NaNoWriMo 2005 - Rough Draft
Today she finished the final week of the "Definitions of a Modern Woman" course. The class hadn't been dull and the teacher hadn't been mind-numbingly pedantic. On the contrary -- the lectures were enlightening, class discussions were entertaining, and the reasonable amount of homework made a comfortable launchpad for the next-day's discussions. Why, then, was she happy to be through? Well, for one thing, she was absolutely exhausted. Every minute it seemed, there had been a rush of information, thousands of ideas with millions of possible branches they could take. Any conclusion, if there was one, was reduced to a nominally satisfactory "indefinite" status. Most discussions had to be cut short to have enough time to cover other topics. The teacher never grew bored with the discussions once they grew beyond the scope of her lesson plans for the day; she would take everything in, staring at whoever happened to be talking sometimes -- by positioning her elbows on the table and putting her hands together over her mouth, though her reaction was still discernible by the upturned left and right corners that inched out from behind -- and resting her feet on the table, hands behind her head, purple heels dangling from her toes -- rolling her eyes and shaking her head as if to say, "Girls, sometimes you are just too much for me," -- other times.
The bond created between the twenty-two women in the class was a bit odd. It was as if each of them had been cosmically manipulated to overcome their qualms about attending a class at a community college. They didn't care about being surrounded by at least a couple hundred students and hordes of administrative personnel -- assistants of which were at least ten years younger than them -- at any given time when coming or going. Nor was it the fact that attending the class required a thirty-five minute drive on an inconvenient route from work for some lucky ones -- and upwards of an hour for those who didn't happen to be so lucky.
It was just that none of them really needed to know the "Definitions of a Modern Woman". They were successful at their jobs, competent and assertive when dealing with assholes, right-wing religious conservatives, blowhards, wingnuts, and just douchebags in general -- to differing degrees of course. They came from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, and many of them drew from their ancestry in such a demanding and unapologetic way, they saw the world unfiltered -- recognizing both the evils of patriarchy and the institution of white privilege and attacking them both with double-barreled pistols any time they could. In other words, they were perfectly capable of living as "modern women". To stop at Mount Winstead Women's Community College of North Raleigh in the midst of all this life energy and spirit or whatever the hell it was seemed at best unnecessary, and, at worst, a collossal waste of time that could be spent instead continuing life as a modern woman and benefitting humanity in some way. Maybe selfish, even. But it is better to see it as a necessary and vital "in-between" step. It is a point at which these women needed to stop and rest and rejeuvenate themselves. The fast-paced fury of the discussions did not count as the definition of hard labor. It was not work; it was renewal. Daily life was working time. This was more of a socratic seminar, where they could all spill their guts and cry and scream. Only the spilling of guts was seen as immensely intellectually valuable and even divine -- as if each revelation filled in one more piece of some secret puzzle that contained the answers to the mysteries of mankind. The crying was cathartic and altered the mood of the room to a distinct quiet, one in which minds were unified with the same thoughts and breathing was slower, and pulses were quieter -- as though helping someone work through suffering required the simultaneous involvement of silent, dedicated mourners.
The screaming, more often than not, indicated a rare moment in the classes -- an instance of a clash of ideas, frequently marked by -- when it did happen -- an antagonistic, though not hostile, desire on the part of the aggressor to ignore an issue raised by whoever was defending a particular case based on personal experience that had contradicted with the argument being made. After a rousing and fiery exchange of words between the two opponents -- which was particulary entertaining for the remaining twenty students and teacher -- the argument was settled with a friendly and more mild-mannered concession of the merits of the other's points -- whether or not they felt they had any or not. Other students commented, and the discussion briefly degenerated into small talk about the day's events or a relaxed conversation about recent movies they had seen, books they had read, and the like. Basically, anything related to the consumption of the physical manifestations of popular culture. Of course, what was pop culture to them was a bit more sophisticated, but anyone allowed to listen in -- were it allowed -- would have found it intriguing.
