yellow_half.png

1 essay
by Peach Kander

Peach Kander is a queer poet and miniaturist who recently received an MFA in poetry from NYU. Their work can be found in We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics (Nightboat Books), baest, Sporklet, Landfill Journal, Fugue, and dirt child, vol. 1, as well as the forthcoming chapbook MAGIC BOX (Ursus Americanus Press, 2022). Other creative property can be found in the Sephora archives.

Name as legal fiction

As I wait for the clerks to type up my name-change petition so I can review it, I consider making a t-shirt that reads “working at the probate court in high school radicalized me.”

 

An imaginary essay: The Late Night Bowflex Infomercial Generation: a personal account of the desires of an adolescent-to-adult insomniac.

 

Is my fear based on the unknown, lived horrors, a chemical imbalance, or all of the above? Throughout my schooling, I was an indecisive person who excelled at standardized testing.

 

They say youth is wasted on the young, but in my case, it was more that boyhood was forced upon the ill-suited. The others in my neighborhood reveled in street hockey, Call of Duty, while I was content enough to read, draw, and make 3-D puzzles. When socialized, felt my acute failure to perform what seemed innate in them.

 

A himbo, code name Reno Gold, is Florida Thor, is Hercules, Johnny Bravo. He charges $15 a month for access to his OnlyFans content, which I decide not to subscribe to.

 

Part of my job at the probate court was to record hearing after hearing of people who cycled through Yale Psychiatric Hospital. They all had the same three doctors writing their reports, and sometimes, it seemed, had all been diagnosed with the same set of disorders.

 

Before I was versed in anonymity, I sought it out. The automaton serving you food, brewing coffee, wiping down tables, riding the train, headphones in. An air of mystery aproning my insecurity.

 

The himbos ruled my mind, the country, world, cafe.

 

My investment had nothing to do with the legal system itself, in what the court could appoint or deny. It was all about the case files I’d go through in order to send out the appropriate hearing notices to the people involved, all the evidence to decipher.

 

I was born into bureaucracy. Not just because aspects of my biography are recorded by the state, but also because my parents both worked for city or state government agencies for my entire childhood, and were involved in local politics, which is how I got the job at the probate court in the first place.

 

My roommate Cat tells me that the La Colombe rep who came to do a training at their cafe said, “we have to keep in mind that coffee is a colonial product.”

 

I consider making a t-shirt that reads “working brunch radicalized me,” then revise it to “radicalized me even more,” which wouldn’t make a good t-shirt.

 

The psychiatrists were not especially good writers, and the training that oriented them toward characterization by symptom, by pathology, had no elegance or subtlety, so I read supplementary docs, heard backstory from the judge, listened closely during proceedings to glean what was actually going on in the conservatees’ lives.

 

I once heard that the ancient Greeks and Romans painted their marble statues, unlike how they’re presented to us in museums. So much of our understanding of the past arrives to us by how it’s endured, not what it ever was.

 

In the locker room showers, after JV swim practice, all I wanted was to look, but I resisted, afraid of what would pop up in my spandex swim trunks for all to see. Now, on the sidewalk, in the park, I let myself gaze, practically daring them to stare back.

 

I feel like a living failure of imagination these days. Not that I don’t have one, but that I’ve lost the pleasure in it.

 

Today, current Head of State and former himbo Joe Biden signed a bill that will provide me with $1,400, almost all of which I’d like to spend on laser hair removal. Is this subversive, aesthetic, affirming, impractical? What of my student loans, credit card debt, compulsive spending habits?

 

In the hallway of this everyday lethargy, I can barely turn my head to look for a door, let alone turn the knob.

 

When people ask me, is that your real name? Define real, I want to say, but make a joke, like no, I’m on the lam, or say yes, feel dread, as if the rug is about to be pulled out from under me.

 

Try to find a word that means the feeling of constantly seeing something moving just out of the corner of your eye.

 

Nom de plume, from the French, name of feather, when people used to write with a quill and ink, aka pseudonym, false name, plucked pheasant.

 

Before I was a temple, I was a brick mold, a building block. I’d like to be a series of triangles, a pentagram, the shrine as myself.

