These Hands ... Remembering Lisa Michaels 

Seems I can't feel things without a drink and darkness to hide in.

On our way to a trans benefit in Louisville, Kentucky, I felt the usual protectiveness I always felt around Lisa. As was the road routine, I headed into a rest stop to scope things out while she waited in the car. While heading back to give the safe go-ahead that she could pee in peace, I saw through the window that some large dude in overalls and no shirt was talkin' to my girl and I all but kicked that door open, these hands in mid-flight.

click to enlarge Katrina Coleman (left) and Lisa Michaels in Louisville, Kentucky - COURTESY KATRINA COLEMAN
  • Courtesy Katrina Coleman
  • Katrina Coleman (left) and Lisa Michaels in Louisville, Kentucky

I heard him exclaim,

"I just love that purple hair!"

"Thank you, pumpkin!"

So my hands were set to rest, not to be thrown that hour.

We made our way into town and to the arts district before the show. Found a taco place we agreed on and we sat to eat.

Enter a middle-aged couple. Clearly on a weekend motorcycle trip, they asked us about our business and found out we did comedy. We heard a great deal about their kids and what they loved.

"I got a joke," the man said.

"Lemme hear it," Lisa responded.

"Okay, so a traveling salesman comes across a house. He knocks, and a little boy of about eight answers the door. He's standin' there in six-inch stilettos, fishnet pantyhose, red lipstick on."

I started to get hot. How fucking dare this person hurt my Lisa or make her feel lesser in any goddam way! I could feel the anger rise in me like a tide. My hands knelt on the starting block ready to fly at a moment's notice.

So you saw she's trans and thought you could play some game to hurt her, I thought. I'll whip your ass in front of your wife and tag your children in my goddam Instagram post you piece of ...

"The salesman says, 'Are your parents home?' And the little boy says (with a dramatic drag off the cigarette), 'What the fuck do you think?'"

Lisa lost her fuckin' mind laughing and I was one second behind her. They asked us to meet them later at some random place across the river. My hands never flew anywhere.

No matter how many times I was ready to fight for her, it was never needed. Somehow she made instant connections with any stranger. We went to the river because she loved rivers. We did a show because she loved shows. I learned that the American Sign Language for trans is a mash-up of "becoming" and "self."

There are a lot more stories like this one, from every trip and from every show.

In Louisville, after the show, I took one hit and was stoned as hell (like a baby, she'd say) in the living room of some witch we met, who naturally loved her. I lay on the floor talking with them about how living is the thing we all share so what else possibly matters, because she loved doing that, too.

I'm a junkyard dog that got adopted by a fae. She will always be the Sarah to my Hoggle. I would love to untangle her necklace or fix her brakes again.

I never had a big sister. Never had a muse. Never had a Lisa Michaels and never will again.

Then again, I always will. My hands love her.

Lisa Michaels, Memphis comedienne and self-styled "Purple Haired Tramazon," died last month. Katrina Coleman is co-creator and producer of the You Look Like comedy show.

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