Chapter 3: How It Will Always Be

Melika was on Tumblr.

She hadn’t been dragged out to Terre. Melika was happy to be at the gallery. She was celebrating Sabine’s big night. Melika wanted to be present for Sabine, and she was… sort of.

Melika had been fine when Sabine was with her. A close friend was the only emotional support system Melika still needed to function in crowded, public spaces. She’d come so far since college. Her days of intense, total seclusion were mostly behind her.

Melika had been fine when Severin had stopped by and asked how she was doing. They always took a special interest in Melika when she came in to Terre with Sabine. Severin did have a habit of studying Melika intently and not apologizing for the stares. She could handle Severin’s looks though. Melika knew why they stared. Unlike most folks in the ‘Burgh, Severin couldn’t have cared less about Melika’s visible Adam’s apple. Her visions were of far more interest.

Yet, Melika still felt like she would rather cease to now be or have ever been than be left by herself at shows like this.

This is how it will always be.

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October 11th, 2008 – 1:00 AM

A couple of Todd’s coworkers were manning the late shift in Thibodeaux #3’s cramped lobby, checking student IDs and processing off-campus guest sign-ins. A tiny freshman girl was vomiting in a trashcan, near the line for the elevators. A friend held her hair back. The RAs working the desk all wore the same gold uniform and had the same “I’d rather be asleep or studying or out drinking or literally anywhere besides babysitting all these drunk assholes” look plastered on their faces.

The red-headed sophomore with the Introduction to Juvenile Delinquency and Juvenile Policing textbooks open in front of her was in charge of the ID swiping station. She did not smile when Todd approached.

“Enjoying your night off? Must be nice.”

She took Todd’s student ID and swiped it.

“It’s been wonderful.”

Todd flashed his most charming smile, but his peer still didn’t react. Todd’s face flushed with frustration. He hid the anger quickly, but Todd wasn’t fast enough to keep Melika from noticing his facade starting to crack. It was the first time she saw anything other than exactly what Todd wanted. It would not be the last.

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October 10th, 2008

Melika had her first undeniable prophecy the fall semester of her sophomore year at Hodges.

She had just started telling her closest friends that she was a woman. Melika was wearing makeup to queer bars. She was finding dresses and women’s formal wear that she felt comfortable in. Melika didn’t know if she’d ever be able to afford hormones or surgery, but she was going to exist as a woman and do so outside of the confines of her own head.

Melika had gone to Jardin earlier in the evening. She had heard the rumors about the club, and Melika wanted to explore those lustful impulses for herself. She craved that physical vulnerability and passion. As Melika prowled the dance floor, she received invitations to the multitudes of sexual congress. Queer women and femme-leaning genderqueers waved beckoning fingers and stole hungry glances, but, after an hour, Melika was sitting at the Rosebud, sipping a screwdriver, and trying not to cry.

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Chapter 2: Homes and Self-Portraits

Sabine hated the glad-handing of big gallery shows. They hadn’t sold a piece in over a month, and their rent was due in two weeks. Sabine was happy to have one of their works at Terre for the 2018 Pittsburgh Art Crawl. They had begged and pleaded with Severin for a spot. They were not, under any circumstances, asking their mother to help cover the rent… again. Sabine was a grown ass adult. They were a working artist. Their work could pay the bills.

Or, at least, that’s what Sabine told themself each day as they pushed aside the rational impulse to find a job with benefits and a salary.

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A Procedural Tragedy Simulator

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(Author’s Note: This is Dawn. This essay originally appeared on my personal blog where I occasionally put up non-fiction essays. I wanted to explain what this project meant to Nic and I. If you’re interested in knowing a little more about my non-fiction work , feel free to visit my blog and read the rest of this piece at the link at the end of this post.)

Orchid began on my 29th birthday.

In late February, my partner Nic and I were in the first couple weeks of our cohabitation. Neither of us were in healthy economic circumstances. For my birthday, The only present Nic could afford was dinner. We got (delicious) mall hot dogs. Nic felt bad about the meager celebrations. I tried to assure them that spending my birthday with them was more than enough, but Nic kept asking if there was anything else they could do. I was riding the high of the early glow of our relationship and so I worked up the courage to ask Nic if they wanted to write a story together.

Orchid is a trans/queer-centric urban fantasy serial, and it has been an experiment from the start because it isn’t a conventional serialized tale.

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Chapter 1: Not Quite Midnight in the Jardin of Arsene and Virgil

Stuttering percussion and icy synths reverberated across the surging dance floor, and Jardin‘s swelling patronage was being swept up in the triphop’s intoxicating physicality. It was foreplay, and every dancer measured their calculations.

The shuffling, arrhythmic beats pulsing through the bar sent waves of color that folded in on themselves and back out, unfurling and blooming, each permutation an aftershock of the endless reflections.

From her high bar stool, just off the disco’s center, on a little diamond of the labyrinthine, elevated walkway, Virgil scanned the club for familiar faces.

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May 16th, 2009

Robin Goldberg met Virgil Keller the night that she graduated from Hodges University.

Robin was wearing a royal purple one-piece bathing suit. She’d ordered the swimwear from the official Omikron Epsilon Delta merch catalogue. Robin didn’t like how most swimsuits looked on her pale skin, but dark purples brought out the chestnut in her hair. The collegiate gear felt appropriate since her Brothers and Sisters were the ones that had brought her out to celebrate in the first place.

That evening was Robin’s first trip to Jardin, Arsene’s temple of song, dance, and sex. Every evening at Jardin was different. Arsene — the club’s owner and manager — was not a fan of predictable, rote hedonism. They wanted a crowd that worshipped at the font of excess and lust. The expected was the antitheses of their brand of ethereal pleasure. Jardin had been a Pittsburgh institution for forty years because walking through its velvet-plushed doors was a guarantee that your inhibitions would dissolve. A night at Jardin was a promise that the evening’s carnality would consume you. The club was a decades old reminder that desire could be obtained. You just had to open yourself up to embracing your appetites.

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