Painted Pictures

I moved out with my princess bedroom furniture, college loans and cat.  We moved into the loft together and I lost my virginity to a writer who was twice my age.  In short, I was lost and frightened for a while.  

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Working in the city meant semi starvation rations, living in the city meant free days at the museum of art, tranquil walks even in the coldest winter months.  My worst day was when Pristina died.  She came with me to the city when I moved from my parents home in the suburbs and the community college that taught me nothing.  They tolerated both of us (yes the college as well).

I moved out with my princess bedroom furniture, college loans and cat.  We moved into the loft together and I lost my virginity to a writer who was twice my age.  In short, I was lost and frightened for a while.

After I found myself awake beside the man I didn’t know,  my longing for Pristina grew – she was just across the hall all alone.  I crept out of bed, gathered up my strewn clothing and crept along the hallway to my own studio apartment.  I cried and petted my cat telling her that I would not leave her again.  I fell asleep, the next day I was late for work though refreshed.  I received a promotion, raise as well as a corner office in the basement that year for my diligence.

I didn’t go home for Christmas that year.  In the new year my parents wrote me from Florida encouraging me to visit them in the new retirement community they had found.  I started working a second job in the evening and for two years Pristina and I worked and slept in a studio apartment and the writer across the hall slipped us poetry under our door.

I paid off my last college loan on November 16th and that night I ordered out and shared a rare New York Strip with soft wedged potatoes sprinkled with sea salt and vinegar for myself and Pristina.  Pristina sneezed over the potatoes and licked her lips each time she swallowed a dainty piece of meat.  She taught me the art of savoring a meal.

Pristina and I moved to a one bedroom apartment with wooden floors and an ancient looking bathroom which depressed us both.  The kitchen was dark green with brown linoleum and I told myself we would get used to it because the skyline of Chicago was worth the depressing dark interior.  It wasn’t and one year later we moved into a renovated old brick factory.  The writer who turned poet lived on the bottom floor with his wife and their golden retriever.  The writer turned poet’s wife would tap on my door; she had long dark black hair and her face was smooth but she would smile at me and invite me to their apartment.  “No worries, no worries, I’m not jealous.  Come and eat with us.”  I always refused and Pristina would sit upon an old heat register meowing at the poor dog who lacked exercise.

I left for work one frigid January day and was late coming home because the CTA was running slow and the sidewalks were slippery.  Pristina was alone and in the dark when she died without me.

Her funeral expenses set me back financially, and I had to miss a day of work but I came home with a jasper jar with her ashes in it.  I called my mother to tell her and after explaining that Pristina had not died years ago I hung up and sat in the dark.  I understood the coldness of a smooth jasper jar.

The writer turned poet, turned writer showed up in February with a great framed painting of Pristina for my brick walls.

“You need color up here.  Pristina, her dark fur and golden eyes will make this place feel like home again.”

I said nothing to him while he drilled and worked and swept up the dust of his labors.

“Why don’t you have dinner with us?”

“No thank you.”

He slid the wide door of my apartment shut and tip toed away.  I sat in the dark for another night with my back to the painting.

April in Chicago can be violent.  The wind slammed and bounced against the tall buildings and tumbled down to rattle old brick ones sheltering poets, writers, wives and administrative assistants.  The dog below howled in a low whimper when the lightning was replaced by the thunder.  Pristina lept down from her perch on the wall and walked, her tail perpendicular, to the register and sat to mew in the old register.

There was calmness.

I thought of making love one more time to the poet before I had my picture painted and hung next to Pristina but thought no, I did not want to surrender again to my needy self consumed psyche which was only fodder for the deceitful.  You see, I spent so much time imagining my happy ending I discovered I loved being relieved it never happened.  In fact I realized that there was no such thing as poets, painters or writers only a terror of being alone.

Tell Me

Tell me what life would be like to touch my lips to yours?  What would love be like to touch a tear upon the hollow of your face?  Tell me what joy would be like to press gently the roughness of your chin with my fingertips.  I am shaking with cold and fear.  Tell me.

Tell me what would serenity be like to step into your body’s warmth and have only a moment of space between us.  I’m so cold, so very cold, what would warmth be like to feel the heat you keep close to your skin, neck, hands and the inside of your arms.

Tell me what would contentment be like to gaze into your glorious eyes with all the wonder I hold deep inside of me regarding you.  I sense anger.  Be angry.  Weary is a word that always ends in a question. Tell me what would happiness be like to sleep next to you, just sleep.

