"I see flies, I see mosquitoes, but I have never seen a gay man."

Steve Fellner


a Chechen's woman response to the torture, arrest, and murder of gay men in her country as reported by The New York Times

I see trilobites. I see albino squirrels. I see the glasswing butterflies, I see sea salp, I see deep sea worms, I see sea sapphires. I see Cranchiidae, too. I see ectoparasites. I see the tick that infected my friend with psychiatric Lyme disease. She stopped working due to exhaustion. She didn't qualify for disability so she opened up an Airbnb. I see centaurs. I never saw Pegasus. I do not see sirens or dragons or leviathans. I have never seen a UFO. A woman down the block did. She said it looked like a neon Rubik's Cube. I hated those stupid puzzles. I did see ways I could cheat my mother whenever I played Uno. I could see the tell in my father's face when he played poker with friends. I don't see winners. Or losers. I see rickety voting machines. I see the objective to chess and Monopoly and bikinis and Chippendales dancers and adultery. I see the extra day for leap year. I see my fortune teller's message to me: "Hold tight." But I don't get what it means. I did not see the $43 my cousin took from me to buy cigarettes on the Native American reservation. I see the second-hand smoke, I see myself breathing it in (happily). I see myself as a fat, middle-aged gay man who has never left the United States. Except once. I saw Beijing and saw the Great Wall of China. (It was sort of boring.) I see a pair of young gay men in my composition class holding hands. I see myself angry, I see myself feeling taunted, I don't see my husband and I ever kissing each other in public. I see my own gum disease, I don't see any children in my future, I see people asking us why, I see my husband shrugging his shoulders. I see myself a decade ago, sick and desperate, visiting all kinds of specialists. I see myself as a college instructor, privileged to have time to see all those doctors who saw nothing wrong with me except for the way I saw myself. I see London, I see France, I see my husband in his Lucky Charms pajama pants! I don't see America. Where are you? I see Russia.

O Russia! My neighbor lived through the Holocaust. She never wore short sleeves. But once in fifth grade I saw the tattooed number on her arm. (I can still see it.) "I see! I see! I see!" I boomed. I thought it was cool. I wanted one just like hers. I found a marker and wrote some random stuff on my arm. I showed her. My mother grabbed me and shook me. And then shook me some more. It was the first time I saw what hate felt like. I see rainbow necklaces! I see old age bitterness as sexy. I do not see lava lamps or hula hoops or mood rings or pet rocks or Cabbage Patch Kids or Pez dispensers. 

Why can't I see America? Do I need a magnifying glass? I see my mother struggling to pay the rent after working two jobs. Now I see my student—a mother with three kids—living in the Econo Lodge after losing her federal financial aid due to a bad GPA. I see myself giving her an undeserved A. I see my boss calling me in and saying, "We're not doing welfare here." I see myself confused. I see leaks. From dams and my childhood aquarium. I don't see them coming from the White House. I refuse to see the broken bones and bruises of Russian gays. I will not see their bodies cut up by a barbed wire fence. I will not see them clubbed to death. I will not see soldiers making them lie on the ground so they can step and snap their necks with their boots. I cannot see those images. I see a Chechen woman standing in a field alone, teeth chattering, wondering where her vision will take her.