The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “Death of a child”

By the Sea

 

Originally published Sept 30, 2014

 

She remains one of my favorite narrators…

http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Indonesia/Sumatra/Bengkulu/Bengkulu_Utara/photo97429.htm

Ja

I grew up in a busy fishing town at the edge of the sea. What I remember most is the smell of the place. I can recall it even now – briny, fishy, sweaty, acrid. The scent of wood fires and charcoal burning; the oil and petrol from the boats; salt water and rotting fish.   Sometimes, after school, I would go to a small cove, away from the boats, just to have the sea to myself. I would dig my little toes into the wet sand, and just breathe it all in.

The smell of the shore is, in fact, that of decay and death. It’s seaweed rotting on the sand; small sea creatures – shellfish and crabs – wounded or dead on or under the rocks. Even the sea birds dined on death, feasting on carrion. But these aromas were familiar to me. It was the smell of my home.

Once, when I was quite young, we traveled to visit some of my mother’s family up in the highlands. Even at that young age, I marveled at how different the air tasted.

Up there, was the sweet smell of life. Of flowers and things green. Of birds and animals living in the forest. It was the organic smell of humus which is technically not alive, but from which life springs so abundantly, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than a living thing. The scent of the flowers — pink and orange and violet — was intoxicating! They grew everywhere, springing up from the ground; hanging from the trees; climbing on vines up the walls of the houses.

It was a magical place, and I could not decide which I preferred more – the shore or the hills. I wondered where I would live when I was grown.

Like many of the other men, my father was a fisherman. One of the aromas I most associated with the shore, and which I loved the most, was his scent when he held me. When the smell of his manly body odor, fish, motor oil, and cigarettes tickled my nostrils, it meant I was safe.

As most young girls, I was in love with my father. He was a handsome man, brown from the sun, with thick, black hair and straight white teeth. His strong arms could lift me up high and carry me all the way home.

He went out to sea almost every day on his small wooden boat, painted white and blue. It had a motor in the back which was often in need of repair. He spent many hours working on it.

Although fishing was the main industry in our area, there were few who had the money for a brand new motor. They all bought the best used equipment they could afford. That meant being a successful fisherman was not just knowing where to find or how to catch fish. It meant one also be good at repair; to have an understanding of how a motor worked, how to fix it with whatever parts were available or that could be cobbled together, with old tools which were always on the verge of giving out. When a motor stopped, there was no time to waste, especially not out at sea.

I knew it was not good when my father couldn’t be out on the water; when he was stuck in port trying to make that old piece of machinery sputter to life. It meant a loss of income. This situation was inevitable for every boat owner. It was time loast which none could afford, yet, it was accepted that this was just how it was.   The men used to say, “Just when you get ahead, you fall ten steps back.” Thinking philosophically instead of feeling sorry for themselves was another necessary requirement for being a fisherman.

Still, as a child, I loved the days my father was stuck in the harbor. I was happy knowing he was safe, close to home where I could keep my eye on him or run to see him. It scare me to imagine him out there, with all the many unknown dangers. It was never far from my mind that the sea might take him and I would never see him again.

My mother was as beautiful as my father was handsome. She had a stall in the market where she sold small sweets and savories, all of which she made herself; some at home and some fresh on the spot. She was famous in town for her cooking.

She’d been in that stall since she was 16. Since before I was born. Since before she met my father. It had belonged to her mother, and when she died, it fell to my mother to cook and sell, to help support her family.

That’s how she met my father. He always joked that he first fell in love with her sweets, and then with her sweetness.

My mother’s sweets were so delicate, they would dissolve on the tongue. Some of her small pastries were so spicy, they could make a grown man cry. Her savories had such complex flavors, you could still taste them, mingling on your tongue even after you’d swallowed.

Most people didn’t take the time to really savor them, which was a pity. To them, they were just a quick bite to eat when they didn’t have time to stop and sit and have a proper meal. The shoppers, the other vendors, the workmen and women passing by, they all had a need of a her snacks, but only a few took the time to fully appreciate what an innovative cook she was. Everything she made — even for strangers, even for those who never gave her refined cooking a second thought — was made with love. But if people’s palates were not sophisticated enough to recognize her culinary genius, they certainly were able to taste the care and joy that went into each piece.

Her stall was in an excellent and much-coveted location, at the outer corner of the market, which gave her maximum exposure to passersby. Her food stall was the most popular and had been so since shortly after she began there.

