Bicycle, 04

When I was younger, my mom had a bike. I thought it was even cooler than Dad’s. Bright blue with yellow and orange on it. Whenever I was allowed to ride it, I felt so cool. I felt like I was the coolest kid around.

Over Thanksgiving of 2010, I worked on that bike. Weeks ago, I saw the same frame and realized it was a Peugeot–a name that I had come to recognize meant “good bike.” Dad and I mounted it on a stand and cleaned it. We got rid of the years of dirt and oil. We sprayed fresh, slick oil on the chain. We raised the seat and the handlebars. We retrued the wheels, tightening spokes and loosening others.

Mom came out and looked at the bike. She then told me the story about when she got it.

Not long after Ida became a wife and Peter became a husband, they became parents. Nine months after their wedding, my brother was born. Their wedding had been spawned not by the pregnancy, but by a desire to have a family.

Mom had written on her calendar “Mom’s birthday.” She meant her own mother, but my dad misunderstood. He went out and bought her the bike.

“When you find someone like that,” Mom said to me, looking at my father, “keep him.”

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Fly

Mom, Dad, P,

I might not see you next week.

That thought scares me. Recognizing I might not see you next week means that if I don’t, I don’t know when I’ll see you again. It’s been eight months since I last saw Mom and Dad. In May, Peter and I had dinner with some other people, but we haven’t really spent time together for over a year. We’re not that kind of family, the kind that doesn’t see each other.

I’m sorry.

Last month, I went to Pittsburgh for a wedding. I was ushered, strong armed, through the new security measures. I asked the agent what it was, what the machine was because I honestly didn’t know at the time. I knew there were new machines to examine us, but I did not know that this was one of them. The guy smiled at me and just told me to hold still. He didn’t tell me what was going on. Staring at the machine while I collected myself, I realized what happened. I felt violated. I watched the woman behind me in line go through, laughing because of how she had to pose. I didn’t know how to take that.

I still don’t.

Later on, I looked up pictures from those machines. The high quality ones. They’re scary. We’re laid bare. Our clothes are stripped. Our hair is gone. We’re bestial; we’re ghosts. There’s a picture of me like that. A ghost.

There is someone whose job it is to look at those pictures. All day they sit and see people, silver, fleshy masses of people run before their eyes. I feel sorry for them, that this is what people have been degraded to for them. This is what we have been degraded to. This is what I have been degraded to. I am disgusted. I am ashamed.

I never sexted. I never took naked pictures of myself. I mean, sure, there are a few drawings, but I dated artists. And that made me feel wanted–good–that someone would sit there and remember the lines that make me up. To have those lines so placed in their mind they couldn’t forget them and needed to put them down. But that’s different. I’m comfortable with people I trust, people I love, having pictures of me exposed. I’m not comfortable with a stranger seeing me like that.

The alternative is patdowns, but they don’t sound much better. I’m not comfortable with my body, which I think isn’t surprising. I don’t like being touched by strangers. I don’t know if I will be okay with someone I don’t know touching me. I do know I am not okay with being told I cannot revoke consent if I decide I am uncomfortable once it starts. Flying might not be a right, but the chance to remove consent is.

A TSA spokesman said that that giving us the right to revoke consent doesn’t make sense in a post-9/11 world. A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2007 decision gave the TSA the ability to complete a security screening even if someone declined to fly. CNN tells me that the law says once a security screening starts, I cannot reject both a full body imaging and a patdown, I have to do that from the outset. I have to say no before anything starts, and once it’s started, I cannot say no. Federal jurisdictions recognize that we have the right to revoke consent to sex even after penetration happened–that at any point I can say no and have it be over. Now, I’m being told that is not true. There are times when I am not allowed to say no and have it stop. This -feels- like rape, it ticks off every learned instinct about what is and is not acceptable when it comes to people touching me. Even if I tell the TSA no, I’m done, they don’t have to stop. They won’t stop.

And I don’t know if I can deal with that.

I’m afraid. We’re living in a time of words. Over the past few years, when the public has gotten angry, they wrote. They made noises. They talked. They never did anything. Eventually they accepted the change as part of reality, part of how things are done. I’m afraid that the internet anger will just be words and that nothing with happen, that I won’t feel safe flying again.

And I do love flying.

I hope that I can see you next week. I hope that my own shyness, my desire to not rabble rouse, my desire to not be another internet story, to not be arrested, overrides my instincts when a person I don’t know starts to touch me. If not, I hope that you’ll be able to be okay with not seeing me. I hope I’ll be okay with not seeing you.

