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Posts Tagged ‘some things just tear my crack out’

|| 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.

|| January 6, 2012 || 2:22 am || Comments (10) ||

“You aren’t so strong, you know.”

My head dipped; I was grinning and I didn’t want him to see. Sometimes my amusement was just for me and to explain it was worse than trying to justify it and God knew I hadn’t needed justification for a fucking thing since about the age of three.

I crossed my ankles primly; I waited for the grin to dissipate because I didn’t want him to hear it in my voice when I told him what I needed to tell him. He was a white boy –technically a muddy blend of Irish-Italian, like me– but the local Kings had taken to him when he was small, at a time when hearing himself referred to as cholito swelled his bony chest with pride. His coloring and build let him pass as Rican, but his swagger was all Guappo and of course, I loved it….until it was aimed at me.

“You don’t get to tell me who I am, Tony. Not ever.”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The first time he saw me I had bows on the backs of my socks. It was at my cousin Nita’s birthday party and he told my cousin Jonno that I would love him one day. I was visiting Chicago, being made over by the extended family because I was full of yes sirs and no ma’ams and drawl-tinged smarts. I was leggy and blonde with peach-bronze skin, completely unaware of the males that would have eagerly dipped into me if I had only given them the merest indication of want.

There was a wall of fully street Italian cousins between me and any summer romances, with me suspecting as much; it was the same with my towheaded Delta cousins, so I knew the routine. Some of the Chicago boys’ friends had started sniffing around me that visit and been promised beatings if so much as an “I think you’re pretty” tumbled off their tongues. Anthony had not been warned because he was accepted as family, and as such was an acknowledged part of the Wall of Cockblock. Jonno had laughed when Tony predicted I’d love him.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The first time he slid into me some five years later, he whispered into my ear his early want of me, his dreams over the years where I would sit in a dim room unmoving and say just one word –his name– while my eyes, big in their sockets, stayed fixed on his.

Frustrated, he knew I’d be back.

“Anthony,” I said in return, and my whole body exhaled into him, grasping, trying to push us further into one another, “yours.” It was all I had and all Tony needed. He put his hands flat on my ribcage and rocked the cries out of me, murmuring the whole time, the murmurs words of devotion because we were young and that’s all we knew. When you’re young you have not learned the power of filth yet so desire alone is potent and overcoming enough.

He wasn’t my first, but his was the first lover’s shirt I’d slipped across my back and stirred awake wearing, alone in the bed and drunk on the chafing of my vulva and the bitten spots on the inside of my lip. I delighted the first time I found the bruises that the dig of his hipbones had left on the meat of my inner thighs. I wanted his signature all over me in any fashion I could garner it. That he would never be so reckless as to mark me intentionally made those painful purple blooms prized possessions.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

“I’m staying.”


“I’m staying. Nita is joining the Corps and I can have her room; I just have to convince my Mother that it’s a good idea. That shouldn’t be so hard; my aunt and uncle love having me here and they’ll help.”

“No fucking way.”

“Yes!” Now I smiled.

“No,” he winced, “no, what I mean is that there is no fucking way you stay here when you can go back down South and be safe.”


“Jett. If you stay here then it will eventually get around that you’re my girl. If it gets around that you’re my girl then there are a lot of things that can and will happen, fuck! You have to go home. I’ll come see you.”

That would never happen. Everything in me told me it would never happen. You didn’t run with the people that Tony ran with and just pop in and out of town on a whim. You held down your x amount of square blocks and only ran across town or across country at the express direction of key individuals.

“Leave them, Tony. Leave  them so you can be with me.”

“I will. It takes time, but I will, I swear.”

He was dead before my Christmas break that year. I still have the taste of him on my tongue if I think about him at long enough a stretch, all these years and all these loves later.

Instead of doing something that makes sense for a person of a writerly  persuasion and, oh, writing a bunch of things about the massive changes in my life over the last four months, I’m gonna catch you up to right now (because, oh trust me, right now is a Pretty Big Fucking Deal overall) with a timeline done in an annoying ‘100 things about me’ style.

