Vrai Writes Pop Culture Essays: Popularium

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I’m proud that I can finally talk about my engagement with this site. I’ve been working and writing with them for more than six months now, but things were very hush hush as far as getting things ready for launch. But lo! Now I can share the stories I’ve been working on with all of you.

As for what they are, here’s what the About page says:

Popularium is about sharing great things and great experiences. We believe that we all make emotional connections best through telling relatable stories about the stuff we love. And we do this by featuring real stories by real people about real products.

In other words, people write personal narrative essays about how various pieces of media (or weed or alcohol – hence “products”) have played into the story of their own lives. There’s quite the breadth of experiences on there, and it’s heartening to finally see it fully formed.

You can visit my author page here, and check out links and samples to the stories I’ve published thusfar under the cut.

Close to the Bone 

Nobody ever tells these stories. It’s the middle of nowhere, after all. A flyover state. Hick country. I’m standing outside of it now, where Ennis Del Mar never set foot. I wake up every day and feel the piece of me that’s marked “where I came from,” and feel it in the hum of awkwardness when I brush off questions about how I’m feeling. It’s why I avoid reaching out until a problem is dire.

I think about people I love who are still in Wyoming, where you can buy a gun far more easily than you can get a Prozac prescription, and everyone knows someone who’s died by their own hand. There’s really no unlearning that you live in the highest suicide-per-capita region of the country. A regular Suicide County.

I’m intensely proud of this one, and it was tough work putting it together. Not a lot of people bother talking about Wyoming’s mental health issues – people who aren’t from there don’t give a shit, and people who are have been trained to hold it in. A lot of people die that way.

One Step Ahead

At my after-school job at the library, I find myself still thinking about it: an unrelenting force that can’t be reasoned with, because it has no logic behind its grudge. You are not a person. You are meat. I carry those thoughts with me out into the stacks, prepared to spend a few hours in silence reshelving books. Paper is more familiar to me than human skin, and infinitely more comforting.

I am a short, pale, chubby kid who buys men’s jeans and spends every night willing my body to stop developing the curves that first emerged when I was 9.

This human body is meat, a prison for my brain. I drag it along after me every day, feeling trapped. It shuffles as I move through the rows of fiction. Crichton to Faulkner. Harris to Jones.

I am thinking about my body when I feel a hand brush my ass.

It’s hard to talk about sexual harassment in American culture. It’s even harder when you’ve spent your life trying to get away from being gendered, and opening your mouth about victimization puts you in a quick little box of assumptions.
This is how escapism into horror starts.

The Taurus Demon of Friends

I stare at him, trying to find any trace of the kid I knew, the kid who cried when I shot him with a squirt gun, afraid he’d get in trouble for messing up his clothes. I’d never made anyone cry before.

“I’m what they call a functional alcoholic,” he says, smiling like it’s a joke. “I never feel hungover, and I’m always at work on time. I still get things done, so nobody cares. It’s not a big deal.”

I imagine his liver inside his body, fat and swollen and pulsating like the Taurus Demon.

I think he’s probably right when he says no one cares, so long as he’s functional. I imagine getting a Facebook message for his funeral, cold and abrupt. The thought makes me sad beyond measure.

“But what if I’d done something more. But what if…but what if…”

(As good a time as any to mention I don’t get to pick the titles of the pieces. Still, I stand by the content).

Nobody to Wear

I’m looking for Mulan’s military uniform. Looking for Ping — the male persona Mulan adopted to save her father and prove her own self-worth. And it shouldn’t matter this much. But it DOES. So I drag my mother to every department store in town, every specialty store. She puts her foot down, gently, after the eighth try.

So I wear the damn dress.

It pulls snug where it’s not supposed to, and it’s harder to take long steps with the skirt around my legs. I make one long stride and catch my boot on the hem of the skirt, falling face-first into a pile of slush. I want to get up quickly to avoid feeling like more of an idiot than I already do. I wave everyone else ahead, not wanting them to see me.

Wanting to pretend they hadn’t.

Discussions of gender identity that fall outside the narrow line of “I always knew I was different, I grew up, took hormones, and got surgery” aren’t usually understood or allowed for much in mainstream cis discourse. So this is mine, and it’s a small little thing. But still, it’s mine. And maybe someone else’s too.

This post is made possible by kind contributors to this blog’s Patreon. If you like what you’ve read, please consider donating to help keep it running.

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