Published on August 7th, 2013 | by Aimee Herman
All day, I felt undergrowth and moss migrate to various areas of my body. Roots pressed against lungs. Leaf canopy cradling my liver. The forest floor, cracked and spreading into my limbs. Tropical rainforests have been called the world’s largest pharmacies. So medicinal and healing.
My alleviation didn’t arrive until much later in the day, but it arrived.
My body rode bicycle over year-old bricks. Walked inside building full of papercuts and ISBNs. Breathed in the aroma of alphabetized poetics and fictionalized accounts of memory. Chose a stack of distractions. With each shift of body against air, I felt the roots of tree branch jut against my ribs. This forest is loud and persistent.
I drank coffee with a human who has enough words inside to sop up all the blood and batter. Exchanged sighs and grunts, as I wondered what ecosystem they had internally. Played with their ankles beneath table. Wondered about the nude waiting beneath their cotton. Felt the warmth of erotic distractions sway against me like a troupe of dancers on my skin.
And then. And then.
On my way home, I passed by a construction site and biked onto a few patches of sidewalk to bypass. Before I could venture off, I was stopped. Tried to be polite when police officer asked me for ID and do you know why I pulled you over and do you have any warrants out for your arrest?
And yes I know it is illegal to ride bike on sidewalk and no I have no warrants that I am aware of.
This is when my forest arrived.
After they asked me my weight (while filling out the ticket) and I responded: Really? Ok……179.
And then they asked me my height: 5’4 and three quarters.
They looked toward my eyes. Hazel, I announced.
They peered toward my hair. Red, I said, proudly.
And then. And then.
I looked down at yellow paper titled: Complain/Information. Some things this officer did not ask, such as gender. I noticed they marked F without looking up or taking a breath or giving me a chance to announce myself.
Most days I do not care. I fill this consonant out myself. Create the two lines, one longer than the other. Understand what it stands for. Try not to complicate things. I am a woman. I’ve got the parts. But. But. I am also other. I am also the slant between the M F. What does that mean? It means they should have asked.
Perhaps it was the oxisol, weathering and churning inside me that caused me to say:
Excuse me, I do not mean to be confrontational by any means but. But. You asked me how tall I am. You asked me my weight. You catalogued my hair color and eyes. And then you just threw down an F without asking me. You cannot assume. You should not assume. You do not know.
Uniformed professional looked me up and down. Said:
I could take you in right now. You don’t have a driver’s license (I chose not to offer it up). You are giving me your address and I am trusting that it is correct (it was). If you had given me your license, it would have been stated.
None of that matters. You should always ask, I politely offered. Because even on licenses, it can be wrong.
We stood, with another police officer beside us, on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, not far from my home. I was patient. I channeled the forest in me to take root of every word, pull it out carefully and responsibly. I was not fighting with this officer; I was educating.
So, what do you want me to put down? they asked.
I took a deep breath. Felt the medicinal properties float around like weightless astronauts inside me.
That’s a complicated question, I said. I’m not sure. But it’s no longer about that letter. It’s about you needing to know that you need to ask.
As I biked home, I looked at my skin and noticed soil dripping out of my pores. Oh yes, I am growing. My skin is excreting earth and this is a reminder that I am part of all this. I had a pink ticket folded up in my pocket of this exchange, of money now owed to NYC. I was shaking like leaves in a storm, a shivered rush of movement.
I am brought back to a sensation I received one day earlier, as I purchased my very first new tie and collared, button-down shirt at a fancy store for a fancy wedding. I have a collection of ties, but never one that has only worn my neck. I walked up to the cash register with two genders. In my other hand was a turquoise, silky shirt from the other side of the store. Human behind counter rung everything up and then I said: Actually I am just going to get the tie and shirt. Who was I buying that other thing for?
We take our bodies for granted. We sometimes forget that we don’t always need microphones to speak out the truths inside us. This forest continues to grow, fills me up, drenches my throat, and reminds me of my radicle.