If the market was open, Mother was there. Usually six days a week, even through her pregnancy with me and with my younger sister.

My father and I both agreed that my mother was the prettiest woman in the town. She had big eyes and long lashes and skin the color of the sweet milk tea I loved to drink. She had long, dark hair which she wore in a single braid down her back. I, myself, wore two braids, which she plaited for me every morning and carefully combed them out every night before I went to bed. Then she would brush my hair, gently, as she sang to me or told me stories, relaxing me for bed.

Some days, after my father came in from the sea and had unloaded his fish and had finished cleaning the boat, and tuning the motor, my mother would take me and my sister to meet him in the harbor. Mother would bring whatever snacks she had left over from the day, and together we would sit on the boat and talk about our day, as we watched the sun set over the ocean. We were happy and we loved each other.

I was lucky. Between my mother and my father, there was enough money to send me to school, and in a new dress every year.

Every year, at the end of December, we celebrated a family tradition, the same as my mother had done as a child. There was an exchange of gifts. The year I turned eight, my special gift was a new pair of “big girl” shoes. They were shiny and black with a pink ribbon. I felt like a real lady in them. I couldn’t wait to show them off to my friends at school! As was always the case with new shoes and new clothes, they were purchased a bit too large to give me time to grow into them. I pushed paper into the toes so they wouldn’t fall off.

The next morning, on my way to school, I scanned the harbor. Most of the boats were already out to sea. Father’s was not there, which meant his motor was working that morning. I would worry about him until I saw him again in the evening.

And then something strange happened.

The sea peeled back from the shore, exposing more beach than I’d ever seen before. It sloped steeply down.

Some people started to panic and run away from the water, but most either weren’t paying attention or, like myself, went closer to see what was going on, not understanding what it meant.

I stood there, fascinated. And then,   suddenly, there was a wall of water so high and frightening it took my breath away even before it crashed over me. Instantly, I and everything else was under it.   My new shoes were sucked off my feet. In those last seconds, before I drowned all I could think about was my lost shoes.

We were all lost except my father, but when he came back to shore and saw the devastation, he no longer had the heart for living. He rejoined us soon.

By human standards, it was a great tragedy. So much loss of life. But it was a necessary correction which the universe must make from time to time. I do not understand the reasons.

So many souls, all leaving the living world at one time, creating so much energy. I was just a small part of it; a tiny speck in a cloud of dust, floating upwards on a ribbon of sunlight.

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image: http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Indonesia/Sumatra/Bengkulu/Bengkulu_Utara/photo97429.htm

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Without a Trace

First published Oct 28, 2015

gowanus

Ja

I was just 27. I had my whole life in front of me. I had a good job, career prospects, lots of friends.   One night, I went into the city to meet a some buddies for drinks. It was late when I left them to head home. I was a bit tipsy but not exactly drunk.  A man on the street approached me, asking for directions. I stopped to help him.

After that was a blur. I woke up groggy, bound with nylon rope, in the trunk of a car, bumping along very potholed roads. I had no idea where I was. Or why. Or how. It took a while for me to put it together, but he must have drugged me somehow. Maybe stuck me with something. I didn’t remember.

Finally, we came to a stop. When he opened the trunk and pulled me out, we were in a garage…not a house garage but a commercial one, like a chop shop. I had no idea exactly where we were but my sense was that it was in a remote, industrial part of an outer boro, far from prying eyes and out of earshot of anyone who could help me.

My captor was insane. That much was obvious.   I was terrified. I knew I was going to die at his hands, but I didn’t know how, which terrified me more.

He started with the tools for breaking apart cars, and took me apart slowly, methodically. He knew was he was doing. He took pleasure in my pain.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I tried to will my soul out of my body, so I would die faster. It didn’t work as quickly as I prayed it would. When I passed across, as soon as I felt my soul leave my corporeal form, I was met by others; other young men he’d killed in the same way.

New York has a serial killer but nobody knows it. He disposes of bodies so well, none of us were ever found. We are all still listed as mysteriously missing persons. Nobody suspects that all our disappearances are related; the work of one man. Nobody is looking for a single killer. He is too clever for them.

Our bodies are in the Gowanus Canal, but no one would ever think to look for us there. Even if they did, they would never find us. We are melted into the toxic soup.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

 

Hope Springs Eternal, Damnit!