What would familiarity be like hearing your voice read to me and what would purity be like with you in total darkness, away from preconceived ideas of what lovers should be?  You see, I believe vision is a gift in not seeing what we really are in the sight of God, Who is Love.  We see attraction; we see youth, middle age, old age, trust goes beyond sight.

But tell me what would surrender  be like to close my eyes and trust that the picture I have of you is actually true

Reading

It was a dark and stormy night when I decided I hated everything written by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. I know that probably kicks me out of the league of women despite my gender qualifying me but the only thing a woman hates more than green peas is deception.

It was a dark and stormy night when I decided I hated everything written by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.  I know that probably kicks me out of the league of women despite my gender qualifying me but the only thing a woman hates more than green peas is deception.

I know as I scribble away in my garret room (garret because it’s true even in the 21st century, women suffer financially from divorce and I have two behind me, divorces not marriages), that the Bronte sisters and Miss Austen are probably mere pawns in the battle for my psyche.

I also realize that perhaps the Bronte sisters and Miss Austen would have had less infamous influence if Sigmund Freud had died in obscurity but he didn’t.  Actually, men don’t do they?

The veil split too late before my eyes that these women were writing fairy tales.  You have no idea my suffering.  The artist even bohemian atmosphere around me closing in, the impending July thunderstorm and my single paned window looking out on a back alley, opened wide for the storm to enter in.  I had stripped down to nothing, my skin absorbing the heat and humidity of summer, even prickling in the anticipation of cold wind, thunder riddled, coming my way.  Sense and Sensibility was open before me and the margins, where I had penned notes over the decades of reading the novel, consoled my loneliness.

Yes, Colonel Brandon, even though he wore flannel waistcoats (or something flannel) was a true knight and our young heroine would embrace his calmness, his intellect, his nonexistence?

His fiction?

Shit!

The storm had not hit, there was time and I knew to keep up my own self-induce façade I had to bring out the big guns.  Villette?  No, Jane Eyre.  Rochester must pave his road to hell and with single-minded passion. Would such a man really have brains enough to covet a mousy little governess over an accomplished coquette?

The storm hit with such a vengeance I jumped and the rain hit my clammy skin like so many needles and the blue-white lightning split the skies before me and I saw the face of God.

Don’t believe me, I don’t care.

He was there beard and all – the Father and in my despair, He did what only a loving, encompassing parent could do, He drove the lesson home.

“I told Adam anything but one thing – he took the one thing.”

“I told Abraham he’d have a son in good time but he had to help it along.”

“David had any woman he wanted, freely but he took the one that didn’t belong to him.

I raised my arms in an appeal to stop, and He did.  The storm passed with a shudder and I sat in my garret room cold and damp.  The pages of my books, both Austen’s and Bronte’s were damp with rain but not tears.

I’ve not evolved, I have adapted however to reality.

 

Trip Her

Why not trip him? Because the world doesn’t persecute intelligent men. Intelligent men are simply persecuted in a family setting, not on a societal scale.

I have learned, from dubious experience, (dubious being a universal description or rather an attitude toward the experience of..well, experience) that to avoid extreme mental fatigue and emotional pain avoid intelligence.  There is not much hope for you if you are intelligent already.  I’m afraid you must simply live your life out and take the mistake up with God when you meet Him.  But if someone you know is near the brink, the precipice, the mountain top of intelligence, trip her.

Why not trip him?  Because the world doesn’t persecute intelligent men.  Intelligent men are simply persecuted in a family setting, not on a societal scale.

Shut up.

Once a woman is tripped and looking confused and perhaps a little bloodied try and reason with her.  Maybe she is not physically attractive in the modern sense.  Perhaps she is older and has decided to be a “late bloomer.”  Stop her.

Explain to her that intelligence will only bring her grief.  You need not explain to her how if she has not actually accrued intelligence or if she is at the cusp of understanding, there is time to push her back into the womb of self-absorption.  Tell her to take a long hard look at her constituents in the pursuit of marriage, relationship and exquisite mind melding sex.  Don’t tell her those goals will never happen just tell her the pursuit of romantic love will be less harrowing than the pursuit of intelligence.

Are these lies?

Shut up.

