36, Personified

He pulls the heart from my chest
I watch as it beats in his hand
blood dripping between his long slender fingers

I lay naked on the bed
looking up at him
“Give me a few minutes” he whispers
as he looks down at me with black eyes

He raises his hand

slowly bringing it to his mouth
I watch as his jaw unhinges
like a python
his mouth opens wide as he places my heart there between his teeth
holds it delicately . . .

Like a good bird dog

blood drips slowly from his lips
still warm
down his chin
onto his chest

My heart stops beating

He never breaks eye contact . . .

as I slip into unconsciousness

But I can feel him there
even in my sleep

Sense him watching me
always just out of reach

My world softly in his mouth
he stays calmly at my feet

Coiled like a cobra . . .

Waiting.

B&W

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ba

 

A Word on Bad Bitches and Basic Boys

It’s New Years Eve, again. I remember being eleven years old and standing out in our driveway at midnight looking for the fireworks over the mountain with the neighbor kids. It was 1993. The neighbor was drunk and kept harassing the chubby kid from down the street by saying, “Yeah you’re a real card fat boy.”

In the morning I’ll wake up thirty-five years old. It will be 2017. A misogynist racist will be sworn into office nineteen days later. We all seem to be a little sad, a little angry, a little dismayed about 2016. We’re personifying the fuck out of the year. We’re begging it not to take anymore of our beloved celebrities. We’re calling it out on being a dumpster fire. We’re raging and crying and laughing all at once.

My 2016 wasn’t a dumpster fire.

My personal year, the year in which I turned thirty-five and wore a bikini for the first time, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, at times it was the happiest I’ve been in my entire life. It was however, tumultuous at times to put it politely, because as you know this is the internet. I’ll just say that self discovery is exhilarating the same way chasing a tornado seems exciting. A lot of garbage will get thrown about in the process.

In order to really tell you about my 2016 I have to tell you about my girl, my friend. A kind of friendship I didn’t know could still exist in adulthood.

To My Boo,

Do you remember a year ago when we went to the gym but we didn’t work out? We ate chocolate muffins in the café and talked with friends. We wore dirty snow boots and heavy coats, our hair greasy, our babies still in diapers. We went home to husbands who didn’t help enough. And then one day we booked plane tickets to a beach, we made protein shakes, put in endless hours at the gym. We dropped weight, grew our hair long, got our nails done, put on make-up. We bought bikinis. We boarded a plane for paradise. We joked that we could never come back again, not the same way we were before. “You know we can never come back from this, right?” we said to each other laughing on the beach.

We didn’t.

We returned home different. We were awake. We weren’t going to participate in the self sacrificing slow death march that is so often the result of womanhood.

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For you, the universe cleared a path. She did it suddenly, violently as if cutting through the brush with a machete. She turned around, looked you straight in the eyes and motioned for you to leave.

You stood up and left.

I hope that in those moments when you’ve looked back over your shoulder, questioning if you’re headed the right direction, it’s me you see assuring you that you are. Well, me and your Mama, and the countless other women who have walked that same path. Everything in your life was merely a detour, a traffic delay on the road you’re now speeding down.

As for the destination? It’s better than Maui. I promise, I know this.

It’s so damn beautiful.

I want to tell you that I see you, and you see me. There have been many times this past year when you were the only one who could really see me. There have been moments alone together when my soul has been naked. Laughing on the Lanai drunk under the Maui moonlight. Late nights talking at your kitchen table stone cold sober with an Excel spreadsheet trying to figure shit out; other times laughing hysterically as the kids raid the pantry. Moments in the weight room where we find our rhythm alternating sets silently while listening to our own music.  I feel a love and acceptance that is rare in friendship.

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God damn, I hope you feel it too.

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I’ve discovered there’s a world of women. I have always existed within it, reveled in it, but this year I’ve felt it stronger than any other year in my life. There’s a sisterhood among us that men will always be threatened by. A way about us they will never understand. Even when in love, even with our husbands, they never fully get it. Strong men roll their eyes at women like us, weak ones grow resentful and scared.

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As I enter my thirty-sixth year I refuse to allow space for the fear of weak men, not anymore. They want to suppress us, tame us, dim our lights. They want to tell us to watch our language, stay quiet, get off the dance floor, stay inside more. They want to be president. They want to own our bodies and manipulate our own inner monologue. Whether through the use of force, abusive language or even the passing of laws, I refuse to play along and my sisters won’t either. If you are threatened by us, you are not man enough for us.

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I’m done apologizing for who I am, and you should be too. I won’t tolerate anyone telling me to tone it down. I want nothing to do with people who gasp when I mutter “mother fucker” under my breath, with people who use their God as a platform for judgment. I have no time for their definition of morals, marriage and motherhood. I care nothing for the world’s expectations of my heteronormative gender performance. I have no time for how they think I should perform my role as a woman, mother, person in their thirties. As a close friend of mine often says, “Get the fuck outta here with that shit.”

Repeat after me: I can be an excellent mother and still be a seriously bad bitch.

