A Random Image

Archive for August, 2012

|| August 21, 2012 || 2:16 am || Comments (20) ||

(gentle reader: this post could potentially serve as a trigger if you are a victim of rape or abuse)

When you are small, you see a pulp detective magazine in a five and dime. On its cover is a woman whose dress is being wrenched off of her by the dark shadow of a stranger. Emblazoned across the image is the word RAPE, just like that, RAPE, in giant intrusive yellow letters. The letters threaten. Something about the word feels dirty and you don’t ask your mother what it means because you just don’t. It’s that knowing you carry deep in your sternum.

That day you come to believe that the word rape is a verb meaning, ‘to tear a woman’s clothes off.’ That’s the literal meaning, anyway. The implied one is that rape is used to elicit fear in a woman. You inherently know it, this little factoid that rape is an androcentric act of aggression.

You are four. Your aunt moves far away and you go visit. One day she takes you to the park and there, twisting and turning and fascinating, is the fanciest slide you’ve ever seen to date, with chutes and tubes jutting off in all directions. It is a work of art! She settles on a bench, you go to play, excited and awed. You slide only twice and then a boy older than you stops you atop the wide platform, “Hey. Why don’t you lay down and let me lay down on top of you while we go down the slide.”

You shake your head, soundless.

“I just want to touch you.” You pick a slide and disappear down it without warning. Stiffly, holding your skirt tight to your legs, you walk the fifty yards to where your aunt is perched and tell her calmly that you want to go home. You are four, you are four.

A girl in first grade is Constance. She probably turned out to be trouble, Constance. She tells you a secret. “My sister’s boyfriend raped her.” Your brows cinch together. “He tore her clothes off?” There are a roil of emotions here but before you can sort them, Constance laughs at you. “That’s not rape.

“Rape is where a boy gets on a swing and a girl gets on top of him facing him and then you swing together and kiss.”

Later that year you are accosted, groped behind some bushes. This happens repeatedly until you tell your cousin what is going on. He is in another grade, with recess in another yard. He cannot get to you. He cannot help you. You are dear to one another and he cannot help you without breaking that silence you swore him to, begging and crying oh don’t tell please don’t tell.

We are never too young for humiliation to sit on us, to stiffen our bodies and shut up our voices inside them.

He answers the call by doing something far beyond his years. He and a boy (whose shy mouth would, some years later, kiss you and ask you if you’d hold his hand in public) you have known since you had a memory tell you they want to teach you to fight. They want you to murder this boy with your hurt and they pound on you in the back yard for two weeks until they think you are ready to Show Them All.

It only took showing one of them, because the rest ran when you lit into the Alpha. Your mother, horrified, sees your injuries that afternoon and screams for your uncle and he quickly rushes to calm her, to assure her that the scratches covering one side of your face and the missing hank of hair do not mean you are the victim. Not this time.

Danny and Jaco had told you for the duration of those two readying weeks that you must not fight like a girl. You must make a fist and use your whole self to launch into those disgusting boys who leered and grabbed  your hairless crotch and put their alien hands on your smooth, flat chest.


You sent that boy to the hospital. Your mother says later, “You were so proud. You bloodied his nose, blacked both his eyes. You were so proud to tell me that.” She never informed you of the sick a mother must feel at knowing this happened to her six-year-old. You would be (have been) tortured if a child you loved told you that for weeks on end they were violated.  It’s never occurred to you to ask because you don’t want your mother to have to think about it.

You don’t remember much of the lashing out. You don’t remember the exact triumph-words to your mother.  You DO remember the feel of power. You remember feeling uncaged.

The small space between the brick and the hedgerow birthed in you an adovcate’s heart. You proved with fists and their ready insulting of skin and bones that you could fight for whoever needed it. You go on to step into the in-between time and time again, your jaw ready and your rage flaming out beautiful in front of you.

