Time was going to run out soon. The last bit of sunlight was fading away and the preparations for dinner were about to be set. I was setting up the common space in the house, as ordered by my Aunt Joy. We were having a dinner gathering, at my home in Oakland, for Samhain.
“Remember, I don’t want to hear any bitchin’ from you in the kitchen area,” She instructed.
“Yes sir,” I nodded and carried the plates out into the living room. I arranged them in parallel stacks on the tiny table in the middle of the living room. I had to make sure get the black candles, the stack of bills, and the bowl of popuri out of the way.
Thankfully, the common room had been cleaned out beforehand for the Holiday event so it made things easier for me to arrange. The house alter to Kali and Shiva was arranged and dusted. The shed snake skins had been removed from the snakes’ tanks and placed all around the crucifixion statue. The dream catchers and skeleton dragon hanging up on the ceiling were still dusty though…
“Happy new year!” My friend Princess gave me a great big surprise hug from behind me.
I instinctively grabbed her beard and pinned her down. “Watch it Sister Submissive.”
Just then, my Aunt Joy walked in. “You’re learning.” She smiled and grabbed Princess from the back of her neck. “Now,” she said to princess sternly, “I want you to help out with the food. Go!”
“Yes sir!” She quickly went into the kitchen to prep up. I followed along. Princess, along with my other housemate Steve, were scurrying to make any last arrangements for the food. They were precise in adding extra spices on the smashed potatoes, cautious in wrapping the cheese and veggies in the powdered rye dough mix, and being oh-so-careful not to bring any negative energy.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t want Joy to hear us complaining. She would throw a fit if any bad woo would get into the food,” Princess commented looking around to see if Joy was nearby.
Steve just chuckled and placed some oily pontebello wraps into the oven to bake. He never was one to complain anyway. Steve tended to just smile, nod, and do what he is asked.
I decided to clean some of the kitchen so I would have less of a mess to worry about. There was a smile on my face when I decided to arrange the colorful jars on the shelf on top of the sink. Aunt Joy and I decided to decorate them to look lively for whoever decided to come by the kitchen.
“Hey Steve, can you go open the door?” Princess asked Steve. “I think I hear the guests coming by.”
In a matter of seconds the common space was filled with several people. They marched in headed toward their proper seats chit-chatting away about the recent events in the news that was happening. I made sure to give everyone a hug and kiss on the cheek, just as I was conditioned by my family back down in Los Angeles. I could not help but notice that everyone was obsessed with the new Cold War that was happening between us and China.
It did not seem likely the topic was going to change at any point. In fact, they were so obsessed with it the Cold War that, when anyone tried to bring up anything else, it would quickly be dismissed. Lizard and Fai were especially worried due to the new “witch hunt” since it would not allow them to marry.
“First I couldn’t marry Fai because he was a man, now I can’t marry him because he’s a Chinese Immigrant. This is all bullshit!” Lizard tried really hard to yell but his frustration was much too obvious in sight but he kept his cool since Kai was there to comfort him.
“I know, but be thankful he wasn’t falsely accused of terrorism and killed like some of the people we have seen on the news.” Willow told her friend. She stood up and leaned behind one the chairs. “One my closest friends was taken away by the authorities because he supposedly looked one of the Xinjiang Raiders. I haven’t heard from him since. I didn’t get a phone call or anything. I don’t know what to say or think honestly.” She looked outside the window. She did not show any signs of remorse. Instead there was determined look in her face as she was thinking of trying to find a way to save her dear friend. “By the Gods, I am not going to give up until I know the truth. What is the point of living in a free nation when we are constant worry or even in fear of our own lives?”
“I hope for our sake as well as your friend’s sake that everything will be alright.” Steve sighed.
“Hope can actually be one the worse things to feel,” Princess informed. All of us all turned our attention toward her. She was brushing her beard with her nails having been neatly trimmed, as Joy often ordered her to do. “When Pando-”
“Food is ready!” Joy shouted interrupting Princess.
Steve, along with my friend Taylor, came in with dinner and dessert trays to set up on the table. The people stood up in line to get their individual plates and food. The yellow mashed potatoes where right in the middle covered in onions, around it were the pontebello wraps, the tiny salad plates stood in two rows on the sides of the table. I saw that there were brownies on the side that were made extra moist; they were practically oozing, chocolate syrup was bleeding from the sides. Aunt Joy led us in prayer to honor our loved ones who have passed away, inviting them to come eat with us.
In a matter of seconds there was silence. As soon as we all got our food we sat down in the chairs and couches. Steve and Taylor decided to sit on the floor. Some of the guests stayed down looking at our plates during the silence as they ate. I didn’t really eat anything, I wasn’t hungry. Lizard placed his head on Fai’s shoulder, the two breathing in unison on the couch. Fai turned over to Willow who was sitting right of the couple and held her hand. When Princess finished her food, she kneeled next to Joy who scratched her behind the ear. I noticed Taylor look up at me as I stood to gather everyone’s plate as they finished.
“Thank you my dear.” He smiled. “You are quite the lovely lady.” He turned towards Princess. “Princess what were you about to say earlier?”
“Ah yes, I was about to reference Pandora. I know you are familiar with her in the fact that she was the one who unleashed demons and diseases upon this Earth but trapped the demon who controls hope. In most people’s eyes it teaches us that even at our darkest moments at least not all is lost because our hope has not been taken away.”
I was listening in as I washing the dishes.
“Yet, if you read carefully it was hope that was left inside that because if it was unleashed it can truly curse us all. Hope cane lead to desperation which in turn makes us in vulnerable spot to be manipulated by the wrong hands. It is good that you concerned. But, judging by your state in mind you have to accept that your friend is dead or it will make you desperate enough that you’ll get into trouble.” A large debate began right after she was done.
I stayed lost in thought gazing out the window. I didn’t even notice Taylor next to me drying the dishes next to me after I washed them. I was trying to remember a time when I wasn’t so worried about the war or my own government. I ended up gazing upon the shelf above me, the one that had colorful animated Jars lined up filled with the dead ashes of dead friends that had passed away during the plague years of the 1980s when I was born. My Aunt Joy had told me that these were people she held in her arms as they died.
“I still kept going. No matter what. I sucked it in and kept going.” She told me once when she shared the story of each person in those Jars. I couldn’t help but smile as I gazed up at them. It made me miss the days that I had told my parents their daughter was bisexual and faced their ridicule.
“You want to head over your bedroom?” Taylor asked.
I just stared into his dark green eyes. They were hungry.
“Or, we could stay here. You lead the way.”
I took a deep breath and gently grabbed his hand.
I was silent the whole time he was on top of me. I made a moan here and there, but nothing too grand. I didn’t really feel anything. I couldn’t give much of an expression. I very passive in my mind. My body did all the work. My skin felt cold to Taylor every time he pressed up against me. No matter, he was still enjoying himself.
When Taylor finished he wanted to cuddle but I just told him it was best if he left. Disappointed but respectful, he knew there was no sense in trying to form a bond with me if it was only going to lead to grief. Then again, I thought, all bonds do anyways one form or another.
The whole time I was with Taylor, my eyes kept looking up the ceiling. I could not help staring up at the ceiling fan covered in dust. Some of it was falling in the ground because of the bed shaking. The dust made me think of the Jars in the kitchen what the people must have been liked before they ended up in the containers. How they were free to enjoy acts such as this one. I wondered what was going on in their minds before they died. Were they hoping that our present, their future, would be any better?
I paused. “I’m hungry…” I whispered.