The Voicemail Interview: Erica Dawn Lyle and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on the Phone

Erica Dawn Lyle on the phone. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, photo by Jesse Mann.

Facing the restrictions of the pandemic, most authors who published in 2020 felt they had little choice but to cancel their scheduled tours and replace them with a lone Zoom reading, to celebrate their book’s release. But not Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. For the release, late last year, of her new experimental memoir, The Freezer Door, (Semiotex(e), Sycamore doubled down on the idea of the traditional tour, hosting readings almost nightly over a period of several weeks, appearing in conversation with queer literary luminaries like Maggie Nelson, CA Conrad, and Jordy Rosenberg – all online from the privacy of her home in Seattle.  

I attended almost all of them. At the time, I had gone home to help my mother during a health emergency and the return to the isolating physical space of her home in a small, conservative Floridian town, coupled with the long pandemic winter, had me longing for connection to other radical queer writers, even more than usual. Mattilda’s readings, day after day, about loneliness and disappointment in the loss of community in today’s gentrified cities, seemed to strike a chord and bring many of us streaming back. Seeing the faces of queer friends from all over the country lined up onscreen in the audience, it occurred to me that the pandemic had in many ways brought all of us back to this very familiar, almost teenaged queer site – the place of hiding out from an unsafe world, all alone in one’s room, dreaming about another world. That place. But how do you, like, cruise each other on Zoom? The tiny Zoom boxes we were now caged in seemed an apt visual metaphor for the atomization of our era. Many of us, of course, had once lived in close proximity in the same queer neighborhoods but were now dispersed all over the country. The isolation of the pandemic in so many ways was merely a logical extension of the breakup of community we had all already experienced during the hyper-gentrification of American cities over the past decades. 

Mattilda and I first met in the 2000s in San Francisco when we were both part of the direct-action protests, street takeovers, and squat parties that were a hallmark of the Bay Area’s vital and broad protest movement against that era’s gentrification and displacement. For me, much of the brilliance of The Freezer Door comes from the ways in which she has pulled back the lens from writing about the particulars of these battles – and our losses in them – and instead has seemingly returned to probing this formative place of queer isolation. The Freezer Door celebrates a queerness that is irreducibly Other, eternally oppositional to the world as-is, the very irritant around which accretes the pearls of queer world-making. Mattilda and I have each interviewed each other before (in 2005 and 2015 respectively) about gentrification and activism, so I reached out to catch up again with her in 2021. Playing on the recurring themes of disconnection and loneliness in The Freezer Door, we decided the conversation should take place over a series of voicemail messages we left for each other.  What follows is a long conversation that took place over a couple weeks around the anniversary of the pandemic.

Mattilda’s prerecorded voicemail message, which I heard every time I called: The dream of the city is that you will find everything and everyone that you never imagined. Even if it feels impossible … let’s make it possible. Please leave a message

Erica Dawn Lyle, June 3, 2021


Photo by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.

Erica Dawn Lyle: Hi babe, it’s Erica Dawn calling you. I’ve been reading your book and wanting to catch up. Hmmm … let’s see … First of all, am I talking to a real answering machine? Like there’s a phone on the wall in the kitchen and a beep and a tape starts turning, the little wheels in the dark? Or is this voicemail? Is my voice being rendered into ones and zeros, information, to be stored in airless spaces?

Because I watched some of your events on your virtual book tour, and I’ve seen your space there, I’d prefer to imagine something warmer – the lights are off and my voice is ringing out in the dark, talking to your plants. And there are windows, and on the other side is Seattle. And it’s raining, of course. Streetlights in the rain. I miss cities. I mean, among other things. You ask in the book if you are the only person who goes out into the city every time, thinking that something extraordinary might happen. But I was like that in cities.

They say that because of warming temperatures due to climate change, the American Bald Eagle now exclusively makes its home further north in Canada. In recent years, with the ways cities have changed, the unrecognizable sameness, I have begun to feel myself, too, in transition, like an animal that has to migrate far from its birthplace in order to find the conditions necessary for survival.     

A couple years ago, around when my gender transition surfaced publicly, I remember reading an article about how all of our online videos are training artificial intelligence to be more like humans. I had a kind of rueful thought that there were probably some liberals somewhere who would try to tell me that this was a kind of victory for trans people. That my information would teach AI different ideas of how a human can be a woman.

