Tag Archives: Relationships

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   ]

“…and you realize this is where you live.” (last words from the movie, “Brooklyn”). How many times have I tried to tell myself that “this is where I live” only to have to face the fact that none of those places, countries, lands, towns, houses, families or circles of friends represented where I lived? If I ask myself, ‘Where do you live?’ the most honest answer must be, ‘Nowhere.’

 

I think that the cosmos is a very big place, almost as big, but not quite, as the inside of my heart. That is the biggest place of all because no matter where I go, it is already there waiting for me. I know this, and should I apologize for having such a perception? It’s true, no matter where I go, I need no introduction, no ID, nor do I need any ‘Welcome home’ parties.

Because I am nobody, I am everybody. That is a hard fact to get my small head around. Can such a concept mean anything? Maybe. If I am ‘everybody’ in my heart (inclusive) but in my mind I hate someone, or think of someone, anyone, in some lesser or derogatory way (exclusive) doesn’t that mean I’m hating myself, mocking myself?

While I’m preparing myself to engage another month-long volunteer excursion in that northern country I don’t much care for, I realize that life has erected this strange parabolic mirror for me to look into. Well, talk about an embarrassment! Looks like I’m a far cry from being what I’d imagined myself to be… by now, what with all that talk about living compassionately. Oh sure, for this one life, in comparison to where I’ve come from certainly I can say I am living compassionately, if I remember to add: incrementally.

I don’t make resolutions, too much like promises and I don’t do those either, but I do have to work from the mind at changing myself, and that means resolving to eschew certain though patterns I’ve grown quite fond of through the years.

Where do I live? I live in my mind. Where does my mind live? In the thought patterns that define my real, not imagined, philosophy; that define my real self. So, it isn’t what I do, or what I’m perceived as being I must focus my mind on, but the thought patterns that circumscribe the world I exist in. What is that like?

Imagine living in a place that has suffered some serious strafing and bombing: that’s what it’s like living here. Sure I can call it home, but not the kind of home I could ever be comfortable in, not until some equally serious reconstructing has been done.  OK, I live in a reconstruction zone. Only I’m the owner, and fully responsible for how that reconstructing is being done. I’m the architect, the designer, the contractor, and I also pay all the bills. That’s how it is. And, I need the wherewithal to pay those bills.

As humans; as mind beings, we are not poor. We do not lack any of the means to do the reconstructing in our minds. I don’t know how the resources got there but we have them: all the vices and all the virtues we will ever need or could ever use. All we need to do it pick and choose which ones we will use in the reconstructing.

That’s not rocket science but it does mean we need to teach ourselves how to put these things together properly so we can live with the end result. Who wants to live in some cobbled-up construct that could collapse at any time, or that was designed by some fly-by-night con artist we thought we could trust?

Another day of observing thought patterns to see if, and how, they add up to the kind of life I need, I must, have for myself before my smug life-long companion with his ever-present grin claims my body.

“The mind has many watchdogs; sometimes they bark unnecessarily, but a wise man never ignores their warning.” (A Fall of Moondust, Arthur C. Clark)

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Believe what you will but let me believe what I will

[pure off the cuff, spur of the moment fiction, by ~burning woman~ ]

“No, no!” I said. “Stop beating me up with it, I thought we had agreed we were not going to discuss this. I know what you believe and it doesn’t bother me, it’s your choice. By the same token, you know what I believe and it’s my choice.”

We were sitting at the table in the dining nook, me at the window facing west, he across from me. I had a glass of white wine, he his strong, dark beer. It was already late, of a Summer Sunday evening, and I just wanted to enjoy the darkening skies and the fading colour from the clouds hovering near the horizon.

This is how it started:

“I am going to watch for meteors,” I said. “Make a wish, you know?”

“That’s pure superstition,” he replied, looking up from his book and taking another sip of beer, “when are you going to give up that childish nonsense? It’s embarrassing.” He looked at me with his mouth turned down, making it obvious how displeased he was with me at that moment.

Only he wasn’t talking about my wishing upon a shooting star, he was talking about my belief in the spirit world and particularly in my insistence that I was fully aware of past and future lives.

We had agreed, before we decided to live together that our differences in those areas we would accept from each other and only broach the subject philosophically, in a “what if” sort of way. It wasn’t supposed to become another patriarchal relationship in which he, the man, decided the correct way we, meaning me, the woman, should believe, or think for that matter.

When it came to beliefs, as far as I was concerned, there never had been and never would be a “we” in the equation. I didn’t care what he believed or believed in. He was (still is!) handsome, kind in his own way, supportive most of the time, great in the sex department, an important aspect of the relationship to me, and I must admit that I loved him, well, sort of. Is it love when there is no passion in it, just an easy comfort?

But does that mean I have to give him my mind so he can fill it with his own ideas while excluding mine? Not on your life. I’m not made to take things that way; to be taken for granted, or thought of as the little trophy woman who bats her eyelashes and exclaims, ‘Oh, but you’re always so right, dear!’ No, he’s not right, not when his “right” needs to supersede, or cancel my “right” as it does when I express myself in what he calls a superstitious way.

