Friday, December 19, 2014

My future Ex-Husband is a Wolf

                     He invites me back to his workshop by which he means lair
                                          by which he means room with no heat by which he means cave

Visiting Salem (Mass) this past August, drawn by the thought of witchcraft and local ciders, I tentatively sat down with a Tarot Reader, curious about what she would find. I watched her, deadpan, attempting to express as few reactions as possible. Stricken by the male directness of my presence, she talked about the balance between masculine and feminine energies, how deeply I resonate with strength, that I am misreading that strength, so am not able to express its fullest capacity. After obligatory money comments, and something about a guy she saw in my future that she didn't like, who wanted to drag me down with his clingy, heavy, emotional weight, I started to feel like it was time to walk away from this nonsense.

Except he found me.

Someone who worked in a similar capacity to my experience working with metal/wood and building massive structures for the entertainment industry, I figured he was a safe enough bet, and every time he looked at me his eyes were as large as saucers, which can be very hard to resist. But I deeply underestimated the power of forces acting on society, on us, on him. When I asked about the little girl on his phone screen, he explained quickly how a short - lived interaction lead to him telling someone no about getting an abortion. I should have turned and ran right then. There was no appropriate time or place to tell him I would kill the man that tried to tell me what I can or cannot do with my body, especially if he was going to describe his daughter to other women that way. Later he tried to take me to dinner at McDonalds, and the horror calcified. He could spend huge amounts of time and money on shoes and sunglasses, but not on what goes inside of his body - he literally said 'ew' out loud to everything I ate when I was with him because he subsisted completely on fast food, so I resorted to eating before I saw him, and the one time I walked into a coffee shop for a real latte, he said 'I don't belong here'. I watched, and I listened, and I thought about what was wrong.

There is something about being on a jobsite that fills one with purpose and adrenaline and a bizarre sense of intimacy that feels like a sexual charge. I always feel slightly crushed when I leave, cause I can't bring that with me... but I'm starting to realize that having a strong sense of purpose OUTSIDE of work isn't a given, it's self directed - we no longer have the same goals and expectations, so those things will never quite translate. Similarly, I find guys are always shocked by what I am when I'm not onsite, but by that time, I've already figured out something isn't right and cease to pick up the phone. I've had notoriously bad luck with men (and women). Suddenly, in a flash, I get it. I SEE it. The problem at the deep dark core.

In science, and in sex, we study the individual, the microcosm to understand the macro, the whole, the big picture. A relationship, like a hypothesis, isn't a rule, but a path to explore with as little personal bias as one can possibly muster. Just as one molecule reacts very differently to various other molecules (oxygen can be turned into water, or hydrochloric acid, depending on the participating parties), different people bring out a range of unexpected instincts and reactions, choices I make with them vs without them. That doesn't negate the core truth of myself or of oxygen, or the possibility of finding someone who doesn't bring the hydrochloric acid out of me. But the space and research we give a scientific thought, the scrutiny we give all aspects to make sure it plays out in all directions for soundness and stability aren't thought about in the arena of human reproduction, we often fail to hold the (social) experiment of mating in such rigorously high regard. We move forward without adequate research, we gladly acquire blind spots, start making compromises before you can say 'backbone' and then internalize differences in opinions and lifestyle as if we are not good enough.

Those minute differences have HUGE meaning, and overlooking them is exactly the wrong way to handle it. This guy's comment about abortion may just be circumstance, but it alludes to a deep core belief about women and his boundaries of control in relation to them, that may not be obvious in the short term, in the immediate passionate exchange, but will ultimately manifest in other areas. Like when he called me 7 times in one day (while he was leading a crew, no less) and I had to tell him to stop. That was my time, that I wasn't interested in sharing, in my new kitchen with meat all over my hands when he called to ask how my fucking day was going. He felt he had the right to interrupt my life constantly to maintain this tenuous connection. He tried to put himself in control of my dog, out of jealousy, and was mean to her in petty, childish ways that finally broke the sweetness of what had been. Control in all things. It shocks me to remember giving away all of my power and sense of self in previous relationships, and it starts with the subtle stuff, like not wanting to start a fight, so staying silent about my reaction to his simple comment about abortion.

