Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Washout

I grew up sleeping in the same bed as my great-grandmother. She spoke French and broken English, couldn't walk and scooted around the house on her bottom so she wouldn't face the indignity of a wheelchair. I loved her deeply, particularly when she woke me up the middle of the night to watch professional wrestling, a great passion of hers. Below our bed rested her bedpan, the color of urine itself. It was emptied once a day so the smell of urine permeated the room. I never thought much of it until recently when I was forced to use bedpans myself for my hospital stay. The colors had changed -- most were pink or blue, but in my mind, I saw that first bedpan of my life and thought about thought about how my great-grandmother never complained about it.

I was too sick to complain about my bedpans. The surgery I underwent is called the washout which means that the doctors take all your organs out, wash the stomach cavity in saline, wash your organs in saline, and then put them back. I couldn't so much as imagine walking to the bathroom so there you have it. I got to the point where I could talk to almost anyone while on the bedpan and even in a particularly surreal moment while covered with a sheet, a priest came in before the aide took away the pan and offered me communion. So there I was with the host in my mouth, thinking about my sins and healing while sitting on a pan of my urine. It doesn't get much more real than that, I'm afraid. And while I usually hate New Year's Eve, this one doesn't seem so bad. I'm thankful for the little things, like using a regular bathroom and walking. I'm thankful for the new year, glittering before me like a fabulous mirage, one day and then another, money before you spend it, all possibility, no regret.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions." Joey Adams

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Wishful Drinking Carrie Fisher

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Comfort Food

Hi readers! Thanks so much for all the sweet comments about my essay. I'm still recovering and hope to have pictures of my scar soon. Today I'd like to ask you a question about food. I'm having to relearn a lot of eating stuff given that my intestines were removed, cleaned, and put back. So far, I've gravitated to comfort food of childhood. What are your favorite comfort foods and why? I'll be back at you tomorrow with another post for New Year's Eve. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Glimmering Plain

Here's the last of the essay. Thanks so much for reading and all well wishes for my recovery! I'm going to start with new blog posts to usher in the new year. Hope everyone is well!

Every now and then I think about that dance class from years ago,
sitting on the floor, surrounded mostly by women and the one asswipe on the dance floor, twirling like a dervish to portray his death as a dolphin. I read an article once about how swimming with dolphins could help heal you from sexual abuse and assault. Something about the water and their beauty and empathy. I’ve never had an affinity for animals of any kind so I can’t say if it would have worked for me. My dance had been scheduled for the next day. I chose to go it alone and perform to a brief snippet of a jazz tune that Alice Coltrane had composed to honor her husband John. The room would fill with the music I would listen to as I wrote for many years to come. I did not know that then, of course. The future, once a glimmering plain, had become one foot in front of the other, the way it is for so many people, forty years in the desert looking for the promised land. I could not know that my mind would return to me after years of enemy occupation. What I did know is this: I clapped at the end like everyone else, not because I had enjoyed it, but because it was over.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Was there ever in anyone's life span a point free in time, devoid of memory, a night when choice was any more than the sum of all the choices gone before?" Joan Didion

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street Michael Davis

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Crying Ruins Your Make-Up

Here's the penultimate excerpt! Thanks for reading!

I saw two movies at the theater with my rapist: Fatal Attraction and
The Accused. What can I say? In a small town with only one screen,
you have to see whatever is playing. You don’t get a choice.

A record played during the attack, my favorite Paul Simon record,
One Trick Pony. I put it on after work while he hid in the house,
unbeknownst to me. I still love the music. The record playing long
after he left as I tried to reconstruct myself. The duct tape had left a
large angry red mark around my mouth. My parents would be home
soon! In those days, I did not wear makeup and neither did my
mother. I searched the house for something and found some of her
under-eye concealer. The thick, pasty kind in a color that used to be
described as nude. I lifted the wand out of its holder and started to
work. Since I had such a dark tan, I looked a little white around the
gills. It was late in the evening, Paul sang, and all the girls sat around the stoops. I did not cry. Everyone knows crying ruins your makeup.

