ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the August 15, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "food" square in my 7-31-17 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Calliope thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Can't It Just Be What It Is?"


Vagary felt nervous after
the conversation about identity,
gender, and sexual confusion,
because that whole topic had
always made him uneasy.

Calliope was sympathetic,
though, more gentle with him
she had ever been before.

Vagary wasn't sure how much
weight he could really put on that,
but he had to learn how to trust her
some time, since they were stuck
with each other regardless.

So when Calliope asked him
out to lunch at Larruping Park,
Vagary accepted the invitation.

They could smell the place from
a block away, mouthwatering aromas
floating down the street to tantalize
crowds of hungry pedestrians.

A parking lot bordered it to the rear,
and grassy fields in the front. Trees and
other landscaping formed a frame.

The food truck park wasn't large,
but it was popular, positioned
beside a little community center
with a bar and a lounge indoors.

Outdoors, the park held spaces
for gaming and eating, along
with areas sectioned off for
the food trucks to park in.

Cafe Bella on Wheels and
Hungry Duckling occupied
the smaller parking area.

Purdy Q Mobile Smoke Pit and
Purdy Sweet Treats had crammed
themselves into the larger area by
unhitching the smoker, then wedged
the small trailer of Okie Spuds & More
into the remaining corner of the lot.

Calliope seemed to be waffling
between several trucks, including
the Hungry Duckling, Purdy Q,
and Okie Spuds & More.

Vagary himself favored
Cafe Bella on Wheels.
"Would you like to split
a 7 Wonders of Hummus?"

"Thanks, but I want something
more substantial," Calliope said.

She rarely wanted to share food
with him. Vagary couldn't even tell
if it was because she disliked him,
or their tastes just differed.

The two of them split up for
a few minutes to get their food.

Vagary decided to switch down
to the Mediterranean Plate, then
had to wait for Calliope because she
wanted a Spiral Spud with cheese
along with a plate of Hog Wild ribs
from two different food trucks.

They sat down at a picnic table and
devoted themselves to delicious food.

Vagary munched his way through
dulmas and falafal, and tried not
to stare at Calliope delicately nibbling
slivers of her potato off of a skewer.

Eventually she said, "If you want to talk
about sex and gender stuff, I meant it
when I offered to listen and help if I can."

"I'm not sure what you can come up with
that I haven't already tried," he said.

"Have you seen a gender coach,
or a therapist who specializes in
sexual diversity?" Calliope said.

"No," Vagary said. "I've had
plenty of therapy, but not so much
for that. It's just less important than
some other stuff messing up my life."

"Then I probably have some ideas
you haven't heard before," she said.
"Up to you if you want to try any."

By this point, Vagary would have
poured himself into a centrifuge
if he thought it might help.

"Hit me," he said, and then
hastily corrected, "Tell me
some of your ideas."

"First, think about what
different genders mean to you,"
said Calliope. "What makes a man
or a woman? Then consider how you
express yourself to the world, and what
if anything you tend to hide away."

Vagary pulled out his smartphone
and began taking notes. It was
kind of interesting to sort traits
into masculine or feminine,
although it didn't give him
a clearer image of himself.

He said as much to Calliope,
who nodded and asked, "What
snags your attention about people?
What makes you want to meet them
or spend more time with them?"

Vagary's throat squeezed shut
as he thought about Calliope and
her beautiful ferocity, her flighty grace.

But that was probably just the bond.

He pushed the impulse aside
and said, "I like people who enjoy
spending time together, you know, if I
see them with a bunch of friends then
sometimes I want to go over and join in.
I like if they make me feel safe, and um,
if they feed me. Touching is good too."

Maybe he and Calliope weren't
so compatible after all, whatever
the bond might be telling him.
She wasn't any of those things.

"Okay, well ... it's good that
you know some things you like,"
she said. "What role models
do you have? Who inspires you?"

Vagary thought of Manami Ba, who
ran the housing project where he
used to live and excelled at intuition
and executive functions; and of
her husband Hubert Ba, who
was more cerebral but also
did almost all the housework.

