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     I make my fellah wake me up when he gets up to go to work. It makes me feel normal, to be awake before the sun; this was part of my everyday, and I want to keep it. After he leaves, I steam my scalp and my face (the only time I’ve not been plagued by dry, embarrassing skin was when I lived in the most humid place I ever plan to live), watch a few episodes of Grace and Frankie with the subtitles on so I can hear it over the hissing, and dress for my now daily walk to keep my steps in any sort of a respectable range compared to the 15K I’d get daily in my classroom.

     Today is a beautiful day to be outside, but I wanted to experience it before it was beautiful, before it peeled off its overcast robe, shuffled down the driveway to retrieve the soggy newspaper, before anyone knew what it would look like with its roots freshly dyed or its eyes decrusted. I walked up and back down the winding, sidewalk-less roads leading to intersections that led to the empty buildings of the Capital Allentown Baptist Church, the Metropolitan Church of God, and then the immense and equally empty Ebenezer AME Church. Gas is now down to $1.79.

     My fellah works for Metro, and he called to tell me that he had to transport a train operator who felt Covid-19 symptoms to get tested. Later on, he texts me to say that his boss has now tested positive, a man who fits the physical and health profile of most of the county residents who do not fare well and have more often died from its complications: older, African-American, obese, heart and breathing issues, etc. I’ve been home from teaching since the Friday the 13th we had in March, and we’ve been spraying the front door knobs with Lysol every time we leave the house, but I know this proximity is wearing on him, even as he is no way near the front lines; he is still leaving the house, and that is almost enough.

     On days I leave my house, my one errand is always the same: to replenish some phantom void in our food supply, to feel a little normal. They’d had lines of people waiting to enter Trader Joe’s for weeks now but, today, I learned that we can’t take in our reusable grocery bags, and now all employees work behind masks and plexiglass shields. At the Giant, there were neon tape arrows dictating which direction you should walk to avoid crossing paths with people. My ever telescoping world is shrinking; there is always some item that I normally get easily that, now when I see it in stock, I buy two (but never the last two), and I feel like I’ve won some minor prize, some free tube of toothpaste that comes attached to the box you were going to buy anyway. While at Giant, I picked up some new flavor of sugar free energy drink that I don’t even need because I took my Adderall-and-a-half, and by the time I was home and halfway through the thing, I was tired of it but refused to waste in and thought, wait, THIS would go well with some vodka and well, here I am, walking the imaginary fence with Calvin and Hobbes between two types of stimulant.

     If you can make something into a game, you can make a game out of anything. In a delusion of productivity, I bought a Stealth Core board that tricks you into holding dynamic plank positions while you shoot planets using and app on your phone. There’s another one on my wishlist that connects Kegel muscle exercises to shooting birds. I can’t judge myself too harshly; my students play games where they cook burgers, making ice cream sundaes. Hell, they have games where people remodel homes. Glorious what the fuck? So yeah, today I played a hang gliding game and hit balloons, trees, and birds, the whole time on my knees but, hey, that’s actually progress.

     I return home, make my first responsible lunch so far this week, and listen to a podcast while I reorganize my dresser drawers. I have a small pile of “grown up” bras for when I want to dress like an adult, a small pile of “my thighs rub too much and it makes me uncomfortable” accessories, and a couple “sports bras for when workouts make me bounce,” all of which I hope I never need to need but refused to throw out. I still wear all of my Lululemon yoga pants and, when I’m allowed to, I would like to get back into hot yoga. I miss those moments most when you were expected to be around other people but weren’t really expected to connect with them (aside from the quick queue to receive either the Tranquility or Energy essential oil before you began your practice).

     Seeing everyone in masks reminds me of how much I focus on people’s eyes when we’re talking, and I got this idea of having people send me photos, and I’d make a quiz to see if people could tell whose are whose if all they had was the eyes. I AM a teacher, after all, and it would be nice to give a quiz that people actually took; I struggled to get students to turn in work when they were right in front of me and, based on what I’ve seen so far, planning and grading will take even less effort now than it did then.

     When I was around people all the time, I used to contemplate people: their motivations, their allegiances, their flaws and perfections. Then, when there were no people, I fell into contemplating the politics defining this moment in geographic spaces. Starting on March 23rd, I started tracking the Covid cases inside my state, still doing it today. I’m not sure why, but I thought I’d use the numbers in an art project or something; the act of writing down a number every day makes me feel like I’m documenting something important, even though I don’t, as of yet, have any personal connection to any of these numbers. It feels like I’m keeping a candle burning, so of course it makes me feel empowered. Which of course is false. It didn’t take long before I had to stop following the politics as well; the sad part is that most of the comedians I follow for sanity have also been sucked into the maelstrom, and I’m left to fend for myself.

