Tag Archives: a good woman

“Ah, Gur-url! (Inhale.) Girl, Gur-url!”

“There are no events but thoughts and the heart’s hard turning, the heart’s slow learning where to love and whom.  The rest is merely gossip, and the tales for other times.” —

Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm 

He was young — oh, so young! — but not convoluted at all, which is a rarity in itself.  He sat with his body turned toward me at a 45-degree angle, playing with the ice cubes on the bottom of his tall glass; but never letting go of me, with his eyes.

“What are you drinking?” he started up.  I could feel it with my skin cells:  The kid was NOT into chatter much.  He actually wanted to know.

“Um,” I chuckled and looked at my ice-less glass.  “Tomato juice.”

And I nodded.  I am not a barfly, mostly for that very same reason:  I don’t drink.  So, I nodded while bracing myself for the irony some tipsy idiot was about to point out.

The kid picked-up my glass and he sniffed it.

That scene!  It reminded me of that scene, in a quirky film about doomed love:  She asks him for a piece of chicken, and without his answer, takes it.  Just like that!  She reaches over and takes a chicken leg from his paper plate; and he is immediately disarmed at her lack of pretense and the intimacy at which he’d had to do no work, whatsoever.

The kid put down my glass, exactly into the water ring it had marked on my bev nap earlier.  Then, he nodded and pouted with his lower lip:

“That’s cool!” he said, without showing me his version of a deprecating smirk.

My self-defense was unnecessary, here; and all the jokes at my own expense popped, like soap bubbles on a child’s palm.

I had been approached by men at bars before (and I had been approached by women, as well).  Most of the time, with their courage slightly loosened by liquor, they negotiate their desire immediately.  But they’re never drunk enough to say it bluntly:

“I want your sex,” for instance.

Or:

“I just want to fuck around, for bit.  Is that okay?”

Instead, they loom, while flirting clumsily and waiting for me to bite the bait.  It’s amusing, most of the time, to observe the habit of other people to get in their own way.  (It’s also the reason I don’t drink:  I like to watch, instead.  That; and the fact that my sober tendencies of getting in MY own way — are already quite sufficient; and I needn’t be drunk to get a clearer look at myself.)

Soon enough though, the men get distracted:  Their drunken charm refuses to work on me.  What they don’t realize is that their honesty might’ve gotten them a lot more.

Eventually, they move on though — to someone easier, I suppose.  But while they loom, my drunken courtiers sneak peaks at other barflies — and butterflies — with whom their charm wouldn’t happen in vain.  They’re always pretty, those other girls, and more willing, perhaps.  So, I let the men move on quickly:

“Go loom elsewhere, honey.  It’s okay.  Really.”

But this kid:  He was different.  He would study the other women openly, and sometimes, at my own direction.

“SHE — is gorgeous!” I’d mutter into my thin straw; and so, he would look, in silence.

What was he looking at, I would wonder?  Was it the silky shimmer of her brown shoulders?  Was it the beauty mark revealed by a backless dress?  The curvature of her rear?  The endlessness of her naked legs leading up to heaven?

What was it like to be so young — and to want so much?  

So, he would look at the other women, but then return to me — always.  He was one of those:  The type that tended to hit things right on the nose.  He would ask me questions that would make me shift in my seat; and under his examination, I, too, began studying the girl in a wraparound dress with no underwear lines, anywhere along her body.  I was studying — me.

I surprised myself when I asked him about his mother.  I could feel her, distances away, praying that her son was under the care of only good people.  Only good women.  She would have a confident face, I imagined, just like her son’s:  With no ticks to betray her habit of getting in her own way.  I couldn’t possibly know the extent of her courage yet; what it was like to let her child leave her watch.  But I was pretty sure that if I were a mother, I too would hope — and I too would pray! — for the goodness of other people.  Of other good women.

He spoke of her willingly.  It was unlikely for a young man to be aware of the sacrifice a mother must make.  But this kid — this young man — understood the courage of a woman’s heart:  The courage it took — to be a good one!

“I’m not sure what it is…” he would say to me later.  “I’m not sure what it is — about you.”