This isn’t about who’s right, who’s not. This is about who is free, who is not. I didn’t sign up to have my ideas replaced by someone else’s. Not that I signed anything to get into this relationship mind, but you know what I mean.

So I countered: “When you buy a lotto ticket, what do you call that feeling it gives you? You don’t buy a ticket without some hope that you could win, even win the jackpot. What do you call that hope, if not a form of superstition? Logically it’s patently ridiculous for anyone to buy a lottery ticket because the odds are so against you. So in that moment you override your logical thinking and allow yourself a wild moment of magical thinking. You allow yourself to be pulled into that shameful realm of illogic.”

“It’s not the same thing,” he replies. “I don’t believe in the lottery as if it was some spirit force, some divine being, an angel or the Great Pumpkin. It’s just a game.” He did enjoy mocking me with that reference to the Charlie Brown cartoon super being of Linus’ he called the Great Pumpkin.

“But it’s a game of chance!”

“So?”

“It’s a game of luck!”

“And?”

I could feel myself becoming frustrated and upset. “It’s superstition, honey. The other morning, when you came storming back in the apartment and said, ‘God, I went and locked my keys in the truck last night,’ were you subconsciously praying to some superbeing you say you do not believe in because you were in a tight spot, in a hurry and didn’t remember where you kept you spare set of keys? Instead of invoking some deity neither of us believes in you could have said, ‘Karin, do you know where my spare set of keys is?’ and I would have told you. I told you anyways but you didn’t ask me. You addressed the problem through a kind of superstition of your own which you justify with excuses and that hurts. Do you think I’m so stupid I don’t notice these things?

“It’s late, I’m going to bed and I’m sleeping in the spare room. We’re both working tomorrow, I’ve got a pile of reports to check over before my first class so I’ll be off early. I’ll eat on the way, you make your own breakfast, or not. Tomorrow evening I want you to apologize to me and reaffirm our agreement to enjoy each other and leave our beliefs as sacred and private to each other. If you cannot do that, and do it sincerely, I’ll be leaving by next weekend.”

“Where will you go?”

“That’s a really stupid question. Since we’ve been together I’ve been propositioned at least a dozen times, the last one was just a week ago. I travel light as you know and there are a lot of lonely beds out there whose sheets will eagerly part to let me slip in. Don’t self-blind Rico or think I need you because no one else will have me!”

I was getting angry and hated the feeling.

“You’ll miss me.”

“Of course I’ll miss you, you don’t have to state the obvious. But that too shall pass because I choose intellectual integrity over a great fuck.”

“Is that all I am to you, a great fuck?”

“That doesn’t please you?”

“Well, yeah, but isn’t there more for you?”

“Of course there is, or there could be but not when you try to emasculate my choices. My feelings for you cool very fast then.”

“So I’m wrong then?”

“I’m tired and I’m not going around this mulberry bush with you Rico. Good night.”

That was a year ago, probably why I remembered it today. He didn’t apologize, he said he couldn’t see that there was anything to apologize for so I left him that weekend, I could tell he was going to try to talk his way around the problem but I was having none of it. I’ve seen him a couple of times since; he bought me a drink the last time. How are you doing? Fine, you? Oh, OK, I’ve got a girlfriend, Nina, she’s Italian. Good for you. Our team lost again. Yeah, too bad. I had her change the drapes in the bedroom; they reminded me too much of us. Good idea, no point dwelling on the past. That was about it. I suppose it never was what you’d call a deep relationship, more of a convenience.

It’s not the way I prefer them but it’s the only way to keep my options open. I’m sort of living with a guy too but I saw no point in mentioning that, he’d already assume I was or he’d already know that through his male gossip circle. I know the pub where the circle meets and what is talked about there.

You know what? I need to find another direction for my life, I feel I’m on treadmill if not on a dead-end street. I don’t like myself much these days and I used to feel so sure and so proud of what I’d accomplished for myself. I feel that the more I insist on my independence, or perhaps the way I go about it, it’s making me increasingly self-centered and selfish. That never used to be me and I’m certainly not blaming the men in my life for this quandary of mine. If this was another girl’s story I’d end it with: “Get a life, woman!”

When you Die then you Live

[a poem by   ~burning woman~  ]

When you die
(I said to him)
matters not how many are around you
in your hospice bed
or none
as you perish in the storm
you die alone.

Then why
(I said to him)
when you live
can you not be equally alone
however surrounded by insistent motion
or in the stillness
of a moonlit snowscape?

But how can I love you
(he said to me)
when you wish to be alone
when you go away
leaving no note
when you stand so still
under the moon in our yard
and neither touch nor word
you acknowledge?

When you leave
(he said to me)
with no word of farewell
(as in that old song)
I die inside
but when you turn your eyes
to look into mine
I come alive again
Why
(he said to me)
do you do this?

