Saturday, December 31, 2011

Exes and Oh's

The other day I met a guy. “I’m a widower and a single father,” he announced. “This is usually the part where women run. Let’s see if you do the same,” he challenged.

 I would bet that most women don’t run because he is a widower or a single father, but because his attitude inspires flight.

Issuing a challenge is really not the best way to inspire me to break the pattern. I’m not that competitive.

While I knew we weren’t going much farther than the ‘getting to know you’ stage, I kept the conversation going as long as I could.

“So, how did your last relationship end?” I asked.

Now, I don’t read people’s looks at all well—truth be told I don’t really try. I’m enamored with words: I don’t study expressions unless they are expressed through them.

But I could read his look.

“She died.”

I think it was the tone that annoyed me most.  Not the ‘I already told you that’ but the malice with which he uttered the words.  As if he was challenging me to again do what few had done before me: date him.

I’m a divorced, single mother.

When I say I’m divorced, do people assume I am talking about my last relationship? Labels seem to have a way of sticking around.  When I am dating do I have to say I’m dating and divorced? If I remarry will I be a married, divorced mother of 3?

When my children are grown will I still be a single mother? Or does single drop off when they turn 18?

I am not the woman to date first. I am not ‘first date after the end (rather it ended from natural causes or not) of a long relationship’ material.  I’m not even sure I’m ready to be in a relationship so I can help someone else get into one?

I don’t know what people think of when they hear the labels I choose to define myself by, so I will translate them.

Divorced: I was married. I know how to hold on to something of value and when to let go of something when it no longer works.

Single mother: I have priorities. I know how to put the needs of others before me.  I know how to accept responsibility, how to encourage, and how to love someone other than myself.

It also means if you want to spend time with me, you have to have yourself together.

A clarification: I’m not looking for a father for my children.

Needless to say, the conversation with the single, father widower ended. Not because he is a single father. Not because he is a widower. But because I don’t date challenges; I’m not that competitive.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Learning to Speak Me: Part II

seduce me
do not squander silences
create of words a cassock
sway me gently
do not write poetry.
do not speak poetically.
do not ponder in meter or philosophize in line.
do not brood in rhythm or contemplate in rhyme—often.
don’t speak
tell me what my words say to you
know this
if my tone offends you, you aren’t listening

Thursday, December 29, 2011

There Are Words: 1971

They say there is a word for everything.
By they
I mean me.
There are some who still believe it.
By some
I mean those who still endeavor to transcribe teardrops
Those not yet fluent in goodbye.
There are words.
One thousand intricate ways to say goodbye.
There are some who live
in laughter
in music
in art
in moments
dying too soon,
too young,
By some
I mean you

Goodbye, etc...

If you are reading this message in response to a text, IM, email, voicemail, telephone or face to face (highly unlikely) exchange for which you need clarification, these are the things I probably should have said.
1. I am intentionally vague.
2. Despite what you may have been led to believe: very seldom does something slip that I didn’t want you to know.
3. I am commitment challenged: in a relationship (at least right now) the only thing I’m really committed to is changing my mind.
4. While whatever you did is annoying, irritating, frustrating, inappropriate and/or asinine: if it was not this, I would have left you for something else.
5. Despite the implication, I really don’t want to be friends. Maybe is so big and so broad and so wide a word that while I may have said, “Maybe we can be friends;” what I meant was we are not friends.

Learning to Speak Me: Part I

Words seduce me
I do not waste them
I do however squander silences
Despite my passion for creating of words a cassock to sway me gently at night, I do not write poetry.
That is to say, I do not speak poetically.
I do not ponder in meter or philosophize in line.
I do not brood in rhythm or contemplate in rhyme—often.
When I think: you hurt me. I say, you hurt me. I mean, you hurt me.
I try to say what I mean in a way that I find pleasing—I realize you don’t always speak me.
I speak me—fluently
It is not necessary to tell me what my words say to you
I know this.
As surely as I know, if my tone is what offends you, you aren’t listening to the words

Advice from an Infrequent Reader

This Friday, the Writer’s Center in Bethesda hosted an Open Mic Night for members and nonmembers. The reading drew a crowd of about twenty five people, most of them readers, a few were supporters: all were supportive, well almost.

