauma -> Deal -> Move on.

But it isn’t linear, is it? Trauma is a labyrinth and some moments I am drinking an iced coffee and earnestly thinking I might be worthy of any future and a second later I am crying in my bathrobe and I don’t remember what anything has ever meant ever.

I am lost in this maze and my backpack feels too heavy and I wish I hadn’t forgotten my water bottle.

Today was kind of okay, actually. I drove on the highway and I wasn’t even that scared. I leaned over the coffee shop counter and finally started reading the third Simon Snow book. I haven’t read much Since. Stories hurt sometimes.

I mopped behind the coffee counter and I came home and Morning Me had actually put some dinner in the slow cooker, because I am inching back towards the notion of taking care of myself. I joined a gym, I bought some multi vitamins, I am learning about credit scores.

I am… different now. And I think perhaps the biggest source of this year and a half of grief has been in mourning this one particular version of Dani and their particular dreams. I am harder than I was and I hate it. I have constructed walls that I never thought I would want. I am angry. My tongue feels sour.

I am crying in my bathrobe.

I am trapped in the maze but I read some of a book today, you know? And turning even a single page was just enough of an itch of hope, I guess.

Well, I started a book. I have to hang on so I can find out what happens.

I don’t always know how to say it to you, so I guess I’ll give it another shot (always, always finding any remnant of raw sugar left between my teeth):

I’m not okay. I haven’t been okay in a long time. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault, including mine. But sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind and there’s nowhere to go to scream it out, so I wind myself up into a ball and I ignore everyone’s messages and I try to make myself drink water. This is one of my core truths: I am tall and I cry over all animals and also my brain doesn’t work the way some brains do.

And I don’t know. I really don’t. I still feel angry and sad and broken. But I read a book again today. And that felt worth documenting.

starting over

Because that’s what it feels like. That’s where it feels we’ve arrived, you know?

Just start over.

I don’t really do Shakespeare anymore. I don’t really do a lot of things anymore. And, at a certain point, I think I have to let those absences stop hurting and I have to, however VIOLENTLY, create space for anything new.

I don’t know who I am right now. I haven’t known for a while. It’s a sad and scary thing and it makes me want to be alone.

My name is Dani, Daniel, I don’t know what feels best right now, because, honestly, nothing feels very good. I think I still write. I think that might be the truest foundation of me. I am Dani and I write. I don’t know what right now, but I write.

I joined a gym, I am reading a book about personal finance, I go to Disney World a lot.

I have this cat.

I used to do Shakespeare.

I was in love once. Twice. Three times, I think.

We talk about past lives, but I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to remember them, right? I see each of mine clear as crystal parading across my mind every day, every morning, every blink, and it hurts my soft stomach.

The thing about closing a door behind you is that there’s just no good reason to expect anyone to be waiting for you still on the other side.

I do not know how to get to the next door. The handle feels slippery in my grasp, my key card doesn’t have the right access, nothing is fucking working.

Nothing is fucking working and I cannot go back.

Keep moving forward, says Uncle Walt, and okay, I guess.

Okay.

i used to run (have i already used that title? probably)

So, I had a panic attack in the parking lot of the Big Peach Running Co. today.

I felt it bubbling all day, grinding and scraping away at my bones, my stomach lining, my fucking scalp. I feel so fucking angry. I want to cry, punch someone, and drink a milkshake, order negotiable.

So, I cried. I cried and sucked in wobbly breaths and steadied myself so I could go the fuck inside and pick up my race packet for tomorrow morning’s Pride 5k.

Pride 5k.

I’m not proud of fucking anything today.

I don’t know what to wear tomorrow. I haven’t run since the pandemic started, since my 2021 Disney marathon was cancelled. I have barely shimmied across the Earth on my belly. I feel frozen, I feel like I am dying.

None of my running clothes fit anymore. I completed half-marathons once upon a time and today I own no running shorts that I can successfully tug up over my ass. And I was too intimidated by the nice things at Big Peach, despite my 15% off as a race participant.

So, I went to fucking Target and I parked like trash and I bought two new sports bras because I don’t know which one (if either) will fit over these breasts that I resent more and more with each passing day.

