In an interesting and unusual dialogue between myself and @WhyTrustTomHanks, I find myself musing- both in the sense of contemplating and in the sense of deriving inspiration from- the direct and indirect responses to one another’s externalizations of internal processes.
And this morning, I cannot help rereading his latest piece and thinking about performance and contradiction, about personas and desires, about authenticity and movement, about catalysts and amplifiers. An expansive morning with a full pot of coffee and a blank page waiting to be filled. These mornings are full of a calm I have learned to appreciate more and more.
I am a performer, in every sense of the word. In the most literal ways, certainly: I was a drag performer for over five years. But even before that, I have years of public speaking history: committee hearings on LGBT issues (back when my politics ascribed to the electoral model), sermons in churches ranging from 50-300 congregants, community town halls, leadership roles, national television. I know, in my veins, how to turn on. It’s automatic and immediate and requires no thought.
In the scene, I turn on in the same way I do for any performance role. My partner calls it “work mode.” I am what I am needed to be. High-energy, friendly, welcoming, full of movement, a blur out of the corner of your eye, a chuckle and a smile: “there they go again.” It’s one of the most echoing refrains of my experience at events: “I wanted to say something, but you always looked so busy!” followed closely by, “I could never seem to pin you down. You were there one minute, and gone the next, and I didn’t see you again.”
Which brings me, I suppose to my own contradictions: I am not any different in the kink scene than I am outside of it. How I present myself, the clothes I wear, the way I think and talk and move aren’t different. I can’t decide if I actively try to dampen down the high energy movement outside of the kink scene because that heightened level isn’t needed in the day-to-day, or if my natural elevation tends to heighten in response to the stimuli of large-scale events, but regardless.
And yet, there is a difference. I suppose “Malachi” is, in some regards, a scene persona, although it feels less separate from myself than, say, my drag persona did- I used Malachi before I ever came into the scene as my name. In the past year or so, I’ve done a little more work to consciously separate my life with my family from my life in the kink scene, but I don’t live in fear of being outed, should my legal name ever start floating around. This is, specifically for me, a result of having the ability to live a fairly integrated life.
So there is separation, but there also isn’t. I am who I am, whether I am in kink-space or not, except there is an aspect of performance at events that is not present when I am sitting on my couch in a onesie, drinking coffee and musing about these things.
Perhaps it is because my performance is based in movement, rather than stillness. It is based in glimpses and flashes and, so long as I don’t hold still for too long, there is little risk that those flashes will compile into a coherent image. And yet, I seek authenticity so strongly that this feels like a compromise: to live fully in discrete moments allows me to be authentic, while holding the vulnerability of being seen at bay. I do not provide much opportunity for continuity, perhaps because I am aware that continuity is impossible. There are aspects of my life that are neither well-defined nor well-behaved, and these singularities are the vulnerabilities I try to mask through working in discrete moments.
Am I less of who I am from one moment to the next? No, but it is an incomplete image, jumping from one moment to another like stepping stones, rather than walking smoothly across the path. My performance is, and always has been, movement.
A friend recently asked me if I often consider myself elegant. I laughed and said no, and he immediately asked why. I don’t remember exactly what I said in that moment, but I am thinking about it now in terms of movement patterns. Elegance is continuity, fluid motion and transition: the slow rise at dawn, stretching and unfurling. My beat moves faster than that, often: the crackling of flame, the edges of plasma devouring the air and gone before we have registered the shape of their outlines but in the retrospective afterglow. Teleportation is quick, but no one ever called it elegant (except, I suppose, the mathematicians behind the science. So perhaps I am elegant to whatever deity lives behind my own creation. But I digress.)
But movement and intentionality are not mutually exclusive. We can be intentional in our movements, whether they flow or spark, whether they are calm or excited. I cannot help but think of the discussions between predetermination and free will, and what impact our intentions might have within either framework. But then, with quantum physics, we also have to allow for the capacity for random chance, and on some fundamental level, I want to believe that intention can be the catalyst that moves outcome away from random and toward purposeful.
Catalyst. Catalysts and amplifiers, the gasoline poured and the match struck. Sometimes I am one; other times, I am the other. But amplifiers are the second before potential energy shifts into kinetic, and catalysts are the second immediately after; between the two, there is a moment of absolute stillness.
I remember viscerally those moments in which someone caught me standing still. The music of knives. Breakdowns in bushes. One cigarette turned to five outside a hotel con. In the main dungeon, caught up in rope and questions about color. A slow relaxation into massage. Conversations under stairwells.
These are the moments in which movement slowed, and continuity became a possibility, and the tempo of persona merged with the rhythm of person. They are the moment of stillness when potential shifts into kinetic, an unstoppable chain reaction quivering on the verge of beginning. Those are the moments I seek, and they are not possible with everyone, nor are the possible all the time- they are possible because of contradiction. Because they are rare, and that backdrop provides the opportunity for appreciation.
I can appreciate the moments of stillness because I live so much of my life in motion. In contradiction is the beauty, the juxtaposition between fluidity and staccato. Contradiction is the hum that comes from nowhere, filling every facet of the space to build a connection between the discrete moments, the holomorphic function to a removable singularity. Continuity and singularity are contradictions in terms, and yet we find a way to merge these ideas with imaginary numbers in complex analysis.
And so my contradiction is motion, because motion is how I live, but there is continuity between the gaps of the blurred figure flitting around the edges of your vision. I cannot afford to stand still all the time because movement is also escape from threat and danger. But look closely. Stand in just the right place at just the right moment, and you may see the ways in which I work around the gaps that are ill-defined. When I say I live in the cracks, it is because I find the ways to work around those parts of life that are ill-defined. So little in life is well-behaved, functionally or metaphorically. Euclidean geometry is a utopian myth; the patterns of my life are Mandelbrot fractals.