Day 4

  
What I knew about me back then, at our separation, was that I was good with kids, a nurturer, and had ambitions.  Driven, determined, stubborn and tenacious, I was good at school. From my mother I learned that I needed to have the last word. I knew that I was an avid reader and got lost in books and fantasy, that I conquered books even as they slayed me. Dictionary in hand, I painfuly trudged through The Hobbit in sixth grade, just like the burglar himself wearily and anxiously trudged through Middle Earth. That same year, Edgar Allen Poe taught me that I loved stories and had a vivid imagination, thanks to my haughty pompous pet-procuring teacher who read the class Poe stories each day for a week.

I knew I loved words and writing and was a good speller. I knew that I had an eye for boys at a young age; a sixth grade kissing birthday party spinning the bottle and playing post office taught me so.  Stealing my first kiss on the soft lips of John Hoffner, a boy I mysteriously found attractively full lipped and soft cheeked, I was inducted into the secret rites of the heart as harp, strings, tones and eternal whisperings from the beginning of time. Who could articulate why some boy looked good in 6th grade? The world of boys and kissing was enrapturing.

I knew that I had a fighter feminist spirit. While I did not march or take up any banners, I grew up with an entitlement to equality branded on my will, an adopted militancy that girls should not be mere slaves to men the way my mother was to my father. At 12, I asked in earnest self-righteous anger, why my mother put up with his abuse: nasty, virulent words and waiting on him hand and foot. Her bemused response that I would understand when I was older did not assuage the anger.

I knew that I was loyal and believed in monogamy then. I also knew that I did not believe I owned “feminine,” me who spent high school in coveralls and construction boots, choosing my clothes as protest and comfort. I have been often labeled earthy, and I was with a man who adored chic.

When we met, I was carrying 15 pounds too many even for my 5 feet and 8 inches, which allowed me more leeway than my shorter sisters. However, most of that weight was lost by the time we separated, the result of over a decade of conscientious health and fitness. I gave up smoking and started working out, dancing in college, then aerobicizing when that came into vogue in the early 80s, after which I took up running, tennis and eventually soccer. I was active and hard bodied at the time of our separation–lean, firm and tall.

So when I first sat in a therapist’s chair and declared I had problems with my femininity–something I dreamed or believed at the time, not even knowing what that meant but suspecting it had some critical role in JM’s lack of desire for me—and the therapist, an older guy probably in his late 50’s (I was 28), said, “No you don’t. Just look at you. You’re wearing a skirt and a nice blouse…” I didn’t really hear the rest because I became incensed. How dare he tell me what I was or was not! I left and never returned.

23 Days: an excerpt

  
He and I would kiss on the couch after smoking weed and drinking wine. I drank my first bottle of Margeaux with him, straight out of the bottle. It was 75 bucks back in 1979, steep for my minimum wage budget, and purchased from a corner liquor store that sold it at room temperature on a circular rack with other bottles lesser known. It obviously had not been properly preserved in the coolness of a cave or even a refrigerator. 

However, one sip for even one uninitiated to Dionysus’ treats at the time, I thought the description “liquid pearls” fit. That was my immediate impression and it was divine, almost as luscious as kissing those wine-soaked lips, fleshy, soft, sweet, and conversational. He knew the art of kissing, that it is a conversation not a monologue or a preview to the stabbing penetration to come. He caressed and rested softness on mine, kissed my lips as well as my tongue, no hard sucking or mindless tongue windshield wiping my poor JM switched on whenever we kissed. 

Bauhinia

  

Bauhinia, 

the delicate pink orchids 

that blossom each spring 

cheer the grog of the morning 

march to distances 

far and few 

from your branches. 

The blistering sun’s alchemy 

or the blustery grey

 of the day–alters. 

Drifting and burgeoning, 

transforming and contrasting 

as my moods, 

sometimes filled, lagrimal

of rusted red seed pod, 

feet and fingers of them 

like stultified streams 

of leaking fear frozen 

brown and red in mid drip. 

It’s then that your leaves wither 

at the edges, 

blackened and burned. 

