Monthly Archives: July 2008

True Colors

True Colors

by

mediaChick

A few days ago I accepted a call from my mother. She had already called my office line and left a message, which I didn’t get around to before leaving for the day. I still haven’t listened to it. She reached me in my car on the cell later that night, en route to hang out with some new friends. It was unusual for her to try to reach me twice on the same day; it meant something. I took a deep breath, checked my judgment at the door, and accepted the call.

A little history. I didn’t live with my mother past age 14. My earliest childhood memories are heavy with sadness and frustration, sprinkled with bits of joy and hilarity. It seemed to emanate from my mother. There was a vague hurt and resentment we had for each other, as if neither of us had met the other’s expectations. I clearly remember seeing a photo of a very small me, not more than a toddler, with some scraggly old doll and a small toy suitcase, sleeping on a neighbor’s plastic lounge chair.

As I grew older I ran away less, instead creeping out at night to meet boys in the park, wearing my juvenile depression like a crutch and skipping most of the 8th grade. With the divorce I was given a choice, and I didn’t hesitate to go live with my Pops. That brought on a world of hurt directed solely at me. But that divorce – that escape – probably saved my life.

She had called to tell me she had had a mild stroke the morning of my birthday, a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to know if her birthday message to me “sounded funny.” I thought for a second about that. Every year she calls me and sings Happy Birthday. I remembered this year she had called me in the evening instead of in the early morning, as a poke at my 5:34 a.m. arrival. I remembered I had saved her singing voice message this year, but I didn’t remember her sounding “funny.” I told her as much. I continued to listen.

“Oh,” she said. I imagined her face saying that “oh.” Her hair almost all white in a bowl-cut and her Dutch skin still smooth. “I’m a bit droopy on the right now. I have to walk with a cane.” I can see this clearly. It’s not a stretch to add this to her other physical troubles: broken back, broken hand. She has a lot of chronic pain.

I settle in because she’s in the mood to talk. This isn’t unusual; she misses me and repeats that often in our conversation. What’s rare about this moment is that I’m in the mood to listen, even though I know what’s coming: many little, teeny-tiny fractures and swells in my heart as she confesses her realities and her fantasies to me. I don’t let her do this very often, but today, for whatever reason, I let her prattle on.

I should mention that my mother is exceptionally bright. She’s a Science and English teacher by trade, but is often fired for not putting up with people’s shit. She is unemployable. She’s a life-long, voracious student, a writer of historical short fiction, and a devoted Mormon. She dumpster-dives for furniture with good wood and then reupholsters them with supplies she gets for free or nearly free. She lives on practically nothing. When she wants something she either makes it, or collects bottles and cans for money and then waits until she can get it on the cheap. She uses a calling card for long-distance calls. She is musically inclined. She reads Women’s World magazine and Tolkien, and carries around this incredible load of guilt for the way her brain makes her behave.

She just goes on.

It’s only been in the last year or so that she was finally diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and depression. With all the information available about mental health illnesses it was almost anti-climatic to finally know for sure. But something changed in me when I heard the news. I was not exactly more forgiving, but maybe more accepting and curious about who she was under the influence of anti-psychotics.

She fills me in on her therapy. She’s on a good combination of meds and she’s seeing a head doctor who she “gets a kick out of.” She’s very happy that she is on her third appeal for Social Security Supplemental Income. (“Third time’s the charm! I just know it!”) She tells me that, of her three qualifying disabilities, she and her doctors went ahead with the broken back claim because it was the most obvious. They were encouraged when it went straight to the judge’s desk for a decision, where it has been for a while. Waiting.

She tells me about what she’ll do with that money, the couple of years of back supplemental income money. Her dreams for the extra cash. She muses on how she will finally be free of very old student loans and able to buy the tiny log cabin-style house that she used to rent in her farming town. She has already planned the additions she’ll build onto it. I didn’t suggest to her that it would be easier to buy something that was already what she wanted.

I haven’t lived with her for years, but I know her very well. It’s the dreaming that keeps her eyes alive.

In that moment I remember the time she came home from seeing the just-out movie E.T. with a small bag of Reese’s Pieces, breathlessly dragging me and my little sister into the closet with her and using a flashlight to recreate the story of a sweet abandoned alien for us.