First published Aug 13, 2015

praying hands

Mo

Hope ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve seen people invest their entire lives hoping for something that will never be when they should be making something out of what’s right there in front of them.

I wasted most of my best days chasing something I wasn’t ever gonna catch. I neglected my family. I neglected my finances. I neglected my health   People in my church told me to “have faith…it will happen!” and they thought they were doing God’s work. I will tell you, they were doing the Devil’s work, because what did I get in the end? Nothing. Sure enough, not what I was running after all those years.   My wife was long gone, hitched up with some guy who treated her a lot better than I did. My kids? They barely knew my name. I never supported them, not in any way.   I had no money. I was living hand-to-mouth. I was chasing smoke.

When I was in my younger days, I would look at the guys who give up their youthful dreams (whatever they were), got married, found steady jobs, raised their kids in a decent place, in a decent way; I’d look at them and think, “Coward!”   I thought they were all pussy-whipped, in one way or another, at least the ones whose marriages lasted. But I eventually realized that for most of them their wives made them better men, and they knew it. Without that steady hand at the rudder to keep them on course, they would have drifted off in a cesspool of booze, cheap women and no commitments to anything.   They would have been like me.

Except I was taught it was a sin to stop hoping. I thought it was a sin to give up faith. I believed in myself. That was the most important thing. I had to keep plugging away, as a sign of my devotion.

I knew a woman with a very sick child. That little girl was sick for years, and the mother prayed every day. She hoped and she prayed. She counted on God to make her daughter well. But in the end, the girl died. And that mother was inconsolable.

Instead of eventually understanding that such things happen in life; that one must mourn and grieve and move on (which is not to say forget the person, but rather move them into our past) she was consumed with guilt.

She had, on occasion, sat in the hospital or fretted in bed at night, wondering what it would be like if the child died. Maybe it would be better for everyone. The girl would never be well; she would be a burden to someone all her life. Her care would be expensive. Was it terribly selfish to want a life without such a burden? She was only in her 20s herself, with her whole life ahead of her.

But everyone told her to “Never give up hope.” “Have faith!” “Believe in the lord!” They said it as if they were channeling Jesus himself.

When the girl died, the mother was consumed with guilt. She knew she had put aside her faith to think about herself for a moment or two, here and there. What a horrible mother she was! She didn’t deserve to have children! It was all her fault. God was punishing her because of her inherent selfishness.

You get the idea.

She ended up in a mental hospital.

That’s where faith got her.

She was never able to work through the untruth of all that.

Some things just have their time. We walk through the corridors of the maze of our life, only able to see what’s immediately around us We can’t know what or who is on the other side of that wall or what or who is around the next corner; certainly not what’s around the next three or ten corners.   Sometimes, we come to a split in the path and we have to choose a direction. Sometimes we find ourselves at a dead end. Sometimes we are on our path alone; sometimes with others. But no matter when we die, it’s always one short corner from the end of the maze of that particular life.

Faith, by itself, it not a virtue. It can even be a vice when it’s faith in the wrong thing.

Maybe the best kind of faith you can have, that only one that makes any sense, is a belief that you are listening to the universe correctly… the faith to be open enough to allow the spiritual realm to guide you – not where you want to go, but where it wants to take you.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

Death of a Child

first posted June 23, 2014

momento mori child

Tre

I didn’t live long. I was not even three when I died. Plagued by health problem from before I was born, my time on Earth was full of doctors and hospitals and surgeries which only prolonged my suffering and postponed the inevitable.

I took it in stride. I didn’t know any better. Life, for me, was pain and discomfort.

It was worse for my parents. They worried constantly. They felt guilty and scared and depressed. My older brother suffered from neglect while my parents hovered over me, taking care of my every need; trying to give me as much joy and comfort as they could in what they knew would be my very short life.

It was a life I chose, but not for myself, for what lessons could a child of three learn about life except that it was full of pain and suffering? But this is hardly a unique lesson. Most humans learn it, in one form or another, in every lifetime.

No, I came for them, all of them. My parents, my brother, the sister who was born after I died and lived her life in my shadow and with my legacy; my grandparents whose pain was as acute as my parents’.

Their lessons were learned coming to grips with senseless loss and all its emotional manifestations.

I go to my mother sometimes and offer her my comfort. She seems to feel me, and finds peace in it. My father is more stoic. I know he sometimes (rarely) thinks about me and cries alone, away from everyone, but he composes himself quickly and continues to move through his day.