On a slightly more macrocosmic level, I've been working in the labor industry for 4 years now, and quickly found my whiteness, femaleness, and college degreeness wasn't an advantage - they were negative strikes against me, and I had to learn the artful language of broken English along with how to use my body in ways these boys had grown up understanding intuitively. I fearlessly found my way among them and have made some very good friends, but turns out it doesn't work in the reverse. As open and accepting as I may become, shoulder to shoulder with ex-cons and illegal immigrants, they are in socioeconomic subculture that has wholeheartedly embraced the fast-food industry and consumerism that is crippling the future generations through waste and obesity levels that are skyrocketing, as capitalism breaks down, and politicians pretend to fight for control over the corporations who paid for their elections to office. I'd love to say we're all the same deep down and pedigree shouldn't matter, cause it's true, but there are deep seated relationships around those things that have a much bigger impact than I had previously understood.  He was lean and dark, handsome with a husky Spanish accent, eyes big and full of emotion, but consuming nothing but fast food made him seem uniquely helpless, childish. His willingness to allow so much darkness and fakeness to fill his body seemed to mirror the earnestness in which he saw us as being in a real relationship over the few days we spent together, the lack of depth or reality that was important to how he lived his life and chose to define himself. He was wrapped up in, possessed by the status quo, only interested in looking nice on the outside, incurious for what it would feel like to live a quality of life that even paused to question truth or personal power. This is the America created by major food companies waving the flag of capitalism. Some of us are ok with living and eating a hologram.

Looking at him, I saw the American People, after the Great Depression, slowly, innocently unaware of the power they had given up in the newfangled world of frozen dinners and preservative laden food processes, except many of us may never roll over realize that we never liked our spouse in the first place. We're too busy being afraid of how it feels to be alone to realize we never had to settle at all, even though our moms and grandmothers will ask when there will be babies for them to spoil every Christmas when America goes home to celebrate consumerism and obesity in a time honored familial tradition, brought to you by Coke.

He was crushed when I didn't say goodbye.

I texted him that I wanted to be left alone weeks ago, but he still calls. I ignore those calls. I'm already a completely different person than when I started that little romance, and there isn't really any going back. Now I have come to see the work I've been doing with fresh eyes, and I don't like what I see, where I've been swept up in other's expectations, at the expense of personal respect and power, because money, like love, seems like an acceptable trade off for our basic needs. I've spent so long allowing myself to be filled with other people's purpose, and that has gotten me far, but it is time to act rather than be acted upon.  I would never have expected this random liaison to have turned into an elaborate chemical reaction, to walk away alchemized into a completely different self, like I was on the outside of my life looking in, and now I've been called into the ring to fight for myself, and the beliefs that I had no idea I so strongly believed in.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

when meaning shifts, meaninglessness follows.



Combusting rage and sexual tension as a power source, blind to everything but conquering inefficiency, filled with steam, purpose. Equal parts fuel and intoxication.

'Do you even cry?' He asked at the bar later.

Feet pounding on pavement, my feet. Screaming at the muscular man that just got out of his graffiti covered box truck. Not one of ours. Blocking my trucks. In my way.

'He doesn't like a single thing about you.' He told me. I grinned my Cheshire grin, remained as still as possible and disappeared from the bar as soon as I could. Descend into the subway station, radiating the kind of stillness that signals a building storm. Silence on the train.

Handsome work partner, all silver hair and tanned skin sprawled out next to me on the forklift, melting under my hands as I pressed my fingertips into the sinew of his back, chasing the emotional tightness down his spine. Stories hang from his lip like his cigarette, wry, sometimes silly memories from being locked up mixed with ashes picked up by the wind. They swirl around us like snow, like lost time, remains of the fire as it dies down. Silver hair catching the afternoon light.

Some of them love me, and some of them hate me, but I can't bring myself to care, feet too busy pounding the pavement, barking at the truck drivers, using my body as a physical barrier to modulate traffic. My presence spills down the street like sunshine bursting from behind a cloud, as big as the buildings, it smells like fumes and tastes like ashes.

A cold rage takes over me towards the end. It followed me offsite, startling me and my work partner while grabbing coffee. 'It must be from the barbeque I had for lunch...' I tell him, thoughtful. This isn't my normal foghorn power, it's cold and nasty and reeks of low energy.