I remember that I like to dream, too.

She tells me about her friends, good ones that take care of her and drive her around and keep an eye on her unbalanced gait. Her friends were the first to notice it, when she showed up for band practice. Yes, my mother, with the broken back and hand and the mental illnesses that make her unable to earn a living, plays percussion in the community symphony. She plays them very well, in fact. It was the friends, and the musical “whacking” as she calls it, that brought her into focus enough to realize she could get help with her mood disorder. The collaborated rhythm and banging became her call to keep on going. Broken and hurting on the inside and out, she does it with style with her pink-and-yellow-polka-dotted drum sticks. “They make me so happy! They’re the color of the way I feel inside when I play.” Her true colors, if you’re feeling poetic.

Soon, she becomes quieter and respectful of my time. She lets me know she’ll be featured in this year’s county fair symphony performance. Honored with a solo. She asks if I can come hear her play. I say I can’t, honestly. For many reasons. “That’s okay!” she says. You’ll see me play with my band someday. And it’ll be great.”

We exchange I love you’s and disconnect.

And we go on.

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True Colors

Tits

by

Zoe Trope

My best friend got his tits chopped off.

My mother dated a man named Henry who wanted to be a woman named Rachel. He dumped her months ago but now they’re trying to be friends.

My first serious relationship was with a girl who wanted to be a boy. I wrote about him in my memoir. I was 15 years old.

When my best friend came out as trans, his family disowned him.

When my mother’s ex-boyfriend came out as trans to his wife, she divorced him.

My girlfriend told me she was my boyfriend. I got dumped a few months later.

Maybe it was the distance. I lived in Portland and he lived in Seattle.

Maybe it was because what he said was true, that I was lucky because I “looked like a girl.”

In college, I lived in a women’s dorm. It was a small cottage with 35 residents. An on-campus facilitator taught “Trans 101” at our dorm. Ten residents attended. In the workshop, we looked at pictures of people and ranked them, from very masculine to very feminine. One of the pictures was Jamie Lee Curtis. Later we learned that some of the people we had put on the continuum were drag artists or identified as trans. We questioned the differences between gender and sex. We were taught how to be allies, how to be respectful of the pronouns that other people use.

At house meetings, we always introduced ourselves by saying, “My name is —, I use she/her or he/his or ze/hir.” I joked that I would one day announce my chosen pronouns as airplane and duct tape.

My mother’s ex-boyfriend never asked to be called Rachel, but my mother said that was the name he had chosen for himself. He never asked us to use female pronouns, either. Henry is a tall, thin man with long fingers, wide eyes, and a dimpled chin. Once, when he was having dinner at my mother’s house, his bushy gray hair was down to his shoulders and he wore dangly silver earrings.

Under his black turtleneck, Henry had two, small pointy breasts about the size of plums. They looked like little girl boobs, the kind you see on 11-year-olds before they get their first training bras. I felt guilty, but I couldn’t stop staring at Henry’s little girl boobs, and how they seemed so disproportionate on his nearly-7-foot frame.

A few months later, Henry stopped taking hormones. His boobs disappeared. He dumped my mother. She said, “I can’t believe I wasted time on that guy.”

My best friend, Jazz, wore a frog bra. It’s a thick sports bra that flattens the wearer’s chest almost completely. Jazz only complained a little bit when the bra made it hard to breathe. He took off the bra at night, when no one else was around. I feel like I was one of the last human beings on earth to see Jazz’s boobs unrestrained.

When he came to visit Portland with his girlfriend, he stayed at my mother’s house because his own family refused to see him. They said he was too young to make decisions about his body. They said he was “mutilating” himself.

My mother started dating someone new. Mike was older than Henry, conservative, quiet, and occasionally cranky. My dad met Mike before I did, and I asked my dad what he was like. My dad didn’t think Mike had very much personality.

My dad asked, “How do you feel about that water?” and gestured to the glass in front of me.

I shrugged.

He said, “Yeah, that’s about how I feel about Mike.”

Mike was very attached to his dog, Buddy, who came with him when he stayed the weekend at my mother’s house. The dog was getting older. One weekend, the dog puked all over the house and my mother had to throw out every rug she owned. Then the dog died. Mike went off his medication.