My brother was happy when I died but I don’t blame him. He was only five and needed love and attention that he wasn’t getting. There were so many, many nights when he went to sleep without seeing our mother and father because they were at my bedside in the hospital. With me gone, he was the full focus of their attention.

Initially, he was happy for that. To him, I was nothing more than a broken toy, to be discarded. But my parents became over-protective and that soon stifled him, and dogged him, as well as the new baby who came a couple of years later.

I know they all still suffer from the emotional aftermath of my death, each in their own way, but they have also learned a lot – about themselves, about their strengths (both personally and as a family.) They are more compassionate to the suffering and pain of others. My parents’ marriage went through some rough times but ended up stronger for it.

I am grateful they have taken many positive lessons from my death, but I suppose even if they hadn’t, even if they’d broken up and fallen apart, there would have been lessons in that as well, although perhaps not understood until they, too, had passed on.

I, Golem

New!

bridge-to-nowhere

Riv

I was just eighteen when I married.  My first child,  a boy, arrived ten months later. Another child came quickly after that and by twenty-three, I was the mother of four. My husband offered little support or help raising them. They were all left to me, these young, hungry, screaming, clamoring, curious, mischievous, needy children.

I’d led a sheltered life within a religious family in a like-minded community.  I had not had much sense of myself to begin with.  I was raised for one purpose: to become a wife and a mother.  Once I was both, I had even less idea who I was except breasts to feed and lips to scold and arms to carry and hands to cook and legs that itched to just run and keep running until I was somewhere completely different, and all alone.

I felt no love for my children, no love for anyone or anything.  I knew this was wrong, that I was deeply flawed. It was one of the greatest sins for a mother not to love her children.  Love is what makes humans human. If I was not capable of love, then I was no better than a golem, an automaton. I was less than human.

But, in fact, I was not less than human.  I was painfully, achingly, tragically human.  I was simply numb to my own pain. I was too exhausted to live; too completely without ego to care about anything.

Perhaps, then, it is not love, but ego that makes us human. Without ego, there is no point to human life.  Nothing to drive us forward along our path.  Nothing to give us purpose.  No pain or joy to teach us lessons.

I was, therefore, nothing.

It followed, then, that my children were also nothing.  I regarded them as merely attachments to my appendages. If I had been capable of regarding them as individual, unique human beings, I would have had to also conclude that I, too, was human.  After all, a golem cannot create human babies.  But since I was certain that I was a golem, it followed by my logic, that my children must also be made of mud and clay. Empty. Hollow. Unable to feel.  Unhuman.

Given this line of logic, I did the only thing that made sense to me.

When my husband was off to work, I gathered my children for a trip. Only the oldest was curious about where we were going, but I quieted him by telling him we were going on a secret adventure.

I drove around for a while, in growing outward spiral, circling further and further from home.  I knew where I was going, what had to be done, but I needed to approach it obliquely, to work up my courage.

And finally,  the children fell asleep and I finally found myself where I was heading all along.

I drove to the big bridge.  Halfway across, I turned the wheel sharply and stepped on the accelerator. In an instant, we were over the edge and into the river.

It was where we needed to be. There, we would dissolve and return to what we were: just mud and clay.

 

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 

Living in Limbo

First published March 2, 2015

Wiswings-111925_640

The turning point of my life came when I was thirty one. Until then,  most of my moderate expectations had been met.  I fell in love, got married,  gave birth to a beautiful, clever little girl we both adored.   We were financially comfortable and happy together. My mind was uncluttered by much introspective thought or intense emotion.

When my daughter was 7, she disappeared. She’d been playing in the park with friends, and then, they called for her and she wasn’t there. Nobody had noticed anyone or anything. She’d simply vanished.

The police looked for her. My husband and I, our friends and family, we all looked for her. But we didn’t find her. Not alive. Not dead.

And so I lived the rest of my days in a limbo.   I was filled with the kind of intense emotions I’d never felt before, and did not know how to process. I cycled through grief, despair, guilt, anger, sorrow and the occasional scintilla of hope, which was always quickly extinguished and replaced by fresh grief.

Sometimes I heard stories of children returning to their parents after many years.   Somehow, they’d remembered and found their way back.  Naturally,  I hoped for such an outcome,  but after a time, I would have been relieved to know for certain that she was dead. If I could have given her a proper funeral, I might have been able to move on.  If I knew what had happened to her, I might have been able to forgive.   As it was, however, I never could settle on a single emotion, and so this was the cycle which spun the wheel which turned my life.

