The Green Chair

One day in June, in 2011, my husband and I flew to move from Minneapolis to San Francisco. Within a week we signed the lease on a new apartment and set out in a day rental U-Haul to round up the few belongings we had shipped to ourselves via Greyhound bus, and to purchase budget necessities at IKEA and Target. At the end of this trip, we discovered that very close to the U-Haul rental place there is an enormous emporium of vintage furnishings called Stuff. Exhausted and hungry, we wandered through the aisles and caverns and nooks packed full of treasures and junk. This was instantly familiar, the kind of place we habitually browsed together as a couple who met at a job sorting through secondhand garments, our life together a perpetual scavenger hunt for just the right thing, our dialogues a well-rehearsed call-and-response over everyday aesthetics.

Soon after, while on a walk home from the Mission, we paused outside of Stuff to consider a velvety green chair sitting outside, beckoning to us with red balloons tied to companion chairs. One of us took a picture with a phone. We would discuss later, “and if it’s still there…”

I was not sure about this potential addition. First of all, it’s green. And then it is also velvet. And, there is a vertical stripe pattern to the upholstery. It’s low and squat; I’m tall and lanky. “It fits me perfectly,” noted my short husband. Ok, maybe I should let him have this one. Maybe it will grow on me. I voiced my reservations but granted approval. We brought the chair home. It fit. In our new apartment, we made a home with the chair, and the chair made a home with us.

The green chair is where you sit to put on records, or flip between KMEL and KBLX until both have commercials and so you put on D’Angelo or Erykah or Kendrick or Neil or Fiona or Lover’s Melt 2 or take your chances on a shuffle, depending on the mood.

The green chair is where you roll one for company, where you roll one for yourself, the supplies in the credenza drawer. It is a ritual chair, a place from which the living takes place in the living room.

A notebook, mauve, lies beside the chair with a pen tucked inside. Thoughts can rush me in the chair, and I scribble them down at the rate of the swelling wave of my feeling. Sometimes I read these aloud to him, and this is one way we like to be together.

It was a Saturday in September. The bright sun filtered through the tall linen curtains behind the chair. They undulated gently in a breeze that ebbed and flowed, steadily as a pulse, through wooden pulley windows with no screens. I came over to him. We found each other’s bodies and moved together in the chair. After, I was carried to the bed to recline in the bliss of love well made and perfect California weather, something we should appreciate more, and so today we do that appreciating.

This had never happened in the chair before, so I remember it well. A little savory event that marks the memory, being unlike other times. So new, this love, even after several years together. I have known that this was the moment of conception of our first child.

As the life made in the chair grew within me I used it less. At the end I was too big, the chair too low and deep. I couldn’t manage to get in and out of it without a grunt and a strong push off the arms.

The home altered slightly in preparation for the new life to join us in this one room – the singular space that we live in and love in as two, soon to be three.

It was a Saturday in May. The bright sun filtered through the tall linen curtains behind the chair. They undulated gently in a breeze that ebbed and flowed, steadily as a pulse, through wooden pulley windows with no screens. I came over to him in the chair. Eight months pregnant, hot, sweaty, wearing my stretchy black pencil skirt with my hair down, I leaned over him forming a right angle with back and legs. I buried my knuckles down in the sides of the cushion by his hips. I let my giant belly hang straight down as I supported a great weight in order to allow for this kiss. I had no intentions, thinking next I might go eat something, most likely. But he said something coy and we moved deeper into the moment. I pulled the curtains to. We moved in the chair together, a second time. We moved to the bed. I was filled with love. I said so, after, in my bliss. His arms around me as I gazed out at the afternoon, I said how I felt, which was that my heart was exploding with the love I had for these two lives – the one holding me and the one I held within me. I did not yet recall the other time in the chair. I just appreciated the beauty of the moment, the late afternoon.

We snuggled naked and warm, the curtains swaying. He got up and went into the bathroom. I got up, and my water broke, spilling out onto the floor as I stood.

The afternoon was carried out with the happiness and excitement and sheer dumbfounded surprise of an unexpected early labor – our son would be born a month early.

Later, at the hospital, each moment of each day was something new, some new extreme of feeling, and my brain shut off. On the third sleepless night, out of the haze of hormones and the fog of memory, a startling realization – the chair, the only two times in the chair, were these two times. We have a parallel beginning and ending to this story, by chance and by a force greater than one. No one can plan something like this. No two can plan something like this.

All I know is there is a chair, secondhand but dignified, and around this object two people created a life and eight months later brought that life out into the world. I labored to birth this child after experiencing a powerful love that my younger self would have doubted exists. It is a story not with a beginning a middle and an end, though that is what I have written. It is a story with no ending, because the force of life doesn’t adhere to a narrative arc. Birth is no denouement. This is just a sketch of a small miracle, the kind of thing no control, no arranging, no individuality, no intentionality can create. 

