Question Words (An Introductory Post) (2024)

So despite my natal Leo sun, I am tragically inept when it comes to having to write a post introducing myself. Unfortunately, I feel the introductory post—much like money—is a necessary evil. Especially when you’re a non-entity.

Because to raw-dog a post written in a casual style (IE: the style in which I've written every blog post I’ve ever launched into the ether) is the digital equivalent of walking up to a group of strangers outside of a 7-Eleven to info dump about your latest hyper fixation.

Okay, I’m stalling—even if I do think I’m making some good points.

You don’t know who I am and so you have no reason to care about what I have to say. Hell, even after reading this post, you may still have no reason to care about what I have to say. But in the effort of finding the type of reader who will not only give a sh*t but also enjoy what I have to say, my hand is unfortunately being forced into typing out an introductory post.

With life comes perspective. Our points of view are shaped by the things we’ve been through, and what we’ve learned from the lives we’ve lived. So in an effort to see if we’re compatible as writer and reader, I thought I’d give you some background info on me.

Hello. My name is Zee. I have no biological father. When my mother was ready to have a child, she threw all of her rage and longing into the sea and from the midst of that foam and chaos, the waves spat out me.*

My mother (being an energetic twenty-two year old when she birthed me) taught me to read and write before I even entered Kindergarten and I’ve never looked back. This, in conjunction with being raised by hillbillies, gave me an early love of story telling.

And being raised by hillbillies, the kinds of tales I cut my teeth on were ghost stories and murder ballads. This powder keg met a flame one night when fatefully (and perhaps stupidly) my mother allowed my four year old self watch Poltergeist when she saw it airing on cable.

Thus my love of horror was born.

After a spate of bad luck (IE: massive amounts of trauma) that occurred in my late teens, I became a shut in. I dropped out of school, I quit leaving the house and after a few years I even stopped going to family events. It was during these five or so years that I truly began to focus on my writing. Mainly because there's nota lot else you can do when you've locked yourself in a room and you have a budget of zero dollars. Like a lot of young writers my age, I had written several unfinished 'novels' and truly began cutting my teeth on fanfiction. It was in my first fandom that I met Bunny.

Like most people who feel displaced and alone, I went on an inner journey. It started with Wicca, which ended up not being a great fit. I kept exploring. Eclectic Paganism, hedgecraft, ceremonial magick, folk Catholicism, shadow work, Anderson Feri--a mixture of all of these. At a certain point of this experimental phase (between the Wicca and the eclecticism, I believe) I wrote about my spirituality on LiveJournal and received a comment there from a girl called Bunny. She had always wanted to get into witchcraft and didn't know where to start. I gave her a few pointers--the legally blind leading the totally blind.

Unsurprisingly, this spiritual exploration didn't spontaneously cure my agoraphobia. I got sadder. Lonelier. The eldest child still living in my parent's home with my siblings, I was constantly surrounded by people and yet I couldn't have felt more isolated. Time ticked on. I wrote my little stories. I received great reviews. Those dopamine hits kept me going for a while. Time continued to pass. I lost a friendship I held dear from my high school days. It was painful and clumsy--the first truly tumultuous patch she and I hit in our newly adult friendship. We navigated as best as we could--and looking back I am quite proud of how well we handled ourselves when both of us were in such pain, dealing with our own issues while being hurt over the end of our friendship. We decided to put a pause on our friendship. An indefinite hiatus. And although I knew this was for the best, it still wounded me deeply.

Time passed. I turned twenty-five.

I turned twenty-five. When did that happen? Well, on my birthday, obviously. But how? How did that much time pass with me just staring at the same four walls day in and day out? I thought back to my sixteen year old self. She had been so confident--more confident than she had any right to be, honestly--so hopeful for her future. She was going to go to MSU (with whose money? She didn't know either) and get a degree in Communications. She was going to become a journalist and go on to become a world-renowned author. She wanted to be the female Hunter S. Thomson--despite never having taken anything stronger than an Advil in her life.

And yet here I was. Sixteen year old me was gone and there was only the twenty-five year old drop out with no prospects and nothing left to be hopeful for.

Question Words (An Introductory Post) (1)

I gave myself an ultimatum.

It was simple. No nonsense. Straight to the point.

My hillbilly ancestors would have been proud.