Here we go!

1) My estranged father called me from Nashville in mid-July telling me he’d be there the next day.

2) I spent the whole of that day Losing My Shit before deciding, all zen-like, that I’m happy with who I am and screw anybody who didn’t think I was enough, even if they were the lender of half my genetic material.

3) That visit went well. Remarkably well.

4) In August, through twisty-turny strangeness, my job came to an end.

5) Both my boss and I cried, admitted we didn’t understand why this was  happening, but that it was supposed to happen.

6) He made the transition from paycheck every week to no paycheck every week pretty comfortable for me, all in all.

7) That first day I was out of work, Maxim texted me one word: “FREEDOM!!!”

8 ) I began to set my sights on writing and making art as a means to, you know, feed the people that live in my house.

9) I just so happened to win a full pass to the Summit of Awesome put on yearly by Hello Craft.

10) It was held in Baltimore.

11) I had about twenty-five bucks in my checking account when I won the pass.

12) My father was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable lung cancer.

13) I knew the whole ‘reunited comfortably’ thing would have a catch.

14) Oh Universe, you’re sofa king cute.

15) Through a timely combination of some small miracles and some people’s generosity, I got to go to Maryland.

16) I got to sit down with a couple of really savvy, really influential people and pick their brains.

15) I came back motivated as fuck.

16) So far,  so good, but I’m not where I need to be by a long shot.

17) I’m getting my ducks in a row and hanging out my ‘official’ shingle soon.

18) Until then, I’d like to announce that I am your girl if you need a writer or editor. Plus some other things. I’m good at lots of things, I swear. Just ask me.


20) My father decided that chemo was a no-go for him and that he’d like to try the homeopathic/naturopathic route toward ridding himself of cancer.

21) His oncologist pissed him off by pushing-pushing-pushing him to start chemo yesterday.

22) He told his oncologist to never contact him again.

23) My sisters immediately called me to shriek and to rally me toward Bossing my father.

24) I opted to tell them to mind their own business and to support the man’s right to live OR die how he saw fit.

25) I’m not The Boss of that man. Nobody is, really.

26) Everyone decided to make nice and let our father go about this cancer business in his own way.

27) Fancypants herbs and complex teas, it is!

28) Life rocked on for a minute or two.

29) I worked on BlogWorld Expo’s Virtual Ticket in the fall. It was a cool gig.

30) In case you do indeed want to HIRE ME, HIRE ME NOW, I have swell references from that whole deal.

31) My Etsy businesses, Pretty Gritty Things and 256 Eclectica, started gaining steam.

32) Commission work! Steady sales! I may not have to panic about money after all, right?

33) My father came down and brought a trailer full of tools and materials.

34) We collected even MORE materials, salvaged from various sources.

35) We went down to Butch Anthony’s farm on Poorhouse Road to build a shack for the 2012 Doo-Nanny.

36) It’s most of the way finished. I still have to put some siding boards on, but I can’t wait for you to see it.

37) I have an art shack at the Doo! It’s gonna be called Story House. I have some ideas on how to finish it out.

38) Scout had her gall bladder out. Goodbye, carefully-saved Christmas funds. Hello, Scout’s comfort.

39) Life is never dull. NEVER dull.

40) There was some peace. There was a little bit of quiet.

41) My father wanted all us girls to go to Missouri for Thanksgiving.

42) Most of us did.

43) I spent the first Thanksgiving ever since we were married away from Maxim.

44) I did not like it, but it was a necessary evil.

45) He got all sorts of cool stuff done around the house in my and the children’s absences.

46) Hmmmm, I may have to consider this leaving-on-Thanksgiving thing again.

47) The visit was AMAZING.

48) I learned that I have two cousins that are published authors and one great-grandaddy who was a bootlegger.

49) (I fucking well KNEW we had one of those in the family somewhere!)

50) Missouri roads are swoopy and well-maintained and just basically fun to drive.