'Dumbass.' I said to someone I love dearly when they missed the corner of a box with the forklift. Shut myself down immediately in secret horror. No one else saw my mother come out of me in that moment, but the awareness filled me with the stone cold weight of shame. That was always her word. Not mine.

'See you never.' I told him as I left, since I never know when I will see him. He wrapped me in the deepest, sweetest embrace, and I was barely aware of my arms struggling to pull him into me.

Not mine.

Sitting at the bar letting the beer kill the burn in my belly, the one that could eat a man alive, no one would know since I radiate stillness, seem sturdy and dependable as a stone, but I'm starting to wonder if, instead of wielding it, it will eventually wield me.

"They are mantic creatures like the Sphinx with whom they have much in common, knowing both the past and the future. Their song takes effect at midday, in a windless calm. The end of that song is death."


Meaning "device that makes a warning sound" (on an ambulance, etc.) first recorded 1879, in reference to steamboats, perhaps from similar use of the French word. Figurative sense of "one who sings sweetly and charms" is recorded from 1580s. The classical descriptions of them were mangled in medieval translations and glosses, resulting in odd notions of what they looked like.
1. Classical Mythology. one of several sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing.
2. a seductively beautiful or charming woman, especially one who beguiles men
3. an acoustical instrument for producing musical tones, consisting essentially of a disk pierced with holes arranged equidistantly in a circle, rotated over a jet or stream of compressed air, steam, or the like, so that the stream is alternately interrupted and allowed to pass. 4. an implement of this kind used as a whistle, fog signal, or warning device.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I never thought to find you in my madness.


Sitting on a bus, watching the sun rise over manhattan, I got distracted by the graceful, meticulous movements of the steering wheel, and shifted my focus to the bus driver. Dark, lean frame, he only moved as much as he needed, just as there was no excesses in his figure, in his expression, in his words. Every 5 dollar bill he folded perfectly, matching corner to corner, tucked into its one special place on the vast dashboard. He was master of that little tiny universe. People got on and got off, his spine stayed straight, his execution unbroken, he was the same. A rock. A perfect human machine. Practically invisible.

While walking my dog before work last week, a shockingly beautiful toddler stumbled over to interact with her, and the two regarded each other tensely for a second. Her mother watched from nearby, a mother that was so young and pretty it rooted my feet to that place, and when she started to talk, bursting pride of her smart, strong little girl, I felt compelled to witness her strength and clarity of vision for what she had created. From the hood, with her ghetto accent, she explained to me her search for the kind of daycare that would feed her little girl's mind, her efforts to provide as much information about colors and letters and numbers, to give that little girl the building blocks to have a mind as strong as she was pretty. I didn't ask if there was a boyfriend, or a parent helping her, but I listened, just in case there wasn't anyone to tell her that she was doing so good. That what she was providing was powerful. That for how lonely being a parent must feel sometimes, her priorities were directed so fiercely and positively for this little girl's future, all chubby cheeks, exploding curls, long eyelashes, chatting in gibberish to my dog beside me, and up at me with complete, unbroken trust. Because of her serious respect for the task of motherhood, in the face of economic and personal limitations, this little girl was going to be ok.

I was fabricating for a steel shop a few years ago, and we would go on regular runs to drop off our product to get coated with an industrial finish (powder coated). The factory was just over the bridge, almost exclusively manned by latin American women who managed to make it through the day in that non airconditioned and dirty space with full makeup and clean, brightly colored, feminine clothing, while I left black with the steel grease of the products I was handling. I watched all sorts of things roll past us to be coated - dvd player parts, xmas tree stands, household supplies, car parts... and these women would hang these various things up in a carousel shaped assembly line to rotate through a spraying machine, covering the handmade, raw material with a machine made finish, effectively erasing the history underneath each metal piece, masking the subtle differences in construction, the sputter of blown out gas from someone's welder that caught a draft, the muttering of hurt or anger or fear or frustration from a person who was screamed at by their boss, who wasn't given the raise they needed to support their family, the fight they just got in with one of their offensive coworkers, of laziness, of learning how to weld for the first time, of burning sweat rolling down into eyes... to the delicate tinkling sound of a real carousel. That sound still haunts me, an actual circus carousel song echoing through that massive, dirty factory, that we assume everything is made by a machine, that we consume blindly without any real awareness of where products come from, and that a human body may have constructed the things you have no respect for. I have been that steel worker that overheard someone write of something that I had fought for respect in a shop to be left alone from harassment to just do my job and valiantly create what he blew off as made by a fucking machine like I didn't bleed and cry to make that thing.

