The Things I Wish I Could Tell You


Every time Pride rolls around, there are a lot of things that I wish I could tell you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stranger on the street or a family member, I wish I could tell you all about how I’m one of the happy, fully formed gays. I wish I could tell you how good it feels to be bi and non-binary and all the words along the rainbow that I am. I want to sell you the idea that each year I feel more me. I want you to believe, as much as I want me to believe, that each year is growth and that my life is like a Pride commercial – all rainbows and upbeat indie jams.

I wish I could tell you that I love my queerness all the time. I wish I could say it doesn’t hurt so bad that I don’t want it sometimes. I wish I could be brave like I was as a boy with scraped knees, pretending nothing happened. I wish I could tell you that it doesn’t scare me. I wish I could tell you that I’m not so afraid sometimes that I forget who I am and what the image of me means to people I love. I want you to believe that I’ve conquered my queerness, that I’m not repressed. I want you to see me free of shackles, living vibrant and fabulous everyday. I don’t want you to know how many pieces of women’s clothes I’ve bought only to not wear because the fear hangs heavier than the fabric. I don’t want you to know how hard it is to rep and how weak I feel when I finally do it.

I wish I could tell you I was a committal queer, one of the fierce ones that’s better than their fears. I wish I could be as flamboyant as Liberace so at least I wouldn’t get side-eyed by both sides. I wish I could tell you that my whole existence was set and strong as the stones of a fortress and not fluid and wild as a river. I wish I could tell you what I am, was, and will be in simple words. In the darkest moments, I wish I could tell you it was all a phase and that every man in my bed was a happy accident.

I wish I could say the sunny things young queers could use to hear. I wish I could tell you that there were no nights where I cried, no nights where I wished it away, no nights where I looked at the thin lines of myself in a dark mirror and wondered who was there.

I wish that I could say I picked up all the beautiful things in femininity and left behind the toxic masculinity, that I’m the clean figure of androgyny. I wish I could tell you that no bad things come out the closet door when you open it. I wish I could tell you that all the pictures of gayness won’t make you feel fat when you’re skinny, ugly when you’re beautiful, scared when you’re safe. I wish so much that I could tell you how we leave every single hang up behind us when we step out of the closet.

I wish that I could tell you that I don’t understand why people like me die early, suicide or otherwise. I wish I could tell you that the thought of suicide has never crossed my mind. I wish I could tell you that thought of suicide hasn’t stopped in my mind, laid down roots, built a home, and spoken to me like a neighbor. I wish that I loved myself enough to never want dissolve in the middle of the dark night, molecules reassembled into a different, happier person. I wish I could tell you about the nights where I wish I had disappeared and the mornings where I was so happy that I was still here.

I wish I could tell you that gayness is easy. Hell, I wish I could tell you that it’s hard, but in some beautiful, self-sacrificial way that you could respect – that makes your kids and their kids and their kids fear it less.

What I can tell you is it’s hard in an ugly, real way. It’s hard in the way crying over something at night, by yourself is. It’s hard in the small, consistent ways that age your skin and organs. It’s hard in the boring, bitchy way that most adult things are. It’s hard like taxes, hard like career changes, hard like job applications, hard like sitting in line for food stamps, hard like holding shit together, hard like getting extra shit thrown into your lap that you have to deal with no matter how much other shit is already there. It’s not hard in a pretty, glitter-coated way. It’s not chasing a rainbow, at least not for me.

What I can tell you is that I’m not the loud, beautiful, strong queer you want me to be. I never was and I never will be. I wake up with not half the strength to fight like an icon or carry myself like a martyr. I wake up with just enough to drag myself through the hot June sun long enough that I can get my day done. I don’t wake up with enough to tackle all my thoughts. I wake up with enough to tackle about half of them in the dark before I go to bed and let the rest run wild in my dreams. I don’t wake up with enough to tackle the worlds problems, I wake up with enough to think about one issue and write about it in a few months.