It was: Either live or die.

Piss or get off the pot, essentially.

For those years, I existed between. I became a liminal space.

Here's something I laughed about at the time, but makes me sad to think back on: One year, when I was about twenty-one, I took my youngest sister Trick-or-Treating around our neighborhood. Our neighbors across the street were sitting in their driveway, passing out candy. I sent Baby A up the driveway to collect her candy as I stayed at the bottom of the sloping incline, smoking my cigarette in my nylon witch hat. Baby A was familiar with these neighbors, had spoken to these women and felt comfortable around them. This is important to the story--helps with the punchline, as it were. I watched her have a short conversation with these women and assumed it was the typical stuff--wow, don't you look adorable, who'd you come dressed as, etc. Baby A got her candy and skipped down the steep driveway, ready to resume her sugar quest.

"They didn't know you." She informed me.

"Yeah, we've never met." I shrugged, crushing my spent cigarette out under my heel.

"No, I mean...they didn't know you existed." Baby A passed me a Blow Pop to examine. I flipped it around in my hands and seeing no evidence of tampering, handed it back to her to enjoy.

"Shut up. They had to have seen me at some point." Which I assumed could be true. Sure, I wasn't going places, but that didn't mean I wasn't sometimes checking the mail or helping my mom unload groceries. Surely they'd seen me at some point?

"Nah. Didn't know you were a thing. They asked me when you moved in and I said, 'She's been here the whole time!'." It would have been difficult for anyone else to understand her as the words fought their way past the giant sucker in her mouth, but Baby A and I had always understood each other implicitly.

"Huh." That was the end of that topic of conversation. I was unnerved, initially, before turning it into a joke. The thing about wake up calls is that you can always hit the snooze button. Which is what I did. I took what should have been a very big sign that I needed to get better and rejected that thought immediately. How funny! We have a haunting and I am the ghost besieging our home.

I wasn't dead--my heart was still beating, I still breathed. My body continued to function. But I wasn't truly alive, either. I slept for hours on end, sometimes up to 14 in one go. I didn't leave the house unless my grandmother needed help after a surgery or a medical emergency. I had no goals, no dreams, no aspirations. I was living as though my life were already over.

I gave myself three days to decide. I was either going to try my hardest to build something resembling a life, or I was going to kill myself.

I woke up on the fourth day--decision making time. I opened my eyes to the livid green walls of my bedroom. Nothing had changed. The light still filtered its way through the thin quilt I'd hung over my single window, spilling onto the walls and giving everything a vaguely Gak-green glow. My bed was still a mattress and box springs on the floor. My back still hurt. The ashtray next to the bed was still full. My phone was still softly playing the podcast I'd fallen asleep to. I could still hear my family milling about in the house, living their own lives, dealing with their own brains and the problems they bring. I hadn't told them I was struggling. I didn't need to--it was obvious. I hadn't told them about my ultimatum, either. It was a decision I alone could make and I didn't want interference.

It isn't as though I went to bed that final night thinking that I'd wake up to everything having changed as I slept. I didn't expect to wake to find that my stepdad had won the lottery and I could get the therapy I desperately needed. I didn't expect divine intervention, either. So when I opened my eyes to discover the quotidian hallmarks of my very small life, I didn't really have any reaction.

There's a quote I heard a long time back. I don't even remember where I'd heard it or who it had been attributed to. "Love is a choice." Which now that I type it out, I realize it sounds like some anti-LGBT+ sentiment. That's not how it was meant. The spirit of it was speaking to relationships. That when you love someone, it isn't always easy. People deal with their own sh*t and a good person tries to keep that sh*t from spilling out onto people in ways that are harmful. Regular people often fail at that and bad people fail at that and don't care that they're failure is hurting people they love. But every day you wake up and you choose to keep loving the people around you. And those choices can take many forms. Sometimes choosing to love someone means carrying Narcan around with you at all times. Sometimes choosing to love someone means having frank, uncomfortable discussions. Sometimes choosing to love someone means choosing to remove yourself from their life because you know the two of you are not good for each other during this season of your lives.

Have you ever heard the song Someone New by Hozier? Yes, I know this section is scattered--that's how my thoughts were at the time. This is what my memories are like but stick with me--I'm better now so even though the map is torn I know our destination and how to get there. So have you heard the song? Let the chorus play in the back of your head as I tell you this next story.

