Tag Archives: destiny

The Way to a Man’s Heart

(Continued from August 12th, 2012.)

Be it from a life-long deprivation of male attention or grandma Tanya’s diagnosis of Galina’s “messed-up nerves”, cuz’s hormones went berserk as soon as she dropped out of school after the sixth grade.  In all fairness, there was not much use to furthering her education, Galina’s parents presumed:  After the accident, she wasn’t bound for big things any longer.  And the Russian inbred understanding that one was born into one’s circumstances — and no amount of prayer, chance or hard work would transcend a citizen into a higher, more fortunate caste — spiraled Galina’s life into one of a peasant.  She would be following her parents’ path, and in that, no comrade could find much tragedy.

“But I’m going to marry!” she announced one Sunday morning, on the steps of a neighboring town’s church.  The other girls-in-waiting surrounded and teased her for the name of her future husband.  (Competition makes women one mean lot, especially when they are those middle-ground, okay-looking ones that hold onto their men with their teeth and fear.)  But Galina remained secretive, as if she were the best of Soviet spies.

“You don’t have no fiance yet!” the young women challenged.  I mean:  Had she fallen off the rocker?!  Who did she think she was?!  Engagements took months to set up.  Dozens of chaperone shifts were arranged by the elders.  Sunday’s best, collected by the girl’s parents throughout her life, were dug out of the familial traveling trunks, washed and ironed, and put to use.  And the honing of womanly duties — by the river bank where other housewives rinsed their laundry and in the kitchen; by the married women’s lectures on the suddenly poignant topics of personal hygiene and the horrors of their wedding nights — these things demanded serious commitment and courage on a girl’s part!

“It takes a lot of work to lure a man!” the girls-in-waiting lectured the crippled simpleton.  There was no way she presented much competition!  And they supposed they would’ve just let her dream on, had she not perturbed them with such a silly idea, in the first place.

And they did have a point:  No one had ever seen Galina starch her petticoats or outline her eyes with sharpened charcoal sold at the department store, to which one had to ride a bus for two and a half kilometers.  In the later part of summer, Galina had yet to travel to other women’s homes to help them pickle cabbage or to cure pork belly in salt baths whenever a local family decided to lessen its livestock count.  And neither was she known to possess any skill mending socks or warding off a bad eye.  She wasn’t in the know on how to start up a stove or a banya, for a man.  She couldn’t brew home-made liquor or even a jar kvas.  Such skills were expected of any bride, especially from one that could’t bewitch a man based on her looks alone.

“So what?!” Galina obnoxiously defended herself.  She was an innocent, but any challenge against her word of truth — and she could throw a fit which even the devil would overhear.  “My dad’s already traveled to three dinners two towns over!” she continued bragging.  “He says even the chairman of the collective farm over there could be interested.  (He’s got a handsome son, didn’t you know?)”

How much truth there was to Galina’s aspirations — no one knew for certain.  But Galina’s father — an alcoholic who freelanced around town to clean people’s outhouses, or to build new ones — was not to be taken lightly, at least by the townsmen; for quite a sizable physique did uncle Pavel have on him!  The man was a giant, barely fitting into doorways; and he was gossiped to have never shared a bed with his wife because there just wasn’t enough room for two.  Pavel was known to sleep in the cow stable; and that is exactly where, according to the gossip, Galina had to have been conceived.

Every night, Pavel raised hell with vodka on his breath.  Galina’s mother Masha had begun to lock him out of the house; and at dawn, she searched the village’s ditches and liquor store alleys and dragged her alcoholic giant home (where she would deposit him into the cow stable yet again).

So, even though Galina’s self-proclaimed bridal status appeared absurd to most, one had to consider the fear Pavel imposed on young grooms-in-the-making.  And there were other factors to consider, as well:

“She does collect a sizeable pension,” the townswomen speculated after the news of Galina’s betrothal began to spread.  “Not a bad deal for a dowry!”

Others approached the subject with medical facts:  “Lord knows, so deprived her womanly parts have been, for all these year!  I bet she’s not too difficult to bed.”

The women giggled.  The subject of sex was not a frequent one in the idealistic minds of Soviet citizens.  Like anywhere else in the world, men wanted it; but it was entirely a responsibility of the women to a. to put out or to hold out, and b. protect themselves in the process.  But even with one’s gynecologist, it was inappropriate to comfortably, openly discuss such matters.  So, to be born pretty was a questionable blessing, for a Russian girl.  But to be born smart — to know how to negotiate her worth before the broken hymen, to smoothly transition herself from under the care of her father to that of her husband — that, in the eyes of women and their mothers, was a much more important entity.  (So, that part about sex being enjoyable — in some women’s lives, they never knew of it.  Enjoyment was left to the other types of women:  the loose ones, the ones that every town had and loved to judge; and in the cities, they were the second “wives” that some husbands kept on the side, on weeknights.)