My husband and I stayed together, but it was never the same. We both felt a similar range of emotions, but our moods were infrequently aligned. We rarely connected, except on her birthday when we both seemed to feel the same.  For many years, we’d get a small cake with a single candle. We’d bring out the old photo albums. But then it became too awful. It made us feel helpless and hopeless.   We each tried to make our way through our pain in our own way, but neither of us had much success. Compounding our pain was that we were of no comfort to each other.  Even after many years, we both suffered alone.

Her being ripped from our lives so cruelly was for a reason; for the lessons on tragedy and mourning. At the time, however, it didn’t feel like any useful lesson. If anyone had suggested to me that it was part of a greater plan, I would have lost all control and attacked them ferociously. The pain was wrapped around me too tightly to loose its bonds. What mother can ever make sense of such a thing? To come to terms with it would have be tantamount to abandoning her; to losing her again.  She remained alive in my sorrow.

Now, however, I am afforded greater perspective. The unrelenting pain of that life is finally healed. She and I are together again, awaiting a next time.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

 

Skin Deep

First published February 20, 2015

vintageglam

Ga

I was a great beauty. All my life, I was grateful for this. It opened many doors which never would have opened to me if I’d been born plain.

My mother had been a great beauty herself as a girl, and was still beautiful as I became a young woman. She’d been divorced from my father since I was small. For my entire childhood, she was obsessed about finding a second, wealthy husband. She studied, calculated, plotted. She was singular in this goal.

She was not above telling men that I was her baby sister; that she was raising me alone after our mother died. This, she believed, made her seem saintly and nurturing without the taint of “used merchandise.”   She dated a lot of men, but to her great heartbreak, promise seemed to vanish just as she was feeling most hopeful about permanence.

To the outside world, she remained gay and carefree, but alone at night, while doing her evening beauty regimen, she’d examine herself in the mirror and fret that her looks would run out before she found a suitable man. She had no means of supporting herself. Her only skill was to convince a man to take care of her. If she lost that advantage, she’d have nothing.

She taught me everything she knew. She showed me how to use a coy glance to bring a man to my side. She taught me how to tease a man with promises of his own imagination.  She taught me the trick of giving just enough to make him want more, but not so much as to ever satisfy him. She dressed me to accentuate my natural assets (which were considerable.) She showed me the secrets of maquillage, which, when used skillfully can make a woman appear to be more or less than what she actually is.

When I was sixteen, I fell in love with a sweet young man. We talked about running away together. Mother quickly broke us apart and forbade me to see him again. I was devastated.   A woman’s status, she explained, was completely dependent upon the status of the men in her life. She had great hopes for me. I would use my beauty to marry somebody powerful and wealthy. She would not let me throw myself away on a common boy who would never go very far.  There would be more suitors, she promised, of far higher caliber.

And so there were. Mother made sure of that. She pushed and preened and schooled me; she insinuated me into the right circles. She invented a story for me to tell about myself. I met rich, handsome men. Captains of industry and their sons. Famous entertainers. Influential politicians. Mother married me off to the best prospect. I was elated. I had won the prize! My life was exactly as it was meant to me.

But soon I was no longer happy. We had both conquered each other and no longer had need of each other. An unhappy wife makes an unhappy husband. And vice versa. We ended in divorce, but not before I had acquired property and position. I did not want to make the same mistake my mother had made.

I was a divorcee but I was moving in more rarefied circles. I leapfrogged from one man to the next, each more powerful and wealthy than the last. I accumulated status and money. All that was important to me was to rise as high as possible above my standing at birth. I swore I would not end up like my mother.

Over the years, Mother’s fret gave way to worry. The worry eventually blossomed into full panic. By the time she was in her late forties, she was finding it difficult to hold her desperation in check, even though she knew she must — nothing sends a lover fleeing faster than the fetor of desperation.

Eventually, she found a much older man to marry. To my mind, he was a soft and ugly beast, but he was well-off and kind to her,  and she was grateful for him.

I did not want to become a woman who waited for men to choose her. I vowed to always be the one to chose. Even as I got older, I carried myself with confidence. I was an aging beauty but a beauty nonetheless. When I wanted to, I could still be quite charming. But I was selfish; I was vain; I was spoiled (as beautiful woman often are.)   I was perfectly willing to use anyone who could be helpful without a single thought to the consequences for them.   I was very practiced at extracting what I wanted from others,  as quickly as possible, with as little emotional investment as possible.

