Tiny glassed domes rising from pores
spill into trails
salting the lips,
Slick and breathless under
a screen flickering
every angle of the terrible cleaving.
inversion, a litter of bodies
in the desert. Children jostled,
fenced camps, a flashback
between camera cuts.
We pretend to miss
Delete her number from your phone, hide/unsubscribe/unfriend her social media feeds, lick your wounds, grieve for what might have been, and throw yourself wholeheartedly into other connections and interests. Read books by women. Let time do its healing work (It will, I promise). Be a person who takes “no” for an answer.
I finally understood that his no meant no. Really, truly no. It took me nearly six months. I’m not the quickest learner, but I found my way there.
I didn’t like it one little bit. Couldn’t there be a different answer? A way to keep the door open? We’d been standing there at the threshold for so long — open, shut, open, shut. . . Open? Shut? — that I couldn’t quite believe he’d lodged the bolt for good.
What would change his mind? What might convince him to try again?
My disregard for his choice is glaring. I only see it now. My longing for him drowned out every other consideration. It didn’t help that memory laced geography. Every block, a block we walked. The path through the woods behind the library. The restaurant, the park, the gym. Memory turned to curiosity; curiosity to yearning. I was lugging around a Sears catalogue of questions never asked, not in the entirety of our four years. The questions dazzled. The desire to know him again, or perhaps know him anew, consumed me.
I wanted him.
I’d turned into every lovelorn sucker in every country song.
The minister of my Unitarian congregation invited me to share the story of why I joined our church. The Sunday I’m scheduled to speak happens to coincide with a moment of extraordinary upheaval in the national Unitarian Universalist Association. A senior-level hiring decision unearthed patterns of white supremacy and bias that many people of my faith believed didn’t exist, not here, not among us. We see yet again that privileges, blinders, and oppressive structures exist everywhere — even within people of goodwill who speak of inclusion and equity. Even those of us whose deepest value is radical love.
When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
– Audre Lorde
I buy the house for the future. Political variables do not enter into the equation. Of course the system will stay healthy enough to sustain my son and me. Housing markets rise and fall. Financial markets swing from bear to bull. Social security may last or disappear. Through all this, my house is insurance. The same is true of my education, my work experience, my retirement savings, my kid’s college fund. The road will have its bumps but we’ll be okay, more or less.
(But for how long?)
My decision fails take into consideration that truth is only assumption and that nothing is fixed.
Now a fear takes root, a fear bigger and more eclipsing than any I’ve ever experienced. Inside this fear swim all the possibilities of a much darker future. Inside this fear dawns a recognition of the fragility of my security.
The afternoon lull is the devil’s playground. The task list hasn’t diminished but the energy to tackle it has. In creeps a craving: Pastry. Muffin. Want want WANT. The Hunger — altogether different than being hungry — wells up and threatens to wash me out to the closest Panera.
At some point along the way, the occasional treat becomes a regular fix. I start plucking a couple of dollars a day from my already rickety financial scaffolding while simultaneously weighing myself down with doses of sugar. Treat turns to habit.
He asks. I fumble. Events crash past, plowing under a vocabulary both dated and outgunned. My words like vestigial limbs grasp at an extinct terrain.
As we drive the short distance home, NPR wallops us with our nightly load of federal ordure. The new Congress just voted to pave the way for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Our representatives exhumed an old law which will allow them to slash the pay of any federal worker down to $1. In a stage play of quasi-constitutionalism, those who ask the toughest questions wield no power. The men in charge anoint a public opponent of civil rights as the nation’s Attorney General and an oil tycoon as Secretary of State.
Abandon plans for a democratic agenda. Abandon hope for democracy at all. The leadership of this country has shed any pretense of discourse about how best to govern. Our leaders will seize, gut, silence, and reign. They will topple any established checks on their force, and they will dispense with explaining themselves. They will have no need to defend the twisted truths they spun as they advanced through a weakened democratic system into the control tower. Why explain? Why defend? They now execute reality.