Friday, November 29, 2013

Struggles With Mother

She has always wanted me to be different, I understand that more clearly now. I didn’t have the words long ago to describe the repeating pattern, the predictable questions and requests sewn together like a simple quilt of three colors that followed me at first, then absorbed silently into my skin, tempering me with its weight and threads. 
I see it now from a slightly objective angle, my eyes just barely reaching above the gray fog and swirling shapes, the unsaid yet clearly defined goals that propelled me to a university and into the angst that would endure for decades, a sort of uneasy darkness that was just under the skin and could ooze out, thick and black if scratched just slightly. 
I didn’t understand it then, could not see the words making up the sentences that rolled through her head like a conveyor belt, getting more and more worn and rusty, but rotating nonetheless. As a baby girl she must have looked at me with all the hope and wonder in the world, projecting onto the blank screen of my white naked body all she saw as right and just, all perhaps that she had done and enjoyed and wished to repeat, all that she had not done but hoped to do through my skin and eyes.
As a young woman, both headstrong and naïve, I pushed against what I thought were inequalities, the mores of American society that everyone I knew seemed to accept and go along with, nearly universally without question.
She tried to keep me as a girl for as long as she could, even when my breasts started to bud and poke out from smooth cotton t-shirts.  She would not let me shave, and then when I did on my own, without consent, she looked at me sadly, finally relenting to the unstoppable flow of womanhood and said, ‘now you can never stop.’ 
Five years later, a head full of simple feminist ideology, unanswered questions and a body and mind full of open, bursting wonder and tinged with a splash of vehement anger, I stopped.  There was a contradiction I could not reconcile…I could not quite understand why when I looked at a man’s leg, covered in hair, why was I not repulsed?  Why did I have the opposite reaction seeing a slightly smaller leg, one of a woman, covered in hair? I decided it must be the culture, it must be a shared, accepted concept of beauty without anything behind it but current fashion and taste.
She did not see the young girl struggling to find her place in the symbolic order. She did not see the exploration, the push and thought against culture and the play with body and definition and experimentation with beauty and expectations, the transgression of a young girl in a society that demonized questions and moving against the wind. 
Then, as now, she could only see me through the eyes of others. She wondered and worried about how she would be defined and judged, how she would be one of the mothers that failed, who had not properly created and raised a young woman ready to join society beyond the safety of four walls. It was she who was the voice of society, she who demonized me, who pushed back against my own conviction with equal force, who judged the hair, who looked at me in disgust.  It was she who could not, who refused to see the thoughts behind the action, the tension and struggle.
I had thought it was them, the great nameless of society, thinking, moving, bulging as one big mass. I never thought it would hit so strong, come right back without ever leaving our house, come with such force from the single person tasked with guiding me through the world.
She has always wanted me to be different.  After nose rings and tattoos, it is now her obsession to hide my trees and mermaids from polite society, to hide me from the bikers and drug addicts they will attract, to hide my transgression and keep it locked in the dark attic of our household. 
This is not the girl she imagined, not the girl she wanted, the girl who would travel Europe- not Mexico. The girl who would go to a university and get a career and a Jewish husband, who would provide grandchildren. 
These wishes, pushed onto me since birth, have gone unanswered. I am not what she wanted. I am asked to hide myself, to shave, to wear long dresses, to go along with the lies she has woven about career and status. I have lost interest, the sting has dulled though every rematch is a burden- the tug and pull of my own thoughts wondering if I should please her, shock her, ignore her, and which one of my actions is coming from which thought? 
What hurts more? Covering myself time and again or seeing the disapproval in her eyes, the ashamed glance down as she looks at my skin? She has never taken me as I am and I have never cut the string, the threads of just a few colors which bind us together.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


We are walking hand in hand through a meadow. I feel your cool, firm grip on my delicate pale fingers.  Your skin is like the touch of an electric moon, passing the voltage of pure white light into the center of my palm. I open up like an exposed portal, your energy flowing into me, brightening me from the inside. The grassy hills are wet from the dark night. We walk.
There was no beginning to this journey, we walk as we always have, your hand firmly holding mine, my fingers gripping back just as tightly. In the far distance is a wall of trees, looking now in the night like a black wall with peaked tips just barely glowing by starlight. Closer to us is a small cluster of tiny things, I can’t tell exactly what they are, my eyes and mind search for meaning and then in two steps we are almost upon them. There is a taut pull of your hand and I jump towards you, just barely avoiding squashing the gathering with the heel of my boot.
What I see now is a funeral for a tiny creature, a small bird with feathers that look as dark as the grass in the dark night.
We keep walking through the meadow, the trees on our left.  We are exposed to the moon and the night sky of a thousand stars. My cheeks are cold and flush, though I feel a deep warmth in my chest, a brightness and aliveness which runs like a channel down my arm and into my palm and fingers which hold on tightly to you.
We come upon a collection of rectangular structures, narrow trailers made of a cheap metal and planted shallowly upon the earth. There are a few dozen, all densely packed together. We pass one, the only one with a bright porch light. Its yellow glow reveals the neglected state of the home, the walls left without sheen. One woman stands by her front door, looking out into the empty dirt streets.
We walk on, the path now worn and without grass. The narrow homes give way to a large collection of military tents. Even without light I can feel the green of their canvas walls. An aroma of campfires and cigarette smoke and alcohol lingers close to the earth, a smell of men in old, worn uniforms. 
I study the tents as we walk, all of them dark and without light or fire to warm up the darkness. I feel you pull me towards the left, just off the path where it is nearly black, you push aside a heavy canvas wall and we step into a large tent. 
It is bright inside from overhead lamps, their light bouncing off the white fabric walls.  I sit on your lap.
There are a dozen people, perhaps a few more sitting in a circle, some on the ground, many in chairs. 
I realize then that you are across the room, sitting on the other side of the circle. There is a girl wearing all black, her shoes, her shirt, her tights, her skirt, her hair, her makeup, all of them are black, all but her skin and eyes. You start to kiss her, gently stroking her cheeks and pushing her hair back lovingly. I see you then kiss others, then stand briefly as you kiss small objects and bottles. 
I turn my attention to the center of the circle. There is a woman dressed as a bird on the ground.  From across the circle I see you looking at her and you begin to sing to yourself softly, keeping your eyes on the bird.
I am moved and get out of my seat and enter the circle, I lay on the ground and start singing. I try and help the bird to fly. I push and pull but the bird will not stand, it will not get off the floor. I relent and lay on the ground with it, clutching it. I wrap my legs around it and hold it like a pillow, like a lover. I sing a wailing song because the bird is dead.
I close my eyes, I watch the melody in my mind, watch it  move like a journey, watch it move through a meadow, down a dirt  path, through houses and tents and into a circle.  I sing until it ends, then I open my eyes. No one says anything, you are turned away from me.