They weren't exactly following
conventional gender roles.

Then Vagary thought about
Murray Brathwaite, who was
a lot more typically masculine
and a brilliant gamer and wore
a t-shirt that read Roll Model.

"There's not really a pattern
that I can see," he admitted,
poking his tabouli with a fork.

"That's okay," Calliope said.
"You're just gathering examples.
It might help to look at lists of
orientations, genders, and
other aspects of identity."

Vagary didn't even know
where to start with that, but
Calliope showed him where
to find lists that he could browse.

There were so many terms.
He'd never heard of most of them.

"Oh hey!" he said suddenly.
"This sounds like me -- arovague,
not really romantic but not sure of that,
because it can change with mood."

He paged through the resources
and found other words that seemed
like possibilities, like abrosexual and novi.

Some spoke of different aspects, such as
skoliosexual, an attraction for people outside
the gender binary; or speciosexual, based on
particular traits instead of on gender.

Vagary copied down all the ones
that piqued his interest, although he
still liked arovague the best -- possibly
because it resonated with his name.

"Thanks," he said. "This was useful."

"I'm happy to hear that," Calliope said,
using a curl of potato to scoop up some
of the barbecue sauce from the pork ribs.

"Do I really have to find a word for it,
though?" Vagary said with a sigh.
"Can’t it just be what it is?"

"Of course," Calliope said.
"Most people just feel better
when they have a name for things."

"Yeah, that's true," Vagary said.
"So what can I do with all the names?"

"They might help you to rule out
any genders or orientations that seem
obviously wrong," Calliope said.

"Like what?" Vagary wondered. He
scooped hummus onto his pita bread
and savored the rich nutty taste.

"Well, if you were heterosexual and
heteroromantic, you'd probably know it,
because that's what everyone expects,"
Calliope said. "Conversely, there are
more loners among aromantic asexuals,
although some of them are queerplatonic.
You are so tractive, though -- you crave
close relationships -- it doesn't seem like you."

"That makes sense," Vagary said. "So the ones
which don't involve connecting with other people
probably aren't how I feel, even if it's hard
for me to pin down the details yet."

"That's what I think," Calliope said.
"I mean, it could be anything, but
some things are more likely than others.
You could try on different genders
or orientations to see if they fit."

"Did you do that?" Vagary asked,
curious about her life before they met.

"I did, but I came to it late," she said.
"If I'd discovered it sooner, I think it
might have saved me a lot of stress.
My gender coach turned me onto it,
and that's how I discovered that
I'm not a man with gay urges,
I'm a straight woman. Mostly."

"Mostly?" Vagary echoed.

"I don't always wear this body,"
she said, waving a hand at her curves.
"Sometimes Calvin has different feelings
than Calliope does. I think my mood
plays into the variations too."

Vagary thought about sex organs
and hormones and how much influence
that might have on personality and interests.
"Yeah, I get it," he said. "I'm not shifting
my shape, though, and I'm still confused."

"Another possibility is that you could be
confused because you have never met
the object of your excitement," Calliope said.
"Say that what really turns you on would be
Pheromone Powers -- you might not even
realize it until you smelled it for the first time."

"Huh," said Vagary. "You could be onto
something. I know that Pheromones
can turn on things in a person's body
to change how they feel or what they do,
like if they're having performance problems."

"That's just one example," Calliope said
as she gnawed the meat off of her last pork rib.
"Seek out different experiences and see
whether they clarify anything for you."

That reminded Vagary of an opportunity
coming up soon, and he wondered if
Calliope might be interested too.
"I may try that," he replied.

"I want dessert," Calliope said.
"What about you, Vagary?"

"I could go for something sweet,"
he agreed. "What is there?"

"I think Bella's has baklava or
something," she said. "I want
ice cream, or maybe Italian ice,
so I'm hitting Purdy's Sweet Treats."

"Sure, I can take a look at that," he said.