You have been assaulted by more than one man, grabbed, fondled, menaced despite your set jaw and your purposeful lack of a vulnerable show. You walked around like a girl to be reckoned with and it didn’t matter. You have been brutalized at the hands of  three men, all of them men you knew and willed yourself to trust. You walked around like a woman to be reckoned with and it didn’t matter.

It takes you many years hence to realize something about that pulp magazine and the word rape and the menacing figure. You realize that –even though you know the technicals–  that you equate the look in that woman’s eyes with the word rape. Rape, the intimation of it as well as the perpetration of it, is terror.

That fuckface Akin has no empathy. Had he had any, it would have never once occurred to him to trivialize rape and its implications for women in societies all over the world. He would know that sometimes (not all the time, but sometimes is very enough) the mere act of walking out of your house when you sport breasts and a vagina makes you a target, or makes you feel like one.

When he tells us he has empathy, that is a motherfucking lie. Empathy means that statement about ‘legitimate rape’ could never have even formulated itself in his brain, much less passed his foul, ignorant lips. If Todd Akin is allowed to keep his job then this country is farther gone than even I thought, and I have long been a bated-breath (hopeful, so hopeful) skeptic of us as it is.

Holy God, I am hanging on to the hope that the men of my generation are all as enlightened about women’s rights as the ones I call friends and loved ones. We have got to fix the blatant hatred of women that is going on unchecked and without shame in this country that is supposed to house us all free and brave;  we have to fix it now because I cannot ever in my life –even in the face of my assault and abuse– remember feeling as vulnerable in general as I have in the last two years.

Be loud, women. Be loud, men. We must express the power of a defiant, unified collective of advocating hearts.

If you are a victim or survivor of assault, rape, or domestic violence, please know that there is a list of resources and a loving community of support over at Violence Unsilenced. You are not alone, and you do not have to be quiet.

So, then, uh, my kid is surprising me. That’s what they do, right? They surprise us. Kids are way meta with surprise, even: “I am even surprised that I managed to be surprised again. *boggle*” This is how they make us effectively insane as persons and (at least temporarily) ineffective as parents.

I keep forgetting to tell you that Mathias no longer wants to be Mathias to you. I think I announced this shit on Twitter one day, but I mostly write about myselfabsorbedself and my navelgazey perspective here in this space, so my kids don’t come up most of the time,

(I tell you with a great deal of delight that, ironically, my ‘u’ key is sticking today. This has great hippie-dippy Cosmic MeaningTM, but I am not about giving even two shits about that kind of thing today. Except that I find it funny that the universe is so intent on me not regarding others that ‘you’ becomes ‘yo’. So yeah, fuck you, everybody else, I’m on the Me Wagon for a couple of days.)

and when they do it’s because they are a player in my narrative, a supporting structure to the thinks that get kicked off in my headmeat.

So Mathias chooses to be Nick and I guess I’m cool with that; it’s just hard to adjust my fingers to typing ‘Nick’ rather than ‘Mathias’. Part of it, too, is this: Mathias is my baby. Nick is a nearly-grown person who is in so many ways already a man. It’s astounding, the self-possessed and confident way he already has about him at thirteen. Thirteen is supposed to be the age of awkward and foolish and slapdash. He is none of those things.

And, oh, all the ways in which he is a fine person! I respect my kid. You know, not just because he’s another human, but in the way I would respect another adult. It’s so fucking weird, y’all.

Okay. Nick, everyone. He is Nick. Let us all clasp hands and support one another through this trying change. We can do it, we totally can.

(I am looking at you, Chris. Cheerleaderboy lives on in our hearts and collective weirdo subconscious.)

One day last week there came a great knocking and clanging and it was perplexing, all of this unexpected noise from the center guts of the house. Onceupona, when Sam lived here, there was a perpetual and unending noise rolling through this joint whenever he was home. It ran between a muted guitar riff and the caterwauling of teenaged hysterics, but there was definitely always a ruckus emanating from Sam’s person. He gets this from me. However, in my defense, I am not a constant-ruckus person; I require the balance of silence and introspection in equal shares with my rowdy explosiveness. Sam’s very lowest every-moment setting is a steady rumble.