Waiting for the dryer to complete its cycle, I watched the woman folding clean laundry - in NYC many people drop their clothes off to be washed and folded, because we aren't usually gifted with washer/dryer set ups inside of our apartments - and I thought about the intimacy associated with folding laundry. There was a mountain of laundry in constant rotation in my house growing up, and it was often the chore I had received, and it has been a task I completed for a lover, once upon a time, with very specific opinions about how their things were washed and folded. My dog would come with me while I laundered, right after we rescued her, and I would carry her shy little body home in the hot laundry, so now, whenever I do laundry, she buries herself in the bag and refuses to move until its gone cold, to relive being rescued/finding safety over and over again. I wondered how many other mother's children this woman folded clothes for, if she had children, if anyone of those people whose clothes she folded ever looked her in the eyes, or thought of her when they filled their drawers with meticulously folded underwear and pants, or caught the smell of a clean shirt while they were moving through their lives and thought of the person who made it that way. Is she an exstension of a machine, or is she an overlooked artist, a protector of our personas? I watch her unfold a shirt and refold it, because it was not up to her standards the first time, and am almost jealous that someone is taking such care of those clothes, those personal belongings that we will drape our bodies and souls in. She is shaped somewhat like the Venus of Willendorf, and I realize suddenly that I had been unaware of the powerful service she provides, that she is no different than a priestess performing a ritual, of household magic, washing away the dirt and history that clung to those things - and none of the people whose clothes she has folded, so perfectly, will even feel they have a reason to look her in the eyes.

Exhausted from a week of doing construction during the day, and painting a set during the nights, I walked into a coffee shop at dawn to feed my broken body. The ladies behind the counter started cooing and gushing at me, asking if I was an artist, because I had paint all over me. I was suddenly filled with rage, that the hard ways in which I use my body, often to make the things that hold us up, whether in schools or at events are nothing in the public eye, compared to the romantic notion that I may have made some vague, un-useful 'art', that making something motivated by ego, that may never affect anyone was considered so romantic in people's eyes... that the hard effort of my body was insignificant compared to things they can't approach, things that merely sit on a wall... and then she made me a beautiful, well crafted cup of espresso and steamed milk. Art couldn't smell or taste as beautiful as the cup as I brought it to my lips and tried not to cry in relief, that after a week of making for others, someone made something, just for me. I cannot reconcile this cultural distinction, that we revere the things we don't need, but ignore the people that craft every particle of our day's existence, that human labor could mean so little, because we are taught that it is not romantic, but common. I have never had a more intimate relationship with my body and the world around me, and I think it is a huge disservice that more of us aren't required to do labor as part of our education, that the kids who go to college think they have some say in the economy when they know nothing about those of us creating as well as consuming it. People react with confusion bordering on disdain when they talk about how I'm wasting my talent, like I'm too good for menial work, but why do we glorify the things that inherently mean and affect us the least? Did machines build the roads that connect us? the sidewalks we walk on as we rush through our so-important lives? The buildings we live our lives in?

Just as culturally there is such conflict in priorities and our concept of valuable and desirable in relation to jobs and the work we do, I find myself in a strange place as a woman who falls outside of gender norms and cultural expectation - i'm too strong and too smart, my conversations too intense, my hair too short, my build too thick and solid to be what men learn is valuable in a female partner. The things I am most proud of and consider to be most valuable in myself negate most of the things a man is expected to provide or be proud of in a female counterpart, I don't naturally inspire tenderness or protectiveness in my coworkers and potential mates. I have come to terms with the fact that I will not experience love in my youth, that frivolous and lighthearted courting, the vigorousness of being wanted passionately are not things that I will have the firm elasticity of flesh to give to. At this point, I've witnessed so many embarrassed attempts from men who have no capacity to fathom my needs, that I would rather embrace the parts of self that are strong, and let go of the things that make me feel inadequate, less than, a failure, like all these aborted sexual encounters. I experience such a deep intimacy with coworkers, myself, building structures, trusting each other and our bodies, I would rather know that strength and relish in it, and build things that hold others up, whether they see it or not, and come home to just me and my dog for the rest of my life, than be boxed into culturally misguided notions of what is 'romantic', and be forced to give up the things I value the most about myself to fit inside of it. To be proud of what I am rather than ashamed for what I am not.