The last time I saw him, I was in the parking lot of Voertman’s, a
bookstore near the college we had both attended. My ex-husband
had worked there for a time, as had another boyfriend who hanged
himself that year. The owner had been a closeted gay man who had
a penchant for hiring beautiful boys to work in the store. My rapist
looked scrawny and pale in the harsh Texas light. He was not a
beautiful boy; he was a piece of shit, an early love, my nemesis, the
reason I couldn’t sleep at night for years. The last present he ever
gave me I still had—a book of Bob Dylan’s song lyrics. We always
did feel the same, we just saw it from a different point of view... In a few months, I’d be gone, far from Texas, far from him. But I didn’t care about him and hadn’t for years. The bigger question was would I be able to get away from myself? I began to understand how the really scary movies always implanted the terrible thing inside you. So how are you? he asked. I’m moving to Detroit, I said. We looked at each other for a long time, all the years and friends between us, before I walked to my car. Hey, Michelle, he yelled out. Be careful. That’s a dangerous city.

My mother wasn’t big on children’s books. Read what’s here, she’d
say. Or nothing. She did enjoy telling one fairy tale, though, the story
of Bluebeard and his seven wives that he murders. The tale begins
with his room full of dead wives, a new wife who has a key. She
cannot contain her curiosity so he must kill her. In my mother’s
version, her brothers do not come to save her. Everyone has that
room, my mother told me. Only a fool would look into it. Nobody can
save you once something happens. These were the years of Ted Bundy, and I looked like all his victims—pale skin, black straight hair. Later I realized that Bundy had worked at a rape crisis center. The things you learn!

My mother sometimes picked up hitchhikers. One time she picked
up a man. He wore a black trench coat and hobbled around on
crutches. When he got into the car, she realized he wasn’t really
hurt. Nothing was wrong with him, she said. Nothing happened to her, but she never picked up anyone again. Sometimes he rides with me, his coat in a ball in the back seat.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"One's life has many compartments." Harold Pinter

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Straight To Hell Hank Williams III (Just as good as his grandfather -- in this case, the apple did not fall far from the tree and I am glad.)

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Saturday! Hey Heff, I don't put much thought into the pictures -- it's just fun for me, and I'm glad you enjoy them. I'm also enjoying reading Playboy during my recovery -- for the articles of course. :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Panic Room

Hi readers! Thanks again for all well wishes. I'm still recovering as I will be for a LONG time. But for now, I'm going to keep posting the essay. Thanks for reading!

A few years after the rape, I bought a pistol and loaded it with hollow-tipped bullets. My then-husband sewed a purse for it, and I
kept it under my bed, safety off. We lived in an apartment named
after a tree and the walls were so thin at The Maple you could feel
the wind blow through them. From time to time, a roach would
drop from the ceiling onto my head, sending me into a panic. Once
a cop broke down a locked door with a mere push of his hip. When
my husband was gone, I carried the gun around with me in the
apartment, all two rooms of it, and laid it on the back of the toilet
whenever I took a bath. Showers, for all intents and purposes,
were out. Shower people don’t understand this preference for lying
around in your own filth. They think you can wash everything off of
yourself if you scrub hard enough.

I started seeing a therapist at the college who gave me to her supervisor. I’m a little out of my league, she said. I mostly just help students who can’t manage time. Her supervisor said things like, I don’t see taking your gun to the bathroom as a problem. I looked at him with a get real expression as my mind flashed ahead to years and years ofrelaxing bubble baths with a loaded pistol in plain view. Do you have any Valium? I asked. I can’t prescribe anything, he said. I’m not that kind of doctor.