Jazz stayed at my mother’s house once when Mike was there. My mother tried to explain to him that Jazz was transitioning and preferred to use male pronouns. Mike quipped, “Well, he has the butt spread of a middle-aged woman.”

My mother told me this story later, after Mike had left. I was quiet for a moment and asked her, “How could you let someone say something like that about my friend?”

“I didn’t,” she snapped. “That’s why he isn’t here right now.”

Mike bounced in and out of my mother’s life after that fight, but they finally split up when he accused my mother of running a halfway home for trannies. My mother said Mike was obsessed with his dead dog.

Recently, a man tried to write a TV show based on my book. The lead character was a teenager bent on losing her virginity to a cute college boy. She wasn’t queer like me. Her boyfriend wasn’t trans like mine was.

When Jazz graduated from college, he was recovering from chest surgery.

I was at his graduation ceremony wearing a gold necklace that said Mother in swirly letters. My parents and Henry were there, too.

Jazz’s other family wasn’t there, and neither were his tits, which were in a biohazard garbage bin somewhere outside a surgeon’s office in Cleveland, Ohio.

The network passed on the script for the TV show. Maybe it wasn’t edgy enough. Maybe it just wasn’t true.

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True Colors

Rather Un-Christianlike

by Crissyspage.com

Five years ago this August I applied for a job as a librarian at a Catholic
school. I had been toying with the idea of getting a second Master’s degree
and becoming a school librarian. I don’t know what possessed me to consider
this as a great career choice since:

A. I had no teaching experience other than 3/4 of a teaching certificate.
B. I’m not a librarian per se.
C. I’m not Catholic.
D. I don’t like children.

Unfortunately, I was hired on the spot 3 weeks before school started by a
desperate man who needed someone who was willing to do the job as long as it
didn’t include molesting the children and sacrificing kittens on the new
carpet.

Basically, I was the perfect candidate.

I suspect I was also the only candidate.

My new boss, we’ll call him Mr. Bastard, encouraged me to call the previous
librarian to see if there was anything I should know about the library. My
conversation with her was rather dark and foreboding as she ended our call
by saying “I don’t want to discourage you…I…well, just good luck. It
wasn’t the right job for me, but I hope it works out for you.”

Huh.

After accepting the job and spending a week freaking the fuck out over it, I
assembled a team of my favorite librarians to help me get my classroom
together. While there, the custodian stopped by to chat and offer his help
and also to scare the crap out of me by telling me that the school had been
through FIVE librarians in the past FOUR years. I was lucky number six and
he wished me the best saying, “I don’t know what they have against
librarians, but keep your head up and don’t let them get to you.”

That was also the day we learned that my library had only one computer with
no content filters or firewall security on it whatsoever. Instead of a
computerized library catalog, there was a dusty old card catalog that was
totally shaquaed (that’s not a real word so don’t look it up) because it
hadn’t been updated since 1982, a ten year old set of World Book
Encyclopedias (complete with pages missing for that “air of mystery”), books
from the 1950’s, and a budget of $500 for the entire year which included
paper and ink for the school’s only color photocopier. After paying for the
copier expenses, my book budget turned out to be about $25.50 for the year.

My students, God bless their sweet little Catholic spoiled brat private
school hearts, ranged in age from 3-13 and I had absolutely zero experience
with children of any age. None. Ever.

I was unbelievably fucked in every way possible and school hadn’t even
started yet.

It was exactly like in a scary movie when the caretaker warns the teenagers
not to go into Old Man Foster’s place, but the dumb bunnies never listen and
they go in anyway and get their asses handed to them.

And I did.

I got my ass handed to me on the first day of school as I found myself:

-holding a crying second grader and dabbing blood off her cheek with an
inferior quality Catholic institution type Kleenex after her classmates
attacked her during a not-so-Christian game of Simon Says.

-Inadvertently reading a story about population control to a group of
Catholic fourth graders and subsequently answering some pretty tough
questions about birth control. Whoopsie.

-Taking a class of thirty-one Kindergartners to mass having no clue where
the church is, where to sit, how to do the Jesus, Jesus, bo-beezus hand jive
thing the Catholics do, and not knowing how to keep 31 five year olds quiet
during the whole stand up, sit down, kneel and shake hands business.

