In Gratitude…#Nanowrimo completed: 23 days, a novel

  
Seems befitting that on this weekend of gratitude, I conclude this huge though not impossible endeavor with the following:

While reintegrating to my life by inches, loving the smallest favors first like the grip of a long handled toothbrush or the pleasure of a private shit and shower, my own bed with more than two inches of mattress and a box spring in the quiet of my home, ragged as it was and is, snuggled inside the lefthand loop of a cul de sac; then appreciating bigger things like the love of a family that has been loving me–hard–more than I let myself feel, all this time. 

My family, blood and adopted, came through for me in a way that shocked me, even though it could not have been more predictable. They wrote, visited, and watched; they stood by and pitched in. They witnessed helplessly as I crumbled and paid enormous sums to secure my freedom, cried for me in my grief but did not pity me nor make themselves the heroes; they took care of me. 

JM stepped up for me and suffered like the brave and strong he never knew he was, taking up the mantle where I had dropped it. He came through for all of us, doing whatever he had to, and he proved to himself he was strong, something he needed to know but couldn’t since he had never needed to before. That was my job–ensuring that no one needed to be strong. I coddled them as organizer, unifier  and fixer. Now they took up the reins and showed themselves worthy of the task. And I received.

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.