Perchance to Dream
Success is less earned than exclusive. I stare into the ocean and ponder the prospects of pleasure and profit from which I am excluded. Every title and prompt which flash into my social media feed are monuments to my failure while selected spotlights cast intermittent insights into a world I have come to accept I will never see. My cup will never runneth over. My sink is flooded with dishes as the counter is piled with printouts. My kitchen is stained serpentine by the seaside whose luminance ceases to soothe.
Another bite from my news feed and I reflect upon my regrets. The dreamer in me wonders if I stand a chance while the realist knows there are no chances when the odds are fixed. I learned the latter the hard way, but I realize the lesson would’ve been learnt whether hard or soft. The successors were defined by their marriage to ignorance and their divorce from reality, alimonied by amoral aficionados and industrious, indifferent idylls. A folder of unpublished manuscripts evidences my own estrangement.
I am a Black woman whose sex and sensibilities are not succinct. Pleasantries can be feigned, but the flesh is formative; and sociogeny sanctifies conformity more than solidarity. By that token, respectability is contrived. Our worth is always in or as relation. The saltine successor endeavour to pay their dues. They ride the waves, trudge and tender their tides, as they cultivate their coin and current. For marginalized bodies, the reality is that success is a matter of proximity and privilege. Which is why ‘successful’ or privileged people are innately conservative: they strive to conserve structures of power that grant and assure their privileges.
Rummaging through the rocks I recovered earlier, I recall how they sparkled in the sand. I wonder if there’s any light left in me, if there was any light at all. My brighter days were likely just as dark as my current ones. I remember writing my first novel, chronicling my creative process and the course of events that followed. There was encouragement, excitement, and even a modest endorsement.
Then, there was nothing.
While white, cis-heteronormative colleagues sailed forth to find sun and surf, I found myself wading into stormy seas. The novel is something I’m proud of, but I wouldn’t call it ground-breaking. It follows the narrative of a biracial business magnate and male masochist, who submits to a Mistress that studies theology and aspires to be a priest. Every [traditional] publisher I pitched praised its prose, but it was also rejected because they felt readers wouldn’t be amenable to a male submissive—particularly under a Mistress—or critical considerations of politics and privilege [which were admittedly tame in my opinion].
And, every one of those publishers also encouraged me to either: resubmit the story with the genders reversed or submit to them in the future.
Yet, the grounds for its rejection were admonished by [white and non-white] collectives I had shared them with. The score of white authors who had successfully published tales of men heeled by Mistresses and Dommes they pulled up didn’t make me any more assured; it only made me painfully aware of the exhaustive efforts I had made, how my anticipation yielded alienation; how my positionality had been irrationalized as hypersensitized, and how it defined me and would inevitably imbue my insights. Moreover, how I had been blacklisted by personnel for dignifying my truth as a racialized woman, survivor, and intersectional feminist; and how my voice would be discredited and otherwise admonished as outspoken for simply being spoken.
So, I resolved to publish it independently. I wasn’t too unnerved by that since many of my friends are actually independent creators, and there is a good degree of agency afforded when you can monopolize your own content.
Instead of rave reviews, I received death threats rife with racial slurs. I thought about unpublishing it and forgetting it entirely. I was scared, because those threats were graphic and all the more ominous onscreen. The words never left me. They stared me in the face. They prodded me less with their potential than their permanence. Their anger and anonymity was something I could not control or understand, nor was the cruel kyriarchy that bred and vindicated their revulsion. Neither was the romanticized rape culture that I couldn’t abide, that I tried so hard to navigate, that had become so favoured and familiar so much that people hardly cared or noticed.
I also received lengthy lectures from strangers and colleagues who swore I was “overthinking things” or had a chip on my shoulder—which again, struck me as odd since the narrator’s encounters with positionality are relatively brief and inconclusive. Additionally, I hadn’t asked for their advice. I still wonder if they truly believe their sanctimonious platitudes; if they had sought to subtly gloat or malign under the guise of concern or objectivity; if their privileges were symptomatic of an intrinsic need to insisted upon the institutional status quo’s triumph; if they avowed merely aspects of me to dissuade my full disclosure.
Only during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign did their prejudices become more proximate and prominent. I don’t know if there is any positive correlation between their characteristics as docile and domicile, as many were hearty housewives whom hustled makeup or purported health products aside from their literary binges and adventures in childrearing. Their abundance of contradictions made them seem like caricatures: trending body positivity, but decrying feminism; calling themselves “flawless” in line with Beyoncé, but demoralizing her Superbowl performance; claiming colorblindness as they screeched “blue lives matter” and denied the existence of cultural appropriation; and lastly, antagonizing DV and rape survivors as well as feminists whose perspectives broached their beloved books—while professing to be in favour of “girl power.” They believed POC, especially WOC, whom voiced their disdain or critiques against the parsimony of privilege were entitled. These white women contorted narratives to abide their own rhetorical gymnastics, but proved unable to unknot their own bigotry and reservations. They sold and bought the most, reinforcing one another as an airy and ironically androcentric assemblage.
I can’t say I regret unfriending, sometimes blocking them.
Despite the severed connections, many of them prod into my newsfeed. The faulty algorithms and impersonal moderation of social media has likened their paid advertisements to my interests. Some are still peddling ‘positivity’ as reality’s reprieve as they roam ranks, content to climb or wane so long as they can network. Others are cruising capital success as bestsellers whom are independently published or signed to relatively lucrative contracts that mass produce their paperbacks. The odd few have somewhat keened into the inconsistencies with the false, localized logic within a community that assuages abuses rather than acknowledge or aid agency. But, none of them can identify how injustice and individualism transmute isolation.
Now, I understand the fear in being fearless. I would hardly call myself an activist because I certainly don’t put in the work that others do, nor do I march or show out at every rally. I can however call myself conscious to a degree in knowing who and what I am: how inconsequential I am to the world outside despite what wars within. I think of how my father must’ve felt being similarly recast, outcast; not only as a racialized man pursuing a creative dream, but panicked and powerless as he hefted and scrubbed down his supplies during hour-long commutes—while his white associates luxuriated with aids and leisurely travel.
I have yet to make piece with his transgressions, but I can forgive him because he likely never intended to hurt me. He has many dreams, but he could have never dreamed that his daughter would be recurringly restless; that she would muse into the meticulous machinations of how the world turned, knowing that it did not revolve around her despite what he swore. I wonder if I should simply unlearn everything; if I am conflating the conventional comforts of food, shelter, amenity, and ovation with happiness.
I don’t fear my voice, but there are times I wish others would hear it.
Fallen Matthews: "I am a Black, Métis cis woman and current grad student in gender studies, with concentrations in interpersonality, existentialism, and social theory. I've been published in Model View Culture, The Coalition Zine, Social Dissonance, and the Journal of Comparative Media Arts; in addition to my erotic fiction under the penname Fallen Kittie.