What They Don’t Tell You About Chickens

What They Don’t Tell You About Chickens

By Elliott DeLine

What they don’t tell you about chickens is that you will fall in love with them. Or, more likely, I am among the few who have fallen for these strange and beautiful birds.  People have written poems and odes to all sorts of birds, but I have never read one about chickens. Chickens are grossly underappreciated.

Something else they don’t tell you… is that two small boxes of chicks will result in eventually over a ton of chickens. We picked them up from Moyer’s Chicks in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. I sat in the car while Joey put on a mask and went inside. He came back with two peeping boxes of 50 brown egg layers and 20 standard broilers. They were basically indistinguishable at this point, when I snuck to the back of the car to take a peek. They peeped and melted our hearts all the whole way back to Cortland, New York.

Something you should know about me: I love animals. I mean really love. I was obsessed with them as a child, and very little changed as I aged. And not just the more popular, regal animals. I love pigeons, rats, spiders, snakes…pretty much all creatures are loveable in my eyes.

Something else to know: I was a vegetarian from age 14 to 30. Why did I start eating meat again? For two reasons. One, I was around it all the time, as Joey and his son Drew were carnivores. I don’t cook, and it just became simpler to eat what the household was eating. Two, I had a loosening of scruples around the horrors of factory farming.

We brought these chicks home and set up a cardboard home for them in our new garage. They were adorable little fluffs, not even a day old, huddled under the red heat lamp. From the start, I tried not to focus on the 20 broilers. Joey had bought them for meat. That is what broiler means. They are the standard consumed chicken in the U.S. The other 50 chickens were egg-layers. The broilers were a little plumper and lighter in color. I knew this was going to be very, very hard for me. I tried not to look at them from day 1, and definitely take no pictures or videos.

Joey had solid, rational reasons for raising our meat chickens. It would be much more ethical to raise and kill them, humanely. I knew I could have no part in it, but I understood his thinking. Logically, I agreed. Emotionally I was terrified of the day of slaughter and doubted I could eat chickens I helped raise.

It got worse as they grew. The broilers got hard to ignore. They were ridiculous looking, like tiny dinosaurs with pot bellies and sparse feathers. Within a week, they were double the size of the egg layers, earning them the nickname of “the fatties.” The egg layers became “the brownies,” as they turned progressively more brown. The fatties stayed cream-colored.

They kept growing at an alarming rate. We had to separate them out, afraid they would pick on the brownies. However, they were the most docile animals you’d ever meet. They were very friendly. Despite my best, adult intentions, I discovered that they liked to be held. I would go in with them and they would climb into my lap. Joey discovered me like this one day.

“I love you,” I said to the chicken.

Joey says it was then he knew that we could never eat them. And it wasn’t just me and my mental health that he was concerned about. These fatties were too damn loveable. Friendly, unafraid, innocent, and downright sweethearts. The idea was heartbreaking. It just felt wrong. 

The fatties kept growing. The brownies, too, to a lesser degree. The latter were much more curious and also more skittish. More wild We decided it was time to make them all a small coop and bring them outside sometimes. No sooner had we gotten it all set up when unexpected rain and wind took us over. We rushed out to save them. They were getting soaked, which was not good.

I climbed inside the small coop and started scooping out chicks by the half dozen. I tossed them into plastic bins so we could transport them back to the garage. We managed to get them all back, but they were soaked. We set up additional heat lamps and warmed up some water bottles for them to cuddle. One chick was particularly struggling, so I held her in my hands and to my body, breathing warm air onto her.

Surprisingly, there was only one death. Several days later I came out to the garage and saw that one was lying down, unmoving, on her side. I called Joey and asked where he suggested I bury her. He suggested it would be nicer to leave her body in the woods to be consumed by a wild animal, so her death had purpose. I agreed.

I walked across our new land to the eastern woods. I laid her down on a bed of moss, and put some stones and flowers around her. I cried. But I also felt this incredible connection to the land, the earth, and to life. I envy people who are spiritual, because I have trouble accessing this part of me as much as I’d like. It seems very comforting. But as I walked back home among the trees and the setting sun, I felt a true sense of infinity and beauty.

Joey had been building a shed that summer to house our goats, but then the deal fell through. We decided it was time to move the chickens there. It’s hard to believe they all still fit with just a couple wagon trips! I have a hilarious picture of all 20 of the adolescent fatties sitting together in the black wagon. I really treasure that memory.