When Sam moved out, Quiet moved in. Quiet’s first cousin Civilized sat with us at dinner (the absence of beatboxing –which was STRICTLY AGAINST TABLE RULES, but Samuel charmed the pants off of those tedious rule-things constantly– and fart jokes ushers in an instant civility, so strange), the spectre of Mellow floated through everywhere, and this house was just a little off-square for a time. But we got used to the shape of Quiet, the tiny ways he displaced our Samuel’s lingering presence here,  and the coterie of cousins that he was constantly inviting in.

So yes, Quiet apparently stepped out for a latte or a nooner or sommat: Since a great knocking and clanging had not been in the household vernacular for some months and I went to investigate. Nick, who now for all intents and purposes is the shape of a grown man, had moved every stick of furniture in his room save for his massive desk-bookshelves combo. He’d only left that as it was because no other wall was really big enough to accomodate it.

He did a good job of it, too. The new layout made all kinds of sense and brought a cool new energy to his space. After the furniture shuffle, Nick began to remove things from his possession without prejudice and with a great sense of purpose. So far, six boxes of beautiful books have gone to friends in other states. A toybox and two big plastic bins, all slap full of toys, have gone to the thrift. A scooter, a box of jeans and a trash bag full of shirts followed them. Figurines and action figures (*wince*) and most of his Star Wars toys (DARTH VADER HELMET!!1! with voice changer) got the boot. The piggy bank his great-grandmother gave him and the ‘treasure box’ where he kept the special things he called ‘prizes’, these sacred objects, gone. No more lamp shaped like the head of Spider-Man. Goodbye, fish maracas and very awesome glockenspiel. Long-cherished blankies? Pshaw.

He did, however, spare the sock monkeys and his Father’s original Dr. Seuss books; they were boxed and shoved to the back of the closet. I suggested we Sistine Chapel the monkeys all over the ceiling of his room. For about half a second he got an amused-at-the-possibilities glint in his eye, then it passed and he hit me with a firm, decisive “No.” Well, hell. Kid, you are killing the fuck out of me.

But I’m delighted, you know?  His thorough shaking-up of things is brave after a fashion. He’s always been such a firm creature of habit. When we announced our intent to spend Christmas traveling a couple years back, you could see the physical effort he was exerting to hold himself together. There is also the fact that for years and years I was terrified that I was raising a hoarder of the highest magnitude. Every six months would find me in there completely overhauling his room from the ground up, swearingspittingfrothing, and I’d always end up with a minimum of three trash bags full of just utter nonsense and crap that had no business living in his dresser drawers and under his bed. So this whole overhauling his life thing, while sudden and unexpected, is weirdly rad.

My kid asked me for a world map. I found a still-wrapped one for a buck on thrift.

At the end of last year sometime Nick asked me for a gigundo world map to hang in his room. Only a couple months passed before I found one on thrift for a buck (I am amazed at how often this sort of thing occurs). In changing his room around, this giant world map ended up hanging at the head of his bed like a headboard. The kid’s poked little round-headed pins in it: Red pins are places he’s been, green pins are places he wants to go, and blue pins are places he wants to conquer and take over.

So far only Greenland and Iceland are screwed.

I recently started an Instagram account; like most everything else in my life, it’s equal parts everyday inane

Standing in line is total bullshit. The woman behind me is totally disrespecting my space bubble and I’m about to break bad.

and funny

A small representation of the sorts of things that grace my mailbox on any given day.

and clearly stupid

Phone. Why do we always have to go over this, Phone? ADD THE SWEARS INFINITY.

and artsy-cum-fartsy while trying not to be too fucking pretentious for its own good.

The abandoned train depot in Eldon.