But on the other hand, I read another article about how facial recognition software consistently fails to accurately recognize trans people. And this, I thought, was exactly what transgender felt like to me inside: like a hole in the net. Daydreams of shooting progesterone and relishing the new swivel in my hopes while I evade security checkpoints.

How are you, dear? What is it like there for you now? What are you doing to feel free?


Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore: Hi, darling, it’s Mattilda. The thing I’ve been doing the last few weeks to feel free is going outside with headphones in my ears, and dancing to music in the park right next to the small Union graveyard we have here in Seattle. In the past, I’ve always resisted listening to music on headphones, because I want to be totally present in everything that’s going on around me. Probably part of that, actually, now that I think about it, is wanting to know if someone’s getting ready to attack me. The other part, though, is wanting to be present to all the possibilities – you know, listening to the birds and overhearing people’s conversations and wanting to be open to that possibility of something magnificent randomly occurring.

I think that’s what dancing offers because dancing is also the way that I’m most present in my body. The trick with headphones is not to move into the dissociation – which is always a challenge. Trying to move towards presence in my body without leaving the world. But I have just been loving dancing. Today was even sunny, which of course, is a surprise, so I was dancing in the sun, getting some vitamin D. Who knows how long that will last? But I’m going to keep dancing! This is my new strategy for survival.


EDL: Hey babe. Nice to hear from you! No one actually leaves me voicemail messages anymore except robots. And thank you for that wonderful image of you dancing wildly in the graveyard! It makes me happy to think of you finding such freedom in that frankly oppressive city.

I wonder if what we are talking about when we talk about feeling free by dancing in public or trans being a hole in the net is the freedom that comes with finding true embodiment in a public place in a world that does not value us correctly?

I heard your message and a part of me did think, well, why not bring a radio instead? Why not blast your music and make space to dance with strangers passing by? I wonder if this is a change in outlook for you – this not trying to convince people to join you but just dancing the way you want to by yourself?


MBS: I find that when I try those things, it doesn’t work. But, one thing like that which did work, at least for a while, was when, starting last June during the protests, every day I would go on my balcony and scream, “Black Lives Matter, Abolish the Police!” at 8pm – at the same time when people were originally making noise for essential workers. People would join me, and I’d feel this communal possibility. Then I had this whole dramatic disaster with some racist in my building who said that when I yelled Black Lives Matter, it was traumatizing her immensely. So eventually, I just decided I would go outside on the street instead, to avoid her. I did that for a number of months, until very recently. I decided to stop because I thought for months and months that we were all doing it together. But what I realized was that I was doing it, and people were joining me. Which is great, sure, to have that accompaniment. But it’s also depressing, because it doesn’t happen without me!

Photo by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore of graffiti by BLM in Seattle, 2021.

EDL: The search for being free calls to mind when I first met you twenty years ago at the Gay Shame Awards ceremony – which was actually a street takeover at Castro and Market in San Francisco. At a designated time, suddenly a bunch of queers showed up and unloaded some couches, pushing them into the street, where they simply lay down on them, immediately blocking traffic. The sound system came out. A banner was unfurled on the Bank of America. There was dancing, an awards ceremony, and you were the hostess. It shut down the flow of traffic with a huge protest street party for well over an hour.

For me, these moments of trying to jointly create a rupture in time were the ways I most sought that feeling of embodied freedom in the city. But now I think I look more for ways to BE the rupture in time. 


MBS: I love this question about making a rupture in time versus embodying the rupture in time. For me, there is this quest for embodiment and search for connection in everyday experience – the hope that every moment could feel like that moment just before you’re making out. Or like, the joy that I feel when I’m dancing. I’m moving toward those moments of possibility. But in that process, of course, I encounter devastation, trauma, desperation, longing, loss, all of these things. In The Freezer Door, I’m going into worlds that I already know are corrupt in order to find what isn’t, because I no longer believe that I will find the world that isn’t corrupt. In some ways, activism is about trying to create that. But I think the rupture in time or space that you’re talking about – that connection across, or in spite of, or beyond, or irrespective of, or through borders and walls, and the disastrous lines that people draw around one another to keep any kind of difference out – that is what a queer or trans dreaming is about. It’s about expressing ourselves or searching for connection, and value and intimacy and softness and excitement and beauty in everyday experience.


EDL: In your book you wrote about dancing as this rare place of total freedom you are always trying to get to. You write about public sex, and how some times that will take you there, too. But I notice you did not write about protest as a way to get there.


Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, photo by Jesse Mann.