She turned the key to unlock her car and opened the door. She walked in and sat down for a minute, drumming her hands on the wheel, as if she was trying to think of whether she had accidentally left her purse on the table. She hadn't; she was simply thinking -- thinking about that last class that had summarized everything she had learned about herself and the world all the days before. She had taken notes, and hadn't fallen asleep at all, but she could only recall a few distinct images from the class -- that captured the esscence of hearing someone sharing a brilliant conclusion they had made, of the girlish and effervescent camaraderie of their off-topic chats, and even of the singular feeling of the teacher noticing when she finally raised her hand for the first time to say something.
It had been incredible and amazing, moving and wonderful, and it was finally over. She almost wished she could just keep coming back, just to sustain these wonderful feelings she had, the nervous creative tension that rushed through her veins since the first day of the class. But there was a time for all things, and now it was time for her to return to reality.
She put the car in drive, put the keys in the ignition, and was soon out of the parking lot. As she stopped at the intersection at the end of the lot, she contemplated on whether she would turn left to go on the interstate, or turn right to take a back road. It was longer, but she was in no rush to get home. And she figured the light traffic and the rural background would create an atmosphere blank enough for her thoughts. After waiting a second for traffic to clear, she turned right. She did not want to worry about weaving in and out through traffic, and besides, she needed time to comtemplate everything she could remember about the class, in order to give it an appropriate farewell, so she wouldn't happen to get teary-eyed when she thought about it.
Already, words made a slow, conspicuous entrance.
"You know, you hear the mainstream media talk about all this death, all this genocide that is happening in Africa. But you never hear about the continued ethnic cleansing going on in America. If you are black and poor, you are told, 'You are no good, so why do you even try,' as if you are just another drug dealer, or murderer that can never be saved. As if the fact that you built this nation with your own sweat and blood does not count for a modicum of respect, even a little bit of empathy from the ruling class that continues the divide between 'your kind' and the white folks who can be persuaded to deny more than ten percent of their population."
"I've always heard that line, at the end of the national anthem -- you know that part about it being the 'land of the free, home of the brave,' and all that jazz. Well, I guess I didn't fit that description. I had my two young sons cradled at my hip. I was cold and desperate for some kind of shelter. I needed work. I couldn't afford clothes for a week. After I passed the armed guards, went a few hours of interrogation as to my intentions, and was held there for another day for reasons they weren't 'permitted to disclose,' I was led in. And I was like, okay, I've been through my rite of passage I guess. So that was it, right. I was free? Well, not quite. I could get a job, but I wasn't paid the same for working twice as hard as them."
"So, do the stereotypes of Asian Americans make anyone feel better about themselves. No, of course not. But I would've given anything to get them to call me 'one of them smart people,' 'stuck-up commie overachiever,' or even 'slanty-eyed bitch'. Any of those would have worked well for me; I could've ignored them and moved on with my life. But the racial slurs I was called and the stereotypes I was associated with took a toll on my psyche that will take a long time to completely heal from, if I do at all."
She had been paying scant attention to the road, just enough to keep herself between the lines. She felt a little drained spiritually after hearing these stories play back in her mind, so she decided to turn on the radio, hoping to comfort her brain with whatever song was on at the time. When she pushed the button, the radio took a few seconds to come on, and when it did, she couldn't remember what station it was, though she knew the song. It was "Long Time" by Boston. The song was still early enough for her to hear an appopriate lyric:
"It's been such a long time,
I think I should be goin', yeah
And time doesn't wait for me, it keeps on rollin'
Sail on, on a distant highway
I've got to keep on chasin' a dream
I've gotta be on my way
Wish there was something I could say."
She sang along to the last line, following with a slightly wistful, "Yes, I do wish there was something I could say."
But what was the dream, she wondered. Do I even have one? Have I been going through the motions, with the perception that I've been creating change in some extremely miniscule way, but that it will pay off in the future to such an extent that I can't see? Maybe that's why it says chasin' a dream, because, when it comes down to it, I've never really known what I'm trying to accomplish.