 

An imaginary dissertation: Hieroglyphic Renaissance: an exercise in optimism in which future language is primarily made up of emojis.

 

I worked at an architecture firm, a research lab, the Ben and Jerry’s tent at a tennis tournament, walked dogs, mowed lawns, but it was the probate court that was truly formative in the merry-go-round process of what my future professional life could look like.

 

There was one woman, so medicated that she was essentially catatonic, who was considered a success story because her lawyer slash conservator had managed to secure her social security benefits and housing.

 

Before I was a boy, I was the idea of one. I was little league games and blue, model cars and Wrestlemania.

 

An imaginary manifesto: The Invention of the Himbo: an argument for misandry in the 21st century.

 

Acquiescence, giving up. I’m out, caught in the undercurrent, the slip stream, a tide pool. Last clock out, next life, first light, a dreamless, drained sleep. There is no planet that sustains life like the one in my head.

 

The longer I wait to receive my notice in the mail that my petition has been approved, the antsier I become. In moments of uncharacteristic candor, I tell people I normally wouldn’t about going through this process. My manager at work, the woman who cuts my hair, someone tattooing me.

 

The probate judge would tell me about the people and aspects of the cases that would never show up in the files. He seemed to try his best to make the law work for the situations at hand, but as with any system, there are limits.

 

Before I was a writer, I was a voyeur, an avid reader. I have a complicated relationship with the exhibitionism I’ve cultivated, an ambivalence about it.

 

The state acts as a floodgate to how I can appear in filed records, certain parts trickling through as pressure builds. A system made for mapping and managing data points.

 

Is it possible to be simultaneously agitated by a process and grateful for it?

 

I want to want someone who I don’t think will leave me. I’m tired of infatuations with people I’m sure would, that is, if they’d even reciprocate my affection in the first place.

 

Seeking an eject button from self, from insecurity, awareness. Put in overdrive too young, I’ve tried to quiet it somehow, temporary solutions to what I’m trying to stop seeing as a problem.

 

An imaginary court case: The Hunkophillic v. Himbo. A civil suit, charges of fraud, emotional distress, sexual misconduct, loitering, theft.

 

What if I won’t accept the things I can’t change? What if I don’t have the strength to change what I can, and am unable or refuse to recognize the difference?

 

Eric, a fellow barista at work, teaches me about prop bets: you propose what you believe are reasonable odds of an event occurring, and if they agree, they might propose an amount to bet, i.e.: 5 to 1 odds I’ll change my name again in the next 10 years, then you say, I’ll bet you $20 you do, so if I do, you win $100, and if I don’t, I win $20.

 

Have you ever read a question you can’t believe the author survived asking, let alone tried to answer?

 

What began as a kind of experiment, the movement from the room of one self to another, is now nearly state-sanctioned. I’ll get a new license, cards, passport, all while imagining the varied looks and verbal reactions I’ll get once I begin to present them.

 

I can’t say that any municipal building I’ve ever been in regularly has been especially nice, or even well maintained, which could say something about the systems I’ve navigated or the state of municipality in general. There seems to be a correlation between the majesty of a government building based on its practical utility to the public versus its symbolic value.

 

If the algorithm were to produce my perfect man based on swipe history, profile views, sideways glances, pornography consumption habits, would he not “fit the description?”

 

An imaginary miniature golf course: 18+ holes: erotic extraterrestrial encounters as you putt putt your way through the galaxy.

 

If I can have a crush on a butcher who is not a himbo, does that mean there’s hope for me yet?

 

I fear that the more I become who I’d like myself to be, the less desirable I am to what is the “apex male specimen,” the exemplar, he/himbo, not I, the distinction between stage, field, choreography, playbook.

 

When my new driver’s license arrives, I notice that on the back, because I opted to be an organ donor, it says, “I hereby make an anatomical gift,” and asks for my signature.

 

An imaginary writing exercise: only use four letter words: neat tidy fear fund, fair able good body, rail just gone spot, form hunt tree sing.

 

My willingness to sacrifice affirmation and pleasure for fear of judgment and potential pain from others astounds even me at times. Is this a fetish, a form of expertise?