The weather turned for the worse, 

your leaves round hearts 

of butterfly green, 

full and wide bloom. 

But when the winter wears away, 

your flowering bauhinian 

bells and stamen 

reach for my notice 

as I breeze past 

to travels once again 

drawing me from you.

Spring Reprise

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Credit: https://www.google.com/search?q=finch&client/

Who stirred the flock of tittering, flit-footed finch flecked in winter’s burrowed stains brown and beige, a creamy crown distinct among peers assembled among the weedy fields and woodland edges?

A rogue among them, dressed in greedy golden coats of late summer’s stolen glints, gallantly arrogant in his per-chic-oree to a frenetic furrow of mad foragers, frowns from inky brow.

His nest–in spring–already fit, his queen awaiting, while the others peck among the thistle and dream to nestle golden wheat for seed-ful warmth when the heat of late season pairing in pale blue-egg tender caring lingers in hazy heat’s beckoning, he circles once in condescending flutter atop the crowd and darts in great goodbye to lazy longing of life to come.

A single black blink of an upturned unctuous eye winks in return, his bony beak enclosed upon a woody pea, exposing shriveled tongue in willed withdraw.

Greater gold yields edge; straw blown fire burns quickly.

A milky corona hangs crookedly, askew, among the feathery reeds on the skull unseen from heights  among the dun of an earthen sky.

March, her equinox anew, changes everything–again.

A Touching Tale of Healing Touch


Evan was not my first love. My heart framed in poetry books, I sought love early. By fourteen I had had my first heartbreak and by sixteen, I was initiated to the world of embattled sex my mother fear-burned into me:  woman as fortress and men as invaders.  

 

It was the 70s and free love was the slogan but not the practice. I was not the only young woman who paid the bodily price of losing what I did not understand I had–self-love, real love. 

 

So when I fell in love with and married a French man a few years later, love was permeated with heady visions of Romantics like Byron and Wordsworth, but sex was informed by the attitudes of Plath and Sexton, hardened and cynical. 

 

In my mind, love and sex were distinct and only the former was indispensable.

 

I loved Jean-Marc, but we were not so much “in love” as we were good friends. To me, that was more important. 

 

Besides, it was clear I was not his physical type. He had had a girlfriend when I met him in college, a French goddess of natural beauty, as if she emerged from the heather, golden smooth skin delightfully coating her delicate bones and showcasing her eyes of sea blue. 

 

She was the essence of what I deemed poetic femininity at the time. And I was nothing like her, not delicate, soft, supple, petite or graceful. I wasn’t French. I was New York, bookish and big. 

 

But several years into our marriage, I grew thinner, more athletic. I struck a lean, tall figure with improved grace and balance from running and tennis. I had transformed the book worm smoker of pubs and diners around New York to an outdoorsy athletic competitor in California.

 

When I separated from my husband, I was in the best shape of my life, 28 years old with a hard body everyone noticed but me. 

 

That is when I met Evan.

 

Evan taught me to love my body. I met him after my husband confessed that he was in love with someone else, a friend he had grown up with in France. Even though that relationship did not pan out, both of us needed time to sort things out. 

 

In reality, the separation between us occurred long before, had been growing inside me. Jean-Marc’s vision of me affected my own. I was a rebound, the consoler and good friend when the goddess dumped him one New Year’s eve. 

 

I was no beauty, but I was comfort.

 

His eye for aesthetics and style were distinguishing features of my attraction to him but also the very features that attracted him to others, beautiful, lean, olive-complected men I later came to find out. 

 

So why did I choose someone who could not love my body? Over the years, I have considered that question. 

 

Perhaps the body-mind division I fixed early on, prioritizing the intellectual over the physical sublimated my bodily emotions–etched the picture of an unlovely woman in my mind.

 

But I imagine, poor body image grew out of many seeds: my parents’ relationship, genetics, cultural dictates, social influences and my own love relationships. 

