Tag Archives: strength

“It’s in the reach of my arms / The span of my hips / The stride of my step / The curl of my lips…”

I had a dream last night:  of walking into a room full of beautiful women.

Some of them, I’ve known for years; a few of them for long enough to have forgotten their faces.  Some of the other faces could’ve belonged to my future, perhaps.

When I entered through the door with chipping white paint — a door that was more obedient to the pull of gravity than that of its rusty hinges — every woman looked up at me:  A stunning constellation of loving, familiar eyes sprawled before me; each pair of eyes — with its own story of similar pathos that have led us all to the common denominator of womanhood.

A tearful redhead sat at the teacher’s desk, up front.  I assumed she was leading the classroom.  Lines of poetry were written on a blackboard behind her.

“I’d seen her somewhere,” I thought in my sleep.

Perhaps, she borrowed her details from my Russian Lit. professor back in the old country.  That one was a tall, mighty blonde that might have stepped off the pages of Nekrasov’s poetry.  Or:  She could’ve been one of those pre-Napoleon aristocrats, attending a ball in St. Petersburg, while wrapped in the fur of a red fox and emeralds to accentuate her gorgeous green eyes.

Her name was Tatiana.  She had a middle name, of course; but in a radical fashion, she demanded we didn’t use it.

“By god, I’m only a few years older than you all!” she’d correct some brown noser testing the air, in class.

True, we were all quite young then, and typically confused.  But we had grounds for it though:  Our country was falling apart at the seams.

One morning, Tatiana walked into my first class of the day in a solemn mood.  Her magnificent hair of a Russian blond beauty was pulled back into a messy bun; and by her eyes, we could tell that she either hadn’t slept or had been crying all morning.  Or both.

It was common for Tatiana to bring up politics in class.  After all, she belonged to our generation:  of curious and passionate, and justifiably confused.  But that morning, she would remain silent, stunning all of us with the expectations of the worst.  And she would stare out of the window while burying her chin into the cream-colored crocheted shawl wrapped around her magnificent, mighty shoulders.

Inspired by a thought, every once in a while, she would look at us and inhale, as if grasping enough air to deliver the news.  Breathlessly, we watched her.

Caution:  Courage at work.  

But she would lose the train of thought, tear up again and bury her face in the shawl.  After the longest minutes of our assuming the worst, Tatiana left the classroom; and none of us would see her again.

But I would — in my last night’s dream, about walking into a room full of beautiful women.

There were a few from my college years:  Of various heritages, they were American-born, opinionated and seemingly fearless:  The tall one, with an Irish brogue, had been known to lead her life along a courageous path of rebelling against the confines of tradition. The quiet brunette, cradling her little girl in the corner — under a tent of her long East Indian hair — had been burdened with the most gentle of hearts I had ever loved.  And I had loved her the most — and oh, for so very long! And I had known the brown, graceful one with the pixie haircut very little back then.

A handful of others came along after my most innocent years of womanhood.

The one who stood up to applaud me had recently left for her homeland:  She had always been luminous and proud, in the way of an African queen.  She wore a heavy necklace when she left for her odyssey:  something borrowed from the neck of Nefertiti.  And she wore that again, in my dream.

The poetess who had guided me toward a path of quiet victory had borrowed a headdress from my favorite writer of Caribbean descent.  And she walked to the front of the room to introduce me.  

I struggled with the door for a moment, then pushed it with my hip. There is nothing in the world that won’t obey a woman’s hip!  On it, we bounce our children, or carry the weight of our unhappy burdens.  With it, we can dislodge any jam in our way; make a man lose his sleep over it, or find his rest — in its soft curvature.

“Well…  That’s been conquered,” I said to the women, once I turned around.  They laughed:  A sound that may have made me smile in my sleep.

While the laughter subsided, I studied the floor under my feet:

There was none.  Just dirt, covered with loose planks of wood; and as I made my way across them, the boards chomped and sank into the wetness.  I couldn’t tell where exactly we had gathered that day:  Which of our old countries had granted us refuge.  But this morning, I had slept in, for a change, missing the sound of my alarm clock and the call of my obligations. And I would have much rather remained dreaming.

“I Was in the House — When the House Burned Down.”

Trembling.  Waiting for clearer thoughts to come in.

Here comes one:

“How is it that I’m shivering in a 110-degree heat?”

That’ll do, for now.

Gently!  You must handle yourself — gently.

Standing on a street that to a bystander’s eye would appear idillic and “homey”, she wonders about the horrors that could be happening behind the closed doors of these same “homey” homes, with pretty white doors:  the quiet, muffled horrors of domestic violence.

“Beware — of pretty,” another thought comes in.

There is a reason why she has always loathed the sight of the white picket fence:  They reek of false advertisement and broken promises — of broken hearts.  And the heart that break due to the broken promise — takes longer to heal. She is now cradling her heart, in her heaving chest; but it would take her years to learn just how long the healing would take.

Her thinking is fragmented.  If only she could get a grip on this shivering:  If only she could catch her breath.  But the body takes its time.

There is a violence that lives in every body:  A violence that strikes at another — or at itself.  It always comes from the darkest corners of one’s soul and it prefers no audience.  But those whom we love the most often fall victim to it.

So, she is catching herself wonder about the suffering that others endure when love betrays its goodness.  It is much better to be thinking of others, in moments of extreme pain.  Because the end to her own pain — she cannot possibly see from here:  In the “homey” neighborhood that has broken its promise to her and found her homeless, in 110-degree heat.

Besides, the suffering of others should remind her that someone is always having it worse.

“How can it possibly be worse?!” another thought flings itself inside her throbbing head.

The chest is heaving.  The heart is beating fast:  It is not broken yet.

“Do people die — of broken hearts?” she thinks and sits down on the curb to catch her breath.  Is that what happens — in heart attacks?

A Heart:  Attacked.  That would be the name of her cause, if she were to stop breathing right now.

She stares at her feet.  The pedicure on her toes is of her own manufacturing.  She’s had a hand in that.  The chosen color is pink:  They have just passed Easter, on the calendar.  The pair of shoes, that she’s had very little time to peel on before leaping out of the house, are multicolored:  Each strap bears a neon shade.  When she first laid her eyes on them, on a shelf at Payless, she thought.

