Monday, December 26, 2011

If Not For The Cat

Everyone needs love. This is indisputable. Whether one wants it or not, our hearts need nurturing and sustenance. No matter how long we deny it, or avoid it, we will die without it.

Today I spent much of the day in bed. It hasn't been a good holiday here at my father's but I do have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in and a little tiny bit of hope. I'm either depressed or anxious and panicky as I go through great changes in my life, not knowing what's around the corner, or who I can depend on.

It's raining and bitter cold and snow is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday so I will be trapped here in this house with an angry bitter father and an ailing bitter grandmother. No one wants to come here and see them because they reject the smallest bit of kindness and I threw a monkey wrench in their arrangement of mutual misery by moving in. I tread around both of them carefully or avoid them altogether because they fly back and forth between a rare show of support (here's $20 for gas to get to your brother's on Christmas Eve) or because their bitterness provokes them to lash out with no apparent reason, often only because I'm present (You wouldn't need the money if you hadn't left the man who provided for you and gave you a good home) but not just, as I can hear them alone from this room; they yell at the air and at each other and my father's cats who flee in here and pile up on the bed with me with what can only be described as confused terror. This is yet another personal hell.

Now I know Donny's anguish and deep loneliness and desperation for it to end. He told me, but I had to experience it for myself to fully appreciate such sorrow.

My cat is the one solace I can count on regularly that I can actually touch; All else is either supernatural (God) or digital (internet or telephone). I have little interest in TV and the comfort of music has at least for now been lost as I grieve over Spooky Oats. I tell myself I won't contact him again, but I know my heart will betray me. The loss of his friendship and love is no different to me than a death, only I catch a glimpse of the ghost if I look hard enough. I vow not to look. Some days, I'm successful. Other days, I get into a frenzy of panicked tears which ends with a sleeping pill and closing the door and pulling the blankets over my head. Again I betray myself by obsessive thinking, turning it over and over and over again. Why? Why? Why? But the ghost is silent. I don't understand. I still love the ghost. I still haunt the graveyard.

There is an atom of faith in some equilibrium in the universe that I will have closure but it's suffocated by everything else screaming for me to STOP JUST STOP JUST STOP AND LET IT GO AND HAVE SOME FUCKING SELF-RESPECT but as I told him, when it came to him, I had no dignity. It's true. I have none. Only shame. And confusion.

I have nowhere to go in this house. My father makes loud demanding noises in the kitchen as if to say, 'Come in here so I can punish you for my life' and the kitchen is not welcoming. It's very dark, cold, hard and drafty.  The living room is his domain and the TV the altar at which he worships. He occasionally calls me from my room when I'm home, to join him but I'm wary of him. His moods are mercurial and he is apt to begin shouting at the program or something he's dropped or me for asking or answering a question quickly aimed to begin a fight.

Then he plays the 'It's my house, my remote' game. I usually have no interest in the TV so if I join him I bring a book. He'll complain he's wasting electricity on me when I turn on the light to read. I usually don't stay long. He watches football all day long and during commercial plays the remote like a roulette wheel. He stops on something guaranteed to enrage him and I am to sit there and be the congregation for the eulogy of frustration and ire. He is inconsolable and any attempts to appease him angers him more and worse, he will turn on me and attack something, anything, about my person, my history, my thoughts and beliefs, and my endless failings.

If he finds nothing on TV to excite his wrath, he clicks through and watches me. Something may catch my ear or eye and the moment my head rises to look at the screen, he changes the channel triumphantly and says mockingly, 'Oh, were you interested in that?' I've been down this road many times before so I take that as my cue that my presence is no longer welcome. The fights are exhausting and overwhelming (and over nothing) -he creates chaos's almost a gift if it were an admirable trait. So I get up with my book and walk in here.

There is one pedestal lamp in my brother's room. There is room for nothing else. I've taken the dark shade off because the lamp is across the room and is the only illumination, and in fact, though poor, the best light in the house. I'm surrounded by my brother's belongings which no one will move since his death in March by accidently overdose. They all say 'too soon, too soon'...'everyone has died'.....I say...'but I'm still here..'  Aren't I? I'm fading but my heart is still beating because I feel it breaking.