I married three times. I had two children both of whom met tragic ends, ravaged by the plague of a selfish, vain, spoiled mother. I can’t say I mourned very deeply at the time. We’d never been particularly close.

Few, if any, of my ex-lovers or husbands had much good to say about me. Once my spell on them was broken, all my ugliness became apparent. I made no effort to hide it. I didn’t try to be polite or kind. It mattered not what they thought of me; they were of no use to me any longer.

One evening, when I was in my late 70s, I came home from a gala, went to sleep and never woke up. Some acquaintances might have shed a polite tear or two, but there was nobody to truly mourn me. I’d only grazed the surface of the lives of others.

My mother had convinced me that my beauty was a key that would open doors for me. I understand now that it was not a key at all. It was the padlock. It kept me a prisoner of shallow intentions.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

 

Compound Fracture

NEW

Exposición Sistema métrico campo de fútbol de Hisae Ikenaga. Abierto x Obras. MATADERO MADRID. Abril 2011

Kar

It was an accident. I was only a child myself when it happened. It destroyed my family. It destroyed my life.

My little brother was three. I was five.   We were playing together,  as we often did.  Typical boys of that age, we were loud and wild, often disobedient (especially me) and always looking for new ways to get around the rules.

My mother stored some special sweets in a high cabinet far out of our reach,  available only as rewards when we were well-behaved.  One morning, when she was distracted  by other things,  I convinced my brother that we should climb up and retrieve them.   We stacked some chairs, stools,  small tables,  and boxes into a makeshift ladder to enable us to reach the cupboard.

Then, in an instant it was over.  The pile collapsed and we came crashing down, bouncing first off the counter which was crowded with jars, canisters, sharp implements.  Somewhere along the fall,  he hit his head.  There was a lot of broken wood and shards of sharp, smashed ceramic.   I landed hard on top of him.

Mother came running when she heard the noise and found us in a bloody pile. I was hurt — my arm was badly broken – but I was still conscious. My brother was not. He was bleeding so much, it was hard to know exactly from where.

My mother rushed his limp body to the doctor who immediately realized the need for the hospital, where my father joined her. Two days later,  my brother was dead.

From that point on,  my family was irrevocably broken. My father blamed my mother for not taking proper care of us; for leaving us unattended even for five minutes, but she barely heard him.  She  blamed herself even more, and that was a much louder voice in her head. My own guilt and pain were only just beginning.

At the time, I was too scared, and my parents were too distracted,  too inconsolable,  too angry at me and at each other for me to dare mention the pain in my arm.  I never said a word about it.  The break eventually healed unattended and incorrectly, rendering my arm practically useless for the rest of my life,  a physical  reminder of what I’d done; an external symbol of my internal pain.

Over my lifetime, I must have replayed that morning in my head a million times. If only I hadn’t suggested we climb, he would still be here with us.  If only I had landed first and he fell on top of me perhaps he would still be alive.  If only Mother had not been so stingy with the sweets, I would not have spent my life crippled and racked with guilt.

The guilt and blame destroyed my parents’ marriage. They did not divorce, for they were bound forever by this tragedy  but there was no love, no kindness, no compassion for each other’s suffering. They lived together, side by side, going through the motions,  each alone in their unhealed pain

My mother died when I was 15.  My father was never an expressive man.  He had barely said a word to me for most of my life, but while my mother was alive,  there was some semblance of communication as they maintained a semblance of a normal life.   Once my mother was gone, however, he made no secret of ignoring and avoiding me.   He could barely stand to have me around.  His disdain seemed natural and understandable to me.

I left home a few years later and never saw him again. I heard after the fact that he died a few years after I left  but I felt no sorrow. He had been dead to me since my childhood.

I lived the life of a wanderer, doing what I could to make enough money to survive, living hand to mouth. I was often hungry and homeless but I knew life did not owe me more. I had to pay for what I had done.

Although I could not have articulated it then, this was my spiritual debt. If I hadn’t paid it while I was alive, I would have had to pay for it eventually.  I know now, that this was a debt already owed from a lifetime previous, when I committed evil with impunity.

