My mother has a hard time letting go of things. Greeting cards. Children’s books. Grudges. On a visit to her house in Silicon Valley, I help her empty her garage, turning her things out on the driveway. Passerby stop to pick at the bones. Amid the baby clothes and Christmas lights, I find a set of home movies. It’s twelve hours of footage from the year I was born. I take it home to Los Angeles to devour it.
I am born slimy, screaming; my mother cries out my beauty. A monster and her maker. My father carries me over the threshold. My sister scratches at me. I am soothed, my mouth filled. Finger, bottle, nipple, spoon. I am baptized in sink, in tub, in sprinkler. I am fed and clothed and bathed and held. I am. I am.
I am undone, at twenty-five, to see my mother unfolding me. Being emptied of life, giving life.  I sit bathed in blue light, watching the images shudder. I am stunned. I am stupefied. My mother, myself; all at once I see her. Her labor and her love, her grief and her sacrifice. I want to give her a grandchild for the first time in my life. To see her in a rocking chair again, feeding, holding, soothing. I am held and fed and soothed, fingertips to screen.
I call my mother on Facetime, full of feeling. I want to take her by the hand and slip inside the screen, to penetrate the past together. I want to be inside her skin again.
Make me born, I want to say. Watching us blur on video chat, I feel the distance of four hundred miles and twenty-five years. I am twenty-five; she is fifty-eight. She is thirty-two; I am newly born.
I scream and my mother swaddles me. I hear my father’s laugh. I dance on his feet in the kitchen. I am rocked. He lifts me to play airplane; we are Icarus and Daedalus.
Seeing my father’s face is unbearable to my mother. To look upon the screen of the past is to invite abject horror. That’s our house, she says, beginning to sob. My dog. My husband. My mama, brother, papa, grandma. Gone, all gone, she cries. I miss them. They are missing from me.
Look, I say. Look here, I see them. I see you.
In birth and life, she balloons. I am expulsed. I scream and she refuses to hear. She stuffs her ears with cotton, my catechism cloak. There is no room for me in her grief.
We are two people; I want her to carry me. Hold me. Hold me. Carry me in you. There is no space for me, here. She pushes me out.
We are fraught but we will always try again. We come together and fall apart. We will try to catch each other at a better time.
I am the third child to pass through her body. I am the second to live. I split her open, coming into the world. She bled and bled and almost died. Ripping herself open to make space for me.
I came of age during the technological revolution, and I can’t imagine it another way. Picture me, gawky, with a bad haircut. Skewing quizzes about my sexuality at midnight. Searching, am I gay? How do lesbians have sex? What’s a clitoris? Girls kissing, girls kissing, girls kissing, girls kissing, when do bugs sleep? Girls kissing, girls kissing, girls kissing, girls kissing. Making my Sims fuck in the hot tub, in the swimming pool, in the pixelated bed with the covers fluttering. Downloading free romance novels on my Kindle, reading about hard men and throbbing women. Tingling in my bedsheets.
Even with the help of multiple dating apps, I end up swiping through the same fifty queer people in my metropolitan area. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Her, each with its own shtick. Where people are called fish or coffee beans or crushes or likes, stacking up like trophies. Lex is a queer app that can’t decide if it’s for friends, or lovers, or womxn with a shared interest in tarot and finding a roommate.
Lex Entries, late 2019:
4EVER BUSY & HORNY
CAN YOU LIKE, HOLD ME?
GTBIPOC ARTIST COLLECTIVE
TOMBOY LOOKING 4 FEMME
ASTRO-NOT SEEKS MARTIAN
PLUMS IN THE ICEBOX
On Hinge, I match with a Laura. She will be the third woman named “Laura” that I date in three years. Two is a coincidence. Three, a problem.
We agree to meet at a brewery in the Arts District. It’s winter in Los Angeles, and she stands against a cinderblock wall, holding herself in the cold. Her lips are her best feature. They make my whole face wet when she kisses me across the table. We have sex six times over the course of eighteen days, and neither of us comes once.
One night she fucks me with a black leather harness and a blue cock. She is thrusting, grinding my face into the mattress. When she slides back too far she comes out of me with a jolt and I begin to sob. She takes me down, holding me to her breast. I relish my tears. Salty and sticky and wet.
Laura ends things over text. The last time we’d seen each other, I’d loaned her my favorite beanie to amend a bad hair day. I mourned the hat but didn’t take her departure hard. I was still pining after her predecessor.
It is, of course, an illusion to say that the Lauras were all the same. The name is a frame, a mirror, a coincidence. A curious experiment, one I considered repeating to see how the results might change. Am I treating them cruelly, including them in this work? Should I change their name? But this would change everything. These are the facts.
