Return by Goldie Peacock

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We shot in one of the ramshackle, defunct rooms at the Eastland Hotel during a blizzard. As we navigated labyrinthine hallways closed to the public en route to our makeshift studio, we whispered like we were doing something illicit, despite David’s of course having obtained permission for us to be there. While he had a penchant for photographing edgy subject matter in his spare time, David was an i-dotting, t-crossing, white collar straight dude, a veteran lawyer who fought for the little guy.

We found the room, and after some key jiggling the door burst open. Teal paint had peeled off the walls in places and faint heat attempted to death rattle out of the radiator every few minutes. Haunted as fuck, no doubt, although with the relentless draft I wouldn’t be surprised if even the ghosts flew south for the winter. Disregarding the chill—this was Maine, after all—we got right down to business. Between rounds of jumping jacks in an effort to maintain homeostasis, I transformed into a bearded soldier wearing an actual uniform, a glamazon in a red tutu, an androgyne in a black ensemble topped off by a fedora. David’s camera snapped all the while. I put on a fresh face of makeup to match each persona, smearing it off between looks with Vaseline and the rough, brown paper towel I’d pocket from public restrooms. Because my environmentalist roommate frowned upon paper towel use and therefore wouldn’t chip in for rolls for our household, I pilfered what I needed from out in the world. 

When I modeled I could sense the precise moment at which the photographer and I fully connected, spinning vision plus attitude plus thrift store threads into gold. David and I had captured at least a few stunners. After we finished I kept the androgyne look on and packed the rest of my accoutrements into the black plastic garbage bag I’d brought them in. On our way out, I made sure to stock up on complementary cookies and coffee in the lobby, since I was always hungry.

The squall had picked up speed. David offered to give me a ride home in his Volvo with its miraculous heating system—generous of him, since he was also paying me. I gratefully accepted, especially since my apartment was hardly balmy. Our building was made from old stock and the environmentalist kept the oil heat low due to cost, plus his qualms about carbon footprint. 

As David carefully ferried us up crystalline Munjoy Hill, he said, “By the way, what are your pronouns?”

I hadn’t expected this question, but hearing it made me realize I’d long wanted to answer. “They,” I said. “Thank you for asking.”

And then I thought oh, shit. Wow. It was the first time I’d said it out loud to anyone. Okay. I took a sip of coffee, wiped the fogged-up window with my sleeve and smiled out into the storm as the warmth returned to my body.

As a performer and art model, Goldie Peacock spent over a decade bouncing between frenetic movement and absolute stillness before chilling out and becoming a writer. Their work appears or is forthcoming in HuffPost, Wild Roof Journal, Sundog Lit, Bullshit Lit, and DRAGS, a book showcasing NYC’s drag superstars. They live in Lenapehoking (Brooklyn, NY, USA). You can find them more often on Instagram and less often on Twitter.

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