They had homemade vanilla ice cream
with some kind of multicolored sprinkles
in a gigantic waffle cone, so he got that.

Calliope ordered a parfait made with
layers of Italian ice in blue raspberry,
marshmallow, and strawberry.

"This hits the spot," she said,
licking a multicolored swirl
from the tip of her spoon.

Vagary shuddered. "How can
you eat something that sweet?"
he said. "Just looking at it
makes my teeth itch."

Calliope laughed. "I will
refrain from making any jokes
about your choice of dessert
and its possible commentary
on your personal life."

Vanilla with sprinkles.
Vagary gave a wry chuckle.

Then he sobered. "Thanks for
helping me with this stuff," he said.
"It's complicated and awkward,
and not really your problem."

"I'm just paying it forward,"
Calliope said, as she dug
into her parfait again.

Vagary took a lick of
his own ice cream before
replying. "I've been thinking
about an invitation I got. A friend
of mine is getting a new apartment,
so Arcadia East is planning to throw
a moving-out party for her."

"That sounds nice," Calliope said,
"but what does it have to do with me?"

"You've shown me a lot of your life,
your town, the folks you know," he said.
"Some of that has been accidental, but
it's getting more deliberate now. However,
you've seen almost nothing of mine."

"We might not get along if I had,"
she said dryly. "Superheras and
supervillains don't mix well. Why
would you think of inviting me?"

"We're encouraged to bring
an outside friend, if we have any,
to show that it's possible," Vagary said.
"Arcadia East is a housing project for
people with ... complicated backgrounds.
We need all the hope we can get."

"You mean supervillains," Calliope said.

"A few, but mostly retired ones," he said.
"Some residents are folks that my group has
picked up off the street. We want to get them
back on their feet, whether they stay with us or
not. Most of the residents are ordinary people
who're just down on their luck and need a break."

"I have to admit, I'm curious," Calliope said.
"You're right that I haven't seen much of you
or anything associated with you, and so much
of that has been negative, it's not helping us
find a balance. You really think this would work?"

Vagary rocked back and forth in his seat.
"I hope so," he said. "Just, you know, treat it
like any party and be nice to people, don't
diss them just because I used to live there."

"I know better than that!" Calliope exclaimed.
Then she sighed. "I guess you haven't
seen my party manners, though."

"I haven't," Vagary said.
"I think that I'd like to. I can
get us a teleport so that it's not
too much of a hassle for you."

Calliope's spoon sank into
her parfait cup, coming up
pink and white and blue.
She licked it off.

"Okay," she said.
"Show me your world."

* * *

Notes:

Manami Ba -- She has milk chocolate skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long nappy black hair. Her heritage is Japanese and Senegalese. She speaks English, Esperanto, French, German, Hassaniya Arabic, Japanese, Mandinka, Serer, and Wolof. Manami is the wife of Hubert, mother of Awa and Hamlin. She enjoys cooking, but lets her husband do most of the other housework. She practices yoga, aerobics, and other indoor athletics. Although a cosmopolitan person, she did not grow up in America and doesn't grasp many fine details of its culture.
A retired Kraken field agent, Manami now owns and manages Arcadia East in the Providence, Rhode Island suburb of Eastbord. It is a housing project that has two floors of apartments above a mall. This is one place where Kraken stashes troubled youths they have rescued, giving them time and space to learn life skills and decide what they want to do. A few become supervillains or minions, but most choose civilian life instead. Manami keeps the place running smoothly, and also keeps touch with former residents. Her family shares the 3-bedroom apartment on the second floor.
Origin: When Manami reached puberty, her paternal grandmother performed a traditional ceremony, after which she developed superpowers.
Uniform: On duty, Manami usually dresses in business professional or business casual. Off duty, she prefers smart casual to less polished attire. She often wears white as a base color, accented with bright hot colors to show off her dark skin. She loves big, chunky jewelry especially with African themes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Executive Functions, Expert (+4) Mother, Expert (+4) Leadership, Good (+2) Indoor Athletics, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) World Cuisine
Poor (-2) Americana
Powers: Good (+2) Telempathy
Motivation: Homemaking for all.