How many bad omens does one need in order to know that shit is not gonna be
okay? Well, I’m not that smart so the events so far weren’t enough to send
me screaming from the Catholics and their offspring.

I stupidly continued to show up every day thinking that if I just tried
harder it would get better. I was so stressed out and exhausted that over
the course of the school year I had four double ear infections, two sinus
infections, bronchitis, and a Rheumatoid Arthritis flare up severe enough
that I couldn’t walk up the stairs to the lunchroom or the ladies room, so I
wound up eating cold lunches in February and holding my pee pee for seven
hour stretches.

One day I reported to my library to find that they had moved it from a big
sunny yellow room with tons of windows to a narrow, gray walled, dingy
basement room without windows, heat, or ventilation. It felt exactly like
being in one of the gas ovens at Auschwitz. Imagine my surprise when I found
that my entire library had been moved, and I had classes coming in 10
minutes, aaaaaand the shelves had been installed with the books in RANDOM
ORDER. I had a dewey decimal lesson planned for grades 3 through 8 with
fucky shelves. I sat at my desk and cried bitter tears while Joan the Art
teacher, or St. Joan of Art as I called her, ran to her classroom and
grabbed some stuff for the kids to color with since my lesson plans for the
day were totally in the shitter.

Oh, and the second grade teacher used to bring the kids in from recess, give
them candy, and send them to me on a sugar/recess high like you read about.
And then she would report to the principal that my classroom was out of
control and I’d get called in for a spanking and a “this is unacceptable”
speech.

It seemed like I was in his office at least once a week for some bullshit
offense.

My favorites though, were these:

-Eating lunch at my desk in the library.

-Being seen “crying alone in the classroom” on the day my library was moved.
Apparently someone saw me crying and reported me to the principal instead of
coming in to see if I was all right, and maybe offering a word of
encouragement to a new teacher who was at the end of her rope. That would
have been the Christian thing to do. Right?

-Having my classroom clock break and accidentally sending the kids back to
their regular classroom too early thereby shortening their teacher’s free
period by approximately 1 minute, 36 seconds.

-Threatening to kill the students if they touched that god damned photo
copier without permission. (Okay, so perhaps threatening to kill the
children was my bad, but the rest was total bullshit.)

And finally, the coup de grâce came when — as far as I can piece it
together — I was busy at the other end of the library checking out books
for some students about two minutes before their teacher was scheduled to
collect them, when a 4th grader sat down at the filterless, securityless
computer and typed “pokemon” into Google. From what I’ve been told, a
picture of a girl in a bikini appeared. At exactly this moment, his little
bitch classroom teacher (who had been trying to get me in trouble all year)
arrived at the library to collect her students and saw the bikini girl on
the screen. Saying nothing to me — and not letting on that anything was
wrong — she left with her students and then reported to Mr. Bastard while
“shaking and crying” that I was letting the kids look at porn.

Mr. Bastard called me to his office and told me to collect my things and
leave the building immediately, before the end of the day, never to return
again. I was not given a chance to defend myself.

“I’m doing you a favor,” he said.

I broke into uncontrollable hysterical crying right there in front of him.
You know the kind where you cannot breathe and you have snot pouring out of
you and you make all sorts of animal-ish snorky sounds? Yeah. Way to keep
your dignity, Kristen. And it took me a good 10 minutes to wipe the copious
snot off my face and regain a normal breathing pattern to leave the office,
hang my head in shame and humiliation, and go collect my stuff.

Looking back on it, he really did do me a favor by firing me because I got
to collect unemployment for the summer, but still — it was a devastating
experience.

I should have trusted my gut because taking this job was perhaps the single
worst decision I have ever made in my life. Worse even than the time I
decided to sell my underpants on Craigslist, but that’s a story for next
month’s Back Fence theme What the Fuck Was I Thinking?

I’m just kidding. I don’t really think they’re planning that one, but they
should.

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True Colors

By Nels from With Sexy Results

In sixth grade, I was THE MAN.

In Corvallis, Oregon where I grew up, we had middle school instead of junior high. That meant the sixth, seventh and eighth graders all went to school together. It also meant there was a lot of social pressure on the sixth graders to act like eighth graders.