Many of the readers were members, some were avid readers, some had not read in years and for some, tonight was their first reading. There was a pleasant sense of camaraderie and a surprising hint of animosity.

First, the camaraderie: All readings have etiquette.
1. Food and drinks were to be secured before the reading, during breaks, but not during changes in readers.
2. Cell phones were to be turned off.
3. People who did not adhere to item number 2 were to be immediately shamed by the turning of heads of all who had conformed and the silence of the reader. The ending of the shaming coincides with the reader’s continuation of the reading and the silencing of the phone.
4. No laughing during anyone’s reading, unless the writer waits awkwardly for said laughter or unless the line, word, look, tone, is supposed to be funny. Because I lack poetry skills, my cues are off. I did not laugh.
5. Relax
6. Enjoy yourself
7. Project your voice
8. Make eye contact (which is different from allowing your eyes to roam freely and I dare say creepily around the room)
9. Introduce yourself, these people don’t know you and even if they do—introduce yourself.
10. Please, do not introduce the piece. If it is important for listeners to know the piece is about your ex-boyfriend who deserted you on 695, dooming you to walk where no pedestrian should, as you learned the difference between the inner and outer loop: write about it (please). But, please do not tell readers this and then read a piece to which this knowledge is relevant or not relevant. If it belongs in the piece, put it in the piece.
11. When you like something about a piece, let the writer know. Encouragement is appreciated.
12. Please read your own writing.

Now to the animosity: I was surprised when a fellow reader approached my supporter and I to ask if we had come expecting to learn “to speak alien.”
“It wasn’t on the website,” I diplomatically replied.
I was equally surprised to learn he was not referring to his own poem.
“I could just kill him,” he said, slicked-back hair slicking.
“You’d have to write about it,” I joked, not certain he was joking.
“I wouldn’t really kill him,” he said, finally.

If only I were reassured.

Open Mic Night at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda offers a largely inviting atmosphere to listen to writers in various stages of their craft. The welcoming vibe, all-inclusive turn out, the support of fellow writers, the promise of snacks, and the free cost to participate, makes this venue a nice place to practice thesis readings while appreciating the community of writers wherever you find it.

Random Acts of Random (fiction)

It is not the sort of place one typically finds me. But, it is where the people go. I had decided to wander amongst them. I had been told by the wife of the man who tends our gardens that of the markets of Florence, Piazza S. Lorenzo boasts the most delicate swatches of intricately hand-woven cloth of all Italia. For his birthday, Roberto’s mother had sewn, day and night, a table cloth of many colors and fabrics. Mama G—saw poorly during the day and even worse during the night. Two nights after her death, I gave the table cloth to her maid for her years of service and sent her on her way to make her fortune elsewhere. Finally, after two years of marriage, I am the woman of the house.

So, I needed a new table cloth for the main dining room and knew of no better place to find one suited to the task. When I arrived, it was barely dawn, yet every beggar, hag and orphan had a bauble to trade or a story to tell. Upon every rickety table, within each dank crevice, and across each wobbly threshold, crosses, beads, scarves, bags, fruits, vegetables, trinkets, spices; every ill-conceived convenience and cheap inconvenience, could be had for a lire or more.

I had wandered nearly an hour looking for a cloth of a certain pattern and distinction. The sun was high when I found it, finally. It was of the lightest cream and burnt beige. It was intricately woven with worn stones for an elegant, earthen appeal to the senses. And, it was in the hands of another.

“I have been here for hours and yours is the most pleasant face I have seen thus far,” I said. I had merely whispered her name when Maria twirled to face me. We gathered in a long embrace, as if we were friends when in fact, we are not.

“S. I have not seen you since dear S. G’s funeral. You have been missed at church.”

Maria spends day and night in church. In youth, we competed in all categories befitting ladies of our class. Beauty, grace, education, opportunity; I won them all. Religion was the only category I cared not win.