What I can tell you is that all this struggle is what pride is for me. I can tell you that pride isn’t a parade, it’s a riot. Internally, externally, it’s one continuous struggle that you hope to get better at. It’s a battle that you can’t always win but you can lose at any point. I can tell you that it’s not pride for the queerness your given, it’s pride for the living with it. I can tell you I’m not proud of being bi or non-binary or anything else I had no role in picking. I’m proud of how I find peace and fulfillment within it when there’s cultural war all around it. I’m proud for thinking about suicide and choosing to stay alive. I can tell you that I don’t have enough to make that kind of pride shine like a pageant in summer, but I do have enough to keep it alive.

~Austin R Ryan

Instant Ramen


Instant ramen is like the heat that drips up from a fresh cup of coffee or tea. Instant ramen is chicken flavored sodium packets that smell like home. Instant ramen is my most unhealthy healing potion.

When I was really young I got stomach bugs pretty frequently. They may not have come around much more than for a normal kid, but I feel them heavy on my memory like parental hands on my back; I feel them thick like retches over cold toilet seats. When my stomach was a mad sea we’d send it ramen because the square noodle packet was like a full empty: nothing but sodium and noodles all laced up in tame flavors. Things would calm enough and fill enough to not have hunger pains churn under nausea like earthquakes inside storms. Older, nursing hangovers, it was the same deal – but much less dramatic.

As I got older I thought ramen might drop out of my home and head but it kept up with me. About two or three years ago I started getting sleep problems and when I’d stay up until I was too hungry to pass out I’d rip the orange packet half open and eat the noodles like a candy bar. Sitting up at 5 AM grinding dry noodles into paste feels a bit weird and desperate at first but after it works a few times it is all pleasant; it is all pleasant to break up the cool night with the tactile feeling of teeth churning.

The ramen got older too; it grew up with me. When the plainness of it wasn’t enough anymore I’d throw in new spices and learn what I liked on top of the bland noodle base. When noodles and broth stopped filling me up I’d dice up meat and veggies too. It was still a half-assed attempt at a meal – never the best I could make for myself – but it’d keep me running. Sometimes it even felt rejuvenating, breathing the scent in like distant incense, feeling the powder on the tips of fingers like sidewalk chalk, absorbing the odd magic of my ugly instant food. That magic could walk me back through time to when I was feeding friends while parents were out working; to when Dad would drop an egg or a cut up hot dog into the soup so that “it would at least have protein;” to when Mom put ice cubes in the soup so my sisters or I wouldn’t burn our tongues.

Instant ramen was healing in the way returning to home and wholeness is healing. This food has been there nearly as long as I can remember. When adulthood and identity shifts rattle my mind until I feel scattered I drain the noodles and the broth from the bowl and feel like all the fractals and bits of me fit tight together into one whole.

~Austin R Ryan

American Plain Views


I currently live and work in Minneapolis as an educator in an Americorps program and freelance writer. Sometimes it is peculiarly pretty here. It is pretty in a way that’s as much a sensation as a view. These little snippets will hopefully let you in on some of those American plain views.

View Heading Down Penn from Olson:

Olson Memorial Highway pushes out in both directions like big tar rivers and the grey-black backs of big straight serpents swimming into and out of center city. If the light allows, you can ford it all at once and if it doesn’t you are in an island in the middle watching the rust and the shine of cars sprint like metallic fish up and down stream. It is dirt, mud clot, and trash spotted right by Olson but further on past is the Harrison neighborhood where things get cleaner, greener, squarer and on with lawns and their houses. A little black girl cast in bronze statue welcomes you. Here the hills rise and sink slowly as the gentle undulation of a half-urban half-suburban dragon. The way the road stretches, the way there are no trees to block the skies or the hills as they rise, you can see right down Penn as it weaves up and down and up until it is too high to see past; just from seeing how the sky goes and goes and the earth goes and goes you’d guess there wasn’t any end to it. But then, eventually, you’d hit the highways and the interstates.