So what was your childhood like? he asked. He was, unfortunately, that kind of a doctor. What could I do? I’d already paid for the session. When I was a child, I used to play a game with my stuffed animals, the same ones for which I would write the occasional suicide notes, notes that said things like Chatty Cathy has grown tired of life, or Mr. Teddy Bear no longer wishes to live on this earth. The game consisted of you pretending you were paralyzed and on a Stryker frame, a torturous device used in the ’70s to stabilize injured patients and prevent bedsores. If this was your fate, you’d be sandwiched between strips of canvas and flipped every few hours. The only choice in this gamewas whether you’d want to look at the ceiling or the floor. The stuffed animal was my nurse. I’d pretend to think hard about my decision -- after all, I’d be there for a long time. But I knew what I would choose. The floor. Always.

For years after the rape, the world became my own personal Tailhook, a never-ending gauntlet like the one that some of the female Naval officers experienced during an annual conference where they were thrown down, stripped, and attacked in one particular hallway of the Las Vegas Hilton. Warnings that I had ignored for years rang in my head, all the tips to fend off attackers, too little, too late, but still, I tried. I carried mace, carried handfuls of gravel to throw, carried lemon juice to squirt in their eyes. All the books said to aim for the weak spots, the windows to the soul. I suppose the idea is that you can’t hurt what you can’t see. All my energy went into not being alone. I never was, of course. I had a little bit of death around my eyes from all the anxiety and bloody red circles under them from rubbing them so hard. That drew men to me, all that brokenness. My godmother used to say, You’ll have to beat the men off with sticks when you get older. I’m sure this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. I lived in a loft apartment in my mind, a high rise where no one could touch me, the perfect panic room, no windows, no doors. No matter where I was, I was loathe to part with a loft, any loft, my loft.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions." Eartha Kitt

Drinking novel suggestion: The Abstinence Teacher Tom Perotta

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Hi readers! Here's me in healthier times with my two good friends, Dr. Pepper and Moet. I'm hoping that everyone has a very Merry Christmas with lots of good books and movies and happy family time! I'm going to follow darling Laura's advice and try to eat and rest. I'll be back at you tomorrow with more of the essay.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Hi readers! Merry Christmas Eve! I'm going to take a break today from the grim essay (fun holiday treats for all!)) and just take this time to wish you a happy day and say thank you for all your support. My being so close to death made Baby Grouchie VERY nervous, but I have to say that he's been a great nurse and confidante. Here we are in happier times (and me 25 pounds heavier -- yes, you can be way too thin despite our society's warped way of thinking-- my current appearance reminds me of my youthful stupidity in getting very thin and my mother joking to my dad, Look, the Americans have liberated the camps!) on election day. I'll be keeping you all in my thoughts as I recover. xo, Michelle

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Grow Your Own Witch Redux

Hi readers! I promise to show the scar when it is not a gaping open wound. Hope you're gearing up for Christmas and being both naughty and nice. Here's the next excerpt as first published in Iowa Review:

My friend refers to me in written correspondence as Girl. That is some fucked up creepy shit, Girl. I once bought this man a present, a tiny little Grow Your Own Witch! that would expand to six hundred times her size if you put her in water. Even so, she’d still be pretty tiny. He once bought me a T-shirt with a stick figure on it, holding a bloody knife. The caption read, I hate waking up. I hid the T-shirt in my basement in a small room with a bunch of other clothes I no longer wore.

When I was a teenager, I used to go to a haunted house in an old army barracks on a decommissioned army base on the edge of west Texas. Edgemeade, a residential dumping ground for “disturbed” adolescents—a term that could mean anything from mildly touched
to convicted of criminal behavior—sponsored the house, their primary fundraiser for the year. The locals called it “retards with fake chainsaws.” The chainsaws were real, though. They just didn’t have a blade.

