It was not Faith but Genna, her partner, who invited me to attend a training on how to use a drug known colloquially as Narcan that stops an opioid overdose. Genna had invited a group of her friends through email; not seeing that I had much of anything to do that day (most like so many other days that I seem to let slip by unfilled), I decided to attend. I have no business with drugs, but, knowing others that have, and, viewing this as a good experience to learn from, decided to attend.
It was a beautiful sunny day outside – low seventies – and I held my breath before buzzing into the Harm Reduction Center. The center was dimly lit with wooden floors that looked as if they had not been changed since the building’s erection more than fifty years ago and not cleaned frequently since. A man with dreads to the length of his hindside asked pardon as he passed by and I walked through the main hall where later I would learn from our instructor that those under the influence (or those about to engage in the influence) were welcome to “hang out.” Faith arose from the couch and greeted me brightly, giving me a hug. We stood in the middle of the room as we conversed about her plans – she was to finally attend law school, and she decided on Fordham. I gave her a heartfelt congratulations because I knew the feeling of being up in the air for too long and how fulfilling it was to have a sense of grounding. She offered me the chance to be referred to for a tutoring position at Kaplan, which I thought as a good opportunity. Afterwards we were led up concrete steps into a large office space upstairs and then into an even dimmer room. The setting was as depressing as the situations that were described to us; the room filled with light-skinned, short-haired, polite women in glasses offering store-bought snacks was in sharp contrast. We went around the room and introduced ourselves, our positions, and our pronouns, not in that order. I was intrigued at information on pronouns; surely this had been a introduction from Faith’s partner and not from Faith. We had previously went around and introduced ourselves with our pronouns at Faith and Genna’s apartment, and it seemed just once someone had used a pronoun that I had not counted as standard English (“they,” a pronoun near and dear to me, was thrown around a couple of times).
The instructor handed out sheets to fill out our personal information on which included more facets of identity that I would have liked to divulge; fortunately (in accordance with this age’s unrelenting spirit of respecting privacy that I can never gauge as too far or just on the mark), an option was available that declined comment (more directly labeled as “choose not to answer”). Faith was sitting to my right and as we filled out the forms my curiosity piqued: was the time I had seen her in the men’s bathroom in I-House a fluke? She had crossed a line through the box that was labeled “Lesbian;” evidently, my zealousness in the moment I passed her then, at 1AM one night in late winter, the only time i had ever felt a mote of spite to a spirit so unrelentingly buoyant, was in vain. What then had it meant? Was it just play? Not even Bisexual; she had, as it were, crossed over completely.
Genna sat across from her. I could read Genna and then I couldn’t. She was of a similar background to me: she was entirely of Italian heritage and had a vowel-laden surname to prove it. Brought up on the east coast, another trait of similarity. Bits and pieces of intimate details connected us: one time at a party, in explaining a family recipe, I accidentally used the phrase chop meat to describe what I suppose is commonly referred to as “ground beef;” no one knew what I was talking about save her, and the scene both embarrassed and elated me. In ways that are perhaps overtly personal, I could identify her, too, by her looks: very curly brown hair, brown eyes, a prominent but not obtrusive nose, a strong jaw. I could see that she was Italian by looking at her, and though from no where near my where family was from (very few people, as I could tell, shared the same wild and bewildered look in my father’s eyes save grainy images of Rasputin, which disqualified my theory to begin with, and a youth I had met in high school whose last name was Potenza), she must have had the same behaviors and perspectives that were ingrained in me – those that had repeated years and years over and had not eroded from the very recent jump over the pond two generations ago.
There were other things that I couldn’t always understand with Genna, however, though I counted this as a result of different places of development. She was the same age as I (twenty-eight), although in a greater place of maturity that I could neither describe as emotional nor social (my emotional maturity seemed to have slightly declined, as a result of being around so many stony-minded Russian influencers that were less than fain to throw open настежь their emotive states in public even from a particularly touching encounter with someone). She seemed to simply be more grounded, but as a result less reactive, and, as a consequence, presented fewer opportunities for connection to my usually haphazard and emotionally-fueled communicative behavior. She provided emotional responses during the presentation, sighs or utterances of vexation at the injustices of “the system” that worked unseen to repress minorities, explained our instructor. We continued on and I asked for clarification on the number of minutes to wait between administering breaths through a breath mask on the potential overdoser (five seconds after two sharp first breaths), and felt I had done my part by paying attention and learning what to do. Faith asked for clarification on those protected the Good Samaritan Law (whether the informer or the person in need of help) and I appreciated this as I had the same question but, needlessly, thought it foolish to ask. And then we left; Faith said that we should go rollerskating soon, and gave me a hug. I was happy for her; I wish I could contribute to our lives more fully, with the same gusto I had in our dormitory where the threat to my diaphanous affections was still looming.