Some people say a man is made out of mud
A poor man's made out of muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one morning when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said (well a bless my soul)

You load sixteen tons what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one morning it was drizzling rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebreak by an old mama lion
Ain't no high tone woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me coming better step aside
A lot of men didn't a lot of men died
One fist of iron the other of steel
If the right one don't get you then the left one will

You load sixteen tons what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

Friday, June 20, 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hence the dark and light now arouse each other.

In my mystics class, the speaker was talking about opening ourselves up to explore the room and each other with our senses, to allow ourselves to perceive things on a deeper, less obvious level. One of us, another student, asked if he meant 'sense' as in the 5 senses, or as in feeling emotions.

"Same thing." he replied.

He talked for a little bit about the possibility that emotions are a behavioral response to what is being sensed, that it is intimately part of the experience of logging information and drawing conclusions from what is being perceived.

That same student had given a small presentation on the life and spiritual development of C. S. Lewis, and one of the quotes she talked about from him had a lot to do with our separation from nature, and our passionate, constant longing to be folded into it, apart, whole again. I think being so heavily conscious is both the token thing that makes us unique in our own minds, and also forces us to feel different, alone. It seems that we have developed keen abilities to intellectualize things, to freeze images, aspects, objects and our emotional reactions to them, to be able to ponder things from a safe, objective distance. So we have become too afraid to be inside of an experience, looking out, to fearlessly step into mental illness, into connection, into love, into our fears, into something potentially painful. We do not nourish the brave parts of self, we quantify and qualify, moralize and demoralize, at a remove that severs us from ever being fully immersed in an experience. Maybe, just like we are taught at a certain point in childhood that we aren't allowed to touch each other, that it becomes an invasion of space, rather than a continuation of exploration, maybe we are taught then that we are separate from nature, that we are some distant, intellectual other, that, like Adam, we must spend our lives naming things rather than tasting them. How do we go past this forced perception? Education systems have developed out of a dogma that pits emotion and reason against each other, and we learn at a very young age that messy non rational emotions are expected to be considered lightly, if not all together ignored, rather than a natural part of ourselves that can be crafted, honed and wielded just as powerfully as our thoughts. We are all partially crippled creatures, and our cut off from the rest of existence is self imposed. We force it on our children. We are ashamed, filled with shame, conquered by it. Catholic, Christian or not, it consumes our existence. Especially the scientists.

We are ashamed of having feelings. Of feeling them.

A lot of the Mystics talk about emotion as how we access the spiritual, or how we tap into nature, each other. Every time that comes up, I wonder about anger, how we all learned growing up in western culture that anger and Satan are one and the same. I have always been hugely ashamed of mine, I ignore it, I walk away and allow safe, controlled bursts for no one to witness my shame and loss of control, I have almost completely eradicated my ability to perceive it. It is a thing unexpressed. When I am filled with it, it immobilizes me, and I am too afraid to be in that black space alone, or that I won't be around people I trust.

But actively ignoring it doesn't mean it goes away. It darkens my past so all I can see are the things I couldn't shout at people who were not kind, or gentle with me when they should have been. When I was tender, when I was fresh. It has left all of my memories twisted with black, with helplessness. I have not learned to wield it with maturity, I hide it like a phantom special needs child that will probably just humiliate me. I am ashamed of it, and as a part of myself, that shame spreads out and attaches itself to other things. If any emotion is a potential to experience the world more deeply, to access the divine, I imagine that cutting off any emotion becomes part of the problem, a kink in the connection, a cut wire, an artfully intellectualized self sabotage against feeling my own feelings and knowing myself.

