rayvanfox

Posts Tagged ‘essay’

Hulking

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2013 at 11:51 am

so i was asked to give a short speech, a meditation if you will, to start out the evening at the Hulk 101 event that the wonderful homeroom put on last night at the hungry brain in chicago. the entire evening was fantastic and deeply interesting, a dialogue about gender that i enjoyed immensely. 

this is what i said:

Remember the Hulk TV show with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in the 70s and 80s? Maybe I’m dating myself to say this, but that’s the version I grew up with.

Image

Remember Dr Banner’s origin story in that one? His wife died in a car crash because he was unable to lift the flipped vehicle off the ground enough to free her from the flaming wreck. He was haunted by his weakness and started studying ways of enhancing human strength, especially in those high stress moments when your adrenaline spikes and gives you that extra push.

That’s where the gamma rays came in. He thought they could alter the mechanism for finding that superhuman strength that sometimes comes to a person when most needed, so he blasted himself with a ton of radiation in search of that hidden power. Guess what he found? Yep. Getting angry caused him to turn into a hulking green rage machine that smashed everything in view.

He was a menace – that big green guy – there was no good way to control or stop him. He was Dr. Banner’s anger made manifest, and it both frightened and shamed him. The hulk was a curse, but one he’d brought on himself. And finding a cure became his purpose in life.

This is the story I fell in love with.

Because as a tomboy who was fiercely adamant about being as good as, if not better than, all the boys on my block, I can’t tell you how many times I wept with rage at my weakness. Even my little brother, younger than me by almost two years, was stronger than I was. It hurt. And when I felt hurt, I got angry. I was a little white-hot rage machine of my own, especially when you tried to put me in a dress.

I know I have a hot temper and it’s something I still work on, but honestly that’s how boys are taught to function in our culture. They aren’t taught how to feel, they are taught how to rage. Hurt? Get angry. Annoyed? Get angry. Sad? Get angry. The Hulk seems to be society’s teacher of what a man is. Some folks chalk this problem up to the patriarchy, others to Testosterone—that gamma ray of puberty that can often be used to excuse the unleashing of the id.

But I am equally reluctant to deal with either one of these answers, or at least, not in large amounts.

Yes, I’m transmasculine, but I’m also genderqueer. I’m not trying to go from one end of the gender spectrum to the other as I only really feel comfortable in the middle. And because of this I have come to realise that ‘transition’ for me isn’t something you go through once and you’re done. For me, it’s a constant process. My concept of myself, as well as the way I am viewed by others, is always in flux. The former is my own doing, the latter, I have no control over. (starting to sound familiar?) Is it any wonder, given my problems with anger, why I’m reluctant to shoot myself full of the transman’s gamma ray every week?

I love the Hulk, I always have. And yet I love him, not in a I-want-to-be-you-when-I-grow-up sort of way, like many superheroes, but in a dying-inside-at-how-painfully-familiar-this-feels-to-me sort of way. And I think I knew that when I was six years old and watching the slight, mild-mannered Dr. Banner lose his temper and then lose his mind in the monstrously large body of the he-man-like hulk. I won’t say that I saw myself navigating the gender split back then, nor was I seeing the hulk as a cautionary tale, I can’t pretend to have been that savvy. But I can tell you that aside from the loss of control of his body and the shame that came with it, (which was a huge thing, don’t get me wrong) the other thing that struck me was how over and over again the raging Hulk was calmed by a woman. Any woman, really. Whatever damsel in distress he’d found that week. When the men were chasing after him with guns, calling him a monster, it was the woman who saw his humanity and brought him back to himself. We cannot live, we that call ourselves men, without some access to the feminine self. Even the Hulk knew that. We would do well to remember it.

