Thanksgiving, 2008: Aelaris, Sparrow, and Xhaxhollari.
We’ve always hated Thanksgiving.
As an adult, we fail to see why anyone would actually enjoy this godforsaken, genocide-promoting holiday. After all, most of our circle is blessedly ‘woke’ knows there’s generally nothing to celebrate. But at 15, we were only at the tip of the ‘information for the sake of rebellion’ iceberg. We’d only recently found out that Jesus wasn’t born in December and had an inflammatory theory about Charles Manson and Rasputin being his reincarnations, but otherwise, we were still pretty clueless.
Thanksgiving had never been our favorite.
The only thing we did like about it was that “Alice’s Restaurant” song that would come on exactly at noon on the radio, and Dad would play it dutifully in the car. We’d laugh at when the narrator and the therapist both started jumping up and down on the table, yelling, ‘KILL, KILL,’ but then, we’d pull up to Aunt Carolyn’s or Grandma Nancy’s and the laughter would quickly dissipate.
Dad’s side of the family is primarily English, Scandinavian, and German in descent, which explains so much about the frigid temperament. Every year, there was a jab about how Mom didn’t graduate college, or how she’d been married more than once. Something snide, something we didn’t catch until we were nearly adults. Every year, there would be someone who was no longer allowed to be mentioned. Every year, we were scolded afterwards for not ‘taking the hint’ and stopping our info-dumping.
Every year, it would get worse, because we weren’t good in school.
See, as a teenager, we were an undiagnosed ball of autism, trauma, and bully-bait that they tried and failed to fix with Ritalin at the age of eight. All it did was give us stomach aches and make every day a colorless blur. Catching onto this, we began refusing to take them by the age of nine. We remember Dad blocking the front door one morning, refusing to let us leave to the bus stop until we’d swallowed those blue and white little pills. Our solution: running out the backdoor, jumping the fence, and running to the bus stop.
Dad refused to look at us when we returned home that day.
Well, at 14, we were officially held back a grade. We were to spend our second year as a Freshman and skip straight to Junior once our credits had stacked up enough. We never technically spent a second as a Sophomore.
The Thanksgiving of our second Freshman year is when Nancy honed in on that. “Do you realize,” she began imperiously in front of the entire family gathering, “that you’re the only one in our family to ever fail a grade?”
“Well, that’s one way to go down in history,” Nebula quipped. Xhaxhollari’s pragmatism with Sparrow’s arrogance– oh, we were scolded for that, I assure you.
Nancy wasn’t letting up. And here’s the humiliating thing; each of these jabs was in front of everyone. Dad witnessed this, and didn’t intervene. “[Deadname], can you answer a question for me? How many friends do you have at school?”
We blinked. “Uh… About three, I think.”
“And how many enemies do you have?” Nancy’s voice was almost singsong.
“A few dozen.” Oh, yeah, gum in our hair? Spit-balled? Water bottles to the face? Less-than-creative nicknames? Like we said, bully-bait.
“And why do you think that is?” Nancy said.
A wave of self-hatred crashed over us. A dozen answers flooded our brain. Because I don’t seem to speak the language everyone else does. Because I’m constantly tripping over boundaries that everyone else can see that I can’t. Because when I try to speak, I stutter, and even when I don’t, I still don’t speak in a language everyone else understands. Because I’m not clever enough to justify my plainness and not cool enough to justify my grades. Because I walk into traps, thinking they were friendships, because I’m too fucking stupid to–
“Hey, Nebula, I wanted you to know that I’m reading your book!” It was Uncle Bill that saved us from actually answering. We found out later that he’d been a bisexual and a recovering alcoholic– who grew up in the stiff, bitter dregs of this family. He was referencing our adolescent novel, that was really just a more queer version of X-Men based in Greek Mythology. “It’s really good! Do you think there will be a sequel?”
The mood eventually lightened throughout the course of the gathering. Everyone had started asking about our younger brother’s baseball career. Even though he was only ten years old, the family seemed comforted that they were finally betting on the right horse. We were showing our younger cousin our latest creative work– A Naruto AMV, because this was 2008.
