Sweat Vignettes

June 2021

For June I pivoted away from book reports into life vignettes. From my instagram post announcing it: “It's got One World, parasociality, bathing, tarot, and yeah, I spend about half of it going off abt the chaos in the bakery... I sent it out last night and immediately afterward moved to open all the windows because it was finally cool enough, and I see in the distance a little sparkle of lightning! Such a cathartic night, nonstop rolling thunder and lightning, wind blasting rain through the open windows! And finally a cool sleep 😪" Here's the link to the original on patreon.

Hi all,

This month I’m deliberately taking a break from book reports and focusing on depicting moments from the month as vividly as I can. I don’t think all of them are successful, and I’m not very confident that as a whole this is at all on par with the previous months. But, I’m happy to have done it, and I think it’s been a very useful experiment. I’ve learned that the pieces are generally better when I write them closer to their occurrence, and that things seem to only end up pretty sounding when I’m really compelled by the subject. Surprise! Also, I keep making these longer every month, this one is 11 pages in Word... if you read it all, bless you, I'd love to buy you a coffee. Thanks as always for your support and attention, and I’d like to reiterate that you don’t have to give me money to get these! I’m actually toying with the idea of distributing these via a different medium (probably more linked to my website), but I probably won’t gather the energy for that shift for a while yet. Patreon feels like kind of an unstable archive, and isn’t as direct as I would like. We’ll see! Anyway, on to the thing itself.

- Gazebo picnic

Arranged for the very first day of the month was a picnic meeting with Laura. She had just returned from a trip to Wisconsin, scouting out the house she and Taylor and Rachel will be moving into in July. After some uncertainty brought on by heat exhaustion earlier in the day, we decided to convene at the gazebo on the southwest side of the park down the hill from our apartment buildings. It was a day just warm enough to be comfortable; I was precisely at the point where I was okay to not wear socks with my sandals, but by the end of our dinner I wished I’d worn some.

We brought some polenta for ourselves, a classic comfort food. Some garlic bouillon, roasted brussels sprouts, nutritional yeast. Laura had a salad. We brought a sliced apple to share, and she exchanged some chocolate pudding. We sat in a messy triangle, Laura and Olivia on either side of a picnic table and me on the one adjacent, leaning against it for back support. The sunlight grew more sideways and as it started to flirt with the horizon the crickets in the grass all around us stirred into noisemaking.

We hadn’t had an extended amount of time with Laura since last summer. It must’ve been nearer to fall, since I remember it being warm and sunny enough to take shelter sitting under the tree across our parking lot. So for this coming together we spent the whole time catching up. Always so much to say with Laura! Our three-way friendship was forged in a nonviolent communication group, so our conversations are always at least a little influenced by that history. I didn’t mention it in the last newsletter because I was so damn immersed in Natural History, but last month Olivia finished her first year of her grad program!! Incredible incredible, such an achievement. As is always the case with semesters ending, there were the few weeks of intensely processing all the emotions that had been put aside for school. A lot to go over. On top of that, Laura is well into a pregnancy, which is the first time Olivia or I have experienced a friend going through such a thing, and wow, it's really cool! The child will be named Cleo, and they'll likely be a virgo :^) It warms my heart! Laura is also on the brink of moving, and some of the pleasure of that for us is that they'll be only a few hours away from Minneapolis, so we can lovingly populate a future imaginary that finds us physically close together!

Near the end of the convo, I talk a little bit about the problems I’ve been having with parasociality. Maybe that’s not exactly the word, since when I look it up now to verify it, I see that the widespread example is the relationship a dedicated fan imagines between themself and a celebrity. What I mean is more the hyper-attention I pay to building out social webs that I’m not really a part of. My clearest example is from high school, with a group of friends who did Let’s Plays (a genre of youtube videos where people talk while they play video games.) I knew all their names, how they felt about each other, which ones were geographically near to each other, which one had Chron’s disease. I had never talked to any of them. MegaGWolf was doing a Minecraft stream and said whoever messaged him with the best joke could join him on microphone. I'm not sure how I remember this so specifically, but I said "What everyone else said, plus cupcakes." Embarrassing! Not Funny! But he picked me! I had to scramble to find a microphone and then I was so anxious I couldn’t do more than sputter out a few words over an awkward fifteen minutes.