Hubert Ba -- He has pale skin, dark blue eyes, and short hair of dark blond that is receding. His heritage is German. He speaks English, Esperanto, French, German, and Russian. He is the husband of Manami, father of Awa and Hamlin. They live in Arcadia East in the Providence, Rhode Island suburb of Eastbord. His family shares the 3-bedroom apartment on the second floor. Hubert's gizmology applies well to home repairs, but he also does most of the housework except for cooking. He enjoys many different games as a hobby, and often runs some in the basement rooms. A cerebral man, Hubert doesn't do well with emotional matters.
Origin: His ancestors participated in Nazi eugenics. His superpowers developed in childhood, much to the distress of his relatives, who abandoned him as an embarrassing reminder of the past. He was in state care for the latter half of his childhood, and came to Kraken's attention in his early teens.
Uniform: Hubert generally dresses in smart casual or business casual, often a button-up shirt with khakis or dark trousers. He likes soft blues and grays.
Qualities: Master (+6) Ambidextrous, Expert (+4) Father, Expert (+4) Gizmologist, Good (+2) Gamer, Good (+2) Housework
Poor (-2) Dealing with Feelings
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Intellect
Motivation: To think things through.

Awa Ba -- She has light brown skin, brown eyes, and long curly brown hair. She is currently four years old. She is the daughter of Manami and Hubert, older sister of Hamlin. They live in Arcadia East in the Providence, Rhode Island suburb of Eastbord. Her family shares the 3-bedroom apartment on the second floor. Awa speaks English, Esperanto, German, and Wolof. She is smart for her age and loves learning new things. Although cuddly with friends and family, she is shy with people she doesn't know well. Her favorite color is hot pink.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cuddly, Good (+2) Gifted
Poor (-2) Shy

Hamlin Ba -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and long nappy brown hair. He is currently two and a half years old. He is the son of Manami and Hubert, younger brother of Awa. They live in Arcadia East in the Providence, Rhode Island suburb of Eastbord. His family shares the 3-bedroom apartment on the second floor. Hamlin is learning English, Esperanto, German, and Wolof. He is already good at understanding how people feel and behave. However, he is a boisterous little boy who sometimes has trouble fitting into a small apartment. His favorite color is royal blue.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence
Poor (-2) Bouncing Off the Walls

Murray Brathwaite -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and short black hair that is receding. He also has a short mustache and beard that tend to get scruffy because he can't shave himself. Instead he goes to a salon once a week. He wears glasses with thick lenses. Murray has cerebral palsy. It leaves him with unreliable balance and poor dexterity. He compensates in thoughtful ways, such as riding a tricycle with a large cargo basket instead of a bicycle or car. He rents a locker for it in the building's bike storage area. Murray also wears adaptive clothing: pull-up or velcro fly pants, velcro or magnetic dress shirts, pullover tops, and geeky t-shirts. He uses velcro or slip-on shoes, or ties laces loosely to make them function as slip-ons.
Murray lives in Unit 308 on the third floor of Arcadia East in the Providence, Rhode Island suburb of Eastbord. He works at Lovecraft Arts & Sciences as a clerk. He also runs activities in their basement gaming room, both recreational and educational. Due to his iffy grip, he uses magnets or gizmology to manipulate small game pieces, or asks someone else to handle them. He uses a dice simulator with an elegant screen interface, so that he can roll dice by tapping or shaking his smartphone. Murray excels at both roleplaying and strategy games. Plenty of people turn to him for peer counseling too.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Friendly, Expert (+4) Gamer, Good (+2) Gizmology User, Good (+2) Peer Counselor, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Strategy & Tactics
Poor (-2) Dexterity

Movement and coordination problems associated with cerebral palsy may include:
• Tremors or involuntary movements
• Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, sitting up alone or crawling
• Difficulty with precise motions, such as picking up a crayon or spoon
• Difficulty with vision

In the background of this picture, you can see locking bicycle stanchions reserved for disabled riders. There are also locking sheds for tricycles.