The next song that came on was "Highway Song" by Blackfoot. It was an appropriate song for the lonely road she was travelling on, although the loneliness was caused mostly by the hollow feeling she felt after thinking about herself and the life she had led, realizing she had probably never thought to contribute a second of her time to someone finding an end to the laws and attitudes that created these situations.
She turned off the radio, and drove the rest of the way home in silence.
She finally made it home. She warily walked up the sidewalk to her front door and put the key in the lock. For some reason, she couldn't unlock it. Puzzled and slightly flustred, eager to curl up on the couch and calm herself with a light sleep, she tried the key for about thirty more seconds. Suddenly, she realized that she had to pull the key out a little for it to work.
"I've done this for years. Why can't I remember?"
When she got inside, she threw her purse and it landed behind the sofa. She made good on the promise she had made to herself, fetching an afghan from the closet, lying down on the sofa, and after about a minute or so, closing her eyes.
"I am strong. Powerful. Confident.
My body is a temple, and I worship it daily.
I keep myself free of intoxicants that taint me.
I think you are jealous when you say you hate me.
Why do I guess that you envy the way
I savor the profane,
But never take away,
Never kill out of hatred,
Never hurt out of indolence?
An active contributor to daily life.
Do you see this mother tree swooning?
Do you see her reach out her arms to embrace
The light of day?
That light which has become impure to love,
Because it is sacred,
Because it is beautiful,
Because it is free.
You envy my freedom,
The way I mean every word I say,
And can leave for a quick getaway
To reap the spoils of my mind --
I've left that filthy trash,
And so should you,
If you desire to be like me.
Strong. Powerful. Confident."
"That which is woman,
And that which is black --
Yes I've carried the package
On my back.
In it is my culture,
The things that I have known --
It is portable, and mobile,
I keep it as a home.
So wherever you take me,
Wherever my body is enslaved,
My soul shall never be.
For you see, I am woman,
And I've lived in the sun
Longer than you.
So I can take its heat,
I can tolerate your pain --
Each lash calling out to my soul
And I rise, I do.
I will always be happy,
And I will never cry,
Because though my body must strain,
My soul will never die."
"I guess you'd like something funny now,
A little distraction from that comment you made
As I was coming home from the drugstore last night.
I love how you tell me I'm fat in these clothes,
Comparing me, labeling me, your bitch and your ho.
Well, I thought about it, and the drivel that you spew.
And I turned it all into something good,
A bitch is a dog that is willing to dig without a prize of a bone in the end.
A ho works for the earth, preserving it, purifying it.
A fatty is a mind-altering substance that replaces ignorance with wisdom.
A pussy is inquistive, independent, and free.
So think about what you say, 'cause I just might like it,
You say that you hate me, but I don't think I buy it!"
When she woke up, she was slightly dazed and confused about where she was. At home, of course. But how long had she been sleeping? She looked at the clock. It was about 7:27 PM. She had gotten home at around 5:30 and had gone to sleep not more than two minutes later, she guessed, so about two hours of sleep. Strange, it felt like longer, she thought. She raised her head and strectched her arms and legs. Where in the hell had all those poems come from? From the class, she knew, but how did she remember them so clearly. Huh. Oh well. She decided she was in the mood for a cup of coffee, so she got up, dumped some whole coffee beans into the coffee pot and poured the water in the top compartment. What did she want to do now, she thought? She still hadn't fulfilled her promise to actually change the world in even in the tiniest part yet. What a joke everything had been. One of those "college feminists," she called herself. No, she was valuable and important. Giving talks in high school gymnasiums and corporate boardrooms was work, wasn't it? What exactly did she say, though?
"As young women, it is important that you look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'I refuse to be bound by the stereotypes the media gives that dictate what a woman can look like. My skin is beautiful, my face and all its features are unique and special and wonderful. My hips are substantial and attractive. But most of all, I am me. And I don't need to be desirable to anyone else but me."