 

The wire monkey mother’s bottle is full of wine, which, despite studies, medical advice, and my own better judgment, I’m inclined to return to over and over.

 

Levity induced by exhaustion and loss of self-control, or recognition of its lack, rather than the panic of alertness, knowing one knows too much, unable to forget.

 

Is it reasonable to be upset when you learn that your friend never updated your name in her contacts, a year after you’d told her that you’d changed it?

 

In an imaginary himbo’s Reddit AMA, I ask, what is the relationship between your inner life and the value placed on your appearance and demeanor? Are they inversely proportional? How do you envision a post-himbo experience, whether by age, illness, or choice? Who do you consider the platonic ideal of a himbo?

 

RPGs, like Metroid Prime, Kingdom Hearts, Golden Sun, were the genre of video game I played most as a child. The singular autonomous protagonist I would later find myself.

 

In the simultaneity of reconciliation and disruption, a more proximal self, a closer fit. I still find this change to be difficult to integrate, to accept as material reality, despite its paper trail, which by now feels more arduous than affirming.

 

What to do when my nightmares are as mentally draining as waking life?

 

An imaginary episode of Snapped: Baristas Bash Back, wherein I’m one annoying drink order from using part of the machine to bludgeon a marketing intern, whose parents pay the rent and credit card bill, and has never tipped.

 

Circuit Party Syndrome: a state of ignorance in certain masc gay men induced by a combination of poppers, ecstasy, expectation, vodka, ketamine, and steroids, prevalent in their heterosexual counterparts.

 

What do you call someone who looks “heroic,” but in order to act the part requires everyone else to be utterly helpless?

 

One week, I practiced chili recipes for the Super Bowl Sunday cook-off, where winning would secure a quarterback, a tight end, a himbo, and therefore my place in society.

 

An imaginary directive: go forth and divide.

 

A courtroom full of them, the himbos; current or former, the judge, prosecution, defense, jury, even the stenographer and courtroom artists, and especially the officers present.

 

The leaky faucet that is my life; I don’t quite know where the hole is, I don’t have the right tools, and I’m not a plumber. I can learn to be, buy the equipment. It’s just easier to let it go on, to accept the constant drip and wasted water.

 

Anxious anticipation of when I’ll have to contact various companies about my name change. The forms, the upper management full of current or former himbos, who almost never want to engage with someone like me.

 

As a child, I won hide-and-seek by being able to fit into the drier, the pantry, a chest.

 

I would like to enjoy the risk of confession, shared lust. I am trying to devise a system for assessing what is and is not possible for me.

 

Once again, I find the exercise in conveying my feelings proves futile.

 

I’m not anti dream, per se, but for myself, if I could choose, I would rather not have them.

 

In Civil Court today, they kept calling my new last name, which threw me off more than anything. As I mail out forms, documents, and certified copies of the officially approved petition, I question which name I should put in the return address.

 

At karaoke, two himbos duet “I rule the world,” and you can tell they really mean it.

 

Do you ever find that as an experience is ending, or while it’s happening, you’re already drafting in your head how you’ll later tell a friend about? How does an experience change when you’re simultaneously narrating it?

 

A vigil for vigilance: or, how I learned to stop complaining and accept myself as a perpetual number waiting to be called at the DMV.

 

Tomorrow, when the name change is published in the newspaper, making it official so that I can contact various entities with the paperwork, will I put it off for a bit, or forever even? All that work for naught, based on a fear that being more legible as myself by name isn’t worth being derided by certain people, government bodies, corporations, etc.

 

Before I wore platform shoes, I was small for my age.


The lens moves so erratically that I can’t keep up, or so slowly that I get distracted, my mind supplementing with fantasy, things I do and do not enjoy imagining.

 

There are now different names on my license and passport, debit and credit cards, lease and utility bills. Months in limbo, of being the spider, the fly, and the web.

 

Screen fatigue, screen sickness, self-fatigue, self-sickness. “Where is the body connected to what’s supporting it?” a guided meditation asks me.

 

I tell myself: seduce, then poison, the himbo in your head.