The two breeds of chickens did not get along well though, so Joey built a moveable coop for the fatties. It was neat, because we moved it each day with the tractor and they got to munch on different areas of grass. It had a trap door of sorts that turned into a staircase to the upper bunk where they slept. This door still haunts me.

The fatties, stubborn and fat, would not climb up the ladder, so we had to lift them up into their bunk in the evening. They were about 10 lbs at this point, and still growing, so this was no easy task. We are talking about lifting 200 lbs of chicken every evening!  They would squawk and fuss and the whole scene was ridiculous. Every night we got a good laugh, and we both came to really love these animals. We loved the brownies too, but the fatties were so full of personality and humor.

One September evening we were putting the fatties away and things got hectic. I had forgotten to put up the ladder and some were escaping back down after we put them up for the night. As mentioned, lifting them was no small task. Stressed, I hurriedly pulled the string to close the ladder-door. The next part still makes my stomach turn.

I heard a distressed squawk and felt something in the way, but it was too late. I dropped the string, and her body fell out. Her neck was severed and there was a lot of blood. She was still moving.

“No!” I screamed. “No, no, no!” I don’t remember much else. Joey says I kept screaming. I ran about a yard away and curled up in child’s pose on the grass. I covered my ears and shut my eyes tight and kept saying “no,” as if this could somehow block out the truth. I sobbed and sobbed.

After what seemed like hours Joey returned to my side. He reassured me that it wasn’t my fault, and it was an accident that could have happened to anyone. He also told me she was dead immediately. She was only moving because, well, the old saying about a chicken with her head cut off, right? I was so relieved she didn’t suffer.

I struggled a lot after that. It took a little while before I could go out to the coop without feeling dizzy. I cried a lot. Like I said, I really love animals. And these chickens had become family. Eventually though, I started to accept what happened and heal. There were still 19 fatties to care for.

And then, tragedy struck again. First, it was a brownie who somehow stayed out over night. We found her body with the throat ripped out- a clear calling card of the mink. Joey felt the weight of blame that time and I had to reassure him.

A few days later, one of the fatties had simply gotten too fat. They weren’t designed to live long: just to produce a lot of meat. Her leg had broken from the weight of her body. Joey had to put her down. He’s still really shaken about it to this day. He said he wasn’t expecting it to be so hard, but that he could never slaughter animals for meat.

What was amazing that say was the flock. One chicken clearly was close with the injured one. She sat beside her, leaning, making comforting noises. The rest all gathered around, solemn, knowingly. It was moving. I once again felt spiritually touched.

But the true horror happened the night that the mink got into the shed.

I remember hearing Joey downstairs around 5 am, which is early for him. I got up.

“Hey, is everything alright?” I asked.

“I heard noises coming from the coop,” he said, “I’m gonna go check on it. Can I use your phone’s flashlight?”

I went to the bathroom and checked on my rabbits. When I came back out into the kitchen, he was back. “Everything alright?” I asked, nonchalant.

“It’s….not good,” he said.

I felt the earth slipping out from under me. “What? What happened?”

“A mink got inside….the door is warped.”

“I should have noticed….”

“It’s ok, it’s not easy to see. I had a feeling….I should have been checking it.”

“Are they dead? How many?”

“Over half are dead.”

I collapsed on the couch sobbing.

“I’m so sorry sweetie,” Joey kept saying, rubbing my back. He was the hero that day. He cleaned up the mess….all the dead fatties, he carried to a hidden spot in the woods. He said it was horrible. The other chickens were attacking him, including the rooster. They didn’t want him to take them. Unfortunately, there was also one that was not quite dead that he had to put down. This was awful for him. He didn’t tell me at first, but he needed to confide in me eventually. I understood.

It took a long time to heal after that. The six remaining chickens were clearly traumatized. You could see it in their eyes. One would refuse to go to bed, searching and calling for her dead friend. This killed me to watch. I tried to pet them and comfort them though…they were still unbelievably friendly. We all got through it. And I feel an even more special bond with the Big 6.

Those six remain, along with the brownies. I don’t know how long we’ll have together. They weren’t bred to live long, only to be meaty and easy to kill. I think this is cruel, and we’d never buy them again. They’ve obviously been uncomfortable and awkward at moving all their lives.

We’ve both been vegetarian again. I’m not sure it’s permanent. I think it is for me.

I’m sure we will have many farm animals…but nothing will be quite like the fatties. Maybe this sounds trite, but  I’ve learned a lot about myself. A lot about my soul. And I look forward to everyday I get to spend with these lovely creatures.