My family had just moved back to Florida. My grandfather had just died. This was the first time I thought very seriously about killing myself. I had just dropped out of school. I wanted to be done with everything. We lived in a dim little house in Sanford at that time, near the airport. Every day, multiple times a day, a plane would fly so low overhead that it would shake the whole house. In my memories, the house was always dark. Baby A was truly a baby back then--just a toddler. We didn't have money for daycare. I had tried to go to the guidance councilor at my high school to tell her I wanted to drop out. She'd all but laughed at me and then talked me into doing online school. Which I did for a few months before Pop was diagnosed with cancer. I tried to keep up with it, but Mom was spending a lot of time helping my grandma out with Pop's care. Someone needed to watch Baby A. I was the eldest daughter. I saw someone say on Twitter that the eldest daughter is the real man of the house, it's true. I stepped up to the plate. I couldn't juggle watching a toddler and doing school work. I was just a child myself, really--one that was dealing with trauma and the knowledge that I was about to lose someone who was deeply important to my life. And then I did. I lost him. And with him, myself.

This neighborhood sucked, really. It was Sanford, Florida--the neighborhood sucking kind of goes without saying. I don't know anything about cars so I cannot tell you what kind it was--not even what brand--but there was one good thing about the neighborhood; This ugly gold beater car that would drive through blasting music. It was always a song that I knew, but hadn't thought about in ages. So there I was, wanting to die. I didn't know how to do it, but I figured pills. No one in my family was taking the hard stuff, so I had three bottles of ibuprofen of varying fullness and no internet connection that week to look up how many of these taken in one go would kill me. So I'm standing in the dim kitchen trying to do idiot pill math.

And that car drove by. He was playing Just A Friend by Biz Markie. I had always loved that song. Mainly because it shouldn't have existed. I know the 80's were a time of novelty and one hit wonders and bad decision making driven by cocaine use. But if you've ever heard this song you'll know that Biz is just straight caterwauling through the whole chorus. And I always loved it because it seemed so unlikely as a chart topper. It had always reminded me how my grandma would sing while doing housework--high and wobbly and off key. The saying goes "make a joyful noise", not "make a pleasant noise", after all.

It was in that moment, I chose love. I was a little bit in love with Biz Markie in that moment and I was a little bit in love with the culture of people in the late 80's who through their cocaine hangover allowed this man to have a hit single. I saw in that moment as a reason to stick around and see what else would happen. What was the next song Gold Beater would play as he hauled ass through a residential? Would another Just A Friend happen? (Unfortunately, yes and it was Rebecca Black's Friday. And we all know how that turned out.) Hearing that song at that moment gave me just enough curiosity about what the world would present to me that I found it good enough to stick around for.

I woke up on day four to 'the first cringe of morning' a la Hozier. Nothing had changed outwardly. But inside, I knew I wanted to find out what would happen next. It was that same impulse that kept me at the feet of the elders of my family for hours, listening to every story they told. I couldn't go to bed yet--Aunt M. was telling a story I'd never heard before and all the adults were so distracted that they didn't notice me slip under the kitchen table to stay up late. I've got to know what happens next.

The only difference now, was that I was the one telling the story.

Choice made, it was now the time and place to execute my plan.

I began to insinuate myself into the daily life of my mother.

If she was going to the store, I was going to the store. If she was going to the library, I was going to the library.

If I wanted to rejoin the land of the living, I needed to remember how to be around people again.

I spent a year skulking around the living room, waiting for the first hint that my mother would be leaving the house to run errands. I didn't go with her every time--being in public after literal years of never leaving the house can be incredibly taxing. But I went eight times out of ten.

I'm willing to bet actual money that you've never been a recovering shut in, so I'll let you in on a little secret: Reintroducing yourself to the world is an incredibly difficult thing to do. The first few times I went with Mom to Walmart (coincidentally the first place I'd ever had a nervous breakdown in--10/10, would recommend as a fitting place to lose your marbles), I had to fight my way through a panic attack. I didn't let my mother know what all was going on with me--parentification, being the man of the house, etc. I felt like even though it was obvious that I wasn't doing well, it was better for everyone involved to not let it be known just how much I was struggling, especially now that I was working on getting better. I don't know if you've ever had to surreptitiously fight your way through a panic attack in a crowded place with your mother hovering near you the whole time but let me tell you: It f*cking sucks.