"So, I think it is clear to see the benefits of creating a more 'feminine' workplace. Instead of brash, analytical reasoning and selfish individualism, we can have genuine, compassionate empathy and constructive cooperatism, which creates a healthier, more productive working environment for both men and women."
God damn, she was a college feminist. I mean, why in the world would she have used "cooperatism" instead of "cooperation"? Just another superfluous, meaningless buzzword. But just because she said it like that, she didn't mean it that way. She was so caught up in defining her notions and reasoning behind her challenge to transform the workplace into a place where all ideas are respected and employees feel like there is an open environment for the contribution of those ideas. Now, the goal is not money -- of course, you still make money, but now you also factor in creativity and make sure you respect the environment in the process. You must be stewards to the best of mankind and to the earth as well. It made some parts harder -- production, for example -- like, you couldn't make as much of the product right now, but you could make nearly as much over a short period of time, but it would end up paying off more, because you would have buyers who stay interested in your product because you do not saturate the market and thus, they buy your future products more readily. Wow. Okay, now that she thought about it, it did seem relatively smart in its own way. I guess some of it is common sense, though, she thought.
It was 6:45 A.M. She woke up to the consistent, emotionless buzz of the alarm, which had been going off for about twenty minutes. Oh shit, she hoped she wouldn't be late for work. Still in her pajamas, she went to the freezer and pulled out a homemade quiche. It was completely organic and vegan, since she had gotten into that stuff fairly recently. She didn't consider herself "hardcore," but she had been incorporating some fresher, healthier vegetables into her diet as of late. Of course, when she was too lazy to drive an extra 20 minutes after work to go to the Whole Foods Market, she went home and vegged out on Triscuits, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and cheddar cheese, which was artificial and mass produced of course, but it had that special zing, or something, she didn't know what it had exactly. It was just tasty.
Sometimes she washed her snacks down with a glass or two of red wine. She wanted to try Manischewitz, a kosher wine, because she heard it was sweeter, but she figured that if she truly wanted to forget about the day, she had to shock away any preexisting flavors in her mouth with something tart and completely unappetizing, unlike the Manischewitz, which she heard had only the vaguest taste of antiseptic fluid.
After finishing her quiche at the kitchen counter, she put the fork in the dishwasher and threw away the Saran wrap that convered her quiche. She didn't have time to do anything but go ahead and get ready -- she couldn't write in her journal or listen to music, things she often did when she was running on a normal schedule. But she had overslept, so she was going to have to hurry.
She went to her bedroom and took off her pajamas and underpants, standing nude in front of her closet. She saw business suits of various colors, a navy blue blazer, and a pair of close-fitting khaki slacks. She took the slacks out the closet and opened up the second drawer in her chest of drawers, taking out a white cotton blouse. She got dressed in front of the mirror, primping her clothes and just generally adjusting herself, trying to make herself look neat and clean. One she finished putting on her blouse and pants, she got out a pair of black socks from the bottom drawer of her chest of drawers and light brown low high heels from her closet. Checking herself out in the mirror for a second, she was satisfied with her appearance.
She brushed her teeth in the bathroom, spit the toothpaste into the sink, filled a double-handled child's cup up about one-third of the way with water and rinsed her mouth out. Then she stormed through the living room, grabbing her purse and keys from the floor where she had thrown them yesterday, then walked out the door and locked it.
She got into her car and turned on the radio. It was set on an AM talk radio channel. She didn't want NPR or anything else meaningful. Just some background noise that she could absorb herself in.
She arrived at work in about twenty minutes, at Meaningful Media Industries. She was the boss of the company, or as she told her employees, the "productivity coordinator". Here we go again, another buzzword. Oh well.