—-

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-Adrienne

 

Photo:  ¨Furniture pile¨, 2011, furniture¨ HEIGHT OF ABIERTO X OBRAS SPACE: 102 STACKED UP FURNITURE Photograph by Paco Gómez/NOPHOTO.

By the Sea

Originally published Sept 30, 2014

 

http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Indonesia/Sumatra/Bengkulu/Bengkulu_Utara/photo97429.htm

Ja

I grew up in a busy fishing town at the edge of the sea. What I remember most is the smell of the place. I can recall it even now – briny, fishy, sweaty, acrid. The scent of wood fires and charcoal burning; the oil and petrol from the boats; salt water and rotting fish.   Sometimes, after school, I would go to a small cove, away from the boats, just to have the sea to myself. I would dig my little toes into the wet sand, and just breathe it all in.

The smell of the shore is, in fact, that of decay and death. It’s seaweed rotting on the sand; small sea creatures – shellfish and crabs – wounded or dead on or under the rocks. Even the sea birds dined on death, feasting on carrion. But these aromas were familiar to me. It was the smell of my home.

Once, when I was quite young, we traveled to visit some of my mother’s family up in the highlands. Even at that young age, I marveled at how different the air tasted.

Up there, was the sweet smell of life. Of flowers and things green. Of birds and animals living in the forest. It was the organic smell of humus which is technically not alive, but from which life springs so abundantly, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than a living thing. The scent of the flowers — pink and orange and violet — was intoxicating! They grew everywhere, springing up from the ground; hanging from the trees; climbing on vines up the walls of the houses.

It was a magical place, and I could not decide which I preferred more – the shore or the hills. I wondered where I would live when I was grown.

Like many of the other men, my father was a fisherman. One of the aromas I most associated with the shore, and which I loved the most, was his scent when he held me. When the smell of his manly body odor, fish, motor oil, and cigarettes tickled my nostrils, it meant I was safe.

As most young girls, I was in love with my father. He was a handsome man, brown from the sun, with thick, black hair and straight white teeth. His strong arms could lift me up high and carry me all the way home.

He went out to sea almost every day on his small wooden boat, painted white and blue. It had a motor in the back which was often in need of repair. He spent many hours working on it.

Although fishing was the main industry in our area, there were few who had the money for a brand new motor. They all bought the best used equipment they could afford. That meant being a successful fisherman was not just knowing where to find or how to catch fish. It meant one also be good at repair; to have an understanding of how a motor worked, how to fix it with whatever parts were available or that could be cobbled together, with old tools which were always on the verge of giving out. When a motor stopped, there was no time to waste, especially not out at sea.

I knew it was not good when my father couldn’t be out on the water; when he was stuck in port trying to make that old piece of machinery sputter to life. It meant a loss of income. This situation was inevitable for every boat owner. It was time lost which none could afford, yet, it was accepted that this was just how it was.   The men used to say, “Just when you get ahead, you fall ten steps back.” Thinking philosophically instead of feeling sorry for themselves was another necessary requirement for being a fisherman.

Still, as a child, I loved the days my father was stuck in the harbor. I was happy knowing he was safe, close to home where I could keep my eye on him or run to see him. It scared me to imagine him out there, with all the many unknown dangers. It was never far from my mind that the sea might take him and I would never see him again.

My mother was as beautiful as my father was handsome. She had a stall in the market where she sold small sweets and savories, all of which she made herself; some at home and some fresh on the spot. She was famous in town for her cooking.

She’d been in that stall since she was 16. Since before I was born. Since before she met my father. It had belonged to her mother, and when she died, it fell to my mother to cook and sell, to help support her family.

That’s how she met my father. He always joked that he first fell in love with her sweets, and then with her sweetness.

My mother’s sweets were so delicate, they would dissolve on the tongue. Some of her small pastries were so spicy, they could make a grown man cry. Her savories had such complex flavors, you could still taste them, mingling on your tongue even after you’d swallowed.

Most people didn’t take the time to really savor them, which was a pity. To them, they were just a quick bite to eat when they didn’t have time to stop and sit and have a proper meal. The shoppers, the other vendors, the workmen and women passing by, they all had a need of a her snacks, but only a few took the time to fully appreciate what an innovative cook she was. Everything she made — even for strangers, even for those who never gave her refined cooking a second thought — was made with love. But if people’s palates were not sophisticated enough to recognize her culinary genius, they certainly were able to taste the care and joy that went into each piece.

