Last night was my first live reading of something I wrote literally ever. I think it went really well, even though my beloved friends and family borked the recording. Slight disappointment: No one took the expensive flyers I made. Not a single person. Oops. I handed one to two people and one of them put it back.
Hard yikes, but I'll live.
I thought I'd share said promotional material here, though, in case anyone goes looking.
For those who do not know, I am working on a sexy online serial that will be released hopefully within the next 2-3 months. Sooner rather than later if I get what I wish. I'll post the pamphlet sides for your visual pleasure and then I'll share the excerpt that I read, based on the theme of New Years Resolutions.
All in all, it was a fascinating experience and I hope to break further out of my shell and pursue more such opportunities.
[ IMAGE DESCRIPTION: The Front and Back sides of a pamphlet. The Front has an illustration of a man of colour sitting with the legs of an alien man in his lap. They look lovingly into each others' eyes. The words read: Home Within Skin by Jem Zero. The Back contains the following text:
It's not easy being homeless, especially when you're smack in the middle of a brutal Chicago winter. Jackson Gale, a disabled trans man with more hangups than belongings, has survived the past four and a half years by keeping his head down and refusing to trust. Real world issues like intergalactic immigration, political despair, and shifting social nuance seem wholly inaccessible to him until one night he walks in on an equally distrustful member of Chicago’s non-human population, and his careful dance of normalcy goes all kinds of sideways.
Or: In which a homeless trans man and an alien sex worker ruin each other's nights, film a porno, and fall in love. (Section break.)
Home Within Skin is an upcoming online serial that hopes to break some of the boundaries between the stories we tell and the ones we don't. Featuring homeless and disabled people, sex workers, and aliens, this story seeks to discuss oppression in modern-day America with a Sci-Fi twist. Sometimes sexy, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes both - the story of Jax and Sei-vész's relationship shows both painful realism and starry-eyed fantasy.]
CONTENT WARNING: DYSPHORIA, MENSTRUATION
Regardless of what anyone says, this is not defeat. You have not given up. You went into this new year as you do all years: swearing that you won’t rely on anyone to survive. And you do plan on sticking to that, but… Well.
The sound of your failure is the hollow knock on a large, industrial door. God, fuck, you hope he’s home.
You hope he’s not home. Maybe you can walk away from this with your pride intact.
You’re turning to shuffle down the two narrow steps when the door creaks open behind you. “Hello?” You whip around so fast you almost introduce your spine to the sharp corners of the stairs. The Rrhi at the door steps forward as if to help you, which makes it worse: you reel back, actually falling off the porch but managing to catch yourself before wiping entirely out.
She blinks her large, black eyes, hand still outstretched. “Are you okay?” Embarrassed, you nod. You still don’t know how to interact with their kind, which you are trying to stop thinking about as their kind. The word ‘alien’ isn’t much better. When you don’t say anything, she asks, “Are you here to see Sei-vész?”
There’s no other reason you would be here, but you feel ashamed, like she found you out somehow. “I, uh. Y— If he’s around, like—”
Tossing her head, wispy bangs catching around her bent horns, she says, “He’s home. Just go on up.”
The door to Sei-vész’s loft apartment is wooden and worn, like there was a lot of slamming in its past life. You try to imagine the fights that happened on either side of it, but then you notice this... soft yellow glow slipping through the inch of space between the door and the hardwood, suggesting that maybe, maybe there was no violence in the history of this entryway. Perhaps it was just well-loved; warm bodies sliding in and out every hour of the day, bringing light and joy with them and leaving behind enough to share.
Your knuckles barely graze the wood, you’re so nervous. It feels like it does before you have a seizure, before you have an anxiety attack, before he pushed down hard and shattered the stars behind your eyes — really, a confusing amalgamation, conflicting and, oh. Floorboards creaking.
Does he look surprised? You can’t tell. You clutch the sweaty handles of the CVS bag until your brown skin goes red, and you squeeze out a timid, “Hello.”
“Jax,” he says, face slack. His skin, normally a robust mottling of greens, seems to pale.
“Um, hi.” It’s been nearly two weeks. You might never have come back, as far as he knew. As far as anyone knew, including yourself. “I, uh, hope this ain’t a bad time.” He shakes his head, mute. “I,” you begin, and the words die on your tongue. You don’t know how to explain why you’re here, or if he’d understand the meaning of the small box of off-brand tampons that’s slightly visible through the thin, milky plastic.
“Come in, Jackson,” he says, and steps out of the doorway, giving you a wide berth to enter. You feel appreciation and shame in equal amounts. He pushes the door closed with one tentacle to avoid getting back into your bubble. “Can I help you?” he asks. You roll the tone around in your head until you’ve figured out the words behind the words.
Running your hand back through your unwashed, bleach-fried hair, you mumble, “s’not an issue of help, really, I’m not hurt or nothin’.” He waits. “I just, uh.” Your hands twist in the crinkling plastic, and he looks down at it curiously. “I just needed somewhere to lay down for a while.” Now that you’re starting to warm up, the ache in your lower belly comes closer to the forefront of your brain.