MBS: Ever since fleeing the trauma of childhood and everything I was supposed to be and moving to San Francisco in 1992 when I was 19, I think I would say there are three things that have been most important to me: activism, my friendships, and my writing. In the early ‘90s, I definitely prioritized activism and relationships, but over the years, as a lot of the dreams I believed in have let me down – both in terms of people and projects that I’ve been involved in – I feel like writing has become more central than direct-action activism and relationships. I guess what I would say is I don’t feel held in the way that I want to be. In writing, I can feel held.

Over the summer, there were protests for Black lives here every day in my neighborhood. In Seattle, of all places! I heard them from my apartment and I’d run outside to join in, and those were amazing moments. I would go to the central site of protest every day. But the brutality of the repression … every day the cops were tear-gassing people, were using rubber bullets, stun grenades. It started everyday right around 8pm, and I’d leave before then because I can’t risk that. I mean, I am risking it. I was there. But I can’t risk it in the sense of directly facing tear gas at the time I knew it was going to happen, because of my health problems.  


EDL: I know we’ve both survived some tough political defeats – so much of what you’re saying resonates with me. I want to talk with you more about the search for embodied freedom and how to maintain this continuing search when, as you say, your dreams have let you down. I think for me, there’s this latent potential that is lurking inside of that kind of really restless dissatisfaction – a potential energy that’s in that restlessness. That queer dissatisfaction and utopian longing feel like flip-sides of the same coin.


MBS: I think I would agree. Maybe it’s that we’re longing, right? Because longing means that we’re not there yet. And longing is something that allows us to be present, even if we’re not there.

Then there’s this idea that desire is the presence of desire. But what is desire if the desire is not met? And I think that’s a similar question. If longing doesn’t become BE-longing, then, you know, sometimes it feels like, what is the point? But maybe belonging isn’t the goal, but rather creating the space for everyone not to belong, right? If what the belonging-to is, you know, that nightmare of neo-liberal policies that have destroyed and continue to destroy the world around us and everything and everyone that we care about… well, we don’t want to belong to that.

I wrote The Freezer Door in the present tense before the pandemic, and I wondered how people would relate to it when it came out and the present had changed so much. But … people started engaging on such a deep level about the themes of alienation and isolation and search for connection within this gentrified mindset. This quest to bring the public back into public space. 

But also, people are really relating to the form. I had this realization recently where I realized that as I’m writing toward emotion in the book, when the feeling can no longer hold, the text breaks. That starts right at the beginning, where it says on page one, One problem with gentrification is that it always gets worse, and then the text breaks. In some ways, I realized that the most successful embodiment in the book is actually the text itself. Because the text is also flipping around in search of language to convey what language may not be able to convey.


Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, “The Freezer Door” book launch at Hugo House, November 19, 2020. Screenshot by Rob Arnold.

EDL: I’m sure The Freezer Door‘s portrayal of isolation has particularly resonated with readers this year because the pandemic has been the logical extension of the kind of isolation and inability to find community that we struggled with before the pandemic. But it’s almost like the pandemic was a sci-fi literary device, a piece of writing about The Future that was really intended to show us what 2019 actually already was like.

It’s March 11, 2021 as I’m recording this. A year ago, yesterday, was the day that the pandemic became real and official for me – my band’s Pacific North-West tour was cancelled. Then I had to rush home and get situated to face whatever was coming.

Here we are, one year later. Like you, I have been thinking about the instability of our language, and how difficult it is to describe what we’re living through, when so much of our language has been eroded of its meaning from the inside. I think maybe a four-minute voicemail message of total silence would be most appropriate for this anniversary, in some ways, really. You listening and me breathing, presence, while we try to keep two ideas in focus at the same time: one, that we are still living through this era of mass death, suffering, and restriction, and two, the question of what freedom feels like in our body.

When I reflect on this anniversary and the news stories that we’re now seeing – that are trying to persuade us to view the pandemic as if it’s over, as if all of this is already in the past, I think how much of this crisis of our language has actually been caused by this – this unwillingness to call things by their true names. And I think the tragedy for me is not so much that things might somehow not go back to normal – because it’s been a foregone conclusion from the beginning that for a certain number of people, of course, things always go back to normal – but the tragedy is that if things go “back to normal” and nothing has significantly changed in our society, how will we live with ourselves?