“How is Brother Roberto? He has always been terribly close to his mother.” There was a time Maria had eyed Roberto for herself, but the opportunity for her to let it be known to him, did not itself present. Rather, I also had my eye on Roberto and as I had older brothers with whom he was acquainted, the opportunity presented itself often for me to let him know of my interest.

Roberto was not an attractive boy and is not an attractive man. He is, however, very wealthy. My daughters and sons will have every convenience, as I now enjoy. Roberto is generous with his mistress as well, as I am generous with my lover, thanks to Roberto.

“And, how is the Father?” I have heard rumors of convents and wondered if they were true.

“Oh, praise his holy name, why just today—“

“What a beautiful cloth,” I interrupted. I had little interest in the church and spent only as much time as my title demanded in them.

“Reading the bible by candlelight has caused Sister L. to go blind, the delicate strands of this cloth, the mixture of strength and innocence, she will surely love this cloth.”

A cloth such as this is wasted if no one can see it, I thought.

“I have given the table cloth Dear Roberto’s mother made with her brittle fingers to her girl for her years of dedication.” It was mostly true. By now all of Florence knew the girl’s services were not needed a moment after the S.’s funeral. I suggested she vacate her rooms before the family returned from the cemetery, she did.

“If it will make Roberto’s burden easier to bear, you should have this cloth.”

The old woman of the table frowned. She had openly listened to our conversation and seemed to favor Maria’s nun.

“This cloth is for comfort, not for table,” she said. She crossed her arms as if she had determined who would be the buyer.

“How much is it?” I asked. She named a price Maria could not afford. It was worth it, to be sure, but even I did not want to pay such a price for a shabby piece of cloth. But, I did. Maria watched the old woman’s gnarled, thick fingers delicately fold the cloth into careful, equal sections. The woman wrapped the cloth within tissue and presented it to me as if I had won some great contest.

I accepted, paid and gave the cloth to Maria.

I never endeavored to be holy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sent: Sun 1/12/08 9:10 PM
RE: Tonight

There’s been a change of plans. My beloved wife is so tender and fragile these days, and though I do not deserve it, she has forgiven me, at last. Just last week she could barely look at me. Her speech brittle, words chosen painfully, as if we were in-laws, she talked around the weather, the day, but rarely directly to me. Weeks into therapy, Charlotte had not forgiven me our affair.

I emailed you last week because I wanted you. Living here then was like living here before—you. She was characteristically cold, distant. I was reminded often of you. Not of as you are, but of as you are not. The depths she went to avoid me attending all-day conferences and workshops–why a writer needs conferences, IDK–would have been funny, if it were not happening to me, to us.

But, tonight she smolders. Her short brown hair whipped around her face as she turned it this way and that. Her long, sensuous lashes could barely contain her almond-shaped eyes. I told you once of her passion, you accused me of missing her, you were right, of course. Tonight she bristles over a remark carelessly made.

“Is there milk in the macaroni and cheese?” I am lactose intolerant, a condition my wife had carefully planned meals around—along with allowing for my other allergies—but that I was afraid she had forgotten in my absence.

I wonder that you did not notice, but we seldom dined together, did we? Our entanglement had left her intolerant of my various calamities and so I had asked. Oh, but I am so glad to have asked, for then I realized her forgiveness was finally granted. The words that came out of her supple mouth, the articulate gestures of her long, slender fingers, the contortions of her beautiful golden, brown face, finally she is at ease with me again. I would kiss her bony hands gleefully, but to do so would be to admit I know she did not before forgive me. I would rather to mark this pass silently than to mark it in vain.

I, of course, cannot continue to see you, meet you, as we had planned.

Sent: Sat 2/19/08 9:10 PM

I have been ill these last weeks. Between conferences, Charlotte has taken up cooking with a vengeance rivaled only by Chef Ramsey, LOL. So vexed by my dietary limitations, she has decided to see exactly what I am allergic too, so as to strike a balanced medium for our meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are an array of possible intolerants. She tries so hard to please me in ways other women would not endeavor. I have worn a path from the couch (where I sleep so as not to disturb her) to the bathroom. I fear our carpet cannot handle more of her culinary intervention.

How is my girl?