“When in the world would I wear those?!”

Now.  She is wearing them now.  And in a juxtaposition with her black tank top and blue bicycle shorts, they fail to make any sense at all.  She chuckles to herself:  Yes, she actually chuckles — while shivering — because she is thinking that she must look like a burnt house victim, right now.

And isn’t that what happened, anyway:  Her “homey” home has burnt down on its promise?  It has collapsed on itself, and no matter its false appearance from the outside, behind those pretty white doors and the white picket fence — one can only find ruins.

She shivers and looks over her shoulder at the sight of the house:

The perfectly groomed, neon green lawn — FAKE!

The deceivingly white and pink exterior — FALSE!

The beautiful rotunda window of its office space — LIARS!

A distorted face of a man has been watching her through that window.  She has just realized that.  He is puffy and unshaven, bewildered behind his thick-rimmed glasses.  His mouth begins opening once he notices her looking back.  He is that bug-eyed bottom-feeding fish that outlives the smaller bastards in a shared tank.  The existence of his type is necessary, in nature.  She knows that.  Symbi-fuckin’-osis!  But again, it would years before she sees his purpose in her life.

“GET THE FUCK OUT!” she can lipread on his gaping, bottom-feeding mouth.

“I hope I took my glasses with me,” another thought happens.

That’s when she realizes she’s actually not seeing the man:  She is remembering him, at this very moment.  The brain is taking in the memories:  The bits that it will then try so very hard to forget.

The shivering hasn’t subsided, but it has transformed into an all-over warmth that happens to the survivors of car wrecks.  This is:

The Body:  Coping.

That is the name of her current disease.

No, she wouldn’t die of A Heart:  Attacked.  Not on this day.  Her body has chosen to persevere, to survive the violence.

The shivering is violent.  The body is confronting brutality with its reserve of sudden energy.

This is what it takes — to survive:  To outlive the broken heart.

She wants to go to sleep but then realizes that it’ll be a while; for she has just leapt out of a burning home:  a “homey” home. The thought of anything too far ahead refuses to happen; and strangely calm, she is grateful for that. She thinks no more than five minutes ahead.

Not feeling her own body, she picks herself up off the curb and reaches for the giant black bag packed in the middle of the night.

And:  She.  Starts.  Walking.

It should be hard, in theory, to not know where she’s going.  She’s got no home.  She knows no shelter.

But she is only thinking of one step at a time — and only five minutes ahead.

Gently!  You must handle yourself — gently! — when you survive.

She’s chosen to survive.  It would begin when she starts walking.

Away.

“And It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard: And It’s a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall!”

It was her first fall in LA-LA.

“What is — this place, out here?” she thought, when she noticed that beauty wasn’t throwing itself, suicidally, into her face.  Or, humanity, for that matter.

“May I, at least, have some humanity, around here?”

On those first mornings when she woke up in soaked sheets, she would slide open the windows to air-out her bedroom.  But it made no difference.  The heat would keep hanging at the ceiling of her top floor apartment — much more spacious than the one she dwelled in, back in New York.  And by the end of the day, its molecules smelled of smog — and of her own sweat.

And the sweat was different here, too.  In the heat of August that made New Yorkers flee the City, she loved to venture out into the streets, still just as crowded, but mostly with baffled tourists — not locals — who would jump out of her way, startled by her outraged footsteps.  She would walk around for hours, feeling the unmistakable humidity that made the City smell like rotten garbage and, yes, human sweat.  And while she stood on subway platforms, she could feel the drops of her own perspiration slide slowly from her ass cheeks to the back of her knees, under her long skirts.  She felt the whiff of sex, hers and others’:  And it promised — more life.

There seemed to be some unexpected romance in those days:  For the first time, she finally felt like she was belonging.  But how could she belong in a place she was leaving, so soon?

The one-way ticket already had been bought by her mother, who upon hearing the news of the divorce, put away her dramatics and got stoic, for a change:

“You’re coming to California,” motha said over the phone.

“You make me sound like a folk song,” she thought, in response.  Yet, she obeyed. 

It was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan — to never plead or grovel for a man to change his mind.

She was going to California.

There would be plenty of chaos upon her landing:  Finding an apartment seemed easier; for there always seemed to be plenty of departing who packed up their shit into double-parked U-Halls, sweating and swearing at the city’s expense.  But the city’s leasers seemed indecisive and slow.

“Everyone keeps acting as if they’ve got better choices, out here,” she told her best friend in New York.  “Or, they just namedrop.”

Like the little man with glistening eyes who, despite being bound to a wheel-chair, managed to lurk over her when interviewing her for a roommate position.  On his living-room wall, she could see a framed, autographed poster of a recently released indie flick that was pretty well reviewed in The Times, that summer.

“I produced that,” the little man said, reminding her of one those exotic birds on the Discovery Channel that puff themselves up into alien shapes — just to get some tail.  From under the smeared lenses of his glasses, his narrow eyes were sliding up and down her body.  His face was glistening with sweat.  She got up, feeling like she needed a shower at the closest motel she could find, on Sunset Boulevard.

“Well, what do you think?” the little man wheeled after her, to the door, lurking.  “I could make you a star!”

She walked out.

“Really?” her best friend said calmly.  “Do they actually say things like that, out there?”

And then, there was the job search, in which every lobby looked like a waiting room for an audition or a cattle call.  And no one else seemed to be breaking a sweat, after driving in the apocalyptic-degree heat.

“We aren’t making any decisions right now,” the interviewers kept saying.  “But we’ll keep your resume on file.”

“Then, why did you waste my time?” she actually said to a group of young entrepreneurs who looked like the cast of Entourage and, after sliding their eyes up and down her body, asked her to tell them “something they couldn’t have known — by looking at her”.  (She told them she was good at harakiri.)

She walked out, got back into her car and wasted more time.  The heat outside was still insatiable!  And in the midst of it, everyone was always up for a hike.  Or “a coffee date, sometime”.