"...winter in the course of the year, and midnight in the course of the day, are the time of concentration."

Maybe this is where we developed the concept of Ice Queens in our fairy tales, maybe this is why I always felt trapped in semi darkness, maybe this winter was much longer than I realized. Maybe this is why I am so intense, why its almost impossible to find lightness of being. That for how much I want to burn with feeling, I may be actively shunning warmth/light/fire/sun because I am to afraid of what the light would show, that it might be something embarrassing and crippled.

That there are so many different ways to burn.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

If I told you you had a beautiful space time continuum would you fold it against me?

 'soul connects and loses itself in connection. it falls and falls; it falls into beauty.'

As I went to get on the modeling platform in a classroom with a small number of animation students, the small, ancient, whispering professor removed his shoes and stepped up next to me. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, I've never had a teacher cross that boundary, and even though I was fully clothed, there is always a sort of invisible wall of light and space that is rarely penetrated, but for pointing out a line, a muscle, a shadow, a color transition. He wanted me to react to his gestures, and than slowly shift from pose to pose, so the students could draw the history between poses, the in-betweens of our key/dynamic poses. I know this game. After the initial surprise, and realizing his limitations of body movement, I played back, loose and silly and expressive, and when he reached a hand towards me in offering and froze in his place, I brought my hand to just hovering over his, as if accepting a request to dance. He fought for eye contact a little, straining his neck, so I looked back, held that frail, blue gaze for the full 20 seconds of the pose. As we began shifting in space and for the rest of the session, he spun me and twirled me, embraced me and prayed to me, and I countered and accepted, flourished and played coy in an elaborate slow motion dance. I could hear Sinatra singing to us in a vague, bizarre mesh of time periods and artistic allusions that we trekked with our bodies, across his student's papers.

That experience played itself in my head as I stared at a spot of shifting light near the window, as I lay frozen in a pose last night. It bubbled up suddenly cause I could feel the snuggling movement of the other model's toes against my thigh, as he valiantly fought against the cut off circulation, trying to subtly inspire blood back through his leg. I remember the first time I posed alongside another model, and had to wrestle with the sharp awareness of the naked animal smell of another person in very close proximity to me that was in a non sexual encounter. It wasn't good or bad, merely real and new. Since moving to NYC I find I seek out these deep, personal exchanges with complete strangers and it has become part of some bizarre pursuit of intimate interaction, these moments of trust, of drinking in knowledge of self through others, of not being judged always stick with me, reminding me of other moments of intimate awareness of people outside of myself. Like the scent my little sister's skin gives off, a tangy baby sweat smell, of lemony sunshine, and earnestness that I will never, ever forget. Or sitting on the train the other day, when a large, distinguished, older man sat next to me who was just a large dark shape in the corner of my view, and who emanated such a strong, delicious scent I finally leaned over to ask him what it was, but only after I sat in silence for awhile, gulping it in for as long as I could.

In the physically exerting nature of some of my work, one of my closest friends/work partners and I often ride the train home together drenched in sweat and construction materials. During some of our intense discussions its hard for me to focus on his words completely, sometimes I'm so distracted by the sharp sweetness of his sweaty-body smell, a sensual-information overload.

Somehow these after-work train rides have become really important to me.

Being able to admit deep and true things and look someone in the eyes and witness the realities of myself and my life reflected back at me in the minute twitches and guttural responses of his face and body language leaves me feeling clean as I walk home from the subway. Whole. Maybe there is something to be said about the catholic act of confession, of absolution. Maybe it's not coincidence that I found my priest/confessor in the carpentry trade. Sometimes, deep inside of a conversation I get a bizarre urge to nuzzle his 5 o clock shadow, or lay my fingers in the grooves at the corner of his sardonic sideways grin, like the ways I do to my dog, who doesn't see my successes or failures, my gender, or my insecurities... just me. I don't even think I have words to communicate that emotional response in any other way. I realize now, suddenly, fiercely, like lightning why sometimes I want to eat the kind, loving, gentle words out of his mouth. I'm desperately trying to consume pieces of myself through other people's reactions to me, like some cannibalistic attempt to regain something that has been lost. To harness the existence mirrored back at me in the tiny fragments of muscular reactions in other people's faces. I can almost see myself in the eye contact I can barely hold and it almost feels like someone can actually hear me when I speak.