(To Be Continued.)

Offbeat

 (Continued from August 5th, 2012.)

For several generations, Galina was the boogeywoman of the town!  Myths about her bodily disfigurements had been roaming the village for decades.  One couldn’t find a single bench or kitchen sink in the place by which the poor cripple was not discussed (“rinsing the bones,” the Russian women called it).

Young misbehaving children were threatened into obedience by the mere mention of Galina’s arrival at nighttime; and all the homely girls summoned their gratitude for not having it in the worst of ways, whenever cousin’s name was mentioned at the summer dances in the open air.  (Bound to a cane from a young age, Galina wasn’t a visitor of such events.  But her name, turned synonymous with her life’s tragedy, was there — along with her bones — “to be rinsed”.)

In the days of summer, murders of children hid behind the fence of Galina’s garden every morning, to get a peek of her washing routine by the outside basin:

“Is it true she doesn’t have any hair underneath that scarf?” the rascals challenged each other.

“I hear her feet are just charred stumps.  I dare you to look!”

They would come from the cities, along with their cultured parents, to visit their grandfolks for the summer; and in a way that most fairytales originated from Russia’s countrysides, thusly did Galina become an unbelievable rarity unseen elsewhere.  A freak.

But when the cuz walked through the dusty roads or windy paths along the green hills, the other townspeople let her be.  When she scratched at the snowed-in gates, every household welcomed her in.  Because isn’t it a quality innately human to, even if secretly, be drawn to the tales of others’ accidents with fortune?  Galina always arrived bearing the news of the worst; and no matter one’s altruistic intentions, the relief of knowing presented itself in the darkest corners of one’s conscience:  “At least, bad luck wasn’t happening — to me!”  And into most companies of the village gabbers and gossipers, Galina was admitted, too.  Like a debilitating snowstorm that strikes a town with chaos but also an eventual promise of a good harvest, the old cripple was accepted with a certain surrender, with which most Russians honed their spirits.  For no easy habit it was to live through Russia’s troubles!  One often chose to float along and to not fight back one’s destiny.

It was in the summer of my twelfth year that I became particularly interested in the history of Galina’s womanhood.  Truth be told, I sympathized with the cuz, watching her eat with her fingers at my grandparents’ dinner table because most utensil were too cumbersome for her misshapen mouth.  Earlier that school year, most of my girl classmates had gotten their periods, and they began to skip morning gym classes.  Instead, they sat them out on benches, with mysteriously bashful expressions on their faces; and no one — not even the Afghan veteran Timofeitch, who’d been teaching us for the past two years — could say a word to them.  I, in the mean time, was still bound to my flat-chested, thinner-then-a-broom physique, with no growing pains in my breasts to prevent me from relay competitions.

“Oh, but at least you have very pretty eyes!” mother offered me her lame consolation, when after our fifth grade dance I came home in tears.  Despite the Korean-made dress of hideous neon-green, in which mother had decked me out that afternoon, I spent the entire gathering leaning against the wall; and watching Alyoshka — the dreamiest creature in my class — take turns dancing with any girl who had boobs.

What was it like to be pretty, I was dying to know; and when would my turn finally come?  Mother claimed it was a curse even more brutal than being unmemorable, as other boys, I was certain, found me to be.  “Beauty comes with a responsibility,” the woman claimed, lowering her gorgeous Georgian eyes underneath the bushy eyebrow.  “Oh, Lord help us all, poor women folk:  The responsibility!”

Surely, cousin Galina had lived through my suffering!  She must’ve understood it!  But the very idea of having a heart-to-heart with the complaining relative sent me into a state of anxious shyness.  I suspected she would avoid the topic altogether, and instead try to pond off information about the terrible luck in store for some other unfortunate adult.  And just like the smells of her flesh, I found her gossip oppressive.

“So, grandma?” I started up one evening, while helping grandma Irina transfer a woolen thread from a spool into a yarn ball.  The winters were unforgiving in the Urals, with snowfalls of at least a meter deep; and as the harvest season was winding down, grandma Irina busied herself with supplying her entire family — from the distant relatives in Siberia and to her best friend in the Ukraine — with woolen sock.  The tips of the spool rotated against my fingertips, leaving them slightly raw with early blisters.  So, I’d switch them out periodically:  The pain was nothing in comparison to my desire to dig up some information on the cuz.

