Monday, June 30, 2008


She is getting anxious, worried. I can see it happening layer by layer. It starts with money.

"You're going to have to make some money this month."

She has a profound grasp of the obvious. She doesn't understand that just because I don't run around like a chicken with its head cut off doesn't mean I'm not concerned about the state of our finances.

"Have you sent in that rebate yet? We could really use the money."

The problem is that there is no room for both worry and trust - they cannot occupy the same space. Like matter and anti-matter it's an explosive combination.

"Have you gotten back to Eric yet? And have you contacted Brian?"

Level two - not only am I not making enough money but it's because I'm not working hard enough. Here's where we run into issues - you see there's a kernel of truth, a logical validity to all of her points which makes them unassailable from a reasonable point of view.

"Do you have any idea how much we have to pay per month for our insurance? Did you know when you signed up for it that it was $140 per month?!"

Level three - not only am I poor and lazy but I'm stupid too. If this were a computer game she'd be a grand master. Accusation, guilt, manipulation wielded with such skill for so long that she doesn't even realize she's doing it.

Okay, I have a confession to make. Well, two confessions really. First, I understand where she's coming from. I really do. What it comes down to, ultimately, is that she's scared. Like the three blades of a propeller spaced around its hub, the three layers of her worry cluster about that central fear. Fear of being dependent on somebody else. Fear of being let down. Fear of being held responsible for something that's not her fault. Fear of being hurt. And when she's afraid, in order to protect herself, she stops trusting because trusting makes her vulnerable.

My second confession is that, even though I understand all of that, when those blades start spinning and they get too close, it hurts. It REALLY hurts! It cuts right in to all of my own fears: of being rejected; of being ridiculed and mocked; of not being trusted; of not being able to provide for my family. And when I get hurt I retreat behind walls of sarcasm and unreasoning anger to protect myself.

Here we are at an impasse. Both of us have retreated behind the ramparts prepared for a siege which neither one of us have really launched. Rather than being two suburbs of the same familial city, we have pretended to God-like power and thrust mountains and dense forests and deserts between us, breaking the unity that should be ours as husband and wife.

I want to tell her that even given the logical undeniability of her accusations (and they all have roots in reality) they are not an excuse not to trust. If she won't trust me, and I can accept that even though it hurts, she still needs to trust the true provider of our family - God. He has never let us down and never will. I want to tell her that I know what she wants from me and yelling at me, accusing me, manipulating me won't get it for her. It has, in fact, the opposite effect. But the truth of the matter is that she already knows this and telling her would only make things worse.

So here's my third confession: I love her. Even hurt and angry I still love her. I would rather be hurt by her than anybody else. And I would rather live in unity with her, at the risk of being hurt again, than be protected by the artificial topography of anger and mistrust. Will she forgive me? I can only trust that she will.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lovers in the Grass

We have come just to talk, to hang out, unwilling to stuff ourselves into yet another enclosed room, seeking the air, the sun, the space. Wandering through the park, past the verdigrised fountain, along twisting cobblestone paths we find the perfect spot. It has three gray plastic benches arranged in an open rectangle, a little hobo cul-de-sac, a tree behind the middle one and flowers planted all around. I sit on the western bench facing the fountain and despite Matt's joke that there's a bench for each of us Mark and Matt both sit on the same bench, under the tree, to eat their dinner. Mark has already been talking and he continues, balancing his cup precariously on the rounded arm of the bench, holding his styrofoam container open in one hand while he gestures with the other. Matt eats ravenously while Mark talks. I have been engrossed in what Mark is saying - he thinks differently than anybody else I know and that makes him fascinating - but I am suddenly distracted by a huge shock of ginger curls seemingly sprouting from the bole of the tree behind Mark.

I am curious and surprised. I had not noticed anybody as we were walking over and sitting down and usually I am attuned to such details. And how could I have missed this?! It's practically a copper beacon in a see of bright green. I know I should just leave well enough alone, but I can't help myself. I slide surreptitiously over just enough to get a further glimpse, only to discover that he (I think it's the he - who knows these days) is not alone. He is long and lanky like a slender tree that flowers only at the top. She is shorter, chunky, plain by comparison with paper bag brown hair. They seem innocent at first, a couple of lovers in the grass, laying on their sides gazing longingly into each others eyes, a common enough sight on a day like this.

But then...oh then. She catches my eye (he has his back to me) then leans forward to whisper in his ear. He turns his head and torso to look at me but I have returned my eyes to Mark, pretending to listen as he talks about some dilemma at work. In my peripheral vision I see him turn back to her so I dare to look again, feeling like a voyeur at some illicit reality show. It is as if they were only waiting for an audience to start the show. He has rolled on top of her, one hand cradling her head, the other supporting his body. He lies between her legs while she lies limp and motionless on the grass. They are kissing passionately, hungrily, vampirically, only coming apart every couple of minutes to gasp for air. Or rather, he is the one kissing her like that. I cannot tell if her lack of action is due to inexperience or lack of interest. He is moving his hips slightly, gently but urgently. This continues for several minutes until it loses it's titillation and just becomes gross. And yet I can't seem to tear my eyes away, except a brief flash every now and then to convince Mark I am actually listening to him. Mark finishes his anecdote about work and launches into a new subject before anything changes.