MBS: Thank you so much for your beautiful message. At the end, when you ask if part of the problem is our unwillingness to call things what they really are and how will we live with ourselves … I will say, I found myself crying. I wonder if part of what freedom feels like in my body, or at least a gateway to that freedom, is the ability to feel everything. To not be shut off to the world around me. I’m always reaching toward that possibility of feeling everything. Especially as, you know, someone who was formed by being sexually abused by my father as a child, and never having the possibility to experience what people describe as absolute safety that we’re supposed to experience as children.  

Your question about language being eroded in meaning from the inside is something I’ve thought a lot about here in Seattle. We usually see gentrification discussed in terms of real estate speculation and displacement. But there is also the gentrification of desire and queerness and love, the gentrification of intimacy and friendship. I think one way I see language eroded in Seattle in particular is how everyone talks about increasing density as this crucial thing for the future viability of Seattle. But the density that is being invoked is overpriced garbage buildings that are constructed for wealthy new arrivals that remove and destroy the kinds of density that we do need – the density of interaction, the density of care, a density of ethical commitment to one another, a density of curiosity, a density of cross pollination, a density of analysis.

“Normal” was already not a very livable reality for so many. It’s like people just want to be able to go back to a restaurant or a bar or a theater without reimagining what the spaces could be, without reimagining the possibilities for personal intimate, interpersonal connection, communication and transformation. How do we now get back our autonomy and the possibility to grow? I feel like the desire to just be done with the pandemic is eroding our analysis and the possibilities to engage with one another for meaningful and long-term structural change. I don’t want to get back to normal. I want to get to— [message cuts off]

“Our Place in the Sun,” by SOBBETH (Erica Dawn Lyle and Midnight Piper Forman), 2019. Image courtesy MOCA Miami.

EDL: I love how your last message got cut off. Get to where? Get to what? I think so much about utopian longing in the way we’ve been discussing it is really about this, this moving intuitively into the unknown. But then in the societal context, the question of just where we are going to now is also hanging in the air. There seems to be several structures of feeling present at once: the world we lived in, the world we long for, and the world we fear. And they are all somehow layered on top of each other right now as we move into this uncharted future a year into the pandemic.

It’s March 17. One year ago today, after a frankly harrowing week of travel, I arrived home in New York at the beginning of the nationwide quarantine lockdown. This week of pandemic anniversary has continued to be pretty heavy for me. There’s lots of grief in the year that I had suppressed, I think, just to get through it all, and it’s kind of coming back up. And then, of course, in the cultural moment, something has shifted, and, for many, the pandemic is starting to seem over. Every state is opening up. Schools, gyms, indoor dining.  Meanwhile, many dear friends continue to get vaccinated. That’s a huge relief for me, of course. But, the day after you last called me, my mother here in Florida was actually admitted to the hospital for complications from COVID. Her condition seems to be improving. She’s now out of the ICU. But I can’t visit her because of the quarantine that she’s under. I’m told I could only go wave to her through the glass of the door, which is exactly like the images that we first saw in the news a year ago when this all started.

Meanwhile, the COVID rates are surging back up in many places again this week, and the new variants are raging, and we’re clearly being forced back to work whether it’s safe or not. When I see the flow of images of vaccinations that people are posting on social media, I fear that our natural desire to simply express our individual joy and relief at the possibility of change and to have a good life is now being weaponized against the collective good. I fear that “back to normal” will soon also mean the end of unemployment benefits, the end of rent relief, the end of any COVID protocols for safety, the end of curbside groceries, masks, all of it. I hate how we’re going out of this the way we came in – every man for himself. And I fear that we might soon all live inside of a gaslit and corrupt unreality where many people are still sick or unsafe everywhere, but it’s just being officially denied.


MBS: Hi darling. It’s terrible that you’re in Florida right now, and having to deal with COVID in such a direct way through your mother’s situation. 

I love what you said about the world we lived in, the world we longed for, and the world we fear happening all at once. When this pandemic first started, I thought, you know, we have a few weeks or a few months, to try to imagine touch as more than it is. As something connected and as something available to everyone. As something reliable. And to think about friendship as something always growing – always nurturing and nourishing and expanding. And to think about how do we think about communal care as something that is always present and not a broken dream? I want us to be able to imagine a way out of – not a way in – to normalcy.