Redditors on certain pockets of the site will tell you about their run-ins with NPCs. Non-playable characters, but in real life. They look human, but they act strangely. These Redditors seem to forget that autistics and the mentally ill exist and so they will tell you these stories with all the conviction of a man on trial. And I'm sure I've probably been the cause of several of these NPC stories for various Floridian Redditors who may have encountered me in the wild.

My game plan for re-entrance into the public sphere went as thus:

  • Narrow my field of vision down to a two foot circumference surrounding my body. If I refuse to focus on how many people are around me, my chances of a freakout diminish dramatically.

  • Speak to no one, but attempt to smile and nod at anyone I happen to make eye contact with. Thus baby-stepping myself into human interaction.

  • If I must walk through a busy area, I will do it with my chin parallel to the floor, my back ram-rod straight, my gaze fixed (though panicked and thus largely unseeing) ahead, my stride at a quick pace, refusing to move for anyone who gets in my way. I have decided this is the only way to keep myself from spontaneously crying and running to the parking lot so I can deal with the proceeding panic attack away from so many people.

  • My hearing is turned off. I cannot hear you. I am so sorry if you are a cashier that I must interact with. You will have to repeat anything you say to me at least three times. My not being able to hear isn't a thing I decided on, it is a byproduct of panic and exposing myself to something I find very overwhelming.

Obviously, if anyone were to be paying undue attention to me in this state, I would have looked f*cking crazy. I get it. But if there's a point to this section of this post I guess it would be to say; remember that the mentally ill exist and we're allowed to be in public. Whether you choose to have compassion for us is up to you, I'm just asking you remember that even if we are in a simulation, NPCs aren't real and you're kind of an idiot for believing that.

It took a long time. And even now, I still don't always feel 100% 'normal' when I'm in public. Of course the pandemic has complicated these matters (I seem to be the only f*cking person in this state who is still masking and that makes me feel crazy at times). But even before then, there were moments where I became incredibly, unshakably aware that I was surrounded by people who's minds and motives were unknowable to me and that anything could happen at any moment. It's terrifying, honestly, to sit with that thought. But I eventually came out more or less on the other side of it.

I'd just come back home from helping to take care of my grandma after she'd fractured her spine for the second time to discover an email waiting for me.

It was from Bunny. Her brother was going to put his house up on the market. She was looking to move out of her mother's house. He'd offered to sell her the house under market value.

Would I be interested in living with her?

Throughout all my time as a shut in, friends--both online and off--came and went. Often if someone were to be 'at fault' for the dissolution of the friendship, it would be me. I'm a bit of a flake. Or perhaps more accurately, I'm like a stray cat (who never strayed, yes, I understand that irony, thank you Alanis Morissette). I have a tendency to come and go out of people's lives in a way that I understand can be maddening even though it's never meant maliciously. It's something I've tried to work on numerous times and have failed each time. So I understand when I reach out to a friend that I was previously speaking to daily after several months of no contact why they wouldn't respond. I don't take it personally anymore--I get how that could drive a person crazy.

I lost friends off line, too. The friend from high school--D--as I'd mentioned before. She's back in my life now, in a more distanced way. But we have since reconciled. A friend I'd had since I was four--D the First--is somewhere out there, raising her two daughters, living a normal life. I've not spoken to her in years--since she was pregnant with her second kid, who I think is in double digits by now. That one was the typical loss of friendship--you let more and more time go in between speaking as the two of you drift off the path you'd walked together, your lives pulling you in separate directions to the fault of no one, just simply through the act of growing and changing. We've not spoken in years, but I still consider her to be one of my best friends. My first friend. I hope she's doing well.

But the one constant through all of this--the steadiest friendship I've had since speaking to her for the first time mere months before I turned seventeen--is Bunny.

