The moon waxes in Libra to full Strawberry moon. High summer. I remember vividly the 2016 Strawberry moon. Los Angeles. My boyfriend and I gobbled succulent Barbacoa quesadillas. I stayed up all night in anxious vigil. On his armchair patterned like a heartbeat. It was the last time we were a happy couple together. Barreling down the marriage track. Until I ran away. Five hundred miles to a basement in the snow.
Why is it so much easier to approach marriage with Jasper? She’s taking my last name. The Catholic Church didn’t anoint her divine ruler. Jasper doesn’t ask anything of me I cannot do. Does not judge or shame like all the others. Lets me do me. So I let her do her. Boundaries. Communication. Giving freely out of love. Not obligation. Cooperation in shared stashes of Nevada legal Blue Dream. We smoke together at idyllic magic hour.
Jasper is my muse. Once a professional photographer. The header to my website revamp is a black and white photograph of me she took. Prone. Nude. Covered with healing quartz crystals in elaborate patterns. An out of fucks writer with more T and A than talent. Spooky burial rite for the Lost City of Atlantis. Or an Atlantis casino showgirl bedazzled in Swarovski crystal meth.
“Without you by my side?” Jasper whispered to me in the hospital back in February. “Loving me? Helping me? I would just give up now. Be homeless again,” PTSD survival skills dialed up to thirteen. Backpack with clothes and medical papers ever present. She bounced back strong from winter car crash and spring eviction. Like a pageant winning Drag King. My hero.
Jasper identifies as an old school butch lesbian. Pronouns: She/Her. Men’s khaki shorts. Binding garment over sports bra. Every Man Jack Deodorant in Sandalwood. She performs masculinity. A protector. Promises to defend me and this House of the Rising Sun with her life. Enfolded in her big tattooed arms? I feel safe. As if everything actually will be okay. Holding me night after night. I begin to heal and thrive.
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” wrote Karl Marx. Jasper and I enact both Marx’s line and Eisenhower’s gender roles. By June, we reach easy cohabitation. Jasper has a solid full time job. Aspires to be breadwinner like her Daddy down South. With my psychiatric disabilities and agoraphobia, all I can muster is melting down trophy wife. Popping Klonopin as prescribed. Prozac. Abilify. Trileptal. Wellbutrin. Prazosin. Eating cappuccino and mint ice cream sandwiches in bed. San Francisco’s trademark “It’s it’s.” Chocolate shell flakes and falls on green paisley sheets. Leaving smears resembling shit stains.
We order separate delivery groceries from Raley’s. Eat decidedly different things. I live off of almonds, apples, cinnamon rolls and carrots. She does door dash for hot wings. Devours four fully loaded hot dogs at a time. I have lost the ability to cook anything besides frozen skinless chicken breasts in the Instant Pot. A simple, fat free, shot of pure protein to the gut. I can only swallow a few bites at a time. Keep the pale meat slabs in stacked Tupperware in the fridge.
I know personal space eases cohabitation stress. So carve out a man cave for my future wife. The uninsulated, brick walled, covered porch previously only used to smoke weed. I order her a mini-fridge for the beers I can’t have in the house. Jasper loves this sanctuary. Windowed wall alight with lush lawn and green branches. Night’s rain splattered darkness. The dim red neon glow from the abyss below. Two couches from dearly departed grandma’s basement. We cuddle in pale blue sheets. A navy plaid blanket. Her panda onesie warms my blue satin teddy as we spoon. Watch the Devil Wear’s Prada. Bittersweet pain at my past employment failings.
Twenty years ago. In San Francisco. Black Peet’s coffee sloshing to scald my French manicure. I stood a solitary fortress of attitude. Strode twenty blocks daily. Through the Financial District from the BART on Market Street. To an office building by the the Transamerica Pyramid. Ingrown toenail bloody pus squeezed into pointy toed stiletto boots. Pantyhose. Pinstriped pencil skirts. Devil Wears Prada receptionist in the dot com beginning of the end. Held to pink collar standards skyscraper high. High heel humiliations at a cracked whip of words. Credit where it’s due to Cat Marnell’s How to Murder Your Life for that whip metaphor.
Marnell writes how if her boss were:
“cracking her Hermés whip…It was an honor to jump. It was an honor to ask “How high?!” And if the whip got so close it hurt, well, go to the closet, slather some sixty-nine-dollar Organic Pharmacy Rose Balm on your open wounds, and then get right back to work, you whiny baby!”
I preferred L’Occitane’s Rose Et Reines Body Milk. White lines off the back of filthy nightclub toilets. Double life dissolved in nose bleeds. Office restroom mirrors windex bright. Mercilessly reflecting my failures. Addiction self-medicating for my chronic mental illnesses. Every job I ever had for fifteen years and three cities fired me. Took my psychiatric disabilities, coping mechanisms and disordered sleep as a character flaws. Moral failings. My fault. Not trying hard enough. To reach their standard of excellence. I didn’t smell like a rose anymore.