Her stall was in an excellent and much-coveted location, at the outer corner of the market, which gave her maximum exposure to passersby. Her food stall was the most popular and had been so since shortly after she began there.

If the market was open, Mother was there. Usually six days a week, even through her pregnancy with me and with my younger sister.

My father and I both agreed that my mother was the prettiest woman in the town. She had big eyes and long lashes and skin the color of the sweet milk tea I loved to drink. She had long, dark hair which she wore in a single braid down her back. I, myself, wore two braids, which she plaited for me every morning and carefully combed them out every night before I went to bed. Then she would brush my hair, gently, as she sang to me or told me stories, relaxing me for bed.

Some days, after my father came in from the sea and had unloaded his fish and had finished cleaning the boat, and tuning the motor, my mother would take me and my sister to meet him in the harbor. Mother would bring whatever snacks she had left over from the day, and together we would sit on the boat and talk about our day, as we watched the sun set over the ocean. We were happy and we loved each other.

I was lucky. Between my mother and my father, there was enough money to send me to school, and in a new dress every year.

Each December, at the end of the month,  we celebrated a family tradition, the same as my mother had done as a child. There was an exchange of gifts. The year I turned eight, my special gift was a new pair of “big girl” shoes. They were shiny and black with a pink ribbon. I felt like a real lady in them. I couldn’t wait to show them off to my friends at school! As was always the case with new shoes and new clothes, they were purchased a bit too large to give me time to grow into them. I pushed paper into the toes so they wouldn’t fall off.

The next morning, on my way to school, I scanned the harbor. Most of the boats were already out to sea. Father’s was not there, which meant his motor was working that morning. I would worry about him until I saw him again in the evening.

And then something strange happened.

The sea peeled back from the shore, exposing more beach than I’d ever seen before. It sloped steeply down.

Some people started to panic and run away from the water, but most either weren’t paying attention or, like myself, went closer to see what was going on, not understanding what it meant.

I stood there, fascinated. And then,   suddenly, there was a wall of water so high and frightening it took my breath away even before it crashed over me. Instantly, I and everything else was under it.   My new shoes were sucked off my feet. In those last seconds, before I drowned all I could think about was my lost shoes.

We were all lost except my father, but when he came back to shore and saw the devastation, he no longer had the heart for living. He rejoined us soon.

By human standards, it was a great tragedy. So much loss of life. But it was a necessary correction which the universe must make from time to time. I do not understand the reasons.

So many souls, all leaving the living world at one time, creating so much energy. I was just a small part of it; a tiny speck in a cloud of dust, floating upwards on a ribbon of sunlight.

____

http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Indonesia/Sumatra/Bengkulu/Bengkulu_Utara/photo97429.htm

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Without a Trace

gowanus

Ja

I was just 27. I had my whole life in front of me. I had a good job, career prospects, lots of friends.   One night, I went into the city to meet a buddies for drinks. It was late when I left them to head home. I was a bit tipsy but not exactly drunk.  A man on the street approached me, asking for directions. I stopped to help him.

After that was a blur. I woke up groggy, bound with nylon rope, in the trunk of a car, bumping along very potholed roads. I had no idea where I was. Or why. Or how. It took a while for me to put it together, but he must have drugged me somehow. Maybe stuck me with something. I didn’t remember.

Finally, we came to a stop. When he opened the trunk and pulled me out, we were in a garage…not a house garage but a commercial one, like a chop shop. I had no idea exactly where we were but my sense was that it was in a remote, industrial part of an outer boro, far from prying eyes and out of earshot of anyone who could help me.

My captor was insane. That much was obvious.   I was terrified. I knew I was going to die at his hands, but I didn’t know how, which terrified me more.

He started with the tools for breaking apart cars, and took me apart slowly, methodically. He knew was he was doing. He took pleasure in my pain.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I tried to will my soul out of my body, so I would die faster. It didn’t work as quickly as I prayed it would. When I passed across, as soon as I felt my soul leave my corporeal form, I was met by others; other young men he’d killed in the same way.

New York has a serial killer but nobody knows it. He disposes of bodies so well, none of us were ever found. We are all still listed as mysteriously missing persons. Nobody suspects that all our disappearances are related; the work of one man. Nobody is looking for a single killer. He is too clever for them.

Our bodies are in the Gowanus Canal, but no one would ever think to look for us there. Even if they did, they would never find us. We are melted into the toxic soup.

 

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