Before the pandemic, I would go to a contact improv class. Just recently, the person who coordinates it posted about how the CDC says that when people are fully vaccinated, they can congregate together. He was suggesting starting up the class again – but only for people who are vaccinated! (laughs) There is now this whole polarization between the sick and the well, the old versus the young, the single versus the coupled, family versus whatever, all that. All of that is the logic of capitalism, of divide and conquer, of survival of the fittest. This is why I think we have squandered the opportunity to rethink everything. Because there actually are other ways to get together and dance where everyone can participate. Maybe not inside, maybe not touching, but we can figure out how to include everyone.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, “My birthday, for George Floyd, May 31, 2020.” Photo by Adrian Lambert


EDL: It is important to point out that every step of the way inside of this lived emergency has actually offered us potential to develop some kind of collective solidarity, right? But the pandemic really highlighted the ways that the country has already been atomized in these infrastructural ways through gentrification, through displacement, through technologies, and the ways our interiority has already been entirely reorganized around individuality.

For me, in this context, many painful questions came up again and again: How much am I allowed to expect from other people? How much are we allowed to expect from each other? What does it mean to be held by a community? It was painful to me that, to my knowledge, the various queer and activist communities that I’ve always been a part of were not able to successfully generate together a communal ethics or philosophy of accountability for application within this kind of cataclysm, as in the ways that people have attempted to generate together around issues like sexual consent. And I think that these questions of how we think about collective care and survival are going to return again and again to us on this dying planet, actually, until we solve them as a species. Or we don’t. 


MBS: It does bring up for me a question that I ask a lot about that dream of accountability, about the dream of mutuality and negotiation of intimacy and a world without borders, a world without cops. The dream of the things that a queer and trans analysis have helped me to imagine and then the failure of that analysis to stop the violence even within these specific queer and trans worlds. I was very touched, though, when a friend of mine offered to get my groceries as long as this pandemic lasted. Which is sort of shared intimacy, and also literal nourishment, right? Of course, I can’t risk going to a grocery store with all my devastating chronic health problems. So I was glad I could rely on a friend instead of some, like, horrible contingent worker exploitation program.     


EDL: Hey, babe. I got the vaccine today, a year and a day since quarantine began. I am not eligible, but the situation in Florida here has been such a shitshow that, apparently, hundreds of unused shots are being thrown out every day all around the state. I found a group of people online that are sharing info on how to get surplus shots, and I got a good tip. The last couple days, I’ve been sharing that info and helping other people get shots, too. This feels familiar in ways both sad and amusing. Since I’m an old punk rocker, of course it naturally makes total sense that I would have to be dumpster diving life-saving medicine from a corporation that’s throwing it away as people are dying everywhere during the apocalypse!

When I got the shot, I think mostly I felt what we’re talking about – this particular pain that has been so familiar to me throughout my life. Because, I, too, am an abuse survivor, and I felt today that pain of knowing that time is simply moving on and that so much is unresolved and so much of it is unfair, and so many people who need to be held accountable simply will never be held accountable. There’s so much rush to denial, so much getting swept aside amid this forward movement and maybe I don’t want to give up my pandemic trauma just yet, right? Because I want to see it acknowledged. I want to see it avenged.


MBS: I’m so glad that you got the vaccine and that people are organizing to utilize the doses that these horrible corporations are throwing away. It should be available for everyone now. But the rhetoric has been around who deserves it, and who doesn’t, and the thing is, We all deserve it. I want people to pay attention to the larger structural issue that if the drugs were not patented and the technology was shared, everyone in the world would have a vaccine right now. There’s no critique of how, just on this basic level, whether we live or die is controlled by these corporate profiteers. I also share your concerns about what horrible debilitating side effects from the shots might not have yet been revealed. So my hyper-vigilence about my body is not likely to immediately end. I worry, then, about the dual aspects of how, on the one hand, people are feeling everything is normal; on the other hand, we are internalizing our trauma, and pushing it inside in order to go on. What are going to be the costs of that in our bodies and in our lives – personally, interpersonally, communally and structurally?


EDL: You ask about the cost of internalizing all this trauma from the past year, and I think, naturally, of nostalgia, one of the great recurring subjects in The Freezer Door. This week, the President announced that everyone will be eligible for vaccines by May 1, so that Americans will be able to enjoy Fourth of July parties in their backyards. Here we have a new President, in a time of national crisis, who’s calling not for collective national effort to make sure everyone’s provided for until everything is truly safe. He’s not calling for a collective national effort to care for the most vulnerable or for a national collective acknowledgement of all the suffering we just lived through together. Instead, he’s directly linking a national collective effort to get back to normal – and the kinds of denial that goes with it – to patriotism.

