A certain calm

There are times when I experience a certain calm. As if diving into the ocean, shock gives over to a yielding. A soft sensation of surrender that I will remember and forget a thousand times – and again. An understanding that never arrives announced.

I used to love opening my eyes under water. Searching through the deep. Away from the sureness of the world, and into the endlessness awaiting. I never looked back to the shallows where feet churned sand and bodies broke the surface. I would hold my breath and swim right out to the edge of my beginning – I could only ever get this far, before the tug of fear pulled me back, but I would swim a little further each and every time. Even as a child I did not want the safety of the shore.

This kind of calm, it is a return to that feeling. A remembering of how to swim out and away, to fix my eyes on a limitless unknown, so beautiful for its mystery. You are behind me, I sense the turbid waters you create when you thrash against the waves and I know you are sinking with the ship, struggling in your safety. You will not take that breath and dive under. The truth is you are drowning because you are afraid of the deep – even when I hold out my hand.

We are not the same. We were never going to be the same. I was always going to love you better. Your best offering – your wedding dance, your earnest vows, your dedication – that is how I do it every day. Brave and demanding, and difficult – and always, always searching.

I would have loved you in this way forever – it is easy enough when you do not fear it. That is my love, and that is not how you do it. It is my swimming into the depths whilst you break against the shore.

(I am not the same as you. This certain calm reminds me).

Calm body, remember by Rock Bublitz

“Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”

– Leonard Cohen

Fingerprints

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!” – Edna St Vincent Millay

A passing comment, a did you know? I am suddenly falling through the centre of the floor. Impossible that they cannot see me disintegrate right here in front of them, but the words keep flowing as the conversation changes course around me. And it is just the memory of falling because I am still standing, still smiling and nodding, though my heart has ceased any semblance of a beat.

The endless, artlessness of this heart, where just the mention of your name can split it down the middle, cleave right through it.

(Cleave – to hold fast, and to tear apart. If ever we had a word, this would surely be our designation).

And to find I still cannot survive your name, even now.

The world keeps spinning through afternoon gossip, but I go in the opposite direction. I follow the combination of those letters back, deep into the corners where I have hidden you. I have not been here in so long, I thought I had forgotten the way. But your name is a map and I follow it so easily back to our beginning.

See, I have rearranged the furniture and vacuumed the floor but it is not as if you were never here. A light dusting would reveal your fingerprints all over. All these months later, I cannot escape the proof of you. There are traces of us everywhere.

And to think that still, no-one detects a thing.

body, remember

The Third Stage

I could take every word I have written and tear it apart. Destroy this homage, dismember every letter, rupture every articulation so that nothing remains here but a jarring, jumbled mess. You don’t deserve this altar. You don’t deserve to be thought of as one of the good guys. You are not one of the good guys. The only thing I ever got right was your lack of heart. Oh how I wanted to fix that. I gave you my own as if I had one to spare in fact. Always the fixing of your lack. Did you ever consider mine?

You knew that I was alone. You knew each time you stripped back the sheets and pushed me out the door that I had no branches of the tree in reach, no grandmother’s house, no open arms. You knew that I did not live on a street where everyone looks and acts a little like me. I built my own line of defence to survive this isolation – and you watched with dispassion as the armour failed me part by wearied part.

Remember that night, the one night I turned out my palms? How I disintegrated with the force of my submission, how it shook me apart to stand before you like that? As I fell to pieces at your feet you saw only the stain – and you banished me as I bled.

I begged – ‘just let me stay until I can breathe’. But you had dinner plans – ‘they’re waiting’ you said (funny just how you’d kept them waiting the night before). I sat in that hotel lobby and I sobbed for an hour, you know. A grown woman reduced to lost and wailing child. It was a stranger who said ‘are you okay, lady?’ and put me back together. You ate three courses and said nothing at all.

I know I am a villain, let’s be clear. I know there are stakes and stones reserved for women like me. But you! So efficiently switching from night to day, sleeping over broken vows and patching them up by morning. You made the night my fault. You left me every next day to carry the cross alone after your work was done. You never once checked if I was patching myself back up as well.

