The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “life after death”

Anchors Aweigh

This was first published last July but it reminds me so much of the current news story about Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald being hit in the Sea of Japan, and all those sailors dying while sleeping,  I am  reposting it again today,  out of order.

 May they all rest in peace.   Condolences to their families and loved ones.

 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40317341

The_Royal_Navy_during_the_Second_World_War_A11482

 

Gle

I was just out of school,  still mostly a boy,  when I joined the Navy.  There was a big war going on, and I was eager to serve my country and see the world.   In the early days, I had the exuberance of youth; the certainty of my invulnerability. I believed I would return home a hero, with interesting tales to tell for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t long before my fantasies collapsed and my mood (and most of the others’ around me) swung between a self-protective detachment and abject terror. These emotions often manifested at inappropriate moments.   One afternoon,  our ship was strafed by enemy planes.  I and my fellow gunners manned the positions,  immediately becoming primary targets for fire.  Two of my companions died right on the deck beside me, but I had no time to mourn, no time for fear.  I focused on my job.  My aim was true.  I brought down two aircraft, watching with indifference as their pilots and their crews were swallowed by the vast ocean, unbroken ocean.

During that battle and in the hours that followed, I felt nothing.   It was only much later that a thick fog of terror and panic rolled in,  enveloping and smothering me.

Weeks later, a bird fell from the sky, dead,  onto the deck and suddenly,  I felt awash in guilt for having taken the lives of those foreign flyers. They were not so different from me and my mates, all of us just doing our jobs.

Some nights after many days of relative calm, I’d wake up in a cold sweat.  The quiet felt like a bad omen.

Apropos of nothing, the hair would stand up on my neck.  My breath would grow short and my heart would beat, rat-tat-tat, like an artillery tattoo, in my chest.

But in action, I was distracted,  attentive,  too focused on what was happening in that very moment to worry about what might happen in the future, even the immediate future.

And so the months went,  a pendulum between action and tedium,  fear and fatalism.

Eventually,  it was my turn for leave.  We were heading for a friendly port, and once there, I would be flying home for a week or so to see my family and my girl.

I hung in my hammock,  wrapped like a cocoon so I wouldn’t fall out,  swinging to and fro in the rough seas.  When I first came to the ship,  I found this movement rather sickening, but eventually I grew used to it and felt it comforting, like being rocked to sleep in a cradle.   The sound of the other guys snoring and grunting gave me comfort, for we were brothers and took care of each other.  I was sleeping peacefully,  dreaming of home.

And then, suddenly I was wide awake, up to my face in quickly-rising salt water,  the smell of fuel thick in the air. The ship had been hit by a torpedo and we were sinking fast.  I could see others floating around me, already dead.   I had only a few moments of consciousness left before it was my turn to drown.  I said a quick prayer and then gave myself over to remembering the last time my girl and I kissed.  And then I was gone.

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 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!

Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

originally published August 22, 2014

Artist: Mobstr/location: London

Sa

Genius. My greatest sorrow and frustration in life was that I was able to recognize it; appreciate it when I saw it; easily discern between the very good, the great and the brilliant; and yet, I, myself, could not produce anything of such caliber.   I could see the tricks and techniques the masters used to imprint their work with their unique creative flair. I was able to read between the lines and marvel at a turn of phrase or an especially apt metaphor. I noticed the nuanced underpainting and the way it brought life to the subject. I could hear the subtle change of key that lodged a melody in the head. And yet was not able to reproduce any of it.

I did not begrudge them their success. They deserved it. I only wanted to whip aside the curtain to see how they did it. Was there a trick? A skill I could learn? Techniques I might master?   The answer, I found was yes to all those things, and yet, the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. There was something inside those people, something I didn’t possess. No matter what I did, somebody else did it better.   More naturally. More easily.

Perhaps if I’d had no aesthetic sense; if I’d not be able to catch that flash of brilliance that separated the journeyman from the prodigy, it might not have pained me so much. But I was able to see it and each time I did, it reminded me that I lacked what came so easily to them.