This is closer to the celebrity example, but I’ve carried the habit forward into the present. It was helpful at the start of COVID, checking through instagram stories who had been at who’s party, who there wasn’t wearing a mask. But it’s not really useful anymore. It doesn't serve me to reconstruct the players present at a social event that I had no intention of attending, or to map out their relationships with who was and wasn’t there.

- Grime wash

Afterwards, I felt a ferocious need for a shower, and feeling seen and heard and alive I leapt at my desire. I had a deep need to clean myself. I took the washcloth and the soap and went over my whole surface, and the idea occurred to me that I was washing all the grime off my body that had accrued during the pandemic. This meeting with Laura was a gleaming light, piercing through the muck that encased me, like something out of a Ghibli film. I did some stretches: folding forward, leaning back and pressing against the wall. I had the clear idea that I needed to message Never about getting a tattoo in Olympia, and in order to do that I needed to message Devi to get permission to use the labrys sigil from the Reddishness cover. I realized I needed a trans support group again, and vowed to rekindle RATS. It was suddenly very obvious that I was following far too many people on instagram. “Shield” from Reddishness started playing in my head. I sang the words aloud, my mouth remembering more than my brain, tumbling the words out until I hit the end of the song and started sobbing. “you’ve been a shield over me, i just want the strength to do the same…”

My claims didn’t really come to pass. I did message Devi and Never, but neither of them have gotten back to me. Similarly, I messaged Abigail to talk about RATS, and she never responded either. I think that’s all fine though. I wish they had worked out, but making these bold (for me) moves did something to break me out of my t4t social ineptitude. It’s another piece of that parasociality, doing too much research on people before I actually get to know them on my own, and then it’s just weird. I’m all in my head and overdetermined, and that leaves so little space for the sincere magic to blossom of sharing space. But I feel free of it now! If Abigail isn’t going to respond to me, that’s not something I have control over! A pleasant alternative offered itself up to me by way of Josie suggesting a little hang out over coffee. She picked me up from work and we picked up some beverages from the co-op then drove out to her newly purchased double-wide home. We cracked our cold ones and sat out in the yard on some mesh metal chairs, squished up against the slim shade of the house by the sun until it shifted enough behind the sparse little pines that divided the properties to allow us another little respite. Taylor stopped by to pick up a spare AC, and we introduced ourselves for the first time in the flesh, saying something about following each other online. I didn’t need to say I’d poked around her website, read her little piece on Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and the one on apocalypse too, blah blah blah. There was more worth thinking about in the moment of meeting, and the rest was distraction.

- Vaccination sleepover

Olivia got her second dose on a Thursday, and bursting with anxiety we emptied the next few days of any expectations. The nurse at the Safeway took us into the back room past the waiting room that protruded out into the store with its frosted windows, did her pre-talk, poked Olivia, then said if there were symptoms they’d probably show up in twelve to twenty-four hours. We took note of the time. Olivia quivered in the cooldown after the shot, both of us fiddling on our phones. I took a commemorative selfie of us. We walked home from the Safeway and Olivia was in kind of a stupor, the fact of it hardly sunk in yet. An hour passed at home sitting on the couch as usual, and nothing happened. We sipped some coconut water. Another hour, another hour, another hour, nothing happened. Dusk eked its way in and brought with it a crisp awareness of the twelve-hour mark. Still nothing! The plan was to sleep downstairs, a space free of any previously accrued anxieties. We brought down the blanket and the pillows, nesting up. Our carefully cultivated sleepover energy demanded a movie marathon, so we got right into it. First on our impulse docket was Eat, Pray, Love. We enjoyed the Eat section of the film for the floppy pizza and the charismatic background characters, but the Pray and Love sections revealed themselves as disappointingly racist. By the end we could feel sleep coming on, so I scrolled Netflix for something that would make good background noise. I arrived at the biographical documentary about David Attenborough, which I figured would be tame enough. Olivia settled into a position to sleep in and I decided to stay up and alert in case some vaccine reaction set in overnight and needed care. I booted up Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 on the switch and spent the whole length of the film blasting through a few of the scenarios while Olivia dozed. The doc got a little grim, David warning us in no uncertain terms that within the next few years we’d be seeing the earth scorched and ravaged by the changing climate. Yeah yeah David, I know. I fell asleep myself a little after it ended.