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Muscle Memory

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm

[this was written as a blogspot blog entry, fall of 2011]

things most people pay very little conscious attention to in a day:

the length of your fingernails.
how far apart your feet are when standing.
the way you put on lip balm.
how much you smile.
how long you hold eye contact.
the way you hold, light, and smoke a cigarette.
the way you ask for a light.
who you choose to sit next to on the train/bus.
how you take off a coat or sweater.
how you check your pockets.
where you keep your wallet.
the length of your stride.
how you rub your eyes or scratch your head.
how you jam out to music on your headphones.
how you hold and touch your phone.
where you keep your phone.
how you lick your lips.
how you touch your hair, neck, face, chest….
how you shake hands.
how you take a sip of a drink.
how you hitch up your pants.
how you hold your shoulders.
how you lean on something like a wall or a railing.

but the thing is, i actually do. at one time or another in the past month, i have consciously thought about and made choices about each one of these things. cuz whether you know it or not, each of these things contributes to how people assess your gender. i spend time wondering whether or not i do these things in a way that would be perceived as at all masculine. i think the reason i pay such close attention to actors is that i understand how they feel when they take on a role, trying to translate their ideas of how a character feels and thinks and functions into the ways in which they express themselves thru their bodies. cuz it’s not so much about saying the line right as it is about moving your hand, or tilting your head, or leaning in as you say it to get the desired affect. it’s body inflection. and we do it unconsciously, or semi-consciously all of the time. however for me, it’s not unconscious cuz i haven’t been inflecting the same way my whole life. and changing the perception of my gender isn’t just about wearing men’s clothes, growing facial hair and speaking in a lower register. it’s about how i ride the bus: do i let the woman get in line ahead of me? do i sit next to a dude instead of boxing in a young lady? do i stand up and give my seat to an older lady? do i keep my knee or shoulder from brushing against the guy next to me? do i say ‘excuse me’ instead of ‘sorry’ when i bump into someone while exiting? if yes, then i’m most likely seen as a young man by virtually everyone on said bus. and at this point, in this place (sorry, midwest, but you are more dichotomy-based than the coasts) that identification is preferable to double-takes and confused (possibly hostile) looks. i play a part to balance feeling most like myself and keeping my day hassle-free. cuz not being socialized as a boy/man, i’ve had to learn this role–like a second language. or, to not mix metaphors, like a period piece. i study the culture and customs of men in order to be true to my character.

hence why, when i see johnny depp with long hair, wearing a silk scarf and eyeliner, i study every other aspect of his being to figure out how he is seen as a hot man as opposed to a fucked up freak. cuz it’s all the other little things he does while wearing the eyeliner. the long practiced, and therefore automatic, ease of lighting a cigarette with a zippo. casually propping a hand on a bent knee. these things ‘read’ well. it plays.

but i am never sure this is actually true for me. that people don’t see me as a fucked up freak. so i pay attention to every little thing i do. not that i always change how i function to fit other people’s gender prejudices, but just to be conscious of these semi-conscious tells and decide if i feel comfortable with how i’m being perceived while doing them. which means that i live my life in public (and sometimes in private) as an actor working to embody a new role. to use a clearer image, this means that i feel always like a guitarist who has just learned a song and is playing it for an audience for the first time, still looking at the music and watching my fingers, instead of functioning like a traditionally socialized 32 year old. he would feel like a musician who is playing one of their old favorites for their listeners, with the lyrics memorized and their hands finding the chords on their own. my problem (if i want to call it a problem, maybe a conundrum, or simply a situation–just the place i am on this journey) is that i don’t have the muscle memory of being a man. this really shouldn’t be called a problem because i actually welcome the chance to practice my performance and improve upon it with more and more attention to detail. it’s a craft i enjoy perfecting, if only for the practice it gives me as an actor. (and to be clear, this role i ‘play’ feels much more comfortable than the one i practiced my whole young adult life, one which i also felt the need to study because it sure as hell didn’t come naturally.)and now, this weekend i will literally ‘take the stage’ (it’s really only a script reading) as a man for the first time. i guess i ‘read’ well enough at the bar this weekend for the folks to cast me as a young man in real life (i assume) which led them to cast me as a young man in their play. now we will see how it feels to not just perform this role on the street, but actually make the practice work in an artistically performative venue. i must tell you i’m totally intrigued to see if my performance can hold together on ‘stage’ for an hour and a half as well as it does on a bus for 15 minutes. wish me luck, i guess.