The chair came from somewhere else, from a long time ago. I don’t know where it began and I don’t know how it will meet its end. For us, for our time with the green chair, this is only the beginning of a story, this life, this family, this home, with a chair that holds in its fibers more stories than I may ever know.

Larger and Darker

Gradual or rapid, growth will happen. When it happens at a weekly rate, and when the things growing are body parts and a body within your body, it is striking. You think about it a lot. Nothing has grown like this in a long time. I’ve had years to come to terms with my adult body, and I’ve learned to accept and to love it. Suddenly, it is altered.

My first reaction to the change was sheer wonderment, pride, and joy. When it was just beginning, I wanted everything to get even bigger. I thought, this is really something. It is remarkable. I can’t wait to watch this continue. My body can do this shape shifting act and I can become something other than what I had known. I can become a mother. My body can transform me into another kind of person.

A mother is a person who mothers, but a mother is also a mere body – the body from which others are born. I divided and regenerated and split off parts of myself so that another could form. In the process, things got larger, and things got darker. It occurred to me, because of “the media” I guess, that these changes are sometimes feared and not always appreciated as forms of beauty. Before they happened to me, I did not know how I would feel. I was not sure if I would be “ok” with the rapidly changing body. I didn’t know because there are mixed signals out there in the world around us about what “larger” and “darker” mean. The fact that so many feminists need to always champion “positivity” about the body attests to the profound negativity about it that exists. It is not that I am, personally, “positive,” or not negative, about this changing body. I’m not thinking along such a spectrum – of self love to self hate, body positive to body shaming – at all right now. The things that are happening, they are not about my self. They are not about my body as singularity.

The growth is life. I spend a lot of time marveling at plants and flowers, really fascinated by the beauty of their existence, their life and eventual death, so one can only imagine the magnitude of marveling that is possible when the life is human, and I feel it growing bigger and stronger from within my lower torso. There is nothing unique or special about me thinking these thoughts, having these feelings. I am just another spiritually overwhelmed woman, amazed at how little and insignificant, yet powerful and capable I am as I face the most ordinary, wonderful task. I will give birth to a new life.

This isn’t something that is happening to me. It is something happening with me. I am assisting, and in the process, I am changing. Rapidly. Every day, all the time. Sometimes with the power of a kick, sometimes with colostrum leaking from my breast, sometimes with breathiness and exhaustion, and for a long time now with a body and body parts much larger, much darker than before. I will feed my baby from these big dark nipples and watch my body change some more, inflate and deflate some more, from now on as a body that is not a me, not an I, but an amalgamation of forces. I am a site of radical growth, made up of not only what I once thought to be myself, but my past and my future, the cellular memory of ancestors and progeny, all swirling within my body and that of my child, who will grow and hopefully one day learn that he is not simply a self, but something much greater, and much less.

Express Something Else

“Express yourself,” someone famous once said. There is a garbage clothing store called Express. Some say fashion is a form of self-expression. For many, I can see that this is indeed how they understand and utilize it. The sentiment being, implicitly, that to express oneself is to work against its opposite, repression. The idea being that once, perhaps in the past, like in the 1950s or during the Bush years, that there was a lot of repression. But what was it that was being repressed? Was it individuality? Was it the self? Or was the repression feeling related to something more insidious and systemic and not so much about one’s own unique, special self?

I had a pug once, and I regularly had to express his anal glands. I will spare you the details. But I think about my former dog’s anal glands a lot whenever I hear talk of expressing the self. I get it. There is a pressure building up, and something needs to push out. People, like my dog’s ass, need some relief from the pressure.

In The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault questions the idea that there was all this repression of sexuality, and that then there came a time to let loose. He works to show that there was intensive talk of sexuality all along, during the supposedly repressive years. Modern people were never not obsessing about sex. The same goes for the self. It has been at the center for long enough.

Of all the things one might express, of all the things we see and hear and think about in the world around us, is the best or most important thing to express really your pitiful self? Is that really what matters most? Might there be something more worth expressing?


Listening to a conversation between a son and a dad is, for the young straight married woman, a great source of insight into a dynamic that goes well beyond one’s own family. We can hear the ways that capital and knowledge are transmitted intergenerationally. We can hear the maintenance of ideologies, the upkeep on the way things are.

I have a dad I’m pretty close with. But I’m a daughter. It’s different, he tells me, the relationships he has with his sons. He doesn’t elaborate. The boys don’t either, but I sense it in their reverence for him. I do not share the reverence.

Sometimes you have to ask for advice in life, though. This is when dads get called. Dads know about the world in ways a lot of moms don’t, by having participated in it out in public, outside the home. Moms participated by laboring to ensure the health, safety, happiness, and well-being of the rest of them, usually at her own expense. Not always, but in a lot of cases, to my knowledge. I don’t want to make any overreaching claims here. I just think that something about the whole gender dynamic and patriarchy and by extension colonialism et al. can be traced to people’s dads. Those people, who had those dads, revered them. Then called on them for advice. Then did the advice, resulting in a mutual respect feedback loop, and thus creating the actual patriarchy. People listening to male authority and desiring the mother’s love is a pretty normal thing in American society it would seem.

