You Are My Kind, An Essay Included In "Radical Hope", Published 2016
You Are My Kind
I can see you, there, a sliver of your leg on the carpet visible through the bathroom door. You, with your sinewy frame and keen mind, waiting for your father to appear and give you something your mother can’t. You, who will have grown up acclimated to an unorthodox way of naming things – addressing them as they live, rather than as they are classified by science, you think in a different way than most.
I don’t know what you want, but I know I will have probably have caused in you the same urgent desire for approval my father created in me. You probably are waiting for my opinion, my direction, my collaboration on something. Maybe you want to tell me about a crush. Maybe you want to watch a show, play a video game, build something. Maybe you just want to spend time, and I will make a point of it.
Your world will be a free one. The circle of normalcy you will grow up in will include every kind of person, and so many animals. I will close the loop of neglect that can continue on like an unwieldy double helix if it isn’t wrestled into submission. I will set meals in front of you, every day, growing your bones. I will tell you about every book I’ve read, every talk I’ve seen, and show you every landscape I’ve walked through. I will take you on trains through Europe, by camel to the pyramids, and to swim within the glowing plankton in Puerto Rico’s coastal bathtub. We will play soccer in the squares of Havana and you will meet the street boys who taught me compassion, you will eat sea urchin in Italy, and freeze your nuts off in Colorado.
You, as a tiny child, will see the ink on my forearm that tells you, over and over, that no matter what you are, no matter what you become, you are my kind. You will have a home, a meal and a companion with me, at all times, anywhere.
You, your skin covered in nicks and marks from your explorations and adventures, will sit and wait for me, the dog in your lap, a finger scratching his chin. I will see you before you know I can, and I will admire your natural calm, your grace, your effortless presence. I think of the hatred in the world you will be born into, the shrinking resources, the overcrowding, the violence and division, and I get a pang of protectiveness in my heart. I will always take the job of protecting you very seriously.
As I swing the door open and greet you, you look up at me with eyes too knowing. You are witty. Your crack comes swiftly, and it lands.
Your sister is in the next room.
I will love these times, just you and I.
It’s normal, you tell me, to have a sperm-less, dick-less father. To have a father with scars where breasts once were, and a forever sense of displacement, to be the grandchild of mental illness, and the heir to addiction’s ravaging. It’s no more extreme for you than my realities were for me. You will be well versed in my tale. You will have spent your life in handmade costumes, drinking tea that keeps you up for three days, going to the second half of Broadway shows and being finger-fed broccoli doused in soy sauce and garlic by your grandmother. You will have seen her insane house. You will have put your tiny hand in mine countless times, intuitively aware that your parent needed a stabilizing reminder of his independence. You will have reminded me, since you were tiny, that I can scoop you up and we can leave if we need to. We are safe, because I made it safe. That hovel is not our home. We have our own warm, safe place to go back to. No one will shake either of us from our sleep with violence, because I won’t allow it. You will remind me that I protect you, and always have.
You, raised by a tribe, aware of the beauty of multiplicity and difference, will bring something to those around you that others don’t. You will know this, and feel a sense of purpose because of it. You will be a testament to the fact that we can move toward each other and not fortify ourselves in echo chambers of like-minded politics. You will be eager to discuss, to listen, to learn.
I will look at you, sitting there, and, in your eyes, see a burning strength, a hunger for exploration, and I will feel grateful; grateful that we made you, so you can carry the tradition on, of radical acceptance. I will look into your calm face and at the dog completely surrendered to your affections, and I will understand that we will be fine. You are in charge now, thank god.