The night passed Olivia through the 24-hour mark, and then we got through 36, and 48, and it seemed like she was simply out of the woods. We kept the movie marathon going over the next few days: The Time Traveller’s Wife (creepy), the Bo Burnham special (kind of frought but visually and aurally dazzling), 13 Going On 30 (Really fun! More magic dust in movies please), and Freaky Friday (wow, even better than I remembered!!) I’m not sure how to end this vignette, it’s just weird. Both of us missed out on the one way we expected to visibilize the ephemerality of COVID. She’s gotten through the two week point, and periodically she says the clear thought that enters her head, “I’m fully vaccinated.” It's a kind of marveling reminder.

- Reading outside One World

The Sunday immediately after Olivia’s vaccine, Bitterroot Tattoo had a flash event, and we construed it as a vaccination celebration. I didn’t feel moved by anything available, but Olivia had a few that peaked her interest. Olivia hadn’t been tattooed in probably two years, so just like mine a few months ago, it was a big deal. While Olivia was being zapped, I walked from the shop down through town to One World, the iconic Moscow coffee shop. We’ve flirted with sitting outside and sipping our drinks, and so on this day, I ordered a 16oz decaf iced oat milk mocha and did a loop looking for somewhere to sit, outside still of course. I’m still not quite ready for indoor space sharing with people for more than a few minutes.

One World is on the corner of Main and Sixth Street. Just before the pandemic, the other end of the short stretch of building on Sixth had been vacated by D. Willy’s, a pub food situation that I never entered because of what I assumed were affiliations with the evil part of town. It was replaced by Mock Orange, an attempt at starting a street food restaurant by a short-lived co-op kitchen manager who yelled at one of the sweetest young men the Co-op has and continually disregarded the expertise of the people who worked under him. A few cooks followed him when he left, but unfortunately for them the place shuttered almost immediately after the pandemic moved in. Between that space and One World was a single door that opened to a little room that was for a brief moment an art gallery, then sat dormant for a few years. There were murmurs of One World expanding their kitchen into the space, and some time after Mock Orange closed, the owner of One World became the owner of the whole strip. Gradually you could see construction going on behind the sun-bleached newspaper that covered the windows. I saw someone’s instagram post showing off a mural they did in a hallway. And then all of a sudden the hallway that used to lead to storage went straight on through past the little former gallery, all the way to another counter with snacks and alcohol on tap. From a distance outside we saw strange seating built up along the length of the sidewalk, and while I waited for my mocha I considered these, but decided they were too enclosed, lacking an easy escape from passersby. I settled on one of the metal meshed chairs-and-table outside the new shopfront and carefully framed a view of the pizza place on the opposite corner. I looped back in to get my drink and then spent some time settling in. I scooted my chair, then sat down, then stood up and tried another, then another, and finally decided my exact position. I carefully arranged the other chair for my feet, and finally I was at rest. I tugged T. Fleischmann’s Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through out of my fanny pack, and cozied in.

A few days later, I sat in the new end of One World while Olivia used the bathroom and I gazed in for a moment on the reality around me. There was a girl behind the counter, smiling at a straight couple as they asked about the Kolsch. The short butch I used to see around town stood next to the table next to me, looking around, wandering. A young soft boy sat outside the window surrounded by what I could only assume was their family, all much older. None of these people with masks. I could see how I might have inhabited this space, with my laptop and my mug and my jacket over the back of the chair, looking up periodically, drinking in the ambient bustle. But I knew I wouldn’t, couldn’t, that I would not arrive at a comfort to fully enter this lived fantasy almost everyone I know seems happy to leap into.

- Levels

Funny briefly: I had to get my blood work done after a visit to a new doctor in pursuit of a dosage increase. If you don’t know, the estradiol level most doctors aim at for trans women is between 200 & 700 pgml. I got my results back a week or so later to discover my blood was bubbling with 2783 pgml of estrogen, and it must’ve been hovering around that number for at least the whole pandemic. I’m fairly sure I’m fine and this isn’t anything to worry about, but I’ve cut my dosage down to a fifth of what it was and have been feeling… better? I'm not sure how to convey how this is so funny to me, but trust me, it's really funny.

- Bakery chaos / solstice tarot pull

The next Monday at the bakery, my coworkers informed me that the day before they’d come in to find a quarter of the floor submerged in an inch of water. This set off a really wild chain of events. On a chore run with Laura about two weeks later I spent a rushed 15 minutes or so rattling off all the details that had unfolded. I’m getting tired of explaining it to people because it's so fucking complicated, but I think all the details matter. When I started writing this, I was hoping to be brief, but it seems I had a lot more to get out than I thought. I had been thinking about writing some kind of “post-mortem for the bakery” once I’d properly left, maybe this is already me writing it. As an entry point into what has become five pages long, I offer a tarot pull.