51) I got a ticket on the way home.

52) I won a scratch-off for one-quarter of the ticket’s value on a bathroom stop shortly thereafter, so there’s that.

53) I unpacked, slept a couple of nights and then re-packed.

54) I went with three really amazing writerly people to my Delta homeland.

55) As I predicted to myself, there were ghosts waiting for me there.

56) ….but there were stirrings, too.

57) And laughter. Holy Ghost and the Father also, what laughter.

58) My soul got shook. I won’t speak for anyone else’s.

59) (but theirs did too, der)

60) My brain was set to ‘fog’ for a week upon my return….but not in a necessarily bad way, see?

61) I decorated the Christmas tree.

62) My father called.

63) He talked of going out west for a few weeks.

64) Two weeks prior he’d said firmly, “No more road trips for me. I smoke more and I don’t stay as rigidly to my program when I’m away from home.”

65) I understood.

66) ….so when he talked of going to Nevada for a month or so, something started to not feel right.

67) Other things he said also tripped wires on my insides.

68) I asked pointed questions back to back.

69) He had no time to dance around them nor wriggle out from under them.

70) “Do what you want,” I said, “but I’m going to respectfully insist that you get the second scan you promised us girls before you get on the road.”

71) He was going to drive out there, you see; never mind his waning health or the potential for things to take a turn for the sudden worse.

72) He got the scan.

73) I saw it.

74) It is the sort of thing that makes you go, ‘Fuuuuuuuhhhhhhck.’

75) Impressive yet terrifying, I guess is the apt decscriptor?

76) He told me not to come.

77) “Not time,” he said, promising to tell me when it was indeed ‘time’.

78) Psh. Yeah, right.

79) Likewise, he told my sisters not to come.

80) Fuck what that fool says: I’m grown and I do what I want.

81) My whole family came in for Christmas.

82) It was a grand time, what with my parents and all the kids there.

83) For the first time in twenty-five years, I didn’t bake a single Christmas cookie.

84) My heart was seized.

85) I tried and tried and tried to bootstrap some Christmas spirit.

86) Didn’t happen.

87) No, you don’t understand the profundity of this: I am an ay-number-one Christmas dork.

88) Christmas Day was beautiful and peaceful and rich.

89) My aunt called, Don’t wait to come. Come now.

90) I met my baby sister in St. Louis a week ago.

91) We went out and got shitfaced.

92) Dear Tony the Hotel Shuttle Driver, Thanks so much for your patience and understanding and also stopping at Schnuck’s so that two drunk girls could shop for breakfasty foodstuffs. Love, Jett

93) The next day my Uncle Ron fetched us from the big city.

94) My father cried upon seeing us.

95) That was only the third time I’ve ever seen him cry in my whole life.

96) He patted me for the first half-hour we were here.

97) He started chemo.

98) We are caring for him in whatever manner we can, in any which way he will allow .

99) He’s starting to feel terrible physically.

100) We are in this Cancer Bubble, my father, my sister, and me.

And that’s the last four months in as brief a fashion as I know how to convey them. Now you’re up to speed. Now I can start writing here about all these things. Lord knows I’ve been writing everydamnwhere else about them.

|| October 11, 2011 || 12:06 am || Comments (18) ||

Orange wasn’t always my favorite color; I think at one time blue was. Most of my adult life, though, the distinction of favorite has been assigned to orange.

One time a mess of us were out drinking and I found myself alone at the table with The Prime Minister. “So,” he said to me, “if you were a crayon, what color would you be?”


“Why orange?”

“Because orange is vibrant and beautiful and draws the eye. It’s unique, but think about it: You can pair any color with it and the combination doesn’t look bad. It can stand alongside anything and work with it. It can stand alone and be even more striking.”

The Prime Minister looked alarmed. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, Jett.”

His reaction surprised me. What was so sad about it? I didn’t get it then. I still don’t get it. I’ve never asked him to explain and I don’t know why –me with my annoyingly incessant questioning of every last thing– I haven’t needed that explanation.