Every relationship is different, which is what makes them all so fulfilling. D the First and I grew up together, our lives mirroring each other in theory but diverting drastically in praxis. Both coming from divorced parents, living with our young mothers who themselves were living with their parents. We dealt with dead beat dad woes at the same time, went through our ugly duckling transformations at roughly the same time, lost our father figures (our granddads) within a year of each other. We dealt with each of these things differently--sometimes in completely opposite ways. Looking back it is perhaps unsurprising that we would drift apart--our whole lives together had been the two of us pulling in opposite directions, perhaps expecting the other to follow. We were the same girl but backwards--truly mirror images of each other.

D the Second and I met in middle school but became close in high school. That terrible, awkward time in life where you find yourself scrambling to make yourself known, despite not actually knowing yourself. Each phase during this time becoming a mini-chrysalis where you enter as one thing, release your old self to the goo, and emerge a different equally awkward version of yourself until one day you arrive closer to the truth of your self hood, waiting for the stew of the old you to dry on your wings before you can take off into the night to look for the one bright bulb you'll throw yourself against until you die. D the Second and I invented ourselves together--discovered who we were and why (if at all) that mattered. If we had been any closer, we would have been the same girl. I never checked, but I wouldn't have been surprised to find that we were running in complete synchronization--blinking and breathing and hearts beating all in time, the two of us parts of the same machine. You could have set your watch by us.

And Bunny?

Not to be a douche bag and misquote Fight Club at you, but she and I met each other at a very strange time in our lives. For various reasons, Bunny and I were perhaps the worst versions of ourselves when we met. We were both dealing with mental health stuff. And by "dealing with", I mean "suffering from and not doing much else about it". She and I both have finely tuned pattern recognition and so we're both well aware that she and I should probably f*cking hate each other by now. That's typically how it goes--two deeply broken and hurt people meet, start hanging out, and at best you get a story about that one crazy bitch who f*cked you over and ruined your life that you can tell ad infinitum until you die. And at worst you get a murder-suicide.

But the thing about Bunny and I...we work because we're a duo.

Our friendship started when I was a minor, sure. We didn't get close until I was on the cusp of being eighteen. Even still we were both so young that it's shocking we were as mature about our friendship as we were. Especially me--I'm sure it didn't escape your notice when reading about my two other closest friendships that I described us as being 'the same person'. And I can't know for certain because I don't talk to other people about the friendships they had as children, but I assume part of the folly of being so new to reality and self hood is that the boundaries between Other and Self get fuzzy. If seeing a kid at school with the same TMNT lunchbox as you is enough for the two of you to decide you're 'twins', feeling close kinship with a kid whose life mirrors your own so closely feels like literally being the same kid, maybe? Being 'the same girl' as D the Second was just pure, crazy, teenage romanticism, full disclosure.

But Bunny was the first person I formed such a close friendship with where I wasn't trying (consciously or not) to fuse myself with her like some sort of Brundlefly-esque monstrosity.

Bunny and I work because we were young adults when we met. And more to the point, we were brothers in arms. We went through hell--the internal/external war that is your late teens into your early twenties--and she and I helped rebuild each other with whatever shrapnel we found lying around. She didn't mind my disappearing from her life for months at a time because she too would disappear from mine for just as long. And each time we would pick up right where we left off--conversation flowing as smoothly as though she'd walked out of the room at the end of a sentence to get a drink and continued her thought once sitting back down on the couch next to me.

I believe we all have 'our people'. They exist everywhere and sadly you'll never meet all of them, but they are out there. If I were the paisley maxi-skirt type, I'd describe it with some version of 'your vibe attracts your tribe'. But I'm not that type of gal, thankfully--Bunny wouldn't be my friend if I were. And she's under strict instruction to take me out behind the barn like a lame horse if I ever unironically start using that phrase--I have made that explicitly clear to her.

Back to the point; 'your people' are simply the folks you meet and click with almost instantly. They make sense in your life for reasons that might not immediately be apparent to either of you. But you both know it right away. It's that feeling of, "Oh! There you are! Where the hell were you? I've been waiting!". They enter your life and become a law as natural and unexplainable at the quantum level as gravity--it may not make sense but there's no escaping the knowledge that they are now a permanent fixture in your reality.

Bunny is one of my people. From jump, it felt as though we could tell each other anything. And we often did--soothing each other's fears and validating any feelings that the people in our lives weren't backing us up on. And miraculously, we grew together instead of apart. We would--and still do--liken ourselves to our favorite duos. Vince Noir and Howard Moon. Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Trixie and Katya. Lucy and Ethel. Rhett and Link. If there's a duo within eyesight, we'll project onto them.