She made pamphlets for school counselors and business leaders concering such topics as self-esteem, sexual harrassment, work place courtesy, respecting diversity, reaching goals, and discrimination, among others. Right now, her "client" was New Haven Middle School in Raleigh. She was close to finishing the assignment -- 500 copies of a booklet about staying healthy. It was mostly just the normal stuff -- eating right, exercising regularly -- but there were a few little-known tips thrown in. She was relieved that the barrage of harrowing topics she had received in September, now known among office employees as "Black September". Each time, a somber counselor or school principal preceeded their order with upsetting statements, like, "We had two girls die from eating disorders last year -- one bulimic, one anorexic," or "Twenty percent of our ninth-grade girls are pregnant," "One of our seniors killed herself last week -- but we're doing better," or even, "Three of our second graders got raped two weeks ago -- which is actually down from last year."
Sometimes, the representatives would say, "We don't mean to bother you," as a plea for her to make the publication. She would always say to herself after they hung up, "Well then, why did you tell me all that?"
So October was a bit of a relief for her. It was less time-consuming, too. She spent hours looking online and in books reading scary facts over and over -- such as, "By the time they graduate from high school, two-thirds of women have been sexually harrassed in some way." Or, "The rate of eating disorders has been increasing each year, due to the increasing amount of media that portrays the ideal woman -- white, blonde, skinny -- and supposedly sexy." Maybe it was just her, but personal hygiene didn't capture her attention in quite the same way. She had to have the booklet done in three days, and she only had about a day-and-a-half of work left to do. Whenever employees approached her to ask for help, they would comment, slightly incredulous, on how quickly the project seemed to be progressing. She pretended to lament this, acting as if it was a problem she would finally get to have a work load that was a bit lighter than normal. It was only "lighter" as opposed to completely free, because she had to give a presentation at a high school about getting checked for breast cancer, but fortunately, that was nearly finished as well.
It was now 4:58, and the last few booklets had just been stapled. She should probably turned them in early -- not because she would make more money -- this job didn't pay extremely well, anyway, and she didn't really care, anyway, since research was her forte -- but because though the counselor had given a deadline that was three days away, but because the counselor wanted it done as soon as possible. She found it sort of puzzling as to why. What, are your students not going to brush their teeth until they have read this vital information? But, still, it was important to always to follow through with what the customer requested -- within reason, but this was certainly within reason.
One of her employees was in the back room, taking the pamphlets off of the machine and putting them one by one into the first of five boxes he had in front of him. He was singing a song quietly to himself, though not quietly enough for her not to hear. She smiled, then walked into the printing room to see how he was doing.
"What's up? You doing okay?"
"What, oh -- yeah, sure. Why do you ask?"
"I just thought maybe I could take them to New Haven instead."
"I always do it, I don't mind."
"Well, but you know, you always work so hard, that I just thought you needed a break."
"It's no problem, really."
"Just let me do it."
"All right -- you're the boss," he said with a laugh.
She really didn't know the reasoning behind offering to deliver the boxes. Maybe she was just in a good mood because the pamphlets had been finished early. Oh well. She lifted two boxes and walked out to her car to put them in her trunk. When she had gotten those, she came back and got another two. Against her wishes, the man who had been packing the boxes with pamphlets before carried out the last one. But she didn't care. All she had was a new burst of energy, and she didn't feel like going back inside anyway.
With the boxes packed away in the trunk of her car, she made her way to New Haven Middle School. It was 5:25 right now, and it took twenty minutes to get there, she would have enough time to take them to the office before after school ended at 6:00.
When she got there, she opened her trunk and left it open, taking out one of the boxes and then another. She wrapped one her arm around them, and used the hand on the other arm to support them. She walked in the door, which someone was kind enough to open. She said a breathy, "Thank you," and went to stand in front of the office. She kind of wanted someone to notice and open the door for her again, but no one did. She stood there, smiling. Someone finally took notice of her and opened the door of the office.
"Thanks a lot," she said.
"Thank you so much for getting these books here on time. Or rather, before the deadline," the assistant said, giving a friendly smile to indicate that she was free to go now. She finally took the hint.
"Oh, no, I actually have three more boxes outside."
"It took that many, huh," the assistant said as the woman walked back outside.