I hate them; these lumps of fat and tissue on my chest. I HATE THEM. Just like I hated every human who called me “ma’am” at the coffee shop this morning, just like I hate anyone who has fucking looked at me today. I am not who I want to be, so don’t fucking look at me.

I’m sitting at my second job, clacking away and trying not to cry again and I just want everyone to leave me the fuck alone, but also I desperately want someone to stumble across me, see what’s wrong, and figure out what to say to fix it.

I’m donating blood in 13 minutes and good. Take it away from me. Lessen me, prick me, bleed me, make me dizzy enough that I pass out and I am allowed to go the fuck home, until I am allowed to be a coward and cancel on walking in the rain tomorrow morning, hating myself for not running. Carve me up and bake me into bread and feed me to the fucking ducks and leave me the fuck alone.

(Please don’t. Ducks shouldn’t eat bread.)

My knees hurt and my shorts don’t fit and I just want to sleep.

But I am trying to have something like hope, even if I can only approach it from a place of spite, so I guess I’ll get the fuck up and be really bad at this 5k tomorrow morning.

And then, maybe, I’ll cut my grieving, heartsick body a fucking break and take it out for brunch.

i only like star pose

I went back to yoga this week.

It’s been YEARS since I really maintained a serious and steady yoga practice. But I started one up last time because I was gearing up for a long brain-depression-winter and, fuck, it actually really helped, so here we are again.

Last time… it was the morning after my last time playing Rosalind in As You Like It and I knew I wasn’t going to feel okay. So, I walked nearly two miles to this yoga studio (back when I walked nearly two miles everywhere) and I got my ass thoroughly kicked and then I kept walking and saw The Force Awakens for the fifth time.

This was in the before times, I guess.

I didn’t know yet that things could hurt worse than knowing I’d never get to play Rosalind again.

I don’t always know who I am anymore. I was on a path (I think?) and I careened off a cliff at the last fucking second and I think I’ve maybe just been lying on a pile of jagged rocks for the past year and a half, too afraid to look too closely at my injuries.

I’m quitting jobs, starting new ones, I’m either not sleeping well at all or I’m sleeping way too much. I don’t really want to be awake, is the thing. I haven’t really been able to write lately, it makes me too sad. The voice in my head is a constant monologue of all the things I fucked up, all the sins I’ll never be forgiven for.

So, I went back to yoga.

I am heavier now and I try not to let that bother me. I try not to be too keenly and painfully aware of where my stomach sits atop my thighs when I grind my knees down into Chair Pose. I do my best not to scream and hurl my water bottle out a window when I can’t manage a Chaturanga anymore.

I have lost those skills, I have lost that strength.

But I like when the instructor says nice things to us and puts a cool lavender towel on our heads at the end of class, so I went back to fucking yoga.

And I don’t know. I feel mostly angry as I type this? It is really awful to feel like a failure for so long, to wake up every day and consider the new ways in which I won’t live up to my potential. And, sorry, these feelings don’t lit a fucking fire under me. I’m tired and I want to hide under my bed and I want to claw my own eyes out.

I’m so angry.

But, for an hour today, I suppose, I’ll breathe and think about anything other than vibrating out of my own stupid skin.

(Plus, I spent a lot of money on a nicer mat, so I guess this is happening.)

Sometimes I think I just don’t want to be in my room anymore. Yoga’s somewhere to go.

So, I’m going back today.

I’m sorry. I love you.

reservation confirmed

Yesterday… got away from me.

Or, I guess, yesterday I got away from myself.

I was fine, which is always how it starts, right? I was fine, I was fine, hello, how are you, what are you drinking today, would you like a blueberry muffin, okay have a great day.

I was fine.

And then, walking home in the sunshine, a cold brew in one hand, a lemonade in the other, and a sea salt chocolate chip cookie in my pocket… I wasn’t fine.

It’s a flare up, I guess, we should call it, like with any disease. All the old, classic symptoms, all the familiar cruel voices:

You’re a failure, you’re a loser, you should just give up now, what are you doing working at a coffee shop, you’re a disappointment to everyone, you’re not trans enough, you’re a coward, i hate you, i hate you, i hate you.