And then, sometimes, I'm terrified he is half in, half out, living in the in-betweens and possesses some partially drug induced shamanic ability to dance through various states of reality. That maybe this is the only reason he can see me at all.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Friday, January 31, 2014

What we risk reveals what we value.

A man sitting across from me burst into a laugh he couldn't keep in his chest, startled a few of the subway riders around him. But he didn't notice, giggling silently to himself, so completely immersed in the pages of his short novel with yellowed pages and cracking, apple green binding. I don't remember what stop he got off on, or the name of the book, but I remember that true bursting laugh, it was so familiar to me it was almost as if it came from my own insides. Like a handshake. Or a hug from someone I haven't seen in awhile. And it had nothing to do with me.

A deep, rich rendition of 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' filled the Delancey/Essex F stop that was so compelling I was singing it behind my face mask. Suddenly another man's voice rang out from across the platform on the opposite side, going in the opposite direction, belting out the painful and true words with the aging black gentleman singing behind me and fingering his worn guitar. I went to board the train as it drowned out the music, interrupting the palpable connection being experienced, when a very large man with dreads and a puffy tear stained face leaned down and explained to me through his thick accent that the music moved him so much - he could barely even speak. I didn't know how to handle such an intimate confession, the connection suddenly choking me, just as I was small against the tears and large figure towering over me. It may have just been a subtle lean in my direction, but I was the only person he addressed, and him being so large and wide I felt wrapped up in him practically, his emotions dripping like sweat down my spine, too raw and real for comfort. Slightly panicked for some reason I thrust myself into the faceless crush of bodies and lost myself inside the guts of the mostly silent impersonal subway car.

Sitting on the Myrtle/Wykoff L stop with my dog in my lap, a heavy set, loud, socially awkward woman started talking to my dog in the hopes for some kind of reaction, like the hobos or creepy dudes who make barking noises to get her attention while she perches calmly on my thighs like a proud little ship, anchored by my heart and nothing else. I trust her to handle herself, so remain solidly planted and dismissive as the woman talks at her, and at me. My self aware, self possessed little girl pointedly looked everywhere but at the woman making a scene till finally giving up and wandering off. Since I had stepped on the platform with Calypso sitting straight spined and tall in my arms, I watched a handsome younger man continuously glancing in my direction. Having a dog in New York City inspires a wide range of interesting and often emotional reactions in people, and I always let her make eyes with certain people across crowded subway cars, and yearn towards spiky little boys pretending not to be just as interested in her as she is in them. I pretend I don't notice, let her have these little romances with other people's hungry eyes and hungry hearts. As I sat down, he finally approached me and gently vomited up bits of his life, currently in transition. Going through a break up, having to find a new home for his dog, starting a new job. Still swimming in the romance of loving and losing, his whole presence seemed tender like a bruise. Open, honest, he was confessing his whole being to the little, warm creature in my lap, and I felt, again, like his face was in my hands, or snuggled in my lap with Calypso, though she hadn't even bothered to glance in his direction. I knew exactly who he was in that short, quiet conversation. Then he stepped off at the Lorimer stop. I may never see him again, and I surely won't recognize him if I do.

