It has been exactly a year since we last communicated. I recognize our estrangement remains fully my choice, that I have only to pick up the phone and you or dad would without doubt answer. I think about that option every day.
I miss you—deeply—every day.
And, every day, I remember: sometimes we face decisions where all the options are bad. All that anyone can do then is choose the least shitty of the shitty outcomes.
And so I choose to orphan myself.
For me, losing you remains the least-bad option available.
* * *
I remember clearly that it was Valentine’s Day, the last day I replied to any message from you. One of the texts you sent, amid that final flurry of texts, simply said “Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you!” And I’m sure you thought that was innocuous. I’m sure you thought that, THAT, was a message I couldn’t possibly take issue with.
And so I would give you what you wanted.
But this is not how love works. This is not how anything works.
Other days, it begins with finding myself being equated to a Nazi mass-murderer by some random online stranger, who happens to disagree with me about the need and function of public protest in any functioning democracy.
So, yeah. That.
I wondered, as I stared at my computer screen this morning: why am I the one in this exchange feeling trapped and tongue-tied? Why this stab of pain at witnessing the shameful barbarism of another human’s ill-informed—and ill-intended—imagination?
I have been trying to write about shame for days, y’see. The way it clots the throat. The way it steals intent and stillbirths action.
When functioning properly, shame polices the edges of propriety. It’s the tool our social herds use to cull those whose behavior transgresses the untransgressable. But often when we speak of it this way directly—“Have you no shame?”—we are merely evoking the presence of its absence, trying to summon the effects of a boundary on someone who has long since abandoned our thought-to-be-agreed-upon rules.
Shame is a double-edged knife, sharpened even through its hilt. It cuts in unpredictable directions, as often burying itself in the flesh of the sinned-against as in that of the sinner. More often, perhaps.
Still unsure what I’m getting at? Ask any rape survivor.
The new US president—aided, abetted, and manipulated by the unholy choir of white supremacists and power-drunk opportunists that surrounds him—seems bent on tying, if not beating, that world-creating record as he sets about the process of destroying it.
Holy crap. I mean…
How to even begin to resist?
With the Word, I ‘spose. If I’m sticking with tradition, I begin with the word. And in this situation, that word is me. My resistance must begin with me.
* * *
Let me be clear: I want to save myself.
First, last, every day in between. Myself.
So do you. It’s human nature; it’s survival instinct; it’s why we don’t yet breed in cannisters but cling to the fleshy stickiness of bodies and lusts, new life emerging blood-covered and squalling.
I want to save myself most, and so do you.
Now. If I misunderstand this basic fact, I can’t serve justice. It is my own judgment that I confront in the mirror at the end of each day, after all.
Eyes too impossibly wide, teeth too impossibly sharp, slavering tongue and hot breath too close against my face and I cannot even scream as the huntsman’s scrabbling claws rip deep into my belly.
Woke up drenched in sweat, tangled in sheets. Panting.
I lay rigid in the dark and waited for the room to stop spinning.
* * *
Joseph Campbell was asked once why he didn’t account for stories about women when developing his archetype of the hero’s quest. “Women don’t need to make the journey,” he replied. “In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.”
The Pythia, Oracle at Delphi, was (scholars report)
the most powerful woman of the Ancient World,
sought out by royalty and commoner alike to answer their questions
and predict their fates, prognostications she offered them
in dactylic hexameter as elegant and epic as any Homer wrote
though (others footnote) every fortune the Oracle uttered was claimed
to come out as hysterical raving in need of translation by her priestly keepers—
acolytes of Apollo and collectors of the payment each pilgrim brought
in tribute to the God and to his Voice—
the truth lying, as it always does, somewhere between
frenzied gibberish and enigmatic prophecy,
between priestess and priests
between woman and man. Continue reading “Oracle”→
The evening started harmlessly enough, psyching myself up for the inevitable horror that will be the third and final presidential debate the way any normal gal does: drinking wine and tweeting quotes about tampons…
By the way, any of y’all who Twitter do follow@ESTBLSHMNT*, yes? Cuz if not, you wanna get on that PRONTO.
*The Establishment, as you may or may not know (but, like, TOTALLY WANNA KNOW), is an online women’s magazine and not“the establishment” that folks get so grumbly about, politically speaking. Though that hasn’t stopped some folks from grumbling at them on Twitter!
Exactly why is @ESTBLSHMNT the single greatest magazine twitter account out there, you may be asking?