I plugged away at what I did best. I was moderately successful. I was able to earn a living, but few outside my immediate circle sang praises to my talent.

They stood at the pinnacle and I was left to worship from below.

I suppose this was the main thread of my life: To envy what I could never be; to live in the disappointment of not being able to be better than I was.

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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!

 

 

Artist: Mobstr/location: London

 

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!

 

 

Bound

NEW!

 

Ipo

When will you understand that all your pain and suffering is the result of you being bound to your ego?   It swaddles and smothers and imprisons you so you cannot escape outside yourself;  you cannot view the bigger, more beautiful, more meaningful story.\

 

 

 

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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!

Voices in the Calm

NEW!

 

Cla

When I grew old, I spoke to the dead and they spoke to me.  I heard them, clear as if they were standing in the room with me.  They told me their stories, just as I tell mine to you.  I answered them, and asked them questions.  My neighbors could hear me chatting through the door and the walls, apparently to no one.  They thought me odd but I was harmless,   so they left me alone. They whispered that I’d gone mad after my husband died, and my son a year later.  Some said I talked to the dead in my imagination because I couldn’t stand to be alone.  Others believed I imagined the dead to be alive because I was afraid to die.  If the dead were alive, then I need not be afraid of death.  Most assumed the dementia of old age had set in and I was just imagining things.

But they were wrong about everything.

I also spoke to the dead when I was young.  But then life got busy and I no longer had the time for them.  But the main reason was that the noise of the world, the noise of my own questions and worries inside my head, crowded out any other voices.  I could no more hear them than I could perceive a hushed whisper across a noisy, bustling train station.   I could not stop the noise, nor did I think to do so.   Whatever was inside my head was me, and that took up all my mental energy and attention.

But then, eventually, I found myself old and alone.  I had lived long enough to be philosophical about life. I no longer worried or questioned.  I simply accepted.   And finally, once again, it was quiet enough to listen.

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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!

 

 

Note:  this one’s kinda meta, isn’t it?

Keen Observer

Originally posted August 31, 2014

Bread in Oven

Re

In the village where I lived my entire life, the roads were made of dirt and mud. Those people who could afford to, built their homes from brick or block, cement, and corrugated metal. Those who could not, build theirs of wood, metal scraps, and mud. Nobody had more than four sets of clothing: two for summer and two for winter. Many had only one.   Some people had shoes; others did not.

I suppose by some standards,  we lived in poverty, but since we had no idea how others lived, we had no basis of comparison, and so we never thought of ourselves as poor. Ultimately, it made no difference to the lives we lived, the lessons we learned, the love we shared, the pain we suffered. The human condition is the same everywhere.

Even among those who have so very little, there were the haves and the have-nots.   My family was in the middle. We went hungry from time to time, but mostly that was because of the weather, when the crops didn’t do well, or the animals starved. But then, most everyone suffered during those times, as well.

I never felt myself poor. We were not so different from most everyone we knew. I never longed for more. I was content.

From the time I was a young girl,  I enjoyed observing people,  watching how they behaved, how they socialized with others.  In my small village, everyone knew everyone. Keeping secrets was impossible. We knew who was happy in their circumstances and who was not, and why.  We knew who loved unrequitedly, who held a grudge, who envied whom. We knew who was stupid and who was wise,  who was selfish and who was magnanimous,  who could be relied on when you needed help and who you could count on to stick the knife in deeper.

From an early age, these personalities, these relationships, these behaviors fascinated me.

There was an old baker in the village who had built his brick oven himself,  long before I was born.  All the women brought their bread and larger meals to be cooked there. None of them could have built such a hot fire at home because it would have been impossible for a woman (even with the help her children) to collect that much wood. It was difficult enough to gather enough to keep a house warm in winter. A fire in the small stove might be enough only to heat a pot of water for tea or to boil an egg or to keep a pot of bits and scraps cooking until it became soup. Of course in the summer,  it was  too hot to keep a fire going inside.  And so we had a communal bakery.

