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I like to think I don’t recall when the seduction began, but I do; sitting on the front steps of an office building downtown, anonymous, hot sun warming the concrete and our bodies, he peeled a deep red apple in one, long sinuous strip. With his pocket knife, he scraped the pale flesh of the fruit, then offered it to me to eat from the blade. It never occured to me to take the knife and hold it for myself, or even to refuse. I leaned forward, opened my mouth, and let him feed the soft apple pulp to me from the sharpened edge. As I sit here now, I can feel the metal in my mouth, taste the apple, see the way his eyes took in my lips. He fed half the apple to me that way, occasionally taking some for himself, and I was aware from time-to-time of passers-by pausing to watch this oddly erotic interlude.  I like to think I don’t remember how this thing of ours began, but this was it – tempered steel and summer fruit inside my mouth and I at his mercy by choice.

The man was not handsome. He was not tall, nor well-built. He moved like a dancer, though, and his hands were delicate, like a woman’s.  His skin was a light, golden, Spanish brown, nearly hairless and soft, so soft. He was broke, this man, barely able to pay for his own liquor, of which he drank too much, too often. His clothes were second-hand, and outwardly there was little to recommend him.

But he fed me from the blade of a knife.  Would my sweet, safe husband have ever done that? Would anyone, seeing me out about my day, button-downs and loafers, wrangling children from school and dogs from their walks, choosing flowers for the dinner table from the display at the grocer, would anyone think to scrape the naked flesh of an apple and offer it to me on the edge of a steel blade?  This man did, and in a certain way, I belonged to him from that moment.

He took me dancing, this man. I who had not danced since college, and even then only to the fast songs, never the slow, romantic ones. The first time he led me onto a dance floor and pulled my body to him, began to lead me across the floor, graceful, in control, I thought I might swoon. Ridiculous, I know, a woman my age, and yet this is the truth. I was, I am, a strong woman, a woman who speaks her mind, who has things her own way, a woman who makes the tough decisions, and there I was, being moved backward across a polished wood floor, unable to even see where I was going, let alone choose my direction. And I felt light, and adored, and sexy. God, did I feel sexy. And the man pulled out all the stops for me – he taught me to twirl and dip, led me to respond to the slightest touch of his hand, to know by pressure alone whether he wanted me to turn this way or that, to know when to spin away and when to come back to him, pressing our bodies together, moving together.

There was no sex. There was innuendo, there was witty conversation. There were side-long glances and other cliche’s, but there was no sex. I was both grateful and bereft, knowing he wanted me, and knowing that while what passed between us was wrong in light of my marriage, it wasn’t irretrievably wrong as long as it didn’t go too far. My nice husband wouldn’t be too concerned about an emotional involvement, as long as there was no intercourse. I know that the time I spent thinking of this man, and the abject joy I felt in being with him was in fact a much larger betrayal of my marriage than simple fucking would have been, but my husband – like most men, in my experience – would not have seen it that way, and this was both comforting to me and desperately sad.

How my husband did not know about the man and I is unclear, and nearly unbelievable. The man tapped on the window of my bedroom late at night, while my husband slept in the front of the television in our living room, and I would slip into clothes and let myself out the back door to meet him.  We would wander the streets of our city, with its open-til-dawn bars, sweating at sidewalk cafes, washing shots of Jack Daniels down with domestic beer, always laughing, always holding hands. Or, some nights, when he would tap, tap at my window, I would step out the back door barefoot in a white summer nightgown, and we would sit in the swing on my front porch, watching the boats on the river, and talk until the sky lightened, and still, still there were things to say.

I did not neglect my children, though my mind was often somewhere else. I cooked and shopped and washed clothes, I cleaned my house or didn’t, but no more or less than before I knew this man. I helped with homework and volunteered at PTA meetings, I met my husband for lunch, I planted flowers in the boxes on the windowsills. I am not saying this was fair, I am not saying this was right, I am only saying what it was, and what it was not.

At night, in bed, he was there all around me. My husband had never really liked sex, or so he said. I know he didn’t like to have it with me. Deep into the night I would lie under the cool sheet and founder in the sense memory of my time with the man, the not-sex, the feel of his hand on the small of my back when we danced, his hand reaching for mine when we walked, the way he watched my lips when I spoke. I pleasured myself to these thoughts, if pleasure is what it was, to his image, both wanting and fearing him, stifling my voice, muted by the hum of the air conditioner.

This man was not gentle, not kind, not decent. The seemingly sweet or romantic things he did with and for me were an aberration, an exception to the way he lived his life.  In the brief glimpses of his every day that I was privy to, I found him coarse, even mean. He could be brutal in disagreements, and I am sure there is part of me that liked this, liked knowing that potential for violence existed in him, yet he chose to be otherwise with me.

