The first time I used a men’s room was in a Korean church in Los Angeles. I don’t remember if it was a calculated safety choice or if that’s just where I was directed. I also don’t remember what I felt. I do remember realizing that I’d crossed a line I couldn’t uncross. Afterwards, I walked back to my car. I had parked outside the house they used for the exterior shots of the funeral home on Six Feet Under. The last time I’d stood in front of that house was with a partner who didn’t want me to medically transition. The last time I’d watched an episode was when I decided to start T. The final shot of the show is of someone merging onto the highway right next to the funeral home, moving away from everything that she recognized as home. I looked up at the house, and I got in my car, and I drove away.
This was neither my first nor my only pop culture pilgrimage. I’ve stood outside Coach and Tami’s house, driven past the Riggins house, crossed the Canadian border on a train listening to “With or Without You,” trespassed to say hi to some cows in western Virginia, listened to “Waiting— PAL Remix” under fairy lights at a folk festival, and taken regular trips to the Bethesda Fountain, always imagining myself in the stories, pretending I was a version of me that fit there until I could name the question I was trying to answer.* I lean towards kinaesthetic learning, and sometimes I need to touch things in order for them to make sense. If I can physically feel the places that live in my mind, they become more real, and the things I use them to make sense of become more real, too. Not all the way real yet; I’m still refracting, but this time it’s through something external, one step closer to bringing something of myself into the world.
And at the same time, there’s nothing that makes these places less real than being there. The Riggins brothers do not live in that house because the Riggins brothers are made up. Deliberate refracting is delicate. Touching things makes them more real, so it also makes what they aren’t unavoidable. Facades crumble under my fingers, leaving me only with whatever fear and/or desire led me to them. The it’s-real feeling is a comfort, and the it’s-not-real feeling is a challenge, but both leave me more stuck with myself than I had been before.
Pages, as I think I’ve talked about before, have a childish energy. Childish, like “stubborn” and “manipulative,” has developed a negative connotation. But if we take the word at face value, childish becomes something else entirely. Children are intrigued, excited, experimental, unaware, intensely curious about the world around them. They are also confused and scared and upset by not being able to understand or control that world. These traits are not the exclusive realm of children, lost entirely with age and experience. We experience them less as adults, when we have the vocabulary and developmental capacity to understand them better, but find me anyone of any age who’s not at least a little scared of being out of control or a little interested in the world around them and I will be extremely impressed.
Many decks have different names for the suits and the court. I respect it, but it’s not my speed. My exception is decks that call pages “explorers.”† The Page of Pentacles applies that exploration to the physical world around them. There is a reading here about the Page of Pentacles and a wide-eyed exploration of the body, a poking and prodding to figure out what does and feels what, but we’ll leave that for a different day.‡ We often think about learning happening through reading, writing, and listening. But the Page learns best by touching, finding out how the world feels against her nerves. It’s a way of learning that’s not generally rewarded or thought of as smart.§ Culturally, we try to separate mind and body, with mind thought of as superior.| But the Page of Pentacles is a reminder that mind and body are the same, and that our histories and emotions and understandings of ourselves and others are connected to where and how we experience touch and how our bodies relate to the physical space around us.
Sometimes at the end of these I’ll give a vague or mushy suggestion of a way to think about cards, or to bring that card’s energy into the world. And I really mean all of them. But they’re also mostly there because I have trouble with endings. This one I say with extreme purpose: go somewhere that reminds you of a piece of media. It could be an actual place referenced in a book, somewhere something was shot, somewhere that has the sort of trees a character gets all poetic about, whatever. Read the book there. Listen to the song that was playing during that scene. Touch the ground. So many cards are about having lenses to look through. But the Page of Pentacles is someone you can be, at least for a little while. I imagine that if you’re subscribed to this, you have at least interest if not belief that both media and tarot are powerful. What would it be like to try to integrate those powers with the world around them and the body you believe them with?
*Friday Night Lights, Friday Night Lights, not saying because this is a huge spoiler, The Raven Cycle, Transparent, Angels in America. Also, I experienced my first deep haunting in one of these places, which is not surprising given how many of them have it as a theme.
†Once more I have discovered that something I remembered was not the case— at least in the Spacious Tarot, this is assigned to Knights. I have a lot of thinking to do about this.
‡I’m actually not sure if I’ve said— it’s not just that readers interpret cards differently from other readers, it’s that readers often have multiple readings of the same cards. In actual readings, cards are context-dependent. There’s the question, the moment in time, the reader’s perception of the querent’s needs, the imagery on the deck, the reader’s relationship with the deck, pretty much anything you can think of. I talk a lot about Pentacles being about bodies, and they are. But they’re also about the physical world, and that’s the reading that’s coming out of this card most strongly for me right now. If I wrote this at a different time or used a different media lens I would quite possibly have written something entirely different.
§I understand how chip on the shoulder this is, and I don’t care.
|I think this is because we have the idea that minds are more under our control, but I always love to hear what other people think about this.
I’m only really just now starting to get a grasp on court cards, and I continue to be lightly embarrassed by the playlists. But not embarrassed enough to not add one! A Summer Wind, A Cotton Dress by Richard Shindell is very tactile, and Fast Car by Tracy Chapman hits a version of this card that’s not really in this post.
Guest Post by Jamie Beckenstein
Jamie Beckenstein is a disabled queer tarot reader, oral historian, and writer. They do new play dramaturgy and community work with other trans people. They make a lot of work about bodies, pop culture, and g-d, and they know a lot about NASA. Jamie is based out of Queens, New York.