The rain would finally come by the end of October.  And it wouldn’t stop.

The roads would get shiny at first, and for the first time, since landing, she would smell the nearing of another season — not of her own sweat.  The nights would get cold, and she would insist on walking, to any outside cafe, on Sunset Boulevard, and getting soaked. It was the first time she would cry the tears worthy of the women of her motha’s clan:  They weren’t filled with self-pity anymore, but with rage.  And rage — was always better, for survival.

 

Finally, there would be a callback for a maitre d’ position at some pretentious overpriced restaurant, on the West Side, with a diva-chef in the kitchen.  She would swim in her motha’s decade-old clunker to other side of the city.  Driving in the middle lane seemed safer, but some maniac in a German car would always honk and zoom past her, on the right, and give her car a full rinse with the filthy water from the gutters.

“You’re terribly overqualified,” the general manager with a bulldog’s jaw would tell her, at the end, after the two-hour drive.

She got up and tried to make it to the door without breaking down into another outraged tear shed.  Her scuffed shoes made a chomping sound:  Her feet were soaked.  So was her hair.

He would follow her, to the door:

“We’ll keep your resume on file though,” he’d say.

“Please, don’t!” she actually said.

Because it was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan to never plead for a man to change his mind.

She walked out.

“Somewhere, Someone’s Calling Me, When the Chips Are Down.”

(Continued from September 30, 2011.)

So, that day, when motha decided to bring home a coconut, I didn’t even wonder if she had to stand in line for it.

“Where did you find this thing?!” I asked instead, while clutching the coconut to my chest.  It felt prickly.

I knew she must’ve gone to some fancy store in the capital.  She had taken a bus and probably a couple of trolleys; and then another bus, packed with other mothers — in order to bring this thing home:  A coconut!

In the midst of the last days of the Soviet Union, she had brought home — a coconut!

In response to my question, motha would start telling a story.  But motha sucks at storytelling; and soon enough, long before delivering the punchline, she started laughing and flailing her arms around, completely unaware of her vanity (and considering motha always knew the effect of her beauty, such abandonment — was quite endearing).

She tilted her head back, as if in the midst of some private exorcism, and she hollered and yelped in between her words.  Tears started glistening in the corners of her eyes.  And she would smack me every once in a while, as if taunting me to participate in her hysteria; and even though she stood no taller than 1.5 meters from the ground, motha could always pack a mighty punch.

Pretty soon, things in her vicinity started falling down to the floor.  Motha crouched down to pick them up; but then, she just stayed there — laughing.

I don’t know what the gist of her story was, at first:  I just kept clutching the coconut.  I wasn’t really sure how breakable that thing was, and I didn’t want motha to knock it over by accident.  Sure, I’ve seen those things before, most likely on some Mexican telenovela or in a film about rich American people, in a pretty town, on some pretty shore.  Both genres would have been narrated in a monotone male voice of the translator, yet I still managed to get addicted to these latest imports on our television screens, full-heartedly.

Because in the last years of the Soviet Union, the world suddenly became much larger — and not as intimidating as it had been previously assumed.  And despite the utter chaos, my own homeland began to seem much more human.   

And despite the last days of my innocence — the last days of my childhood — it was impossible not to laugh along with my motha, in that moment.

I think she was trying to tell me about her asking for a tutorial from the cashier woman at the store.

“And why are you asking ME, lady citizen?” the bitter woman had responded.  You’d think she would be happy to work in such a fancy establishment, with more access to deficit items the rest of us could only see on some Mexican telenovelas or in an American film.  But apparently, Soviet cashiers were bitter regardless of their situation.

“Do I look like I’m married to an apparatchik, to you?!” — the disgruntled woman attacked my motha.  (I have a feeling that interaction didn’t end well, for the cashier; because with motha — it’s better not to push it.)

Bitterness — was the worst consequence of those days.  The flood of unexpected hardships was actually quite easy to understand, because poverty had always existed in my Motha’land.  But while we were all poor together, it must’ve bugged the grown-ups less.  It was when the distance between the new wealth and the old poverty became obvious that Russians began to express their discontentment.  (And we aren’t really a happy bunch, to begin with.)

“So, it’s up to you and me, rabbit!” motha concluded and marched out into the living-room.

She wasn’t too keen on tender nicknames for me, so I just stayed in my place and waited:  With motha — it’s better not to push it.  Something heavy fell down in the living-room.  I heard my motha swear.  The thought of our neighbors below made me cringe:  Daily, the poor bastards had to endure the heavy footsteps of this tiny woman who stood no taller than 1.5 meters from the ground.

Motha reappeared in the doorway.

“How about it then?!”

Her face was still flushed from laughter, and her chest was heaving.  In one of her manicured hands, motha was holding an ax (oh, dear Lenin!), and with the other, she was waving a hammer and a screwdriver above her head.

“Oy, no!” I said.  And, “Bad idea!” — I thought to myself.

“Whoever doesn’t take risks — doesn’t drink champagne!” motha declared and proceeded to march into the kitchen.  I, the coconut, and our offensively obese red cat followed her.

The operation that unfolded in the kitchen was less than graceful:  Crouching down in her miniskirt, motha began pounding the screwdriver into the poor piece of fruit.  But the problem was she was whacking it through the side, and the thing kept rolling out of her grip.  And she:  She kept laughing.

“Hey, rabbit!  Come help!”

Motha’s orders were never up to a negotiation, so, I obeyed.  The thought of the screwdriver being hammered into my palm with my motha’s clumsy maneuver was a lot less intimidating, than her wrath.  Yeah:  With motha — it’s better not to push it.

But first, I examined the fruit:

“Let’s trying breaking in through these three dimples,” I suggested.

The task would have been accomplished had motha stopped collapsing into fits of laughter.  And I thought:  If there was ever anything more dangerous than an unhappy Russian woman, it would be a woman in throws of hysteria, holding a hammer.

Motha reached for the ax.

“Oy, no!” I rebelled and leapt to my feet.  This whole situation was starting to stage itself as some Greek tragedy.  And most of the time, those don’t work out well, for the children.