 

Though Jean-Marc and I shared a love that made us grow in the comfort and safety of that umbrella love of young adults, he could not love me intimately, the way a lover sighs at the sight of his beloved’s nakedness. And we couldn’t talk about it for the pain and the guilt. But the elephant in the room nearly crushed me. 

 

Eventually, I was flattened. I no longer had desire–until Evan. 

 

I fell in love with him in a cafe in New York. He spoke soothingly about presence–being present in each moment–and though I had read my zen and Heidegger, I was witnessing the words rather than thinking about them. 

 

He warned me beforehand and then he touched my hand and said, “You’re a writer; describe the experience of my hand.” Of course I didn’t know what he meant; I only said I wanted to be a writer, and I was off balance with his touch.  

 

So I described how I felt uneasy with a near stranger’s touch. To which he asked, “Does it feel warm? soft? rough? Can you feel the arced tips of the nails unforgiving yet pleasantly smooth?”

 

I hadn’t even thought of the physical sensation. I never did. All passed through my mind first and the physical was always sublimated, denied or ignored. Probably why I rarely saw a doctor, going about my business trying not to think of what ailed me.

 

Later, his first touch of studied tenderness opened my eyes and aroused passion I buried long before I knew its heat, its colorful flavors. He touched me, what was before his eyes, not a projection of me. 

 

And then he took me on a tour of the secret vales and rich verdure of my body. It blazed real love.  

 

Love–true love–is presence in touch; it needs no longing, fantasy, style, grace or poise–merely acceptance in being. 

 

When I embraced my own beauty, uniquely my biological experience, replete with singular angles and curves, scars and splotches, I learned to be heart-wise loved by someone who could love me–all of me–and confirm I was worthy of another’s hand softly sweeping the hair off my brow. 

 

My feminine, I learned, was desire—being—in touch.  

 

How can we ever know how others sense the world? The question should evoke a yearning to find out without the hope of ever doing so. However, it is the practice–the focused being of and with others–that matters. It’s how we connect, avoid loneliness, while maintaining our own integrity.

 

It is how we find love, real love.

 

Touch led me from interpreting the world to experiencing it. Getting out of my mind, possessed with others’ formulations of love and sex, and into the moment–breathing presence; it brought me the fullness of acceptance, as a body, my body, with someone else’s.  

 

No, Evan did not teach me acceptance by his touch; eventually, I was able to receive his touch by my own clarity–of space, moment, nearness of another’s presence becoming my own.  

 

He taught me to “see” like the scientists and philosophers and lovers we are–empirically, intellectually and emotionally.  

 

I wasn’t rushing headlong into someone else’s story for me. I had learned to better integrate my body and mind, which took examining inherited perceptions: those of my mother, husband, authors, and culture.  

 

It took practice to own my body. It still does.

 

And being in the precise moment recalled by someone’s touch–healing in its grounding.

 

Evan lies next to me now, his pillowed head in the shadow of mine. I am reading, elbow-propped, turned away. 

We are prone, bare, having just settled into bed for the night. Humid heat of a New England summer makes flannel impossible and silk torturously sticky. We sleep this way most nights four seasons long.

His body is serpent shape mirror of mine with inches of space between us, creating the comfort of a cooling air canal. We are art in symmetry.

His hand, open palmed, smooths across the contours of my hip, waist and shoulder, smearing heat like oil upon the line of curvy seas in the imagination of his hand–port to starboard to port again. The slow rhythm of his caress lulls my lids to half mast as the warmth and tingling skin sensors combine, dance me to lullaby languor. These are the moments.

I stop reading to softly lower my head to the pillow, ever so slowly, avoiding the slightest ripple in the water of his soliloquy wave. I hold my breath the whole way down.

Releasing, exhaling in measured silent wisps of warm air through my teeth and the pebble O my lips make, anchor hits bottom, the sync of his hypnotic oar undisturbed; it continues to brush the still of my anatomy’s ebb and flow.

I breathe just enough air to live, causing not so much as a flutter-by in the sheets. If I fill my lungs too deeply, selfishly, I will signal sleep’s onslaught, killer of this powerfully peaceful moment of breath, body and hand. No dream could be better than this. I own it–to the coral depths of fibrous memory. 

