The 8″ Spike of Paranoia



The 8″ Spike of Paranoia
by Kandace Creel Falcón

When Brad called from the truck repair shop with news as to why the Silverado’s left rear tire kept losing air, he said they found an eight inch spike in there. “Wow” I said, a little baffled as to how one runs over that long of a metal stake and doesn’t notice. He filled my silence with, “yeah, it was like a big, long nail, and driving with it in the tire rubbed against the sidewall so you’re gonna need a new one.” Ugh, I thought, particularly aggrieved as we had just paid nearly a thousand dollars for a set of four tires to prepare for the impending winter snow plowing season. Thankfully it was just the one, though when I relayed the story over the phone to Vaimo who was out of town at a conference, her initial response was, “did we get hate crimed?”

In some ways that thought made me laugh, but paranoia is often fueled by the desire to control an environment for safety. Paranoia is often dismissed as unreasonable anxieties. As if the worry about something that has not yet happened to you, but has happened to others, is rooted beyond the realm of the possible. A quick internet dictionary search reveals that paranoia is characterized as a psychotic state related to fictions the mind constructs in the form of delusion. Though, its colloquial use is an extreme (irrational) mistrust of others. What strikes me as interesting, is how irrationality has historically been linked to women—hysterical white femininity for example is characterized as the extreme form of an inability to regulate one’s emotions, not as a rational manifestation of the result of living in a world not set up to allow room for grief, or trauma responses. But a world that refuses dignity in the externalization of internal pain; a world that demands sanity above all, no room for rage at injustice.

Vaimo and I tried to retrace where the truck had been. She had taken it to work, parked the vehicle outside in the parking lot. It is a pretty noticeable steed, rusted tire wells, a busted up side mirror marred by clipping the trees on the driveway too closely while going too fast in an effort to throw snow off the driveway into the aspen forest. I noticed a month ago when transporting my paintings to the gallery, rust has eaten an entire hole through the truck bed. This means, you can see right through to the ground when you’re loading artwork for transportation, or hay bales for the goats. Hermana and I also had taken the truck to town around the same time Vaimo took it to work. Who knows how that eight inch stake punctured the rubber that holds up the half ton truck with a busted headlight cover. I didn’t think we were hate-crimed but I also, couldn’t rule it out as a possibility.

Violence, or the threat of violence permeates my psyche like the rust burrowing a hole through steel. The psychic weight of calculations Vaimo and I make daily, some consciously recognized, others only after met with the opportunity to reflect, are heavy loads to carry. Sometimes, I reach for Vaimo’s arm as we walk down a sidewalk, wanting to cruise like an old Hollywood couple down the promenade, and sometimes she tenses. Not from my touch, but she’s on high alert, scanning the road to see if there are threats in the form of danger; people who might have violent words to share about us, to hurl at us. People who might have violent thoughts and actions brought to some kind of hysteria because we dared challenge the idea that two women might be lovers strolling, instead of just friends.

We’ve recently been enjoying the reboot of A League of One’s Own, the television series is a narrative, fictionalized retelling of the history of women playing baseball during the WWII era in the US. So much about the women who were in the league has come out after the hit movie by the same name was released in the nineties. Reflections on the queerness of the league, and on the purposeful ways that racism functioned to exclude Black women from being able to play have been reclaimed, reasserting the truths that those of us queer, and/or POC knew to be true when we saw the original Hollywood tale. That original tale was a favorite movie of mine growing up, for what I would come to understand as a limited representation of the white and heterosexual fictions of a liberal feminism. The version that producers sanitized and thus were able to share became a film consumable for the masses. The Hollywood execs deemed this sanitization necessary because the erasure of the deeper, more complex realities meant no one needed to be too offended by the women who talked back, who were physically embodied, who dared function in the world beyond the limited notions of others’ desires for them. A queer woman talking back? Too much! A lesbian playing baseball and not bowing down to the alter of patriarchy? Very dangerous.