“What is that on your computer?” Nancy inquired in her vaguely scandalized voice.
We answered honestly, because Nebula was nothing if not naive. “Oh, I made a music video with an anime I like and a Green Day song. Look, it even matches the rhythm!”
Nancy’s response was only a derisive snort. “Well, of all things you could have done right, I’m glad you chose that.”
Uncle Bill actually cut in to ask about our boyfriend. That was a pleasant subject, back then. See, we dated someone for quite a while in our teens. He went by War, lived over in Dublin, thirty minutes away. He, in later years, would hear how we had no interest in going to college and say, and I quote, “I don’t know if I want to date anyone who doesn’t have a future.”
Then we broke up with him. Ending the three year relationship in 2010. Because, for some unknown reason, that comment hit a sore spot. Imagine that.
All three of us– Xhaxhollari, Sparrow, and Aelaris, descendants of Nebula, very keenly remember the ride home from that sadistic Thanksgiving interrogation. We were in the backseat, since our younger brother had long-claimed shotgun. We were curled in the backseat, the orange highway lights occasionally highlighting our softly bitterly sobbing form. Gods, we hated ourselves. We did barely enough to keep those thoughts away and now they were crashing down at us at full force. It was choking us, cutting us up from the inside out. We knew damn-well Dad knew we were crying. Did he say anything? No.
In fact, we’re all pretty sure he turned the radio up.
Mom found out about Nancy’s comments sometime after the fact. “That’s interesting. You realize that your Dad flunked out of OU, right?” We expressed surprise. Not only did Dad tend to not divulge any personal information, but he’d let you think he’d never failed at anything. Mostly because his egotistical ass wouldn’t let you see him do anything unless he’d mastered it first. Except, uh, parenting. “Nancy was ashamed of him. Barely even speaking to him. And it wasn’t like your dad wasn’t smart. He’s like you, of course he’s smart. But in college, he just spent too much time partying. His younger sister had the easier time and she became the favorite for a while.”
Usually, that’s the nicer, more whimsical word for over-drinking.
We’d hear from his college friends, how they’d joke about how he face-planted at a bar and didn’t get up for a while, or had a few too many and even lost some of his clothes before making it back to the dorms. The thing is, Dad’s father, a grandfather we never knew, died when Dad was only about 15. “We pretty much raised ourselves after that,” he’d later go on to comment.
We never heard much about our grandfather– apparently Dad couldn’t turn that into a joke, and therefore it just wasn’t discussed. And Nancy, with as much of a frigid, grade-obsessed harpy she could be– someone who was so unfamiliar with tenderness that she couldn’t even hold a baby without stiffening– she would have been no help. She would have only criticized Dad as he tumbled into what must’ve been very close to alcoholism, something that runs on both sides of our family. Something Nancy’s younger brother, Uncle Bill, was shamed into barely discussing, until he died of depression sometime in 2015.
“Of course, your dad went back and got his Master’s degree. And I never went back to college, so you can imagine what they have to say about that,” Mom finished.
Nancy died in 2017. We didn’t attend her funeral. Her obituary lists the things she loves, and that includes, “Most of all her family.”
We weren’t in the will.
We recently went to our brother’s wedding. They had a table, full of framed pictures of deceased relatives of the bride and groom, labeled, ‘We know you’d be here today if Heaven weren’t so far away.’
Nancy’s picture was there.
Sparrow, having split from Neb in 2012, then Story in 2020, suffered from Nancy’s long-reaching holiday sadism an easy thirteen years after the fact. He saw the picture during and placed it face-down out of spite.
Thanksgiving of 2016: Xanthe.
It’s probably around the time where you’re Googling the statistics for surviving at-home surgery that you should start considering physical transition. Not to say I’ve gotten that desperate, but I will say that the risk of infection is so ridiculously high that you shouldn’t try it either.
Granted, I adored my concierge events. I loved my coworkers, who’d become like a family to me. I loved our guests. I’d love them all even more if they saw me more for who I was.
