Thursday, August 24, 2006
The Ceiling or the Floor
As a child, I had a terrible fear of being in an accident that would leave me paralyzed. I blame this fear in part on one of my favorite childhood books, Joni, by a woman who had been paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident. If you grew up in the seventies, you probably recall seeing her on one of the several morning news shows, drawing pictures of horses and other nature scenes with a pencil she held in her mouth. I loved the book for its searing honesty -- at nine years old, I saw it as a contemporary version of Job, which keeps getting rewritten these days in much weaker forms like Why Bad Things Happen to Good People (I've always wanted to do a version called -- Why Do Assholes Have All the Luck?). Joni explored the depths of human misery, the railing against God, the loneliness of affliction. I read it again and again in those days and took deep comfort from her musings on the Stryker frame, a device that sandwiches a patient so that the patient can't move -- you can either look at the ceiling or the floor when you're on it and nurses flip you every few hours to avoid bedsores.
I bought another copy a few years ago, interested in whether it would still hold sway over me. It did. Redemption and acceptance, the calling cards of change, came slowly for Joni, not that magical moment of big turnaround that people are always looking for, myself included. My favorite writing rejection of all time said, You are a good writer, but there is no redemption here. I've often thought I would love that for my epitaph. But I don't believe it. I think redemption happens all the time, in the least likely places. We're all on Stryker frames of some sort at times, feeling trapped and at the mercy of forces beyond our control. One of my favorite childhood games when I was alone was to pretend that I'd gotten on a swing and was paralyzed. I couldn't stop myself from going back and forth. But after a while, a doctor would arrive and say, There's been a miracle! You can walk again. I'd stop myself, hitting the ground with varying degrees of roughness, only to get on the swing and start everything over again.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"When the axe came to the forest the trees said the handle is one of us. " Alice Walker
Short Story Collection Suggestion: Trash by Dorothy Allison
Drink recipes will resume in time for the weekend!
Benedictions and Maledictions
First published in Staplegun
I don’t even like boobs, my friend’s boyfriend said to anyone
who would listen. “What a waste.” She wandered by
in her black push-up gown, not speaking as he poured
more Rum and Coke, more Rum than Coke. I thought
back to my mother’s friend who drank the same thing.
She’d sit in our kitchen for hours and once, looking at me
in my leotard before gymnastics practice, said, “You
have great legs. Too bad your top part doesn’t match.”
She let me sip some of her drink that night, but it
was so sweet that I couldn’t drink enough to enjoy it.
Nothing much changed over the years, but I know enough
to nod and smile when the boyfriend says, “You have
great legs. It’s like something you’d see in a magazine.”
I pretend like I’m drinking what he is, but he’s too drunk
to realize I’ve switched to something with bite, something
that tastes like it could really hurt you if you let it.