I had to get a girlfriend.

Luckily, talking to girls always came naturally to me. Of course, that meant getting stuck in the “friend zone” a lot, but all-in-all this skill has more advantages than drawbacks.

For example, I got to be really good friends with Molly. All the girls wanted to wear what Molly wore. They all wanted to look like Molly looked. And, of course, all the guys wanted to date her.

Molly was way out of my league, But I had her blessing to hang out with the girls at lunch and between classes. It was my entrée into the exciting world of sixth grade dating.

Bobbie. Even at my young age, I knew she was unique. Beautiful. Her father was African-American and her mother was Guatemalan. She had cinnamon-colored skin and big, brown eyes. She moved away to California before our seventh grade year, but I’m sure she broke plenty of hearts wherever she went.

We would get together at the roller rink on Friday nights to hold hands, be with each other during the couple skates and share a root beer float (which I paid for because I’m high class like that).

We even sat next to each other in math class… touching my knee to her knee and holding hands under the desk. All accomplished while pretending to learn pre-algebra right under the teacher’s nose. Playing footsie never seemed so naughty.

I’d only been dating her for about a week when she said we had to talk. Turns out her father found out she was dating a guy and was none too pleased with the idea. In fact, he forbade her from dating anyone. She dumped me.

I know… HEARTBREAK. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

“Just don’t tell your dad,” I whispered to her in the hall.

She put her hand on my chest.

“We can’t. I really like you, but if he even knew I was talking to you I’d be grounded for a month.”

Her hair brushed against me as she turned and ran to catch up with her friends.

I shook off her rejection — there was another woman waiting in the wings. And why not? I was a free man now! I’d been dumped. Sure it hurt my pride, but this was a hot eighth grader who knew how to French kiss! How could I say no?

Oh, but what a price I would pay!

You see, even though Bobbie had dumped me and told me there was no future for us at all, it wasn’t really over. Even though she had told me that we couldn’t date secretly, we were in fact dating secretly. According to Molly, because Bobbie had been forced to dump me, she hadn’t actually dumped me even though she told me she was dumping me.

Follow that?

As I’m sure you can guess by now, when it came down to Molly, Bobbie and their blinding perfection versus me and my freakishly large size for a sixth grader (I was already nearly 6 feet tall)… let’s just say that they were still popular and I was not. Oh, they signed my yearbook and still acted like we were friends. But in the musty corners of the art room, nasty things were said about me. NASTY.

Women don’t make sense and, furthermore, they have the God-given right NOT to make sense. This is the lesson I learned in those dark days.

It wasn’t all a loss though. When our seventh grade year started, and my popularity reached its nadir, I became friends with a new guy named Chris. Befriending the new kid — pretty much the worst thing you can do. We were essentially persona non grata.
It was all right though, because we were best friends. We played basketball together for hours. We had epic battles in Tecmo Bowl on the Nintendo (guys, you know what I’m talking about). Over the course of a year, we got to be about as good of friends as two thirteen year old boys could be.

There was just one small problem. Chris was a good-looking dude. Not in a George Clooney, “ladies just fall at your feet” kind of way. But as more and more of the new kid stench wore off of him, he got the attention of an increasing number of girls.

I can still remember the day when it all came to a head. My former best friend Molly just walked right up to him like they’d known each other forever.

“Hey Chris! We’re gonna walk over to the 7-11 for Slurpees. Wanna go?”

He turned around and he had this big, shit-eating grin on his face. Then I got a shrug.

“Hey man, I’ll swing by your place later.”

He never showed up that day.

And that was it. Sure, we were still friends… I mean, how could I blame him? Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the popular crowd? But it was never the same after that. Even though I didn’t hold a grudge, he always seemed uncomfortable around me… like he would rather be somewhere else.

I guess, even at that young age, he realized that he’d crossed some sort of line. That he’d betrayed me in some small way and I’d never forgive him.

I’m not sure whether that reveals more about him or me.

* All names have been changed to spare me from any possible angry emails.

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True Colors

All Me

by Chris from Surviving Myself

“Well that doesn’t surprise me.”