A Parable of the Universe (Tell me if I am wrong)

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credit: chestofbooks.com

When all the stories of girlfriends and guyfriends collide and correspond, life unfolds in parables and tales of the universe. There are certain constants that run true in human behavior throughout time regardless of fashion, trends and technology. Listening to one friend over coffee yesterday and another few in email and text conversations, I awoke to a story of everyone, everywhere at some time, whether the relationship bespeaks love, career, worship, family or community. As parable, story figures take on symbolic feature to encompass the whole of humanity’s experience in some slice of its manifestation.

Today’s offering is called: A parable of the universe (Tell me if I am wrong).

I met a man when I was two thirds of who I had become that far. Too many rough years rubbed away the grit of my guts and solidity I had sewn together lo those many years prior, going to school, building a career and family–taking care of the world I had made and made securely well.

So when this man met me (I had gone looking for someone to top me off), he ministered to the two thirds left of me by being smart and witty, entertainingly soft and kind. The game of push the right buttons, turn the right knobs to nail the target and earn points had begun. He paid attention to me with admiring eyes that bathed me in light and filled missing space in the darkness of me. And he grew in me. He filled time and moment with his persistence and my quest for completion.

But then life struck again, and I lost another third. I was down depleted low. This gave urgency to him–to pour more into me, even more, to fill up that space as I, nearly eviscerated, crumpled to the ground at his feet. He saw opportunity and I felt lost. And he called it love and desire and support. He called it us and we and forever. And I fell back long, long with eyes closed until my body hit the sheets, which flew up from the force of the fall to cover me whole.

And when I awoke, I found replenishment–just enough. I could stand. I opened my eyes. The world was dull but constant. And one foot followed the other as it is wont to do. No meteor split the earth. No fire engulfed the city. Exhale followed inhale.

So when the flow of movement filled me up a little more, I found the man’s residence in me too much, too tedious and frantic. I would vomit. “Please pull back and rest inside yourself some,” I pleaded. But he could not hear. He had already made plans, made a home inside, expanded there to fuel his reason and his way.

Then the truth of the matter was plain. He was not a man at all. I had been fooled just as I had been all my life about what was life–doing hoops and carrots. I was wrong about that too. Separateness is an illusion. We don’t fill each other; we are one another. Only, some truly are tapeworms until they understand.

The Other Fox and Turtle Tale

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Credit: 4.bp.blogspot.com

A fox came upon a turtle who lived in a yard on the edge of the woods.
“Tell me, friend, why you seek my company,” the dusty, ancient turtle inquired with slow, suppressed suspicion.
It was late afternoon, tea time, and the sun, having given its all, began its climb down the other side of the arc.
Ingratiatingly, the reptile continued: “I admire your beautiful coat of rust and white, your distinctive inky markings that do outshine my own, and so am flattered by your attention and affection. But what can a turtle, slow and plodding, offer a field sprinter such as you?”
The fox replied with penetrating black eyes moist with the effort of sincerity and focus, deciphering the turtle from the browns and greens of the grassy earth:
“Your steadiness and deliberate consideration captivates me and calms my restless spirit. In truth, I have no use for you. I feed myself in game sprier and more tender, a daring and delight to hunt and digest. Your sloth and shell provide no sustenance, no amusement at all.”
“Then how is it you come here day by day and ask me about the climate on this side of the fence and where my keepers go? The master keeps no hens and the cats chase the rats, so no such offerings reside here for your devise,” the turtle in heartfelt curiosity prodded.
“It is a mystery. I cannot comprehend what you are and how you continue to be. Your design and reason for being in the grand scheme of the sun makes no sense to me. Who do you sustain? Why do your keepers find pleasure in your dwelling day to day in the grass, in the dirt, lying in the shade, at the pond or in the ground? And you, you have no mate. How shall you procreate? The sense of it escapes me, and so I come to ask and watch to see if I might understand what in this world you might be. Until the satisfaction of right reason comes, I am compelled to include you in my daily rounds.”
With that, the turtle was satisfied on each piquing point, and so withdrew a poking, bobbing head and four feebly clawed feet inside a sturdy shell, breathed one last long sigh before settling in for a long afternoon nap.
Signaled by this deliberate retraction to such a quaint retreat, the fox also withdrew to the green of the woods, disappearing into the rust of leaves and bark of the redwood sea–until the next late afternoon most assuredly would bring their acquaintance once again..