One night, very late, after my family slept, he came to get me, told me to wear something sexy. I fumbled quietly through dresser drawers using only the faint light from the open bathroom door, finding stockings bought for an anniversary and never worn, a black dress cut too low, painful stiletto heels bought on sale. I dressed in the bathroom, put on too much perfume, too red lipstick, and locked the back door behind me when I left. At the sight of me, he smiled broadly, almost handsome under the streetlight, and told me I was about to feel sexier than I ever had. We drove into a neighborhood unfamiliar to me, and parked next to a run-down building with the word, “Taqueria” painted in peeling pastel paint above the door. He led me by the hand inside to a bar teeming with Hispanic men, all focused on a big-screen television shouting and cheering over a soccer game in progress. Other than the barmaid, I was the only woman in the room. I felt over-dressed, conspicuous, but the man watched me with a smile at the corner of his mouth, and I knew I would not protest.

Even before the match ended, men began to drift over to where were seated at the bar. Old, young, they spoke to the man in Spanish, and admired me openly. I was enthralled, embarrassed, excited, all at once. Thes men found me desirable, and did not care what aI thought or had to say. I was a beautiful object in that moment, and while it is not politically correct and I would not be content to live my life in this way, the man was exactly right – I felt incredibly sexy.  At one point, a young man addressed the man in English, saying the man was very lucky to be with such a beautiful woman. The man looked into my eyes and answered that we weren’t together; I was just a friend, and if the young man wanted me, he should take me.

I was crushed by this, nearly physically ill, suddenly thrown off-balance. I wanted to go home, and when we left a short time later, he was distant, and hardly spoke to me when he pulled up near my house, leaned across me to open my door, looked away out his own window as I gathered my purse, my shoes, and stepped in stocking feet out of the car. Looking back, I think it was purposeful, a way to push me away and draw me in further at the same time. I didn’t know for certain then, and I don’t know for certain now.

I cried easily for the next few days, inexplicably to my family, and was something of a mess. I told my husband I thought it was PMS; I didn’t think he’d understand if I were to explain that my boyfriend had offered to give me away to a stranger in a Spanish soccer bar. But the man wasn’t finished with me, nor I with him. It was just another step in moving us toward what we would eventually become.

When I write this, it seems almost as if he had a plan, a well-wrought way to get from Point A to Point B, but truthfully, I’m not at all sure he was that clever. And I still don’t know how much of what happened was me, my needs, my fantasies, my greed moving this forward. I have not addressed his feelings here, either. I have come to believe that he loved me, or that he thought he loved me – who is to say if there is a difference? You may say that I am fooling myself, rationalizing my actions by endowing the man with feelings he did not possess, and I can’t say that I know you are wrong. But I believe, I do, that he loved me and may in fact love me to this day. (more, later, maybe)

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You know how people always say the dead look like they’re sleeping? I even remember thinking that myself about Grandmother Joss, who died when I was nine, and whose hard cheek they made me kiss in her coffin. But Daddy? They’d put too much makeup on him, I thought; too much blush, and it looked a little like he was wearing eyeshadow, and pink lipstick. He just looked dead. Like a painted husk I could blow away with one good breath. They put his glasses on him, and the tie clip from his father, who’d been a Mason. Daddy had tried to join the Masons once, but they blackballed him. Just as well; Benedict Arnold was a Mason, and look where it got him. A rule of thumb: never put anything shiny on the chest of a corpse. It has a way of catching the light, so that when you walk past, it looks as though the person were still breathing. Even though you know they can’t be alive, waxy makeup-faced and stiff, a caricature of the person you knew and loved, cheap navy suit and sideburns all funny, even then, when that Masonic tie clasp catches the soft overheads in the funeral home, it looks for all the world like he’s still breathing. Much as I love my father, much as I miss him already, the thought that he could be lying in this polyester satin-lined box and still be breathing scares the living hell out of me. Dead folks need to stay that way. 

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One’s secret name.

“To find out anybody’s secret name was a very powerful tool ….”  Simon Cox

This idea of secret names brings to mind T.S. Eliot and the secret names of his “Practical Cats” and Latter-Day-Saint women who can only reach the highest levels of heaven if their husbands are pleased with them, and call their secret names. I think we all have secret names, some hidden so deeply that we don’t even know them ourselves.

I have known a few people closely enough that their secret names were so familiar to me that I could hardly tell the sound of that name from my own breath. My youngest daughter I know that well, one dear friend, my husband, and one other whose memory I will leave sleeping for now. And my own secret name? I do know it, and can count on one hand the others that know it as well.

To be truly known is something I believe all people crave. I could be wrong; there may be those who revel in their separateness, existentialists who have no desire to connect. That is not me. Even as I fear rejection I want to be understood, listened to, studied, cherished, known. Maybe just because it makes me feel less alone, or maybe it’s a hedge against death. If there are others who truly know me, then wouldn’t part of me live on through them? It’s a thought.

I wonder if one can reveal one’s secret name through a blog?

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It’s more important that I write, than it is that I write well. It’s something I want to make into a habit. If I were a nun, that last sentence would have an entirely different meaning . . . .

I feel I’m on the edge of an epiphany (again with the nun-speak). I’m on the verge of grasping something very important in my life, but the entire truth has yet to be revealed. I think it’s about service, and the joy that can be found there. Offering service to my family, to the people around me, in my job, etc. I can bless myself and those I love through service. Not sure, but that’s what’s coming through right now.