Today Mathias said to me, “Hey mom….I’d like to show you a video that I found touching.” I’m so astounded by the person he is. He’s twelve and he is near-about six feet tall and he has this newly-minted manvoice in which he uses words like ‘touching’ to describe emotional states and not what he’d like to be doing to girls. It’s wholly incredible.

Well of course I found it touching, too.

I’m orange, through and through. I’m not going to be grey for anyone, and fuck any silly people that think I could even possibly do such a thing. Not only am I not going to be grey so that someone else won’t be freaked out, I plan on infusing the world with as much vibrancy as I can possibly muster.

I’m unafraid. You be unafraid, too. Go on and be pink or vermilion or blue or green. Not only that: Draw the color up and out in everything and everyone you possibly can. Life is very, very short, despite our longest and hardest days that seem to be unending.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My friend Keith wandered; I understood this, I am a wanderer too. He thought big thinks and he poured them out to me in letter after letter and then e-mail after e-mail. For each of all my unending questions, he had twenty. He was mild and brilliantly dry-humored and regal and kind. He was the guy who brought peace with him into a room, but he was not ever at peace himself. He was okay with this, in his way.

Keith was closeted the whole of his life, and now he is gone, and we –his friends– speak freely of his secrets because in the big scheme of things his orientation and even his illness didn’t matter. I just wish he had known that, had felt it in his middle and rested easy in the love that so many people carried for him, rather than worrying about currying scorn for who he caressed or kissed or bedded. He lived with our friend Stephen for a while, and Stephen tells me of how Keith would scramble, would put a dozen feet between him and anyone in the room if he chanced to get a cut, a scrape; he never let a drop of blood hit the ground.

He built easels that were every bit as artistic as the paintings he created atop them. He started doing this out of necessity: Who the fuck can wag a seven-foot easel from one coast to the other on their back? Eventually he settled back in Memphis into a nice little –if slightly ramshackle– midtown Victorian. These are some of my best memories of us, the ones in that house. One easel he built out of good cherry and I was blown away at the craftsmanship of it, all hand-rubbed and gleaming. He wanted me to take it, I refused. It was too grand. It was too perfect. He was a narrow-assed, mostly-broke artist. He needed the coin it would bring.

Of course I wish I had taken it. He was right; he could have built another. And another and another and another until the virus took over, shifting to syndrome, turning mean and taking his motor control, his lucid thought.

I just wish that I’d known that the last beer we were having together was the last beer were were having together. I would’ve made it last longer. I would’ve ordered us another round. I would have played one more game of Galaga with him in Young Avenue Deli. I would have leaned my head against that broad, bony shoulder one more again and told him another on-the-spot story. He turned my stories into paintings sometimes. Rich ladies in Memphis have my stories hanging on their walls and I miss my friend because forty is not at all an appropriate age for a man’s dying.

BKP, 1971-2011

About four weeks ago Scout decided to scare the piss out of me and her dad. Said fright was caused by her standing in front of us having a conversation one minute, then falling out and convulsing the next. When roused and sufficiently coherent, she described an electrical storm in her frontal lobe.  Tests thus far are inconclusive. Which, you know, I prefer to view as HALLELUJAH NO BRAIN TUMOR.

….but the image of an electrical storm right behind her pretty little brow has haunted me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

About a week after that, I got a call from Sam informing me that he was coming home for four days over Easter so that he could marry this Very Cute Person,

:: randi, university of alabama campus, valentine’s day 2011 ::

who we will henceforth call ‘Randi’ in all our future talkstory adventures, Muffinasses. Don’t bother asking if I like her, silly; just look at her Loverboy teeshirt and her pleasant countenance! Those things should give you all the four-one-one that you need. Okay, okay….I will tell you this little bit of confessional information: One time, when Sam and Randi were both fifteen or thereabouts, I told Maxim in the quiet privacy of our bedroom, “Now that kid? I would love to have as a daughter-in-law.” She is that flavor of awesome, see? That sort of awesome that had the two of us making plans for coffee and conversation even when she and my son were no longer a couple at one (or two? ahem) point(s).