Don’t you know?
(I said to him)
Don’t you see it’s because
I want us both to know
what matters
and whom it is we truly love?
Love is a trade-off
where there is no pining
where there is no loss
there is no desire awakened
there is no gain

Would you know life
(I said to him
the last time I left us)
learn how to be alone
with your eyes wide open
with your mind on everything
except us.

 

 

 

 

Seabird Point, a short story

[short story by Sha’Tara]

Introduction: I ask myself so often, why do I writ these emotionally charged stories that tell stories that rarely, if at all, see real life emulate? Then I realize that what I cannot have; what man’s “real world” will not give me, I need to prove to myself that it can be regardless. Man’s “real life” is the fake news. This simple little story and how it concludes is “my” real life. I choose to believe that what you will read here could be the normal world you wake up to in the morning. Dream on? Sure, why not, I’ve spent much of my life dreaming until I made those dreams a reality I could not only live with, but actually love being a part of. So, have a look at an alternate world, and thank you for reading.
____________________________

Jeffrey Lewis is a rich man, at least by the standards of the ten or so thousand population of Seabird Point. He may not be well liked by the residents of his chosen locale, but they are deferential to him nevertheless since his pleasure craft factory employs most of them.

Seabird Point is a promontory that looks upon the open Atlantic and boasts a well-advertised seasonal tourist industry and between that and the Lewis Yacht Manufacturing Inc., the three mandatory schools – elementary, Middle and High; a lawyer’s office, real estate, the bank and a doctors’ clinic with part-time satellite medical drop in, not much else. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the Presbyterian church that serves for every kind of Christian and bake sale and craft event locals can dream up.

Sorry, I forgot another main aspect of Seabird Point, La Bella Roma Ristorante. How could I forget that? Apart from the yacht plant and government establishment, it’s the largest employer in town in the summer. It is also Jeffrey Lewis’ favourite eating place. Even at the height of the tourist season when every nook and cranny of Seabird Point has been rented out or filled in by unsuspecting south bound migratory tourists with more money than brains, Mr. Lewis can bring himself and his entourage to the Ristorante and get a table.

Today is such a day. It’s eighteen hundred hours; the sun is low but bright over the sparkling chop and not a cloud in the sky. A steady breeze stirs the magnolias restless. Voices of people can be heard through the smoke and aromas of barbecues behind scented flowery hedges. Well, what do you expect? This is, after all, Seabird Point. Are there problems here? At the height of tourist season? Certainly not outside the camouflage.

Jeffrey Lewis’ chauffeur driven limousine flashes its grey paint down the main avenue. He’s hungry and eager to find his comfortable place at the table overlooking the break water past the yacht club with its sea of waving masts and brightly reflecting hulls. The parking lot is full but that doesn’t matter. The imported British chauffeur stops the car by the steps leading to an open set of double doors. He briskly steps out and opens Mr. Lewis’ door. Jeffrey nods, puts his white yachting cap and jacket on and steps up. He is greeted by a young and very attractive hostess in a short black décolleté, past the usual Friday evening line-up of hopefuls for the lobster feast, to sit alone at his large empty table. The sea is beautiful this time of day he thinks as he receives his drink and the waiter makes a pretense of listing the menu specials. Jeffrey absentmindedly waves the card away to have his usual, specially prepared and served piping and spicy hot.

He waits. There’s a commotion at the entrance. He turns to observe, partially interested. A family of tourists, he expects, is getting antsy waiting for a table? He sees a wheelchair being pushed forward by a small woman, and pushed back by the hostess. Two waiters attend the scene. Interesting. No altercations are permitted on Seabird Point at the height of the tourist season. It’s just not in the program. Who is re-writing the lines? Everyone in town knows how to behave to pluck the most amount of money from the migration.

For some time now Jeffrey had begun thinking over his life. It had been exciting once but now that he owned the fastest racing yacht along the coast, where was the challenge to win a race, or the pleasure in receiving the expected award? The plant was doing well, certainly, but it was a boring enterprise over all. Mostly small orders for cheap fiberglass fishing boats. It smelled also, even in the office on the fourth floor of the Lewis Building three blocks from the factory. His wife had left him for a skipper and his two daughters were safely out of his reach, one in New York married to a law firm (or was it a lawyer?) and the other in San Francisco pretending to be an artist on his money. He’d had several affairs, but they were much like his contracts for small pleasure craft – they wouldn’t take a long voyage in deep waters. And Jeffrey had once loved deep waters.

He heard the woman pushing the wheel chair cry out. That’s it, he thought, I’m intervening in this. I can’t have this in my town. He gets up and walks tall and very white in his uniform, to the entrance. The woman holding the wheelchair is short, as he’d thought, but feisty. She wasn’t going to be pushed out so easily.

“Ah, excuse me please.” Everyone in Seabird Point knows Mr. Lewis’ voice.