 I’m also beginning to suspect that it might not all be about me. A shock to the system, let me tell you. It might – might – be about the connectedness of all things. And I might – might – not be so special after all. Actually, this works both ways. It appears to be turning out that I am special in that I am a part of all things, I have a role to play, and that role is an important one. However, I am not THE one, and my role is no more or less distinct than that of others around me. So it looks like I am both more and less important than I thought.

It’s starting to dawn on me how precious my children are. I thought I knew this, but I begin to see how very short our time together will be, and I am sorry for the way I have taken their love and presence for granted. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to cherish what time we have together, and I want them to remember Mother as a kind, funny, welcoming, nurturing person. It might be too late, but then again, it might not.

 I am still struggling with what happened in Munich. I keep waiting to feel badly, to feel guilty, to have the realization of how much I screwed things up with D to hit me, and it doesn’t. I don’t know if this is because I didn’t screw up, that what I said was justified, or if it’s just that I’ve reached new depths of denial. Either is entirely possible. I also find myself re-living, every so often, the things D had to say, or shout, to me. Most often is her coming at me, shouting, “You’re afraid of  being laughed at? Here’s an idea – lose some fucking weight! Walk or swim, do something for God’s sake. Lose some fucking weight!” It stunned me then, hurt me to the core. It still shocks me a little each time I re-live it in my head. But I also recognize that there is a truth there that no one else is brave enough to share with me. I expect everyone to understand that it’s not as easy as just ‘losing weight,’ that I have extenuating circumstances, everything from heredity to the way I was raised, from emotional issues to physical ones. But, honestly, didn’t she hit the nail on the head? I’m afraid of being laughed at, I can’t stand being ridiculed, I am self-concious 100 percent of the time because I am so fat. Is it as complicated as I have made it all my life? Or do I just need to lose some fucking weight? I suspect the latter is true.

The next obvious question to me is: do I dislike D so much now because she said this to me? I thinI my dislike of D is not nearly so dramatic – she voiced a universal truth to me that I was not ready to hear. No, I think she just annoyed the hammered fuck out of me. From the beginning. Now, going in to this, preparing to make the trip, it did occur to me that she gets annoying, but I thought I could handle it. Turns out, I was wrong. Virtually everything about her makes me want to slap her across the face, or at least find the mute button. She is ignorant, but believes herself to be educated. That is a huge piss-off to those of us who actually are, in the most general of ways, educated (what a pissy thing to say).  She talks constantly – you cannot get a word in without fighting for it. That complaint is definitely the pot calling the kettle mouthy, but still, it makes me want to scream. I can’t tell you how many times I said, aloud, “Okay, I am going to finish this story come hell or high water.” She doesn’t apologize, even when she really, truly should. She tells the same thing over and over and over and . . . well, you get the picture. Each time she tells you a new story, or something that has lodged itself inside her brain as fact, you can count on hearing it at least another three times as she cements this version or tidbit into her marijuana-addled brain. The pot-smoking is annoying, too. Her philosophy of life pisses me off (why? it’s none of my business and yet ….), and all the ghosty-spirity-I-see-dead-people crap makes me angry, too. Not angry in general, just angry to have to sit and listen to it. She’s fucking crazy. As I write this, I realize I’m still pissed about it. Not sure if I’m pissed at me for going, or her for being that way. Arrrgggh! Either way, I don’t feel guilty about what happened. I wonder how I would feel if she killed herself? Probably badly . . . but maybe not that badly. Meaning that while I do not want her to take her own life, or to die any other way, if it were to happen, I wouldn’t feel like it was my fault. I am afraid that she’s headed that direction; maybe I was placed in her path to wake her up, make her angry, see herself from a different perspective. I don’t think she saw herself as a decrepit, pitiful homeless person with mental illness and a drug problem before me . . . and though her ability to listen or perceive anything that doesn’t fit in with her self-image is limited, maybe she took something useful away from our boring couple of weeks together. The countryside was nice, anyway.

I feel like, as far as my writing life goes, I am waiting for something to write about. I know that’s not likely to happen, but it would certainly make things easier. Ah, well. Maybe even this I can overcome. On to the day!

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A dandelion is a flower. A dandelion flower head consists of many tiny flowers. The dandelion is native to Europe, and has spread to many other places.  In northern areas and places where the dandelion is not native, it reproduces asexually. The name dandelion is derived from the Old French, dent-de-lion, which is literally “lion’s tooth”, referring to the sharply-lobed leaves of the plant. The English spelling reflects the French pronunciation at the time this French word was absorbed into English. 

The flower matures into a globe of fine filaments that are usually distributed by wind, carrying away the seed-containing achenes. This globe is called the “clock”, and blowing it apart is a popular activity for children worldwide.

I love dandelions. I identify with them; they pop up where they’re least wanted, their lovely faces ignored. The sharp blades of their leaves tear at the hands, and they propagate whether tended or not. For better or worse, those are all properties I would assign to myself, and so I would prefer a bouquet of dandelions over a dozen long-stemmed roses any day.

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