Thursday, May 07, 2009

That smile

Riding the subway or bus or train every day, life tends to fade into the background, just so much static and noise at the edge of awareness. Focusing on a book or a newspaper, knocking out a few more notes or closing the eyes and listening to whatever's on the iPod helps maintain the fiction that there is actually a cushion of space, insulation against the press of working humanity. That's all you need, a little bit of space. One face blends into another and another until you are immersed in a sea of blank faces all trying to preserve a little bit of personal space, a cushion of protection that separates you from the press. You've learned to ride the bumping and swaying like a surfer on a wave, a boxer rolling with the punches, a stunt man absorbing the energy of a fall and turning it into a roll that brings you to your feet to be ready for the next sway, the next bump, the next shock of contact.

In Jean Auel's first prehistoric novel, Ayla, a very curious little girl, ugly and gangly, all legs and arms and eyes, is adopted into the tribe by the Mogur, the shaman, and his sister, the wise woman and healer. It is hard for her to avert her eyes, keep from invading the huddled figures around the other campfires. It's all so new to her, these people who shelter in caves. She has yet to learn that to stare at the other family groups is disrespectful and rude. She's curious. She wants to know what the strange short, dark, gnarled people are like. She is a child, an intelligent and curious child. She wants to know, but she is reproved and cautioned against invading the others' privacy repeatedly until she finally learns to tune them out, until their lives lived in such close proximity is little more than a blur of images and sounds that no longer penetrate her awareness. It is the only way to live in such close quarters and maintain a little privacy, a little distance, a little personal space.

When does personal space become isolation?

Craig's List has a section for missed connections. A face in the crowd that coalesces from the static and touches something inside still not numb from the constant barrage of noise and bodies. Out of the greyness, the cacophony of humanity, comes a glimmer of color, a whiff of something that triggers a memory or a feeling, a glimpse of possibility. At that moment, the isolation is broken and you are infected. The disease is relentless. You must get closer. You want to reach out, to touch, to connect, to assure yourself that they are real. You miss the connection, but the infection has taken hold and fever sets in. You can't rest until you connect again. And so you send out a carrier pigeon, a paper bullet in hopes that they noticed you, too.

Red Line, 4:30 p.m., that smile.

You reach out and wait for an answer, some sign this isn't a one-way connection. You're alive again. You feel. You want. You need. You can't stop smiling. You're not alone.

How often in the busy day do the minutes and hours blur into an unrecognizable collage of what should be done and what must be done? Chores, bills, work, responsibilities, expectations, and mindless hours in front of the television or computer. Those moments when something out of the ordinary wakes us up are rare. They get rarer with time and age. A fleeting connection is a gift, a remembrance of excitement that infects with joy and magic. How sad to waste them, fall back into the anonymity in the surging sea of humanity, to disappear into the static, to become one with the predictable grey blur. Isolated. Silent. Lost. Disconnected.

that smile.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Dead and Married

Yesterday's post stirred up some interesting responses. Some people are focusing on the marriage aspect and others on the death aspect. Beanie's focused on the death part and she says Mom is right.

"About what?"

"That we wouldn't know you died until later."

"So what makes you think you're going to be around when I die?"

And the conversation went on from there. Beanie realized that even though she lives in the same state with the rest of the family they don't see each other all the time and don't communicate regularly. She can't be certain she'd know right away that any of the family had died. I did promise her that I'd make sure to die when she was around so she'd know and could phone everyone to let them know I was dead. She's afraid she won't be on time because she missed Dad's last moments by a few moments.

I'm not as morbid as the rest of the family. I make jokes. I laugh. I concentrate on the now and the immediate future. Death and I don't have a close relationship, not like the rest of the family. They check the obits first before reading the rest of the paper and Dad kept a "death book". It was a scrap book full of clippings of family deaths, or people he thought were interesting. It was a hobby. Mom's sending his Death Book to me with the proviso that I keep it up. Well, since I'll be around at least another 96 years, I can do that and make sure all the rest of them get into The Book.

Since I'll have the book I think I'll add my own special views into it, like some of my favorite death jokes.

At the end of the world when the bomb is dropped, the only things that will be left will be cockroaches, moths and Mom.

When Dad was alive, I made him promise to take Mom with him so we could get the group rate on caskets and funerals. Carol hates that joke. Dad and Mom loved it. Then again, Mom plans to be cremated when she dies and wants her ashes put in the box where she keeps Dad's ashes. I told her she needs to let Dad have an eternity free of her. It's not as bad as her first plans to be buried in Dad's grave with him. That was sort of my idea without being buried in the same coffin, just at the same time. Dad reneged on his promise though. He died and left Mom behind. Nothing like leaving your mess for someone else to clean up -- or live with -- but that's Carol's problem. She volunteered.