Love,
m.

Dekita, 03

I moved.

When I was seventeen, I left Philadelphia and moved to Pittsburgh. When I was twenty-two, I left Pittsburgh and moved to Korea. At twenty-three, I moved to Boston.

That’s a lie.

At twenty-three, I moved to Somerville.

When I moved to Pittsburgh, I did it on my own. I didn’t actually do all of the moving myself, it was a process that took years. My parents helped me cart things from one end of the state to the other. We took the artifacts from my life and brought them across the soft hills and grey forests that make Pennsylvania Pennsylvania. This was done without senses of finality or even intention–things were being moved. Back and forth. From this, I ended up living in Pittsburgh. I went there without anyone else–when I first moved there I picked the city out of a list, in the end based on nothing but the name. Pittsburgh. I didn’t have anyone there who was mine, who would be my connection to the city.

When I went to Korea, I had already decided I was going before Matt and I decided we were going. I hadn’t decided on Korea–that came in the middle of indecision and winter. Fear had marked the choosing of Korea. By the time it became a clear decision, I had already set myself to leaving America. I was young: I was uncertain. It was the time to do it.

Matt and I went together, even though we went at separate times. I liked to think I was going alone, that I was a graduate setting out to my future, but that wasn’t really true. Shortly after my arrival, I confessed that it would not have been Korea without him. I had been offered a job in Ulaanbaatar, where I wanted to go, but by that point the decision had been made for us to go together. Matt hadn’t been offered a job there. We were both offered positions in a satellite city of Seoul.

When I came back to America, I moved to Somerville. I was running into the arms of a community I didn’t have to find for myself. I slid into it and found a space as people fluidly moved around me to make that space. I came here, literally, with O., but I came without a plan. I came without being set as to what I was doing or who I was going to be when I got there.

I feel as though these moves, each of them indivudally, were something. They were acts of rebellion–rebelling against the person I had been or the place I had been from. In visiting Pittsburgh, after returning from Korea, I thought about staying. I thought about living there. When I got lost in the summer, I had wanted to stay.

While being a housewife in Trafford, I had a moment of alienation. I was taking the bus into town, to see G, when I realized the city was not mine. It was a stranger. There was so much of it I would never know, that I could never know outside of the context of my five years as a student. I couldn’t take that step to become a Pittsburgh transplant.

So I ran.

When I was a sophomore, I was talking with EO, who had been responsible, in part, for keeping us sane. We were these packages of young, brilliant, scared kids left on his porch, waiting to be unwrapped so the people inside could be let out. EO would sit with us while we talked, at him mostly, about what was going on. While talking, with little context, I told him I was going to move to Boston.

It was something I had never thought about before. I’d been there once as a child, when my dad was taking a class in Boston. We went overnight during the weekend to meet the people he was in class with. I didn’t remember the city. The summer before sophomore year, I visited with some friends for an afternoon. We rode the T and walked the Freedom Trail, things that were entirely meaningless to me at the time. These two trips gave me no context to make the decision to move there, and it wasn’t even something I had really considered at the time. The words sprang from me, in that conversation.

“I’m going to move to Boston some day.”

When I told my parents about Korea, they accepted it with muted resignation. My mother cried, she later told me. My father found a silent happiness in the idea I was -doing- something. When I told them I was moving to Somerville, my father told me he always knew I was going to do that.

Moving for me was an oddly personal decision each time. It wasn’t really motivated by employment or love, friendship or really any of those things that people say motivate them when they move.

I was motivated by fear.

I was afraid of becoming like people I had known in high school, in middle school, so I left Philadelphia. I was afraid of becoming another statistic, another fatality to academia, so I went to Korea. I was afraid of being stuck in who I had been between the ages of seventeen and twenty.

Now that I’m here, I look over my shoulder when I feel that motivating fear creeping up on me. It’s a fear of stagnation, that things will get stuck in how they are. That they won’t change. That from this lack of change I will end up becoming that person I was scared of being when I was sixteen and told my mother than I was going to leave Philadelphia.

I moved.

Snapshot 05

I’m wet.

I tromp, heavy foot falls to secure my feet to the ground, to push away the slick layer of water clinging to my shoes. I hold my helmet in my hand, like a useless appendage, leaving a trail of drops along the floor behind me.

By the bench that perimeters the rooms, I began to remove the layers to find the dry me hidden underneath.

“You’re light’s still on,” AT says. “Just a sec.”

He reaches behind me and pushes the button on the back light, blinking red where I clipped it to my backpack.