I wonder if desperation can be accidental or deliberate. God I miss my brother. And my sister. And my mother. And my godmother. And Peachy.

My belongings consist of several bags of clothing, some nightstand and bathroom items and more bags and a laundry basket and books and cds on the bed. I keep a gratitude journal that I sit and look at and try, God I try. I keep another journal that's supposed to be focusing on myself but I keep talking to Spooky Oats in it and know that when it's full, I have to burn it because what if something happened to me and it was found among my things? It's just words. Just words. Meaningless. As time passes, would he even remember me?

Across from and next to me are dressers full of my dead brother's clothing that I'm not allowed to touch or move, nor do I want to. I don't want to get too comfortable. I don't want to be a burden. I don't want to be here, so I lay my scarf on the blanket thrown on one dresser, the blanket he died in, and I put my Christmas candle on the giant TV that doesn't work, nor do I want it to. I'm only sorry it partially blocks the morning sun from the window behind it and very sorry I can't find anyone who can carry it out of the house and my life forever.

Besides being a surface to put my candle it serves another redeeming purpose; my cat, my only consolation in this totally fucked and cursed life of mine, needs to step on it to get to the windowsill when she awakens; her one morning ritual.

She sleeps in an office chair across from me or at my feet and no matter how much time I spend in here, even when heartsick all day and night, refuses to leave except to relieve herself or have a drink of water, when I do. She follows silently behind me. My father often jeers at my 'loyal dog'. I recall my ex used to do the same thing. If I eat a piece of chicken or lamb, she will eat from my plate if she desires. She can have the last bite. That is her right. I freely give it. She is the child denied me. Her life is now more important than my own. .

From our first meeting when she could fit in the palm of my hand, she has put her wee paw on my leg, or arm or cheek while I cried brokenhearted and lonely, and stayed beside me. Even her sleeping form gives me peace. I believe in her more than I believe in God. At least she responds with love and touch. I say this with dread because God has taken away nearly everyone I love. He is indeed, a jealous god.

When I have to leave for the day, they tell me she panics or hides or sits in the window waiting for me and doesn't respond to them, not even for a treat. I left her only once when I needed to protect her from the monster I married and brought her here and it traumatized her. She wouldn't eat or drink  and thought I'd abandoned her. Until I was able to join her, I would visit weekly and plead with her to come out and eat, to forgive me, that we would be together soon, and I would go home and lock the bathroom door and sob. My father and grandmother demanded the details of what the monster did to me and I humiliated and humbled myself to have somewhere to go, to have somewhere for Wonton to go, for us to not be separated. They didn't approve, but they let me stay. They tried to make me stay with him. They yelled that I would lose the house, I would lose everything and so I have. I have lost it all, save my own life, my poor aging car, and my loyal Wonton. I had already wished myself dead and had disappointed everyone by cracking the beautiful veneer of my horrific marriage and breaking the heart of the prince I left.

I do have hope but right now, I exist and hang by a very thin thread. I do not belong anywhere. I do not have a home. If not for the cat, I am alone and belong to no one.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Lot Of Little Pieces

I used to love him but I let him go. Still we are friends, and although the years pass, the friendship, when we do pick it up is as if time never passed. We laugh, oh how we laugh, and he knows exactly how to exasperate me in a way that's both endearing and utterly frustrating and he loves that and it only encourages him more.

The warmth and camaraderie between us was palpable when we were together and it sings through the phone and the computer as well. And how could I not love someone who never fails to find some way to point out my spirit and beauty in every conversation? It would not be an exaggeration to say he's a longtime loyal member of my fan club. In fact, he still gets to keep a little piece of me, even after all this time.

He'd been wondering what was going on and I didn't know it but he'd been looking out for me. He held back and respected my silence until finally he reached out and asked me and all the questions tumbled out and I told him all that had happened during the silences. I didn't realize I had my own silences, but I had, and his memories of things I thought only I could recall, bore witness to that.

