Editor’s Note: This Artist Spotlight features two creative writing pieces by Dylan Joyner, The Concussion Chronicles: Vague Recollections of Concerning Dreams, and Side Car Manifesto. Artwork is by Megan Wang, title of the work is “Oh Word?”.
CONTENT WARNING: Sexual Assault
The Concussion Chronicles: Vague Recollections of Concerning Dreams
I needed something. I am not sure what exactly it was that I needed. But I remember the surge of necessity with which I craved it. What I needed is now lost to the foggy ruminations of a semi-lucid mind. It will remain unremembered (as most dreams so curiously do). And it seems futile to spend any longer considering a thing I will never remember. I just want to get across that I had a simmering urge for whatever the thing was.
Facebook. Main House 2017-18 page. Shoved between “Join us for Play-doh time 9pm Monday in the MPR” and “I lost a singular pink flip-flop. If you took it please return (followed by an obnoxious series of emojis which I doubt were placed in irony),” bold black letters of the lowercase variety plead desperately for—.
Zoom. Zoom. “I have it/one.”
I exist suddenly, from absolute nothingness, in the Main hallway of the fourth floor. My occurrence—toes to heel, feet to glossy floor—is so abrupt and immediate. Much like a choppy piece of filmography. Or a poorly edited time jump.
My palpable longing thrust me before M’s door. This aforementioned palpable longing (as it has been described) was apparently so immediately desired that it prevented me from clothing myself before reaching M’s wooden porta. Blue-toweled, surprisingly not wet-haired, gray flip-flopped and all I stood as the door flushed open. (Aside: I am supposing that I had just showered.)
He placed himself closer to me in space. Not to give any weight to superficiality, but he struck me as the unknowing poster-child for the grunge movement. But grunge seems too delicate an adjective to describe his dirty white man look. He seemed more grime than grunge. His brown hair locked together by the grease of its unwashing. An unintended mimicry of dreads.
I cannot remember whether or not I actually received the thing I had come for. Instead, I flinched as his fingers reached toward my back to dampen it with the sweat of a young adult man struggling to detangle himself from the grasp of uncomfortable pubescence.
My immediate response: why the fuck is he touching me? But soon my body fell into the rhythmic lull of his hands grazing the raised goosebumps of my exposed back skin. I remember talking, but not in conversation with one another. He talked at me. He projected his own personal image of self—M: the philosopher, the intellectual, the imparter of knowledge. With prideful condescension he expected me to share in this egotism of his. To praise his ability to construct sentences around words unavailable to a less-accelerated mind such as mine.
I do not remember his words. Even in this day-mare of mine, I did not hear him speak because I did not feel like listening. Instead, I watched what I assumed were words contorting his face. I do remember, however, the pleasurable discomfort humming in ripples along my spine.
But it was always a trap.
I felt my feet and his receding backwards without a step being taken, as if we were standing on one of those moving walkways you see in an airport. The door shut.
Our two-person show was minimalist in appearance—an indefinite black everywhere except for my illuminated self and his dimly lit accompaniment. He was closer then. A chapped bottom lip scraped the surface of my own. (What about the scent of his muggy breath, heavy breath propped up against my face? Do we smell in dreams?)
Suddenly, they all appear.
Heads flare up in staggered coordination. Their sudden appearance and cackling laughter rage quickly upwards like the flame from a lighter meant to stir a crack pipe. They encircle me. Burn high and low around me.
“YOU THOUGHT BITCH!” Accusational fingers jab toward me in masses. Mostly naked and surprised, I stand at the center of this ring of the riled up. I told you it was always a trap.
I remind myself to remain expressionless. Emotionless. I look forward at this shuffling group of mean-persons and make my exeunt.
The door shuts.
The door-shutting locks the event into an inescapable state of no-longer-existence.
I wake up panting breathlessly, partially in terror and partially in response to my left nostril’s inability to consume air in this allergy-unfriendly September month.
Side Character Manifesto
Has this ever happened to you?
You have recently spent the last day or so struggling with issues attached to your personal sense of identity. Let’s say, you recently encountered racism in its most blatant form at the workplace; or your parents, who have always struck you as the perfect married couple, suddenly got divorced; or your PTSD has returned with great immediacy and intensity. You have only just begun to acknowledge some personal discovery, when you meet with your friend or mother or neighbor. And your problems are immediately brushed aside in favor of theirs. They begin discussing boys (as always) or the case they are trying to solve or the friend they are currently feuding with. And suddenly, you find yourself relegated to the confines of a side character. You have lost control of the main narrative (but most likely it was never yours to begin with). You sit next to your friend or mother or neighbor as the walls around you push in towards each other, and an omniscient light dims over your scene. You realize you were only part of a temporary episodic arc of some sort, a poorly executed attempt at character development. And you think to yourself, why is my great exploration of self, my emotional labor, simply plot filler, a B-story?
Do you often feel like a comedic device? Plot device? The underdeveloped minority character placed obligatorily to prove, see we’re not racist, yet they always depoliticize your inherently political body? Do you often feel as if you are not the main protagonist in the narration of your life?
Have you experienced any of the following?
- Feelings of tokenization.
- Possible typecasting.
- A self-awareness of the ways in which you voluntarily reinforce stereotypes about yourself.
- A fragmented sense of self, disappearing from the narrative for multiple episodes.
- Occasional half-assed attempts at developing your character.
- Not feeling like a two dimensional character, but rather a one or 1.15 dimensional character.
- Existing only as a sort of muse or lesson for the main character.
- Being the only person of color, queer, or woman-identified character in the entirety of the show.
- Longing for a Pinocchio-style adventure into full personhood.
If so, then you should meet with your director. They will tell you if you qualify for more air time. However, be wary. They might tell you that there is not enough audience support to warrant further episodic arcs centered on you. If they do give you a bullshit answer such as this, then join us.
We the side characters, the minority characters, are done.
We no longer accept the modern-day minstrel performances we put on in the name of “diversity.”
We no longer stand for the white-washing of our colorful bodies.
Nor the intentional extermination of our narratives.
This is a call to all the funny black friends, all the sassy gay best friends, all the hypersexualized Latinas, all the Asian American characters relegated to math geeks or London Tipton.1*
To quote “Listen,” sung by Deena Jones in Dreamgirls:
I’m more of what you made of me
I followed the voice you gave to me
And now I’ve got to find my own.
This is a phone call, a wake-up call.
This is a call to you, a call to self-awareness, a call to protest.
This is a call to every side character, every minor character, to reclaim their bodies, to construct their own sense of self.
1*PSA: White people cannot act like a person of color. It is not some difficult theatrical role, but a type of existence in the world. I am speaking directly to all the counterfeit main protagonists—the white persons, straight persons, non-trans persons imitating persons of color, queer persons, trans persons. I am speaking to the Diane Nguyen’s of BoJack Horseman (the cartoon Vietnamese character puppeteered by a white woman’s voice). And the Emma Stone’s of that Aloha movie.
For more information, visit sidecharacter.fightcharacter.org or call our 24/7 (excluding major holidays and accommodating POC time) hotline. Donations are welcome. Visa, Mastercard, Cash, Check and Venmo accepted. BP