And I am grateful to have had enough therapy now that I can recognize these lies even though they still hurt. Even though I still get angry and sad and twisted up in my guts.

I got home and I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere anymore, which is always a scary thought-path to follow. So, I forced myself to think of anywhere I wanted to go. Anywhere.

My mom mentioned last week how lovely Unicoi State Park in North Georgia is, so, sipping my lemonade and scarfing down my cookie, I made myself a little baby reservation for next Tuesday through Thursday.

I’m going to look at a lake soon.

So, it’s worth hanging on.

I guess my point is this: You’re doing great. Find a lake.

trying

I am trying.

I am trying to do better. I am trying to wake up, perky and alert, am trying to serve cold brew with a smile, am trying to be satisfied with doing dishes and toasting bagels, am trying not to let the Voice in my head tell me it’s not enough.

I am trying to do my other jobs. Am trying to stay awake into the afternoon long enough to consider spreadsheets and newsletters and lapsed donor e-mails. (I do not always succeed.) I am trying to drink enough cold brew and berry tea lemonade to stay awake, to not slip under.

I am trying to love my soft body. Am trying not to punish it for hungry days, for sleepy afternoons. I am trying to sleep when I am tired and eat when I am hungry and read that same story over and over again when I need to slam my heart up against a wall. I am trying to forgive myself for ordering breakfast from DoorDash while still in my pajamas.

I am trying to keep your name out of my head.

(I saw your eyes in another face a few days ago and I was frozen and helpless and shaking while I tried to scrawl “oat milk latte” onto a paper cup.)

I am trying not be bitter. I am trying not to feel so guilty that I just want to let the world swallow me. I am trying to remind myself that relationships are not an item on some Official Life Checklist and that I will get back there when I am ready to get back there and not a moment before.

I am trying to write. Trying to make something beautiful and grand out of the screaming mess inside my heart. I am trying to be funny and thoughtful about Star Wars, I am trying to give new voices to old monsters, I am trying to be honest and useful about my own nonsense.

I am trying not to be swallowed by a heartache that I fear sometimes will never leave me. That I fear always will come to define me:

Oh, that’s Daniel. He’s just sad.

I am trying this morning to be comforted by candles and music and coffee in a good mug and the sight of my cat curled up on the bed. I am trying to not be in a rush.

Words, love, everything I want… they’ll be there when I’m ready, I hope.

I am trying.

dress rehearsal, i guess

(what i want to say:)

hello.

(great start, daniel.)

hello. it’s me. thank you for my name. i hope you won’t be offended, but i have taken the bones of the name i once had and i have twisted it up a little bit. see, there’s an elton john song called “daniel” and i like it very much, so i’ve started asking my friends to call me daniel. and, when they do, i feel like myself in a way i didn’t know i was capable of feeling.

see, and i know you know this, but: i’ve been really sad for a really long time. and what if this is part of it? what if part of it has been this constant battle inside my own body and my own heart? i just didn’t know even though i really think i knew. i’ve known, i’ve known, i’ve known. well, i knew it meant something whenever i was so thrilled to be mistaken for a boy in the 8th grade.

(what i wish i was brave enough to say:)

i’m a kind of boy. it’s funny; i want to be a boy, not a man. i think because i don’t want to skip out on boyhood yet since i didn’t get to really do it the first time?

(not that it fucking matters, gender may roundly go to hell.)

i’m thinking about dead poet’s society tonight, because i usually always am. and i’m thinking about neil. i’m always thinking about neil. i’m thinking of how hard it hurts to hide being who you are. i don’t want to hide anymore. i don’t want to pretend that i want to look like neil perry. that i want to feel boyish and handsome and free.

i’m getting a tattoo soon and i know you won’t like that either. but i am ready to be in love with my own body and i think this might be the first step. to have part of me etched with my favorite words, with the words from walt whitman’s pen which i first heard in robin williams’ voice, which will always make me think of my sweet neil:

i sound my barbaric yawp

because i will. i am. i will.

i am elton john songs and walt whitman quotes and berry tea-lemonade-concoction and a soft forest of a heart.

my name is daniel elton. one day i will believe it too.