Silence now, except for the woman who looks him in the eye and says: “Look, I don’t know who you be sir, but I know this. There’s a large table over there where you was sittin’ and I just asked if I could push my son’s wheelchair in and we could sit there. Me ‘n the three kids,” she points to a young girl of about fifteen years much taller than her mother and a younger boy about twelve, “been on our feet most of the day. Sir, my son in this here chair is dyin’ see? Some cancer thing they got more names fer ‘n Carter’s got pills is the cause.

“So I took my savin’s to bring him to this place as I was told of from my friend Cathy who does the Internet thing. Nice place she says, and beautiful view of the ocean. Took all I got but I reserved a bed and breakfast that would take my little Jeff in and we come by train yesterday. Today I made a reservation for dinner here so he could see the ocean while I fed him but they stuck us in the back along a windowless wall. That wasn’t the deal, sir. Jeff wanted to sit and watch the gulls soar, the yachts move on the water and the sun set on the open ocean. We be from Kentucky sir. There ain’t no ocean to see or smell. It was gonna be this one time for us all. Janie, will you wipe his mouth girl? Sorry sir, he can’t quite manage no more… and sometimes I think I won’t either, but each day comes and we manage it, all of us together.”

Customers and staff alike, everybody is struck dumb. The woman’s story hangs like a pall over their self-centered lives. But Jeffrey Lewis has a vision. A beatific vision. He is transported to some kind of heaven while listening to the woman’s dream. Such simplicity, such beauty. Hell, such power. In his mind he compares her to his prize yacht and realizes she is much more, by far. This is it, he thinks, this is what I’ve been waiting for, hell no, what I’ve been setting myself up for, all those years as seas just billowing past my bows as if I was nothing at all, just another piece of driftwood from an expensive wreck.

Tall and imposing, he looks down at the owner of La Bella Roma Ristorante, Mr. Arturo Bellini who, upon being advised of the commotion, had waddled his portly self to the scene still wearing his chef’s hat.

“Signore?” One word that leads to the predictable answer:

The servile tone is almost overbearing, “Ah, yes Mr. Lewis. We will escort her out immediately. I’ve called the police. There will be no more outburst, I promise you.”

“You don’t understand, Art.” Jeffrey intones in an exaggerated soft southern drawl, “Throw her out and I buy this place and shut it down. No, I burn it down myself and sit out there on the stone wall to watch until the wind blows away every speck of dust and rust of it. You will bring this woman and her family to my table now.”

He turns and walks back to his table, taking his drink to another seat, leaving the view side open for the wheelchair. He punches his cell phone and calls off the local constabulary. Then he makes two more phone calls, one to his pilot. The other to a private clinic in New York.

It’s a truly magnificent evening as the breeze dies down and the chop eases off. A small flock of rock doves lands among the terrace tables and the iridescent birds peck intently for fallen crumbs as the sun drops from a pink sky to a much deserved rest below the phosphorescent sea.

Tu me Llamas “La Terrorista”

[thoughts from burning woman – visions of the future]

Tú me llamas “la terrorista”
but I was never a terrorist.

You came into my home in the night,
pulled my lover, me, my baby from our bed.
You made me watch as you tortured and killed my lover.
You stripped me and gang raped me and beat me
and you took away my baby girl.
You threw me naked in one of your cages,
to mock, to make sport, to make me talk.
Talk! Talk? What did I know? Nothing.
I asked, begged, pleaded, for my baby:
you threw acid to my face and laughed.

I escaped from your cage of terror, ran into the jungle
I was naked, starved, dirty and my face was burning:
that was last year, as time is counted. Or was it
the year before that? I found other dispossessed,
victims of your terror goon squads.
We survived, we hid, we found clothes and shelter.
We found more of our own and we vowed revenge;
oh yes, revenge the like even the gods had never seen.
We stole camo gear, weapons, computers, radios
then it began and we made it real in hand to hand combat.

For my face, a dozen of you lie rotting in the jungle.
For my lover, a hundred of you bloat and float
down the river, or lie in the fields to be eaten by pigs.
But for my child, a thousand of you will die, some
not so quick nor painless. I will ask you where she is.
You in turn will beg and plead your innocence:
“¡No lo sé! ¡Por favor!” and I will laugh, and kill you
one by one.  Not once will I feel regret, not ever!

I now wear my scarred face with pride. For a necklace
I wear grenades around my neck. At night
I sleep with a machine gun in my arms. My new lover,
he is very potent, walks his talk, gives me courage.

Your prostituted media posts pictures of me,
of before you burned my face and destroyed my life.
They call me “la terrorista de la jungla”
the woman terrorist of the jungle… but know this,
you who die at my hand and that of my comrades:
you made me what I am: the she-wolf deprived of her cubs.
congratulate yourselves!  While you die, think of the girls
you raped and tortured. Was it worth it? It better.

Like my hero, Che Guevarra, will you capture me
some day, torture me, kill me? Perhaps. But know this:
a fire that consumes the likes of you is sweeping this world,
from one end to the other, we rise, we rise:
we have learned this one thing, that though rising
may see us die, we are equally dead in your hands and arms.

