September 2020


pasadena, california

diana stahl

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My feet need shoes today. Soft pink heels that zip up the side. I put on my new summer men’s shorts. A t-shirt and a sweatband. I light my candle used for divination then burn the lavender wrapped sweetgrass. I clean my Pasadena bedroom, bathroom, and balcony pretending I’m an AirBnb host with a paid guest arriving at noon. I pour myself two glasses of water. I scrub the bathroom, which is what I do when I feel overwhelmed. I pray that I will be able to let go for seven days. To rest. I promise my body a summer vacation.

I fantasized about driving up to Marin County to visit my aunt. She left a voicemail two days ago and sounded so much like my mother I cried on my bed more than expected. I miss my mother. After four years I thought her death would feel normal. Then again, who am I to judge what’s normal? My aunt sounded scared and talked about the fires. She ended her call with, “I hope you’re well”. I have not called her back. Pasadena will have to do.

Pasadena sits in occupied Tongva territory south of the San Gabriel Mountains. I try to acknowledge this because truth has always released me. I make a list of what vacation and summer means to me. I take my last CBD gummy and make eggs for lunch. I spend ten minutes certifying the last two weeks of unemployment insurance. I respond to an email from a potential employer. I make a note of the amount of money I’ve donated. The timer on my phone goes off reminding me to stop working. I think about calling my aunt back. I wonder if hearing my voice would make her cry also.

My stomach releases, the day goes on, and the game of pretending is working. I have now flipped from being the AirBnb host to the guest. I am relaxing. I am appreciating this city at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. The heatwave. I’m reading “Visit Pasadena” websites. I’m drooling over the local dumpling restaurant that’s, “Very tasty!”. I am trying to accept my sadness.

My lungs crave the outdoors. The goal this week is to pick a new place to roller-skate each night. I can’t stop thinking about roller skating since my mother died. My legs chose a parking lot tucked next to the Community College. I strap my skates on next to a cluster of succulents under a waxing moon. The CBD has relaxed me. It has not interfered badly with the Lexapro. The sky is pink. I sit for a while praying. I skate for ten minutes and my ankles feel weak. I want to leave my body. I choose to stay present.

Remembering the sacredness of land is a crucial part of roller skating. I consider black culture. How much black lives matter, and without black lives the US would not have roller skating. I skate wondering how to keep talking about that. I skate wondering if I’m not doing enough. I skate missing the roller rink in my hometown. Missing the way Friday nights felt there. I skate thinking about how many times the police have kept black people from skating. From living. From breathing. I skate to connect with the concrete near my house in Pasadena.

A parrot flies by making a brazen sound through its green body. It flies to the roadside hotel that’s on Route 66. “I think, ‘Wow. The road by my house is Route 66.’ my enthusiasm surprised me.” I consider all the travelers who’ve driven Route 66. How three roadside motels are parked less than a mile from my house, which now feels ridiculous and meaningful. The parrot reminds me of this.

My guts beg to relax. I hold them nearly as much as the furrow between my brow. Early mystics claim that the world was once soft, now hard, and will soften again. Like breathing. A carousel or wheel. This might be why I’ve held my stomach so tight. It feels real in it’s hardness, even though it’s naturally soft. The other week I spent two hours on Google Maps looking through my hometown. Remembering, there were some pockets that were not painful. There were some parts I will love forever. Something terrible can also be something sweet. Something sweet might also be terrible.

My night ends with a walk home. Astonished with the new love I have for Pasadena. For this pod I live in. How it reminds me of my hometown, for better and worse. I wonder what life would be like if we created a world that was based on love and acceptance. How much strength it will require. I miss seeing the homeless man who usually sleeps at the edge of our street. I hope the Pasadena mosquitoes don’t bite me tonight. I come home. I make some dinner. I try to get some sleep.


DIANA STAHL is a writer, revisionist akashic reader, and non-binary faerie. Their plays have been developed with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, The New Group, IRT, OTE, and Dixon Place. Their writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, xojane.com, and everydayfeminism.com. D hosts virtual ceremonies every six weeks affirming trans, non-binary, intersex, genderqueer, and gendernonconforming folx. They currently live on occupied Tongva territory in Pasadena, California. They/Them. www.dianastahl.com


(Image credit: Alistair Case)