Suddenly, explosively, he rolls off of her onto his knees and bends over coughing and gagging and spitting in the grass. He hacks, spits, coughs, repeats. This too continues for several minutes till I wonder that he has anything left to spit up. I wonder also that neither Mark nor Matt have noticed his respiratory pyrotechnics. She is also on her knees a few feet away from him, turned slightly in the opposite direction, looking over at him with an indecipherable expression. Eventually he stops expectorating and they come together again, on their knees, arms around each other, facing away from me as if they were ashamed - not that I had seen them in a compromising position but that I had seen his display of weakness.

Matt has finished his dinner and started shredding a peel of reddish brown bark, heaping the thread-like curls on his knee. Mark is still talking, his dinner uneaten as he waves flies and other insects away periodically. He is talking about missions now, but something reminds him of his earlier story about the library. He looks furtively around to make sure nobody from the library is around.

"You never know," he says with a self-deprecating grin. Seeing only an innocent couple, on their knees, facing away from us, he continues with what he was going to say, but just then the couple breaks apart and begins to get ready to go. He crawls over, careful to avoid the spot where he was just spitting up, and picks up several items from the grass which he slips into various pockets on his shorts. Then sits down to put on his sandals. I assume she is doing something similar, though she has disappeared behind the tree. Then he stands up, checks to make sure his zipper is up and puts out a hand to her. Seeing them standing together I see they couldn't be older that 16 or 17. With one last look in my direction they head toward the fountain hand in hand.

Mark has finished talking and Matt is asking questions now, but our conversation seems a little bland. I can't quite figure out how I feel about what I just witnessed. I feel slimed somehow, disturbed and disgusted, and yet still fascinated in a macabre sort of way. It makes me feel a little old and out of place. I know that sort of behavior is perfectly acceptable in public nowadays, but it still seems innapropriate to me. Yet I long to be privvy to the secret, private lives of those around me and it certainly allowed me to do that. Which would I prefer? Ultimately, I guess I wish I had never witnessed it. After all, it is only a brief interlude in a long life - and a disturbing one at that. But having focused on it for so long, I've now missed about half an hour of conversation with good friends - certainly something of much more value. Perhaps next time I will leave the lovers to themselves and keep my attention on my friends. Perhaps.

Ultimate - 100 words

I have been thinking about doing something like this for a while now, but was inspired to actually do something about it by the 100 words challenge on Velvet Verbosity. You can read more about it on VV, but the basic idea is to take a single word inspiration (in this case "ultimate) and write 100 words about it - no more, no less. A fascinating idea to say the least. So, I thought I would start my new blog by participating in the challenge for the first time. Here goes...


It’s hard to focus on the ultimate when drowning in the mundane: a blaring TV as my daughter watches “Jungle Book” while simultaneously playing with her singing crab; a house that’s need for cleaning is in direct inverse proportion to my level of energy and motivation to do so; a wife who moved directly from bed to the computer to work (on a Saturday!). But then I am caught by my daughter’s beauty, by the line of her cheek and jaw which mirrors my wife’s, and I realize I’m living the ultimate and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


Stop by and see other entries at Velvet Verbosity -

Songs of Paradise

It seems I thrive on the challenge of constriction. I am part of a small prayer group with 3 other guys. We get together once a week and most of the time it's pretty serious, talking about our lives and struggles, supporting each other, praying for each other. However, once in a while we just have to break loose and instead of meeting for prayer we go out for a beer, laugh and drink and have fun. A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do, right? Anyway, one night (we all being writer's of one persuasion or another) decided to do a writing challenge. We would start out with a random phrase and we all had until the end of the evening to come up with a small oeuvre using that phrase, then we would read our "works" to each other. The phrase we came up with? "A brackish sea awash with fumes." Nothing like a little cheer for fun night, eh? Anyway, here is what I came up with:

Songs of Paradise

A brackish sea awash with fumes
Lies nestled black in barren moor
And sentry-like guards heaven’s door.

Those brave enough to die descend,
Inhaling centuries of death
To find at bottom God’s own breath,

And pumping holiness like blood
They look with restless, shining eyes
And see the long sought, long feared prize.

No gold or silver, no gem this
But Glory, intimate, unkown
And Life, new life. Like seedlings sown

They rise, with hands stretched out to sky,
Unwitting echo of sacrifice
To sing new songs of Paradise.