By the summer of the rape, my romantic relationship with the soon-to-be rapist was grinding to a halt in that I’m bored, there’s got to be more to life than this, you weren’t who I thought you were kind of way, a job that was winding down with only a few more weeks left. It was the bittersweet summer between my junior and senior year of high school, that time when a restless fever begins to spike. The man who raped me attended the same college I planned to attend and was back in the old hometown for the summer, doing nothing while I lifeguarded at a public pool on a decommissioned army base, right near the haunted house. For one hour a day, the Edgemeade kids got to swim in the pool for free, and you could hear them running down the street a mile away. The nearby but not too nearby college was the only game in town for me, given my dreary financial situation. Even so I knew he wasn’t the only game in town—I wanted to be free. But before our inevitable collapse, he broke into my parents’ house with my one pair of pantyhose over his head, fed our German shepherd a Gainsburger to ensure her silence, stole some electrical tape out of my dad’s garage and attacked me as I stepped
out of the bathroom after taking a shower. I did not know it was him until it was over, and he pulled the tape off my mouth. What didn’t get used in the attack was thoughtfully returned to my dad’s garage where it stayed until it was all gone, and he bought another
roll. They have a saying in Texas that you can use duct tape to fix anything.

(to be continued).

Cocktail Hour Reading suggestion: Savannah Knoop, GirlBoyGirl: How I Became JT LeRoy, 2008.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Iowa Review

Here's the first part of the Iowa Review essay as published. I'll be posting it all week as I'm still recovering. Thanks so much for all your prayers, love and support. It's been rough, but as RIP Hamilton of the Pistons says, If it ain't rough, it ain't right.

The Ceiling or the Floor

As an undergraduate in a modern dance class, I had to watch my
rapist perform a solo dance number to the sound of dolphins crying.
He himself was portraying a dying dolphin, and the idea, if you
will, was that the other dolphins were trying to save him but he
could only save himself and he did not and instead screamed the
last minute of the performance, a minute being a very long time
under such circumstances. This is the kind of bizarre scenario that
people mean when they say You can’t make this shit up or It’s a small
world after all. The other students gazed in a state of shock and/or
awe and wondered if they were witnessing genius or lunacy. Most of
the students in the class had chosen to work in groups for the final,
dancing to painful medleys off of tapes like The Very Best of Kenny G.
I had signed up for the modern dance class because it would fulfill
my physical education requirement, and I thought it might be fun in
that Martha Graham/Twyla Tharp sort of way. As they say, it’s a free
country, and my rapist must have thought the same thing.

My mother referred to my rapist, a man she never knew raped me,
as the politician. He acts, she said, as if he’s running for office.
If there was a baby around, he’d kiss it before dropping it on its
head. I knew my mother was right, even then. She knew things, like
when I was about to dump someone, and she’d start to enjoy that
person, the way you cheer up when an annoying guest edges toward
the door. I watched her with great interest, if only to predict
what I was going to do next.

One person knew about my rape before it happened. My rapist
bragged about his plan to a mutual friend, a shy, timid man who
thought he might be kidding. Or so he says. We’re still friends,
this man and I. We never talk about what happened. My friend has
a dog whom he calls Dog, and Dog can do one trick: roll over and
play dead. I once spent the night at his and his sister’s house in the
guest room. Sister had decorated the guest room with unicorns and
clowns. Outside the door, Dog slept. She looked like she did when
she played dead. But I knew she wasn’t dead.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coming Attractions

Hey readers! Still deep in recovery. Please continue with the prayers and good thoughts. The new Iowa Review is here (Winter 2008/2009, Vol. 38, No. 3). I'll post the essay tomorrow. Iowa Review is great. Please support the small literary presses when and where you can!

Happy first day of Winter!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Girl Who Woke Up During Surgery

Here's the story I don't know. I woke up during surgery and had to be restrained so tightly that my arms are yellow and green with scrapes like a girl in a crime scene. My kidneys started to shut down. I was septic which is a blood infection that gives you a 50/50 chance to live. The fact that I'm writing this means, well, you know what it means. I became wildly delusional because of the morphine and trauma. At one point I became convinced that the head nurse had moved me to a Pizza Hut. She looked at me with deep compassion and untangled the myriad of IVs around my neck. "Sweetheart, sweetheart, you think that you're at a Pizza Hut because of all of this spaghetti around my head." Another nurse asked me to consider a DNR order. She's also the one who saw me tear out my Foley catheter attached to my inner thigh causing a huge sore on my thigh. "You often see that in rape victims," she said. "They reenact the trauma." I have read that a person's hearing is the last sense to go, so I was glad that I could still see.