In a story arc that begins with life and ends with death, about the only other major moment in life, other than having children, is getting married and I've been giving that a lot of thought since Mom keeps bringing up my shameful unmarried state. I'm not worried about getting married, but the idea of marriage and the furor of emotions and philosophical nit picking (interesting story there, too) that goes on because of homosexuals wanting to get married is food for thought.

The political Right and several world religions want to ban homosexual marriage because marriage is between a man and a woman. That's lets out a marriage of the minds and other similar uses for marriage. Marriages of different metals to create a new and stronger bonded metal. Marriages of convenience that are only as sacred as the financial and social gains of the parties involved. Marriages on paper that are little more than two people sharing a name, a house and finances, usually one supporting the other. Green card marriages. Ideological marriages. Shot gun marriages. Incestuous marriages. And I could go on.

The idea that marriage is sacred, especially when you consider the Catholic view that nuns are married to Christ, which makes him a bigger polygamist than Brigham Young or any of his contemporaries, is iffy at best, especially when you consider what that says about monks, brothers and priests. The ick factor is high, Rocky Mountain high. I don't think the furor over marriage has anything to do with being sacred, not when you consider all the loveless marriages based on nothing more than convenience, need and financial or social considerations. Doesn't seem all that sacred to me. It's really not about being sacred but about legitimacy.

Marriage legitimizes children and relationships. A man and a woman can spend their whole loves together, but if they're not married their children are bastards, illegitimate. Even if a couple don't have children, their relationship isn't real, isn't legitimate unless they bind their love up in a holy band. Spend 60 years living together, loving together, being together, struggling together, working together and it's not legitimate in legal terms or in society's eyes unless you sign a paper that says you're married. And there lies the problem.

If homosexuals are allowed to marry, that legitimizes a relationship the majority of society considers an abomination. The argument that it opens the doors to marriage between humans and animals doesn't fly, not when you consider how many people are already married to animals parading around pretending to be human and getting away with it. Society is fine with legitimizing a union between a middle-aged man and a prepubescent girl or a marriage disguised as a social or financial merger. Society is even fine with legitimizing abusive relationships that marginalize both sexes, but not a loving relationship between two people who happen to share the same plumbing. It seems society will tolerate anything but that.

When you deny another person happiness and the right to share love and legal protection it becomes nothing but petty revenge for not following the dictates of presumed societal norms. Commitment comes in many forms and it shouldn't matter who deserves legitimacy. Legitimacy has nothing to do with what a person or group of people deserve. There is no moral high ground here, not when society stands by and allows the supposed sacredness of marriage to be lessened for financial, sociopolitical, religious or ideological sleight of hand.

Marriage, like death, is a fact of life. Death isn't sacred, at least not since human sacrifice was frowned upon as a barbaric custom. Life isn't sacred when anybody with the right equipment can bring children into this world to be abused and used and sacrificed on the altar of legitimacy to protect financial holdings or use to maintain the fiction of legitimacy. Marriage is a legal term that functions to protect communal property and secure the legal status of offspring, adopted or natural born. That's all it is. To deny anyone protection under the law in the name of keeping a legal fiction, in most cases, sacrosanct is the domain of schoolyard bullies.

I've been married twice and the first time I married I had a choice between the father of my unborn child and a man of property, much older than I, who cared for me and wanted to protect me and give me a good life without consummating the union. I chose my unborn child's father and I used to wonder if my life wouldn't have been better had I chosen the other man. I've seen supposedly happy marriages turned into battlegrounds and cold wars to rival the animosity between Russia and America.

I've watched children stunted and emotionally deformed by parents who were more interested in how they appeared to their neighbors than in the fact that they inhabited the same house, barely speaking to each other without abuse and anger. I've seen couples struggle together to bring up their children, sacrificing to give their children a good education, because they loved each other, and without a marriage certificate. I've seen every possible permutation of people coming together, but in the end the relationships that still make me smile were built on love and acceptance, couples who weathered storms and depressions and impossible happiness.

Those relationships had nothing to do with legitimacy and everything to do with love, two people coming together because they couldn't imagine their lives without each other. Not so surprisingly, some of those relationships were between couples who shared the same plumbing, inside and out. I want one of those relationships. Don't you?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Until death do us part

After much work and some actual sleep, I'm halfway back to normal, or thereabouts. When I woke up this morning after seven whole hours of sleep, I felt better and I didn't feel like I was dragging around a body encased in cement. Now all I need to do is get rid of the cough. It's not a sick cough but a sinuses tracking down the back of my throat cough, what Beanie calls boogies in the throat. She can be so crude sometimes.

It hasn't been nearly as hard slogging through the usual day's work and I even took a little lunch break to get a salad and some falafel chips to go with my roasted red pepper hummus. Now I'm craving crystallized ginger. What's that about?