When I love someone, they get a piece of my heart. If they love me in return, they give it back and a piece of theirs too and back and forth it goes, give and take, sometimes one of us gives more and sometimes one of us takes more but it balances out, if we are lucky, and if we are careful and aware that we hold that little piece. Sometimes they take and walk away with that little piece and we feel lost and torn.

Sometimes we walk away because we feel that little piece has been found unworthy and sometimes we don't know what happened only that little piece is missing and what remains is a very painful emptiness where it once was. Our other loved ones, the ones who look out for us, try to fill in that emptiness when they see us suffering and if we're capable, we accept it and move forward.

I moved forward many times but I knew there was a lot of me that I gave. Although I didn't ask for it it return, the heart needs love. It needs nurturing. It needs to know that it's wanted and significant. Or it becomes numb, or cold, or bitter. It becomes forgetful and I forgot a lot. For a long time, I forgot who I was in the process.

I trusted my love to people who didn't value it and I mistakenly thought that meant that I wasn't worth it but I am. I've always been. They may have lost a lot of little pieces along the way themselves and didn't know how to accept when a new piece was offered to them, freely and without condition. They may have forgotten, themselves. They may be afraid of losing too many pieces and be left with nothing, not even for themselves.

As my life evolves and changes, and with reminders of who I am, how strong I am, and that I have great value, those little pieces I thought I'd lost or forgotten are returning to me. And they not only fill the emptiness I thought I'd have to live with, but overflow and allow me, even compel me, to share more pieces of me.

I have learned that a broken heart can be mended and become stronger than ever and help heal other broken hearts and sometimes, even hearts that don't even know they're broken, or want to be healed.

Time has shown me that I'm not forgotten. I'm not abandoned. I'm not worthless. My true beauty, my heart, and yours too, is composed of a lot of little pieces. If you don't believe it, keep reaching out, keep embracing, try to trust those who are more worthy and appreciative, even if your heart's been broken, don't regret that little piece you gave because one day it will return to you and multiply and your heart will overflow.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Sing

She was standing a few feet away on the side of the road, wringing her hands. I'd been sitting on the steps of the deck of my parents' summer trailer at Eagle Lake, enjoying the day and hoping to see the face of someone I loved, and perhaps have a quick conversation and immersed in my thoughts and anticipation, didn't notice her at first.

Her hair was that particular shade of henna red and it was pinned up in a beehive-y bun. She was buxom and plump and although probably in her sixties, it was evident that she'd been a great beauty in her day, the remnants of that beauty making me look twice as she stood in the sunlight hoping to catch my attention. She did.

"Can you help me?' she asked in a thick Russian accent as she walked around my car parked in the driveway and separating us. I smiled and said, 'I'll try. What can I do for you?' She explained that her 'men' (husband and brother-in-law) had dropped her off at that trailer they bought over there and she just realized there was no propane in the tanks and they would be home after dark. What propane company did I use and how much did it cost and how could she get a delivery?

I explained that it being Sunday, there would be no deliveries but I had a cell phone (back when cell phones were uncommon but becoming more affordable so was just months before the industry exploded) and if I could find a signal because there were few cell towers then, I would call for her and arrange a delivery and, waving around my cell and walking a few feet in circles, I finally got a few bars and did what I promised.

Bella was impressed and announced she needed one of those phones and where could she get one. I explained I got mine back in my hometown from a convenience store and bought monthly minutes but there were other options. She thanked me and said her men, when they arrived, maybe could go look for a store to buy one the next day and I told her to go get her purse and we would go now if she wanted. At first she was very reluctant and said she didn't want to inconvenience me and I said, 'Bella, I'm just sitting in the sun and can do that tomorrow. Get in the car.' And she did.