And finally this. I know how you went from me to her. Directly. I can count backwards from 9. This fence you built for your security – I could make the entire structure crumble with just a little addition. Great men have been brought down for much less than this. But you are not great, or even good. The faithful son, the doting husband, the present father – the modern man.

Take your myth and fucking shove it, because I (alone) know who you are.

Rock Bublitz at body, remember

Consecration

It would be the same if I walked in to that room tonight. I would still spend less than 30 seconds on my side of the couch. My legs would still snake over yours and I would still play with the soft of your earlobe as if it were mine. I would still kiss your mouth hard and fast and over and over (the kind of kiss you seemed to permit).

I would still follow you to the bathroom and sit on the edge of the tub while you showered, and I would still pretend not to care. I would still breathe deep at the sound of the water hitting your skin and feel the familiar liquid start to flow. I would still see this in the too-lit mirror – carefully careless dress falling off my shoulder, teeth on candied lip, eyes a little glazed and blinking too fast.

Because I would have still shot the vodka in the getting ready – my ritual of nerve and intoxication when the sun went down (I wonder if you ever knew how my throat burned and my knees wobbled each time I knocked at your door?).

All these years and you could still set me spinning. Still cause my hand to tremble when lifting my glass. Here it is, curled around the stem – an erotic embrace you once called it, but really it is the only solid thing, and the red you pour is our consecration.

It would be the same – even now. The sacred and the profane. Naked and cleansed, you would invite me in. An altar made and you the sacrifice. I would be tender in your destruction. Soaking the sheets, our own communion. One does not need God to be devout.

Consecration at body, remember

And after. My faith and your lack. It would be exactly the same. I have not wavered in this affair.

My love is your love (and when the Government says ‘No’)

Equal Love Equal Rights This is my friend Caroline.

Everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like Caroline. She’s fiercely loyal, protective, and just the right amount of crazy. You know with Caroline that if someone hurt you, she would turn up in her pick-up with a shotgun and wait with it fully loaded until you were safely in her arms.

Yeah, she’s that kind of friend. No matter where I am in the world, this woman has my back.

Caroline is getting married in a few weeks. I’d love to go and share the love, but the wedding is taking place in Canada – that’s just a little too far for a long weekend. Caroline isn’t Canadian however, nor does she reside in Canada. She is getting married there because she can’t get married in her home state of Alabama. Come to think, she couldn’t get married here in Australia either, or in my home country of New Zealand. Even as a citizen she couldn’t get married in these countries, because the love of her life, the person who loves my fiercely loyal, protective, and just the right amount of crazy friend the most also happens to be a woman.

They’ve been together 6 years and they’re mad-hippy-dippy in love, these two. That’s the way Caroline does it after-all. I don’t know how her Canadian marriage will be recognised in her own country, but I do know it won’t be recognised here. The Australian Government not only prohibits same-sex marriage, it will not recognise a same-sex marital status conferred by another country. Get married in Canada, take your honeymoon in Australia and somewhere over the Pacific you become what? Travel buddies? Where exactly does the legal status of your relationship change? I’m trying to think of an analogous example for legally married heterosexuals – meet my wife here, here and here, but over there we’re just really good friends!?  

If marriage is the single biggest symbolic and legal commitment two consenting adults can make to each other, how can democratic Governments decide so arbitrarily just when and where it will be recognised?

And it is arbitrary. Marriage segregation exists in the realm of personal whim and prejudice (thank you Collins English Dictionary for backing my word on this one). Consensual love and commitment tend not to threaten the downfall of society when straight couples are doing it, after-all. In the interests of avoiding personal whim or prejudice, I’ve thought long and hard about equal rights, and the dangers of dispensing them to some, not all. It seems to me that when a Government denies a portion of the population access to the rights others freely access, it is perhaps sheer luck that you fall on the ‘right’ side of the law this time around. Because codifying segregation is never limited to the issue at hand. It suggests a society where any ‘other’ can be ostracised should the so-called majority be inclined, whether the lines are drawn through religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation.