What Writing is For

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm

[written as blogspot post fall of 2011]

“Remember that what you are told is really three-fold: shaped by the teller, reshaped by the listener, concealed from both by the dead man in the tale.” –The Real Life of Sebastian Knight by Vladimir Nabokov

“I cannot assume you will understand me. It is just as likely that as I invent what I want to say, you will invent what you want to hear. Some story we must have. Stray words on crumpled paper. A weak signal into the outer space of each other. The probability of seperate worlds meeting is very small. The lure is immense. We send starships. We fall in love.”
Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson

{ let me first get off my chest that these two authors are my most intimate literary lovers. they do things to my thoughts and emotions that i have never experienced with any other author. (except maybe keith miller in the book of flying) i have long had a habit of reading so fast that i forget to take a breath (literally, but also figuratively in the way of looking up from the page) but these two authors consistently compel me to gasp and set their book down for a moment, allowing to blossom the conceptual and stylistic fireworks i experience while submerged in their worlds of words. living in their books is an exercise in constant ecstasy. that said, i will start in on the meditation that the former quotation brought to light during a breather in the middle of devouring it’s source. }

I come to it often, the idea of the inability of human beings to express ‘the truth’ to one another, the subjectivity of everything that passes between us, the impossibility of transmitting anything in a complete and unchanged form from one of us to the other.

What is it about writers that we are obsessed with that problem? Is solving it the purpose of our craft? The secret longing of each of us that makes us attempt the fool’s errand in the first place? We all know it’s impossible. Or is it from that impossibility that the story, and therefore the writer, is born? Because there can never be the story, one truth, pure understanding. Only because there is this gap between the teller and the hearer, can we exist. And it is within that gap that we find employment.

And it is as an architect looks at a river and starts to imagine bridges that we each attempt the jump in our own particular way, trying again and again to get closer to an expression of our own truth that will be more and more closely understood by the reader. Maybe this is why authors love to read, as if comparing blueprints, to see how their fellows tackled the problem of crossing the chasm, overarching the abyss. Of constructing a form of connection with their reader.

For what is more worthwhile in the whole history of human society and culture than the creation of connections between our separate solitudes? I wonder if it’s because writing is such a solitary art that it creates such a strong imperative in its practitioners to achieve this connection with another, however fleeting and far-off. Because when it is made, and the imaginative sparks fly, there is nothing more rewarding for either party.

[and really, what is hotter than the idea that your favorite authors are working their hardest to have intellectual sex with you?]

 

Today, It’s my Shirt

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm

[this was written as a monologue for a benefit show for my dear friend ethan’s top surgery in 2010. there were tons of queer and trans people in the audience, so i was preaching to the choir, and getting a room full of people to laugh and sigh with me was really amazing. ]

I met an artist at pride in san francisco who wanted to take my picture and ask me the question, ‘what makes you a man?’

my answer was : ‘today, its my shirt.’

there are two important points this answer makes: one, that manhood is something I deal with daily, and two, that its something that can be put on and taken off, like a costume. This statement implies that tomorrow, depending on what im wearing, I might not be a man. How exactly does that work, you ask?

Well, the thing is, I could have easily answered: ‘what makes me a man is the fact that you think I am one.’

these responses sound like pretty tenuous ties to an identity, provisional and only partly under my control. Which is mostly true, cuz I gotta tell you, my identity is only partly what i perceive of myself. Its also partly what others perceive me to be. The challenge for those along the transgender spectrum is the disparity between those two perceptions.

Now, I like a challenge, and traveling around all the time, I bump up against all different manifestations of this challenge in cities all around the country.

And some days its gratifying, like last week in san jose, when I got a craigslist ride from a woman who referred to me as ‘he’ to the other female passengers. when they all started talking about how I should attach an iphone to the stereo, the word ‘he’ was used 12 times in a minute. I actually got a little dizzy. By the time we got to LA I was still ‘he’ to my driving friend. And of all the things we talked about in the 8 hour trip, gender wasnt one of them.

And some days its disappointing, like when I see a cute guy behind the ice cream counter in LA and want to flirt with him, get him to smile at me with those pretty eyes, but when he looks my way, he addresses me with the disinterested efficiency of one man at the service of another in a totally hetero, single entendre sort of way. And I play along, cuz Im flattered at being given the opportunity for this kind of interaction. But missing out on that smile makes it not quite worth it.