His hands would be steady:  They knew the common crevices along a woman’s body; but he had yet to learn the specificity of mine.

“It’s just sex,” I’d tell him, “and that’s okay.  Really.” And I would cradle his head, brush his hair and soothe his eyelids.

He was under a care of one good woman.  And the good woman, waiting, praying for him from distances away, had absolutely nothing to worry about, that night.

“Weren’t You the One Who Said That: You Don’t Want Me, Anymore?”

Yes, and.  That’s the main rule of improv:  Yes, and.

My badass bro taught me that.  When you are going at it with a fellow player on stage, no matter how stripped or idiotic you feel, you don’t get to back out and say, “No!”  In improv, you “yes and” that shit until you run out of options, until you’re done; exhausted.  Until you reach the dead end:  Yes, and!

Yes!  

And?

And chances are:  If you “yes and” for long enough, you can go at it forever.

My badass bro told me that a long, long time ago, when my pathetic white ass met him in Hollyweird, after my break-up back in New York.  So beat-up I was in those days, so defeated, my body preferred to juggle only two of its functions:  how to weep and how to breathe.  Because I had just left a man:  Surprise, motherfucking surprise!  And it seemed, I could barely chalk myself up to the camp of the living.

When it comes to my men, I’ll love ‘em till death do us part:  I’ll “yes and” that shit until I run out of options.  I’ll adore, cradle, nurture, and mother them; breastfeed them if I must.  I’ll cook and clean for them, spoon-feed them with jello in bed or sponge-bathe their asses when they’re at their lowest (and I won’t even tell another living soul afterward).  Willingly, I’ll rebuild my men, from their bad choices, bad women, bad mothers; and give ‘em a brand new set of balls for Christmas.  Yes, and:  I’ll doll myself up for their fantasies or for their office parties alike, just so that there is no mortal in the world to questions their talents — or their endowments — in my bedroom.  Yes, and:  I’ll strut next to them, like the most expensive escort in town, and make them feel good enough to have a chance at Angelina Jolie herself, after we’re done.  And, yes, and:  I’ll give them the best sex stories of their lifetimes.

I’ll do all that, for my men; but there ain’t no fucking way in the world they — get to leave me.  Fuck you, my loves:  I — leave you!  That’s just how it goes.  Between the two of us, I’m the one yanked out of a gypsy’s womb:  So, I get to leave.  I get to go.

Yes?

And, so:  A long, long time ago, I had left a man.

It was his idea at first:  Something wasn’t working, he said.  He “couldn’t do it anymore”.  I cried, I wept.  I lost weight and sleep.  I broke shit, tried to repair it.  I even found enough room in that crammed-in basement apartment of ours to pace and wonder, “Why, why, why?!”  And then, one balmy, New-York-in-August afternoon, it hit me:

I would never find the reasons!  Because in every break-up, each party has his or her own grief, and that grief is never identical.  And neither are the fucking reasons.

And, yes, and:  I could!  I could’ve stayed behind, back in the Bronx, and turned gray while resorting, reliving the dead affair:  Where did it go wrong?  Who dropped the ball first?  When did it break?  And my fave of all time:  How could it all be prevented?  But:  I don’t do that.  I am not the type to get petty while dividing mutual property, or mutual guilt.  I don’t destroy my men, and I never take shots at their dignity.  I don’t leave them in ruins for the next broad, even if she is — Angelina Jolie herself.

But also — (yes and!) — I don’t grovel for closure.  I may cry, I may weep.  I may lose weight and sleep.  But then:  I leave!  I go.  I walk away, while you — you stay behind and pick-up the pieces.

And so, one balmy, New-York-in-August afternoon, I said:

“Oh, yes.  And I’m leaving.”

I  had asked him out to dinner, in between my waitressing gig on the Upper West Side and my fantasy life up in Harlem, where the mere sight of a woman’s ass was enough to get me off on the idea of all the future possibilities.  He showed up with flowers:  Lilies.  As the night carried on, I watched their giant buds open completely in that summer’s heat, then begin to wilt.  And like everything in New York, at that time of the year — from sweat glands to subway sewers to perfume shops — they began to smell aggressively, nearly nauseating.