Every morning,  the wives or their young daughters or sometimes a servant, brought their kneaded loaves or other ingredients to the baker, to be cooked together with everyone else’s.  The old baker, who everyone called Grandfather even though he had no children of his own, also sold his own bread and buns and some savories and sweets, which some villagers bought as well.

Grandfather was a nice man with a good soul.  Everybody liked him.  If a family could not pay, he would never shame them. He would tell them kindly to pay when they could, even when he knew he was likely to never be paid at all. It was not in his heart to let anyone starve if he could help it.

When I was about 8 years old, there was a young man in the village who worked for the baker. He was very full of his own worth,  full of important advice for everyone, always telling others the best way to run their businesses even though, he, himself, had no business of his own. He was always telling Grandfather how to improve things, but Grandfather had been in business since before this young man was born, and he did not appreciate the unsolicited advice.

Others advised the young man to mind his tongue and do his job,  for the old man would eventually pass away and then he could take over the business and do with it whatever he wanted.   But he could not wait.   So, he moved away to the city, which was very far. He worked there for a few years at something (nobody really knew) until he had saved enough money to start his own bakery in the village.

When he came back,  he built his own oven. In front, he built a low wall to create a kind of outdoor room. There he put some tables and chairs. It became a kind of spontaneous café for men to gather, to drink strong tea and eat a small cake or two, to smoke, to play cards, to discuss politics and religion.

The young man thought he was very clever because now he had both a bakery and a café, and was sure he could make twice as much money as Grandfather. The fact is, the bakery was where all the profit was. A café didn’t earn much. These men sat all day with one pot, always asking for more hot water.

In his foolishness and ignorance he expected the village women to flock to his bakery, which was larger and of course newer and offered some social activity. What he failed to consider, was that the women did not want to pass through a group of men, on their way to the oven. These women worked hard.  They gathered wood and carried water from the well. They minded the small animals. And the children, too, of course.  They worked like donkeys from sunrise until everyone in their families was safely asleep.  These women resented working hard while men sat idle. They did not want to be reminded of it.  It made them bitter.  And so,  they avoided the place.

Soon,  with no customers for his oven, the young man could not keep his business open. He lost everything. Ashamed , chastened, and once again poor,  he left the village for the city once more. I never saw him again but I thought about him a lot.

He had failed because he was a bad judge of human nature, including his own.

That was the first time I understood how tragic a human flaw it was not to understand others; how much more successful someone could be in life if they paid close attention to the needs and desires of both their friends and enemies.

And from then on, I made it a point to study others and to understand what they wanted most deeply.  I quickly learned this was rarely what it appeared to be on the surface.  A man might start an argument with someone of a higher status not because he was angry at the man but because he resented his own low standing. To win such an argument was to steal some of that man’s power. A woman might want a new piece of jewelry from her husband not because she needed more finery, but because it showed others that her husband valued her. She craved the status of that; not his actual love..  A girl might act aloof or tease a boy, not because she wants to hurt him or push him away, but because she likes him and doesn’t know how to express her own feelings.

Like everywhere, people desired the same things: love, power, status, freedom from pain and discomfort. And like everywhere, they often went about getting them the wrong way.

I observed these things closely all my life, and I thought about them as I went about my days. And the more I understood, the more things made sense to me.   I didn’t get upset when people behaved badly because I could see through it to the real reason, and I had compassion.

Many people came to me, asking for my advice. And from where I sit now, I still believe it was good advice.

______

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 al

 

 

photo: Roseman Creek Ranch

In a Flash

NEW!

Ure

I never had much luck in love.   Most relationships barely got started before they were over.  I accepted this as my destiny and made a life without romance.  And then, when I was in my late 40’s, I met my soulmate.  We were quickly inseparable. We’d found each other and we weren’t letting go.  Finally, I understood viscerally what poets and writers and lyricists wrote about.