I walked past a pizza placed but continued since the two guys behind the counter stared, more interested than I am comfortable with... but doubled back because it was my last chance to grab food due to the lateness of the hour. The pizza section melted into a low lit bar and I sat in a boozy semi darkness stuffing mediocre pepperoni slices into my mouth gracelessly, while the older man of the pair came and leaned back against the alcohol regarding me and the nightly news on the tv near me with thoughtful silence. I watched him subtly as I dripped grease on his bar counter and scattered red pepper and crumbs across the dark wood surface. He was distinguished looking, of some Arabic/Persian descent that I couldn't quite place. The obvious ethnicity made me wonder what the people working around me felt about women and propriety, since I sat in a cutoff sweatshirt that left my tattooed shoulders exposed, the left shoulder bright underneath the pin-light over it. The face of a Siren from Homer's Odyssey stared drowsily at him, and he stared back, focused, contemplative. There was nothing lewd about how openly he stared, I thought, smacking and sniffling as the red pepper lit up my sinuses, as I watched him watching my shoulder. It was interesting to see someone, like in a museum, looking at art on the wall, but they were looking at a piece of my flesh, but it was so earnestly interested, almost reverent, and honest, I made no move to cover myself, or distract him from his thoughts. I waited for his questions to inevitably surface, and I answered them.
'She's beautiful' he said quietly. 'Who is she?' I gave him the name of the Greek story, but didn't see recognition in his face.
'Why that?' He asked. I explained how sometimes when we experience emotional and mental battles, that test our souls and our hearts, I find it is unfair that I don't have literally battle scars to show the world how hard I have fought to be where and what I am.
'What if you change your mind?' he asked finally.
I asked him if he could go back and change things in his life, his childhood, choices he's made before there was grey in his hair. He nodded to let me know that he understood some part of my question. Then I finished my food, cleaned up my mess.
'Get home safe' He told me as I disappeared out into the cold and dark.

I realized in my last relationship that I was being treated with more respect - simple kindness even - on the train, by complete strangers than the person I was rushing home to, and in the last 6 months I have met people who see me clearer and deeper than family members who have known me my whole life. It feels like I've suddenly discovered I don't have to vigilantly protect myself from the people I encounter, that I don't have to live in constant fear that they don't really know who I am, or care what that means. My days are filled with such rich, electric interactions that even I can feel my own realness, I can hear the heaviness of my footfalls as my body connects with the earth, with other people, because I am real. More than just a phantom of other people's perceptions and expectations, family, lovers.

It was the third of September; that day I'll always remember,
'Cause that was the day that my daddy died.
I never got a chance to see him; never heard nothin' but bad things about him.
Mama I'm depending on you to tell me the truth.

Mama just looked at him and said, "Son,
Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Hey, Mama, is it true what the say, that Papa never worked a day in his life?
And Mama, they talk all around town say that
Papa had three outside children and another wife
And that ain't right.
Heard them talkin' about Papa doing some storefront preachin'
Talkin' about saving your souls and all the time weak, dealin' in death
And stealin' in the name of the Lord
Mama just hung her head and said,

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Hey, Mama, I heard Papa call himself a jack of all trades.
Tell me, is that what sent Papa to an early grave?
Folks say Papa would beg; borrow or steal to pay his bills.
Hey, Mama, folks say Papa was never much on thinkin';
Spend most of his time chasin' women and drinkin'!
Mama, I'm depending on you to tell me the truth.

Mama just hung her head and said, "Son,
Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Papa was a rollin' stone.
Wherever he laid his head was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Distance provides a kind of grammar.

Seated in the audience for a small dance company's showcase I had designed marketing materials for - the performances were all filled with interesting young women, except for one particular piece. A 70 year old woman, the choreographer and company's focal point moved alone, feet shifting in and out of time to delicate sounds. Like a butterfly, like a crone, halting and awkward one moment, powerful and arched the next, making shapes in the space with her body, her sharp movements, her meandering, emotional pauses, she danced as vigorously as a young woman, whatever one's taste for performance, her presence and sharp awareness were nothing to be overlooked, alone on that stage.

I was struck by both her freedom and control over the movements of her body, and thinking back to people in my life, family members, pseudo role models, teachers, adults I encounter all around me - near her age, some not even close who have lost that sense of connection with themselves. It makes me so angry sometimes, that the people I should have been able to look up to when learning what truths composed the world I exist in seem to have willfully relinquished that awareness, of self, and the space around them. That I could find deeper, more meaningful exchanges with individuals perceived through a screen, remote, unrelated to me, than when drowning deep in the clotted embrace of some of my blood relatives. That a simple movement of an aging figure against a white wall could make me want to cry for the grandmother I should have had, for what the human body could be, could have been. For the wisdom I could have drunk off of knowing individuals at the earliest formation of my own sense of self and concept of power.

Like a prayer, like flagellation, like a nightmare, I can only keep fiercely repeating to my friend walking through the cold next to me, to myself in bed that evening:

I never want to be trapped in my own body, by age or fear or disuse.

Oh god, please.