I had the radio on and there was a popular station which played the best pop music of the 60's through the 90's and I sang along at first, hoping she'd be more at ease, because she fidgeted beside me but then spoke up and asked me where the store was. I said that I had no idea but we'd look for one. I thought maybe there was one about five miles away so I figured we'd start there. She was amazed that I just said 'let's go' but didn't have any real destination to speak of. I laughed and soon enough we reached the store but it had switched to one of the first generations of an internet cafe. We went inside and I asked the manager if he knew where we could find a cell phone store and he gave me a few leads but said they'd all be closed on Sunday and I thanked him and we walked back to the car. I apologized to Bella because we weren't able to accomplish what she wanted but she was delighted and said no stranger ever did that much for her so quickly without hesitation so it wasn't in vain.

On the way back to the lake, again I sang along to the radio and during a commercial she asked me if I liked music and I said indeed I did. She asked me if I liked to sing, and again I said, indeed I did although my enthusiasm far outweighed my skill. She laughed and said, 'I sing.'

I was intrigued and asked her to tell me and she explained that she had been an opera and cabaret singer. 'I have sung before prime ministers and kings. Opera houses and famous nightclubs all over the world, and even on TV. I was a star!' she said proudly. 'Would you like me to sing for you?' I said of course I wouldn't turn down such an opportunity and turned off the radio and she immediately began to belt out arias and show tunes and my eyes widened and my jaw fell open as she sang. And sang. And sang. I drove around and around so the spell would not be broken as she sang her heart out for at least a half hour, blending one torch song after another until finally at a traffic light I stopped the car and applauded. 'Bravo, Bella!!! You ARE a star!' She was very pleased and I was thrilled. We pulled into the driveway and stood talking for a few minutes as the sun set and then a half hour more, and then a half hour  more and then she said she'd better light some candles and turned down my invitation to stay the night at least until her men arrived and I watched her walk away.

A few minutes later there was a knock on the slider door and I turned from the kitchen to open it and Bella was standing there and I invited her in. She handed me a rolled up poster and a cassette tape and I opened the poster and it was for a big show she'd had somewhere in Europe I can't recall. She was the headliner and it was obvious she was the diva she said she was. I had no doubt though, the moment she'd opened her mouth to sing. She told me to listen to the cassette later and she had to go and I thanked her profusely and took her hand and she kissed both my hands and said, 'No, thank you for a wonderful afternoon.' and slipped out the door and into the night with just a little flashlight like a firefly bouncing in the moonlight.

Soon after, my job duties didn't allow me to come to the lake as often as I wanted that summer and not long after that I began to date someone else seriously, someone who lived nowhere near the area, and although I missed it, I found myself spending less and less time there and eventually my parents purchased a house at a nearby lake and sold the trailer. I would listen to the cassette from time to time but my boyfriend wasn't a music lover and preferred talk radio and soon my music, like me eventually, became an irritation and inconvenience and for a while, a very much missed part of my life.

Except for that night, I never saw Bella again, nor did I ever find the poster or the cassette but I'm so grateful that for a few minutes, I had an opera singer serenade me for the price of a random kindness and it was, and Bella is unforgettable. 

Recently a friend reminded me that I sing. I had forgotten. I'd put it aside in order, sacrificed it,  to help someone when I was younger but before that I actually used to perform as long as I wasn't required to read music as I'd never been able to master it, no matter how much I'd tried. I'd never had formal training, just enthusiasm, as I'd explained to Bella but to me it was like a form of worship. When I sang I felt the most alive and both vulnerable and naked, and powerful and invincible.

I write too, and try to keep up with that and although my access to my old songs and poetry has been temporarily blocked by way of a hostile impending divorce, I was a lyricist at heart. Music moves me and deeply touches my soul and I'd missed it so much, especially after marrying that man who literally detested it. I still don't understand how THAT happened. I continued to write poetry though, songs without music, save for what was in my head and not long ago, grieving over a lost love wrote the first actual song in ages and it was amazing. It was also so angry that I didn't share it with the individual who inspired it but the fact that I wrote it at all gave me hope, even if all hope may have been lost with the subject matter.

I've begun a new life in the past few months and have made many changes and accomplished quite a few goals. I have a lot more to do and look forward to each accomplishment and count even the small ones as great leaps. I think of a woman who said she was a star and I believed her and think of me, who people too often say I'm a star and while I once forgot, I believe them and know, I sing. Again.