It felt miraculous.  It felt destined.  It felt absolutely right.   At last, there was somebody who understood me; someone who wanted my happiness more than they wanted their own.  I became a new human being.  I blossomed.  I felt things I’d never felt before. I saw other human beings through a different lens, viewed the world from a different perspective.   I was joyful. I was happy.

And then, tragedy., insanity. A robbery.  A shooting.  Death.  And suddenly,  I was alone again,  my happiness shattered.  It had taken so long for us to find each other, and we were so uniquely suited.  How could I hope to ever find that again?   I could not return to my old life, being happily content without love.  I missed it like a brutally sawn-off leg.

That phantom limb pained and grieved me to the end of my days.

 

—————–

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!

digital collage by yours truly

Layers of the Seasons

first published August 28, 2014

Lock and Key

Kah

He was the lock; I was the key. Or so I thought. Maybe it was the other way around.

I loved him because I could love him in exactly the way he needed to be loved. He was difficult (as was I!) and often tried my patience, but if I didn’t love him, who would? He  frequently treated me badly, occasionally took his hand to me, regularly neglected me,  routinely said hurtful things, but even so, I knew he loved me in his own, often emotionally convoluted way. He knew I could find a man who treated me better, a man who deserved me more,  so it meant everything to him that I stayed married to him.

Over the years, friends and family urged me to leave him. He was no good for me, they said. He made me cry, made me feel less of myself. They made me question whether I was lying to myself about why I stayed.

But not good for me? What did that even mean?

Sometimes, I thought of myself as pathetic, desperate and needy. Other times, I felt proud of myself for taking the higher but more difficult road.

When things were bad, they were painful and awful and made me doubt. But when they were good, they restored my faith in the belief that this was the right choice for me.

When he was sober and contrite, he was loving and charming. He was intelligent and deep, but too often his demons got the better of him. He knew he mistreated and neglected me, and he knew that he had to make it up to me, double, when he was capable. That was how he held on to me through the worst of times.

I suppose I could say our marriage had its seasons. There were times of plenty followed by drought and famine. When love was abundant, I’d gorge. I’d fill up my heart to bursting. I’d squirrel away every bit of kindness, storing them in the hidden recesses of my soul and my memory. This got me through the lean times.

There were months, even years of famine when I felt it was time to pick up and move away. This soil was dry and dusty and nothing would grow here anymore. And then, just as I was about to leave, the rains would come and everything would spring back to life! Love burst back into bloom, and I’d think, How can I leave this place? It’s the only home I know.

I felt bound to him though never dependent. If I’d felt dependent, I’d surely have left him early on. No, that wasn’t the word. I felt responsible for him. As if I’d been put on the earth just to understand him; to be the only one he could love.

But that was only part of it. It filled a need in me, too, to be with him. I needed to be loved like that – singularly and deeply. As long as there was that, I could deal with everything else.

Most people search for a perfect, flawless human being to love and be loved by. They believe that such perfect person will provide perfect happiness.   In fact, nothing in life is learned from perfection. The lessons are found in working with and through the imperfections. I could not have expressed this while I was alive. I raged at the imperfection. I wanted the pain and frustration to end so all would be peacefully ideal.

In the beginning, I didn’t understand all the layers beneath the layers. But as we shed each one, I loved us more. We became closer, paring away our fears, one by one. We scraped off the veneer to reveal the truth below. We melted off the coating that held everything neatly in place so we could deal the messy reality. Sometimes it became too much , and one or the other of us felt the urge to run.

Apart and together. Apart and together. Apart and together. And with each together, another layer was gone, bringing us closer to the meat of it, to the seed, to the real reason we stayed with each other; to understanding the basis of our bond.

I don’t know if I could have done it for fifty or sixty years. I died before I found out. I am not sure we would have been willing to keep scratching away like that or if we would have eventually come to an end.   Or perhaps, one day, finally, all would have been exposed and there would have been nothing left to learn of or from each other. Maybe one of us would have reached that point first, and walked away.

