Earlier today I watched three large military transport helicopters fly over Seattle. I was not yet fully awake, and I stared at them, gawking, grumpy, a little anxious, a lot angry.
And then I noticed her. She stood at the opposite corner from me, a queer, multi-racial transwoman who’s currently sleeping in a tent in a temporary homeless encampment near our home.
We’re standing near the intersection of 23rd and Union, the past site of much of the civil rights organising in Seattle, an intersection now nearly destroyed, its history demolished under the greed of developers and a city eager to quell dissent.
The city shut down 15 homeless shelters and encampments recently, raiding some, demolishing others. You are not allowed to live without money, live within the city yet outside the city. The commons are gone, the old ways lost. But not ‘ancient’ ways, just the old ones, just before Capital, just before Colonialism.
I’m tired, I’m confused. Helicopters full of men training for some new slaughter flying over my home, interrupting my walk. And across the street is this woman I’ve seen for years, seen her at protests, seen her riding buses all night to stay warm, seen her bumming cigarettes, seen her selling herself for a little money.
And I look away from those helicopters and towards her. She’s smoking a joint with one hand, and the other is raised in an underhand fist. And then I see her middle finger upraised in defiance against those flying metal boxes full of hired murderers.
And then I remember:
She’s my religion.
And then a little farther along the street I see a tree that does not belong in the city. It has been cut, shaped, pruned so often its bulbous knots look almost lustful, erotic. She’s in the middle of two construction sites, adorned with ferns and moss like a gaudy Jezebel, proudly whorish, strutting her curves in plain sight. She refuses to apologise for not being slender, not being ordered, rebelling against the paved space ordained for her.
Birds flit between her gnarled branches and shit on the new concrete. She drops leaves everywhere in the autumn, sloughing off her summer garments to litter the world of men. Near her base droops sloppily a knot, the sort more proper people tuck in under belts or hack off lest others be offended by the rudeness of it all.
She knows no shame. She cares nothing for boundaries.
She’s my religion too.