The mind melts with tea and honey, reorganized like the sentience of my vacuum cleaner.
The world shifts like moving pictures, forking paths around the garden.
I’ve never been here before.
I used to have a relationship with the public, but that’s all changed. I pulled away because I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I used it to cope and abused it as a medicine. I took power from the people who looked up to me.
I realized that the purpose of spiritual ego was to hide behind a mask, to hide the fact that I felt powerless in a dangerous world. I went looking for my power, the kind that comes from within.
From above to below, in all directions. I’ve only just begun my journey.
I’m sorry for the person I’ve been.
First I went to outer/inner space to find the parts of me I left behind when I allowed myself to become what I came.
I set foot on the Earth for the first time in thirty years, and I was filled with rage at what I saw.
I bore witness to the atrocities committed by the ruling class and I got lost in what I thought of as my personal rebellion. My inner revolution.
I saw darkness and light. I bathed in Fire and Water. I went to the Queen and the King and claimed my inheritance.
Now, I am a child again, learning the difference between milk and glue.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m back. I’m going to share my spiritual journey here. I will be graceful with you, World, and I pray you are graceful with me.
Back in the MySpace days, I called myself “Your Local Christian Heretic.” Well, I’m not a Christian anymore, but I’m sure as hell still a heretic. I’m thinking “Earth Temple Witch.”
My name is Kaika, but some of you remember me as Lu. I met Niki about 15 years ago, while we were in our early 20s. It was a memorable time.
It’s no secret, Niki was a party animal. It was the Pride festival, Freezone, GirlBar, and Nine Fine Irishmen, especially Nine Fine. We made any excuse to get drunk on the dance floor. She was my cheerleader when it came to tearing it up.
She was the responsible one, though. I don’t know how many times she refused to let me drive, made me sleep in her guest room, not caring how jealous or controlling any of my girlfriends may have been, or whether or not I’d get broken up with the next day. She likely saved my life.
What I loved most about Niki was her passion. I can’t recall how many times she started a sentence with, “I want you to know that I care…”
I remember how much she loved her students. Throughout the years she shared letters written by her children, drawings, reports. When there was a child who needed help, she shouldered their burdens and needed to talk about them. Although none of us minded, she would often say, “Okay this is the last thing I’m going to say about work. Okay, okay, I know I said that was the last thing, but this is really the last thing I’m going to say about work.”
I remember telling her how important she was to the children of this world. I told her that not all, but many of her students would grow up, look back and tell stories about Ms. Franklin, “the teacher who believed in me,” “the teacher who stood up to my parents for me,” “the teacher who encouraged my obsession with Percy Jackson and Greek Mythology,” lol.
I remember thinking, ‘man, I wish I had a teacher like that. Just one teacher like that would have changed my life.’
Then I realized that Niki was my teacher.
Earlier this year, I deleted all my social media accounts because I realized that I didn’t know how to be a good friend. I confused likes and follows for love and loyalty. This is me at 38 years old. I wanted to know who my friends really were. I wanted to know who would take the time to text and FaceTime me. I wanted to know who those true friends were and I wanted to love them back.
Niki showed me what it meant to be a good friend. She genuinely cared about how I was doing. She carved out time to text and talk. FaceTime was important. She gave thoughtful little gifts, cards, photos. She made it a point to express support of my transition. For a trans person, that support could be the difference between life and death. And she knew that. I know that I’m not a special one.
Niki made such efforts to accommodate all her friends, and I marveled at how how she was able to consistently put her love into practice for so many people, for so many years.
This past summer, her, Logan and I reconnected in a way we hadn’t in a long time. The last time I saw her face, just a few weeks ago. I was at a bar, FaceTiming with Niki and Logan, virtual happy hour, and we took a stroll down memory lane. I got to tell her how much I appreciated her friendship and why. We celebrated my wedding. I got to feel like I reciprocated her love. For the first time, I felt like I was on the path to being a good friend.
Now, I’m back in Vegas but I swear we were planning to kick it, drink my first batch of mead, and celebrate life, not have a COVID funeral!
Well, class is over. I seem to have graduated, and it’s time for me to go out into the world and become the friend I want to be. Here is where I cherish the memory of my friend, teacher, and role model.
If you’re reading this, it’s most likely because Niki has touched you somehow. You loved her, didn’t you?
When you go home tonight, whether you find yourself numb, drowning in tears, or trying to assign some sort of meaning to the fact that when the world needs people like Niki most, she’s gone, or whether you’re desperately trying to make yourself personally responsible for her death, as I know I have, I want you to know that Niki cares about you.
And you’re not alone.
We may not be friends. We may not know each other. You may never hear from me again. Yet, through our love for Niki, we are connected. And anytime you grieve for her, we are here with you in this emotional space. I want you to know that Niki cares about you, and you are not alone.
Thank you, Niki, for sharing your life with us, your light, your love, and all your gifts. I pray that we learn to celebrate life with gratitude for our every breath. I pray for the peaceful journey of your beautiful soul. Please forgive us for our selfishness, for wanting you here in this crazy, chaotic world, when we know deep down that you’re in a much better place.
The windstorm and the wild fires have stolen my rest, roused by the howling of the night sky, the forest creatures’ blackened faces pressed against my bedroom window, asking, “Do humans still have souls?”
An answer one might quest, lest I find myself caught up in some violent tempest, within, cobwebs and funnels, spun, like broken records, replay, nostalgic for smallness, this funeral, today…
How does the morning appear? Like an old newspaper, repeating historic nightmares, and fear, the far, natal stars charting fate, as the darkness fades, we believed, we obeyed, so naive, still dismayed, and prayed, our hearts blue, waiting for a savior (within you).
Then we worshiped with weapons, knelt to paper and holy books, innocent blood for sacraments, shook and deceived, bent, kneeled, agreed, while demons in mirrors made pancakes for breakfast, and we demanded pig, too.
The dark ballad resounds through the space opera house, as the morning sunlight creeps in, enlightening, the lighting, we find reasons for living, and forgiving, the pink of a rose petal, the whimper of a pet.
The most precious of secrets are hidden in plain sight: the trees produce golden fruit, the clouds only speak truth, and empires are for sociopathic children.