there is a town in texas that is one of those places
that you stop on the highway when you are going “somewhere”
— that place that is neither ‘here’ nor ‘there,’ rarely a destination
or a vacation but still finds a way to exist —
the gray area.

i can give you the directions for it if you spend a couple of
hours tracing the lines of my palms until you
find highway six and that toyota camry we
used to drive on the way back from the movie
theater where the new yorkers all weep when
we take them because it’s only $3.50 baby!

maybe on the way home we can stop by the
hay bales we stood on top of and yelled from that one night senior year
because that’s what they did in the movies and we
wanted some sort of way to make the angst in our
chests more intelligible to a world that already
has a narrative about two boys in skinny jeans growing up
in the south.

screaming becomes a way of resisting
the way we were compelled into motion – always having
to leave this place rather than learning how to make it work,
learning how to find joy in those places we have been
told to forget.

remember
what it felt like to look at the sky and actually see it,
to be connected not by a telephone cord, or computer
screen, not by an identity, or a politics, but by a shared
ceiling?
the world was once big cuddle party under
a blanket of stars. don’t you remember?

lately i have been thinking about the gray
areas in my life: those places, and peoples, and
memories that i have shed from my body because
there are things that are i am no longer allowed to say

like: i grew up in small town texas and it wasn’t that bad
like: most of my friends were white straight men
like: the kind who would play basketball at the park by my house
and have LAN parties and talk about sports and eat steaks

like: i have seen the parts of this country that you
think are responsible for all of the hate, the oppression, the
embarrassment and i have called them
classmate, neighbor, and sometimes even handsome

so i wonder if you displace the deepest parts of you —
the vile, the prejudice – down there in the gray areas
so that you can feel progressive and different.
wonder if
you recycle the same hate, the same borders on others
build more spaces you refuse to confront

so when i call my gray area beautiful
what i mean is this is not the beauty like new york city with
churches made of steel. this is not like the beauty
of a street full of coffee shops with boys wearing
bow ties and radical politics. this is about something
far less ostentatious. this is about the local gay bar in texas
where i went for the first time with a white straight
guy with big white tennis shoes and a t-shirt and maybe
a pair of old jeans
because i was too afraid of going alone and
then he drove me home and we parted ways and
i probably read a bit of a science fiction novel after

and i probably texted him ‘thank you’ but what
i think i was trying to say was i want to believe
in a type of love, a practice of compassion that
is not greedy, or selfish, or hurt. i want to be
able feel connected despite history,
despite the news.

lately i have been living in the gray area:
wondering what it would feel like to invite
the most mundane, the most quotidian, the most
white parts of us into the conference, the article,
the movement. like my ears are infected from
these piercings i got to make my gender coherent to you
(gender, like angst, is another form of screaming)
like there is plaque accruing on the back of my teeth
along with all of the other things i never said to him.
like i find it difficult to sleep
at night not because i am thinking about the movement
but because i am wondering why he doesn’t like me.
like i came from a town in texas where
we did not drink at our high school parties and
instead played four-square and jenga and sometimes
super smash brothers. like i am not always thinking
about the struggle because sometimes i am thinking about what to
eat for dinner, whether little debbie brownies and nutella
can please become vegan, what to put on the about
me section of OkCupid to seem less intimidating

so lately i have been thinking about your gray area:
that combinations of heart, and bones, and limbs behind
all the words we dress ourselves with like ‘radical’ or
‘brown’ or ‘queer’ lately i have been dreaming of what
it would mean to stand up in the middle of a meeting and weep
or even fart. lately i have been wanting to tell you
about my digestion, my lactose intolerance, and all those
other parts of me i am carrying inside but do not spill
into identity like i want to believe in a world where love
doesn’t have to be about identity because if that’s the case
doesn’t that mean we already lost?

i want to envision a compassion
that’s about that text after my first gay club at 18 —
an openness, a basic solidarity for being bodies
swallowing the sky, for being bodies that are just as capable
of loving as we are as hating. and this is not post-racial, or
post-feminist, or post-structural – this is post-cynical,
post-trauma, post-us/them this is about imagining a revolution
that is boring. imagining a movement that is already here
we just cannot see it because we are driving past on the highway
trying to get somewhere that was never meant for us

please support the author