The first Laura was a tall, self-identified dyke who I seduced in a dive bar bathroom. We were local celebrities on our college campus in Portland, Oregon. A group of tourists once gaped at us with open mouths as we strolled past downtown, holding hands. It’s like we’re part of the scenery. She held me when my father died and had blue flannel sheets.
I was smitten with the next Laura the first time I met her on her porch in August. The weeds in her yard were so overgrown and yellow that her landlord had threatened eviction. By the time I asked her out, she had changed her name in a fit of androgyny and self-immolation. Call it good timing. I spent most of our relationship crying over Facetime about the impossibility of long-distance love. Call it bad timing.
The third Laura told me on our first date that her name was supposed to mean “sterile.” Her mother had chosen it at the height of a long and difficult labor, praying that her daughter would never have to endure the pain of parturition. Laura was a service top. I never got my beanie back.
Supposedly, a million babies have been named Laura over the last century. What’s in a name? Repetition? Inexhaustibility? Renewal?
Derrida describes a compulsive, repetitive, and nostalgic desire… for the return of the most archaic place of absolute commencement. Describing, perhaps, a sort of Freudian homesickness, in which I penetrate the vagina to crawl back into my mother’s skin. Folding the clock with outstretched hands and silicone appendages. Climbing back into the womb, fist-first.
I am born slimy, screaming; my mother cries out my beauty. A monster and her maker.
A lesbian is supposed to be the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. All contraction and expulsion. Like black holes, or the big bang, or orgasm, or afterbirth. If the natural state of the world and the lesbian is entropic, I might not be a very good lesbian. I might not be a lesbian at all. I feel uncategorizable, yet I want to put everything in order. Reverse my birth, fold myself up, become a tiny little doll at the heart of a matryoshka set.
I want to be cloistered, but I don’t mind being seen. If you interviewed all my neighbors in my twenties, they would probably agree that I don’t close my curtains often enough. The first Laura and I used to joke that we were probably a popular room for the freshman boys in the quad across the way. It’s never been calculated exhibition so much as lazy immodesty. I am desensitized to the sight of my body. Sometimes I am surprised at what I see in the mirror.
Our faces mean nothing to us anymore; our orifices, ourselves. A panopticon of digital surveillance at once splits my self and multiplies it. I become nothing more than pixels. The algorithm decides everything. Might as well monetize that shit, so eat your fucking heart out. A computer can mine a bitcoin, but it cannot appreciate it.
My screen is a thin and sticky border separating my digital from my physical, but things tend to exceed. The inside becomes the outside becomes the inside. Like kneading dough, or pressing together the folds of a quilt, or making skin an internal organ. Like 2020 making the outside turn inward.
In the face of quarantine isolation, I tried to cultivate a rich interior world. I replicated my routine in the Sims, making myself a neat freak and watching my mood plummet in proximity to dirty dishes. Art imitates life. My astronaut wife and I opened a vet clinic and adopted three children. I enabled cheat codes to make us fabulously wealthy and immortal. My computer began to give me headaches.
My real-life partner purchased us a kit to build a dollhouse. We neglected dishes and laundry to tend to its construction, sanding the edges and tiling the floors. We filled a miniature medicine cabinet with miniature pills. I fretted over its imperfections. She reminded me it was supposed to be fun. My therapist suggested yoga.
Paul Preciado calls the reflexive introversion of privacy a miniaturization, a molecularization, an inward coiling toward what is considered intimate, private space. His words make me think about the problem of privacy in the twenty-first century. In a surveillance state, privacy moves reflexively inward, as artificial intelligence learns how to catalogue facial topography and gait patterns. Telling our Internet service providers about our coffee orders and pornography habits. Reminding us to take steps and drink water and mind our calorie intake. I consider my experience being poked and prodded and coiled and discharged in settings both sexy and clinical. I recall boredom in Planned Parenthood waiting rooms and embarrassment in sex ed class over the boys screaming at the baby’s head crowning through an unshaven vulva.
This reflexive introversion of privacy feels both reinforced and warped in COVID culture, when public spaces are cordoned off and the boundary of the body can be extended six feet. I cover my cavities and submit to tracking for interstate travel and dutifully swab my nasal canal for monthly testing at a university site. I rejoice over the prospect of vaccination. In the dusk, I tend to my body like some animal thing. I wipe its blood with a damp clean cloth. I relish licking my wounds.