No mas, no mas, no mas. La justicia nos llama y nos estamos
levantando!

[transl: No more, no more, no more. Justice calls us and we are rising!]

Take me Home, Lon

(short story – by Sha’Tara)

“Take me home, Lon!” She leaned heavily upon his arm though to him she seemed as light as an autumn leaf landed on his shoulder.

He looked tenderly upon his Lalika and in her gray hairs he read the story of their times together, times he knew were about to end. He knew also she was blissfully unaware of all that had befallen them, and their little world, in the last few weeks.

How does one face total disaster? If one remains alone in a destroyed world and a landscape reminiscent of a Dante’s inferno? That’s one thing. If there remains one truly loved one to cling to, or to care for? That’s another.

When the house burned; when the children and grand children died one after the other in screaming agony, Lalika had done all she could to ease their pain. When it was over she’d stood at the edge of the blackened skeleton that had been their home and simply shut down. She had turned to Lon, smiled sweetly and said, “Of course I’ll marry you, Lon. Why have you waited so long to ask me?”

Though she still recognized him, Lon knew he’d lost her. Her sorrow had captured her, heart and soul; stolen her human reality. She was gone into the world of the gossies, a ghost of times past. No future would be available for her to walk into. That was the price she had to pay at the end for having defied the gods and chosen a life of bliss in true love for herself instead of the expectation and the demand made of her, to serve the temple gods.

“You are cursed, Lalika, for chosing a man over the gods! In the end, all that you wanted; all that you lived for will be taken from you. All, even your memories; all that means anything to any living being. You will wander alone and haunted in the worlds of the gossies! You will have no voice, you will sing no song forevermore!”

Thus had the prophetess screamed at her as she had exited the temple for the last time to join her lover by the great River, running, smiling and jumping, lightly as a doe, into his wide fisherman’s canoe, to let him take her away from her family, friends and everything she had known.

“Take me home, Lon.”

She had never looked back, never once uttered a sigh of reget if she ever thought about her life in Barnard town. She lived with Lon, for Lon, in a fisherfolk shack on the edge of the great River. The children were born there, raised there, and married in turn. The grandchildren had come there to play and listen to their grandmother’s stories. There had been much laughter, some sadness, as when little Del drowned or when the fishing had been poor and food scarce. It was life and she accepted that.

Today, she accepted the inevitable by closing down the future. She would live in her happy past, forevermore. Lon would always be there with his cedar canoe. She would always be laughing with him, then with the children and their children. She would play the recording of her life, over and over and never get tired or bored.

“Take me home, Lon!”

Redemption

(a short story, by Sha’Tara – part 3 and last)

Morning came, and the noise of a truck backing out of the driveway woke me up.  It was clear and cold, I could tell.   I dressed as warm as I could in my sweats, my coat and wool hat and after wishing Pete a good morning as he busied himself with a couple of shopping bags dropped by the door, walked outside to stretch.  Everything was frozen, grey white, sparkling like fairy land.  The first thing I did was slip off the steps and land painfully on my butt.  But the beauty and freshness of the morning made me quickly forget my bruises.  My car was covered in ice but I realized the sun would soon melt it off – seeing it’s a dark blue and would attract the heat.  The dog was nowhere to be seen so I assumed (I know, bad idea) she was in the old van in some warm nest she’d made.  The food was all gone but something made me look closer at the ground and I saw small animal tracks.  So it had been taken by wild animals and I wondered what made such small tracks, and would not be afraid of the smell of a watch dog?  Did they have raccoons up here?

I walked around the cement foundations, now half covered in drifted silt and weeds.  How many years had it been since that dream had shattered?  I did something unusual then: I reckoned it from my own age.  I am thirty-two years old.  Those foundations must be thirty-three years old, maybe thirty-four.  According to the orphanage records I was born in 1975.  So these foundations were laid by Pete and Sally in 1973.  And that’s another thing that hit them: the Hippie era when young people suddenly left everything in search of something better than what they’d known, even if they had known the best life anyone had ever had on this world since history began.  They were an unhappy lot, and moved as such a lot, as cattle perhaps, or lemmings, following some path, some will o’ the wisp, with no real purpose to look forward to.  So they created a myth of peace and brotherhood, a mantra, a ‘mission statement’ and proceeded to screw it all up with drugs, irresponsibility and wanton lust.  Then they woke up one day, the lot of them except those too far gone to wake up, or those few who still believed, and went back to Big Daddy and his Big Machine.  Now they run the world and what a place they’ve made of it.

So Sally became a sort of Hippie.  Probably experimented with drugs, perhaps even when she was pregnant, drank too much, lost her sense of personal value, dumped her own kid and disappeared.  Was she still alive?  Physically, maybe, but spiritually, mentally?  Seems like whatever was done to her as a child had turned her into something a little less than human.  Some would call it karma.  I just call it sad, terribly sad.  If such a person ever wanted to, could she redeem herself?  How do you redeem yourself?  I can’t answer that.  Only if I get there and I have to make such a choice can I truthfully say, “I know.”