“How come babushka Galina had never been married?”

Grandma Irina knitted her brow but didn’t stop masterfully looping the thread around the yarn ball.  Her fingers moved quickly.  The yarn looked like a blurry trail.  “She isn’t your babushka,” she corrected me.  “Now hold the spool evenly!  Level out the left side!”

It was obvious:  The topic, alas, would have come to a halt — if grandpa Sergei hadn’t stepped in.

“Oh, but as the Lord himself had witnessed:  She promised herself to so many men, none wanted her after they were done!”

“Seryozha!”  Grandma scolded, shooting me a look of pure horror.  “The child’s too young to know such things!”

But grandpop was already on a roll:  “Oh yes!  In her time, Galina was the biggest floozy this town has ever seen!”  He smirked:  The Sunday banya with his drinking comrades had loosened up his demeanor and tongue.   “Not a single skirt has been able to live up to cuz’s reputation since!”

(To Be Continued.)

“just make it, babe, make it…”

“We can make it!  We can make it!  C’mon, babe.  We can make it!”

For nearly six miles I was chanting this to the steering wheel of my car, yesternight.  I was caressing it, leaning my flushed cheek bones against its drying leather.  And when no one was looking, I even planted a peck onto it, with my semi-dehydrated lips:

“We can make it!”

I suspected this would happen:  I had waited till the very last moment — again! — to refill my gas tank.  And now, I was running late to a rehearsal — again! — with my gas light on:  AGAIN!

“God damn it!” I would have sworn normally as I sensed the neon yellow light on my dashboard, out of the corner of my eye.  “I should’ve done this last night!”

But that night, I was exhausted, thinking only of the sleepiness, somewhere in my calves and feet; and of trying to not run outta gas — again.

And now, I was sitting in traffic on a congested side street someone had recommended to me as a shortcut against, um, well… traffic.  But that’s what happens quite a bit:  Other people’s shortcuts — turn into my hell.  

So, I would much rather just keep taking my own routes; doing it my own way.

But then, yesternight, I was running late — again.

So, I attempted to surrender:  “We can make it!”

I had already done THE work, by then:  Five hours — GONE out of my day!  Grateful!  Of course, I was grateful — for being able to do it.  But fitting in THE work every day always required two things:  lack of sleep and brutal discipline toward the rest of my life.

And then, of course, there was the survival hustle:  Chalk up another three hours to that!   But I have long surrendered to that already, because I am the one who chose this destiny, this route.  I am the one who rejected a myriad of day jobs and hustled to get herself out of the drudgery of the restaurant business, as well.  I am the one who agreed to the chronic pain-in-the-ass-ness of a freelancer’s life.  I am the one continuously taking — and building — my own ways.  Because only then, do I have enough dignity and space — for THE work. 

And now, I was dashing across town:  To do more work.

Okay, maybe I wasn’t dashing:  I was crawling, dragging my ass through the overheated, exhausted streets of LA-LA.  I was serving my time among others with their stories of pursuits, and with exhaustion written all over their drooping faces.  And while doing so, I was resisting every urge to curse out the retirees existing in their own timezones inside their oversized Lexuses:

“Why aren’t you moving?!” I’d usually flail while studying the trail of break lights ahead of me.  Normally, there is no rhyme or reason for it:  only the collision of other people’s timezones.  And I have to remember that they too have done their work that day:  THE work.

So, I attempt to surrender:  “We can make it!”

The side street finally opened into a giant boulevard.  We flooded onto it, and the people coexisting in my timezone took over the outer lanes — and we got going.

But then:  My gas light came on.

God damn it!

I immediately remembered the poor sucker in a Porsche who got stuck in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, the night before.  I had been sitting in traffic, on a congested side street, waiting to merge.  Because that’s what happens quite a bit:  My shortcuts collide with the shortcuts of others; and we have no choice but to obey each other’s timezones.

“But why aren’t we moving?!” I kept thinking and trying to see ahead of the red trail of break lights.  Surely, there was no rhyme or reason for it!

Not until we flooded into the intersection, did I notice the Porsche owner sweating, swearing, cursing out the honking drivers, as he refilled his tank with a portable plastic canister.  A Porsche outta gas:  Times must be tough, I thought.

And we kept on crawling, yesternight.  We kept on — serving time.

Some of us had already done THE work.  Others just hustled to survive.