It's hard not to do--sometimes you find a soulmate and you start seeing double.

You look at the world through your own eyes and understand it through the imperfect filter of your own brain. But if you know someone as well as Bunny and I know each other, you start to see the world through their eyes, too. A special type of double vision where you see something and have your own thoughts about the thing and before you even tap your person on the shoulder to show them the thing, you already know exactly what they're going to say about it.

Dialed in.

The question was phrased, "Do you want to come live with me?". But that's not what the question was. I think both of us knew within a year of meeting that cohabitation was as inevitable as a man in a fandom space trying (and failing) to explain something to you that you already know. The real question was, "Are we ready to do this?". There's a season for reaping and a season for sewing. Was this the season of our lives to move in together?

The thing about this is--we'd never met in person. I lived in Florida the whole time we'd known each other. She lived in the same state (Oklahoma) her whole life. Up until 2018 when we started emailing voice memos to each other, we'd never even heard each other speak.

"How do you know she's not a serial killer?" My younger brother, C, asked me. It was two weeks after I told Bunny that yes, I do want to move in with her. She was about to close on the house. We were doing this. No going back now.

"I mean," I shrugged, pouring myself an evening cup of coffee. My family drinks coffee at all hours of the day and night. To the point it makes me wonder how many of us have undiagnosed ADHD. "I guess I don't, but people who have been married for fifty years can't fully know if their spouse is a dangerous psychopath, either. Plus, like. We've been friends for over a decade now. Pretty hard to keep the mask up for that long if she had some sort of nefarious plans for me. She'd have said some questionable sh*t by now."

"I guess." He ran a hand over his newly buzzed scalp. "I still think she's probably a psycho."

"Yeah? Get me the creamer, please."

"Yeah." He thunked the bottle of Coffee Mate down onto the counter next to me. "She'd have to be, to be your friend for so long."

Things have a funny way of just happening. Like what certain pockets of the internet call the "cat distribution system". I have two younger sisters who were both still living at home while I was gearing up to move out. One had a male cat, one had a female cat. You can guess what happened. Despite Dawn being Baby A's cat, she took a liking to me. So when it came time for her to deliver, she chose my room to do it. More specifically, she chose my actual bed to give birth on.

"I know you have Corky," I told Bunny one night in a recording, "But Dawn is pregnant. Would you be interested in a cat?"

"I have always dreamed of having a cat that like...actually liked me. I've only ever been around cats that weren't mine and weren't affectionate anyway."

Dawn gave birth on my bed in the early hours of March 14th, 2019. She gave birth to three girls who looked just like her. Each time one of them crowned, she attempted to sit down, thinking her job was done. What she did instead was sit on each baby's head for a moment before I shoo'd her upright again. The whole ordeal took less than an hour, I think. It's hard to remember now--moments like that can be so hectic. But what I do remember was Baby A hearing the commotion of a mama cat screaming her way through two births and came into my room to see baby number three enter the world. We got her into the laundry basket full of old towels I had prepared for her and watched her laze there, feeding her kittens.

For about an hour.

Then her labor began again.

We thought she was done. Imagine our shock when she gave birth in quick succession to two boys that looked just like their father.

All the babies were cute. Obviously. They're kittens, that goes without saying. But when Dawn pushed out the second to last kitten and sat on his head, I got her back up onto her feet, supporting her until she'd pushed him free of her body. Looking down at that goop-slicked fur bean, I knew the immediate love that fills a mother's heart when the doctor puts their newborn up on their chest. For there he was--my son. Charles David. I knew him instantly. Because sometimes your person can also be your cat. They were too young to know their sex and yet I saw him, knew he was my son, and knew his name was Chuck.

"Hey, turns out it doesn't ultimately matter if you yourself want a cat because there will be one in the house regardless. Dawn gave me a son last night and I'd sooner gnaw off all of my toes than leave him behind."

I sent her pictures once Dawn had cleaned them all up. Ultimately, Bunny was on board.