And some days its disconcerting, like when I was sitting in the observation car of a train headed thru utah and the men sitting near me made some comments about a woman walking by. It wasnt as much what they said, it was how they said it, and with a wink to me, like I was in on the joke. It was my first time really seeing what men are like when no women are around. It made me feel a weird mixture of flattered, intrigued, and a bit sick.

and some days its ridiculous, like when im drinking beers at a white sox game with two of my guy friends from high school, both of whom i hooked up with years ago, and I say, ‘hey, guys, I appreciate you being cool about the pronoun thing.’ and greg says, ‘oh, yeah, we were talking about you yesterday, and andy says to me, ‘so, since youve made out with him, does that make you, like, 1/8th gay?” and I say, ‘ 1/8th gay? Really, guys? Come on. How does that even work? And anyway, the same goes for you, andrew.’ and he says, ‘look, my sisters a lesbian, dont go making me out to be homophobic.’ and greg says, ‘actually man, id say this makes you a bit homophilic.’

And some days its disheartening, like when I was at the grocery store with my mom on the outskirts of chicago and a man in the checkout line behind us openly stared at me the entire time I was loading our food into bags. Like, with his eyes bugging out and his mouth hanging open. He looked ridiculous, I looked like a person helping their retired mother shop for a family dinner. My mom looked mortified. That one was rough.

but all of these days add up to a life of generally wanting to be seen as more masculine than feminine, which is the way I feel most comfortable living. The problem is, its not that any one person is seeing me that way, but that of all the people who flip the gender coin for me in a day, there are more that see me as a man than that see me as a woman. And tho none of them are totally wrong, I really wish more people had a spectrum in their pocket instead of a coin.

I gotta admit tho, right now, what I want most in my daily interactions is to have that unconscious privilege of manhood bestowed upon me. I know that sounds shitty, and when I think about all the implications of it, the patriarchy, sexism, oppression and the like, I want no part of it. but then someone says ‘sir’ and i thrill at the novelty of it and strive to hold on to that bit of manliness for as long as they will let me. Im not trying to deceive anyone, or take advantage of being given said privilege, im just trying to tally up more heads than tails to start tipping the scales towards the identity in me that has been unseen by others for most of my life. And maybe that desire will wear off when it feels more even, and maybe in the future it wont be so difficult to present as a betwixt and between in middle america. But right now it feels really hard to maintain a genderqueer identity when most people I interact with can’t fathom its existence. But again, if my identity is half my presentation and half others interpretation, then all I can do is wear the shirt that fits today and hope you can see how it does.

Peter Panek

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

[written as a monologue for a solo performance piece in 2007]

Have you read Rilke’s letters yet? Do it soon. He understands why this growing up thing is so hard. Here, listen.

“Sex is difficult; yes. But they are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious. If you only recognize this and manage, out of yourself, out of your own nature and ways, out of your own experience and childhood and strength to achieve a relation to sex wholly your own (not influenced by convention and custom), then you need no longer be afraid of losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your best possession.”

For me, it’s all about the boy. The boy haunts me. Maybe he haunts everyone, I dunno. He’s the one who doesn’t grow up. He’s my favorite. He is Timmy, he is Peter Pan, he is whatever boy I’m all about, He is me when I’m feeling most myself and then he is completely the other. God, He is flight. He is freedom and spontaneity and escape and possibility and success and height. To Get High. Literally. He is a drug, he is a lover, he’s a shadow, he is an ideal, he is a fucking fury. He is everything to me and yet he is nothing. He’s who I want to see in the mirror, and then he’s you half the time.

He started as a feeling about myself. As a kid I was an all out tomboy. Okay, so not much has changed, but still…even back then I had short hair. Boy short. I loved it cuz it helped me fit in. Cuz I was always one of the rough and tumbles, my gruff little husky voice mingling, my soccer playing on par, my tree climbing skills competing with the best of the boys on my block. And I only wore blue boy clothes, if I could help it. So the hair just completed the image. I can’t tell you how many times some kid would come up to me on the playground and say, “are you a boy or a girl?” and I would want to hit them or run away or sometimes I would feel like crying, but always I would say, “what do you think?” like they were so stupid that they had to ask. Cuz I was always so angry that they needed to know so bad. I always felt that it was the height of rudeness, not that they couldn’t tell, but that it mattered. That my private body parts were allowed to be part of blacktop conversation. I wanted to say “it’s none of your business” but that wouldn’t really make sense to a 7 year old. Not that it made sense to me at the time either, it’s just what I wanted to say. Sometimes I’d say, “why does it matter?” and they would look at me like I was an alien or something, which I wished I was so I didn’t have to feel like I was caught in between two polar opposites—I didn’t discover the gender spectrum till college—”cuz it DOES,” they would say. It does matter. People need to know what side of the coin you are on so they know how to treat you. Cuz all interaction is gendered. Nobody knows what to do with you if you don’t fit into either/or.