So initially the wedding plans went like this: While Sam was last home on leave, the couple made the announcement that they would marry next July. Hasty, yes? Yes, hasty. But look! Over a year to plan a wedding! Just enough time to do all this. We wish Randi would finish school! But we love her! You guys are so young and maybe wait a little longer! But who am I to speak against passion?? I would never be found guilty of such! Let’s have a wedding, shall we?

Then they said “Hey! We want to do this in December.” Okay, ah, start the New Year together in 2012! We get it! Makes some sense! Whoa, deadline, but not an unobtainable goal if we get started right now!


“Mom?” Sometimes the connection is tinny when he calls, far-away sounding. This was one of those times. “Mother, I’ve  got a four-day pass over Easter weekend. I’m going to fly in Friday morning and that afternoon Randi’s dad (ed. note: Randi’s dad is a Babdiss preacherman, but we do not hold that against her in any way) is going to marry us in her parents’ back yard.” He wore a black shirt and ivory Vans and she wore an ivory dress and black Converse and now I’m a mother-in-law, so weird.

At least I am consistent, as always, in maintaining a whirlwind life.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

So. The week before Scout fell out and two weeks before Sam made the tinny phone call, the very week that Mathias announced that he was joining Civil Air Patrol, Maxim and I had a discussion that really entailed not much discussion at all and we decided to leave our church. Rat-tat-tat. We met with our Pastor and told him on the tenth of April, my mother’s birthday.

Individually, Maxim and I had both been feeling the nudge to ask the other what they thought about our relationship to our church and whether we were to continue it. When I finally brought my thoughts up to him and told him the timeline on them, he nodded sagely and cited the exact same thoughts along the exact same period of time. We were essentially completing one another’s sentences as we spoke, and ended the discussion with the promise to pray over the issue for two weeks and then go over our impressions together.

Then the not-discussion, then the leaving, then the strange feeling of being untethered from a church body but being very anchored spiritually. We –Maxim and I, and even Scout– have even gone so far as to acknowledge that it may be in the cards for us to remain unchurched altogether. None of us is opposed to this. Jesus did a lot of damage with two feet and an unafraid voice; He never kept to four walls, at least not for very long. We’re supposed to emulate that man, if we really believe what we say we do.

We will miss our church family bitterly. We will still see them socially, sure, but not several times a week. Hell, let’s be honest: We will probably not even get to see them several times a month. Life is a storm of unpredictability and a ruiner of plans. That’s part of what makes it so incredible, you know?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

On Monday, April the eighteenth around two-thirty or so, I started to feel it. I guess it was something akin to a fissure in my brain opening, something that had been a sort of hairline crack becoming a gaping maw. I white-knuckled my way through the afternoon and then went home to gobble some Lexapro, thinking that my PMDD was rearing its head and hadn’t given me as much lead time as usual. I quickly got worse, my insides a low-roiling boil, threatening to bubble over; it made me physically sick. I could feel the lactic acid building and then depositing in my shoulders, my traps, in the backs of my thighs. It was a continual release of adrenaline and I was extremely nauseous by hour four of the whole thing. The whole of the afternoon a voice in my head gibbered about just wanting my bed, ohhhh if I can make it to the end of the workday I can have my bed,  but that evening I fumbled onto the couch and couldn’t move from there, where I fell into a fitful sleep by seven 0′clock.

I woke and dragged myself to the bedroom, still feeling sick and indeterminably broken, at around ten-thirty. The next morning I was due to drive Scout to her neurologist an hour away, and I thought that the Lexapro would grab hold while I slept (like it always did! magic! jazz hands, bitches! airhorns and goofy relieved grintastic visages and confetti or something equally as rad!), making me feel whole and right again upon waking.

