In synagogue they said my name and the name of my father and my father's father. For hours I heard nothing but Hebrew and now suddenly this, the first family name I ever heard, like a familiar melody in a long strange song. I do not believe. I am in Israel, surrounded by men who I am told have blood that runs like mine in their veins and back through time to Abraham and Adam, my namesake. Blood leading me back to me in the Garden, made from clay, lifted from the God box underneath the wall from which shook out all the mothers and the fathers and that's how the universe was born.

What don't I believe? Above us the women sit in the balcony and and ululate and throw candy when the time is right. The kids down below dart out from their father's legs to take what they can; theirs is a language I understand. My grandfather's niece's son-in-law shows me where we are in the text and he is patient and warm and at first I think sad; but no; he can't express himself to me in English, it is too complicated, he is hopeful that I might come back to into the fold of blood brothers and sisters, family beyond family, I suppose this is all really about home...

...San Francisco, 2002: We are gathered in the living room of our transitional living program for a staff meeting. It is the morning of September 11th, I have my coffee and donut, and Stephen wants to make us a space to process how we are feeling. We try. My thoughts are sad because I believe in the magic of dates, number as doors into the past or the future. If we knew how to the open them then time travel would be as easy as dawn on the morning of your birthday, your death-day's secret date made visible like the moon. Stephen is struggling to articulate his feelings, his eye watery and working towards an answer. I watch Nicole heading down Ashbury outside, her hair pulled back tight, early morning pale of her face, beautiful lips and eyes on the cigarette in front of them. I have glimpsed the ecstatic beauty of certain mathematical relationships, e to the j times theta; and once started a poem that went, "The clock reads 1:07am and I know I love you." I was 15 years old. Olivia's face was the almost too much beauty to bear, but I liked the pain and when the song came on I would sing "You're so fucking special... skin makes me cry" until the hurt felt desperate and endless and wild. Then suddenly all the numbers in the world could not take me out of myself and my poor young body, unloved and touched, virgin, virgin for a long time...

Stephen gives up with a sigh. "We just have to support each other and be mindful of how the residents may need us today to work through the difficult feelings that may come up." He looks around. A year later we would sit together in his apartment, both a little high, and he will tell me that as long as he and I stick together we can make some really special, we have a chemistry, a rare thing... and I think: I've heard this before. I think: Uh-oh. Shortly after that I never saw him again.


You can go out west because you need a new frontier. You can go to San Francisco if you have no home, live out on the streets by the park, stay away from the gutterpunk kids in front of Amoeba Records and the undercover cops trying to see if you get high. Find some friends and stick together. Beg a little, play guitar in the BART station and make about ten dollars an hour until they ask you to leave. Change your body with metal and ink, change your sex with hormones; they're free, but the surgery will cost you, start saving up. In the synagogue we face the windows, towards Jerusalem; some men come from their seats to kneel by the windows and pray. When they do I pray, too. My companion takes the tallis and puts it over my head. He places his hand there and asks God for the ultimate blessing on me and my blood and my family. I can't see anything but the light working its way through the cloth, and again there is that strange music but now I feel calm and quiet and loved. There is no transformation, no change but a new story, a date to remember, and a faint burning in my chest I only now recognize must have come from outside my heart, slowly moving in.

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