I'm feeling very grateful for my life -- as one woman who was taking my blood as I was praying said, "Honey, just thank Jesus. If he wanted you gone, you'd be gone." Thank all of you for your prayers, good thoughts and well wishes. I miss all of you and will post more when I can. Much love, Michelle.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Michelle's Update

Hi there readers, this is Michelle's friend Marcie. Michelle asked me to post an update for her until she can write more herself, and she also asked me to thank all of you for your kind thoughts and inquiries.

Last week, sweet Michelle thought she had a bad flu but it turned out that she needed to have her appendix taken out stat. It was a very serious procedure but she is now recovering and hopes to be posting again by sometime next week. She will tell you much more at that time.

Please keep Michelle in your thoughts and prayers and thank you for your time.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

You Gotta Give Them Hope

When Harvey Milk was assassinated, I went on a hunger strike, refusing all food including KFC, my favorite. My parents indulged me in my tiny revolution; they knew I felt deeply for the gay rights movement even at the tender age of seven and they didn't display a lot of the bigotry that pervades much of our great land, then and now. My dad explained to me early that I knew several boys who would grow up and probably like other boys and that was just fine. For a man not given to deep introspection, he favored a simple approach to life and unlike a lot of crackpots who believe that sexual orientation can be changed (umm, good luck with that!), his deepest belief was that you had to be comfortable in your own skin. The closet was a metaphor I could understand early in my life, how suffocating it could be, how you might die there before you could tell the truth, like a story I heard about someone choking to death in a restaurant because she was too ashamed to draw attention to her plight. And I also understood that life out of the closet was dicey as well; any number of whackjobs might beat you to death to prove their own heterosexuality. Or show up at your funeral with a sign that says, God Hates Fags. I especially love when religious groups show up for this kind of fun. I'm sure, to steal from the great Anne Lammott, it makes Jesus want to drink straight gin from a dirty cat bowl.

Milk, quite simply, is a brilliant movie for any number of reasons. I laughed because I found myself trying not to cry during a lot of the movie and thought back to E.T., another movie I swore would not break me down. But it did, of course. It's a political story, a love story, an ode to the beauty of the seventies and the tragedy of Anita Bryant and I don't just mean being forced to sit through one of her concerts. And it reminds us that the battle still needs to be fought; on election day, many Americans supported a proposition to ban gay marriage. People who were encouraged by the likes of Rick Warren, Mr. Purpose Driven Life Pants, who gently told his many followers to support a bill that denies a group of Americans their civil rights with a compelling argument about how true marriage is in danger. Never mind that heterosexuals have done a fine job of fucking up the convention quite nicely themselves. In his most famous speech, Harvey quotes from the Declaration of Independence about all men being created equal, that you can never erase those words. He got a lot of death threats that day and many days of his life and he still stood up and risked his life. I'm a coward who seldom takes a stand; I can only try to remember those who do, who love our country enough to speak the truth even when it costs them everything.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand." Patti Smith

Cocktail Hour
Drinking cocktail suggestion:

Winter Wonderland
1 part half and half
1 part Baileys
1 dash of creme de menthe
Strain over ice.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Streets Of Detroit

Saturday pictures! I'll be back with a Milk post tomorrow!

Happy Birthday Shawn!

Hi everyone! Thanks for all the kind comments on the last few excerpts. I'm working dilligently to be done by the end of the year so I can ring in the new year with a sense of joy and happiness instead of the usual mix of despondency and resignation. As for the prize winners from my Halloween contest, your prizes are in the mail as of Monday because life got very hectic but all is back to normal now. I'm going to do a post on the movie, Milk, this weekend but first I want to wish a very happy birthday to my dear Shawn! Happy Birthday, Bamms! Here's hoping for a wonderful year.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

When Anne Stopped Changing

Another section of the book, this one about my dear Hank. Thanks for reading!