Certainly, I was not so easy to live with, myself. I was often angry, impatient, demanding, frustrated, mean, ornery and occasionally violent. I tried my best to rise above my anger but I will admit to flinging the occasional vase or dish.

I know now that this was one of my tests, my lessons for that life – to understand and overcome anger. I was better in this life than I was in lives past, but I still have work to do.

I supposed I stayed with him because I sensed I needed to learn this.

But it could have been he who ended it. He might have decided that domesticity wasn’t for him; that he was no longer willing to do the work to maintain the balance. He might have been no longer willing to toil when the land was fertile; unwilling to stock the pantry in preparation for the lean times. Without me, his life would have been easier in many ways, but I understand now that he needed the challenge of me, too. I suppose he knew that as well.

This understanding, though unspoken and unconscious, is what bound us. We both heard that inner voice that told us that we were on the right path.

Running away from the lessons is always an option. Human have free wll.   I doubt I could have stayed on that particular path for decades more.   Perhaps, if I had lived longer, I might have chosen another road,  leading to different but equally important lessons.

I stayed with him as long as I did because until the very end, I always felt I hadn’t yet solved the riddle of us.  It still intrigued me.

He is not here yet, but I will wait and we will do it again, in a different way.

 


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!

 

 

As I was scheduling this one,  THIS came on from my playlist.   It captures the essence of this post.

 

 

photo credit

I Know What Girls Like…

first published August 25, 2014

Henry Darger from "In the Realms of the Unreal"

Pry

My life was just shame. The shame of who I was and of what I did.

The shame of who I was led me to do what I did. The shame of what I did led me further into the shame of who I was.

Where do I begin to explain? My sin is something few humans can comprehend. They can understand murder and rape, thuggery and genocide better than they can comprehend my particular crime. This is not to say they accept or sympathize with such crimes against humanity, but they can make sense of the perhaps irrational motivations – the need to destroy, the need for power, the need for money, the need for freedom or supremacy especially after a lifetime of repression. Perhaps even misguided religious fervor. The human mind can understand how such malignancies can develop because they can make sense of the root cause.

Not so for me.   Even here, looking back, I can’t say I totally understand it myself.  It was just a need, a drive I had. It was an attraction that I could not control. I suppose if I were different, stronger, I might have been able to control my behavior, but my feelings? No. Impossible.

The first time I felt it, I was still young, but old enough to recognize how wrong it was. This is when the shame began.

For most people, sexual and romantic attraction are age-appropriate.   A kindergartner might have a sweet first crush on another child in the class. A twelve-year old boy might try to steal a kiss from a another twelve year old.   Teenagers lust after other teenagers. And adults generally mate amongst themselves.  Certainly children develop crushes on teachers or older persons of authority, but most adults understand what the child has yet to learn:   any sexual relationship would be completely inappropriate and out of balance.

I, however, never grew out of my grade-school sexuality.   By the time I reached my teens, girls my own age frightened me. I felt too much a child, myself.   I sensed they could see right through me. I feared they could see things in me that I didn’t want them to see; things which needed to remain hidden but which I had no ability to conceal.  I suspected they would demand things of me – sexually, emotionally – which I knew I could not satisfy. I feared they would consume me whole or mock me.

I kept my distance.   I spent a lot of time alone. I eventually learned how to fit in. I wasn’t stupid, just emotionally immature with a tragic lack of impulse control.

At first, I’d just fantasize. There were times when my loving gaze fell too long on a beautiful little girl. The accompanying parent would quickly hustle the child out of my sight, while casting back a warning glare over his or her shoulder.

I learned to be more discreet. Not to leer or stare.

I used to masturbate to catalogs of children’s clothing, filled with adorable models. Even as I did it, I recognized how pathetic I was. I went to a couple of those junior beauty pageants, but they were too creepy even for me.   I recognized in the audience, other men with the same feelings as mine and it frightened me. I saw my future, older and just like them. I didn’t want to end up like that, even though I feared I would.