Motha got up, while still holding the now scuffed up fruit.  With tears and make-up running down her face, she reminded me of a young girl at a Beatles concert.  (The images of such strange life elsewhere were beginning to flood our press, from all parts of the world.  And somehow, that world seemed much larger, less intimidating — and quite wonderful!)

“Rabbit, catch!” she threw the coconut at me.

I ducked.  The fruit bounced off the doorway behind me and hit the floor.  Our offensively obese red cat dashed out of the kitchen.

Motha and I lost it entirely, and when the neighbors below knocked on their ceiling, we lost it again.  The glimmer of joy, dimmed in my motha’s eyes in those difficult years, considered reigniting.  No matter the chaos, this beautiful woman who stood no taller than 1.5 meters from the ground, refused to grovel.   And even if it took hysteria to remember how to laugh, she wouldn’t give it up.

“Been Waiting for a Long, Long Time — Just To Get Off and Throw My Hands Up High!”

Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay!  This morning, I did wake up mellow and all.  I even meditated before brushing my teeth:  Staying flat on my back on a mattress notorious for having less give than my floor, I stared at the ceiling and counted my breaths.  In — hold — out:  one.  In — hold — out:  two.

Maybe I should take the hold out.  In — out:  one.  In — out… Shit!  It feels like I am about to hyperventilate.

Okay, I better hold.

Well, that didn’t work.  My breathing has been suffering from a bit of shortness this month:  Rent is due in a coupla weeks, and if you ever dwelled in LA-LA, you know that in the last weeks of August, the town goes dead and its army of freelancers and independent contractors are better off leaving town — or they go homicidal with despair.

Still in bed, I switched my tactic.  On my notoriously firm mattress, I assumed the position of an upside-down starfish and I recalled hearing a successful man point out the main recipe for his prosperity: GRATITUDE — he said last night.

Aha! I’ve suspected that much.

Gratitude is habitual for me, and this year I’ve had to practice quite a bit of it:  Somewhere in the transition to my life of a self-published writer, a self-taught blogger; to the high-wire act of a freelancer and the truly delightful experience of single-girl-dom that crashed onto my head unexpectedly, in the midst of all that, via an abrupt decision by my partner to depart — summoning my gratitude has been crucial for keeping tabs on my sanity.  ‘Cause I’m an angry little girl who’s got one hell of a spirit in her — and way too much to say!  And if not channeled toward crossing oceans and conquering fears, that wrath could easily metamorphose into a cancer.

Face down, on my notoriously firm mattress, I began making a list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful.

Well, let’s see:  There is health.  And, then…

“But:  WHY?!  Why is this child screaming at the top of her lungs?”

I noticed the shrill sound earlier this morning.  I had to:  It was the very reason for my being awake.  With intervals filled with other mellow sounds of my neighborhood — the jiggle of an ice-cream cart and the remote hum of a drill — this little girl had been screaming as if she was being exorcized, at the start of the day.

And it wasn’t really a cry of pain:  Past that I could NOT have meditated.  Instead, it was more like a holler to test the strength of her throat, to flex her lung power.  She would start out low, as if cooing; then unexpectedly wind it up, switch the registers until it would sound like a piercing shriek meant to break glass and porcelain coffee cups — or maybe even hearts!  And just as unpredictably — she would go quiet.

But back to my list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful:

Well, there is health.  And then…

And, then, there is this one hell of a spirit of mine!  I don’t really know where it comes from:  Perhaps, I’ve inherited it from all the other angry little girls that preceded me, in my family.  It has been tested by life:  Through generations, we have encountered enough shit to squash it down; to not survive, to retreat.  Instead, every angry little girl would get more fired up:  And that wrath would force us to cross oceans, to conquer fears, to make up new dreams and pick-up new adventures; to get past the unexpected changes; to shrug off our partners’ abrupt decisions to depart and to move on to the next, bettered versions of ourselves.

And we would scream.  I’ve heard my motha do it:  She would start out low; then unexpectedly wind it up, switch the registers until it would sound like a piercing shriek meant to break glass — or maybe even hearts.  And she would NOT get quiet for hours, for days.  It would be like a private exorcism, at the start of every day, by a madwoman desperately trying to keep tabs on her sanity.  And if she didn’t give that wrath a voice — it would metamorphose into a cancer of regrets and resentments.  So, she screamed.

As I also scream, nowadays, behind the wheel of my car, driving through downtown at midnight, with all the window rolled down.   

The angry little girl screamed for hours this morning.  She continued to holler, at intervals, as I finally got up from my notoriously firm mattress to do my work; then to hustle for more work in this dead town, at the end of August.  She hollered as I cleaned my place and tied up all the loose ends with the disciplined routine of my single-girl-dom.  She shrieked as I left the house for my morning run, and I could hear her for miles, until I finally switched on my iPod.

When the shortness of breath kicked in again, later in the day, I began making a list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful.  There was health, of course.  And then, there were things.

But if I visualized those things, the images didn’t last.  They popped like rainbow-tinted bubbles, and each idea of gratitude was replaced by the faces of the other angry little girls in my family who have guided me with our collective one hell of a spirit.  Then, there were the faces of those I had chosen to make up into my own family:  My angry people, my unstoppable comrades, my fellow spirits.  My most valuable possession, they are — the reason and often the source of my prosperity.  And if I look at it like that:  I’m a very successful woman, already.

Still, that’s no reason to stop summoning the gratitude, at the start of every day.

And when that doesn’t work, I can always give voice to my wrath and start screaming:  to flex my strength, to hear the echos of my power, and to get to the other side of it — and to always overcome.  Otherwise, the wrath would metamorphose into a cancer of regrets and resentments.  So:

It’s better to scream.

“Can You Bounce Wit Me, Bounce Wit Me, Ge-Gi-Gi-Gi-Gi-Gi?”

Mmm:  First cup of coffee of the day.  Mmm-hmm.  Oh yeah.

Achy, I stumble across the apartment this morning while listening to the gargling of my coffee drip.  I cannot wait.