My shoes must be wrong for this world.  Not only do I find it almost impossible to stand, my feet are now freezing, although I have an extra pair of socks on.  I had to force my feet into these boots with those socks.  Why am I cold?  I’ve got more clothes on than I remember ever wearing at any one time.  I walk towards the sunrise and stand at the abrupt edge of a deep ravine, or as Pete calls them, a coulee.  I can’t hear any water running and it seems to me very strange that such deep clefts would not have rivers of water in them.   A pungent smell comes from some bushes I disturbed in passing as the sun is just beginning to melt the ice from their branches.  I see what I recognize as stinging nettles and foolishly avoid them thinking they would sting me.  Frozen, and through all these clothes?  Ah well, much to learn, and much that will never be learned due to more pressing matters.  I must conclude my interview with Pete today and start back.  I don’t like this weather and I’m suddenly afraid of this land and the strange dirt roads my car was never designed to drive on.  Edward was right.  I should have rented a real prairie dirt road vehicle in Prince Albert.  Stubborn.  But I like my car, it’s personal, private, an extension of me, especially when I’m far from my own home.

I smell cooking and I realize I’m past hungry.  I return to the house, being careful to stand relaxed on the icy steps.  My boots slip but I manage to stay upright, grab the door handle and walk in.  I hear eggs frying.  And bacon.  A steaming pot sits on the side of the stove and there’s a percolator chugging away on one of the burners, or covers or whatever.  A real percolator!  I lift the lid on the steaming pot and it’s porridge.  I’ve never eaten porridge.

Pete is busy tending the eggs in a large cast iron frying pan.  He seems to have dropped twenty years from his face since yesterday.  ‘What’s the occasion, kind sir?’  I ask him, smiling my widest and most natural, unfeigned smile.

“You,” he replies, smiling in turn.  He has a beautiful smile, a perceptibly familiar smile.  Where have I seen that smile before?  Somebody I know, know real well, but whom?  Not Edward, not even close.  That priest who “advised” me when I left the orphanage and got me my first job as a copy editor and helped me find an apartment?  No, not him.  Ah well, never mind.  I’m starving.

“Can I help Pete?”

“We’ll need plates for the porridge and the bacon and eggs.  We’ll need to slice some bread and toast it.  There’s a couple of loaves in the fridge and a bread knife in the drawer to the right of the sink.”

I slice the bread and look for the toaster, feeling foolish.  Probably some too obvious contraption I should know about.  I see nothing, and no plugs above the counter either.  “Sorry, where’s the toaster?”

For the first time he breaks out laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Your question.   I’m currently using the toaster, but in a few seconds, as I move this frying pan over, you can have it.”

“The burners?  You want me to just lay the slices of bread on the top of the stove?”

“Sure.  I’ll tell you when to flip them.”

So we had a wonderful breakfast.  I began to think that maybe that’s what he ate at every meal, or that maybe he only ate breakfast.  No matter.  I felt great after, drinking the strangest tasting, but hot and strong coffee from the percolator.

“Where’d this food come from, Pete?”

“I should have told you, I have an old CB radio here.  I called Webster’s and they brought some supplies.  It’s been a very long time since I had company, Reed.  I spent the night wondering how I could express my gratitude for listening to my story, and for staying over last night, so as not to cause me worry.”

“Oh!”  I exclaimed, suddenly feeling very young, very childlike.  “Well, thank you.  I’m glad I stayed, I can’t imagine driving through this stuff.”

“The roads will be fine during the day except for the bottom of the coulees where the sun doesn’t shine in winter.  If you’re careful to drive from side to side of the road and not on the icy tracks, you wouldn’t have any problems.  Of course most people with those  modern 4×4’s don’t know how to use ’em properly and frequently end up in the ditch.  Too much power to the wheels at the wrong time, in the wrong places.  You have to feel the road, let it talk to you, tell you what you’re doing wrong.  And you have to feel your car or truck as well.  An empath should know that, hm?”  He winked at me and I laughed.  Then, in between mouthfuls and sips of scalding coffee, I began the questions again.

“So, you never ever thought to look up Sally’s child, not even out of curiosity?”

“Oh yes, many times.  But what stopped me after my initial bout of anger was that she’d remind me of Sally every day.  I’d be raising a part of her, but would never have her.  I looked at my life, what it had become and after a few years I convinced myself that the girl was much better off in the city, among people she knew, surrounded by opportunities completely unavailable here.  If I went to get her I’d just cause more harm and grief.”

“Don’t you think that maybe that was selfish thinking on your part?  That this girl needed a father of sorts in her life, especially knowing she had been abandoned by her own mother?  How do you think that affects a child?”

