The Freedom of Surrender 

In this strange and disquieting tale, a whispered incantation opens a portal from precarious despair to blank possibility.

It opened. Right there in front of me. It opened. 

I would like to say it surprised me, but I was expecting it. So I wasn’t surprised, per se. I was more awed that it actually happened. I thought the incantation, the one given to me as I prowled alleys littered with sexual desperation, wouldn’t actually work. I mean, who expects to find real magic at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday? 

I did, though, and it was whispered to me by a guy whose toenails curved and whose breath smelled of Steel Reserve. 

When I paused in front of him, unaware that he was sleeping at my feet, he grabbed my ankle. Now, that surprised me. In my shock, I fell. My head then next to his he whispered the incantation to me, and: “Only say this if you wish to fall again.” 

I forgot him and the incantation when I picked myself up and turned my back. The memory only came back as a result of the letter I got from the Employment Development Department saying I had run out of all of my allocated benefits. 

Two years of unemployment, of too-many-to-count applications and rejections, of missed payments and collections calls, of ignored healthcare spiraling into emergency visits, of counting change for McDonald’s “value meals,” of apologetic responses to friends’ invitations. Two years of sinking, of falling, of spiraling downward. 

I thought there was nowhere lower to go. Then I got EDD’s letter. 

I spent the afternoon pacing around my studio apartment inventorying everything of value: the thousands of CDs collected over decades, the Dolce and Gabbana suit bought as a birthday whim, the ceramic bust of Einstein, the Cuisinart given as an X-mas gift, the six-year-old computer that sometimes won’t even turn on, the $50 gift card to Best Buy. Even if it all sold for a reasonable price, it still wouldn’t be enough to pay rent. 

“Late as usual,” I thought to myself. I lay down on the couch to nap. 

As I slept, I dreamt. 

I was again prowling the alley, swimming from too much tequila and flying from one too many joints. A man wearing only leather suspenders attached to 501s and police boots whistled. A hobbling pigeon with a broken wing and deformed feet pecked at invisible crumbs. I saw movement in the doorway of an abandoned fire station, certain it was some sexual predator, only to find out it was another decrepit pigeon. 

Many people slept in doorways and in the shadows behind the streetlights. I halted, couldn’t decide where to go, wanted just to stand in shadow. It was then that I felt the hand on my ankle. I started, and fell. 

I woke before the old man could again whisper his incantation — sweating, feeling as if the bottom was falling beneath me. I walked to my closet of a bathroom, turned on the shower, and waited for the hot water to flow freely as I stared at myself in the mirror. I was crying. Again. It seems I cry almost every time I look at my reflection. How can I be 36 and still unemployed? How can I not pay my bills? How did I end up as this pitiful person who keeps sinking? 

The reflection of memories stared back at me from the mirror. Misery just loves memories. 

There was my boss handing me my final check with a simple, “You know, it’s just business. And … business is slow right now.”

There was the patronizing unemployment councilor shaming me for accepting benefits.

There was my mother: tall, hair black from youth, sobbing behind the water heater as she said, “You are why I cry.”

There was the priest whose familiar lips whispered sins and absolutions. 

And with each reflection I slipped a little deeper. 

Without bathing, I turned off the shower. I needed to leave my bathroom, to stop staring at the past. My belly grumbled. There was no food in my fridge or cupboards. The loose change had all been spent. 

Having no glasses in the bathroom, I went to the kitchenette, grabbed a glass, filled it to overflowing. Messily, I gulped two glasses and filled a third. Still my belly grumbled. I needed another nap. 

I turned around ready to walk the ten steps from my kitchenette to my couch as the incantation, as if of its own volition, escaped my lips. Then my lips called it forth again, this time as loud as a thunder clap. 

The hole opened right there in front of me. A perfect circle, edges smooth, no debris to be found. Just a hole. A perfectly circular hole. It made me dizzy. I fell as foretold. 


I am here on the other side, and I cannot see back into my past life. It is dark here, but it is not the darkness of despair or misery. It is not the hopelessness of falling.

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Jason Wyman

Jason Wyman

Jason Wyman is Queerly Complex, an anti-binary artist living and creating on Yelamu, unceded Raymatush Ohlone land (aka San Francisco). Dreams, observation, presence, and radical vulnerability form the core of Wyman's practice, and their art and words reveal the messy, emotive, and esoteric bits that help us live amidst the chaos of death and decay. Wyman's work has resulted in a large-scale participatory sticker mural with artists Celi Tamayo-Lee and Mary-Claire Amable for the Asian Art Museum called #StickyQuestions; a national Youth Media Network and intergenerational National Fellowship for the Alliance for Media Arts & Culture from 2016-2020; and a model for change management designed with Crystal Mason called the Tree of Change that is helping artists, organizations, and businesses take radical leaps into this emergent reality of constantly unfolding crises. Wyman currently provides creative consulting services, including merchandising, illustration and design, coaching, and production development/ideation, as well as an online retail store featuring their visual work. Their mission in life is to help weirdos and queerdos express their complex feels and radical beliefs so that we can find our comrades for the end of the world. You can find Jason on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with the handle: @queerlycomplex.

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