I was texting Scout about how I was bummed I hadn’t done anything for the solstice and he was like what if we each did a tarot pull and reported back to each other?, which I loved. I did a quick little something the next morning and got this:

On the left that’s the 9 of wands: energy stored up for the right moment. On top is the 10 of cups skewed all funky: “giving thanks for a good harvest.” On the bottom is the 5 of swords, a very pretty card in the Motherpeace deck that I never seem to draw that turns out to be about tension and conflict and backstabbing and abuse. And then to the right, the Star: rain gentling a pond, tranquility descending on one who opens herself to it.

I struggle to resist the urge to temporalize a horizontal plane in a tarot reading, so what the hell, let’s start with the 9 of wands. Out of context it almost feels like what happened these last two weeks isn’t a big deal, and part of that is because bound up in it is what’s been happening since before the pandemic. We moved into a new bakery space off-site from the main store in January, so that was a big financial hit as we tried to figure out all the logistics to make that work. Then March happened and I stopped working for a few months until my PTO ran out. People stopped impulse buying baked goods, stopped going to the grocery store more than once every one or two weeks for anything other than essentials. So, the bakery started to not turn any profits. Fast forward to this spring and things aren’t going so well. The Co-op has halted their raise plan and are shifting to basing raises on a department’s profits instead of on time and performance. The normal loss of employees is exacerbated by the heightened desire to leave Moscow or do something better with their lives. Pre-pandemic this was normal, I’d lose coworkers and they’d be replaced, but now upper management won’t let us hire any more people. The only other person who’d been working in the bakery as long as I had is fired for “man-hate”. Everyone is grossly overworked and exhausted, with no hope for a raise in sight, and coworkers rapidly leaving. Can you see how much pressure and energy is building here?

So, I start talking to my fellow bakers about how this situation is kinda fucked up huh? Sure seems like our material suffering in the workplace is being directly caused by upper management huh? Folks are agreeing with me, and I’m starting to fantasize about collective action and demands and all that, but it just doesn’t seem like the right time. So then the bakery floods, and the squishy spots in the floor become much squishier. The maintenance guy goes to the basement, then calls and asks me to step on one of the spots. He sounds scared. He comes back upstairs and explains with his hands that the floorboards are bowing, looking on the brink of failure, potential holes to fall through. Upper management is aggressively dismissive of the chances of mold growing after 8 hours of standing water under improperly sealed linoleum. We ask, “So this is an unsafe space to work in?” and they say, “Yes and no…” We decide to email the board of directors (which is a fire-able offense as an employee.)

The gal who sends the email is planning to quit anyway, so she takes the fall. Surprisingly, she isn’t fired, just called down to the main store and interrogated for a few hours. The next day all the bakers have a meeting with the general manager, where we rattle off health concerns for an hour then spend another two hashing out a plan to cut products and streamline production so we can keep our foot hold and start making profit margins again. I do a huge amount of work keeping everyone organized and focused. I negotiate with the general manager so we aren’t forced to meet the 35 hours-a-week full time requirement if we decide to spend more time at home while the bakery is closed instead of scrapping for hours at the main store, deep-cleaning the bakery, or burning through our PTO. This is my 9 of wands. I am using the energy I’ve been stockpiling. I think we all leave exhausted, but optimistic for having come together with a plan moving forward. We will not do production until the floor is fixed.

So I deep clean for a few days. It’s nice, honestly. I re-condition the two wooden tables that haven’t been cared for since we moved to this space, a day for each of them. The first part of the process is scrubbing them down with vinegar. It's also the longest part of the process because so much has built up on the wood. I can feel through the brush the sticky grime layer at the back of the table where it's rarely sanitized thoroughly. I scrub over the whole thing and let the vinegar sit for an hour or two, then start going over it again, harder this time. I have to pause and spray the brush out in the dish pit after every quadrant because it’s getting so full of sticky little gray blobs that they roll around the table and stop the scrub from working, like a washcloth in a hot shower against a lovers back filling up with so-many little sloughed off layers of dead skin.