See Murray's Roll Model T-shirt.


Lucy Lop, Bonnie the Bunny Queen (Lucille "Lucy" "Bonnie" Bonfelder) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. She has large brown lop bunny ears, a moist bunny nose framed by whiskers, and bunny incisors; plus a poofy little tail. She prefers raw food to cooked, and is vegetarian. Her heritage includes British, German, and Jewish. Lucy has been living in Arcadia East, in the Providence, Rhode Island suburb of Eastbord, most recently in Unit 207 on the second floor, and is moving out to a two-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and dining area, living room, utility closet, and enough space for a dedicated craft room.
Origin: Lucy was abused as a child by several of her relatives. She ran away from home at fourteen, and was quickly acquired by a pimp who sold her sexual services. He injected her with a street drug meant to cause insatiable lust. Instead, it gave her superpowers. She escaped from him, but kept turning tricks because she had no legal way to make a living, and the bunny traits made her very appealing to a certain clientele. Later Kraken coaxed her off the street and into a housing project called Arcadia East, where she fared much better.
Uniform: As a prostitute, Lucy used to dress in a slutty pink bunny costume. As a party performer, she has two personas. Lucy Lop wears a fuzzy brown jumpsuit with a tail hole, and typically performs for preschool through kindergarten audiences. Bonnie the Bunny Queen wears a long, sparkly, pink-and-gold gown, and typically performs for grade school audiences. Off duty, Lucy wears casual girl clothes with a flirty look.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bubbly Personality, Good (+2) Crafts, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Party Entertainer, Good (+2) Quirky
Poor (-2) Nervous About the Future
Powers: Good (+2) Lop Rabbit Traits
Her lapine abilities include agility, hearing, and smell at Good (+2) level. If frightened or injured, she can give a piercing scream at Good (+2) level which carries as well as a siren and tends to drive away assailants. She also has speed, kicking, jumping, dodging, and hiding at Average (+2) level. Her vision is Good (+2) in dim light (dusk, night, or dawn) and Average (+2) in daylight, but she cannot see in total darkness. However, her whiskers allow her Average (0) ability to navigate in the dark, which is much better than ordinary humans can manage.
Vulnerability: Lucy has lapine instincts. She is prone to anxiety and easily frightened. If spooked, she can go feral, which means running and hiding.
Motivation: To get ahead in life.

* * *

“We could call you an ambisexual. A duosexual. A—”
“Do I really have to find a word for it?” Kyle interrupts. “Can’t it just be what it is?”
“Of course,” I say, even though in the bigger world I’m not so sure. The world loves stupid labels. I wish we got to choose our own.
We pause for a moment. I wonder if that’s all—if he just needed to say the truth and have it heard. But then Kyle looks at me with unsure eyes and says, “You see, I don’t know who I’m supposed to be.”
“Nobody does,” I assure him.”
David Levithan, Boy Meets Boy

Larruping Park is a food truck park in Calliope's neighborhood, near the intersection of 19th Avenue and Duck Street. It has spaces for four small food trucks, or two small and one large. Left of the food trucks is a pavilion where food carts, farmstands, or other vendors can set up. Right of the food trucks is a little community center with indoor dining tables, a lounge, a bar, and an event room. The two small gray squares are dotties. The large brown corner is a stage for performances. The dark gray square by the bar is the kitchen.

larruping (adv.), Oklahoma, South Midlands
You know when food tastes so freakin’ delicious, but “yummy,” “scrumptious” and “tasty” just don’t do it justice? That’d be a good time to break out this fabulous word, used most often in the phrase “larruping good.”
-- 19 Regional Words

The outdoor seating includes square bistro tables with moveable chairs, a firepit with moveable chairs, and round picnic tables with attached benches. The edge of this area contains an outdoor gym with exercise equipment.