One day, when I was in my late twenties, a new family moved into my apartment complex. They had a beautiful little daughter, maybe 10 or 11. I fell instantly in love with her. I was obsessed.

I bought a puppy to attract her attention, which was the perfect ruse. She would come over to pet him. I’d give her little snacks to feed him. Then, I got her to help me teach him tricks. That gave me an opportunity to be around her longer, with her feeling happy and relaxed.

Her pure joy! Her unsullied innocence! Her translucent skin that allowed her inner light to shine through! The way she looked at me with those huge blue eyes when she asked me a question, and awaited my response as if having an audience with the Buddha! Truly, I was in love. It was as real and deep and meaningful to me as any kind of love is to anyone.

It did not feel shameful. It felt pure. I felt that if she could love me too, it would redeem me.

I was as nervous and afraid as any inexperienced young man might be about approaching a girl he likes. I didn’t want to frighten her. I wanted her to understand things as I did.

I complemented her. Told her how pretty, how smart, how good with animals she was. I gave her small gifts.  I invited her in for snacks. (Her single mother worked, and she was mostly on her own in the afternoons.)   We’d watch TV on the sofa, and eventually, we cuddled.

For her, it was no different than it might have been cuddling with her own father, who had all but abandoned her and whose male attention she obviously missed. But for me, it was absolutely romantic. I was in heaven, just to have her near me, just to smell her hair, to hear her laugh.

And then, one day, we got on the subject of boys. She wanted to know certain things about the facts of life, about male anatomy.   From where I am now, I recognize that she was just a normally curious kid. Her father was absent and her mother was barely there. I was a trusted adult. Who else would she ask?

I understood it as a seduction.  A black curtain inside of me blocked out all normal human emotional logic.  In my immaturity, I imagined that she wanted me, as I wanted her. I believed that this was her way of making the first move. It meant she loved me!

I started so slowly and gently, just touching and telling her how beautiful she was, and how sexy, and how much I liked her and how she could drive a man mad. And she liked it. She did. But she liked it because she was just a child and she had nobody else to tell her these things that she desperately wanted to hear. In her own way, she was as needy and lost in the world as I was.

Of course, she was just a child and I was the adult;  I should have known better. But it didn’t feel that way to me at the time. Emotionally, we were the same age. In fact, to me, she felt older. She seemed confident but in fact, she was just trusting and naïve, and was thus not nervous. She had no reason to be.

Eventually, we had sex. At the time, in my delusional state, it seemed she desired me as much as I desired her. I realize now that I forced myself too quickly on her. She was not ready — not physically and not emotionally. Even if I’d gone more slowly, she still wouldn’t have understood.

For a young girl who is just beginning to recognize her potential as a woman, to sense she has power over an older man, is a heady feeling,.  but is emotion that a ten year old mind cannot process in its full scope. She could not have understood all the ramifications. For her, it was a game: to have a man do whatever she asked; give her whatever she wanted. That was as far as she thought about it. She might well have played this power game with her own father against her mother if he’d been around more.   It was not a sexual thing. She was just a child, only just beginning to understand her power as a female. She was testing her wings.

She didn’t even understand, really, what sex was. She didn’t comprehend the brutality of it on her small body. She didn’t anticipate the pain. Or the terror of having a grown man upon her, essentially holding her prisoner.

When I imagine her face now, I know she was terrified. But I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. I was oblivious to her panic.

And when it was over, she cried. I tried to comfort her but she wanted no part of me. I will never forget the look in her eyes: they screamed “Betrayal!”   Her innocence was gone and it was all my fault. I had totally misjudged the situation (because truly, there was some part of me that was missing, and this rendered me incapable of understanding any of the dynamic in what had just transpired.)

She left and never came back.