She nonchalantly took two more boxes back outside before she noticed a little girl who was leaning against the wall of the school, at a basketball goal about 100 feet away. She was just sitting there, her knees up, and her arms wrapped around them. Oh, here she was, being a college feminist again. Like this is an issue. She's probably just waiting for her parents. In the dark. Outside. By herself. Oh shit, why isn't someone watching her?
She ran over to the girl and approached her, shrinking herself down to the sitting child's level, like the parents always seem to do when they were making up with their children on those 80s sitcoms. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to be doing this after all. Oh well, it was too late now. The worst she could do would be to tell me to go away.
"What are you doing here," the child said. It took the woman aback a little. It wasn't quite, "Go away, you fucking bitch," but it still surprised her. She improvised her responses.
"I was just wondering what you were doing out here all by yourself at this time of night."
"I'm fine. Now let me go, my dad's here."
"Daddy!" the girl yelled out happily as she ran over to her dad's car. Hmm, maybe she just doesn't like college feminists asking her about her problems, she thought. I guess I was right about the fact that she was just...waiting. The whole situation just puzzled her. Oh well. It was weird, but I guess sometimes these things just sort of happen. You expect something to be a big deal, and you turn out to be misinterpreting the whole situation, and it's really nothing at all.
She had by now gotten over the situation, if you could even call it that, but she was still thinking about it within the corners of her mind as she took the next set of two boxes inside. Once again, she had to explain to the assistant that she still had one more box to carry. The assistant looked at the woman, trying hard to not looked confused about it. Normally, the woman would have been hurt that someone didn't understand her, but she hadn't really noticed or cared about the assistant's expression.
She finally brought in the last box. She reminded the assistant what the boxes were for, and she nodded in recognition. But, just then, she was reminded of the little girl from earlier. Her dad had picked her up and she was safe, but she still thought it best to tell her.
"There was a girl at the basketball court leaning against the wall. It's dark outside, and nobody was looking after her, so I just wondered if you knew where she was and if it was okay for her to be outside like that."
"Oh, really, a little girl? Wait, wait," the assistant said, searching for something within her memory. Then she remembered what it was.
"That's just Sarah. She's out there all the time."
"Well, is she okay? I mean, her dad did pick her up, but I just hope she's safe out there all by herself."
"Kids do that, you know, in middle school? They're independent and moody now, what with their hormones and all."
"Oh, okay. Thanks."
The woman walked out the door and into her car, thinking about what the assistant had said. Something was amiss. Not with the school, although it was a little bizarre that they didn't have anyone watching over the children at the end of the day. It more concerned the way the child was sitting. She seemed more than just "moody and independent". And when she talked to her, she clearly wanted her to go away, as if there was something she couldn't say, a secret she was hiding.
She got into her car, and drove back to the office. Had she really made too much of a deal about that little girl? Of course, right? Was she absolutely sure there wasn't anything going on? I mean, I was fairly reclusive when I was a young teenager, but I never sat like that. Oh, great, here I am again, analyzing particular behaviors while completely ignoring the situation in front of me. Her dad picked her up, and that's all there is to it -- end of story.
She quieted her mind and suppressed any subconscious impressions she had about the girl's life the best she could until she got there.
She finally got to the office and parked in her space. Only one employee was still there -- the same one who had helped her with the box before. He was waiting for her to come back, attempting to look busy as she came through the door to the printing room.
"You know, you're allowed to go at 5:00."
"Yeah, but I just wanted to stay here for a while, you know, do my routine checks around the office...."
"What routine checks?" she said, laughing a little.
"Just stuff. You know, like, making sure the press has been cleaned off you know, get rid of all that excess ink. And, uh, calibrating the staplers."
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," she said, smiling. "Now go home."
"Just as long as I get a pass from Mrs. Boss Lady."
"Yes, Mr. Davis -- I permit you to go," she said in a fake regal voice.
"Yes, Your Majesty," he answered back, using his best knight voice and saluting her.
