"Those were hard things for me to come by, and I offer them to you for what they may be worth." - Toby Wolff

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mercy Waits

She watches him disappear, only a shadow now...shaking in the pain of late stage cancer. His face so drawn, pinched with the anguish that no amount of morphine can diminish completely. She wets his dry lips and smooths lackluster hair, but there is no love big enough to make him live, bring back pleasure. Why this ending of long drawn out suffering, where Mercy takes a seat at the foot of the bed, and for reason unknown, just waits...and waits...and waits? As much as she wishes him live, she wishes him die, to end the struggle that miracles had passed over and cures had failed. He has no strength to eat and sleep is elusive. His eyes follow her, beg her, glance at Mercy who has turned a blind eye. This is not her husband any longer, it is a disease which has removed him in pieces and stages. Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage done.

She sits with Mercy as he whimpers in a new wash of pain, bones rattling together in an effort to thwart, but muscle has long ago been replaced by despair and he has nothing to fight with. Begging. And she argues with Mercy, pleading his case...like he needs one. She cannot watch him suffer. one. more. day. Cannot. Forcing Mercy's hand to reach the items in her pocket, the items assembled "just in case", with guilt and trepidation keeping their secret, until now. She ends the struggle, takes the life. Mercy shakes it's head, knowing more, seeing farther.

She looks down at her husband and he is beautiful, and he is her man, and he is her everything, and he is dead. And she killed him as sure as the cancer would have...but he begged and it was right. Wasn't it? OH GOD, oh God, what has she done? Bring him back, OH GOD, one last kiss, one more sentence. His pain is gone, but so is his breath, and the warmth that was left in boney hands. OH GOD, SHE KILLED HIM! She cries uncontrollably. This is not something she can undo, and Doubt is standing in the doorway with hands on hips...formidable. And the crying stops, and the dark descends, and the emptiness fills all the hollows with sorrow.

Mercy stands and takes the hand that forced it's own, reaching it back into the pocket that houses the secret. Sure and swift the motions that bring the blood from the one left living, to drain across the one now dead. It is a useless sacrifice...does not revive him, does not relieve her. She will live another day even though she cannot. She will face the family, even though she cannot. She will sit with the consequences and the loss, even though she cannot. And Mercy sits at her feet and waits, and waits, and waits...a pocket full of secret.

(I found out yesterday that a great Uncle with terminal cancer passed away, and his wife had a hand in it. She then tried to take her own life, but is still alive and hospitalized. That's all I know. We were not close due to family divisions (thank you mother), but I did love them once and can understand both sides of this struggle.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lost Soles


The tree is dead of leaves and dry as timber....yet it has a voice more powerful than the living. A ghostly bark that calls for soles in pairs and gets as it demands. Hungry it is ... to reconstitute foliage which once completely shrouded its limbs, longing for a summer that will never come. Who was the first to wander by and hearken to its whisper of insistence? Perhaps the first cannot be traced, but the last...

Fresh marks on the bloody trail where bare or stocking feet have shuffled off. No doubt when the first stone pierced flesh, a backwards glance was cast and realization dawned ugly. So quick and stealth the loss, that it was not even a memory, just recent history. Where does one go when they have given up their sole? Me thinks they wander among us, pretenders who feign freedom in naked appendage, who dip their toes in fountains, and swipe their heels along the grass. We see them hippie free, laughing at the hot constraints of others who are digit shod. But I know better.

for what else have you, but to pose
when there is only a hole
where once a sole?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bed, Bath and Beyond

I loved the bathroom. At thirteen it was a haven of sorts. I would close the toilet seat and perch there, imagining how I could turn the single room into a home, with all sorts of special contraptions that would turn a tub into a bed, and a sink into a stove. Yes, the bathroom was on the big side of small, but my dreams were larger and I needed a cocoon. There was only one drawback to this particular bathroom....the door did not lock. It did not bother me too terribly much, until a particular incident, an incident so sharp in my mind as to continue it's cut, even now.

I am a taker of baths, and this particular evening was like every other. Water hot...make your skin pink kind of hot...too hot for wimpier teens, never quite hot enough for me. I soaped and scrubbed with a washcloth as if to remove the breasts which formed earlier than any of my friends, forcing me into a bra far sooner than I was ready. The sparse new tufts of pubic hair scared me and the body that had not yet begun to gorge itself into hiding. But after tonight....hide I would.

A knock on the bathroom door. "Occupied" I called, covering up what I could with my small washcloth. A couple more knocks. "Ann-marie I want to come in" said my mother. "I'm taking a bath" I replied. "I will be out in a minute."

My alcoholic and emotionally unstable mother and I had a one sided relationship...hers. I was completely under thumb at that point, allowed no outpouring of emotion other than complacent acceptance of life as she presented it to me. I was not allowed to be angry, to talk back, to be ill or weak in anyway. She drank every evening, just the touch of wine to lips bringing at automatic change in personality and behavior. It was well past the checkered flag signaling race for drunk this night. When she drank she was no longer a mother, losing all semblance of boundaries and propriety. Mother would tuck me in every night, and if I locked my door, she would scratch at it like a cat until I opened the door for her then scrambled back into bed, pulling tight the covers. She touched me in ways I thought a lover would, slow, languid strokes down my back, legs and arms beneath my heavy flannel pajamas. And I hated it. Hated the moon shining through her thin nightgown that hid nothing. Everything about her disgusted me. But I did not think she would ever come in the bathroom without her pathetic puppet getting up to open the door. But she did.

She walked into the bathroom as I willed the washcloth grow, stretch, thicken. She stared down at me with the droopy lids of the inebriated. "I want to see you" she said. My heart was pounding in my chest and, as so often was the almost unbearable state of my being, I was in complete fight or flight mode, but having the capacity to do neither. "Ann-marie" she said again becoming impatient, and whoa to you..whoa to you if impatience was allowed to gain purchase. "I want to see how you are progressing. Remove the washcloth."

In relating this story to my husband (after the first and last time he came into the bathroom without knocking) he said, "I would have told her to get the FUCK OUT" and he didn't say 'fuck' back then, so it was a strong statement, and I loved him for it. So what was wrong with me, that I just removed the washcloth and swam in the most intense embarrassment and humiliation I have every felt. As if her scrutiny wasn't enough, there was commentary...."I see you have some pubic hair", "Your breasts are getting larger". It was unbearable, mortifying. I cannot relay the depth of my hatred, and even that seems too tame a word.

This scar will never heal...a lump that must be swallowed every time Husband says he wants the light ON, every time I go the the doctor, or the massage therapist. The feeling of embarrassment and critique from which nothing seems to afford relief. I wonder again that I couldn't have been that spit in your face kind of child...that "I ain't takin' no shit" kind of child. Why did I choose compliance over and over again? Why didn't I fight for me in an outward display of contempt?

One moment. One lifetime. Doesn't seem fair. Just sayin'.