So, I attempted to surrender:  “We can make it, surely!  We can make it!  All of us!”

And I would make it, not just to a gas station, but to my favorite one.  I would pull up behind a tired, droopy face of a young man who stared into space above the rooftop of his vintage Volvo.  He would forget to close the flap on the side of his car, and I would honk.  He waved, pulled out masterfully and waved again.  Thank goodness, there were people coexisting in my timezone.

“We can make it, babe!” I kept chanting.

Forty on six.

Have a good night.

You too, babe.

The nearness of humanity outside the plastic bodies of our cars was beginning to soothe me.  The whiff of gas followed the short-stop pumping sound of the pipes.  I began staring ahead, above the rooftop of my car.

“Um…” I heard.

An older man with smirking eyes and crooked yellow teeth was standing next to me, while clutching a ten dollar bill.

“Could you help me out?” he said.

Behind me, he parked his ride, blocking my way:  A giant black Benz of a recent make.

“A Benz outta gas,” I thought.  “Times must be tough!”

His story would be about money.  About Vegas — and losing all of it, to the hustle.

Times must be tough, I thought.  But we can make it, babe:  All of us!

I surrendered.

Finally.

A Change Gonna Come — Oh Yes, IT WILL!

“The world has no idea!” she said last night, her jet black eyes sparkling with reflections of the caramel candlelight with which the bar was illuminated.  “The world had NO idea of the responsibility that comes with being a woman!  And the beauty, and the intuition, and the struggle!  And the weight, and the…” — (she paused for long enough for me to overhear my own heart’s whimper) — “and the awe!”

Oh you beautiful girl child!  You magnificent survivor of your own destiny!

She was one of those exotic, smart girls.  Barely in her mid-20s, with a face constructed from genes of some ancient culture, she sat at the bar last night and — get this! — read a book.  Only V, in her younger days, would pull shit like this.  But that was just it:  The hunger of her mind, the refusal to compromise her vocabulary, the fieriness of her still idealistic beliefs, her stubborn love for humanity, and the religion of her kindness — all that reminded me of myself.  In a funny-kinky way that only life can think up, this younger version of me appeared at an unexpected time and place — and with that very higher grace that insists I should never give-up on living, she guided me to the next chapter of my own self.

I am now living, my comrades, in a visceral anticipation of change. The recent survival chapter of my life has so obviously expired!  There was a heartbreak, followed by brutal lessons of self-discovery and a painful birthing of forgiveness.  But that’s over now.  There is a new art in my life.  A new art and a new love.  But that doesn’t mean that today, there is no suffering; because the choice of living as an independent woman and a self-made artist is a loaded one.  There are still survival jobs that eat my time with their tedious nonsense.  Frequent disappointments in the lapses of human goodness, in acquaintances or occasional strangers, still scratch my heart with metallic claws.  This year’s coming-out as a writer who publicly reveals her word has, unfortunately and unexpectedly, been one of the harder lessons my life has offered.

Yet, still, my beautiful witnessing comrades:  It HAS been worth it!

I bow down my disheveled head in recognition that despite all the pain and loss and disappointment; despite the horrific, border-line criminal offenses that I’ve suffered at the hands of others; despite my own poor choices and embarrassing missteps, my life — has been magnificent.  And the main reason that I carry on (despite an occasional temptation to give-up on it all and retire into a commune of Tibetan monks) is because it continues to change.

Sometimes, change comes in as a storm, hitting me from all angels, tangling me up in my own hair and nerves, and confusing me about the functions and the origins of gravity.  Other times, it slips in gracefully and non-violently, like a San Francisco fog, reminding to hush-up, and to breathe and bear:

“It’ll all work out,” it promises.  And somehow, I believe it.

This oncoming one — is the quiet type.  With the very follicles of my skin, I can feel its approach.  It tickles with excitement and; only when I’m alone and this town’s exhausted children are asleep, it scares me, ever so little, with the proposal of the unknown.  Alas:  A woman’s intuition!  (My intuition, I’m convinced, lives in my uterus.  When shit ain’t right, it raises its sleepy head from my ovaries that it uses as pillows, and, like a quirky, misbehaving child, it starts to raise havoc.  Off it goes, swinging from my tubes, and nibbling at my gut, and playing patty cake with my diaphragm; and if I continue with my Dumb Bitch act and refuse to listen up, it then sits down into a lotus position and observes the consequences with a sardonic smile.  Because that rascal — is always right!)