She walked around to each room of the office, checking to make sure that nobody had left anything there before turning off the lights. She nodded approvingly at each one, though there wasn't much there to approve.
She grabbed her purse off her desk, switched out the light in her room, closed the door, and locked it. She walked through another hallway to the main door which led outside, and locked that one as well.
She got into the car, and comtemplated about whether she should go to Whole Foods now and pick up some tomatoes or something. She decided against it, figuring that she needed a bit more time to practice her presentation for the high school tomorrow, so she just went on home.
When she got home, she was feeling a bit less tired, so she didn't simply chuck her purse onto the floor this time. She looked in her bag for a binder that had notes for the speech in it, and set her purse down on the table next to the sofa. Then she sat down on the sofa.
Opening up the binder, she took a quick look at the first page of her notes. Clearing her throat, she read the page out loud.
"'Teachers and students -- today I'm here to --' wait," she stopped for a second, unable to make out a part of her notes. Granted, some of it was more than just notes -- she had entire paragraphs written in some places. Not that she wasn't sure what to say or that she was too lazy to practice -- she had planned her presentation for weeks, staying up late for several nights in a row sometimes -- getting a particular line to sound just right, or to deliberate over a misplaced comma until the sentence was both grammatically correct and flowed easily as well.
She was still having trouble making out that part of her notes, but she could back to it if she needed it -- it wasn't that important anyway. And besides, she had saved it on a floppy disk -- just in case it really mattered if she said "talk to you about" or "present to you" after "today I'm here to." And it would if she wanted it to, but she wasn't going to take her editing that far, most likely. She continued with the rest of her speech.
"'-- Breast cancer. Now, don't laugh just because I said the word 'Breast.'" On second thought, she should probably remove that part. Who knows whether they were going to laugh or not?
"'Okay, I want you to answer a question that you may wonder why I ask -- How many of you are fond of your breasts?'" Okay, she should probably anticipate some laughter here, though. And be prepared for a couple of boys -- or at least one -- to raise their hands. These teenagers could be quite sophisticated when it came to humor -- whether they knew it or not. They knew they could elicit a reaction by acknowedging that yes, they too, were fond of their breasts. But, actually, it would be a rather decent segue -- seeing as how men can get breast cancer. It is rarer for men than for women, but it still needs to be talked about.
"'Well, how would you like it if you had to get rid of one because it had gotten infected with cancer?'" Infected with cancer -- she should really change the wording there, she thought.
"'That's what you might have to do if you don't get them checked out by a doctor in time. And to do this, you have to know what your breasts feel like," Here we go again, though maybe the laughter would be a little quieter and just among a few groups of girls around the gym.
"'You have to get an idea of their normal texture, so that you can recognize when they're abnormal. They may have some tiny lumps on them already. Of course, it is better to assume you have breast cancer when you don't, then to assume you don't when you do. When you came in here this morning, you should have gotten a piece of paper with a chart on it and some directions. Now, if you didn't get one, you can get yours on the way out -- I'll just read the directions as they're printed on the sheet.'"
The time passed relatively quickly, from night into morning. The next day, she was slightly nervous -- but in a good, "pumped up" way -- not like, "Oh my God, I'm going to do everything horribly wrong," way. There was a difference. She got up once again to the sound of her buzzing alarm, although this time it sounded more like a call to duty as opposed to a droning buzz. Maybe it was partly because she had gotten up on time today, instead of twenty minutes late, as before. Whatever. She knew that her presentation was going to go well today. She got dressed, ate her breakfast, and brushed her teeth, contemplating whether or not she should go to work or not. She hadn't told her employees that she might not be there for some of the day, so maybe that was a little rude, but they expected her to miss some time aside from whatever presentation she was doing sometimes. They knew she was dedicated to her work enough to be practicing or doing something else constructive in preparation for it. Maybe she was more dishonest than rude then, but she could take a little extra time in the morning to calm herself down, couldn't she? Wow, now I really am a college feminist. So self-centered. Shit, no I'm not. Why do I keep telling myself this? Taking time for yourself is not self-centered. Yeah, but when you do it and expect not to have to tell anyone. But, really, it's not like that. But you're just giving yourself free license too. Oh, whatever. Just enjoy your time.