My freelance gig of last night is sitting in my joints and in the arches of my feet:  So tired!  The neck is stiff, causing me a mellow headache.  Still, the pain is no stronger than the gratitude for finally manufacturing an income that doesn’t violate, compete with, or drain my work.  No longer do I report to anyone else but myself.  And others that hire me for my expertise treat me with dignity and a slight amusement that covers up their utter adoration of my company.  I stretch the neck, both ways.  Something snaps on the left side.

GRATITUDE.

Or should I blame the 7-mile dash across the beach yesterday, for feeling so roughed up?  Barefoot and barely dressed, I squeezed in between the beautiful bodies of strutting brown girls in yesterday’s sun, and I kept on running.  There is an esteem in me these day that other women pick-up on:  Not only do they smile at me (for they have always done that) — they grin, openly, in recognition or admiration — while they size me up discretely, the way that only women can do.  I grin right back at them, and I find myself picking up speed.

Oh, if I could, I would kiss every one of them on their shiny, pink-bow lips that must taste like purple grapes or black cherries; drinking them up, like that first cup of coffee of the day!

Mmm.  Life.  Oh yeah.

The drip has committed its last exhales, always so a-rhythmical.  But only after it does half a dozen of spit takes do I slowly make it over to the machine.  Ouch, ouch:  The arches of my feet are killing me!  The cold of the kitchen tiles feels soothing though.

I pour the first cup, watch its surface covered with patches of broken oily film; and at first, I am tempted to lap them up with my tongue.  Instead, I stare at them, like an old Turkish wise woman, reading coffee grounds for signs of my own destiny.  But I cannot see the bottom of the cup, so my story gets to keep its mystery.  All the better that way.

Mmm.  Life.

The hot liquid is somehow of perfect temperature this morning, and it goes down so easily; so smoothly.  Its acidity hangs in the back of my teeth with an aftertaste that makes me want to drink up more.  So much more!  To drink it up, to lap it up — all of it, with gratitude! — for having been given another day, another go at a dream.  Another chance at some good living:  Mmm.  Life!  Calmly, the patches of yesterday’s thoughts about today’s commitments start coming up to the surface — and I cannot wait to begin!

I pour the second cup and make my way over to the desk.  The morning outside is foggy.  I catch myself thinking of San Francisco.  Oh yeah:  The possibilities.

My dreams loom in the back of my consciousness, as if ripening until I am ready to gather them into the bottom of my skirt and to take a bite.  There have been so many of them:  These dreams of mine.  And there have been so many loves.  And each one, I don’t delay for long — but for long enough to gather the courage, the necessary readiness and the strength; the agility, the open-mindedness — before I begin their pursuit.

But what was it — that lullabied me to sleep last night?  I do remember venting to myself, while fighting the beginnings of this mellow headache.  The patches of yesternight’s thoughts slowly come up to the surface; and the fragments of their through-lines remind me of feeling agitated and strangely inspired.  (Mmm:   Life.)

Monogamy!  Bingo.  That’s it.

I was thinking about monogamy last night.  Achy, I paced across the apartment, at midnight; defining something that I’ve never had a problem trying on, with each of my loves.  (And there have been so many of them:  My loves.  Mmm.)  But then again, I’ve never had the audacity to deny myself — or my partner — the variety, in life.  I am not the one to confine my lover to limitations of a single woman:  me. Because I myself know how much beauty, how much possibility there is to lap up; to drink up; to chug it down — like the first cup of coffee of the day.

But of course, each coupling of lovers must define it for themselves.  And it’s a lengthy process of figuring out how each partner measures up against the other, with his or her beliefs, passions and hungers.  And it’s not an easy talk of comparing each other’s needs and opinions — on monogamy; but such talks must happen continuously, as the relationship grows and changes, morphing into more and more specificity.  These talks:  They must happen — absolutely! — because only in mutual honesty, does a coupling of lovers find the dignity and the esteem that comes from navigating one’s life well.

Yeah!  Honesty!  That is — the saving grace, in love.  I am addicted to it, and my girlfriends sometimes find it tragic.  And they find it odd that I allow my lovers the freedom of pursuing their hungers — as long as I am made privy to those pursuits before they happen.  It’s a health thing, at first, of course!  A physical safety thing.  I owe that to my lovers — and they owe that to me.  And then, there is the health of one’s consciousness whose only route of navigation — is honesty.

Oh yeah!  Life.

Mmm.

“I Can Be Your Hero, Baby” — Nyet.

My dad — is not Superman.

I just found that out, last night, during one of our weekly phone conversation that I have been committing to Motha Russia for the last few years.  It’s the least I could do, I always thought:  to take the initiative in maintaining this long distance relationship that had affected every romantic choice in my own biography.  Because dad was the man with whom I was blindly in love, for the first two decades of my life.  So, da:  It was the least I could do.

As someone with the burden of having left her beloveds behind, with the guilt of exceeding her parents’ lifestyle — survivor’s guilt — I have been dialing an endless line-up of numbers every Sunday (by the Russian clocks):  My Prodigal Sundays.  And after a while, I’ve given up on premeditating the concepts of these phone calls:  For they never turn out to be redemptive, or even philosophical.

“Hello, what’s new?” I would ask, every time, surprising myself with how mundane I could be despite my lists of questions about my heritage, my character, my past.

“Nothing,” dad would answer, echoing the matter-of-factness of it all.

(It’s offensively insane if you think about it, really:  After more than a decade of separation, you would think beloveds could concern themselves with anything other than gas prices (for me) and bread prices (for him).  It must be why, then, I had always found fiction to be more perfectly narrated than life.)

But then on the other hand, my dad was Superman.  For years, he seemed immune to suffering.  Between the stoic nature I myself tap into sometimes, in my own character, and the military training of his lifetime career, he never vented, never sought faults; never passed a judgement on the humans he had vowed to protect.  So, I’ve had the audacity to assume he was stronger than the rest of us, capable and tough.  Because that matched the picture of the first man with whom I was blindly in love, for the first two decades of my life.