I guess what they don’t tell you about chickens is they will also break your heart. But for me, I guess it’s worth it.

Love is always worth it.

A life worth living, pt. 4

I was at a group for addiction and PTSD recovery this week. We had to come up with a word. We started with lemon, and said it aloud enough times until it was just sounds. Then we were supposed to choose a judgmental word and do the same. Consequently, I found myself repeating the phrase “Loser,” over and over again. It then became, in our minds, “I am a ___” In my case, loser. We were supposed to overcome it, or see that it was just a word. I guess it’s stuck with me though.

That was the first word I thought of. It was immediate. “I am a loser.”

Evidence: I am in mental health recovery. I am in substance abuse recovery. I wear sweatpants a lot (Caveat: my boyfriend says they are stylish sweatpants). I’ve gained weight. I was a stoner. I have no money or income. I find cooking meals, doing the dishes and going to the grocery store to be daunting tasks.

I have put a lot of pressure on myself to accomplish external things. I haven’t been successful in any conventional sense as an adult. The closest I came was when I was working at the library in Syracuse, as well as working on CNY for Solidarity. I am also proud that I self-published four books. The first three especially were accomplishments. I got some recognition for my writing, in the past. And I travelled many places to give readings.

But lately, I feel… like a loser. More than ever. I want to challenge this, rather than dwell in it. Often, I find writing in the third person and past tense helps. Watch this.

That was the first word he thought of. It was immediate. “I am a loser. “

Evidence: He was in mental health and substance abuse recovery. He wore sweatpants a lot (Caveat: his boyfriend said they were stylish sweatpants). He’d gained weight. He had no money or income. He found cooking meals, doing the dishes, and going to the grocery store to be daunting tasks.

He had never been successful as an adult, in any traditional sense. He was a writer, and had some success and acknowledgement for the books he’s self-published: mostly fictionalized accounts of his own life…

OK it’s getting too meta 😊

Really though, I almost am finding this guy charming, and I feel for him. I guess in that sense, writing fiction is more therapeutic than memoir. If fiction is third person and past tense, conventionally. I need to keep this in mind. Who knows, maybe that will be the answer to my next novel.

The day I did nothing.

Today is already difficult. It’s 8:49 AM and I don’t have plans. I’ll be spending the day alone. I tried working a bit on my novel over coffee, but it feels very strained. My interest isn’t there. I have a number of creative projects in my queue that I don’t feel like doing. I want something new.

It’s at least sunny. I struggle worse on days without sunlight. The trees are bare, but from where I’m sitting, I can see a bird nest. The light is refreshing. November through February are hard in upstate New York. I’m trying to appreciate the sunlight, rather than wish I were somewhere else.

And so, I decided today would be the day I did nothing and to try to feel good about it. It was nearly impossible to feel all that good. I spent most the day sleeping, after picking up the apartment. I read over some of my literature for my mental health-related classes, particularly DBT. “Today,” I thought, “I will just observe.” My legs were sore from walking around Ithaca so much lately anyway. I noted colors of things. I stood outside and practiced 4-point breathing.

The most that can be said about today is I haven’t gotten really upset over anything. So there is the silver lining I suppose.

A life worth living, pt 2

Tonight I auditioned for a play. I have never been in a play before. Regardless of whether I get the part, it went really well. The play is about loneliness in the LGBTQ community. The judges responded well, and I felt elated afterwards. This is making me think I might want to try acting and/or public speaking again.

It’s funny how you can be shy but still love having an audience.

Working on DBT skills was a little difficult today. I was doing really well yesterday when working at Joey’s company. I did a repetitive task, for several hours, just losing myself in the activity. Today I was more distracted, but that’s OK. I am impressed that I really threw myself into acting, without dissociating.

I do think my people skills are getting better. My friend told me the other day at coffee that I seem much more present. That meant a lot.

Anyway! That’s all for tonight. Peace.

A life worth living, pt 1.

I judge so much that I cannot even enjoy things. I knew this, but it was something that kind of existed in the back of my head. A DBT class was what brought it to the forefront. DBT stands for Dialetical Behavioral Therapy.

“Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment developed by Marsha Linehan. It emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living. DBT skills include skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.”

I took a class on this in high school when I was diagnosed with Borderline. I don’t disagree with that assessment, though I have a lot of feelings about the subject. A better diagnosis is “trauma.” Or, “on the autism spectrum with trauma and a lack of coping and life skills.” Anyway. If you know me, which few people do, you know that I definitely needed a brush-up.