“I don’t know Reed.  I’m no psychologist.  I’m a farmer with a grade nine education.  I don’t know much about people.  And in the state I’ve been in, I couldn’t even help myself.”

“Well there’s another point.  This girl, maybe, being of Sally, she could have given you the love you never got from the mother.  This girl could have been the necessary filler your heart needed.  Don’t tell me you’ve never read of such things happening.”

“I don’t read much, but I have.  I just don’t believe it.  Just stories, Reed.  Feel good stuff.  Happy endings.  Not for us, just for writers and those who for a moment believe their inventive trash.”

“I’m a writer, Pete.  I’m going to write a story about our encounter and my trip here.  Will you read my ‘inventive trash’?”

“Oh, so sorry… so sorry Reed.  Please forgive me.  My bitterness is quite used to have me for itself anytime, anywhere.  I’ve never practiced the discipline of hiding my pain from others.  Probably why there are no ‘others’ in my life anymore.  I prefer to be alone so that I can give vent to my feelings without having to worry about the effect I’m having on others.”

“That’s all right.  I’m a journalist, a reporter.  I’ve got tough skin.  I too was raised in difficult circumstances and I’m a survivor and over-comer.  I could tell you some stories about my own upbringing in an orphanage.  It was a priest who helped me get out of that life and find a job and a place to live.  I suppose, depending on how you look at it, I got lucky.  And have been ever since, if you discount the sleepless nights working on a computer and the loneliness.

“But lately I’ve been questioning that.  I want something better than that animalistic instinct to survive and beat my competitor to the prey.  I’ve been seriously thinking it’s time I became a different, a better, person.  It will definitely hurt my career, maybe end it, but what’s left of my life I want to dedicate to me.  To myself.  I have a dream, a vision, of what I want to become.  It frightens me, Pete.  It frightens me because I’d be so alone in doing this.  No one can really share in it.  I see a great similarity between us.  You changed after Sally left you.  You dedicated yourself to nurturing your grief, to never let it ease or heal.  You became your grief and it grew to control you and in turn, it became you.  In it you have been intensely and utterly alone.  You could not share that with anyone without hurting them.  So you detached from all of them and kept only the suffering you.  And wasted over thirty years of your life to date.

“I want the opposite, but just as intensely as you pursued your own dream of living in heart-mind agony and grief because you lost something that was never yours to start with.”

“Oh yeah?  Hmmm.”  Long pause.  His voice lowers a bit:  “You’ve thought about this a great deal I sense.  How will you accomplish this dream of becoming better than yourself, of becoming a better person in your own eyes, assuming you intend to be extremely tough on yourself in this?”

“Yes I’ve thought about it a great deal.  I’ve looked at the world from my journalist perspective.  We’re taught and encouraged to dig deep into the human psyche, to look for reasons, causes and to make value-judgments about everything.  We are supposed to be experts at uncovering what makes people do what they do.   So that’s the method I used to look at myself; at my motives for everything I think, say and do.  Who is the person behind it all?  And I’ve decided that perhaps that person needed to be what she was for a time, but no more.  She is past all that now.  She’s too young to give up the idea of positive change and too old to play the games people play, of seduction, money and popularity.  She’s at a crossroads that comes but a very few times in one lifetime.  Choice.  So she chooses change through self-empowerment.  That means the tough reporter bitch makes herself vulnerable, exposes her soft underbelly to those who would beat her.  She chooses the path of compassion.  And hopes she is strong enough to accept the inevitable.”

“Doesn’t that make you a sort of fatalist?  That doesn’t suit you, somehow.”

“I prefer to think of it as being pragmatic.  I’ve seen some of the world, perhaps using my life as a microcosm of the macrocosm.  I’m basically middle aged.  I have enough past to be able to surmise, or hypothesize my future at least.  I don’t want to live in the world I’ve come to know.  So if I can’t just leave it for greener pastures provided by someone else, then I’ve got to create change right here.  And there’s nothing else I can change but myself.  That’s what the people who chase after leaders do not realize: that nothing changes until they, themselves, become that change.  The change I propose to put myself through is going to cost me much.  I have no problem accepting the fact of those costs, but can I pay my debts?  Can I ‘take it’ to use the vernacular?”

He sighs deeply and stares straight into my eyes.  “You’re goading me, aren’t you.  You don’t mean any of this, you just want me to react, defend myself, or admit I’m a total failure and tell you I’m not sorry; that I choose to be where I am and I’m staying here, then to prove you are right, to ask you to leave and not write any story about me, but forget you were ever here.  You are pushing me into some kind of admission.”

I stand up and pace across the small kitchen, careful to avoid several empty cardboard boxes and a stack of firewood partially blocking one side of the table.  I’m feeling anger coming and I need to let it out carefully.  I don’t want to use that sort of energy in an interview.