But just maybe — and just maybe for this first time — I am not going to brace myself.  Instead, I’m going to strip myself — of all the residual dead weight — and in the nude form, while my unbound breasts bounce to a tribal beat, I shall chant for courage and grace.  It will be painful, I know; and there will be losses to count at the end of the battle.  But in the end, I bet there will be a discovery of my own upgraded self; and I bet — she will still be worthy of the serious yet innocent girl-child I was always meant to be.

What I’ve Learned from My Lovers — About My Son

With my lover still asleep in his bed, looking every bit like the young boy he must’ve been before the loss of innocence and the magnificent man I watch him become every single day, I’ve wondered what it must entail to mother a man.  Here, I don’t mean the man whom I, as a woman, have adopted as my selfish project titled I Can Change Him, then forgiving him—and myself—for failing.  (Although, in all those tomes of my failed histories, I shall never regret the tales of the child-like charm of every Peter Pan I’ve cradled on my chest or lost track of in a sporting goods store.)  What I mean is this:  What skills, what generosities and wisdoms, what graces and forgiveness must it take to raise a son?  What deities must a woman summon to bring up a man who causes the least amount of destruction in the world while contributing to humanity’s betterment?

As the old iconoclast Bill wrote: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.”  Thanks for that, Bill; and although I don’t mean to sound all New Agey ‘n’ shit, but in my opinion, from the first survivor sperm in my womb—it’s all predetermined; not just through destiny, but genes.  Why else would I be treading the world and running an obstacle course between my lovers’ beds in search of the best suitable companion?  Because when it comes to my potential baby-papas, my vagina is Darwinian.  Which explains why it hasn’t procreated as of yet; for I have only recently graduated from the mean school of my 20s during which I’ve slaved to get over my own terrible patterns (ironically, but not surprisingly, originating from my own mama and papa), just so I can start choosing better-suitable Peter Pans, and their sperm.

Here is the circumstance that I, as a parent, can control for the sake of my yet-to-be-born child:  Education through schooling and travel.  As someone who has studied men for years—and someone who has pursuit her own non-interrupted education between the ages of six and 26—I shall be the first to admit to being a complete snob when it comes to my lovers’ educational background.  Sure, they may be naturally intelligent (which brings me back to my vagina’s Darwinian choice-making).  But my lack of tolerance for their poor grammar, for instance (for which a smiley face is never a fair compensation, by the way), comes from a non-negotiable belief that, in this day and age, a college education—is a basic must.  If mama and papa have failed a man in that category, it then becomes his own responsibility to fix that gap.  So, as a mother of a future great man, I shall work my bloody hardest to grant my child the education that he deserves and that equips him with enough skill to “achieve greatness” (in case the whole “born into it” plan doesn’t work out).  As for the worldliness, no man can accomplish his style or confidence without the exposure to other cultures.  But right around here, I’m starting to feel preachy, for these are basic truths, right?  You’d think so!  Yet, the tomes of my dating failures do reveal a disappointing number of men of narrow minds and uneducated pasts.  (Good job, V.)

Finally, I must sing an ode to the most important quality of man:  Self-esteem.  The other night, the fiercest woman I know said:

“Insecurity is the ugliest feature of humans.”  Bingo, my gorgeous Amazon!

Oh, how hard is the work of self-examination for the sake of achieving one’s own esteem!  I’d know:  I clock-in for it daily!  However, I believe that no human will bring violence onto another—or onto himself—if he has learned to be enough; learned to be sufficient.  In that, a parent is fully accountable to lead by example.  As my lovers are rarely allowed to witness the moments of my self-doubt, thusly my son will never be made privy to my lesser self.  That way, I can only hope—I can only pray—that with my very being, I shall inspire him to be a man of esteem and grace who never loses the grasp of his self-worth, never gets in his own way and walks in tow with his potential.

Hence, it all comes back to the mother, I’m afraid.  (I’m starting to sound like my shrink here.)  What I owe my unborn son (and my son-like lovers, for that matter) is my own life, well lived, in pursuit of self-exploration, professional success and prosperity.  I owe him a parent of unshakeable ethics, of tested and reaffirmed grace, and of never-ending work of self-esteem.  I owe him—to be my own enough, for his and my sake.  Hence, now, while I wait for his arrival, is the time for my stubborn pursuit of my calling; for I believe all dreams must be tried out—and some must be accomplished—prior to his birth.  To my Shiva, I vow to be well-established in my artistic career (or at least well on the way to it) before I begin taking my basal body temperature.  I shall do my work—now!—so that I never resent my son’s success or project my failures onto his destiny; because life will put him through enough of a wringer without needing my two cents.