A story of love

Why do we need to believe in love? The romantic kind? When we have so many other kinds of love in our lives?

Maybe it’s because the moment you give up on finding that one special someone who gets you, and believes in you, and encourages you… the one person you trust every day, day after day for the years to come… maybe because the day we give up on finding that person…

We stop living.

You don’t give up overnight. You don’t wake up one day and say, Fuck it, I hate you all, I give up. You don’t walk into the mall one day and buy all the sweatpants, and throw out all your lingerie.

You don’t stop making eye contact on purpose.

It’s one step at a time…

Steps met with “No.”

I believe the universe gives us not only what we need, but what we’re asking for. This can be good or bad. The Secret be damned, you can wish for happiness all you want, but your heart or soul or whatever it is inside you that determines next steps… it wants what it wants. Sometimes what it wants is unpleasant. Growth opportunities. Lessons. Teaching moments.

I say this because I don’t believe “men suck,” or that I can’t find love because I’m too fat or too old or too whatever. I don’t believe I’ve been dealt a bad hand.

I believe my experiences have been a mix of those I wanted and those I was given, whether I knew I needed them or not.

I believe in the taste of sweat on skin, on a Midtown rooftop with a sailor one hot night during Fleet Week. I also believe in breaking up with someone for the third time. I believe in being pushed up against the office door, your boss’s hand running up your patent leather boot. I also believe in asking your boyfriend to split the cost of an abortion with you.

Are my memories all painful? No… I don’t think so…

Maybe.

I have also caused a lot of pain. It was never intentional, but I have walked away many, many, many times.

I can’t blame men. A girlfriend once told me, on her four hundredth beer, This isn’t about the guy. This is you. And a couple years later a coworker repeated her question, asking, Is this that moment when you realize the common denominator here is you?

I believe the universe gives us what we are asking for. And it’s probably true, although I never would have admitted it at the time, that I was asking for a reason to walk away.

Because the courage of independence in a woman’s heart is unmatched. The strength that comes from knowing you are alone, but you are fine? No one can touch you, after you know that.

But what happens when you realize that you need to be touched?

What happens when the ultimate courage – the best lesson – the teaching moment – is to learn vulnerability?

I used to tell myself love stories, but the story always ended with a breakup. So those stories became my reality, year after year.

Now my stories are different. It’s no longer “And then she walked away.”

Now the story is, “And this is what made her stay.”

After the decision

She realized that perhaps without realizing it at the time she had made a critical decision. Looking back she knew it had happened as she left that one particular office building across the street from the Empire State Building, late summer, 2010. In that moment after dropping off a letter that would never be read, she had decided.

To die.

If love had no meaning, what was left?

But her romantics heart was often shrouded in practicality so she loved home telling herself it was to heal. Now, almost eight years later, she could finally see.

She had moved home to die. And in her usual fashion she had done an excellent job of it, year after year draining herself until now she felt like a clothed corpse.

Just going through the paces.

The question of course became, because it turned out death was not an option…

What next?

prayer of the ruby woman

Help me be
more rosy red,
more beaded,
more silvercast,
more cinnamon-sprinkled.
Not “sweet,”
not sour.
Just this side
of optimistic.
I see the truth,
but help me believe
in the best truth.
Help me see
my faith again.
My faith in all
the beige believers
and weeping whinypants,
in all the cruelty innovators
and gun developers.
I am just one woman
but I know the faith of one
is strong as seven giants.

I just need
the blank
gray
whispering
hole
to close.

The housewife and the sea monster

Stroking the length
of its silver hide,
she coaches women
across the TV stream,
on creating
for just the
ordinary rabble of one’s life,
a feast.
The feast requires chopping,
slicing,
peeling,
dicing,
and washing,
so much washing
of this large, black
sea monster.

We are told in retrospect
that the postwar wife was timid,
terrified,
to speak out, or up,
against her husband or her
bridge club.
Yet this debutante,
this doily-user,
her crinoline rustling
under apricot and lace,
watched our woman Julia
over, and over
and over again.
Year after year
as the girdle grew,
and the children ran off
to school.
She watched.