View From the Back of the 19:

Metro Transit buses have big windows to soothe you that bit they delayed you when they came late. Metro Transit buses are blood capillaries that pump in and out of the downtown heart where folks are moving but not wanting to be seen. Uptown, Northeast, by lakes and by campuses and by dive bars on rise is where people tell me you want to be seen. Metro Transit buses have big windows where these thoughts float out of sight and mind like clouds in the wide sky.

On the good days it feels like a Venice high in the sky. Your four wheeled gondola shared with a smattering of other people goes sailing down the light blue sky; your four wheeled gondola gliding on heaven to get you to the next earthly mess. The 19 – my four wheeled gondola – goes under the dark arches that connect concrete block buildings stretching out over two streets, making Hennepin Medical Center. Sunlight peaks out from the Hospital’s shadow until the 19 plunges fully into the bright light. It weaves up to the long and grassy green lawn in front of the Government Center. That building splits into two dark pillars wrapped together by a glass midsection and pulled tight by heavy black cross-lines so it looks like the corseted back of a boxy, cartoon-ish dominatrix.

After that the 19 comes through downtown where things look new and glassy and the construction turns everything to congestion and tightness. When it pops out into Hennepin it looks like one of those true downtown stretches full of bars and avante-garde buildings twisted up into modernist shapes. When breezes by the stadium, passes the brown and flat Transit Center, and leaks into Olson, it is just apartments and peaks down long and short residential roads.

On the bus a woman – White or Latina – sits and babbles brightly to her child. Another mom – Black – comes on and her toddler rushes up to the other kid and they seem to just stare before the parents direct them away, smiling and managing awkwardly. People come and people go. The driver lets a man know where to get off. The child leaves and the toddler cries for bit. Another mother and her kid – elementary age – comes on and picks up the transparent green binky the toddler dropped. The two mothers talk about the wide blue sky and the hot sun and the children all wrapped up in it; they talk on and past when my stop comes and I go.

~Austin R Ryan

Why I write


I mused to myself in what normally might have served as a journal entry. I tried to pin down what exactly kept me writing, when I saw a post on WordPress offering thought on what other people write and writing out of jealousy. I had the feeling myself some, and still receive it in less frequent bursts nowadays. The post rambles a lot, and lacks clarity. I write most things for myself, but edit them for others. This was no easy edit. But below, in strange and uncertain terms, I explain why I write. As ever, but particularly now, I hope you gain as much reading it as I did writing it.

Everything’s marked by fine lines and people cross at intersections until the pencil marks blur into gray. The landscape painting becomes blackened smudges across a white canvas. I struggle with why I do things. Not knowing does not bother me, nor does thinking. If they got under my skin then I’d have shed this layer long ago. But I do get tired. Everyone does, and we all have to recharge. I have observed people as best I can from my specially tinted shades. I have many ideas, most flawed, but I do think people need to recharge. It gets exhausting to exist. Something’s got to shock the spark back into people. At least, something has to have kept us going this long. Other animals might do well with a good meal but man needs an inch more.

A human being needs something to invigorate the endless repeat. No matter how far the churn of progress pushes us, we still feel each moment of misery so sharply. More life and less death but there’s still something on the TV to complain about. Perfection’s not a point to reach. At least I cannot see it. If I could, I’d never believe it. So long as it eludes us, we have to make do with what we got. We have to accept that conscience creates context, and we will live in that context every day.

There’s painters that put a life together one calculatedly brilliant stroke at a time. Art’s their occupation. What a word to use. It is like your work invaded the country side of your life and set down some barricades. There are these people on wordpress that will shoot a like at my post before it’s been up a minute. As soon as they can they spread their name and their word. Some folks will hit it big here, and many more are trying to right now. It takes effort by the pound and desire by the tons. What would you have me say? I want to write like they write? I want to pour it in and out and exercise it daily to hit it big. I want an interview on day time TV and an Oprah sticker over the synopsis on the back. I want to live putting the pen to the page. Until what? Until the occupation comes. Until the countryside of my mind’s accepted the central state’s apparatus. Until they’ve given up all their grain and said, “fine, feed whatever fire you want.”