Judging happens the worst when I am unhappy with myself. I realized this today when I was walking. I was listening to music I’d never heard before on Spotify on my phone. I was so wrapped up in judging whether I thought the music was “good” that I realized I wasn’t really hearing it. Worse, I realized that when music is “good” I feel sad, because I am jealous I didn’t create it. The same goes for writing. Where I used to find inspiration, I find reminder that I am not creating up to my own standards.

People ask me if I have been writing, and I say no. This is because I do not have a novel or project that I am working on diligently and passionately. I write every single day, in my journal for starters, and I also start and abandon short pieces on Word several times a week. This is how writing works—how anything works. You stick with it, you keep doing it, even when it isn’t perfect. Even when you don’t feel great about it for a while. Instead of appreciating and celebrating my tenacity, I beat myself up.

The same goes for art and music. I draw almost daily. I play my guitar several times a week. But because I’m not recording anything — again, this isn’t true, I experiment with recordings all the time and even keep them. I’m just not satisfied– or because I’ve never been displayed in a gallery, I discount it.

Writing in a way removes me from my experience. Right now for instance, I am drinking chamomille tea. There is Indian fusion music playing. I am in a dimly lit café, sitting alone on a floral couch. The mug I sip from if floral patterned as well. I like this café, because the aesthetics calm me. I would like to have a house that feels this way eventually. It all sounds quite romantic when I write about it. I want to experience my life more that way. When I’m living, I am largely bored and unhappy.

Anyway. This is one of my main goals of DBT, and that is what I think I will be writing more about in the coming weeks. My journey to “experiencing a life worth living.” It’s funny that I haven’t prioritized that. I’m a little afraid that I will lose my impetuous to create art. But seeing as I am already unhappy with that, I can’t see where there is anything to lose.

A mental health post

It seems like I am always acquiring more mental illness labels. This time, it’s psychosis. Of course, it was drug induced. I was smoking marijuana daily. But I think I was still smoking less than a lot of people do. I think I have a predisposition. I read today of a schizophrenia spectrum. I find that really interesting.

I have exhibited some traits of schizophrenia throughout my life. It got really bad this summer, with a combination of pressure and marijuana over-usage. My official diagnosis was, again, Depression with Psychotic Features. It’s a bit embarrassing to talk about, but a lot of it centered on the release of the movie England is Mine and Morrissey’s new album, Low In High School. I avoided these things for a while, because I think I had a subconscious sense that Morrissey is a trigger for my psychosis. I wonder if other people experience this… It makes sense, because so much of his work is about mental illness. But its always been kinda weird, how I have felt like he was singing to/ for me. Other people describe this. I guess it was more like, he was singing an opera of my life. Like our experiences were linking up.

I fall into a line of thinking where I believe he and I are spiritually related. And this summer, when my life and relationship was in flux, there was the new album. And a movie, which I was quite convinced was informed by my books.

I remember, at it’s worse, I was very high, standing in my room with my partner. I had just played “I Wish You Lonely,” I believe. And I said, trembling, “I think he read Refuse, and I think he liked it, and I think it influenced him. And I think he wants to meet me. And I think I am going to finally be in a band and my books will sell and I am going to be rich.”

This wasn’t what prompted my partner to suggesting I be hospitalized. It was when I announced I was leaving, and I wouldn’t say where. We called my doctors. Everyone agreed I needed to be hospitalized….except me. I thought everyone was overreacting. I was also being pretty abusive and accusing others of being crazy.

All through hospitalization, I still held out hope that Morrissey and his band and people were coming for me. I also believed I was on the government watch list…and something to do with Chelsea Manning…and that they would be helping my family and I flee the U.S.

I still believed I was going to meet Morrissey when I went to see him perform in Philadelphia. My friend had bought my front row tickets, and I was going to try to give him Refuse for the third time. I wrapped it and included a neclace. Unfortunately, Morrissey cancelled.

I still was convinced this had something to do with me.

My anti-psychotics were raised. I started to see how foolish I was being. I realized how horrible and paranoid I had been about people in my life. I also lost a great deal of my creative drive.

What is it about Morrissey’s music that has this weird effect on certain people?

I have now accepted that there was no plan for us to meet up. But the malady lingers on. Not psychosis. Depression. Unemployment. The meds make me sleep way too much. I attend classes that are supposed to help me, and I think they are. “Mindfully living with depression.” “Dialectical Behavioral Therapy” ( a more Buddhist, feminist approach to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Maybe even “Help with Employment” eventually. I am lucky that my partner has supported me through all this.