A lot of moms in the 1970s, and also young women and lesbians of all ages, and a few other people, too, attempted to draw attention to the fact that a lot of women were kind of sick of how things were, given the ways their humanity and freedom were reduced when compared to dads/men in general. So these people brought this to everyone’s attention, and we’ve all been pretty well-aware of it ever since – most of us knowing a woman to be a person – although we don’t seem to want to make a big effort to change it very much, here in America.

I guess we are comfortable. Or maybe we are undecided? I don’t think we are all that comfortable, but there is a lot to be grateful for, really, here in America – even still today, amazingly. A lot of dads gave us a lot of stuff. Maybe this is the end of that era, the mom and dad era, because the resource distribution can no longer sustain it. But even though this force of pressure in the form of financial insecurity for many but also the pressures from mental illness for many, outright poverty for many, drug and alcohol addiction and imprisonment and getting shot by the police for a whole lot of people, all together has us caught up in so many things to think about that we can’t sort out our own decision making about just one or even two of them.

Because of the schooling, we read and think about it all. Deeply, even. And we read and work and try and teach and protest and service and hope and pray, because we care about collective life, even if phrases like “collective life” are not at all common in our day-to-day lives. And so maybe we just don’t know what we want. Maybe it’s a case of indecision at the brink of the extinction of a generation of dads that told everyone who would listen that we are the masters of the/our own universe. Maybe it was too much responsibility, too much pressure.

Dads spread the gospel of hard work, of stick-to-it-ness, of try, try again, and of going and getting ’em. Dads are all baseball or football, something with a ball, and cars and motors and guns and sexism. Because of their mommy issues? Haha. I don’t mean to laugh, dads. But really. The mommy issues are just a lot. Didn’t you say to be your own person, dad? Doesn’t that mean I don’t have to have parents? Or think about you in this whole reverential way? You are a person I know really well and we pretty much like each other. I can fill you in on whatever other details about my life you care to acknowledge. We will share meals and feel for each other in major life moments. We will be related.

This is all I hope for with my own children. That we will enjoy each other’s company more than that of most others. As for the dad that I’m going to allow to come into existence as such via my body, I can only hope that it will be within my power, after all these generations of other women, to help form a dad that isn’t a patriarch. To form a person who knows us to be equals.


I’ve been thinking about writing this for a long time.

I take that back. I’ve been thinking about writing something like this, and now I am writing it. And now I’ve written it and it’s not what I expected to write at all.

The very long, or very short duration of time unfolds as it feels.

It feels like a very long time since I scratched this mosquito bite. It stretches my skin taut in a purple and dark red swollen mound, the hard mound encircled in a blood red ring. I limp because it’s on my calf muscle and is filled with so much fluid, the histamines rushing to the scene of the mosquito’s salivary entrance into my body, that when the muscle flexes it hurts. The pain overrides the itch throughout the day, leaving me aware only of a bodily swelling that I long to ice. But at night, when I try to sleep, when I pull the covers over my legs, heat builds. The blanket gently presses into my skin a heightened awareness of the subtle roughness of woven cotton. A frantic itchiness moves my body into action. I don’t register this, only wake to find myself already scratching my skin raw. My hand’s reaction began before I regained consciousness. Now awake, I go to the bathroom and apply a cooling spray of generic benadryl, topped with a pain relief and anti-itch cream, also Rite-Aid brand, and finish it all off with a cool compress to soothe the whole situation. It goes on like this for days.

In those nighttime moments, after the applications of the spray and cream and ice, I try to not touch it anymore. I try to allow these medicines to do their work. I hope they work fast and effectively. I hope they do their job well. I hope they deliver on their promises. It feels like a very long time.

Also, there is never just one mosquito bite. I have seven like this. Calf, ankle, foot, forearm, back, other thigh, all bitten in multiples. Later this summer, in another city, I would be bitten on the sole of my foot.

The female mosquito slips its mouth onto my skin, punctures my flesh, sucks out a tiny feast of blood to ingest the proteins needed to make bug babies: more mosquitoes which will come out of the puddles and wet places in the hot times and interrupt the pace of my life, or yours. With these painful, itchy, ugly welts that always leave a scar, I am reminded of my permeability. To do my work and keep up with the pace of my tasks I depend on a medicine cabinet shelf full of concoctions to soothe the reaction of my body to its environment.

The time of the mosquito bite is a hot time, a time of sweat and easy lethargy. I’m in the South trying to work, but at the end of the day, when all my running around has only served to increase the swelling, and now I can’t sleep through the night, I realize that the world outside my body is trying to tell me something: just recline.