Sketching Six Faces of Love

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Credit: textnovel.com

She liked to flirt. Facebook was a deep well of satisfaction to her; there were so many “friends” to engage with from the superficial to the delicious. Friends from the past to the present, all over the country, were potential intrigues. She loved the game of it. Her charm and wit, the salacious comments kept men interested in her, especially with the weekly updated profile photos that boasted her tight jeans and sweater, smart blazers and slacks, or formal dresses and flashy make up, all with her best angle to delight and lure.

It was all a showcase, all for fun, mostly. It gave her options. Some of her friends lived in the neighborhood, or relatively so, shifting the flirting game to a goal. She could land a date, and sometimes she did, though mostly dates did not work out for one reason or another. Reality is always less photogenic than the portrayal in pictures and emoticons, pithy remarks and funny cat videos to express true emotions. Face to face, something is missing. Besides, the thrill of the chase is gone.

One time, she did hook up with someone who kept her interest longer than a month. He was obviously into her, wanted to do things, go places, and he filled a void of too much time to spend on Facebook. She got out in the world with him to movies and cafes, a show or two at the playhouse. They talked a lot and things appeared to get close and firm. When they slept together, it was passably good for a first time, which is always awkward until familiarity sets in and comfort and daring are permitted, the kinks worked in or out, as the case may be. It looked promising–for him. He was getting his heart settled in after those first adrenaline thumping real life meets when he did not know how the fun cyber banter would translate to flesh and blood. But he was falling–some. She was having fun–with him and her facebook admirers, always keeping her options open.

She was an answer to a call. He had been married for decades to the same woman, a kind woman of great heart and spirit, the mother of his children. M was still his best friend, but intimacy was never their connection. She came out soon after the kids were born, and they came to an agreement to keep it together for the kids. Each pursued interests outside of the marriage, the catchword being discretion. He never thought to engage fully with anyone, only looking for casual sex and some fun. After all, his primary responsibility was to his family and his work. But a man must live while taking care of business.

He always thought he had the best and worst of all worlds, and being the optimist, always looked at how much worse it could be. Sure, he yearned for intimacy at home, to live with someone to lie with and embrace each morning in the warmth of the blankets after a good night’s sleep or awaken in the middle of the night and reach over to find comfort in the presence of another warm body–a touch of romance. But they had stopped sleeping together long ago. Still, stability stemmed from the solidity of his friendship and cooperative care for their children, which went a long way in his mind.

She, on the other hand, was addicted to highs and lows. Her most memorable relationships were those with huge passion and jealousy, wild nights and raging fights. Longing to be possessed and desired beyond comprehension, she daydreamed of consumption, her lover’s devour. For the cold in her fingertips could only be warmed by the heat of romance and hungry sex. It had always been this way. The picture of longing, a gaping hole to fill, she was addicted to beginnings, the newness of things, like relationships and shopping sprees, the smell of a new car. How to prolong the thrill was the quest, string it out into the longest possible moment of days and weeks. Some sizzlers did last some months. But all the while, she kept feeding the fire with sparks from other heat.

And he knew that he was attracted to her heat, her fascination with fire and its sparks: the liveliness of her darting, wide-open eyes and the broad toothy smile that beamed joy. The curves dressed up in conscious care to cry out to him worked notice. Taken by colors she radiated and the music she invoked, he knew the draw. It was the antidote to boredom, the missing passion. He felt the trap and wanted to surrender nevertheless. If he could maintain the consciousness that this was fun, he thought, to keep his heart open and protected at the same time, he could extract what he needed from her, fuel the engine. He wanted more than sex. He wanted time and connection, but just enough.