How timid could the
housewife had been,
to watch this monster skinned and fileted,
taking notes
as she perched on the arm
of the doiley’ed sofa,
arming herself
with her first real knife,
inhaling
as she pierced the skin,
exhaling
as flesh revealed itself
on her golden
laminate
kitchen counter.

How timid and afraid
was that woman
and what does that
say of us,
who simply peel
a plastic sheath
from an armament of waxed
and printed card,
stick this casket
of food product
into a box,
and call the
glistening glop
we pull from radiation,
our dinner?

Mad Max and the Tiny House

Refugees cross open sea on rubber rafts,
thrust children into the arms of strangers,
and we who rest in peace debate their fate.
The nomad, the anomaly.
For now.

A tiny house feels like the wisest
form of luxury.
Keto vs paleo,
dye gray hair blond, and
blond hair gray,
hashtag nubile fantasies,
and animate your porn.
We are given to desire,
seeking pleasure, shunning pain.
Yet future pain must wait for you
who will not see it
riding forth.

The future is in pain.
And yet one hopes…
that if you choose the tiny house,
and hashtag simple pleasure,
if you listen mindfully,
and buy vegan leather,
you will lessen the delight
of evil’s reign tomorrow.

It’s as though we see
a leather-clad warrior
cross the desert
on stolen fuel.
Already weary of this vision –
the assumption that
change must suck
we each pare down,
to the essentials,
a life to make us happy now.

It is as though a tiny house
will keep Mad Max on Blu-Ray,
a dark fantasy,
and not
a prediction.

after the memorial service

Last night,
they memorialized her dead grandpa,
and her aunt lost her shit,
and they all had a few.
Now her dad sat in his reclining chair,
and she curled up on their couch.
He told her the moment
that made him decide
he was liberal.

One night as peaceful as this, right after she’d moved back home eight years before, she sat in her aunt’s car outside the home in which she was renting one room. She asked her aunt how she was doing.

Her life in that moment was desolate – heartbroken, unemployed. But the look on her aunt’s face scared her more than her own poverty. And it continued to worry her in the years to come.

Now, near midnight after her grandpa’s memorial, her dad told her he had been driving through Oakland in the early 90s with his boss in their company car. They waited at a stop light near a group of high school kids, all black, getting out of school.

Looking at those kids, her dad experienced a flash of pure empathy.

He told his boss that if he was one of those kids, he’d fling himself on their Taurus and pretend to be hurt, for the insurance claim.

Her dad didn’t realize that to fuck with the system, you have to know it. Falsifying insurance claims is the crime of someone who has something to insure.

He could have given those kids a few tips. But conning the system was not in his heart. Instead he just voted for Democrats for the next 25 years.

They sat up late that night, talking, because they were punchy. Her aunt had lost her shit, all over them, and it was messy.

For her, discovering that white liberalism had been a myth all along, ineffective at best and life-destroying at worst, had coincided with discovering that the life she had built for herself since moving back home, since being driven around by her aunt, meant nothing to her.

Their midnight musings ended with Bill Clinton, the white liberal president who enacted Three Strikes You’re Out and the institutionalized incarceration of black Americans.

It had sounded so sensible at the time. They hadn’t known, from the comfort of suburbia, that there was no such thing as an informed voter.

There were only pawns.

They kept coming back to Crosby, Stills & Nash, Almost cut my hair… happened just the other day.

Her dad said the song was about realizing you were no longer part of the system. But I didn’t, he said. And I wonder why?

She forgot to ask him, because it had been a very long day, why he was thinking about his place in the system.

He wished her good night, and went upstairs.

She turned off the light, pulled the covers up, and just like she had on her aunt’s couch eight years before, she went to sleep.

Let me

Let me be the wine
you open and leave to breathe.
Let me be the weight
of gathering clouds.
Let me be a song
played in the dark,
the swish
of a body
in the bath,
a wooden table
scarred with use.

Let me be the eyes that see – no need to worry.
No need to question
conclusions drawn.

It is only truth,
however
painful
that gives meaning
to our failed,
submissive,
baffled lives.

Let me be the cracking open.
Let me be the shivering.
Let me be the creak and the fall,
let me be
the peel
and the squeeze –
so that juice,
red and
resplendent,
can at last
spill out.