The game area includes one bocce ball court, one pair of cornhole goals, two ping-pong tables, two foosball tables, and two billiards tables. Bring your own equipment or rent some from the community center.

Currently in Larruping Park:
Cafe Bella on Wheels (Mediterranean)
Okie Spuds and More (potatoes, etc.)
Purdy Q Mobile Smoke Pit (smoked/barbecued food)
Purdy Sweet Treats (ice cream & other desserts)
The Hungry Duckling (comfort food)

See the Cafe Bella truck, Cafe Bella menu, and Mediterranean plate. The Terramagne-American version also offers a "7 Wonders of Hummus" platter featuring all their flavors of hummus with pita bread. Flavors mentioned online include SunDried Tomato, Black Bean, Eggplant, Fire Roasted Red Pepper, Cilantro Jalapeno, Spicy, Sweet Chili, Pesto Basil, Ranch, and Original. They mix and match what's available in the truck on any given day.

Here is the Hungry Duckling truck.

See the Okie Spuds & More truck. Read the Okie Spuds & More menu and specials. The T-American version offers Spiral Spuds, which can be cut by hand or with a spiralizer. They come with a choice of toppings, including cheese.

This is the Purdy Q Mobile Smoke Pit truck and Purdy Q menu. Hog Wilds are barbecued chicken wings.

See the Purdy Sweet Treats truck and Purdy Sweet Treats menu. Here is the homemade vanilla ice cream in a Stillwaffle cone with Nerds on top. This is the Italian Ice Parfait.

Questioning refers to people who are confused about their sex/gender. This is pretty common because that stuff is confusing! Here are some things to keep in mind if you're questioning your orientation and/or gender. Learn how to support a child who is questioning. Step 1: Don't kick them out of the house. >_<

Asexual means not interested in erotic activity with anyone.

Demisexual means that the person's erotic interest can only activate after forming a strong emotional attachment.

Aromantic means that the person isn't interested in Valentine-flavored affection with anyone. Some aromantic folks are interested in queerplatonic relationships, while others are also asexual.

Skoliosexual means someone who is attracted to genderqueer or non-binary people.

Abrosexual means having an orientation or feelings about it that constantly change and cannot be pinned down for this reason.

Novi means feeling complicated attraction or lack thereof in such a way that it is difficult or impossible to fit into one word or term.

Arovague means someone whose status as an aromantic is uncertain or affected by mood.

Nebularomantic means someone who has a hard time or cannot tell romantic attraction apart from platonic due to being quoiroromantic or due to their neurodivergency.

Specio means feeling attraction towards someone based off of specific traits, not gender.

Thym means feeling attraction which varies depending on emotional state.

Here is a basic list of seven genders beyond male and female. Note that only one of the 58 genders on Facebook (two-spirit) comes from outside modern American culture. There are no hijras, no burrneshas, no galaturi or kurgarri, and so forth. But it's a start. Looking at gender stereotypes can offer ideas of how people view the genders. Consider also these lists of romantic orientations, sexualities, and QUILTBAG vocabulary.

"What the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves" is a premise from Robert Anton Wilson's book Prometheus Rising. The exercises for it involve convincing yourself of something, behaving as if it is true, and then observing the results. They can be quite dramatic. This is an excellent practice for people who are questioning their sexuality/gender, and for adolescents in general.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-19 05:02 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
And then of course there's sapiosexual... ;)

These two are getting there. I'm just happy I don't have QUITE that big a mess...

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-09-19 05:15 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Et tu with the redheads? ;)

N's gets red highlights in summer; they go well with the freckles. ;)

Further deponent sayeth not.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-09-19 04:10 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Yay redheads! Also purple.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-21 09:14 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
This looks to be going well. <3

• I know that Pheromones
can turn on things in a person's body
-> pheromones
> Lowercase, unless Vagary is using it as shorthand for Pheromone Powers. But that feels like breaking the fourth wall, because I don't remember seeing Capitalized Names for power sets in your poems, just in your notes.

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