Tell the woman you are trying to save, that she must trust someone and to trust you.  Intelligence is a never-ending pursuit and it will only, in the end, frustrate and demoralize.  Whereas on the other hand, the pursuit of relationship will frustrate and demoralize but she will have a better body (due to her pursuit of just the right partner) and she will have the indulgence of self-deception when explaining to a bleary-eyed intelligent woman how happy and content she herself is in her safe and happy relationship.  Will it be a lie?

Yes, but the bottom line is not to have love or even have intelligence but to outdo the other woman.  That’s what women want.  Not to be happy, content or intelligent but to be better than the next woman.

Think about it.  A group of women around some table in a restaurant, complaining about the job, the husband the kids and trying to outdo each other.  Then in walks a 20 something knock-out that they wouldn’t notice if the men in the room didn’t stop and gaze with wonder and awe.  Nothing, and I mean nothing unites women faster than an outsider beauty.  The only one who would throw this unity out the window is the intelligent woman.  The woman who would calmly state that the beauty can’t help she’s beautiful, that each one of them had their opportunity, and that they are all in different stages in their lives – give the girl a break.

See?  Intelligent.

And lonely.

 

Soulless

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

Do you ever wonder about the life of the inside of…anything? I do not believe in soulless objects…people perhaps.

Think about it, the empty inside of a pristine-upon-the surface oil tanker. Think of the viscosity pour or pump of that liquid gunk rising within that tanker. The very weight and wetness pushing up and off the flakes of rust and paint so that it floated upon the surface of refined and refined and refined again flammable liquid that had stayed hidden in the earth for so long.

Now hidden in ribs of rusting buoyance.

For my part, I wonder about the inside of houses. Any house, the bright, well lit, well-manicured house and the tumble down, slowly overgrown lumber rot of a house are equally compelling. The most interesting are the estate sale homes. Small, demure little signs with bold black letters “estate sale,” that denotes its lost occupant.

I wander in, and there are usually two types of people within; the embarrassed or the angry. The angry follow me around and complain about those who have bullied in before me “thinking that I’m here to barter with them.” I nod and frown and keep on wandering. The embarrassed hardly say a thing and are usually related to the ghosts that expose themselves in the used books, used utensils, used furniture and used clothing.

Flakes of paint and rust that float to the surface of pumped or poured in money that seems embarrassed to be exchanged for moments of history.

It was a little ranch style, slab house with a picture window looking out upon a postage stamp front yard. There was a small, stone walkway that started midpoint of the single lane driveway which tried to wend its way to the front door but only managed to curve slightly and stop. The evergreen bushes, trimmed into square, squat, little sentries and stood in decorative service to the bright white front door.

I made my way along the small street gutter and up the driveway and over the stone pavers to the front door. An embarrassed person met me and smiled down upon the floor. Though the smell of eucalyptus and spearmint was prevalent, I could sense the smell of old, forgotten and wonder. Wonder, from the walls, the dustless furniture, and the minimalist counter tops, if God had forgotten her.

Her, this I knew because the embarrassed person who met me was female and sad and either a daughter or granddaughter of now an estate sale house.

“The antique clock that was over the fireplace was that sold?”
“Yesterday.”

“You didn’t want it?”

The embarrassed woman eyes widened, she opened her lips to ask me a question, hesitated and then simply shook her head. I turned away and looked around the small living room with the small fireplace which opened into a kitchen-dining room, that in its turn lead to the outside and a small fenced yard.

“What happened to the dog?”

“On a waiting list for adoption.”

“Yes, but where is he?”

“With a small animal rescue family.”

“Funny, she didn’t have his future provided for – she loved that dog.”

“Did you know my grandmother?” The answer was angry, so I understood that she was to have taken the dog.

“No.”

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

“Hello?” I heard the woman’s footsteps hesitantly walk down the hall. I heard her hesitant step at each door and then her rapid retreat. I heard the front door open, and I thought of meeting her there but suddenly felt too tired to do so.

“Someone’s here. I told you I didn’t want to be here alone.” Her voice whined into her phone. Silence. “She knows about the dog.” More silence. “No, she walked into this house and down the hall and disappeared. I’m telling you, she disappeared, there was no way she could have gotten by me.

 

To Dread the Dark

We try not to think of it too often. It.

We try not to think of it too often. It.

The situation was this…we pushed our limit, we overreached, we took out the part of us that God put in, labeled free will and we shook it liberally all over our skin, hair, hands and feet.

Don’t get me wrong, don’t think that I’m one of those people who blame God for everything. We knew what we were doing and we knew that we could, really should, stop.