I remember another life. I recall happy hours and public picnics and chance encounters among the library shelves. I remember when living entirely online was a thought exercise. Now I rarely leave the threshold of my apartment. I wave goodbye to my partner and go to empty the dishwasher. I find myself obsessing over stray socks and musty smells and leaky shampoo bottles. Luckily, growing up during the tech boom has prepared me for this eventuality. Luckily, I have five hundred Instagram followers, which is almost as good as friends.
I am not a computer. I cannot play chess, or speak seven languages, or comfort lonely people in the dead of night. Andrew Yang ran in the 2020 Democratic primary on a universal basic income platform when the idea was still radical. Like when a 2017 news drop revealed that the Pentagon was keeping alien alloys in a bunker in Nevada, we told the UBI guy that we were a bit busy with other things at the moment, and didn’t have time to entertain the thought. Money would be nice, but it is not everything.
Money is nice and it is everything. Venmo money feels like monopoly bucks to me. My friends and I take turns circulating the same twenty dollars. I owe $18,000 digital dollars on my car. I have a pile of monopoly money leftover from my dead father, shelved away in a managed account that I’m just itching to blow. COVID-19 is shredding my fake money while I type in my credit card numbers with glee. Woman just taking walk somehow going to spend $17.
I have a fraught relationship to capital. I worked my way through college as a nanny, bookending my class schedule by playing house. Making jam on toast and delivering forgotten lunches and watching tennis lessons. After graduating, I thought I wanted to be a preschool teacher. I liked playing with clay and organizing tiny furniture. It felt satisfying to be the soft shape that children clung to while their parents toiled away elsewhere.
Do you consider this making money with my body? Is all bodily labor more shameful than making money with the mind? I have never felt more commodified than during my sex with men, even if I haven’t been paid for it in cash.
Perhaps thanks to my father, I have a slightly addictive personality. I considered dancing in Portland alongside a fellow teaching assistant. I decided I would be good at the performative aspect and bad at everything else. I can wear femininity like drag. I find boundaries difficult to enforce.
Sometimes I think my body will only ever exist in binary terms. Girl or boy, Madonna or child, body or brain. Sometimes I think I am just a mouth, swallowing and spewing. Men are certainly very nice to me in gas stations. A man once whispered to me in a bar that I have eyes that say, “I swallow.”
Will my brain ever transcend this #materialrealm to become one with the multiverse? (Is that an oxymoron?)
What do we think, fam? Let me know in the comments. I am learning how to think.
I scoff at and resist my elders’ heeds. I watch the divide between generations widen with time and technology. I watch how desperately we need political memory, so that we are not always imagining ourselves the ever-inventors of our revolution.
I am humbled four chapters later to see Moraga narrate a plurality and contradiction in the theory of the flesh that I have long struggled to articulate. I am brought nearly to tears by the burning of letters in a Gaskell novel. I return always to Whitman’s multitudes. We all have a history. I see myself in the eyes of my late father and the grief of the March sisters. The humanities, so aptly named.
STEM positions itself as the future, promises cyborgs, neurotransmitters, elevators to space. It all feels so removed from the shape of a wave on a February day. My sister and my partner are engineers and regularly send things into orbit. I read and write about Victorian street urchins. We end up at the same conclusion, enthralled by deep time and depressed about colonization. Wondering what we might achieve if we stopped shooting ourselves in the collective foot. We are paralyzed, parallel, paradoxical, paraphilic. We are trying so hard.
I think Twitter is ruining my attention span. What will I do if I die without ever fully understanding Derrida? #eatavocadotoast #boomerang @marchforourlives #watch @netflix #sendnudes #collectstudentdebt #donotpassgo #sendtweet #zoom
This year I am halfway to fifty. My mother turned fifty-eight on Groundhog Day. Sans cash, I made her a craft. Not a macaroni necklace, but a recut home movie. Without the dogs, without the others, without the ghosts. Just her and me, cradling each other endlessly. I love you forever, I like you for always. Even when we don’t like each other much.
When my mother reminds me of her age on her birthday I almost say, that’s one year younger than dad was when he died. I bite my tongue.
I mentally catalogue the corners I will have to clean when she dies. I wonder what I will find on her computer.
 Mina Loy, “Parturition,” 1914.
 Justin Torres, We the Animals, 2011.
 Alison Bechdel, Fun Home, 2006.
 Radicalesbians, “The Woman-Identified Woman,” 1973.
 Testo Junkie, 2008.
 Reductress, February 3, 2020.
 Cherrie Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back, 4th ed., 2015.
Missy Rogers is a writer and teacher living in Hermosa Beach, California. Missy received a B.A. in English and French from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Southern California. You can find Missy on Instagram at @missy_rogers_ and on Twitter.