Yes and:  I continued to break it down.

“I’m going to California.”

“When?”

“Soon.”

I was vague.  I didn’t feel like I owed him a calendar date, or a reason.  Or an explanation.  Because in the end, I knew — we both knew — it was he who broke the main rule of improv:  He said, “No”.  He gave up.  He dropped the ball.

Yet, still, “Why?” he asked, pleading with his wilting face to be etched onto the back of my eyelids for my later nightmares, in Hollyweird.

I don’t remember answering.  Because so beat-up I was in those days, so defeated, my body preferred to juggle only two of its functions:  how to weep and how to breathe.  So, I breathed.  I inhaled it all:  The smell of the cologne I’d given him, along with a new set of balls that last Christmas.   The sour charcoal smell from the fajita plate, sizzling under the chin of the solitary male diner behind us.  The schizophrenic aromas of the city, from sweat glands to subway sewers, to women’s asses.  And the aggressive, nearly nauseating smell of lilies on our table, completely open in that summer heat and quickly wilting.

And chances were:  I could’ve “yes-and-ed” that shit forever, no matter how stripped or idiotic I felt.  But we were done, at a dead end.  Exhausted.  And all I preferred to remember was how to breathe — the ultimate act of “yes-and-ing” to all the other future possibilities.

“I said, No: That Bitch Ain’t A Part of Me!”

“I mean…  I just went ‘crazy bitch’ on him!  Completely out of control!”

For anyone, it would take some serious balls to admit to the loss of grace — to acting beneath what we all deserve to call ourselves, beneath our self-esteem.  But for this tan, fit, statuesque creature of perfect hair and teeth, it must’ve been particularly difficult to own up to her defeat.  Because (insert a drumroll, please):  EVERYONE has choices!  Some more than others — yes!  But she had committed the lesser of choices repeatedly, with this one man; and the pattern of cheating herself out of the better ones — and out of her better self — has amounted to an avalanche of consequences.

For years, she had suffered in her relationship of questionable commitment — an arrangement in which something wasn’t ever enough:  Something was missing.  It had started with sex (as it often does); and for a while, it was good.  At least:  It was good enough.  He wanted to keep her around, fed her slivers of encouragement; but she would eventually want more.  She continued to ask for it, succeeded in an engagement.  Still:  Most of the time, it all left her feeling uncertain, unfulfilled.  Something wasn’t enough.  Something was missing.

Now, I could see from the desperate gaze she kept trying to hang onto my eyelids, my nose, or my chin, like a wet towel:  I could see she wanted me to take her side.

“What a jerk!”

“What an asshole!”

“He doesn’t deserve you!”

She’d gotten used to hearing that — it had become just another pattern; and now, she was pleading for me to chime-in.  But I wouldn’t:  I knew better.

First of all, I didn’t know the guy; I didn’t know his half of the story.  But even if I did, something told me, I still wouldn’t find the answer.

Because the affairs of others get so convoluted, so hard, loaded with pain and meanness, they eventually become gratuitous in the eyes — and the ears — of those forced to witness them.  It would take me years of untangling the yarns of these lovers’ objectives, needs and secret desires; their failed expectations, lies, intimate manipulations.  So, it was not my place to give him an unworthy name.  And no matter her despair, I could not judge him, cheating myself out of MY grace, for the sake of making her feel better at his — and now my — expense.  I knew better!

But my second truth was that, in all honestly, I knew:  He had to have been a good man, merely based on the fact that no one was born a villain; and because he had to have earned her love, once upon a time.   He HAD to have been good!

Now, she wanted to carry on.  Armed with a generous pour of merlot in one hand, she started listing all the ways in which she had felt cheated:  He did this, and that.  And then, there was this one other time when he did not do that other thing…  With every injustice, her breathing sharpened.  She began to get flushed, upset, reliving the history of his and her lesser choices.  She was getting carried away, when she confessed to snooping around his Facebook account, searching his phone; rummaging through his drawers for signs of what had been missing; violating his privacy — and her better self:

“I mean…  I just went ‘crazy bitch’ on him!  Completely out of control!”