But we didn’t.

I’m not sure how old he was or where exactly he came from. I know he was very old but he was prodigiously strong. I understood his strength when I saw him, when my mind connected with my vision and nudged my soul (something I most assuredly believe in now, my soul) and said “the legends are true, the stories are at least based on fact and man are you in a world of hurt.”

Alex, poor guy, his mind didn’t nudge his soul and the legend, now a reality, which we went out to meet, snapped him like a toothpick. Sometimes on my better days, when I don’t see Alex gasping like a fish out of the water, I believe that he had enough time to think, “I have a soul and I’m going to God and I’ll be okay.”

I really don’t know. On my bad days, I cry like a baby and go visit Alex’s Mom. She hates me but I mow her lawn and fix stuff around the old shack she lives in.

Please don’t think Dana and I ran, we didn’t. Dana lifted her cross and peed. I lifted my cross and felt something like an electric shock thunder down my arm and blow out my fingertips. For a minute I was ashamed because I had just finished a joint. How could this work, how could I keep this horrible monster at bay after finishing a joint?

He was tall, you know. Very tall and he had this ironish white hair that sort of matched the paleness of his skin. When Dana and I lifted our crosses (we pinched them from the old, tumble-down, Catholic Church that is there on More House Street), he snarled at us and for a minute, despite Alex all in a heap, I felt sorry for him.

How did he get that way? The same way we did; arrogant, stoned and seeking a thrill?  Maybe because he wanted to or maybe because he was ambushed. He circled around us but my days in the army settled that maneuver, I told Dana we needed to go back to back and keep him at bay.

Three hours until sunrise. Three hours with Dana’s wet pants dripping on dry leaves. We were exhausted; always looking down, looking up, Alex in a heap. Every noise we figured he was coming up from the ground or coming down from the trees.

You have no idea what it’s like, you never will, to dread the dark.

 

Her Need

When he discovered that she didn’t have a rough patch of skin, smelled like spring-time rain, and that falling into her was something between physical bliss and realizing he had been half a person all of his life, he became sullen and angry afterward. He didn’t understand why.

He had never been with a woman before; he had never felt the need.  He didn’t care much for their voices and he certainly didn’t trust their intentions.  Some men thought the wiles of women were what gave meaning to life.  He didn’t.

She was red headed, freckled and had green eyes.  Most men shuddered when they walked by her.  What struck him was that she was tall, straight, had large hands for a woman, and her figure, though thin, was well proportioned.  So he shrugged at other men’s judgment.  What he didn’t confess to, until late at night, in his own bunk, was that he thought her the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes upon.

When he discovered that she didn’t have a rough patch of skin, smelled like spring-time rain, and that falling into her was something between physical bliss and realizing he had been half a person all of his life, he became sullen and angry afterward.  He didn’t understand why.

He forgot about his anger when she woke up, when she wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him in as easily as a man pulls in a sack of potatoes to hoist to his shoulders.  Again he became aware of who he was, how brief his life would be, how strange it was to feel himself surge into her and remain. 

He never questioned why he took so long to find her, but why he never thought of searching for her at the beginning of his life, to complete what seemed to him now a sort of destiny. 

He dreamed in her arms that he had returned to the forest.  He saw everything in pairs; the birds, the fish, the deer, the elk, the mountain lion, the bear.  Two.  He didn’t miss her or mourn her presence, he was simply aware of a second idea, a second sound, a second scent, a second tread upon the earth. 

He was aware that she didn’t want to keep him, wasn’t interested in his ability to provide for her and was sure that she had used him.  

Other men longed to be taken up the pea patch, to complain loudly at the bar that his wife was demanding, exacting and insatiable in her drive for things, he sensed that her ambition had nothing to do with conquest or avarice just need and in turn her need was his. 

When he heard her door close behind him, the shivering, knife’s edge feeling that went up his back and across his shoulders told him not to turn around.  He stood for a moment, looking at the sun rising, the leaves of the trees translucent, in their spring-time green.

Don’t turn around man, don’t be a fool. 

He took a step forward and felt a loosening around his waist and the idea that he might survive his night.  He turned without so much as a thought, or even with the conscious idea that he had turned about upon his heel. 

Her web encased him in frigid threads and his voice was the first thing she drain from him, the last was his dread.  

Her Need / Lydia Ink by SK Woodiwiss