Dad always stood so tall, with his stereotypical Eastern European features juxtaposing my own (that I had inherited from the brown, stocky brand of my motha’s side).  But it was height that I insisted on remembering the most, never measuring him against other men.  There had to be other humans larger than dad’s slim stature, so well hidden underneath the boxy cut of the Soviet Army uniform.  Just by the mere fact that, for centuries, Motha Russian was famed for repeatedly spitting out giants out of her national vagina — there had to be humans taller than my dad.  But no, not from my perspective!  Not from where I stood — not from where I looked up, in my blinded worship of him, for the first two decades of my life — never growing past my own 5 feet in height (a feature I had inherited from the brown, stocky brand of my motha’s side).

And he would be the best of them all.  Always the highest ranking officer in every room, he would be granted the respect pro bono.  So, how do you stand next to a man that gets saluted before even being spoken to, giving him a complete command over the course of the words that would follow?  How do measure yourself against someone addressed by his title rather than his name?  I tell you how:  You fall in love with him, blindly, for decades getting stuck at measuring your own romantic choices against Superman.  

We could be on an errand trip to the nearest city — my Superman and I — standing in line at an ice-cream kiosk, when a stranger in civilian clothes would salute my tallest man in the world.  Beautiful women (for centuries, Motha Russia was famed for spitting those out of her national vagina as well — in galore) would blush and adjust their hair when father marched past them.  (For the rest of his life, he would never surrender that manner of stepping — as if on a chronic conquest:  A man on a mission to protect the human race.)  And even the harshest of them all — the bitterly disappointed veterans on the benches of Moscow’s parks or the fattened-up, unhappy female secretaries at my lyceum’s administration — they too would melt a little in the esteemed company of my dad, making life seem much easier to navigate than when amidst the stocky, brown brand of my mother’s side.

Oh, how I wish I could’ve dwelled in this blind worship of him, for the rest of my life.  But the romantic choices in my own biography — a biography that had happened during the period of separation from my dad, now nearly equaling in length as the first two decades — they have began to catch up with me.  And as I continue to fall out of my loves, I begin landing in truth about the very first man with whom I was once so blindly in love.

“And yes, you do mythologize your men,” a man, not as tall as my father, had told me the other day.

And da, herein lies the pattern:  Willingly, blindly, I fall in love, worshiping each new romantic choice, pro bono.  And when he doesn’t measure against my personal Superman, I fall out of it, quite disappointed but never surprised.  For no man can live up to my mythical expectations — not even the Superman that had started them, back in the first two decades of my life.

And nyet, my dad — is not Superman.  I just found that out, last night, during one of our weekly phone calls on a typical Prodigal Sunday (by the Russian clocks).

Because, “I’m just a man,” he told me, refusing to echo the matter-of-factness of it all.  “And it’s time for you — to give up on me.”

“I Wanna Li-Li-Li-Lick You, From Your Head to Your Toes”

“Mmm, LOVE ice-cream,” you said with an audible European accent that you weren’t even trying to hide.

Quite the opposite:  I bet it has worked to your advantage so far, because you don’t throw yourself against your need to control, to plan, to over think, to predict every moment before it happens — over, and over, and over again.  In our company of two, there is already one person who has done that idiotically throughout her youth; and frankly, it’s one person too many.

No, sir!  You are one to live in the moment.  Honestly. 

And you do it with such swagger — never for the sake of exhibitionism or selfish gratification; never for the sake of better opinions or for the sake of having to impress.  You dwell in consequences of your easy charm.  You watch your life happen and unfold, delivering its opportunities to the the tips of your impeccably polished shoes, like the wet tongue of a tidal wave.

Because where you come from, time moves differently:  It never matters more than one’s sensibility, and it definitely does not dare to contradict one’s pursuit of pleasures.  And so tonight, you took your time:  warming up my curiosity with your easy, manly smiles and just a couple of caresses along my arms with the flat surfaces of your nails.  The entire night, your gender training revealed itself in my open doors, extended hands, offered-up shoulders; and your gentle guidance of my high-heeled footstep over ditches and uneven pavements.  It is your second nature — to be a gentleman.  To be a man — is your first.

“We have a saying about a true — how you say it? — ‘gentleman’,” you told me earlier in the night.  “Don’t say much — and enjoy!  Yes?”

Yes.

Naturally, you would walk me down to my car after midnight; and with you, I wouldn’t even argue.  I wouldn’t feel an urge to defend my independence or flaunt my financial capabilities:  It’s not in your — how you say it? — “gentle” nature to undermine my life choices anyway.  So, I didn’t have to test or forewarn, with you.  That evening, you were my man alright, and it was somehow (finally!) also perfectly alright for me — to be your woman.

So, why — when you began to devour your chocolate ice-cream sandwich, after calling my elevator — did you suddenly resemble a young boy on a summer day spent on a river bank with other sunburnt rascals?  As I watched you, a thought flashed:

“ADORE.”

It was more of a memory, really.  A memory of a young man — utterly adored — who could wrestle my body or mind into submission with his weight or a single flex of his arm muscles; but when the battle was over, I would walk out of his bedroom to find him armed with a fork and a focus, dissecting a sweet I had made for him a few hours prior:

“Mmm, V.  So good!” he would always say with his mouth full and a blue-eyed gaze of someone caught in the midst of his defiant joy.  “Have some!”

I never would.  Instead:  I would adore.  

Yes.

Or the sound of another, who could kindly cradle me to sleep; then slip out into the kitchen and lick spoonfuls of honey and peanut butter, chugging them down with cold milk.  If I heard his commotions in my sleep, I would smile, always — I would adore! — then, toss myself headfirst into heavier dreams.  In the morning, he would be back in his manhood, older than me; and I would wonder if I had dreamt it all up, about someone like our son.

And yet another — tougher, stronger, always in control:  If he ever rested in my bed at an hour when the August heat finally gave it a rest, I would bring him platters of chilled watermelon and frozen berries; and while he lapped-up, and feasted, and moaned — the same way he had done with my body — I would rub his heavy head on my lap.  And, while he slowly landed:  Oh, how I would adore!