I woke up lethargic and very, VERY resistant to the idea of leaving our home. In fact, I was somewhat terrified to even get out of bed. The low-boil feeling was still there and now I had a sense of defeat layered on top of it. I wanted to die, but it occurred to me that if I shot myself in the head my daughter would a) be angry that I ‘forgot’ to check her out of school b) be the one to find me c) be doubly fucked up as a result of having been angry at me just before finding my messy-headed self scattered willy-nilly across the bed. I tried to eat some breakfast. I threw it up. I showered and put on eyeliner, then comfortable clothes, then sunglasses that would obscure most of my face. It was a sheer act of my Legendary Stupidly Defiant Will that put me behind the steering wheel and on the road.

I am going to make a mistake. I am going to make a mistake and wreck us. My inner voice meant this in a more literal sense, but in writing that now I realize that there is more meaning to it. Anxiety’s theme song is I Am Going To Make A Mistake. It has a really catchy hook and gets stuck in a loop on your insides if all the conditions are right and you give it half a footing, did you know?

“I’m not feeling well,” I told Scout, “do you think you could manage driving if it turns out that I can’t?” She said she could, and I told her that I’d navigate the more difficult part of the drive and put her on the straightaway twenty minutes or so down the road. When that twenty minutes had passed, I’d started feeling better, so I passed on Scout driving for me and continued on. Ten minutes past that I was pulling into the empty lot next to an abandoned auto shop, so suddenly overcome that it was all I could do to exit the car and go around to the passenger side.

I reclined the seat, Scout slid in the new Damnwells and within a few minutes we were flying down Highway Tw0-Seventy-Eight; I was curled up on my side with my face six inches from my knees, staring at them intently, afraid that my brain was doing something I and it could never recover from, when ‘Sophia‘ came on

with a wink everything’s falling apart
and we’re lost in Lebanon

and then somehow I found my eyes fixed on the beyond out there past the vinyl and the doorhandle and the window, it rushed by oh it fell away and was replaced so fluidly and I hope I can hold onto myself well enough to finish this day, finish this day, finish. Finish it, this day.

Abel started
but Cain had to finish the job
for the God of Jealousy

No fever dream had ever been so brutal.

By four o’ clock that afternoon I became something resembling myself, but still only a poorly-remembered version of that, a slightly-staticky approximation. “It’s stress,” said Maxim the next day, and then the day after that I caught myself kneading the shit out of my left forearm with my right hand, to the point of extreme pain that I hadn’t even noticed in my absent-mindedness. It was then that I took into account that my nails were more gnawed than they ever had been –they were bleeding and painful at times– and I’d had this crazy rash on my chest that had appeared suddenly about two weeks prior. “I told you, stress,” Maxim affirmed once I recounted my realizations to him. I pondered the crevasse that had opened up in my brain, how extremely near to the base of it that the crack had run.

I circled the internal wagons. It took a week to really shake that feeling that I was just a fuzzy copy of my actual self, that I was play-acting at being something I was really not. I faked it till I maked it and I managed not to disappear. Feel free to mutter it under your breath, but don’t you ever tell me that miracles are the stuff of myth.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Wednesday, Twenty-Seven April:

The internet went out early in the day. Power was intermittent throughout the morning, but mostly there.  The mountain began to be battered. We came back from lunch, we left early for the day. Maxim happened to be off, so did Scout. My family was all snug in our home when I got there. I found out later that where others were hit once and hard, we were hit over and over hard. It was that evening before I found out that Tuscaloosa had lost one-seventh of itself and Cullman had fared poorly and the state park had played host to three twisters on the ground at once (a paramedic friend showed me a close shot he’d taken with his phone, holyHOLYfuck). A friend, upon finding out that we had no idea what was going on elsewhere, began to text snippets of information and news to me.

I called Randi, who was shaken but perfectly fine. A student at the University of Alabama, she had, she confessed, been terrified when the tornado set down a block from her apartment. She was coming home to the mountain as soon as she could. Her phone was messed up and she couldn’t make any calls or send any texts, but she could receive them. Sam, having just gone back to Texas less than twenty-four hours before, was on the other line, exceedingly not-okay with having left his bride.