Then this feeling was given an image with Timmy. He was my favorite cousin. He was a mischievous little imp, a total instigator, but he also was the one who looked out for us younger kids. He was the golden child, always making everyone smile, becoming the favorite of our entire hot-blooded Italian clan. My adoration of Timmy bordered on worship. He knew it and was gentleman enough not to mention it or let it affect how we played together. God I remember his face– the barely contained laugh in his smirky smile–when he had thought of some great game to embark upon and he was about to let me in on the fun. His eyes would really shine like stars. (second to the right and straight on till morning) I followed him around like a puppy dog. Loyal to the end. Which came in the form of an inoperable brain tumor, causing a gut-dropping descent into death when he was nine years old. Nine years. He never got to live beyond that. He’d be almost 30 now. I can’t imagine him at that age. I don’t want to. He will always be a little boy. And I’m so jealous of that. Both the ‘always’ part and the ‘boy’ part. Cuz my way of grieving him has been to keep his image of eternal boyness very real inside of me—make it my ideal and my shadow. And still I catch myself believing I can keep alive that time when we were both young and invincible, by finding someone who fits his role, or by acting out his part myself. The boy who would not grow up.

And then this image became a reality with Peter Pan. When I was a senior in college, my dorm mates and I declared war on our friends who had an off-campus house named “Pirate House”. We pronounced ourselves the lost boys and had a crowing contest to see who would play Peter. I won. We each played a part and stole their jolly roger flag which started us pranking our way thru our last months in neverland before graduation. it was fun, but I realize now I wasn’t just playing. That year I was learning to navigate the world Peter Pan inhabits of being a ‘betwixt and between’ not a human boy, not a bird either, but an eternal youth who can fly—who is capable of anything. Cuz here’s the trick—this is why Peter Pan is such a fascinating dramatic character–cuz he is a young boy, but is traditionally played on stage by a grown woman. So there is this gender fuck going on where this actress, like her character, will never grow up to be a man only because she is not male and she will continue to look like a boy specifically because she chooses to not look like a girl. So you’re refusing to play by the rules of society not by refusing to physically grow up, but refusing to act out your gender role, which in a lot of minds is how you show that you are grown-up. Such a refusal puts you betwixt and between where anything is possible. And when I say you, I mean me, but I also mean you.

Cuz now there is this potential with you. What kind? I don’t know. Cuz if asked “are you a boy or a girl?” I would answer one way and you the other, yet in practice we go back and forth. And neither of us knows how to navigate between where you begin and where I end mostly because the shapes we have don’t keep still long enough to fit together—like Tink never standing still long enough for you to see her. But if I’m not playing woman and you aren’t playing man are we both playing boy? Is that okay? Are we playing for keeps? what roles aren’t possible at this point? Cuz there is a lot of ground to cover in the betwixt and between. And tho I have no idea where we might land, all I really know how to do is take your hand and try to fly.

What was the last book you loved?