Yes…

When the elevator arrived, quicker than it would throughout the day when delayed by other mortals, naturally, you held its door open with one arm, while the other continued to maneuver the quickly melting sandwich around your mouth.  You would bite and nibble, lick the corners of your lips.  I leaned against the cold rail and chuckled, finding myself in the midst of my easily accessible, habitual adoration.  The gaze you shot me was somewhat of a warning:

“Don’t say much — and enjoy!  Yes?”  

By the time there was nothing left in your hand but a wrapper, we had arrived at my destination.  I peeled my behind off the rail and made my way to the doors, anticipating, as always, their opening.

“Where are you going?” you said, with a tease and an effortless control.

Quickly you examined the wrapper in your hand for any last bits, crumpled it up, tossed it into the corner; and before I could manufacture a scold or an excuse, you pressed me back into the rail with the now free hand — while pushing every button on the control panel with the other.  I laughed.  You smiled that easy, manly smile again, moved in on me, looked-up for cameras — and began to maneuver my lips around your mouth.

At first, I kept my eyes open, looking out for an accidental mortal every time the doors slid quietly in their grooves.  But you didn’t bother:  You bit and nibbled, licked the corners of your lips — and of mine.  You dwelled in consequences of your easy charm, now backing them up with skills.  With your eyes on me, you’d push more buttons; and I would laugh — again! — into the collar seams of your impeccably white t-shirt.

And by the third time we arrived to the eighteenth floor, I closed my eyes and pushed your back against the control panel…

You tasted like chocolate.

“Hey, Pretty! Don’t You Wanna Take a Ride with Me?”

I had a beautiful girl in my car the other night, and I could’ve driven like that — forever!

‘Cause here is the thing:  I like it when people ask me for help.  Nope, scratch that:  I like it when MY people ask me for help. Because just like me, my people are self-sufficient and competent; so proud, so beautiful — quite the badasses of the human race! — and they act as if they’re permanently alright.  The fact that youth and ambition is still on our side makes that last illusion believable.  We still have that strut of the young, their health, endurance and strength; so even if life serves us up some uncertainty, we lap it up like a juicy, slightly sandy oyster:

“Slurp!  Delicious!”

Some of my people — blossom in uncertainty.  They are the most fearless of the bunch, dwelling in a higher dimension, yet mercifully extending their hand from up there when I am ready to expand yet again, to grow.  But even if I’m not ready — it’s alright, they reassure me.  Really:  It is!  Go at your own pace and don’t try to become anyone else but yourself.  Because there are enough lies in life, so you better be in control of your own fiction.

For others, uncertainty may set off some emotional white noises:  doubt, lack of confidence, and very rarely, a sliver of self-pity.  And I get it:  I ain’t judgin’!  Because my people have had an earful of my own bullshit, yet they have loved — and even worshiped — me despite of it.  So, they bitch and moan for a lil’ bit; and we all go to sleep, eventually, tangled up in each other’s limbs.  Early in the morning though, I wake up next to empty pillows with imprints of their beloved heads — and they will already be onto the next thing:  Gone.  To the next, higher dimension!  They are so self-sufficient and proud, permanently alright; forever beautiful.  Such — are my people!

So, when under the influence of an impulse, one of them suddenly turns and says:

“Hey, V?  Can you give me a lift?”

“FUCK YEAH!” I go.  “I thought you’d never ask.”

And so, they get in.

I don’t often get passengers:  It is the style of this city to be more solitary in larger spaces.  The larger the space — the more solitary you find yourself.  Yet, we demand space around here, get blue in the face when we don’t get it; and Shiva forbid a boundary gets crossed — we foam at our mouths, outraged at such a crime!  But the geography is large enough to accommodate us all (us, our egos, what we think we deserve or have been robbed of — and all that personal space!).

Most, however, are still solitary when driving:  So solitary they forget that the rest of us can see them through the bubbles of their glass walls.  As if invisible, they insist on negotiating with ambiguous gestures:  honking or revving up the engine, or flipping their version of a “fuck you” once they are at a safe distance apart from their often unknowing offender.  And it would all be quite funny, if it weren’t so dangerous.  Because that’s how isolation is — dangerous.  And sad.

And so, they get in — my people — taking over my space.  Willingly, breathlessly, I surrender:  I always have too much of it — this fucking space, in this fucking city!  My people get in, buckle up, adjust their seats.

My boys are always taller than me.  They need more room for those athletic legs I would rather be wearing around my belt line.  So, they shift back and around, get comfortable and buzzy with excitement, like 5-year-olds after a camping trip.  They start opening my compartments and examining into my corners.  And if they ask me too many questions, I laugh and kiss them — on those tense foreheads, or directly on their dry lips.  I dig out my car’s never-studied manual and thump it against their athletic legs:

“Here is a bedtime story for you!  Happy?”

While the girls — those lovely kittens that smell like lavender and honey — they curl up, with their feet tucked under; some even recline and attempt to go to sleep.  Others, the more statuesque or the ones who are freer in their bodies, stretch out, putting their prettily pedicured toes onto my dashboard, and they roll down their windows.   And, oh, how I love when they take their hair down, releasing more lavender and honey into the air!  And it flips and flies around in the wind, like a firebird flapping its magical wings.

So, when the beautiful girl of the other night had climbed inside, I was immediately breathless with attention.  She smelled like a drawer of essential oils and exotic spices.  Being one of those brown types — blunt and beautiful, so strong! — her sex tempted me with myths from a very foreign continent.  Because where she came from, women — survive.  They are capable.  Capable of carrying their men on their backs, across deserts and blistering rocks.  Capable of surviving wars, to live and tell the horrors with their skin.  Capable of outrunning, outdoing, outhunting, outsmarting.  And when they happen to surrender under their men’s care, they merely humor the rules written centuries before them.

And so, she got in:  adjusted her seat, paid a compliment to my space.  (Take it:  All this fucking space, in this fucking city!)  Readily, she began laughing at my flippancy and temper; sighing when finding me poetic or poignant.  A couple of times, she sharply exhaled at my mercurial driving habits.

“Ow!  I didn’t realize we’d be doing this!” she chuckled in that teasing manner that only women from her very foreign continent can do.