Deep in the doldrums of summer, my friend Hank and I would often take refuge in the KFC buffet. There was almost never anybody at the buffet which explains why they stopped offering it, but back then we'd eat and discuss our unfinished stories. There's two schools of thought about this -- that writers should never talk about the work while the work is in process. To talk about it spoils it, releases the need to tell it. The other school of thought is that it's good to get feedback, no matter what. I'd like to add a third way of looking at things. Hank and I would talk about our plots and characters, and we'd offer each other such uniformly hideous suggestions about what to do next (stoned, no doubt, on the copious amount of grease in the food we'd just sucked down) that by the end of the meal, both of us would have been forced to think of something better for fear we might have to resort to the idea offered. Maybe you could make your character a clown school drop-out, one of us might say. You never read anything about clown school, not really. Or we'd resort to smart-ass mode -- How about a car chase? A lovable character named Gramps? We each had projects that were never going to work -- mine was a novel about a born-again evangelical bulimic whose life had taken a bad turn, his was Yellow Leg: The Incontinent Wolf, a long poem written in entirely in couplets about well, you can figure it out.

When we wore out our ideas for the imaginary world, we'd turn to the real one, which in its own way, was just as complicated as our stories. R never changes her clothes before our dates anymore. She just wears what she was wearing to softball practice. Do you think that's a bad sign or is she just comfortable with me now? Bad sign, I'd say, reading the remnants of my mashed potatoes as if they were tea leaves. Or maybe not, I'd backpedal, could be really good. Hank grinned before finishing off his coleslaw. You're right. Maybe I ought to take it as a compliment. Two weeks later she'd left him for someone she'd met at softball practice. You know even when you don't. That became a poem for him, "When Anne Stopped Changing," (I came up with the title on the next KFC visit) which contained the great line -- What, you never thought anything stupid? I've thought so many stupid things, but some of my favorites are ones where I was stuffing my face on my very favorite fast food, dreaming of fiction and life, the two things becoming one and the same by the time we dumped garbage off our trays and entered into the harsh sunlight once again.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I'd love to retouch my whole life." Dusty Springfield

Cocktail Hour
Let the holiday drinks begin!

Cozy By The Fire

1 oz Cinnamon schnapps
1 cup Hot chocolate
Mixing instructions:
Heat the hot chocolate and add the cinnamon schnapps

Benedictions and Maledictions
As for the Snoopy band-aid, I did the most stupid thing and burned myself on a hot curler. So badly that it blistered. Only I could injure myself with such a pedestrian tool. I think it's back to totally straight hair for now! Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Calvary Center

Here's another section from the book about working in a social work center/dementia clinic in Detroit. Thanks for reading!

We'd often get people serving community service to "help" with the work. By the time most of them saw the working arrangements, they wanted to go back to serve time or at least pick up trash off the side of the road. One guy said that spending an hour at Calvary made him want to "get fucked up really bad, man." He asked me if it gave me the creeps to see old people every day, out of their minds.

"The wave of the future," I said. "We all end up that way." I smiled the kind of evil smile that I reserved for those I felt needed it. But by the end of the day or week or month, the volunteers got to leave. Their sentence was for something bad they did and they paid it and it was over. As for me, I stayed on without a plan. I walked in the doors every day of my own free will, or as free as a person who desperately needed money would ever be, and each day I walked out, no wanderguard attached to me, but sometimes I tripped the alarm anyway, causing a small commotion before I left.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." Charles M. Schulz

Cocktail Hour
Drinking book trailer suggestion: Look for Laura's new trailer release on Monday for her new novel, Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Thanks for all the recent comments! I'm particularly struck by the kindness and honesty of the faithful reader and do appreciate the concern and love. Hope everyone is having a great week and recovering from Thanksgiving and gearing up for Christmas!

