She knew. I knew she knew something was wrong. But I sat there, a coward. No way I was telling the truth to those eyes outpouring empathy, that hand rubbing my back. She was sitting next to me supportively, seeing right through my red-eyed smile, trying to understand. But how could I tell her? How could I tell her the real cause for my pained countenance; my conspicuous blotchiness? How could I say that I’d miscarried her grandchild? What if it was the stress of traveling halfway across the planet to see her that did it? She hadn’t even known I was pregnant. There was no reason to say anything.
“Are you alright darlin’?”
“Yep, of course.” I blurted too quickly. Then I looked her in the eye to cement my acting skills, putting all the casual-small-talkiness I could muster into my next (hopefully more convincing) utterance. “Just tired, you know, jet-lag’s a B.”
She probably assumes it’s abuse. My whole family thinks he’s abusing me; my husband, that is. What other explanation could there be for a sweet, caring girl like me to marry a jerk like him? Alright, so he’s no diplomat. He hates just about everybody by default, and doesn’t try to hide it. What he does hide is his brilliant mind, his keen interest in history and philosophy, his endearing chuckles. They’ve never even seen him crack a smile. It’s as though he’s two different people; the public arsehole, and the private gentleman. (Opposite of most people- isn’t it?) Case in point; He’d just spent all night cradling his bedraggled monster of a wife as she shuddered chest-soaking tears all over him, and still had enough fortitude to kiss her cheek and go buy her toiletries first thing in the morning, but scowled at his mother-in-law on his way out the door...
I smiled again, genuinely this time, but without the discomforting eye-contact. Contemplating the reasons behind my husband’s jekyll-and-hyde routine was a welcome distraction from the gut wrenching emptiness which threatened to swallow all smiles forever.
“Well, I stink. I need a shower.” I told my ceaselessly loving mother, relieved to excuse myself from further inquiries, and to finally tell a meager truth. I stood and turned towards the bathroom just in time to hide the new flood of silent tears which manifested in my aching eyes.
Post-script note:This is a reflection on a moment in my life from years ago. I have agonized over whether or not to post it, or to keep it to myself. But in the end I have decided to post it as the non-fiction that it is because I know that others here on Prose have been through their own heart-wrenching circumstances, and I want you to know that you’re not alone. Some of the most painful things in life are nobody’s fault. And that in itself is a very painful thing to accept.
La Petite Mort
Discaimer: this includes potentially insulting opinions and plausibly-baseless insinuations about societal trends brazenly drawn from personal anecdotes, so feel free to brush me off as a loon, or to debate me in the comments. I’m always open to criticism, especially when I might be wrong.
I’ve written rants about “self love” before; I’m generally disgusted by it. Fooling yourself into thinking you’re perfect as you are will only atrophy your coping-muscles and possibly even throw you into a crippling depression in the long run. That said, I’ll admit that it’s probably healthy to be (at least intermittently) satisfied with yourself as a person. But is it possible? ...Perhaps.
We all start life trying to please other people; hanging our self-worth onto approving nods and hugs. It’s a natural process, one that’s often devastating to break. And it’s usually nobody’s fault when it does break. But sometimes it doesn’t need to break completely, sometimes it can bend just fine. Let’s take a personal example:
My experience with society has lead me to notice that men these days are demonized for being masculine. I hate it. Probably because ever since I was a little girl I idolized my father for his most masculine traits: Adventurousness, toughness, animalistic strength...beard...gaffaws... I wanted to be like him. I wouldn’t have called myself dysphoric exactly, but I understand why so many people do these days. There were times that I felt a little cross-dressy putting on make-up, and to this day I still don’t bother with that part of womanhood.
I think a lot of us are just clay in the riverbanks, waiting to be imprinted by some noble soul (sole haha). Furthermore, I think (insulting theory alert:) that’s one of the reasons why transgenderism has taken off so much recently. People confuse admiring something with wanting to be that something. Not everyone of course, there are exceptions. But in my case, for example, I got decidedly more feminine when I fell in love and realized that the person I love was attracted to femininity. I willingly put aside all my pining for personal masculinity, tossed my fake beard, donned my most delicate dresses, and basked in his masculinity instead. And it’s a good thing that I did, because in hindsight that’s arguably a key part of what lead me to become a wife and a mother...
It is not without humor that I realize this modern culture which I demonize for demonizing masculinity has ironically made it totally fine for me to call myself a man, even when I’m not one. But I stubbornly refuse to acquiesce! I won’t claim to be something I’m not. It wouldn’t be manly. But more applicably, it wouldn’t be me. No, I must face up to the truth: I must accept my biological fate like a man, even in my woe!
Of course, it’s not all woe. In embracing femininity I’ve been able to fully love a man. And in loving a man I’ve been able to unearth what I always knew instinctually; that there’s another side to masculinity, apart from the dreamily hairy and pleasantly protrusive physical traits. There’s the mental attributes; knowing when to take risks, when to be bold and ruthless, when to be honest and blunt, when to be gentle and chivalrous, when to laugh. And I’ve discovered in recent years, to my great relief, that these traits can be almost as me-ly as they are manly. (But, I flatter myself...)
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that “self-love” is a pretentious-looking pipedream to any of us who’ve achieved a glimmer of “self-awareness.” But that doesn’t mean you have to wallow in self-pity or go buy yourself a new beard (unless you want to of course, could be fun, no?) ...Instead, just try to understand yourself enough to stave off any impending identity crisis, and then whenever your imperious self-hatred allows, project your esteem issues onto society in the form of boisterously theatrical (yet hopefully passably amusing) ramblings. Who knows? Maybe someone’ll read it and nod approvingly. Or better yet; maybe displaying your own problems will help someone else hate themself a little less.
red currant rinse, rosemary repeat: y ori
her spine craves rhythm and gushes cadence in some awry disjointed disco. she calls it a whalesong, a disgruntled rose-coated moan in the nest of his throat that bathes her innocence in julienne sliced shadows and minced morals. she is that of a seashell, a conch perhaps. floss white and empty. she pulls mulberry macaroon clouds from his dream tied tongue and laces them daisy and alabaster to wear round' the garden of her neck. she is antheia in a bloody mary ball gown at half past ten, courting your mirror like unripe plum boys in their evanescent prime. she puckers, places, misplaces her lips in a half-baked brown sugar pseudo pastry of love fermented flesh. huckleberry and home, she thrives only in sea foam and rented skin, threadbare springs and cala lily cacophony the soundtrack of her bones. she knows only the whipped cream winter of her ligaments, feels only the rhubarb crumble of last night's silk parfait pool at the linen of her feet. she'll bind grandma's fairytales in a systematic shuffle of denim and trade them for the sorbet ballet of two abstract tarpaulin echoes. she asks not that you stay, but that when you go, leave your shadow.
you owe her that at least.