It is no surprise to me that the Conservative Right feel just as strongly about women’s reproductive choices as they do about the sanctity of marriage. Take a look at the series of laws – or as I prefer to call it, the epidemic of insanity – sweeping the US at present.  For every North Carolina banning same sex marriage, there is an Arizona blocking funds to Planned Parenthood, and a Virginia trying to mandate invasive internal ultrasounds before an abortion can be discouraged performed.

But back to arbitrary. I don’t mean to suggest that those who hold an opposing view to gay marriage based on their religious teachings are acting on personal whim. Well actually, I don’t mean to suggest religious faith is a personal whim, but perhaps I do consider the use of biblical text to justify upholding marriage discrimination pretty close. I don’t see the same vigilance when it comes to mixing cotton and wool, or banning people with glasses from taking communion. And luckily no-one in my workplace is allowed to stone me to death for blasphemy (though I often receive a forceful frown).  If anything the law protects me against anyone using Leviticus to sanction my behaviour.

This one isn’t about God, people. No-one will be forced to change their personal experience of same-sex relationships. And if recent surveys are anything to go by, most Australians who support same-sex marriage also support the right of a Church or religious institution to refuse to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. Ceremonies. That’s okay! I’m not going to fight gay battles with God. Just with the Government. Technically I’m not allowed to get married in a Catholic church either and this suggests no threat to my rights before the law.

Because I am allowed to get married. I don’t have to go to another country to have a commitment to my spouse both realised and recognised (and I don’t forfeit that recognition just by taking a plane ride to another city). I don’t have to default to a ‘separate but equal’ civil union (no offence to those who choose this option, I merely dislike it as the only option).  I don’t have to fight the Government to have my consenting adult relationship/leap of faith considered just as legally and socially worthy as that of any other couple featured in the announcements section of the Saturday paper.

Alright, so I’m not actually in a relationship at the moment, let alone close to getting married, but I’m just saying if I were … well luckily for me, the law says yes. See, I may not have a pick-up (or a shotgun) but I’ve got words and a platform, and I’m calling it here. If you are married, or hope to be, think of all that it means to you and yours. Then close your eyes for a moment and imagine your Government says “No”.

Caroline honey, I’ve got your back over here on this side of the world.

Here’s to the bride and bride!

A few of my favourite things …

Today I was nominated for a Sexy Blogger award. Since joining the WordPress community I’ve become aware of the custom of awarding (rewarding?) blogs, and in secretly coveting recognition, I’ve wondered what I would do if one came my way. My blog is supposed to be a work of fiction after-all. Not so much my voice but that of Maggie Valentine, the protagonist of body, remember.

But there’s no denying that in more than a few (wine-fuelled) posts of late, I’ve discovered the joy of telling my own story here. I firmly believe I’ve saved myself thousands in therapy as a result, and let go of many a lingering issue – all so that Maggie can eventually deal with her own issues unimpeded (well here’s hoping at least!).

So! Though I won’t technically publish awards here, I am going to honour the essence of this one because it was always my intention to be provocative and honest about sex – even when followed by my mum and my favourite teacher from high school, ha.

The award itself was bestowed by the erudite Theo Black. Mr Black reminds me often that I am not writing a gendered story, that men and women can be equally moved by honest language and honest sex. I’ve come to value his feedback greatly.

In the way of blogging awards there were rules presented with the nomination, and the one that struck me was the request to provide 5 sexy suggestions … well for this I’m going to use my artistic license and share 5 examples of what that I think is sexy, in the hopes of rescuing that overused and under-estimated word. 5 suggestions around what you could watch or read to make up for the sheer banality of most mainstream and “mommy porn” (I’m looking at you “50 Shades of Grey”!) …

***

Number One: The Good Wife, CBS Television show

 

Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife

 

It’s a show with 3 dynamic female characters – the flexible Kalinda, the commanding Diane (“I do need to talk this way. This is how I talk”), and the good wife herself, St. Alicia. Three women who are strong, flawed and for a network show, wonderfully sexy. I could write about it, or I could just direct you to this:

 

 

The double entendres, the biting down, the fact that a 45 year old woman is coming on network television and her lover is … well … loving it as she does so. Intimations never looked so good!