So, I started a joke:  Three minutes or five blocks before each turn, I would shoot her a gaze habitual for the women of my own foreign continent and say:

“So…  Um, we’ll be making a right turn — eventually.  Get ready!”

And she would laugh.  Oh, how she would laugh, suddenly getting lighter from having to carry her man on her back, across deserts and blistering rocks; from having to survive!  She would tease me, so quick with her comebacks; and not even know that, in that hour, I too was asking for help.

“So…  Um, we’ll be making a left — eventually.  Are you ready?”

That night, we didn’t need to tell the tales of each other’s suffering.

We could’ve just driven like that, forever:  self-sufficient and competent — so proud, so beautiful, so strong! — and permanently alright. 

A Breakthrough Period. A Breakthrough.

Finally!  The skies have cleared.  Not a shred of a cloud upon the glorious skies that make this kinky city lovable and nearly perfect.  They make this city mine, for now:  Thank goodness for this city!

It had shoved, and yanked, and jolted me for long enough to have taught me by now just how much I could tolerate.  It had taught me my strength — and my forgiveness — and despite its endless attempts to shake me off its surface, I have learned to hold my ground.  I have learned to stay grounded.  And suddenly, it is crystal clear:  The storm has passed, the dark mood is over; the horizons are endless — anything is possible!  And it is time — to move on.

And finally, I have slept!  For eleven mother-fucking hours!  The late nights of being spun-out over an abrupt ending of my love affair have officially ended.  No more scratching my head, covering it with open sores; then licking them to healing.  No more pacing barefoot between the unlit rooms of my apartment, thinking if only I’d run up enough mileage I would come across — exactly! — what had gone wrong.  No more sweat-inducing nightmares with every unlikely character taking the place of the departed lover, playing out his departure over, and over, and over again.  (Leave already!  GO.)  No more endless texting session to all my brothers just so they could make me laugh, make me light again; but first — “make me understand”:

“Make a list of what you learned,” one of them, the most beloved and the only one to always outdo me in passions, recommended.  “But fuck it, V!  What do WANT?  Make a list of what you want!”  

So, I did.  For over a month, I was the perfect student of my own fuck-ups:  Jotting down “the lessons”, pretending to be perfectly content with “the experience”.  Scrambling for gratitude, getting a hold of it with my two fingers, then putting it against my body like a vintage dress I still could not afford.  When will it come:  Forgiveness?  I distracted myself with plans.  Secretly though, I’d still rewrite our chronology, on the edges of my pages, as if I had a fucking chance at finding out when it all broke.  When it all went to shit.

The body had started to give in.  How could it not?  He had become my pattern.  He took it with him.  All other habits got shifted; all other habits other than breathing.  And bathing.  But that last one I’d commit only because that’s where his ghost would hang around the most:  Balancing on the edge of my sink, in a caramel-colored light, feasting on me with a quiet gaze — so in love with me, still! — just the way he had done it that one night, in the beginning.

So, the system had gone into a self-induced shock:  Leaking and letting go.

“Has anything changed, drastically?” a gentle doctor — a gentle man — asked me yesterday.

I had been sitting on the edge of a cold leather bench balancing my bare feet on a metal drawer underneath, and my chin — on my knees.  It always happens, in these clinics:  Too short to reach the floor anyway, I fold myself into these fetal positions.  Child-like:  a little girl.  Before the doctor entered, I had been studying my toes, wiggling them against the fluorescent lights above to make my nail polish sparkle.  How — when?! — had I grown so much, yet managed to hide the little girl in the corners of my smile, or in between these wiggling toes?  Or somewhere in my laughter he had once claimed to love the most?

“You sure?  Nothing different?  Any changes:  in diet or medication?”

Had I been given the task of casting this gentle man during my time of having hit the bottom, I could not have been more merciful:  The doc looked godsend.  With a headful of completely white hair, the face of compassion, and gentle fingers that smelled of eucalyptus, he stood there — all kindness!  all gentleness! — and received my every head shake “no” with patience.

I felt like a liar:

“Nope.  Nothing has changed.”

But what else could I say?  “I lost a love?”  That’s not a symptom.  And even if I did confess it, how could I possibly word it without making it sound trifle?  Because women don’t die of a broken heart.  Although, I did once bury this one woman…

“Any pain?  Here?…  What about here?”

He was pushing into the corners of my hips, looking for the sources of pain in the corners of my body.  Well, I hope you find it, doc.  I hope you figure it out.  Because, obviously:  I can’t.

A nurse entered the room and hung above me, while holding my hand.  She looked like an older sister, or that one guru I once had who had taught me how to channel my compassion into my touch.  The nurse’s face would’ve looked calm had it not been for one wrinkle at the beginning of her right eyebrow.  I shifted:  Something felt cold.  The nurse squeezed my hand, caught my gaze and smiled, making that wrinkle disappear.

“You’re okay,” she said.

“You’re okay,” Dr. Godsend echoed a minute later.  “They call this ‘breakthrough bleeding’.”  (“Breakthrough”?  Holy shit.  You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me!)

“But is it normal?  Four weeks?” I was beginning to feel relieved; relaxing, landing into my exhaustion — finally!  Still:  I just needed to make sure.

“Yes.  We don’t know what causes it, but…”

Dr. Godsend lingered, giving me the last chance for a confession.  I passed.

And so had the storm.  The storm — had passed.  The dark mood — was over. 

“No Chekhovian deaths for you.  Not today!” another gentle man received me in the waiting room.  Had I been given the task of casting this man during my time of having hit the bottom, I could not have been more merciful:  Older than me, he had long accepted my transferences onto his fatherhood.  Gently, he squeezed me into his side and walked me out:  Slowly, child!  Baby steps, little girl.  One foot at a time.

From the top of the hill where this godsend clinic was built I could see my city.  Thank goodness for this city!  Although still covered in that fog of the Bay, it was beginning to feel warm.  It was getting warmer.  The storm — had passed.  The skies were returning to their endless-less.  And it was time — to move on.

No.  Women don’t die of a broken heart.  But sometimes, they do bury their lovers in their “breakthrough” period.

A breakthrough. Period.