Anyway, during my work day I received a bonus, the last edit of my first novel. That's what kept me from being able to sleep for the past few weeks. Redoing scenes, cutting repetitive words, rewriting sections and turning the heat up just a notch. Not too much since the hero doesn't get the heroine until . . . well, that would be giving away a little bit too much. You'll just have to buy the book. I can't wait to see the cover.

In the meantime, I'm finishing up The Real Messiah, catching cat naps and going to bed early for a change, although I think sleep will elude me if I don't get to the edits tonight. The undone edits will follow me into my sleep like a nagging husband with OCD. I my case, that would be my ex-husband Nick. There's nothing like washing the dishes and having him pull out the microscope to examine every surface to make sure there are no latent bacteria waiting to jump out and poison his food the next time I cook dinner. This from a man who left dishes in a sink full of soapy water until the water became stringy and slimy and just plain nasty. That's when he'd rinse them off.

At least my taste in men has improved . . . some. It's also the reason I choose to live alone. I've become so used to the quiet and being able to zone out on writing or reading or whatever without someone expecting me to entertain them or pay attention to them every minute we're together. Don't get me wrong. I have long periods of time when I'm up for entertainment and paying attention, but when I'm in the writing zone, everything else fades away. It's not always a good thing because I tend to forget anything that doesn't tug at my bladder or weight my eyelids with lead, but men tend not to understand those kinds of things unless they too are creative or are too busy entertaining someone else to worry about it.

When I talked to Mom this afternoon she asked why I didn't find someone and get married so I don't die alone. "Mom, we all die alone."

"Your dad didn't die alone and I won't either. No one dies alone unless they choose that."

"Mom, we all die alone. It's a personal experience that excludes everyone. You may be there, but you're not doing the dying."

"What if something happens to you and no one notices until you forget to pay the utilities or the phone or the rent?"

"Then I hope it's at the end of the month and not at the beginning after I just paid the rent."

"You're hopeless. You need to get married."

The rest of the conversation is pretty much the usual mother-daughter exchange where the mother lays out her fears about dying alone and how a man would make it easier. Yeah, right. What if he dies first? Do I become a black widow and keep trawling for husbands until I finally die before they do? I'd have to start choosing younger and younger men. The demand for daily sex alone would be enough to age them before their time, and the idea of being married to someone as young as or younger than my own sons gives me the creeps. I don't think so.

There's no guarantee that someone will be there when I die. Mom won't get married again because she said she had 57 years with her soul mate and there will never be another man like Dad. I think it's quite a different story. Everyone who has ever met my mother and is in her age group (pushing the bottom out of 80, as she says) has already found someone to marry or headed for the hills. No one likes being tossed into the ball crushing penis grinder by choice. Well, she might be able to find a submissive man who likes being bullied, preferably one with lots of money Mom can spend, but I think even a masochist would rather find a leather-and-spike-wearing Amazon dominatrix in 8-inch stilettos than tangle with my mom. What a choice: Mom who grinds men's bones to make her bread or a zoned out writer like me.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sleepless in Colorado

My head is throbbing. I have a hangover, and, no, it's not from drinking too much alcohol. It's lack of sleep and too much social life this weekend. The only time I've had to myself this weekend was while I should have been sleeping. Instead, I finished the edits on the novel and did a lot of rewriting. Nothing like correcting writing tics to keep me from sleeping. Every time I laid down and closed my eyes my mind whirled with a few more things I should have checked and more changes to certain scenes. I ended up doing more writing than sleeping and soothed myself by plunging back into the history and mystery of the last Jewish king. Lying down and reading ancient history and modern commentary was the only thing that helped me sleep, but it didn't last long before I was up and rewriting again.

Don filled my social calendar between seminars this weekend and every evening. He took me out to dinner and, even though I hesitated to accept again after going out on Thursday night, I relented. We had a good time, but staying up past midnight every night wore me down. We had a lot to talk about, and I'm glad we did, but I would rather have been in bed much earlier.

Yesterday morning we went for a drive in the mountains and were gone most of the day. I didn't mind the rain or the drive, but I spent most of the time wishing I were back in bed. I yawned most of the time and did my best not to fall asleep while he drove. In fact, I yawned most of the weekend. Did you know you can hurt yourself stifling a yawn? I think I got whiplash stifling a couple of really big yawns. I'm far too mature for this late night, always on the go life.

He flies back to Ohio this morning and I will probably spend the whole day asleep at my desk while doctors drone and snort and speed talk and ramble in my ears. In other words, it's a typical work day. He's planning to come back on the 15th to check out some property. I'm going to need a lot of sleep.

I'll have to catch up on my reading and other writing this week, so I probably won't get to bed early this week either. Not a problem. I'm beginning to get used to throbbing headaches and lack of sleep.

Okay, I'm off to shower and see if I can't pull myself together enough to get dressed and get some breakfast before I fall asleep again. That would be bad, very bad.

That is all. Disperse.