I think what’s really interesting is how there is such a quality to this moment that feels like nostalgia, but it’s not the kind of nostalgia exactly that you talked about in your book. Because it’s not so much about the past, literally, right? It’s hard to tell what the object of this nostalgia is right now. And it reminds me now of something I’ve noted many times in the past couple of decades – this kind of nostalgia almost for a fantasy future narrative. A nostalgia for restoration, for a happy ending. Or a nostalgia for a certain story we once told ourselves about the essential goodness of this country. A nostalgia for, well, back to normal.      


MBS: Erica, I think nostalgia is so pervasive in our culture, that within a few years people will be nostalgic for the pandemic! This reminds me a little of something from a conversation I had – I think it was with T. Fleischmann – at one of my readings for The Freezer Door. I was talking about nostalgia as freezing in the past in order to escape the trauma of the present. And then I thought, “Wait, hope is just trauma in the future.

I think if we sat down and asked people, Are you really nostalgic for 2019? they’d be like, Oh right, that was Trump. Okay, I’m nostalgic for 2016. But, oh wait, maybe 2015 or 2014, because that was Trump, too. But then under Obama, we had, you know, drone bombing, mass detention, more deportations than any President in history, prosecution of whistleblowers, every broken promise imaginable, on and on and on.

Photo by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.


EDL: For me, hope is not about connecting with the literal past or future, as much as about what we’ve been talking about: the sense of being able to feel freedom in our bodies. It’s about this kind of, like, explosive power of queer liberatory potential that I know is latent within all moments at all times. 

But maybe nostalgia does keep us from dreaming the impossible into being. I really laughed out loud at that anecdote in The Freezer Door where you talk about your friend who wanted to make a memorial in the park that said the park used to be an important site of gay cruising public sex in Seattle. And you said, Uh, have you ever just tried to cruise the park? Because it’s still happening!


MBS: Probably the first time I developed a critique of nostalgia was when I moved to San Francisco in the early ‘90s. I would meet all these queers and activists and artists, but then more mainstream people would say, Oh, you should have been here in the ‘70s! You know, that golden age of queer sexual promiscuity. Or you should have been here in the ‘60s. As if activism no longer existed. And then, maybe a decade or so ago I realized that people were now nostalgic for that era, the time when I moved to San Francisco in the early ‘90s! People would say, Oh, my God, it must have been so great. But in the early ‘90s, I came of age as a queer person in a time of mass death! When I moved to San Francisco in ‘92, it felt like everyone was dying of AIDS and drug addiction and suicide. So nostalgia erases that reality and only looks at the shiny part, the glittery part, or anything that can be romanticized. And so I think my work is always against that cultural amnesia.

I think it’s perfectly fine and potentially useful to think about things in the past that we treasure that may or may not be possible now. But we have to examine them in all of their nuance and complication, in all of the messiness and contradiction and strife and trauma and failure. Whenever we romanticize a golden age, that didn’t really exist, nostalgia prevents us from creating a more vibrant, present or future and from dreaming of how to make the impossible.


EDL: I want to tease out some difference between nostalgia – which maybe we could define as a willful obscuring of unresolved conflicts and traumas from the past – and just the basic sort of unknowability of the past, the way that it’s difficult to enter. Because I feel like this queer dissatisfaction or utopian longing we’re discussing doesn’t just extend out into the future, but we follow it backwards into the past. It’s one of the ways that we cobble together a future out of what might even be the misunderstood, or not quite legible, scraps from the past.

For me, there’s this exciting buzz when I’m obsessed with some nugget of lost radical or queer history and I’m trying to, like, get back into it. It’s like there’s something I desperately want to know about it,      and the known record will be full of these blank spaces, these lacunae, and in the unknowing I often find I romanticize it and I fill in the gaps with an idealized sense of the kind of future that I wish we would live. I wonder sometimes if we come to the city looking for a certain kind of romantic idea of a certain life we might find there. And we don’t find it because it’s not there anymore. But then by searching for it, we end up somehow creating it.


MBS: I think the question you’re asking about, you know, how do we get to this place of freedom in our bodies, I think we can only get there if we are not frozen in either the past or the future. We have to be present in whatever possibilities we can conjure and create. There is such a subtle, yet complete, transformation of everything that could be accomplished by just allowing for that impossible weirdness to just be a daily experience of living. And you know, I find those moments often in doing things that seem slightly out of the ordinary for a lot of people. Like, leaning against the bus stop, or getting fucked under a tree, or looking at the moon, or kissing the moss, or staring up at the camellia bushes, or having a very weird but fascinating conversation with someone I don’t know. You know, by just saying hi. 

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