After I feel I’ve scoured off as much as I can, the next step is using a plastic scraper to corral the now pale gray-brown vinegar off a chosen edge and into a well-worn shallow square vessel. I take the vessel and the scraper and the brush to the dish pit to clean them and notice how worn down the brush is. I realize I remember when we got it, but I can’t quite remember the old one. Must’ve been a little under four years ago. I’m the only one in the bakery with memories this long.

Next I dry the table with a rag, then sanitize it, then dry it again. The tables are raw, less intense than a stripped cast iron might be, but it’s the same idea. The part that comes next is the best, the biggest reason I wanted to do this task that clearly no one else has thought to do for a year and a half. I moisturize the tables with oil, feeling where the dry wood grips against my hands, drinks at them, thirsty for more. My body knows the motion, I don’t have to think about it at all. I catch the pools of translucent mineral oil and beeswax with my pinkie and the padded edge of my palm, pressing firmly into the woodgrains. This gradually alternates back and forth with a full-handed rub, all gliding in circles and loose looping ellipses over the whole expanse of the table.

I finish the shift wandering around with my luxurious dripping hands, finding every tool with a wooden handle and massaging it full of care, willing it to last a little longer. One of the knives has a beautiful cherry handle. Heck, I sharpen all the knives too. God I love maintenance labor.

The next day I spent seven hours scrubbing the biggest metal rack we have. We took down the shortening, the dates, the egg replacer, the raspberry jam, the strawberry jam. I asked the gal I’m tag-teaming with to handle the peanut butter for me. The coconut milk, the rice milk, the soy milk that always confuses me with its butternut squash soup recipe. The teff flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, the expired almond flour. The whole shelf and a half of dusty pumpkin puree that got ordered as a hoarding measure after the pumpkin crop was obliterated by wildfires last year. We talked the whole 7 hours and that special kind of work-friendship was solidified. Another of the cool bakery gals came in later, more gossip and good chatter. It was lovely, except for the strange haunting moment when the manager came over and asked what we thought about changing over completely to a graveyard shift. I thought about it for a moment before we all strongly opposed it. She thanked us for the feedback and headed back into the office. She printed off some new parfait pudding recipes for us to test the next day.

That evening she sent us all a text saying she and the general manager decided we’d be starting production again the next morning. The floor still hadn’t been dealt with at all, and so we all got loud in the chat, basically refusing to produce until conditions improved. We offered no other options, so production didn’t start the next day, but upper management dropped the ultimatum that if that was the case we couldn’t clean either. I spent two days at the main store, entirely filled by sweeping the outdoor sidewalks and the alley behind the Co-op. It was a surprisingly social experience. The maintenance guy passed me in the parking lot and mentioned that the floor was getting torn up. I saw quite a few people taking their breaks, and I cracked jokes and explained the bakery situation. I worked through a few podcasts. Part way through the trans anarchist prepper episode on radio, I ran into one of the old kitchen managers (the instigator of the most explosive walkout I’ve seen at the Co-op) coincidentally on his last day in Moscow. He’s doing river rafting now. Not too much to say, but neat, destined maybe. Lacking any official communication on the floor situation, I went looking for the general manager to apply some pressure. She wasn’t working, so I found the store manager instead. It was about half an hour of being dismissed and aggressively talked down to. I went home with dirt in my nose and that I kept finding more of over the next few days.

So then that night we get a text that the bakery is switching over completely to bread being from 9pm to 5am and pastry being from 1am to 9am. The next day. We’ll have a meeting in the morning to field any “questions” we might have. The group chat blew up, all of us feeling defeated and beaten down, not to mention incredulous, since it seemed like only three bakers supported the change. After some texting I recovered to an optimistic place, but one of the group chat members revealed himself as a bootlicker. Disappointing.

We have our meeting, and our manager is acting really weird, not her usually accommodating and understanding self. Most of us are pretty upset, me most of all. One of the people I’d deliberately left out of the chat confirms my distrust by discrediting our concerns about overnight work. (Did you know that overnight work is a second class carcinogen?) We come up with questions we need answers from upper management on, and I ask for a speaker phone conversation so we can hear what’s said, but our manager retreats to the office and emerges doubled down. She drops the bomb that if we don’t start producing in three days the bakery will shut down, that if we don’t show up to work she has to assume we’re quitting. Our call for a pay differential is denied completely. The one concession is that she asks how long the people opposed would need to adjust. I say two weeks, and she agrees. So nothing is better, but the pastry shift doesn’t have to start until 4am for a little while.

