"What Now" was originally created as a performance piece, accompanied by a performance to Shirley Bassey's "What Now My Love?"
First published in InkBRICK #4 (2015).
In performance, introduced by an essay: "What I've learned about death as a drag queen"
"I think a lot of drag queens take inspiration from fabulous women in their own lives. For years, I gave all the credit to my dad’s mom, Grandma Dina, the Chinese-born Russian Jewish actress who talked about sex all the time and spent an hour setting her hair. But while she certainly fulfilled the Auntie Mame role in my life… that’s not really the kind of drag queen that I am, or aspire to be.
“I want to be the drag queen that’s smart, and that cares about others. That asks questions. I want to be the kind of drag queen that sees herself as elegant, not over-the-top… Because I want to be my mother’s drag queen.
“Four months ago, on June 17th, a few days after turning 64, my mom Jane died of primary peritoneal cancer. She couldn’t speak when I arrived at the hospital in Illinois. She moved around a lot – whispering to herself, occasionally breaking into a smile so big she looked like the Cheshire cat – and she too was fading away.
“I learned that it can be empowering to wear your mother’s dress. Or power suit. At first I was worried that it was a little Norman Bates Psycho, but then I just embraced it and now I’m a murderer.
“I have learned that you must be honest about your pain – because you can, and must – think of it as something beautiful and yours.
“I learned that I have not lost the relationship, it’s just moved inside. It exists inside my mind, among memories and fantasies – and that space in there is just as important as the one out here.
“I learned that listening and caring and loving can be powerful – just as powerful as talking and acting, and can touch just as many lives.
“Beautify your life, beautify your pain. Remember to play and imagine – to smile, and to find strength in listening and thinking.”