“Oh, I love it when girls wear suits, it’s so cute!”
“This is CL. Her name was [REDACTED], but she changed it to CL.”
This was ceasing to be cute.
Granted, I had made my own bed by alienating so much of the queer community with my anti-labelism campaign years before. And with April’s rumours still looming, no one was really motivated to give me a chance. What I really needed– honestly, what I craved, was to be in a space where people would actually ask my pronouns and stick with them. Picture it, a social interaction where it didn’t feel like I was being stung by a bee every twenty seconds!
Thankfully, I saw the above advertisement. Open event, even!
In truth, I always hated Thanksgiving. Something about how my more clueless coworkers would always ask, “CL, what are your big plans for Thanksgiving?” As if any of the body’s living relatives were not 800 miles away.
And the way they would seem surprised when I would say, “Watching Bridezillas in my pyjamas and eating spaghetti.” made me usually opt to just work the damned holiday.
But this year, I was going to rejoin the queer community. I would walk in with all of my concierge-learned poise, prove to my unnamed naysayers that not only were they wrong about me, but that I had a better haircut than Buchanan.
I expressed this to Kieran that day.
“Don’t go to Quolab,” he texted back. “You won’t have a good time there. Come over to my place instead, we have better food.”
I was almost startled by this. Granted, Kieran and I were friends, but considering the nebulous tension that littered our short months of knowing each other, I’d doubted we were ‘spending holidays together’ tier mates. But I did journey to the apartment that he shared with Kara– the same one April and Cotton had once inhabited together. “I keep hearing that Quolab is overrated anyway,” Kieran said, handing me a glass of wine as I perched on his living room couch. I sipped it and made a face. Why the fuck did Kieran have Chardonnay? “It’s basically just Raine Eliza’s ego trip. I don’t understand why you want to go.”
It was only looking back that I realised this was actually somewhat urgent pleading on his part. He didn’t have any actual Thanksgiving food ready yet, but offered me snacks as we mostly pleasantly chatted. “I’m not going to live in fear, [Kieran.]” I told him. “I’ve got the truth on my side. Gatsby had a whole host of rumours within his own parties and– Well, yeah, he got shot, but–”
Kieran rolled his eyes. You know, looking back on it, he would’ve had to be responsible for all of the rumours running rampant. And now we were getting along better, I was about to walk into the snake pit he had created for me. Was he trying to stop me from going out of regret? Maybe it’s my optimism, but I’d like to think the entirety of our friendship wasn’t just manipulation.
In truth, I was only there for about an hour and a half before Kieran looked down at his phone and frowned. “Oh, I forgot, my mom’s in town and she’s on her way over.” I was already gathering my things, taking that as my cue to leave. So that’s who the Chardonnay was for. Kieran was really more of a Zinfandel chap. “Do you have somewhere to go?” He asked.
“That isn’t Quolab?”
“Nope!” I looked at my phone. I’d texted Quolab to get their address– I’d had it before and then lost it. Then I saw the following.
“What the fuck? I haven’t even met these people before!” My heart was sinking. What the fuck was being said? In a place where most of the city’s queer population was?
“I told you that you shouldn’t go!” Kieran said, more firmly this time.
I exited his house in a somewhat agitated manner. I still had my moped, which I road to River St.– somewhere familiar and uninhabited by Savannah queers while I could get my mind straight. There’s a weird gap in memory from about 4pm to 8pm. When my memory starts up again, the sun had already set. I was pacing River St. I’d gotten ahold of a wine bottle and was pouring it into a plastic cup– to keep with city regulations, of course.
I could feel the growing ominous feeling that threatened to topple me. I needed to be around people– that was my solution for all of 2016. I could not be alone with my own thoughts.
I texted Sarah. She was out of state, with her own family. I tried calling Cotton– also with his family. I already knew Asher was with their family. Kaspar already warned me they would be unavailable. Aberle wasn’t answering his phone. I even tried texting my fucking assistant manager at the inn, asking if we could hang out, but he awkwardly told me that he was doing laundry.