I miss marijuana on a daily and nightly basis. It’s like grief. It made me happy in a way that I hadn’t experienced since childhood. I hope one day, I can smoke again in a safe, controlled way.

Now, my days are mostly empty. This is the most I’ve written in awhile that I’ve felt pretty good about. I’m still in Ithaca. I have shelter. I have food. I have my cats, and some crappy old instruments, a computer, and notebooks. I have some friends that I am trying to get to know better. It looks like we will be here for awhile.

I enjoy yoga. I’m not drinking or smoking. I’m also going to addiction related programming.

I lost my therapist and got a new one. This was hard, but probably for the best. I had come to see her as more of a very close friend. Still, I grieve the loss.

I’m not really able to get into any project. I’m hoping that changes soon. I’m trying to lessen my negative self-talk about being a burden for my family, etc. It doesn’t fix anything. It will get better in time.

I am having lately some horrible conundrum of gender identity. I begin to feel I want to be feminine and lay off T some, and dress differently. But then it switches. Call it DID, being bigender…I don’t know. It’s saddening.

Anyway. This is a blog entry. I feel good getting it out. It makes me hopeful more will come soon.

CatRoadTrip Will Be Back Soon!

A quick note: November has been National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve put all my typing energy and time into that. I do plan to continue with this blog come December, with at least a weekly post. Don’t give up on me!

We are in Arizona now, staying at Lost Dutchman State Park. Everyone’s doing well, including the cats.

Stay tuned for an official update in December.

 

California at last

Currently camping/staying in: Morgan Hill, Paicines, soon San Francisco…it’s complicated. But we are in California! Yes.

I started writing this entry as a reflection on my life since I’ve been with Joey. We realized early in our relationship that we wanted to move out west. So did his son, Drew. I wanted to give you a sense of what we had to get away from in Syracuse…but I’m realizing that would take another whole book on my part. Suffice to say, Syracuse was slowly killing us for multiple reasons. We had our best friend and family-by-choice, Erica. And while that was huge…we still had to leave. The original plan was to get to California. The idea for the RV came later (though it had been a longtime dream of Joey’s, one that he had almost actualized in his previous marriage).

And so, here we finally are, in California. I suppose I could say “back in California.” I spent a lot of my childhood school breaks in San Diego, because my dad traveled for work. I also lived out here a few years ago, on my own (see my most recent book, Show Trans). But for the most part I’ve been an upstate New Yorker all my life. We travelled from coast to coast. Within a week I swam in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean. It’s pretty mind boggling.

There’s an Instagram feed on the side of my blog now, if you want to see pictures. I’m finding that’s way less hassle then trying to insert them in these text entries.

Since I’m not going to reflect on how we got here– not at this time– I am going to focus on the here and now, and just what that is. Well, first actually, I will give a brief list of what has occurred the past week or so. We traveled to Jerome, AZ one evening, briefly: an artist colony in the hills. We stayed at a Cracker Barrel en route. We spent one night off of Ventura Highway, waking up to an empty beach on a weekday for sunrise. That was amazing. That’s when it all really hit me that I am here and this is life.

There has been a lot of low times. A lot of stress. I still feel depressed, often. This has been hard work. It is not a full-time vacation. And we are not rich, or even really secure yet…

But the cats seem happy. Drew has wi-fi. I’m in California. Joey’s about to have surgery in San Francisco on the 20th, which is both stressful as hell but going to be so good for him in the long run and make his life easier.

And I’m sippin’ coffee and vaping in my camp chair, putting off a little longer my plans to make today productive if possible. It’s 9 am here, and skies are blue and the air is perfect. Yep. This is the life for me.

Geneva, NY (Finger Lakes Pride)

As I write this I am currently staying at a hostel in Philadelphia. I will have much to say about this- we’ve only just arrived. So I figured I better get a move on with my post about our trip to Geneva for Finger Lakes Pride! That was last Saturday.

The Flounge

First, we got there around 10 for a trans/gender-variant open mic at this place called The Flounge. It was a coffee house and gift store. Most the performers, mostly older trans women, shared their personal transition stories. I read a few chapters of my second book. The reception was warm. I enjoyed it.

Me reading at “The Good, the Bad, and the Funny!” open mic

After that we killed some time by the lake. I had a wine slushie and Joey took some photography. Then it was time to set up for the festival.

