One year, I covered both the Democratic and Republican state conventions. Amazing. Mirror-image events, candidates and supporters, echoing each other like wolves howling in a gymnasium.
I'm talking about being a physically gorgeous woman. (Sue me.) Again, it's a beautiful thing, more pleasant than the alternative. But not always. Middle school. Ninth grade. Helen of Troy changes schools in late September. She's internally confident, but externally shy, the tug-of-war between those two paradigms only evident in Kodak memories, stories from old people and a tiny tug in the root of her being that tells her she's gonna win, or at least keep going, no matter what, in spite of/because of her beauty. She gets more attention — always has and will for the rest of her life — than she ever wanted and will ever want.
If you're reading this, you might be alone, watching Netflix, dreading the coming home of your wife, whose eyes will dive into yours, looking if you've been drinking, which you have, which you vainly lie about and retire to the other bedroom, sullen and beaten and exhausted and terrified, waiting for her to tell you it's over, which you fantasize about being a relief, but know it will be anything but, compounding your misery and, once again, you consider where the gun is, her loneliness un-thought of — loser. <
We are easily seduced. We believe we "get it" and understand the multitudinous and nuanced "Understanding of Things." We shake our heads at those that disagree on Facebook and change the channel to our own when we accidentally hear an opposing opinion. I've said this a thousand times because I'm old. But seriously. Here's 10 things to do that everyone should and no one will: 10. Shake the hand of a person who doesn't have a hand, but a hook or another prosthesis, and ask how the original equipment was lost. And listen. Write it down.
Upon landing, the old man sits silent, listening to his animals, his ancient, beloved animals as they snort and cough and bob their magic heads to the shingles, pawing nervously there, waiting. His memory is thick and stiff with trenches of time, laid in rows upon themselves like lumber or bails of grain. He recalls the rooftop, its slope and its shadows.
Beyond all that normal craziness, there's a second level of beautiful melancholy that this season breeds. Judy Garland sings it.
They are taking a stand and making actionable what they believe is necessary, believing "this is the best choice," of a bag full of worse ones. It's nuanced and terrifying and heartbreaking and the wrongness of it is recognizable only after the sound of the gun startles someone else, not dead yet, but considering. <
Banana spiders, dozens, rain onto our laps and down the backs of our shirts, golf-ball-sized, iridescent yellow and green, like aliens, scuttling and snapping and clicking like a Japanese science fiction movie. I feel my sanity leaving and hold my breath not to scream, knowing the first scream would be the trumpet that broke down the Jericho's wall of myself as I know myself.
Pour yourself a glass of wine. But not six. Just one. And sit somewhere comfortable. Dim the lights. Not amorous. Be ready. Receptive. Appreciate how amazing humans can be. And listen. And I dare you to not be moved.
A small boost of adrenaline courses through you and you draw a deep breath and exhale, slowly, urging yourself back to sleep. But the driving rain is un-ignorable and compels you to pay attention to it, like something alive, so you open your eyes again and listen and breath to the rhythm of your tired heart beating, the black sky above you ripped open, broken, pouring.