That evening I see an instagram post about the recent strawberry full moon in Capricorn. It says things about generosity, care through provisions, and honoring the wisdom of tradition. It says “Let’s trust that there are enough resources for each of us.” I totally lose it, the post unleashes a howling sob that goes on for a half an hour. A text in the group chat helps me understand the 5 of wands card: “It’s like being in a toxic relationship: you always have hope it will get better, you get little glimpses from time to time that keep you invested, and you cyclically get screwed over.” The clear realization is that the co-op has been abusing me for years in the same way a nasty ex might. And the grief is the same. I remember the moments that I was proud to work there and how much fun I used to have, but it’s painful to reconcile that with how painful and insulting it’s been lately. I have been abused, stabbed in the back, exploited, lied to, shamed, bullied, threatened, and sexually harassed. This is the realization of the twisted 10 of cups too: These are the fruits of a corporation that pretends to care about cooperation, that values profit and expansion over the wellbeing of workers. Disgusting. Sad.

I text Scout, and he helps clarify that the Star card is a “hope that sometime soon there will be a clear pool to dip into after the dust settles. … the star is the golden light at the end of the neofascist coop work tunnel.”

I come into work the next morning to discover our manager has left on a four day weekend. We are completely on our own. It’s very weird. All of pastry production has been cut except cookies, so me and the other person there just, uh, make some cookies, close up the bakery, and leave. I’ve got a weekend, and on Monday there are three of us. One of them had to do their whole shift Saturday alone. She had to print something in the office and found notes strewn all over the desk. She did a little compulsive tidying and found a page that seemed to be notes from a meeting between the general manager and our manager. “Watch out for discussions + non discussions.”, “Statement not questions!”, “My decisions.”, “Close communication!” It reads as forceful guidance on how to suppress how organized and purposeful we’ve been, acting as a group and going straight to upper management with our problems. It explains her weird behavior.

The same coworker points out to me that the floor doesn’t seem to have been fixed. If you step where the soggy spots were, you can still feel where the drains are that they covered with linoleum when they installed the dish pit back when we moved in. They feel soggy again. Looking closer, it seems like they just replaced a rectangle of the linoleum and didn’t do anything else. I remember that the office holds a key to the basement, and I decide to see what “fixing the floorboards” looks like exactly. It turns out, it’s three pieces of plywood screwed into the different parts of the floor that were collapsing. Two of them have little lengths of 2x4 wedged between the plywood and a support beam. The third is just screwed on. I can’t believe how it just seems to get worse every day.

At home, I take a bath. Impulsively. It’s not until I’m texting Scout about it from the tub that I realize I’m creating the circumstances of the Star card. Tranquility. Rain gentling a pool. I sweat it out. I eat a watermelon popsicle. I scrub every morsel of my body with a washcloth. I’m too hot, so I drain the tub. I bend forward, my hands cradled on my feet and my face level with the water. I chase the water slow down into the tub, as close as I can be, deep breath. Warm breath against warm water slowly billowing up onto my face. Emptying. My forehead rests on my hands for a little while. The water starts to get away from me, so I gentle my hands forward. Soon enough my head hits my feet. I’m hoping to hear the scolch moment when the draining water spiral opens enough to yell, but it doesn’t come. The drain is too clogged with hair. I wait for a moment, then slowly lift, and the tub is empty after all. Reclining, I relax completely in the other direction. Release. With every breath I can feel my guts shifting back into place.


- One World New World again again

We are exiting June hotter than ever before. As I write the start of this section, I’m sitting inside One World with my little keyboard on top of my laptop just like I used to in the before-times. Olivia has to go pick up an altered pair of pants, and says the sign outside Cactus Computers says it’s 103º. We’re on the second floor, the balcony, looking down on people. They all look familiar, but I'm sure I don’t know any of them. It’s cool in here. I notice that all the exposed legs I can see are shaven. How strange. Impractical in sun so fierce as this. One woman has a baby, breastfeeds it for a little while. All that radical transformation of body and still shaving your legs? It doesn’t make sense to me.