The loneliness was threatening to strangle me. Everyone I knew was surrounded by people who cared about them. In comparison, I felt hopelessly stranded in a city tainted by my ex. I wrote a status, asking if someone would take me in tonight to just keep an eye on me. My eyes were getting too friendly with Talmadge bridge and I could feel bad ideas forming in the back of my mind. One, I’d already acted on, because I should have my phone removed from me at all times when on the verge of a mental breakdown. I’d found one of the only people I’d known was at Quolab, Tara, and messaged her, asking if she were spreading April’s rumour on her behalf. I know I looked perfectly unhinged. Even worse when I thought I blocked her and she kept messaging me.
Finally, I called the crisis hotline and rambled for about another hour while I sobered up. Bluejay, one of Asher’s friends, had actually gotten back to me on my earlier post. “We don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving, though.”
That’s how I spent the rest of Thanksgiving of 2016. At a friend of a friend’s house, contemplating all meaning of the word ‘community.’
Asher was texting me during and I was being… well, about as attentive and open as a partner as I was back then.
One week later, we had a phone call from Asher. “Bluejay told me you were over at her house for Thanksgiving?”
“Yeah. The crisis line doesn’t do much for me and I sort of needed a suicide watch,” I said that so offhandedly. I was starting to remind myself of the body’s father. See, Dad had a heart attack about three years ago. The reason we found out is because he told my younger brother that his phone service would be bad and to contact him on FB messenger instead. It was only when my brother asked why that Dad finally admitted that he was at the ICU.
There was a long pause at the other end of the line. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Asher asked.
Because there are cracks in my psyche so wide that I can’t understand how they can be mended. Because suicide has been used as a weapon on me so often that I feel like I’m being manipulative by even admitting that I have those thoughts. Because I didn’t want to ruin Thanksgiving for you just because it’s always been ruined for me. “The subject never came up,” I finally said, because I am an ass.
Raine Eliza, the owner of Quolab, eventually did speak with me in person about my banning and my subsequent breakdown over it. “We have all of our members go to our house beforehand, so that we can see what their vibe is like,” he lied, blatantly. We’d met up in Gallery Espresso, which felt enough of my territory to feel even partially safe in meeting the proprietor of Quolab. “Apparently, you told one of our members you’d want to ‘watch a movie and chill out sometime’ on Tinder?”
I blinked. “Yes?” I remembered this conversation. Deadpool had come out. I wanted to see Deadpool, goddamn it.
“That was really triggering for her. She’s asexual and you were clearly violating her boundaries.” I blinked as slowly as it was possible to blink. I what now? “And what about you texting Tara the night of Thanksgiving and freaking out and saying you blocked her?”
Okay, yeah, that was mad, but– “I was having a mental breakdown. And was drunk at the time, unfortunately, so I didn’t even consider–”
“Being drunk is not an excuse.”
I sighed. Raine Eliza had apparently made up his mind a long time ago. Somehow, fairness isn’t won with just talking. Who’d have thought?
The Quolab situation actually got worse before it was better. Asher’s friends, in solidarity with me, actually boycotted the unofficial establishment. This ended in Asher and two of their friends being practically cornered on their friends’ balcony during a party, as they were asked, ‘Why won’t you go to Quolab? What’s your problem with Quolab?’ and even being followed out of the building when they tried to dodge the conversation.
I felt like shit, obviously. I was supposed to be happy after I had left April. But I was spiraling and pulling everyone down with me.
There’s actually a somewhat happy ending to the Quolab story, that I’ll happily divulge. See, I still had Raine Eliza added on Facebook. And sometime in early 2018 or late 2017, they posted about how they, as a femme, had to ‘put a dudebro in his place’ during a set for being too close to him. Raine was bragging about how they alone were the revolt against ingrained masculinity, etc, etc.
Then, on that same status, someone commented that Raine had hidden this status from the person they had beat up. And get this; the man was Hispanic. Which made Raine Eliza, someone who was so woke that they yelled at white people for using Michael Jackson gifs, also someone who had assaulted a minority. And Raine was touting this as if they were taking back the mosh pits from testosterone itself.