Maxim showed me the snippet of radar he’d managed to pull up on his phone. “Unh, ah, there is this black area here right by us. I’ve never seen BLACK on any radar, have you?” No, no I had not, and it looked ugly, like a blotchy tumor on a rainbow landscape and wow, this is one of the rare times in life that merits one long, low whistle of disbelief punctuated with raised eyebrows. Things ramped up for us again. We stayed together, first in Mathias’ room reading and making LEGO magicks, then in the living room. When Maxim thought everything had passed, he went in search of ice and to check on his mother. He took Mathias with him.

He later professed the stupidity of leaving, because one of the events that occurred while he was out involved a massive oak falling across a pitch-black road a few feet ahead of him while he considered the merits of dropping a load in his pants. Another wave of storm had whipped itself at us and he’d been caught out in it. He crept back to his mom’s to wait it out. Back at home, Scout and I started hearing things hit the back side of the house.

“It’s still now,” I texted Maxim afterwards, “Come home, and hurry, but be safe.” My phone began dying. Maxim came home. “There is a tree in Dana’s house. It sliced clean through.” We didn’t get out to inspect, because I did not trust the dark and the clever way it might obscure dangling tree limbs with the potential to fall and crush or its ability to hide downed, soaked power lines an errant foot might find before a watchful eye could.

We made pallets for the children on our bedroom floor, set a lantern in the bathroom in case anyone had to get up later. It was dark, so dark, and I blessed this darkness, because it is a hardcore insomniac’s unspoken dream to have no glowing, buzzing streetlights slicing in from half a block away. There were no electronics humming, no tiny red lights becoming larger than life. “I AM GOING TO SLEEP LIKE A CHAMP TONIGHT!” I announced to no one in particular. We had laid our heads on our pillows and spoken a few words when one of us –I don’t even remember who, honestly– said, “Oh man, we got so lucky this time.” This was immediately punctuated with the explosive sound of a hundreds-of-years old tree a few yards away in the quick throes of giving over and going a fuck-all, messy horizontal.

I not only slept like a champ that night, I slept like a GOING-FOR-BROKE, FUNDAMENTALLY-DRIVEN, PIMP-ASS MOTHERHUMPIN’ CHAMP. But only for five and a half hours. I kept flopping around the bed after that, and then finally I got up and pulled on yoga pants and the notorious Pink Floyd shirt (that has made a-one-0r-a-two appearances within the voyeurnally tomes of yours truly) you might chance to remember. There were flip-flops involved, too. I slipped on a hoodie, leashed  up Banjo and set out. Only one other house on the whole block was occupied. Three of them had trees driven well into their innards. Others had broad, well-rooted oaks tipped over and leaving gigantic divots in the ground. Some of them had equally large trees snapped like toothpicks halfway up their trunks.

The three blocks surrounding our home were –and still are– a great mess. There are a bait of awful tales that I could run out in front of you, but I’ve already taxed your graces enough for tonight and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest for me to actively try and horrify you.  Let’s just say that I am very well aware that the most tragic thing that happened to me, basically, was having to endure an icy shower and hanging clothes on the line. Which, if you’ve been watching any of the news footage (which I have not even had time to go through in any real way) is the cosmic equivalent of stubbing my toe in the presence of legless people.

Translation: Don’t you !dare!! complain, dummy.

And so, I am not. In fact, I am going to post up, in the next little real soon day or two, things that have been so right about this place and its people since all the weathercarnage. I’ll include some ways you can help from where you are, too. Tonight my back is growing stiff and my eyelids are crackling.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This week Scouty turns eighteen. Twenty days after that, she will graduate high school.

scout, is, well.....holy crow, she's grown
:: ’she looks like an album cover,’ somebody said ::