And yet, watching that show has sent me into a paranoid state. Greta, beautiful, tall, white, high femme is paranoid. She has rules that govern her relationships with other women because she has experienced a former lover being sent to the psych ward. She does things to keep herself as safe as she can while pursuing romantic relationships with other women. And while clearly, things have changed eighty years since this fictional character existed, when she divulges to her lover Carson that they can never be seen “like that” in public a part of me saw her and felt that to be true for me too. It’s in the way Vaimo and I calculate if we can hold hands, it’s in the way I run through the scenarios of what can happen when I use the word wife to describe her in relation to me, it’s in the way that we modify our clothes, our actions, in order to appear less queer so as to be in less perceived or real danger. We too, have rules that govern our actions. We too, are paranoid.

This is what it feels like to be tolerated. To be allowed to exist, but conditionally. Conditionally, as long as we aren’t too noticeable. Don’t draw too much attention to ourselves. Agree to the terms of safety because of the tension with visibility with the safety of our physical selves at the cost of our psychic and spiritual selves. We need to find someone to come out to the house to do some maintenance on our heating system again. A work colleague of Vaimo’s gave her a recommendation. She said, “do you know how they feel about lesbians?” And he admitted that he’s never really had to think about that.

I feel like our beat up Chevy Silverado. Some days I’m proud of the battle scars. I’m proud to be in this beat up beast, it shows the marks and wear of time and work. It’s not just a shiny, pretty thing, she’s seen some things. And keeps running in spite of the challenges. And sometimes I feel envious of those who have never been paranoid. And sometimes I find wisdom in the paranoia. The internet tells me the word’s etymology is greek and that para means beyond or beside and the original greek suffix was noos which means mind. I guess it makes sense that if paranoia is beyond the mind, outside or beside the rational thought process of a capable mind, then that’s why this paranoia manifests in my body and in my spirit. The clench of my jaw, the holding of my breath, the tensing of muscles that never relax. The heaviness in one’s spirit showing up to family gatherings where some would rather you be dead than queer. The pain in wanting to and not feeling safe enough to express your love and care through a gentle touch in public. Of being allowed to be in the community but not embraced fully. Being awake to how political and legal forces are constantly working to delegitimate your very existence, is also a form of paranoia. One that begins to morph into a state of feeling like everyone is out to get you. That paranoia can seep into one’s creative process, creating a cycle of self-censorship. Of worrying if to do what you’re doing is too queer, too beyond the scope of what will be deemed worthy, sanitized enough for the straight world’s consumption.

Or perhaps it’s even worse than that, you’re safe in the invisibility of being seen as your fullest, queerest self, because those around you don’t even have in their mind the ability for you to be as you are. “And what’s the name of your husband you want put on the account?” The nice woman on the other side of the electricity coop asks after I said I had a spouse. Later, Vaimo and I would laugh, when I told her what happened. “I guess the neighborhood knows that lesbians are moving in, she’ll spread the word.” And our neighbors did hear. And they keep their distance. And shortly after we moved in, a neighbor, an esteemed business man in a nearby town, erected a huge Christian cross, like the kind that the Romans used to crucify Jesus, in their yard overlooking the lake, that they illuminate at night. As if to keep vampires away I joke, but I know it’s to signal something, to us, the queerdos next door. I think about the eight inch metal stake cutting through rubber like it might one’s hand. And I wonder, if perhaps, we’re all just traumatized by our personal paranoias. And how the sidewall has been rubbed away too much to hold the tire’s integrity. And if the tire can’t be saved, what does the replacement look like in this broken down metaphor? In my broken side mirror? In my broken spirit? I guess eighty years from now I hope a queer Chicana in the country doesn’t have to be paranoid. That she doesn’t have to sleep with an eight inch metal spike under her pillow, or wonder about if she’s only tolerated in her community. That if she happens to run over a long nail on the poorly grated county road, her wife doesn’t ask, “do you think we got hate crimed?”

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