I understood after the fact that I’d hurt her but I didn’t understand how I had so badly misjudged. Maybe I was also angry because I felt we were in it together, that our feelings for each other were mutual, that we both wanted it, and it wasn’t fair that she blamed me after she changed her mind. But again, this was a result of my immature thinking.

And in the weeks following, whenever I’d see her around, she would quickly walk the other way. There was a complete change in her demeanor. She had closed in on herself. She was no longer that open, trusting, carefree little girl. The joy had gone out of her eyes, replaced by shock, sadness, fear, mistrust. I’d selfishly stolen her innocence.

I was consumed by guilt.   I knew I’d done a horrific thing. I knew I had destroyed something in her, and that she would not get over it for a long time, if ever. And yet, I could not stop my desire. The worse I felt about myself, the more I needed the love of an innocent to justify my feelings, to restore my sense of self-worth.

It was not logical. I don’t expect anyone else to make sense of it.

She never said anything to anyone, at least not that I ever knew. Her shame and guilt were as great as mine.

I couldn’t bear to see her. I couldn’t bear to have her look at me like that.   I moved far away, to another city. Eventually, I went through something similar with another girl, age twelve. It, too, ended badly. And she also never told. I moved away, again.

The third time, the girl told her parents. I ended up in jail.

This was the right place for me. I fully felt I deserved it. It was a relief not have to worry about further temptation, because I knew if I were still out there, it would only happen again. There was something broken in me, but I couldn’t change it and I couldn’t stop it and with my limited emotional depth, I couldn’t even understand it.

Being in jail for this kind of crime is probably one of the most difficult sentences a man can serve. Even other prisoners are repulsed by such urges.   I did not last long in there, which was for the best. I was long out of choices.

 

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!

Henry Darger

artwork: Henry Darger from “In the Realms of the Unreal”

Great Expectations

NEW!

 

Kor

My parents  did not have much formal education but they possessed a natural intellect and curiosity.  They read voraciously – books, several daily newspapers, news and educational magazines.  Our shelves were filled with literature and second hand books on politics, history, art, science.  I was encouraged to explore them all.

I was an only child by choice.  They both held civil service jobs which, while it provided steady income, their salaries were not high. They decided when they married that it was better to devote all their available resources to one child rather than spread the money thin over a larger brood.   I was the sole beneficiary of their time, their attention, and their assets.  My mother wore the same out-of-date cloth coat for a decade so there was enough money for me to take violin lessons.   When I was born, my father gave up cigarettes and drink to save for my higher education.  They did without restaurant dinners so I could go on class trips.  They took me to museums and free concerts and lectures by powerful speakers and to political rallies. Every week,  my mother took me to the library where we both chose a pile of books.

From the time I was a small child, I understood that I was expected to go to university.  It was my obligation to excel in life; to grab opportunities which had not been available to my parents in their youth. I was grateful to have such supportive parents.  Every part of my extra-curricular education was provided with the expectation that I would rise to the top both at school and in any endeavor I attempted.

Mostly, I fulfilled that expectation.  I was at the head of all my classes, and was accepted into a handful of well-respected universities, each of them offering a scholarship.

Nearly two decades of investment into my future was finally paying off.  I was gratified that I could make them proud.

One summer evening,  the month before I was set to go off to college,  I went out to meet some friends.    Down on the corner, there was a fight among some tough kids.  I knew them to be trouble and always gave them a wide berth.  I crossed the street to steer clear and set off in the other direction.  Behind me, the fight escalated and one of them pulled out a gun. Shots were fired and though I was some distance away, I was fatally hit.  I was gone before the ambulance even arrived.

My parents were inconsolable.

I am still trying to understand the point of my end.   Even to me, here, it seems like a tragic waste.  But I accept that this is how it was meant to be. I chose this going in, so there must be reason.  I’m beginning to consider that the lesson was not about achieving success, itself, but my giving myself over to the preparation for it. Or perhaps it was to teach me that no matter how well we prepare, no matter how much we devote ourselves to a goal, ultimately life is never within our control.

 

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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!

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