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 3:22 pm

 I admit it, I’m an enthusiastic person. I can’t help but function like a six year old when I get excited about something. You know, I jump up and down and wave my hands around and speak very loudly and animatedly about the thing of the moment–be it a book, a movie, a play, a character, an author, a story in my head, a celebrity, a friend, you name it–I can be the fanboy to end them all. Which means the last book I loved is always the last one I’ve read.
I have torrid literary love affairs all the time. I get so into something I see my entire existence through the lens of that world. I try on characters like suits of clothing and walk around in them for a time. I map my own life onto the journeys the characters take. I talk about what I’m going through in my life by employing the metaphors used on the page. I don’t just read books, I live them. Like an actor in a role. Except I take on the entire story, not just one character.
Most of the time, like an actor, when the story is over (or shortly thereafter) I will step outside of that world and go back to my everyday life. Aspects of a good book will stick with me like fog does as the sun comes out, lines of prose like wisps of smoke trailing behind, clinging to me, long after the rest has burned off. Pockets of inky text clinging to the low-lying areas–the shaded parts of my mind– where I can stumble across them at calm moments and remember that life I once lived.
But once in a while there is a book I fall *in love* with. Those are the ones that even halfway through it is abundantly clear that the world I’ve entered is not one I will be willing to discard–not even parts of it–that this story is one that I need to actively incorporate into my life and my being, allowing it to reside in my imagination in perpetuity. Sometimes it’s a character I need inside me to become the person I want to be, others it’s the way a world was created that I’ve needed to understand how life is to be lived. Sometimes it’s the story itself that I require to pattern some aspect of my own journey upon.
And rarely, it is more a function of how the story is being told and how that melds with the world of its telling that get me. One such as this will capture me and make me its creature–both the reader in me and the writer. It will burrow deep into my self–both selves, intertwined–and take root in my gut, incorporating my insides into its new growth, and blossoming into meaning and purpose and the drive to create. And if I’m lucky, later comes the fruit of a story of my own.
Such a one is The Book of Flying by Keith Miller. The story looks simple enough–a young poet/librarian falls for a winged girl who won’t have him because he can’t know what it’s like to fly. And so, he heads off on a quest to acquire his wings. The epic journey to the legendary city in the east where the Book of Flying awaits is a varied one, full of new people, places, and stories, new ways of seeing, being, writing, dying. In short, revelations abound. Pico is gorgeous–familiar and flawed and working to incorporate into himself and his poetry all that he experiences–his companions are bright and bold and well drawn, each of them very different from the last. You feel as though you have lived many lifetimes with him in the course of his journey. The language is poetic and appropriate to the telling of a tale such as this, whether you want to call it a fairy tale, a fable, or a fantasy. But it’s not simply the language of the story in this book, it’s the language aboutthe stories and books encountered within that hooks into me and makes a home.

Example:

I feel we’re all trying to find a story, like treasure buried beneath our city, and all the feeble stories we live are patterned after that pristine story whose shape we almost know. Sometimes just after I wake or before I make love I’ll think, This is the story, I’m living the story. But the world always rushes in with its clash and anguish.

Stories are important in Pico’s world. And in all of the worlds he encounters and the lives he lives on his way. He comes from a place where people don’t read but succeeds in collecting at least one story from each person he encounters. Many of them acknowledge that telling their story brings meaning to their life. The time he spends in a rainy city full of books and readers and writers and artists becomes a formative one where he learns to love both a woman who is a writer of worlds made of language, as well as himself as a wordsmith.
But let us not forget that our hero’s quest is to find a book. Not just any book. As it turns out, he finds The Book to end all books. Or, more accurately, The Book from which all books begin. Like in the quoted passage above, The Book is that pristine story. The one you have had glimpses of in every other book you’ve read. Those passages that transport you and then never leave–the fragments and glimpses of truth you carry with you through life–all of those gems are bits of The Book. It is a patchwork of all these bits and more, stitched together into a tale worth losing yourself in. A tale that transforms you as a chrysalis does a caterpillar, forever on a new level of being.
I was unaware of how hard I believed in the existence of said book until I read the scene where Pico opens it. That is when I knew this book in my hand, The Book of Flying, by a man who must have seen deep inside my self at all the wisps and whispers I’ve ever collected, was the one which had a larger portion of The Book (or at least the one that I’m questing for) than any other story I had yet encountered.
And yes, I’m prone to hyperbole. Yes, I use words like ‘best’ and ‘most’ and ‘perfect’ with abandon. In the heat of a good story I’ll say almost anything. (Flings are designed to be effusive.) However, it’s been more than a year now and I will tell you straight: I haven’t had this kind of experience–the one where words knife into the center of my being and take my breath away, leaving streaming eyes in their wake and my heart simultaneously full to overflowing and hollowed out with yearning–in a very long time. Not for myself as a reader–and writer, and lover of story–anyway. I’ve felt like that for a character, maybe, a narrator for sure. But to find myself coming across such truth about the word that began inside me, was reflecting my innermost writer-self onto the page, only to then shine back into my eyes as revelation? That was new. And I will be in love with this book until I die for the gift of that experience.