Proudly, she started flaunting the evidence of his lesser goodness, so desperately wanting me to take her side.

But, still, I wouldn’t:  I knew better!

And when she finally demanded some verbal charity on my part — making herself feel better at his and my expense — all I could find the compassion to say was:

“Why are you angry?”

“BECAUSE!” she whiplashed her perfect hair and spat out something bitter and dark.  It landed between us, onto the glossy bar; and it sat there, sizzling:  “I knew it!”

Suddenly, I was tempted to distract this heartbroken from her loss by reminding of her better choices:  She had her whole youth ahead of her, and all that goodness! 

But as years of beholding for others have taught me, years of collecting their grief — good fucking grief! — I knew that in that moment, she wanted to hear none of it.  Because she was still hanging on:  To him, to the life she had imagined; to the fantasy of his being her better choice.  She was hanging onto her grief, desperately; and I knew better than to get her out of it.  Instead, I beheld, quietly; staring at something dark and bitter she had just spat out in between us, onto the glossy bar.

She inhaled, hung her head, hiding her face behind the curtain of that perfect hair; and then, she fragilely exhaled:

“It’s just that…”

I looked over.  The curve of her neck belonged to someone collapsing under her grief.  Good fucking grief!  My heart bungee-jumped into my throat:  She had to have been good!  Despite the slip-ups of her self-esteem, despite cheating herself out her own grace, despite acting beneath what she had deserved to call herself — she had to have been good!  So, why?!  Why was there something dark and bitter sizzling on the glossy bar?

“It’s just that I knew it all along,” she said.  “I knew better.”  

And there it was:  A lifetime of lesser choices.  Whoever that man was — however good he was — she herself had committed the crime of ignoring her intuition.  There had to be signs all along that something wasn’t enough:  Something was missing.  Yet, she forged forward, making a pattern of her lesser choices, cheating herself out of the better ones (even though she knew better, “knew all along”) — until it all collapsed under an avalanche of consequences.

But good grief!  She still had her whole youth ahead of her — and all that goodness!  And next time around — she would know better.

Good fucking grief!

Good Woman Down — and Up! Up! Up!

Define “good”.  I bet cha you can’t.  Well, not precisely.  Not on the dot, not really.

You will grapple with your memories of what it must’ve felt like — to be “good” — but you won’t really know what moved you, to be that way.  To make that choice.  Maybe it was something your parents have taught you (or whoever made up for your parents).  But all you will manage, at best — is to spew out a few other ambitious words, or juxtapose “good” against antonyms, equally as vague and forsaken.

“It’s the opposite of that…  You’ll know it when you see it!” you conclude, perhaps impatiently.

Maybe, you’ll have better chances at recollecting memories of when “good” was being done to you:  Because it’s always easier to accept, than to give it.  Not many protest when they are submerged into someone else’s “goodness”.  (Well, at least, not until the self-loathing kicks-in, and they start splashing around in it, like a hysterical woman in a jacuzzi, making a fuss about her hair.)

Some of you will go full-fledged to religion or philosophy:  Someone surely must’ve written about “goodness”, even if they’ve forsaken it right after.  Oh maybe, poets have captured it, that wretched lot of humanity!

“I know this, I know this!” some of you will slap your foreheads and snap your fingers in space, as if trying to remember a name of an actor from one of those black-and-white movies we’ve all agreed to treat as a masterpiece.  Or that tune — “What’s the name of it?  I know this, I know this!” — and it’ll get stuck in your head for hours after.

And many of you will smile, while searching for the answers.  Yep.  Experts say it takes extra muscles to smileanother degree of an effort, fully committed.  Willing.  Kind of like “goodness”, no?

The other day, I had frantically reached for the definition of “my goodness” to the woman, who, on this planet, besides my motha, has known me the longest.  For years, this relationship was based on having nothing to prove to each other; and having nothing to need.  No matter my own idiotic choices throughout our history, she had never offered up a judgement:  Because she is “good” like that.

As before, she took her time answering, just so she could do it precisely.  On the dot.  Because she is “good” like that!  She couldn’t have known that my urgent need for her reassurance had come from an accusation by a scorned lover.  (Oh my goodness!)  I waited for her response.