Sent: Mon 2/21/08 9:10 PM
RE: Enough

Of course I will stop calling you my girl, as you are right, you are no longer my girl. Charlotte is the only girl for me. If only I had known before our venomous months of sex on your dented futon and all of that cheap, greasy affair food. Shiny packaged sandwiches from gas stations on the way to your cramped apartment. At least, Charlotte says, climbing six flights up that narrow stairwell (I am convinced echoes of our lovemaking still linger there) kept my body strong. Still, if I had not eaten all of that sleazy food for you, I would be spared the indignities of the weekly colon cleansing Charlotte says I now need to go along with the prune, fiber shakes she makes me for breakfast.

Thx–a lot.

Sent: Sat 3/5/08 9:10 PM
RE: What the hell?

Oh dear silly little one, of course Charlotte knows all about you. She does not know about your emails; though you must be more careful. A cell phone rang during dinner last night. I worried it was you. I dropped my fork with such a clatter I worried the plate chipped. Charlotte would have been furious as the plates were given to her by my mother, as was the house, and everything in it. A price for marrying me, sort of a dowry.

My nerves are so on edge that Charlotte has taken to making me drink a strong brew of teas and whatever else she read or heard will soothe me. She tries so hard. I suggested Charlotte stay home this weekend and spend it with me. The look in her eyes frightened me more than her silence. I immediately reconsidered. These weekly conferences, though I don’t see her write anything, keep her connected with other writers. The phone, of course, was not you. Charlotte has taken to whispering on the phone, no, to taking calls in other rooms and then whispering. I know because when she catches me cocking my head to listen, or tiptoeing behind her into the living room or bedroom, she sneers and sometimes growls at me. Worse, she will turn her back on me, talking as if I am not there, hissing into the phone.

She is everywhere.

Sent: Tues 4/29/08 9:10 PM
RE: What are you talking about?

I am dreadfully allergic to shellfish, tobacco and olives. Or, it makes a horrid dish. The concoction slithered around the plate, shrimp sliding under leaves, hiding within olives. They slid down my throat faster than I could chew them. Charlotte poised across from me the better to see my discomfort, watching every bite slip in to my mouth. She notices everything, forgives me everything or nothing at all. My insides, and I know because between vomit and diarrhea, I am forced to come face to face with what should be within my body, are rotting. I mean to rid myself of this poison. I will tell her everything, she will know everything. She will forgive me for she loves me so. Her deep eyes water as she empties the buckets I am forced to relieve myself in when I am too weak to get to the bathroom. She utters not a sound as she empties the buckets, when she is home. She spends more time at these conferences. They are spilling in to her work week so much that she had to quit work to devote her time to conferences. I married a writer. She is writing a mystery, it is not finished. She says I may not like the ending. I am sure it is good, I assure her, she has been writing for so long, has so much knowledge by now. Her lips puckered in a huge hard kiss, but she did not kiss me. We are not ready for intimacy: sex, words.

Sent: Sat 5/18/08 9:10 PM
RE: Leave me out of this

You are in it! She knows about us. The teas are working, loosening my bowels, my tongue. I am a babbling fountain of deceit, Charlotte says. She was slithering around the dining room, the bedroom, slithering and hissing in front of me. She has devised a menu of roots and berries, three times a day. I am an unattractive mass of adulterous rotting flesh. I do not know where Charlotte comes up with these things. But, they must be true. Thoughts flicker, anger, indignation, but they wither. Pride is hard to maintain when your stomach knots, cramps and releases in 60 seconds. She hates you less today than she did yesterday.

Sent: Wed 7/2/08 9:10 PM
RE: You’re as crazy as she is. May you both rot in hell

Thank you for the well wishes. Charlotte and I are doing frightfully well. Charlotte has ceased going to workshops. Her novel is finished. She lays up at night watching me sleep, I know because I wake often and she attends me. She has created the most delightful bitter, sweet tasting tea. My angel is just now fixing me another cup of this elixir. Goodbye forever sweet trollop. Tempt me no more!

Backstory: Reflections on this Month's Theme for Stories at the Storey

Meeting deadlines is as soothing to me as a creamy cup of flavoured coffee. Checking a project off of my mental to-do list settles me. ...