Periods are hell when you’re homeless. You only get so much from busking, and most of that goes to keeping your phone on. After that’s done, next priority is food, but the bleeding is non-negotiable, and cheap cotton needs to enter into your budget somewhere. Cheap as in toxic bleached trash that chafes as it goes in, that you can’t afford better than. So, then you’re hungry. So, then you can’t take motrin, unless you want stomach pain to replace your lower body pain.
So, then you’re starving, aching, uncomfortable, and struggling to find somewhere to curl up that won’t attract cops, which is not many places, which means you have to keep moving, and all you could fucking think of yesterday was Sei-vész and his room full of fucking pillows and how much you wanted to be there instead of pretending to be a normal boy on a normal park bench.
A slow, hesitant smile flickers to life on Sei-vész’s mouth. “You’re more than welcome to lay down wherever you want,” he says, scanning you thoughtfully. You look just as bad as you did the first time y’all met but he doesn’t seem as bothered this time.
“Thanks.” You switch the CVS bag into your other hand and wipe sweat from your palm onto your grody jeans. Your fingers feel clammy. Your face reddens. “So,” you begin, and realize you have no idea what to say. You hem a little, but before you really get going Sei-vész cuts you off.
“Can I hug you?” His eyes are wide and his stance is awkward, like in his mind he’s already moving but he’s forcing his body to hang back.
You blink, and then… nod, slowly.
He approaches carefully, deliberately angling himself so not to corner you against the door. You almost flinch when his hands reach out but you hold it back; your chest churns when his palms cup your cheeks and he looks up at you, wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. When he moves in he goes headfirst, burying his face against your shoulder before repositioning his arms around you, tucked up between your shoulderblades. He squeezes, but not too hard.
It’s the tenderest damn hug you’ve ever gotten. You have to stop yourself from wrapping around him hard enough to trigger nuclear fusion — instead you just. Melt. Let your forehead fall, mashing against the side of his head, pressing against the bend of his horn. He turns to meet you, nuzzling your cheek with the bridge of his nose. “I thought you’d never come back,” he whispers, breath warm against your skin.
“I’m sorry. I got scared,” you admit, pulling your arms tight around his shoulders. “’m’sorry.”
Shushing you, he pulls back a bit, sliding his hands up your ribs to rest on your sternum, fingers rubbing little circles through your shirt. “It’s alright. I’ll live.” You make a soft noise, sad and also wanting.
You were scared, which is why you ran. You thought of getting comfortable with someone, maybe someone as bruised as you, and you were petrified. Meeting Sei-vész and fucking him blended together in your memory — not really consequential, you’ve slept around on the first date, but it was more. A raw connection that grew between you and when you noticed it in the wrong light you were terrified.
And then you came back.
“C’mon,” he says, ruffling a hand through your hair. “Let’s get you cleaned up.” Sei-vész guides you to the bathroom, pulling you in by the hand. He’s so gentle you forget to be scared when he helps you out of your clothes; shirt over the head, jeans unbuttoned, fingers light as he unzips your binder. He runs the pad of his thumb under your eye, and you kick off your underwear, and then he smiles. Then you move, and he looks down, and gasps, taking a step back.
“What?” you ask, a second before following the angle of his eyes. Your thighs are red. You suck in a horrified breath and clap a hand in front of your crotch, trying to hide the blood leaking down your legs from your oversoaked tampon. Like any person on the streets you try to wait as long as possible before switching, and the hour walk from where you were to Sei-vész’s place must have been too much. “Fuck,” you say, going bright red. “It’s— don’t worry I’m not injured, this is, uh… normal. Kinda.”
“Only kinda,” he parrots, still looking at your legs.
You take a deep breath. “This happens to people with… bodies like mine. It’s just part of our reproductive process.” Beat. “... please don’t make me explain it, man.”
Recognition flickers onto Sei-vész’s face. “Oh, right,” he says. “I totally forgot that happens to you.” He runs a hand over his forehead, averts his eyes, looks back at your face. “I apologize for freaking out.”
Shrugging uncomfortably, you say, “I would freak out if I saw you bleeding and didn’t know why.”
He laughs. When he reaches forward you actually flinch this time, but all he does is gently nudge you aside so he can squeeze through, toward the door. “I’m going to assume in light of these events that you’d prefer your privacy right now. See you in ten minutes?” His smile is hopeful.
“Maybe fifteen,” you guess, and smile back at him when he closes the bathroom door.
Hopefully more than one person will be interested in checking this out in the future! Onward and upward.
Final note: HWS is an explicit story that includes, among other things: graphic descriptions of sex, graphic descriptions of being trans, and graphic descriptions of PTSD/dysphoria mindspace. The story does NOT have graphic descriptions of violence, abuse, or oppression; these topics do come up, but are handled in a non-fetishistic way.
Thanks for reading.