I was in a tent with several nonprofits. It was actually kinda rough being next to the domestic violence/sexual assault counseling volunteers, because I had to hear people ask them questions all day and multiple triggering subjects were brought up. Anyway. I managed. I was also annoyed by the nonprofit next to me on the other side that was asking questions for prizes, one of which was “if you’re a lesbian who sleeps with other women, do you still need to get a pap smear?” It was cissexist and trans erasure and ugh. I’d explain why, but I’ll give my reader the benefit of the doubt that they can figure it out or look it up. Hint: not all lesbians have cervixes, not all people with cervixes are women.

People were pretty cool and I sold and signed quite a few of my books and some of my art. It was really hot and muggy, so that sucked, but I did OK. Especially after the free wine tasting! I may have made a few rounds. After that, I tried on some costumes made available by the local theater group.

It was cool to see what appeared to be a few young trans boys pick up my books and buy them. Cis people too. But it touches me when young trans people are interested. One of them looked super sad, and he bought a book so I hope the book gives him something to relate to maybe? I dunno. Some of the people I talked to were really super nice and encouraging of the work I’m doing.

Oh and there was this one drunk woman…

Lady: This is great! I mean, it’s all so important. Bruce Jenner’s interview really opened my eyes to this stuff.

Me: Oh. I haven’t seen it. (Note: this was before I heard she was going by Caitlyn)

Lady: Seriously? He- well- she? He-slash-she…He-she…

Me: Whoa, hey there. Not sure that calling them he-she is cool.

Lady: Well he said to still call him he. For now.

Me: Cool. So do. I feel the same way, by the way. Call me he, for now.

Lady: Haha you’re too funny!

Me: No really, it changes sometimes. But he works, for now.

Lady: Oh, haha, OK. Right! Why not? Hahaha! Well um, bye!

Fun times. I was absolutely charming but firm through this whole interaction and kind of in love with myself.

Later as it started to pour and thunderstorm, a young gay man and his bestie stopped to talk to Joey and I about cats for quite some time. They bought some of my cat art and we showed pictures of our cats on our phones. They were awesome.

Then we had to rush out of there before we were all struck by lightning and died.

All in all I had a good time. Highlight of the trip? A little girl of like 6 was perusing through my used queer books and came across Maurice by E.M. Forester. “Mommy, I need this!” “What, why? There are no pictures.” “But I need it!” “No, come on….” “Noooooo! Please!” I whispered to the mom that she could have it for free, because it was just too dang adorable and reminded me of myself. Maybe she is a future fellow trans-fag-English-major-Writer in the making. We can only hope!

Tomorrow morning I start vending at Philly Trans Health, so I hope to see people there! More about this Philly trip coming ASAP, as it happens most likely. Stay tuned. THERE ARE PICTURES OF FERAL CATS SOON TO COME.

Peering Through Bookshelves (Or, Aspie Logic)

Yesterday I went to a local used bookstore in Syracuse to sell some books. It went pretty well actually. I made $9. But while I was waiting, I saw someone who I was pretty sure was my ex-girlfriend from when I was 14. We dated for 3 months and kissed a few times behind dumpsters. Now I’m pretty sure this person must know I’m trans now, because I was also pretty trans then, and word gets around besides. But I wasn’t positive it was her. So, I figured it wouldn’t be polite (or even humanly possible) for me to look right at her face directly. And it certainly wouldn’t be socially acceptable to indicate that I recognized her. So I tried to look at her sideways while hiding behind a bookshelf, but the inherent problem was, if I could see her face, then that meant she could see mine. I didn’t want to appear like a stalker. So, I peered from between the books, as I often did when I recognized people while working at libraries. I tried to make it so only my one eye was visible, but then I was afraid that she would see me doing this and be even more freaked out. And yes, I am pretty sure she saw me. So I quickly left.

I told this nonchalantly to Joey later and he couldn’t stop laughing. Apparently, what neurotypical people would do in this situation is just look at the person’s face and smile, and maybe say, “Hey….So-and-So?” And that isn’t creepy at all. Apparently that’s normal. Apparently neurotypical people would find peeking through bookshelves to be the awkward and uncomfortable thing to do. Go figure. I said, “But that’s what people do in books and movies.” And Joey said, “Yes, because that’s the dramatic thing that people do in fantasies and that makes a better story.” Oh. And then he encouraged me to please write about this, no matter how briefly.

So, if you ever see me peeking at you through bookshelves, or anyone like me, please understand it’s because we are trying NOT to freak you out.