He wasn’t a fool and treated himself well for the most part. Yes, life was a series of compromises. Life is such. But he had a healthy amount of gratitude and a talent for compartmentalization. His philosophy: everything in its time and place. No one gets everything from one person, he often told others. Instead, he takes what he needs where he finds it, and the rest is all him. He knew that his fulfillment was his own work, making himself happy–with himself.

And in all, he was indeed a contented man, treated himself well enough and was unafraid of risking temporarily his equanimity, or even his happiness, seeking connection from others when necessary. Recovery would be assured: he meditated, exercised, slept well, and ate wisely though not unrelentingly healthy, splurging on a chocolate eclair or a decadent meal with an outstanding bottle of wine from time to time. Good to himself, he was good to others. Life was all about balance.

They were both searching but approached the search from opposite ends of the spectrum of comportment. Their common ground: need, pleasure, sharing, excitement, connection, and release. Both were looking for validation, confirmation that they existed for someone else beyond utility and the facticity (or delusion) of moving meat sacks. They sought to change the imagery they were caught up in, alter the lighting to project a more enticing angle.

They needed their egos fed as well as their libidos, lost in the sigh-ful faces of pleasure’s remove on the screen of each other’s fantasies. Touch, with its healing electricity, could bring them back to their humanity, their presence before another being with breath and pulse, warmth and light. Recognition of commonality, acknowledgement of existence, loss of time, surrender to another, all in momentary amnesia of who, where, how and why they were is what each sought. This was all they had in common, and yet, it wasn’t enough.

Flash of Exasperation

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“Do you want me to stop by after work?” he asks with earnest caret-shaped eyebrows.
“No, I’m not going to be home,” she says distractedly looking for her keys in her purse and not at him.
“Oh? You’re going out?”
“I have some running around to do, errands,” she replies now looking at him but still half attentive.
“Do you want some company doing errands?” he asks, still earnest.
“No. I have too many to do and…it’s just best if I do them alone,” she assures though with her head again buried in her purse.
“Are we okay?” his earnestness now morphed into deep concern, brows furrowed.
Exasperated, she turns to him now and complains, “Ugh, yes we’re fine. Why do you have to ask that all the time? You sound so insecure and…I’m sorry,” she apologizes in defeat. “That’s not where I wanted this to go. We can get together when I’m finished,” she concedes.
“Do you know what time you’ll be finished?” he asks with renewed courage by her concession.
“No, it depends on how long the line is at AT&T and when I get to the market,” she replies with a hint of dullness back in her voice again.
“Well, do you know approximately what time? afternoon? evening? night?” he persists.
“NO! I don’t!” she barks at him. “Listen, you are going to have to be flexible here if you want to get together. I will text when I am done. If you’re free, we’ll get together. If something comes up for you and you’re no longer free, then we will get together some other time,” she rattles off as she exhales slowly.
“Okay, but I really don’t want to do anything else. I’d rather see you,” he confesses resignedly.
“Well, then you’re going to have to wait for my text,” she reminds him rather shortly.
“I don’t get why you won’t tell me when you think you’ll be done, I mean just approximately.”
“Not I won’t. I can’t!” she counters with heat rising in her face and tightness forming in her lips.
“Well, what exactly do you have to do?” he tries her with careful curiosity.
Sighing deeply, “Oh really now. Do I have to go through my to do list?” Exasperated, “Okay, I have to go to AT&T to exchange my phone; it doesn’t charge. Then I have to pick up a turkey I ordered at the market before it closes. Then I have to bring Mark to and from soccer practice. I have to make dinner. It’s already 2:00, so this discussion is just eating up valuable time. Why don’t I just go do what I have to do?” she glares at him with growing impatience.
“Okay, so you don’t have any idea how long all of that will take, huh?”
“For Crissakes, no!!!” she shouts, slamming her keys in a loud crash on to the floor.
“Wow, you’re so angry. Are you sure we’re okay?”
(Door slam).