A person or two here and there going back a few years has called me a photographer. I would never call myself one, though. I’ve bought some groceries before (Kerry, holla!)  and contributed to charity (Haiti, we love you) with the money from selling prints. I have a pretty good eye –it’s a side effect of being a writer, really, that things catch my attention in a certain way– but little to no technical skill. I could correct that. I should correct that. I need a one-on-one tutor, is what. I learn the geegaws and whatsits better through hands-on exploration, through being walked through and thing and then being let loose to tackle it.  If I have to break the flow of knowledge by lifting my head from a book to look at something and then having to find my place again (or even by the simple act of turning a page, sometimes), then I just get frustrated at the continual interruptions and for. get. it.

I enjoy learning. In fact, I enjoy it a great deal. There’s something euphoric and heady about it to me, like a form of coitus. If someone were to ding a bell and tell me to change position right before I reached the apex of a sexual romp –that lovely breathy breakthrough place– over and over again, I’d be all like, “Fuck this. Hand job.” Once or twice is teasing. Anything more than that is cockblocky and frustrating. Tantric-shmantric, okay?

Yes. I just made up the word ‘cockblocky’. You can point and laugh.

But anyway, my eye is keen. I know for a fact that I see shots that people who sling cameras on the regular don’t catch so easily as I do, because I’ve had those same people trail behind me and set up a shot exactly the way I did. I’ve also had someone pull a rig from my hands like I was a toddler and hand me a point-and-shoot, “Here, use this instead.” Both of these things irked, but ultimately I’m okay with them, because we learn how not to treat others when our hearts (and egos, natch) get stepped on. Both of those moments were opportunities for the parties in question to be generous with me, to shore me up against any uncertainties I may have had (“Hey, that’s a good idea! I want to try it, too!”) or offer to teach me skill sets (“Want a quick lesson on that thing?”) that I may not have had.

I hope that when I’m in a position to bolster someone else’s artistry or creative mind, that I am not so tired or caught up or self-involved as to not catch those times and run with them. I think there are a lot of people meandering around the world who have Great Big Creative Thinks rattling around inside of them just waiting for permission to come out. Some people need that….the permission, that is. Who knows why? Who cares?

Let’s just give those folk permission, for fucksakes, forever and ever amen.

So yeah, I been a-Instagrammin’. It’s fun. I suspect the thing I like about it –its on-the-fly ease and immediacy– is what photographers who take themselves and their art VURR VURR SRSLY pooh-pooh about it. Okay, photogs, okay. But I do have a good eye, and you’re not gonna take that away from me. And I see crazy things and unlikely things and hilarious things and painfully beautiful things with that eye. Sometimes the odds work in my favor and I can translate what my eye sees with the camera(phone, lately….I should wag my actual hand-to-God camera around with me more often) lens.

I’ve been doing a lot of roadtime back and forth between here and my Father’s house. I do love a good roadtrip even though, so help me God, I am going to fall slap apart if I have to go back again before the calendar turns away from this year and toward the next. There are several routes from here to his home that are pretty equidistant time-wise, so I’ve tried to kick a little variety in there each time. On my last trip home, I encountered this

“I shall not bow down to tyranny.”

and it wasn’t too long after that a Person From This Here Glowy Box said via Twitter that this photo punched up something in her middle, made her wonder about the Story of the Thing.

“Don’t wonder,” I said back, “find the story in it and write it.”

So she did, and she kicked it over to me to read, not sure if it was worth eyeballs being laid on it, and of course it is, so go read the thing and gift her some comments about it.

My actual point is not my lack as a photographer or her gift as a storyteller, but rather the thing I love so much about art in this medium in particular: We have these amazing platforms with which to stir up things in others and by which other creative works bloom outward from our own.

I love that shit. I love it so hard, and that’s why –even though there is bloggy social media bullshit and graft and screeching– I love this community of wayward folks with keyboards attached to Glowy Boxes attached to the ether attached to Glowy Boxes attached to eyeballs. There is magic out there waiting to be translated and handed back every single day.

Do me a favor. When you find it, point to it loudly and exuberantly and encourage the shit out of it. Give people permission to create, even when they don’t explicitly ask for it. Give them permission and praise.

….and those people who would quash the creativity of others? Shun them. Shun the fuck out of them.