In the mean time, I went off to stumble around my day in a state of some sort of walking sleep.  I bounced between my commitments, occasionally pulling over to the side of the road to jot down lists of “good thing” — things I was grateful for; things that I was hoping to discover later, just so that I could be grateful again.

I stopped by a girlfriend’s office:  She had been missing me, she said.  Always a stunner, this time around she looked even sharper.

“Sorry, I’m such a mess,” I said in comparison, pulled up my dress, then zipped up my jacket to hide it altogether.

“Nah,” she said, chewing on the black cherries I’ve brought her.  “I dig this look on you.”

She was busy.  I drove off.  In traffic, my phone lit up with her name:

“U r always so good to me!” said the text.

I felt dizzy.  Pulled over.  Jotted down a few things.  Remembered I needed food, got myself to the closest store.  In the “Canned Goods” aisle, I suddenly felt the urge to weep:  Months ago, in the same store, in a similar aisle, my departed lover had confronted me — with goodness:

“Look at you,” he had come upon me unexpectedly.  “Smiling at strangers.”

Clutching my random future purchase, I stared at the labels.  A gorgeous girl with a headful of Grecian curls reached around me:

“‘Scuse me,” she smiled.  I smiled simultaneously despite my face feeling exhausted.  Sorry:  I’m such a mess.  I watched her choose a can of hominy beans (not chickpeas!) and smiled again:

“‘Scuse me?”

She looked back — “Yes?” — and smiled.  (Damn:  That’s pretty!)

“Your tag’s sticking out,” I said, and without waiting for her to feel embarrassed, I reached for the back of her neck and fixed it.

In my car, I took a few bites of the food:  Not feeling it.  Jotted a few more “good things” down.  Started the car, pulled out, waited for all the pedestrians to cross.  (They tend to look so disoriented, in this city.)  Started driving, pulled over again.  Got out, grabbed my lunch; walked over to a man reading a newspaper in the bushes, with a nearby parked shopping cart.

“Hey, Keith,” I said.

Keith raised his face.  Sweat was dripping off his face and onto the newspaper.  He looked unusually bewildered.

“You want this?  I just bought it.  Not feeling it.”

I unloaded my hands into the shopping cart, and without waiting for him to feel embarrassed, got back into my car.

Three locks to get into my apartment:  One down, two to go.  Matching the keys to the keyholes, I was trying to keep myself upright.

“V!” a kid stormed out of his apartment down the hall.  He always storms out — out!  around! — and he speaks in exclamation points.  Already in the midst of some anecdote, as if we didn’t have a couple of days since seeing each other last, he was making me laugh.  But I was still playing the matching puzzle of the keys to the holes.

“Where are you going?!  What are you doing?!”

I laughed.  “I gotta do some work, silly goose.”  (In truth, I was just anxious to find the definition of “my goodness” — precisely, on the dot — on the screen of my laptop.)

“Well, lemme take a picture of you!”

“Sorry,” I said.  “I’m such a mess!”

“Nah!  You kidding!  I dig this whole look on you!” — and without waiting for me to feel embarrassed, out came the kid’s iPhone.

He stormed out.  I decoded my locks.  In the darkness of my apartment, while I was waiting on my laptop, the phone lit up with a text:

“…and you deserve all the best!  All the best!”

The kid.

I smiled.  

Experts say it takes extra muscles to smile — another degree of an effort, fully committed.  Willing.  

Kind of like “goodness”.  

Yes.

And Dah-ling, Dah-ling: Stand By ME!

She was an angel.  She had to be.  Because she treaded by my side, in her suede moccasins, with such gentle awareness to cause the least amount of damage in her world, I thought:  What have we got here?

Beauty and oddity did not escape her attention, but neither earned any judgement, on her part.  There was something very ancient about her physique:  She could’ve been a descendant of Emily Dickinson or an anonymous lover on a canvas of Modigliani or Cezanne:  A brown girl with either melancholy or innocence (I couldn’t tell) powdering her skin with luminosity.  And every time, her humor took me by surprise; because she seemed so in love with truth, I didn’t think her capable of irony.  Or loss.

