Never Mind

What do I tell my children?  What do I tell my aging parents, honest in that they
Do not envy me.

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How can I convey to you the heaviness of my heart?

I’m sure you’ve felt it, experienced the physical weight of sadness.

That sudden drop which suspends inside.

Lead within the quasi-weightlessness of water.

Water, wrapped in flesh, encased in a mind that cannot lift the eyes to see the horizon.

Just take the moment of temporary lightness, the mire of reality is unfair.

No one can help me, so I look to the earth for inspiration

I look to words for hope

I look to art for some sign of sympathy.

Never mind.

The earth has become paved over with concrete without thought to next week.

The words are glossed over by Freudian overtones that mankind craves.

Art has become not the object but the person who renders nothing but style.

What do I tell my children?  What do I tell my aging parents, honest in that they do not envy me?

How do I keep from mourning the family given and then taken?

The lessons have stopped and I am now atop the tiny dynasty learning faith.

And even that the world insists gets in the way.

Never mind.

Cinnamon

I look about, realizing suddenly that I am thinking of nothing.

As I wait for my coffee to come forth through the combination of stagnate hot water and the forced push of said water through the compact coffee grounds within the stylized plastic cup, (naturally decaffeinated for my overly taxed nerves which are affected by extra stimuli), this cup of coffee is,of course, from hand-picked beans, fairly traded, well packaged, and, no doubt, still sold with ample profit to the middle man.  I look about, realizing suddenly that I am thinking of nothing. In a rush I begin thinking of those nimble fingers picking the perfectly ripened coffee bean and keeping hearth and home together so that my brief reprieve at work could be enjoyed. To avoid consumerism guilt let me put a face to the nameless.

Oh the wonderful aroma of 21st century coffee!  The perfectly brewed one cupper coffee pots that have taken away the traditions of percolators and the drudgery of almost religious fervor in preparing that perfect pot of coffee, so that I am able to scurry back to the desk, the telephone, the computer and the mass of humanity who can’t understand why health insurance doesn’t pay for the world’s woes.  This keeps my “hearth and home” together, dodging such questions.  The coffee bean planter, cultivator, and picker meet clandestinely, within the tall, glass and steel buildings of the mid-American insurance industry via me.

The insurance industry and the business of coffee production demands my abject compliance.  The women and men, the day laborers whom the western world believes extinct, as well as the insurance industry pegs who, through constant, at-you-fingertips mopery, stiffen their joints and bow their back during their life’s labors at the front line of claims payment; are at the beck and call of those in charge and those who simply don’t believe in death.

I stand before the coffee pot waiting for the heap of brown to puddle into the well thought out coffee-mug-of-a-gift that my son had chosen for me two Christmases ago.

Glancing around to distract myself from my own depression, I notice on the shelf above the coffee machine that my conglomerate employer provides, a tubular jar of cinnamon.  Vietnamese cinnamon.

The vast cultures and the global economy are meeting here at my job.

Dress and trappings are everything, so I’m told – and so it seems that is true as I watch my fellow workers shake daintily and with fervor the cinnamon into their gratis coffee – gratis except for the cup.  The cups are carefully given by our children from the allowances we can afford to give them.

I too reach for the cinnamon and with a heavy shake cover the top of my coffee with the stuff to the wide-eyed amazement of my fellow employees; too much their expressions say but they turn from me and say nothing.

Before the mixture sinks, I sip the hot liquid from the cup my son thought worthy of me, the taste is surprisingly sweet in aroma but when it touches my mouth something like dirt, sandpapers my tongue and grits between my teeth.

Yes, yes, so brief we pause in our consumption and so long we work to take a sip.

 

We Lose and We Win

I was coming down off a serious high and the police brought me into the drunk tank, found out after I had been raped by the local female gorilla (yes women rape other women), that I was underage and with all abject apology tucked me into an upper scale dry-out clinic.

“Where you go, I shall go also.  Your God shall be my God.”  The book of Ruth.

That’s a paraphrase I’m afraid.  I know being a child of the 21st century this may sound either condescending or an out and out lie but I prefer the King James Version the best.  There is something about the King James version of the Bible that is more poetic, more believable.

She wasn’t my mother-in-law but she was widowed when I met her.  I was coming down off a serious high and the police brought me into the drunk tank, found out after I had been raped by the local female gorilla (yes women rape other women), that I was underage and with all abject apology tucked me into an upper scale dry-out clinic.

I met her there she was a volunteer mentor to under advantaged girls like me.  Now her idea of upper scale and my idea were two different things and at first I just didn’t like her.  She was an old widowed Jew who, I felt, was there just to see how the outer echelon lived outside her pampered world.

“What was your mother’s name?”

“Why was?  My Mom’s name is Kathy.  Some call her Kate.  She wanted to be called Kate but she decided that way too late in life, it never stuck.”

“Why isn’t Kate here?”

“Why should she be?”

“Because she is your mother,” she said quietly.  To her the fact that Kate was my mother obligated her to come and see about me.

“Kate never cared about me, she never will and that, is they say is that.  Where’s your mother?” I asked. She was old as dirt and I knew her mother was dead but decided to be cruel our first meeting so she wouldn’t come back.”

“With God,” she replied

“Does she like it better there?”

“I would think so,” she said evenly and looking me directly in the eye.  I got the feeling that the interrogation was all on my side but I was feel less and less in control.

“Right, like she has a choice.  God said that’s it and she had to go.”

“So you believe in God?”

“Sure, He’s a male, on the male side of everything and He created women so He and all his male buddies could be made to feel superior.”