Do you want me to admonish that I have never lived in that rapturous moment of desire? How would you like me to answer, if you asked me why I write? That I am out to make it. That I am out to feed the economy with paper purchases. I am here to pump resource into the minds and across the mouths of your friends. Or would you rather I say I was Ting from the start? I just did. I set it all clear from the straight start. Then I sat you down in front of honest work. Beautiful, original work fashioned from a famished mind and full heart. Maybe I am here to motivate you right now. Maybe I am hear to make it larger than life so that every instant of my impermanent instance of existence can eschew across etches of intercrossing black lines coursing across the canvas. I have thought myself in circles until I lied down like a dog and fallen asleep. And I’ll do so again in no short time from now.

Here I set and here I stand. I once wrote for love of a life larger than my own. I wanted words to communicate the brilliance of my ever thinking mind. I never got that my brilliance, if real at all, exists only with another’s dullness. If I am a brand than you are the unbranded and my effort at understanding would singe your skin, and no higher either of us would be. I would shine like I were special, but a light that leads the way can burn. Much worse it can burn out. I wanted a piece of immortality worn by words and born across the rivers of time and valleys of space. I wanted those words to return to me with bags of money. I wanted them to come back with an audience that understood. More than anything else, I wanted that perfect understanding

I did not start so selfishly. I did not do it all for dollars and hollers. There was a fun in it. But for years I could never corner it. I never knew what that fun was, and how I got to it. Half the time I chased after the perfect words and loved each footfall in the race. The other half I forced it. Each step became a struggle. And I said to myself all the running could get me far. I did not know in what direction. I did not know why I wanted distance at all. I just chased, sometimes against the goal. When it felt fun, it would all flow like a river ran beneath my feet. When it dragged, I swam up the creek and into the current. My thoughts became a waterfall contorting across my body. They pulled me back. Images of fame and glory became growing pains. Cutting in swift pangs, my mind sliced me apart as I crawled up the current. Beleaguered and bedraggled I’d drag my mind mangled self onto the shore. I’d hope I waded up enough in the stream. And I’d ask if I still wanted any of it. Did I want even a letter left in the word “Author”? “Well fuck,” I’d reply, “I thought I wanted at least all parts of ‘writer’.”

Currents tend to dash things on the rocks. Here I set, here I stand, and to here I’ve swum. Figuring out the fun’s what it’s about. Let the military men set about occupation. They’ll free the majesty in their minds, and the peasants of their countrysides will emblazon the word “author” all across the fantastic slopes and flats of their heads. I am here. I work, I think, I talk, and I get tired. I want something invigorating to rewind the clock. I want to set my mind in starvation so I can start it all over again. Let me light up the page like woodcarver Ting broke down the branch. Let me starve my mind. The before and the after may become bloated. They may inflate with thoughts of success and failure. But the during, the nitty gritty of pounding every key again and again until these endless hovering bits of meaning shatter together into some broken up shit storm of menial thought, that belongs to me. That belongs to me because that’s my moment to wipe my slate clean. I hold onto it until it lets itself go. I’ll edit it in the morning. I’ll set it straight by night. I’ll post it in the afternoon, and I’ll tag it in the evening. But the moment I set on it I clear my slate.

I once wanted fame and fortune. Still they glitter like gold. Maybe they are. But I want a metal I can fight my battles with, not over. I want no metals at all. I want no distinctions, no anything. I just want a clear moment. I want the silence at the center of the storm. Bring me the vision in the eye of the tornado, words, and I will keep at you. I write to fast from the frenzy of fullness, until I can live life a bit emptier. Or live it however it fits. Or stop the prepositions and words letter by letter until I arrive right to the punctuation mark.

~Austin R Ryan