We were inside the day before yesterday too, sitting with Laura, periodically pulling down our masks to sip our drinks. It feels like a farce. I’m lowkey dissociated the whole time. The seating is all spaced out, as if 3 hours of spit-out particles unimpeded through space would kindly plunge to the floor at the six foot mark. And right, as if the little creased HEPA filter inside my mask isn’t going to be soaked through by then. But what other choice do I have? Olivia and I talk more about it at the end of the day, in our dark shuttered sweltering apartment with the fans doing their best to spin the air around enough to make us a little less miserable. She says how startled and unsettled she is by the different ways we’ve responded post-vaccine. I’ve been tight and wound-up, wretched and uncomfortable with the total abandon that everyone seems to be feeling, but Olivia says how when she pulled down her mask to drink, she could’ve just left it off, like she wouldn’t be able to feel the difference. “Apathetic” was a word that came up a few times.

But really working through the conversation, we arrive at something that makes a little more sense. This summer has that same feeling as the last one of being in the eye of a great storm. Cases are down significantly in Moscow. The weather is hot, a lot of people are vaccinated, and so why not… have a little fun? It feels irresponsible to say, but I start to come around. Especially knowing we’ll be leaving Moscow for good in a few months. It’d be nice to do a few of the things that were such definitive Moscow experiences before we depart. And still with restraint, masks on indoors and no mouth spitting, you know?

At the end of ordering our drinks the barista compliments my tattoo, asks if it’s, uhh.. hmb…-? She doesn’t seem to know Scout’s name and can’t quite remember his instragram handle either. I nod my head anyway, smiling, assuming she can see it in my eyes. Once we’re seated I text Scout, hehe haha blushing emoji fame king glowing lmao. He’s very tickled, and the text conversation drifts on for him to say something about Brokeback. How weird for One World to have been a pulsing gay party haven for these three special nights. Funny that no one down there sipping their drinks has any idea what kind of queer sensuality went on right where they're sitting. He talks about writing something about the revelry pre-plague, and I don’t know, that’s nice, but it’s just not where my head’s at.

A trans person I’ve never seen before comes in, trans sign on the t-shirt, trans flag on the mask. When they sit down they lay a dirk out on the table. So powerful…

The wood of the stage seems fresher, refinished, gleaming cherry red. Noname comes on the stereo. The annoying bearded guy who always encroaches on people’s space who moved here like two years ago is still here and approaches the barista who recognized Scout’s tattoo. I’m guessing she’s clocked off, she’s been sitting for a while. A few songs later, he takes a drink of his tea, stares into the middle distance, and walks away.

I honestly get a bit too cold inside the One World and decide to take a lap outside. I sit outside in the new booth benches. The heat feels so good washing over me, flushing into my cheeks. I think “good riddance! I want nothing incapable of change!” My phone says 107º, and I decide to walk just far enough to see what Cactus Computers says. 104º. Who knows exactly, it’s hot. A man crosses the street toward me, clutching a tote bag in one hand, his face tomato sunburnt. The little birds all hop with their beaks hanging open. Do birds overheat? Is that a stupid question? What living thing can’t overheat? A bird isn’t a machine. But what machine can’t overheat too? I head back inside and the AC feels almost as good as the swelter.

Our wedding anniversary is on the 30th. In the morning we’re still too hot. The temperature only got down to like 86º overnight, so the heat just built. We decide to head to One World again, and Laura graciously gives us a ride. We’re more comfortable than we were yesterday, going in with adjusted expectations and a salty snack in the tote bag. I get too cold, having dressed for the forecast, so I’m finishing this sitting outside again on the booth benches. A trio of old people stick their head in the restaurant across the street before they head in. There’s a crow cawing somewhere to my left, outside my vision.

Next month feels unimaginable. I realized scooping cookies this week that it feels like I'm living out an unexpected sequel. The kind where the story picks up a few years later, with events unfolding that changed the characters in ways you weren't expecting at all. I thought I had a solid sense of what my work trajectory would be, but that’s been significantly upset now. And I don't just mean with work, I feel like such a radically different person than I was a year ago.

Tonight after I post this, I change my planner from the booklet with the first six months to the booklet for the rest of the year. July also feels like the last whole month we have in Moscow. August we’ll be in Olympia for a week, and September we leave on the 14th. I didn’t fit it in above, but we got our plane tickets to Berlin last week too, which has made the whole thing a lot more real. We’ll arrive on the 15th, my 26th birthday, isn’t that funny?

Ok, I’m spent and sweaty, I think it’s time for me to head back inside. I hope you all made it through this month alright. I hope you’re orienting towards preparedness. I hope you survive and maybe even thrive until this time next month.