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Charlie's Web Feb 2019
How many times must my fists smack your stiffness until you soften?

I don’t want to use my fists, I’m not violent.
Even in defense, words raised to take the hardness,
silently, repeat, repeat.
Raised to repeat, repeat.
I never wanted to be violent.

I don’t want to use my fists, but your stiffness is contagious.
I don’t know how to look at you without them,
smacking every corner, separating hard shells.

I don’t want to use my fists.
my hands,
They’re raw and dry, too sanitized.
and my shell is colliding, oozing, fermenting
into juices of the berries you forbid.
I don’t want to use my fists anymore.
My hands want to open, softly.  
Sweet unfolding fingers
offer demons blessed darlings.
preface: this isn't cohesive, and it's mostly a side effect of having too much free time while stuck in traffic - lots of thoughts can pop into your half-awake head when you choose to start your 1 hour, 45 minute commute at 5:30 every morning and 6:30 every night.

these are some of those thoughts:

how many car accidents and concussions will it take for me to just move closer to where i work? apparently, more than five.

driving on a california freeway, especially in the rain, is like getting a free ride on the world's most dangerous slip n slide. or like playing roulette and praying you and your precious car you have had since high school don't fall victim to the misfortune of a collision or sink hole or only clear radio station being the one that won't stop playing adele songs that compel you to hit up your ex boyfriend again.

but you're a smart driver who doesn't text on the road or date men from new jersey anymore.

i like to map out new ways to tell my family that i'm actually kind of really gay because they've been having a really hard time accepting that, despite the fact that i've tried to make it as blatantly obvious as i could by dressing like chandler bing from friends, dying my hair rainbow, and listening to more fleetwood mac than any straight girl should.

i have even walked up to my mother and outright asked her, "hey, what's it like having a gay daughter?" (not that it should be any different than having any other kind of daughter), and she said, "i don't have a gay daughter", and i'm like, "oh my god, mom. yes, you do. she's 5'8", looks just like me, and is constantly talking about how gay she is."

a lot of people have given me unwarranted "advice" on how to make myself more appealing for jobs or romance, and i'll mull it over in the car, but not for too long because women aren't empty suggestion boxes just waiting for your input.

if anything, i'm more like the receptionist at the DMV. i'm only listening to you a third of the time, and the other 2/3, i wish you weren't there to bore me with your problems because it's not my fault that you need to pay off a ticket you got for texting your ex boyfriend from jersey.

people in college frequently asked me "what are you?" and i never really knew how to respond because i wasn't clear or pleased about the question's context or purpose. i would half-seriously respond with "i'm a sophomore" or "i'm a capricorn" or "i'm a sociology major who just realized gender isn't binary and taco tuesdays are a real and exciting thing".

i knew that being ethnically ambiguous meant i would be subjected to guessing games, but i thought if people didn't know what you were, you could dodge judgment and racism. but no, i actually just found myself treated like an ice cream flavour people had never heard of or tried before and weren't sure how they felt about it.

and i, myself, had been in this phase of dating exclusively white men for years, and it only recently occurred to me that that was probably because subconsciously i knew: "this is the closest i'll ever be to having white privilege".

then, i started working in schools where almost all the students were black and brown, and for the first time in my life, i saw myself in people around me.

small people, people in progress, with big brown eyes and clenched fists that i would spend months prying open

with love.

enough love to raise a hand,
hold a pencil,
braid my hair on days when it was so frizzy
- "oh my god, miss sangha, let me do it"

up until then, i had never chosen to be brown or queer or a woman. not until my students demanded i learn spanish because i already got the skin tone, now i just need to learn the language. not until my students asked me why the school made them line up boy girl, and one of them started the third line with pride that took me nearly a decade to find myself. not until i stopped letting people label me an angry ***** just because they lacked the vocabulary to say "wow, jaswin, you have really assertive leadership skills and i'm going to respect you and the space you take up and not at all be threatened or bothered by the fact that you have two X chromosomes to the point of harassing you to make my insecure self feel better."

i became someone who got "do it for the kids" tattooed on the left side vein that leads to her heart, someone who chooses her students every day to the extent of being terrified of having her own kid one day because if she can love someone else's child that much, her heart might just burst from locking eyes with someone whose existence she is actually directly responsible for.

clearly, i'm not going to let a little traffic slow down that kind of radical love.

— The End —