Cat, from Laced, by Sam Mueller

Cat, yelling from the stage.

CAT
Holy hell, there are so many of you!
Hey!
We’ve got no microphone tonight so I’m gonna need you to shut up!

            Cat waits.

(CAT)
Everyone have their glasses?
Raise them to the
Ladies
and gentlemen
and the actually interesting people here

Listen,
Some mornings I wake up
and I feel caught in the middle
feel the she, her, hers, and the he, him, his
waging a war in my gut
telling my they and them and theirs that they must choose
that the middle is just muck

But some mornings I wake up
and it doesn’t feel like the middle at all.
It’s something else entirely
It feels like slipping into warm flannel
and sipping chai while it rains
some days, fiercer
like slipping feet into
unbroken platform heels
clusters of muscles in my feet controlling plantar flexion
feeling the downward pointing feet pulling at muscles all the way up my leg
sometimes it feels like work, but
it takes work to become

On my clearest mornings,
They and them and theirs is a root
It grounds me
as both she and he
and neither she and he
both and neither

I don’t know where that leaves me.
I don’t want to make a mockery of the women who
Slip feet into soles and find it fuel for their woman-ness
Truth be told
I can be jealous of them
It’s simple for them
Uncomplicated
A feeling of being elevated
They find themselves powerful
but
Heels were made to be unisex
Ninth fucking century
Persian men wore heels into battle on horseback
A symbol of wealth
Of manliness
And I realized slipping feet into shoes
Was me preparing for the battle of being
Fighting
Ritual
It’s the last thing I do before stepping on stage
It roots me to my goddamn people
Like if I had the means to trace up my family tree
Could I find a member of the Persian cavalry that shares my name?
That maybe also felt between
and outside?

I tattooed a Persian Cedar tree on my thigh the day before I turned 21.
I held hands with myself
Clutched my own body for the two hours it took for the needle to leave all of the ink beneath my skin.
Dipping in and out faster than hummingbird wings
Watched as my artist poured their heart into my flesh
And I asked how long they’d been tattooing.
They looked young but they said twenty years.
And I said I couldn’t imagine doing anything for twenty years.
And they winked when they said
It roots me.
And we laughed at the irony of tattooing a tree as roots
And I studied the hard edges of their face
The shadows of a red beard creeping in
as they smiled and said
the art of creating,
it makes me feel so feminine, you know?
I just don’t see why I can’t be male and female
And neither male nor female at the same time, you know?
and I said
I know
Because I did
And they said
Namas-fucking-te.
The light in me recognizes the light in you
Like a beacon,
like a lighthouse
The fresh ink in my thigh leaving a dull throbbing reminder
a steady pulse of knowing
It didn’t matter what I looked like to anyone else
I could claim my femme
And I could claim my masc
They could exist together
And I could be complete

I only have one other tattoo
I went back to the same artist five years later
And they said
I was wondering what happened to you.
It’s so good to know you’re still
here
And they put three words beneath my tree
It says
Burn, Gender, Burn

So I kept painting my face
Covered up my brows
I glittered my lips
I extended my lashes so far
Past the clouds
and past the stars
and out of Florida
out of fucking Florida
and back in time
I wanted to butterfly kiss
Marsha
and Sylvia
and Christopher Street
and the femmes who came before me
the ones who spoke Spanish at home with their mothers
and yelled English to the cops on the streets
I want to séance with their ghosts
and thank them for the air I breathed
deeper and deeper
and deeper
and deeper
and deeper
and deeper
and

            Cat gasps.

I need to ask them why it is
Sometimes
So
Damn
Hard
To
Be
The
Person
I
Am.

Context: A flashback to the night prior at around 3 am as Cat (they/them/theirs) is on stage delivering a monologue in full drag.

More information: samanthadmueller (at) gmail (dot) com

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