If ever I witness such an old soul, on the last round of its reincarnation, I drop all of my mundane nonsense.  And it’s surprisingly easy, every time:  Because those types make time lose its relevance.

“I gotta, I gotta” — doesn’t exist in their company.

Instead, it becomes:

“I am.  I am.”

And if I hang with those souls for long enough, I am soon granted an awe — at my own ability to slide through moments of time as if body-surfing:  I certainly know that there is a greater force behind it all, behind ME — stronger, older, much more relevant! — and that the only thing that I can do is:  Take it in, and ride it out.

Because the longer I live and the more I lose, my angels, the more accepting I become of the utter chaos of living.  Sure, there are certain guarantees in my established routines and standards of living; and each day, they give me points of reference, in time.  Because I, too, am often guilty of “I gotta, I gotta”.

Instead of:  “I am.  I am.”

But, oh, how well I know that if I were to pack-up my apartment, cancel my phone, get rid of my debt; cut all ties and torch all the bridges; if I were to walk out of this chaotic town without a single farewell — what would remain of me is mere memories by those whom I’ve accidentally happened to love.  But then, even those would eventually expire.  (I’ve seen it happen before, with lovers who’ve moved on, out of guilt or entitlement.)  I would be no more than a fading memory.

But the angel of the other day begs to differ.  It’s not her fault — but her very mission — to tell me that I have meant more than that; that even in the chaos of living, however organized, each action matters.  Each action, each person has consequences.  She herself needn’t worry about karma any more:  Her goodness is beyond all that shit.  But for the rest of us, karma begs to differ.  And it begs to better.

And so I was surprised the other day when she said, while staring her dusty moccasins:

“I can only meet him halfway, this time.  Otherwise, I’ll lose myself.”

She’s been telling me the story of her love, on the nth round of its reincarnation.  For years, she had loved this man, going out on a limb with her goodness, every single time.  She had been a friend to him, treading gently by his side, through every selfish tragedy and moment of self-doubt.  And when the rest of humanity seemed to forget his relevance, she would be the only one to remember him:  to make him matter.  But then:  He’d dismiss her again.

Recently, he’d come back around, asking for her time and friendship.  BUT ON WHAT TERMS?!  He needed a friend, he said.  He needed — her:  For she was the only one who really loved him, who “understood him” all along.

What a waste, I thought.  What a waste:  of youth, and goodness; and of love!  What selfish audacity, I thought, on behalf of that regular mortal.  What sense of entitlement!..

But then:  I remembered my own recently expired affair.  It had been my lover’s idea to end us.  Not the first time.  I’d survived many before him.  I was going to be alright.  But before I became aware of my mourning, I found myself in the midst of waiting.  Waiting for change:  A change of heart, a change of his mind.  A change of man.  And in the mean time, the man would check back on me:  for some assurances that I still loved him, that I was still on standby, no matter the distance he’d imposed between us.

Not the first time.  I had done that with others:  beholding for them, for years; forgiving them fully at every dismissal, then accepting them unconditionally at every reunion.  I would continue living my life, treading it carefully, while causing the least amount of damage, in my world.  But if an ex couldn’t bear the chaos of his living, he was always welcomed back.

Suddenly, I felt infuriated, for the sake of my kind:  Women with forgiveness and goodness enough to make-up for our men’s lack.  Women with uncompromisable karma, so rare, it makes us irreplaceable.  Old souls who can always change a man, and sometimes, his mind.  Angels who practice unconditional love and forgiveness to make time irrelevant, but lives — matter:  

Isn’t time for each angel to claim her time back?  Surely, there must be better things and worthier causes to give that time to!  Surely, all this waiting around was contradicting the very nature of our being:  holding us back from living our own existences — on the last round of reincarnation — in the moment, while making us behold for the past.  Surely, this had to end!

That evening, it ended for me, my angels.  I finally accepted my lover’s decision to depart.  I got dismissed.  I cut all ties and torched all the bridges.  And I left, treading carefully and causing the least amount of damage — to myself — and settled on being a mere memory, but not a returning one.