So, get the fuck outta here with that shit, or come at me bro.

bathroom

Because we’re ready for you.

 

 

What Does Not Kill You

I don’t want to do anything. I want to go to a sweat lodge. I want to do peyote. I want to fly back to the old country, alone, and throw my phone into the ocean while the early autumn leaves rustle through the sidewalks of the pier shops. I want to get into my car, no, a different car. I want to burn rubber in any other direction than my house and drive far far away. I wouldn’t even listen to the radio. I would just drive in silence and let my brain try and sort it all out.

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My thoughts rattling around inside my head like a pin ball.

I want to go to sleep. For a long long time. Lately I have days where I feel like perhaps I could sleep forever. But then I’d miss my babies growing up. I’d miss the rest of my youth.
I want to run away, then I see my babies and I remember. I remember the knobby kneed seven-year-old girl with the missing teeth and the scraggly hair. The way she sobbed, hyperventilating in the living room before school. Her father unable to calm her. Her mother had to come home from work and hold her in the recliner, stroking her hair and calming her nerves.

Years later when my mother asked me why she had to come home, why I was so anxious, why my father couldn’t soothe me, I responded, “Because a father is never a substitute for a mother.”

The last few months this echoes in my mind. It haunts me. It reminds me that time is fleeting with my sweet sweet whiny babies. They need me.

They.

NEED.

Me.

There is no substitute for a mother.

And in the midst of my self indulgent existential crisis, a madman with a gun tried to murder my Daddy. So I flew to California just to hold him.

A text message no one should ever receive.

A text message no one should ever receive.

My father's bedroom door.

My father’s bedroom door.

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When he squeezes me and cries, thanking me saying, “You don’t know what it means to have you here. To have you here,” I reply, “No Daddy. I do know. I have a daughter.”

daughter

He cries a little harder.

There are moments alone in a hotel room that I welcome like an old friend. But there would be no sorting of thoughts, no solace. Only pain, confusion and hot itchy sleep.

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I return home after midnight. Everyone is asleep. I leave my suitcase in the mudroom. I walk into the kitchen a little drunk and flip on the light. I set my purse on the counter. The kitchen is clean. The counters wiped down. “He’s trying to show me up,” I think to myself. I’ve been gone five days and he and the nanny worked diligently to keep the house tidier than I ever do. They also caught up on the sixteen loads of laundry that mock me on a daily basis. I should feel grateful, loved, but I do not. I feel outdone.

I feel useless.

I hate that my self-worth is measured in piles of folded laundry and spotless dishes. It is an affront to my feminist sensibilities. In that moment standing in the kitchen I hate my existence. I think about other mothers I know with careers, real careers.

I hate myself a little more.

Then I look down, and right in the middle of the smooth granite surface sits a tiny plastic trophy. I pick it up and hold it in the palm of my hand. A slow knowing smile creeps across my face. I’ve never seen it before. It doesn’t belong to my children. Was it at the bottom of some birthday favor goodie bag? I’ll never know.

trophy

Perhaps an angel put it there.

Perhaps it was the devil.

The devil, he showed up in my kitchen one winter afternoon while my baby napped and my son was at school. He brushed my hair from my face and hissed hot breath into my ear. He walked me to the mirror and pointed to my face, then tapped his watch and laughed.

A general uneasiness invaded my body, a malaise of my soul. Control slipped through my fingers, so thoroughly that even when he showed himself to me I refused to believe he was real. I laughed in his face. I told him, “That’s ok. I know you’re the devil. We’ll be the devil together.” He laughed at me, at my bravado because he knew he owned me, knew I was powerless.

And like a fool I laughed harder.

It wasn’t a sea change. I woke up. Or at least a girl I thought had died came back to life. She stirred from a deep sleep and wiped the mascara from under her eyes. She lit a cigarette and put on a pot of coffee.

The bitch is up and ready to go.

Perhaps this is what happens as the children get older. A rediscovery of self. A return to one’s own dreams and desires. Perhaps this is how the apron strings get severed. I remember holding my son when he was a newborn, filled with a deep and crippling anxiety at the thought of him growing up and leaving me one day. I thought of a client who had disowned her adult son. I sat in Oz’s bright new nursery and looked out the window at the trees full in their summer lushness. I nursed my boy in peace and quiet, the sounds of him suckling comingling with a distant lawnmower. I couldn’t imagine how the heart could ever transition from where I was with my little nursling, to a dark place like that.

My boy started kindergarten yesterday, and I’m starting to understand. Not the disowning part, that I will never comprehend. But the distance that grows between mother and child. The part where you release them to the world, that I’m understanding. On the day I was born my father wrote me a letter. On my third day on this earth he boasts that he could thus far chronicle my every move up until that point. Years later he would repeat his parenting philosophy. The idea of a radius of movement that widens as the child ages until the perimeter disappears and you allow them the world.

The circle widens. I get it.

But with it I’ve realized is more joy than I had anticipated. There is a bit more sweet with this bitter. Because as my boy grows, so do I.

As he encounters new fears, mine slip away.

What does not kill me . . .

kinder