Raising a litter of kittens in a tiny bedroom while sifting through the clutter of artifacts accumulated over the course of 28 years was unsurprisingly difficult. At some point, one of Dawn's nipples became chafed and she decided motherhood was overrated, so I had to bottle feed the kittens. They grew bigger, stronger. Their eyes opened. Maeve (named by Baby A) discovered how to climb the mattress and boxspring to lay in bed with me and her siblings, having watched her do this, followed suit. I barely slept because I was so worried about potentially rolling over and crushing one of them during the night. When the time came to start them on wet food, I fed them in my room between packing boxes and giving clothing away to Baby A (who by this point was nearly my height--still a child but no longer a baby). Maverick--the most vocal and precocious of the litter--would climb my legs in her attempt to be the first to get to the bowls as I dished the food out on top of my hip-height dresser. By the time I got to Oklahoma, my legs looked like I'd spent the lead up to the move running through bramble bushes.

Bunny closed on the house and "lived" there six months before I moved. You see the quotation marks. She got the house professionally painted that shade of Millennial gray we quickly came to hate, sent me a video tour of the house she took herself, and then took to spending her time off work at her parent's house. I wasn't there yet. It wasn't yet home.

The day finally came. Bunny drove from Oklahoma to Florida with her friend (now our friend) Anya and got a hotel. The plan was for the two of them to decompress for a night before we would all head out the next day. She came over to meet me for the first time, face to face.

My family was abuzz. They were nervous, excited. Would they like her? She had messaged me to tell me she was on her way to my house for a quick visit. It felt too strange to us for her to just show up on moving day, pack me and my meager belongings into the rental car and drive off. So when she rang the doorbell, we were all in the living room trying to act normal--a monumental ask for my family.

I opened the door. She'd never claimed to be tall but she was still shorter than I expected. We hugged. It felt easy. She came in, I introduced her and Anya to my family, and we all sat around attempting to be normal. Thankfully Anya--a fellow Leo--got to talking with my mom. Dad and C remained rather silent--the norm for them around strangers. The kittens milled and frolicked around the living room. I scooped up Chuck and introduced him to Bunny, who'd brought a carrier for us to take him home in. And Maverick, bold as brass, walked up to Bunny and immediately began rubbing against her leg, meowing loudly. I turned to Baby A.

"Looks like we're taking Maverick, too." I informed her.

Bunny looked delighted to have a cat finally choose her.

By this point, my family had taken to smoking outside. So I excused myself to the front yard for a cigarette, and Bunny followed. Standing on the front porch of my parent's house--no longer my home--she and I regarded each other like two people harboring a secret.

"I feel like a fugitive." I said finally.

"I know!" She laughed. "I feel like we're getting away with something."

And perhaps we were. In the grand scheme of human history, we'd managed to do something our not so distant ancestors would have never dreamed of. We met a person we had no previous familial, professional or community ties to who lived a thousand miles away, forged a bond, and were going to travel in the luxury of a rented SUV towards our new life.

I remember hearing the term 'queerplatonic' for the first time years ago. The concept then--as it still does now--perplexed many. "So they're politicizing...friendship now?" or "Yeah, idiot, that's just called having friends" seemed to be--and remains--the reaction by those who refuse to stop and take a few more seconds to really think about the concept.

It's simple--friendship in the larger culture tends to be treated as an afterthought. Especially for women. The idea is, you get a man and you stop spending so much time with your friends. They're viewed as being less important than the romantic relationship in your life. The concept of queerplatonic relationships buck this trend, placing platonic relationships and chosen family above romantic love in the hierarchy of importance.

Bunny and I are both certain our families don't really know what to make of us--of the set up we have going on specifically. It's not something we really talk about to them in any real depth. It's not as though they'd really understand, anyway. Try saying the word "queerplatonic" to most people 50+ and watch the hamster turning the wheel in their head spontaneously keel over dead. Hell, there are some folks our own age that won't understand. "If not f*cking, why so devoted?" seems to be a hard hurdle for many people to jump. Looking in from the outside, we both understand why it might be easy for people to mistake us for being a romantic couple. She goes to work, pays the bills, I stay home and do the cooking, cleaning, and pet raising. It's all very traditional, in that way.

The topic of us came up after one Christmas. We'd spent actual Christmas day at her family's house--that weekend she went out to do extended family Christmas without me (bless her). Not long after we got to her brother's house, Bunny's niece (Lowercase) called me 'Aunt Zee'--a first. Her brother J had apparently made a face that I missed at the time, and she and her sister in law K were discussing this over deviled eggs as young cousins weaved their way through and around the legs of the adults.

