yom kippur
Sara Seinberg

it's a tiny village, the one of queer girls in the city. it's a thing of love, and love is not a coin with two sides. it is a sphere, endless confusion with factions and light refracting and friction and fractured loyalty, trust. photons lifting off scalps, electrons careening through the air like bumper cars at the county fair. it is, this village of brilliance, acceptance, and the most dazzling moments of freedom i could never have imagined. with that of course, is the physics lesson i learned in some terrible, predominantly gray high school science lab about every action having an equal and opposite reaction. something we have no control over. it's the same with feelings i think. we wait for the fallout from joy. the other shoe to drop.

that was the thing about wishing for joy. that it meant wishing for whatever was the opposite of that. whatever it cost to lose it, to let it wander off in the middle of the night with no word at all. to let it go play in busy traffic. to just let it breathe. and being in such close quarters here on the bay, everybody knowing about everybody else's shit stains and cold sores, the flip side of the incredibly good is a face of ugly like a slaughterhouse. it getsgood and raw around these parts. now i am the first girl to shriek from that sutro tower at the top of twin peaks that this is the world's most fantastic, fanatical, blazing stardust moment to live inside. but living in this village has its price. who could have imagined the inflation, a mushroom cloud of fungus and just a fistful of pennies left sitting warm and copper on my tongue. and one day i woke up, and i was feeling so emotionally bankrupt, no money in the stocks, the feelings sucked dry, replaced with ambivalence salad and depression at every other meal. just the sour taste of metal in my mouth. and so i left the family for a while. stayed right where i was, but dropped right out. got the night job with a cab company and unplugged the phone.

i'd pick up old pals in the cab, ones i'd always see hanging out the last resort down there on 19th street with that sad and beautiful green palm tree flickering in neon outside the bar, the only dyke bar in town. they'd ask how i was, i would disclose nothing and they'd give me cliff's notes on people's lives. inaccurate gossip column snippets of who was fucking who and who had broken up and which filmmaker finally got a deal and the writers going out to tour the country in two vans full of crazy girls and which bands got signed on labels you had actually heard of. and i'd feel dead. with this anvil on my chest waiting to have a genuine reaction to something. to miss it. to like it again. something like sentimentality or homage. some recognizable longing, one with a name. something basic. like hunger. a headache. cramps. exhaustion. but not this. this absurd groping for a fix. you gave up every fix you could dissolve on a spoon, or snort burning to your head, or gulp down like a bullet, or turn blue in the smoke filled bulb of a glass pipe. and so now you just sit with the dog pulling your palm of tremors over his fur again and again, waiting. to figure it out. to change it. to make it end. you wait for mercy. this town, these people, these girls. it's a thing you never stop loving. you just begin to not like it so much some days until it's time to leave.

i wished sometimes i could write it letters. long explanations in iambic pentameter winning over the crowd at the end. a curtain call of thousands. you're forgiven, hester, for everything you're still blaming yourself for. you are absolved. being jewish, we only get absolution once a year, and i'd been so messed up for so long, i forgot all the terrible things i was trying to do penance for, leaning on the rail of the huge orange bridge over the bay with the pigeons, throwing bread crumbs into the freezing water asking someone for some goddamn peace already. screaming ancient hebrew into the wind having no recollection of what the words meant. but the hole only opens further and your heart only turns blacker and you only have the dog to love you no matter what.

what kept me going was the undying hope of something i believed i hadn't found yet, like the lion, who had been brave from the first meow. before that terrible girl in the red shoes and the picnic basket looking for a home she always had. the lion who never knew his own strength.

Sara Seinberg is a visual artist and writer living in Boston with her taurus dog named gus who has perfect eyeliner.

Image: Judith Pushett, Decomposing Leaf

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