(Funny that the morality brigade got up in arms over Alicia no longer being the “good wife” but her cheating-with-prostitutes husband got a free pass or seven from viewers. We’ve got a long way to go babies. But this depiction of a fully realised sexual woman goes a little further to challenging the standard narrative at least).

***

Speaking of standard narratives, “Sex at Dawn” by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha pokes big holes in a ton of them and as a result is both my Number Two suggestion, and my favourite non-fiction book of the last few years:

 

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

 

Sex at Dawn questions the “deepest assumptions brought to contemporary views of marriage, family structure and sexuality” (Oh just those, right!)

The authors highlight our reliance on Chimpanzee behaviour as proof of man’s biological imperative, whilst our equidistant evolutionary cousin the Bonobo gets ignored (quite possibly due to the few inconvenient truths this softer side of the family tree might expose).

If a patriarchal society writes the history, it follows that it also informs the science. Sex at Dawn does a brilliant job of suggesting “not so fast” on a series of opinions we take as fact. My favourite is the standard “men are more visual than women” line (just one of a million ways we are neatly divided down the middle). The authors quietly and quickly deconstruct this theory in the chapter “On Mona Lisa’s Mind”, via a 2006 study by psychologist Meredith Chivers. Go find it. Or better yet, read Sex at Dawn for the full effect.

But be warned, you may never feel the same way about Corn Flakes or S’mores again (so very prevalent in my experience of the American mid-west, ha).

***

My Number Three suggestion is not narrative, but myth. Specifically Classical Mythology.

 

Sleeping Hermaphrodite, Roman, 2nd century AD; Marble. © The J. Paul Getty Museum.

 

Get to know your Greek gods and goddesses. They overflow with erotic example. When Tiresias settles an argument between Zeus and Hera by observing a women enjoys sex nine times more than a man, he is speaking from experience. Because he used to be a she. Or rather he was turned in to a woman, and then back in to a man (something to do with snakes – you know how it goes).

They can tell us all sorts of history that casts women as sexless and powerless, but as long as classical mythology lives to tell the tale, we will have a cast of lusty and powerful goddesses going up against lusty and powerful gods to suggest another version of the story.

(It is refreshing to note that in a mark of true equality, neither gender behaves in a way that is particularly nice through-out!)

***

For Number Four, I choose to point out that not all sex needs to be twisted to get your chest blazing. Witness what many consider the best love scene of all time – the epic un-cut love scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in the noir film “Don’t Look Now”.

 

Love scene from Don't Look Now

 

I first saw this film as a little kid – as such I have an abject fear of small children in red raincoats. As an adult I also have a deep appreciation for the film’s beautiful depiction of sex between intimates (I might even get married if I thought it was going to be like that, ha!).

Rumours occasionally re-surface that Sutherland and Christie were actually “doing it”, though the actors strenuously deny it to this day. Either it is the most beautifully scored amateur porn, or a stunning example of sex as art. No matter the truth of it, the scene more than makes up for the fact that kids in red raincoats scare the shit out of me, and remains my favourite homage to erotic love ever captured on film.

Sorry I don’t have a copy to share!

***

Lucky last, as the antidote to “50 Shades of Grey” (there it is again – I’m sorry, it’s the “holy cows” that really get me), for my Number Five suggestion I recommend picking up (or re-reading) a copy of “Henry and June” by Anais Nin.

The godmother of erotic writing, Anais Nin really did do it best, as I discovered in the corner of a Readings bookstore some 20 years ago. I was once told – “don’t trust a word she says, only the way she says it” – and I’ve read her with an especial delight ever since.