She laughed out loud.  She laughed with real mirth and her eyes went from a slate gray to a brilliant blue and all the wrinkles in her face softened and crinkled to her forehead.  I was feeling like I had been kicked several times (I knew how that felt) and my mouth was dry and I knew my breath was rank from not eating but I had to laugh at her laughing at me.

It was the first time I felt as if I didn’t know it all and that fact was okay.  It was the first time I felt that I could put all my observed ideas before someone who wouldn’t tell me I was wrong but tell me how to see my observations from another view point.

I was incarcerated for three years in a juvenile detention center and for three years I had no choice but to dry out.  She came every Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening.

“What’s it like being a Jew?  Did you go through the Holocaust?”

“What’s it like being a Christian?  Did you go through the Inquisition?”

She was good with things like that.  She taught me that I couldn’t have the same feelings as her and she couldn’t have the same feelings as me – we could compare notes and meet on mutual ground, sometimes we couldn’t even do that.

“Do you think I’d make a good Jew?”

“No.”

It was the first time I laughed out loud at her and she smiled and I could tell almost cried.  I don’t know what happened but at that moment, beyond the book recommends, the letters we wrote, the drug rehab and the mourning we shared, it was the first time we were miles apart culturally and never closer spiritually.

“Women need women,” she said.

I suddenly began to talk of my rape, why I ended up in a better place than all of my other drug induced cohorts.  She frowned slightly and leaned forward listening, intently – interrupting only to bring my language up when I felt the power of hopelessness overcome me.  “Genitles,” for “cunt.” “Penetration,” for “fucked,” and so on.  I was sweaty and chilled when I finished telling her of my night in lock up.

“My husband came from a long line of Jews – as you call me.  Some of his family wore the traditional garb.  He was more liberated and though he celebrated the holidays and the Sabbath, his diet wasn’t kosher, nor was his ideas strictly that of his more conservative family members.  Our marriage was arranged.  Yes, even in this country.  It was many, many years ago.  I came from a very wealthy family and my dowry was large.  I did not have to marry him; I could have refused but I wanted to feel a part of my ancient heritage.  I was young and thought doing rather than thinking was the way I should go.  He was brutal.  He could only come to a sexual climax by cruelty.  My children, I have three who lived, were begot in horrific ways.  It was not their fault.”

“What happened?  How did you survive?”

“I had him murdered.  I could not stand one more rape.  I had begged for a divorce and I had run away with the children but he would fine me.  You must understand that many men of all races and cultures are like this.”

“Is that why you laughed at me when I described God to you?”

“Perhaps.  I simply saw a young, hurt woman lashing out upon a Being you had no concept of; your anger was against your circumstance and you had placed God as a sort of surrogate of that circumstance.  Not surprising as you are a Christian and your Church teaches that Christ has paid the price for your sins.  Not a bad plan but it does have its repercussions on the human mind. I think Christians are the front runners for blaming God for everything.”

“But what happened?  How are you here?”

“I got away with it dear.  I paid for his demise and no one is the wiser, except now for you.”

I stared at this white haired old lady, her bright blue eyes shining.  I was dumbfounded.

“Dear girl, I only tell you because you have grown tremendously in the three years we have known each other.  Let this be our parting gift to each other – bad happens, we lose and we win but through it all God grants a chance at human connection that make the bad bearable and the good a humbling experience; not all take advantage or cherish that connection.”

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The Strength to Choose

“Jonathan, nothing is certain. You must believe me. I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”

I, of course, didn’t believe her.  I told her I did but I didn’t.  She smiled at me in a half-hearted or perhaps a whimsical sort of way and said ‘thank-you.’  She whispered the two words to me and looked away.  Her soft hair, straw colored and wavy, veiled the side of her face in a cascading shine of brilliance as she looked down at her hands.

I felt a surge of male adrenaline.  Was she that damsel in distress or that Victorian lady, even the mad Ophelia who was sitting across from me?

My friend, this is the 21st century and maybe my Baby-boomer father would have succumbed to her soft strength, I did not.  I pocketed my anxiety about her, along with my surge of Freudian awareness, paid the bill and walked away.

She was found dead the next day – her neck was broken.  I was questioned by the police and it was determined that I was the last to see her alive – outside of her murderer.

I did not kill her.

I did not.

I was at a party that night, celebrating my best friend’s engagement to a wonderful woman; strong, an attorney and not beyond child bearing years despite the time it took for them to fall in love between their accomplishments.

Does that sound cynical?

The cynicism is for me alone and anyone who might read this and ponder their long nights working not for the money necessarily but for the security of being the best.

She told me that nothing was secure.  She told me just before she died.

“Jonathan, nothing is certain.  You must believe me.  I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”

“I believe you.”  I think I even reached forward and squeezed her delicate hands.  They were warm to my touch but only, I think, because they had held the coffee I had bought for her.  She had looked almost anemic, frail, suffering.

No, perhaps now that she is in a pauper’s grave, by the grace of the state of New York, I see her differently.  My memory, no doubt, is romanticizing her last moments.

Don’t think me a total brute, please.  I would have taken her with me, fed her, introduced her back into the fold of our mutual friends but she said no.  She had to face her reality.  Odd now that I rethink our last meeting, odd that she said reality and not destiny.  Writing this all down, to whom or really why I don’t know, it strikes me that I didn’t pick up on that.  Perhaps I was too busy being pragmatic and telling myself it was for her sake.

For you see, I did believe she believed what she told me.  Now I believe her and it will no doubt be the death of me.

I won’t suffer as she did, the long nights, the endless pursuit of truth.  I’ll fight the monster as long as I can and hope I have the strength to choose death in the end.

 

 

Lydia Ink / The Strength to Choose by SK Woodiwiss