The “American’s with Disabilities Act” languished unread and forgotten in a DC file cabinet. Like an optional recommendation. As unhelpful as The Master Cleanse to cure Lupus. I didn’t know I had rights. Or options like Disability benefits. I only knew shame. Poverty. Rejection.
“I get knocked down nine times but I get up ten.” Cardi B sings. At the top of her game. Triumphant. When I was fired? I got up again and got another job. For a decade. Until I had to prostrate myself before the state. In herpes sores and rags. I will never be able to get up again. Totally and Permanently Disabled on SSDI. Following its strict income limitations that set me outside of society. I can’t make any money myself ever again. Or I’ll die in psych med withdrawals. Starve. Owe graduate school level student loan debt. That would be suicide.
A decade ago I jumped every hoop eagerly into Social Security Disability. Out of options. A vow of poverty and no legal rights in exchange for subsistence? Like joining AA. Another cult for the desperate. Don’t regret it. I’m alive. Sober. Society already shut me out long ago. Once it was legal? In direct deposit? I could just stay inside alone forever. Every person or group I got close to always wanted me to go away by the end. Was a single family house in Reno far enough away? As long as I kept to myself. The West Coast detested this bitch. If not for this unfortunate Internet addiction? I could have become completely entombed. Safe and happy forever.
“If you could see her as I do?” Notes trickle from an old Cabaret record. In this New Now Next Weimar Divided States. Like Cabaret’s ingenue Liza Minelli, I did one memorable thing a decade ago. Coasted off it for the rest of my life. Jasper brags to work friends of her famous fiancée. I wish I could see myself like as she does. Under daily coats of Revlon Top Tomato lip-stain? I’ve hit a wall. Given up. Tapped out. Let go. Let myself go. Cracked undone nails. Extra forty pounds. Blue white hair growing long and wild. Winding down from crushed dreams to unreality. Checked out of real life never to return.
But with Jasper I don’t have to be a glamazon supercrip. Dropping references like sequin breadcrumbs. I can just smoke a bowl in the early morning light. Laugh hard at Jersey Shore. Relax in a vintage slip. If it rips, it rips. Nights and days reverse and Switch Bitch in disordered time. Long nights with a glorious happy ending.
“Something so crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man,” booms from the driveway at dawn. Jasper returning from her night shift. Soft skinned square face at the door. Freckles. Hollister cologne on her neck. Trimly barbered hair. Smell of Cedar body wash. Bringing white plastic bags from 7-11 with breakfast love offerings. Chorizo breakfast burritos. Spicy beef mini tacos. Tall red cans of Rockstar Rehab Fruit Punch.
“Could be kissing my fruit punch lips in the bright sunshine,” Lana Del Rey sings on her first album. I greet Jasper at the door in black slip and red lipstick. Fingers pursed like rabbit paws. Eager for her soft fruit punch kisses. Her panting lust thrills my butter soft skin.
Jasper and I play the long game of survival. Together. Engaged. Not poker with AA chips. Instead Old Maid with both hearts on the table. Trading cards of madness. Employability. Boundaries. Insomnia. Failed past lives stack in the discard pile. I draw a compatible pair from her calloused hands. Read them like Tarot. Slowly learn to trust again. Swallow shame to finally ask her for help. When I must be cared for by another. Jasper gives me mani-pedi’s. Draws hot baths. Blow dries my hair.
The shame of this vulnerability tastes like Sour Apple Sweet Tarts. Like that twelve pack of Monster Zero ultra energy drinks I binge drank as harm reduction for cocaine. Wondering if my heart would finally just stop? Or I’d finally make a creative breakthrough. I was fine either way. With PTSD nightmares and menopause? I wake freezing. Drenched in sweat. My Breakfast of Champions on the agate nightstand: Rockstar Recovery hydration+energy drink and KYND Blue Dream vape pen.
“You’re stronger than me,” Jasper says. I’m shocked. My biker butch Bae who’s been through hell and back. Without the luxury of a hand basket. A multiple attempt suicide survivor who says she could never endure what I have. Would have killed herself all over again. My soul sang for death so often in the past. But I never opened the pill bottles. Or picked up the razor. Now I don’t want to. I finally have a Lambert family all my own.
Jasper adopts a thin black tomcat from the Humane Society to compete our blended family. Names him “Freddie Mercury Lambert.” Betty Illuminati Lambert pounces on our bed for morning snuggles. Nevada Jacobson-Lambert sleeps on the bed in our madness in a soft grey and white orb. Three fur babies with two mommies. We plan our lesbian Wiccan wedding for a Summer Solstice two years later. Jasper wants to take my last name.
Perhaps, somewhere back there before the bottles. Needles. Thigh highs. Sores. The little girl I once was looked at photo Christmas cards on her family’s mantlepiece. Wondered if she could ever have a happy family of her own. Queer and child free, it seemed impossible. The last century was cruel to a lone woman with ambition and no shame. Decades of turmoil. My Innocence was ripped away. Somehow, I came through the fire. Into this sanctuary of loving domesticity. Here in this Biggest Little City in the World.