 

Henry and June by Anais Nin

 

Henry and June might be the most dog-eared book on my shelf, its many folded pages making a map of my desire. This diary of Nin’s relationship with both Henry Miller and his wife June is, as my copies’ cover attests via Alice Walker, “A very erotic book and profoundly liberating”.

Anais herself states, “Writers make love to whatever they need”. Here she desires Henry, and she equally desires June. Sex informs the writing, and the writing most definitely informs the sex.

As a study of one woman’s erotic life, there is nothing quite like it.

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So there is my little list inspired by The Sexy Blogger alliance! Each of the 5 inform the spirit and tone of body, remember and that of its writer.

As viewer, as student, as historian, as voyeur and as a reader I have learned so much about my own desires. And what could be sexier than that 😉

You pulsate through even the question of what to have for dinner”

– Maggie Valentine, body, remember

Move On …

“I chose, and my world was shaken – so what?

The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not

You have to move on …”

– Sondheim, Move On

You get up the next morning because you have to. Because the time has long since passed where you could lie in bed all day and turn your face to the wall. Because this is where you were always going to end up, and you cannot claim ignorance – even when the pain is fresh.

So you get up and you go to work, and you sit at your desk in the hope that the inertia of an every-working-day will help you push it down. You forget your password and answer ‘great’ to questions about your night, and all the while your fingernails dig in to your arm and leave their mark – but it keeps your voice steady, this other kind of pain, and when no-one takes a second look you are grateful for the sensation.

If you are a little white in the face and your shoulders are weighed down, it can be chalked up to that extra wine the night before. And though you cry silently in a bathroom stall through lunch, you wash away the tracks before the hour is out.

This is how it goes. The first next day, and the worst, because it’s all just sitting there on your skin, this ache. You will not listen to love songs – you know not to listen to love songs – and it’s a quiet day when you don’t have a soundtrack. Just the ticking of the clock, and if you could shift the hands forward you would, because it is okay to crawl in to bed when the sun goes down. No-one cares if you face the wall at night, in the hours assigned to the broken-hearted.

It’s the daylight you have to watch in the coming weeks. Those mornings where your skin is just a little flayed, your nerves jangling on the surface as you scrub at wine-cracked lips. Trying to remove the stains, hiding the evidence from the night before. Applying an extra layer of concealer before you go.

You are a fortress in defence of your sadness. You don’t want to lose it to the seven stages, not when it has been the only steady thing. But of course you are well on your way despite yourself. You skipped right over denial, and before long anger makes its presence known. It suddenly threatens to replace the hollow with a heat. It flares in your chest every time you revisit that last text – the one that says ‘if you need me …’ well fuck, when didn’t you need him? And there it is again, the little flame that won’t go out.

(You taste a little acid on your tongue each time you bite down on this new life of no reply).

Until one day you delete the message (and yes you are sure!), and it is neither heat nor hollow that results. Just a slight sensation of falling, and for the first time a little thrill betrays you. You stop counting the weeks on your fingers, you stop guarding your sorrow, and it lessens in everything but dreams by the time the seasons change.

The truth is, you are moving on. And in some small way you want to say sorry for this letting go. It was never your intention to be the faithless one. You fought so hard to hold on after-all. They say the average daydream lasts 14 seconds. Well this one lasted seven years. But you can’t keep telling the same story, not when time has its own ideas it likes to dangle, just within your reach.

You have to move on. Still, you know why Orpheus looked back. And though you know your past won’t survive the light, you still long for one last look at the dark. You have to move on. But first you look over your shoulder. To see clearly what trailed behind you all of this time.

And just for a moment – in this looking back – you catch a glimpse of two lovers as they actually were. Two glorious creatures turning in each other’s arms, sending off sparks. A vivid blaze across the night of your life.

You watch them spinning away from the world, in an endless, beautiful dance. And then you let them go.

“Look at all the things you’ve done for me

Opened up my eyes

Taught me how to see …”

Northern Lights Photo Credit Unknown

Settle for the glow, time for letting go. Move on.