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Field Guide To Demons

Hey everyone! Thanks again for all the recent comments! I'm working on editing the middle of my book which I'm calling A Field Guide To Demons (a title stolen from a book that catalogs demons -- groovy idea!). What I realized is that I'm going from an enclosed space in sections of the texts to a more open area. So I guess, despite my gloomy ways, I'm writing a redemption story. How did that happen? Life, along with love, is a profound mystery. Here's a small section. Thanks for reading!

My marriage suffered all the the unspoken grief from my rapes, the iceberg we could hit from time to time. My now ex-husband gave up his time practicing with his band when he came to understand how awful I found it to be alone in the apartment at night. I had so loved being alone and found myself in the bizarre hell of being unable to spend so much as a few minutes without another person around without starting to panic. The days took on a sameness that comes with chronic fear. My life became divided between the person everyone saw and my secret damaged self.

"Try not to be afraid, dear," Hank would say every now and then, unaware of what was making me feel so awful and too smart to ask direct questions. I thought of him saying this when I approached his casket. Sweet Hank who had longed for someone to call him dear, his favorite term of affection. I remember a beautiful waitress who used this term -- he ordered a lot of pasta on her shifts.

His body appeared jaundiced and bloated. I touched him one last time, thought about how I had held my mother's dead body after everyone left, no longer afraid of hurting her. At least she's not suffering anymore, I'd hear a thousand times that week. And a lot of people told me that Hank's vision would be perfect in Heaven, but in my mind he'd always seen what he needed to see on earth. The line made me think of all the things Hank didn't want to see in this world like the time we watched Blue Velvet with friends, including one deeply unattractive girl from our old high school who had dropped by in a teeny-tiny mini-skirt, her mottled thighs on full display. Having pined after Hank for years, she seized her chance to squeeze close to him for the duration of the film.

"She sat on my good side, Michelle," he said, making a poo face.

There was so much unrequited love, so much mystery. Hank had loved our friend Erin ever since her family showed up in town, the last stop on her father's tumultuous career path, a brilliant man hindered by the bottle. Also brilliant, Erin stood almost five feet tall, wore thick glasses, and topped her plain face with a John Denver-inspired bowl cut.

Hank referred to Erin as the bitch, as if she were both a person and a platonic ideal. They argued all the time and Erin refused to give into his desire, already feeling the horrible claustrophobia of being a beloved.

Since I didn't have many female friends when I got married, choosing the thin gruel of being a girl mascot for groups of men, Erin seemed a natural choice for a bridesmaid. Because Hank so vocally opposed our decision to wed, my betrothed did not choose him as a groomsmen so there would be no pretend walk down the aisle for them. For my bachelorette party, Erin, Tim, and I went to see The Prince Of Tides. Seeing Nick Nolte anally-raped and having to work out his pain in therapy should have clued me into the underlying them of my own marriage had I been looking for signs.

The night before the wedding, my parents and bridesmaids all gathered in my grotty apartment for my last night as a single girl. Having eaten a dinner of KFC, I nestled on the floor and hoped for sleep. Instead as I eyed the bride and groom troll dolls my mother had bought me to honor the big day, Erin tapped my shoulder.

"I've always wanted to be with you," she said.

I pretended to sleep and thought about Jeff, the artist I had never gotten over. He was back in town like some cosmic joke, just in time to ruin any peace. Did anyone end up with the right person?

Erin moved back to her Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag, a leftover from childhood sleepovers that still accommodated her small frame. I slept in an old red sleeping bag that my dad had owned since he was a boy. It often got used during camping trips when the family piled in the car for Corpus Christi. I could remember shaving my legs in the Gulf Of Mexico. Those days seemed far away. My parents slept on my great grandmother's old bed, the bed I shared with her for years. Now it would be my marital bed. I thought about all the sadness and hardship that had haunted my parents' marriage. I knew even before my marriage started that it would end as soon as I began to get well, whenever the hell that might be.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
“Be a lamp unto yourself. Work out your liberation with diligence.” Buddha

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Milk
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!