The words fell out of John’s mouth just like that. No hint of emotion, just a statement, kind of like when someone is talking to their Mom and has zoned out halfway through the conversation, so everything they say sounds exactly the same. — “Yeah Mom” and “I don’t know. Yesterday?”

A monotone reaction. That’s what John had to the notion that I had just purchased three snacks for myself, rather than one Big Snack for the group of us, like my girlfriend, my friend and his girlfriend had done. He had no real reaction because John is a good friend of mine, and anyone who knows me knows that I am myself all the time, and myself = someone who generally cares only about me.

I find life easier this way.

When Dave (my friend), Ari (my girlfriend), John, Sarah (his girlfriend) and I decided to go upstate to visit Lake George and stay in a cabin and drink a lot and maybe play Frisbee until our hands hurt, I knew that we’d be arriving there late in the evening. I thought about this as we took our rented car out of the city and zoomed up the long, boring highways that lead to the secluded lake.

Thoughts were twisting in my brain while everyone else in the car talked amongst themselves and made fun of me for making a mix cd with Peter Gabriel on it. John in particular was not fond of my selection.

“This makes me not like you,” he said.

I was Unphased, of course, because I was thinking about My Hunger and My Needs.

As the night went on and we got closer to the cabin, we decided it was a good time to get food, since Lake George would have nothing open when we got there.

We found a gas station that didn’t look too much like a haven for redneck ax murderers and pulled over. As we all climbed out of the car, I was already envisioning my snacks.

I could smell them.

I could taste them.

I could hear them. “Come eat me Chris. No, no one else wants us, we are here all for you. You are hungry, so eat, my dear Chris! Eat like the king you are!”

I think this last Food Talking Moment happened as everyone else discussed what would be The Best Thing For The Group.

So as they all browsed and selected big bags of chips and things that everyone would be sure to enjoy, I selected a small bag of Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips (AKA crack), a king size Twix and a little pack of Ritz Bits with peanut butter.

Heaven.

I was feeling Proud Of Myself. I had selected a fine group of snacks that would please me in many ways – the Sun Chips would be nice and salty, the Twix would be pleasantly sweet and the Ritz Bits would soak up all the Bud Lights that I intended to consume while yelling at people for cheating at Scattergories. Of course they’ll say that I was cheating, but that is not the point. I was ready for the night – that is the point.

It was when I was standing in a glow of Snack Success that I noticed everyone had already paid for their snacks and was waiting on me to do the same.

I made my way to the register, briefly considered purchasing a local newspaper based solely on the fact the headline read, “Boy Gets Too Close To Bison,” decided against it (which I now regret), and paid for my food.

My friends had already made their way to the car, so I ran to catch up with them. As soon as I caught up, John glanced over and asked me what I bought.

This was my time to shine!

I smiled proudly. I acted like I forgot, like I hadn’t hatched a brilliant plan to satisfy all my needs, and looked in the bag and relayed my booty to all.

I pulled out the Ritz Bits and said, “Oh, let’s see. These little babies!” Then extracted the Twix, with a “And oh snap!” and finally yanked the Sun Chips out for all to see by proclaiming, “Yeah, I gots me some Sun Chips bitches!”

By this time we had arrived at the car and I noticed that everyone was looking at me with a slightly surprised expression.

Of course I assumed this was because they were marveling at my Food Finds.

But that was not the case.

Ari spoke first.

“But what did you buy for the group?”

Sarah chimed in next with, “You bought stuff just for you? No one else???”

Then, after a brief moment of silence, Dave.

“Dude, we all bought food that everyone would like and you went in there and just bought a bunch of shit for yourself. What the fuck?”

I decided it was time for Defense, so I replied, “Well, yeah! I mean, I like Sun Chips, so I bought them. You guys can have some too!” This, somehow, did not convince them that I was looking out for anyone other than myself.

Then came the “Well that doesn’t surprise me” from John.

I looked at him. He shook his head. I shrugged my shoulders.

We all climbed back into the car in a strained silence, and I tried one more time, “But really, who wants a Ritz Bits? Anyone? I’m offering you some right now!”

But it was too late.

They knew me. They knew the true me. Someone who does not particularly enjoy Thinking About Others, and someone who was going to have to painfully part with at least one Twix bar before the night was over.

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