Then it will be June and she will be exploring another country.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This summer we will be taking Mathias to our nation’s capital because he is old enough to absorb some of what this country is, what this country remembers, what it knows and also what it would like to forget. He’s inquisitive and perceptive, a fact magnet and discussion-haver.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Next weekend my son is coming home to get his bride and take her back to the desert with him. They are so young and passionate, and life is too fragile for them to be apart one second longer than they have to be. The world won’t be any less brutish, but they will each have the comfort of a bedmate’s tangled limbs and steady breathing to reassure them as they slumber. Important, too, is someone to laugh with when everything is all ludicrous as fuck and humor is the only thing left.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

It almost never fails: The day after a brutal, tornado-laden storm is picture-perfect, bright and mild and colorfully soft. This always blows my mind. Still, I am thankful for it, for the respite and I am moved to make this urgent wish:

Sonno beato, world, and all the children in it; sleep beautifully for a time.

I’m here. I’m still here. Everyone I know is accounted for. Everything is possible and I brought my spoon because I’ve always been one to dig in and that’s one trait I will fight to drag up to the grave’s lip before I have to be put in there.

|| July 28, 2010 || 4:33 pm || Comments (9) ||

Scout called me from Chicago last night. She was there on a layover, headed to Detroit for her grandfather’s funeral. I was wandering around Birmingham with Mathias after having dropped her at the airport earlier in the day. Our shopping errands were long done.

“I miss Sam. Do you miss Sam?”

I asked her this question because I am afraid to ask Mathias. I don’t want him to fall apart, not yet. To further that end, I have been doing my own falling-apart quietly, quickly; yesterday this was done in bathrooms around the city. The one at Target was a little more epic than the others, but not by much. That particular come-apart was exacerbated by the fact that I was buying school supplies for Scouty and Mathias but none for Samuel. Then I hitched up my yoga pants, plastered on a smile  and said something along the lines of Holy God, mommy needs coffee…who wants to handle the Starbucks run? when I plowed out of the restroom.

Mother. He’s only been been gone nine hours and forty minutes.”

“You DO miss him, YOU DO! Not even I’m counting the hours!”

“Give me a break, Momma.”

“But do you miss him?”

“Not yet. Probably because I’m not there. It’ll be kind of hard when I get back. We shared the whole second floor, away from the rest of you guys.”

“I miss him.”

“Yeah. But you know what? The first forty-eight hours are the hardest. It’s going to be better.”

The house sat empty, because Maxim was working late and Scout was out of town. I kept Mathias in the city long past when it could have been considered practical. I wanted for there to be life at home, some sort of human racket, so the place wouldn’t feel so hollow when I got back. I wanted to be exhausted, in order to prevent any impulse  to rattle around and run into reminders of Sam at every turn, to see his shirts hanging in the laundry room, to find the stack of borrowed ceedees he’d placed on the table by the door.

A few hours ago I went up to his room to get empty hangers for the laundry and to put some of his clean things away. It was a bit of, ahem, a pit. “This is good,” I told Maxim, “I can choose to be annoyed with him rather than miss him. He kind of did me a favor, the little prick.”

One hour ago, Sam’s friend Jay came to get his car. Samuel is gifting him with it because Jay has it kind of rough and doesn’t have a car of his own. Sam is sometimes infuriatingly arrogant, but mostly he is good and generous and loving.

Ten minutes ago I got this text:

The drill instructor is taking my phone now. I love you, Mother. You’ll have my address soon.

I don’t know how to do this. How am I going to do this??

|| December 18, 2000 || 4:45 pm || Comments (0) ||

A good daddy and his only son dead. The rest of his family in the hospital. It’s one week before Christmas. This makes me cry.

The count is at 12 for dead, Idunnohowmany for wounded, and lots of people lost everything. What they didn’t lose they had to watch ruin under a couple inches of snow with the promise of more moving in. I wonder how the holidays will affect those that were involved. Will they feel blessed to still be here? Will they always have a heavy cloud hanging over this time of year, will everyone else’s festivities grate them?

I still twitch at the fact that it was so close. James Crowder was my husband’s age, who is also a good dad. Their family was the inverse of ours, two girls and one boy. The only namesake gone. At Christmastime.