     Of course, I have little projects. I’m watching beginner ASL videos. I signed myself up for a month of intestinal cleansing. I’m slowly working through creating a book study for the Black Panther graphic novels that Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote. I’m talking to my older brother on the phone almost every day. I’m trying to set up video play dates with my friends. I’m trying NOT to eat any more Oreos, trying to keep up a stamina for sex, working at once to be spontaneous and steadfast in this feigned attempt at having control in my life. I’m trying to be grateful for all the things that have made this time much more bearable for me than others around me, trying to also allow myself to FEEL lonely and lost.

     The project, as always, is me.

So uh.

I've been feeling fairly well disappointed for a while. Feeling ignored like I used to be in middle school. Not here -- hardly here. I get feedback here. But elsewhere, like Twitter and Tumblr and other social media...I post stuff and nobody says a dang thing about it. Even the people who enjoy getting into squabbles on the Internet. I can't get bullied in school and I can't get harrassed on Social Media. Yay?

I mean it's called SOCIAL media and I don't post hardly enough for anyone to have much chance to see my stuff -- you have to actually be engaged in a social media account if you want any responses.

And I thought that was about how things were going in my experience with fanfic. I've never written much of it so when I posted a couple chapters of my current work on Archive of Our Own, I shouldn't have expected much response. And I didn't get much. 49 hits in two months, one like, one bookmark, no comments.

But I had expected a great deal of response. To receive none felt like a personal blow. I write good! The folks who see my writing like it! Do I have to call myself an Ignored Genius?

I was hoping for a better response on AO3 because it's not a time-based feed like Twitter or Tumblr. If something's posted and it fits the tags of what you're interested in, you can stumble across the work later, because the folks who run AO3 do a hell of a lot of work to make sure that stuff doesn't get wiped from the site by malice or accident.

I guess I was over-reliant on the tags to bring people to me. And over-reliant on a few specific tags. I thought shipping three female characters together would be a big draw. Well, maybe. But focusing on three ORIGINAL characters? On a website dedicated to FANDOM?

Today I finally bothered to see how many people had written a polyamorous lesbian relationship in the Harry Potter fandom and the answer was: One. Out of 246,307 works on the site.

Okay, I thought, maybe the Harry Potter fandom isn't a good place for that thing. How many original-female-character polyships are there on the whole website?

48.

And only a few thousand polyships of canonical female characters.

On the single largest collection of fan works within the entire internet. Which is possibly the largest single collection of literature in human history.

Ha ha. ha. ha. Ha. ha.

Whoops.

Maybe posting that kind of stuff on AO3 is like trying to sell refrigerators to Eskimos. Ain't no sense using that a selling point after all. Maybe it was a little crass to think of it as a selling point or a measure of merit. I sure didn't start out writing it that way. I wrote what I wanted to see. And I felt like I'd done something worthwhile even without getting romance involved.

So, I'd hoped that at least one person out of 49 viewers would tell me if they thought my work was worth reading. Getting no comments felt like being a performer on stage and getting no audience reaction at all.

Then I found the one writer who had come up with a Harry Potter work resembling mine. They'd been posting that work since 2018, they'd done 73 works over two years, and the number of works they received any commentary was...eight.

I guess I don't feel quite so bad now.

Maybe this website facilitates commentary better than AO3 does. The whole upvote/downvote thing lets people leave their true opinion of a work without having to break anonymity. Kind of like the upvotes and downvotes on Reddit, except without letting popularity determine a post's visibility. I get a better sense of what people think of my work here than I do elsewhere. Maybe if I've been grumbling about a pack of feedback it means I haven't been grateful to this website's community. This was the first place where I got real feedback about my writing and I think that's part of why I kept going over the years. There are a lot of things I wrote that wouldn't exist if not for this place, and maybe I wouldn't have finished any of my longer work without the Iron Noder Challenge.

I'm not always on here. I come and go because sometimes I don't have much of a mind to write anything. Sometimes I drift away because I'm ashamed about leaving a developing story hanging when people have expressed their interest clearly. I've got a lot of categories here I left unfinished. Like Kicking My Way Down To Hell -- I have a vague memory that the series was inspired by Lizardinlaw's leather coat and I wound up having a central character named after RedOmega. Or the Legend of the Red Barracuda category. Moeyz loved that one but for some reason I couldn't keep it going. 

I don't finish much of anything that takes too much time and I forget people, even the folks I care about. I forgot it was Wertperch who helped me get rolling on this website. I forgot that Auduster always loves reading my wackier writings. So I carry a lot of shame around and it's easy for me to think that people hate me, and if I post something online and nobody says a dang thing about it, I start to get more worried than I ought to be. Folks have their own lives and they have busy lives. Not like there's always time to say anything. Somtimes there's nothing to say at all. I have to remember that.

I'm glad to be around here on E2 even if I'm not always present. I'm glad this writing community exists and that I could be a part of it.

Thanks for Everything.

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