"I don't understand why she did that." J had said.

"I told her she could." K informed him before Bunny could say anything.

"Oh?" The siblings shared confusion.

"Yeah. I figured Zee's going to be in Bunny's life forever. Which means she'll be in Lowercase's life just as much." K shrugged.

Bunny filled me in on this discussion some days later, in the car as we drove to the bookstore. About how K didn't seem to fully understand the dynamic but at least was able to intuit the profundity of it. It had prompted J to ask Bunny if she and I were an item. It's a conversation she's had with her family in one form or another a few times, now.

They like me, but their confusion about my presence is sometimes palpable.

As I write this now, it is June 2024. The last month of 2023, I had to go in for a mammogram (I'm fine, by the way). I have no job and no insurance. The screening--just as all my dental work up to this point--was paid for by Bunny. The topic came up when she was on the phone with her mother.

"You don't understand," she tried to explain, "I'm not married and I never plan to be. I don't plan to date, either. But Zee is...she's the most important to me. That's the level our friendship is at--it's on that level. We're committed to each other."

In short, it is that deep.

I don't know if her family--especially her mom--really understands. The closest my family has come to broaching the subject is when my brother--much like her’s--asked me if we were dating. Largely, I think my family has long since resigned themselves to never fully understanding my life choices and are just happy that I'm happy, much like when I decided to read tarot for a living for a little while.

Much of life is outside of our control. Where you're born, how you're born, who you're born to. Much like trauma or the cat distribution system--things often come your way with very little input from you. You wake each morning to the same room (typically) and you make a choice to get out of bed. You follow your morning routine if you have one. You log on to social media and see a comment from a stranger in the same fandom as you, asking you about witchcraft. You answer or you don't. Maybe a friendship forms. Maybe it forms over the course of a decade. Maybe you ignore the comment altogether. You go to school, you get the job, you marry your high school sweetheart. You get the mortgage and have the babies and fight over who is doing the dishes tonight.

Or you buck tradition and through a Rube Goldberg machine of dead ends, determination, and mental illness you fall ass backwards into a found family consisting of two witches, a dog and two cats and are fortunate to build a little life together.

You wake up in your new home with gray walls and the kittens climbing all over you wanting breakfast and you find your best friend--your partner in crime, the heist of your own future having been successful--in the living room watching TV. And you pour cereal and feed the cats and eat on the couch and just talk. You go grocery shopping and hit up the used bookstore and take late night drives to the On Cue for freezies and chips and cigarettes. You get sick of your ugly gray walls and you go to the hardware store and pick out paint and get samples and slather them on different walls of the living room so you know what they'll look like in every light. You host your first Christmas together and invite your friends and accidentally melt a plastic plate in the oven. And you know it is only the first of many domestic mishaps and you brace for eventual impact--emergency vet visits and a car accident and kitchen sink leaks and a side by side fridge you hate and need to replace soon and updating the dishwasher after tax returns come in, and a gutter that's falling off the house and so many more things--and know that the hard knocks of life and home ownership are going to be okay because you have your best friend by your side and the two of you can figure it out.

Because the 'why' is simple: It's love and love is always worth it no matter what form it may take.

So that's my life up until this point. I sit here writing this as a 33 year old who has lived with her best friend and their animal children since June 2019. We've gone on countless domestic adventures, dealt with home repairs, emergency vet bills, one attempted break-in, 468 summer days, one out-of-state vacation (soon to be two), and all the various minutiae that makes up building a life together.

Lately my days have centered around housework, outlining my novel, and a Flavor of Love re-watch. As well as finally making the push to start writing on Substack, of course.

I plan on writing essays on pop culture, book reviews, thoughts about attempting to finish writing a novel, and there will probably be some stuff about witchcraft and my daily life thrown in there, too. If that sounds interesting, watch this space--I have a pledge to make to you as a book reviewer, which will help you understand what kind of stories I both love to read and write.

*Obviously, I had a biological father. But he was such a non-entity that I legit forget he exists sometimes. This is the myth about my conception I tell myself as a joke whenever I forget about ol' dude.

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