I remember as this all unfolded. I was in the inn’s apartment, getting drunk, as was my favourite hobby. I clicked on the man’s name and followed the drama on his timeline and Raine’s, having them open in both tabs.
Even better, this man’s friends posted the video in which it happened.
Gods, it’s like my birthday had come early that year.
Clearly, this man was only moving Raine’s jacket from the stage in which Raine was performing on. He very quickly swiped away the hazardous fabric and Raine fucking went after him with swings like an attack dog. And someone had gotten it all on film.
I saw Raine backpedaling so hard that their legs must’ve hurt. Now, the fact that they had assaulted a POC was a point of shame for them, a combination of male-centered trauma and being under the influence of weed. They posted a few panicked statuses about ‘having to do better as a white person.’
I’m so sorry I don’t have screenshots of all this. I didn’t think to grab them but I’ve hopefully earned your trust, at this point. I’ve tried to find them after the point but Raine wiped the slate clean.
Just know that I watched this all unfold while drinking and cackling. “Oh, Raine, don’t you know? Being high isn’t an excuse!” Yes, I was talking to myself in my apartment, what of it? “Up next, on Reefer Madness 2!” See, Asher and I had been broken up for months at this point. But I remembered how they and their friends were harassed on this institution’s behalf. And– if you haven’t noticed… I’m a bit vengeful.
Blame it on my star sign.
I watched in real time how Raine Eliza’s follower count dwindled.
Well, the punchline of this– and one of the coolest moments of my life– I went to Civvies, a popular consignment clothing shop on Broughton St. Apparently, Raine Eliza worked there in some sort of management position for a while.
My eyebrows were raised as I approached the counter. I’d already decided not to buy anything, so this was, in fact, pure sadism on my part. “Oh, hey, it’s Reefer Madness 2.” I’d stolen that line from Cinema Sins and you could frankly pry it out of my cold, dead hands at that point.
Raine regarded me coldly, even straightening behind the counter. “I will not tolerate being harassed at my place of business. Please leave.”
I grinned. “Why, are there cameras rolling here, too?”
The stony silence between us was thick enough to cause controversy at a halftime show.
I mentally made a note to tell my new online friend in Rochester about this next time we called– he’d enjoy my petty victory.
But I did remember how Kieran seemed to disdain from Quolab– how he’d warned me not to try to go there. It registered as ‘care’ in my brain, whether it was or not. So, when my general manager at the inn had noted that Kieran had applied and listed me as a reference, and asked me about him– this is what I said: “He doesn’t have a lot of job experience, but I feel like he’d be a good fit.”
By early December, Kieran had been hired by the inn I had called home, the same workplace that had once been a solace from April. I remember, so clearly, the Christmas party the inn had. Even though Kieran was new, he had been given presents. Under the law of southern hospitality, he was treated like he had been there for years in the owner’s dining room. I wrote in my journal that it looked like he almost cried.
Don’t get me wrong– Kieran is still a piece of shit for what he had done. For what he had done as April, for the manipulation that it took to be back in my life. I remember him enthusiastically taking part in the inn’s activities. He actually seemed happy and I think that’s the first time I’d actually seen that out of him and, honestly, I was happy I could help make that happen for him.
I also remember that Nora, another coworker and a fellow bookworm, went head-to-head with me in a competition of trivia. Like we looked like it was the battle royale of eggheads, with us so neck-and-neck that the entire staff was taking sides. Gods, I loved it.
Yeah, the queer community had chewed me up and spit me back out again. But at least the inn would always be home to me.
February of 2022:
So. I usually try to alternate between the two timelines. Do one blog about Rochester, one about Savannah. Between the Faerie fantasy house and my life in Georgia.
But I’ve recently received inspiration to switch to Faerie House only blogs for… Well, a few months.
So, I’ve decided to do a marathon of the Crosman saga until further notice. You wanted my attention, Ash and March.
Well, you have it. : )