“You’re wrong Pete.  Sure, I came here for a story, that’s what I do, write stories, do documentaries and spout off on talk shows.  But primarily I am using this trip to find myself.  You can help me.  I see many similarities between us, our lives.  We had it tough, both of us.  But here’s the interesting difference.  I chose to overcome my problems and rise above them.  You chose to use yours as an excuse to cop out of life.  Now, I don’t know.  You show me courtesy and treat me as your guest.  You order special groceries and cook for me.  You let me sleep in your shrine, knowing that no matter how careful I am, my presence in it will forever desecrate a part of it and it will never be the same to you.  You are taking chances with me, exposing vulnerable parts of yourself to me.  Showing me the Pete who wished he could have a chance at life again.  Why?”

“Good question Reed.  I don’t know.  You’re making me think back over things I’d stopped thinking about long ago.  You’re making me look at my miserable life… and maybe, just maybe, to question my place in it.  You’re making me think that maybe I can make the pain stop and I can change.  You’re a witch, Reed.  A very powerful witch.  I’ve always been scared of witches, you know.  They are unpredictable.  Sally was a witch, that’s why she attracted men who abused her and grew bored with me because I let her be, happy to just love her, or as near to love as I knew how to give.  I think witches have a death wish but have so much of life’s power they get stuck in places they grow to think of as prisons.  A witch must have her broom, Reed, always ready to fly off to some place where no man can go to.

“Tell me about your priest.”

I have a sudden vision of my own mother riding on a big black broom, holding me in her arms until she finds a suitable place and dropping me to fall through black clouds, then down towards a city and into my own prison.  I imagine she just wanted me to find my broom, learn to fly on my own, and leave my prison as she had done.  Which I did, to a point.  His question startles me.  “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Your priest who helped you leave the orphanage life and found you a job.  What was in it for him?”

“Pete, that was the Nineties already!  We were lovers!  We met in the confessional.  I’d been baptized Catholic and had to follow through on the rituals, or else.  I had so much anger and hate then, I can’t believe it myself now.  So I confessed stories I made up of erotic and terrible sins.  I think my confessions turned him on.”

“So this priest seduced a young virgin from an orphanage, is that it?”

“You’d sooner find a virgin in a whorehouse than in that orphanage!  Shit man, we were regularly ‘farmed out’ to certain people for ‘domestic labour training’ if you get my drift.  But that came after the in-house fondling and other stuff.  Women and men used us: we were nobody’s property, so we may as well be theirs.  Father Logan, Bertrand Logan, was my out from that life.  If it hadn’t been for him, I’m pretty sure I would have been sold to some pimp, oh, excuse me, an employer who had a very legitimate job for me.  I’ve met some of my former mates on the streets, even did stories about them, but I never saw the point of taking it to the law, that’s not my thing.  Probably some day, when it’s too late to do anybody any good-as if this sort of thing ever does-someone will spill the beans and a battery of lawyers will make a killing, as will the Media sharks and the courts.  The orphanage will have to shell out some insurance money, maybe close down and re-open somewhere else as a new and improved institution.  Some old man or woman who worked there will be dragged out of obscure retirement, put on display for the public to vent its outrage upon and die in jail.  That’s it.  Nothing will change for the victims of these systems, not until the systems themselves are destroyed.

I could see the white knuckles as he clenched his fists tightly.  Was he upset because of what happened to me, or was he thinking that maybe the same thing had happened to Sally’s daughter and he could have prevented it?

“But you asked about Bertrand?  We met in my apartment on a regular basis for a while.  Then he had second thoughts.  He chose his vows over me.  I’m no fool and I wasn’t surprised-angry, oh yes, but not surprised.  He may have been a Catholic priest but he’s a man.  There’d be other, younger girls to choose from if he kept his profession.  Sure wish I’d a known I was a ‘powerful witch’ at the time.  I’d have revved up that broom to the max and rammed it up his ass.  I certainly was angry and very confused then.  What was I, Pete?  What purpose did I serve?  Everybody else seemed to have it so together, from my point of view.  I thought I couldn’t do anything right.  But then I found out, through my job as a copy editor, that I could write, and I could listen to people and remember, maybe selectively, but remember, what they said.  The rest, as they say, is history.  My history.”

“I’m sorry, Reed.”

“Why?”  Now I knew I was deliberately goading him.

“Because of Sally’s daughter; that girl who should have been ours, to be raised in a loving environment by us.  Because I realize now I was so wrong not to go and get her and get us a new life.”

Suddenly he was old again and his head dropped in his hands.  And just as suddenly I went to stand behind him and I hugged him.  And when I bent my face down to rub against his, noting he had shaved and smelled better, I felt that electric shock go through me again.  And I knew, without a doubt, as if I was seeing it happening in a docu-drama; as if someone else was explaining it to me.  I knew because my name is Redemption.  But more than that: I knew because I recognized the connection.  This was not just some man who had been married to my mother.  This was my father.  She was dumped by the surveyor when he found out she had been pregnant by her husband before she left with him… and she had known it.

“I’m your daughter, dad.  I’ve seen some of the records and it all fits.  My real name is Redemption.  I’ve come home.  Let me in, please?”