She watched a little television and kept looking at the clock, making sure she wouldn't be late. Right now, it was 8:30, and she had to be at the school at 9:30, for the presentation at 9:45. It took twenty minutes to get there, and this was counting moderate traffic and one or two never-ending red lights, so she was sure she would be on time. Still, she was nervous about showing up late -- the gymnasium would be filled already, she imagined, and she wouldn't be able to find the principal who would tell her what to do. Or she might fall down on her ass and have all the teenagers laugh at her. But that sort of thing only happens in 90s after-school specials. Damn, I've watched too much TV in my life.
She got to Daniel Thomas High School, and walked inside. She found the lobby. There was a propped-up whiteboard being used as a sign. It said, "Breast Cancer Presentation: 9:45" and had "Gym" written underneath it, with an arrow pointing in the right direction.
"That arrow sure did help," she said quietly to herself. She remembered that she hadn't remembered the directions that the school gave her when they called her, and she could only write down some of them, and didn't have the nerve or inclination, but mostly the inclination, to call them back and clarify. Laziness and poor planning on my part, she thought. She was about to call herself a college feminist again, which had ironically become a buzzword itself after she had used it so much, and it had lost most of its meaning, but the principal stopped her as she was making her way down the hall to the gym.
"I guess you're our guest speaker, today -- Ms. Patricia Woods?"
"I'm glad you're here -- and early too. Follow me, we have everything set up in the gynasium for your appearance."
I'm giving a presentation, not a State of the Union address, she thought to herself. But all right.
The principal led her to the gynasium. There were wooden bleachers set up on both sides. Apparently, they had been unfolded from the wall in sections. Each section was about ten levels high. Wow, there were going to be a lot of students in here. She had almost gotten distracted by the magnitude of it all when the principal gave her the details of where she would present. He didn't seem to notice that she had been looking around the room for about ten seconds.
"As you can see, we have this podium set up for you right here," he said, motioning his hand in the direction of a podium. "You will speak right here, of course. But you are free to detach the microphone and walk around. Just pull it out of its stand, like this. He demonstrated, then gave it to her for her to try. She imitated what he had done -- twist very slightly to loosen the microphone, and then pull it out. Not very difficult, surprisingly. She often had trouble with these things.
"Today I am here to talk to you about a very serious issue. And you know what it is, if you have been paying attention to the announcements for the past few weeks." She hoped to the Goddess she wouldn't come across as a loser or someone who is disconnected from the way teenagers speak.
"That issue is breast cancer. Now, how many of you have known someone in your family who has had breast cancer?"
Several hands shot up. It was sort of sobering, even though she had asked questions like these before. She called on one of them.
"Yes, what's your name?"
"And what's your story?" Don't say it like that. Oh well.
"Yes, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago. It was very difficult for her, since she had been seperated from us for hours at a time. We had always been close to her, you know? She didn't die, thank God, but she had to have one of her breasts removed. I'm just glad she made it through."
The boy cried a little bit, eliciting sympathetic stares and a shoulder pat from someone sitting next to him.
"I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm glad your family made it through. Would anyone else like to share a story?"
"And who are you?"
"So, we thought my aunt had breast cancer, so we were worried for her, you know. She was fit as a fiddle, if anyone talks like that anymore. But she was always a very uplifting and happy person. She was less concerned about it than we were. That sounds insensitive, but you know what I mean. But it turned out to be benign, so everything was okay."
"I'm glad when it works out like that. And we have time for one more. Yes?"
Patricia was about to listen to Donald's story when she got interrupted by the school principal, who motioned from the far right corner on the left side of the room for her to stop. She was a little confused, wondering if she had done something she wasn't supposed to do, or had her microphone on wrong.
It turned out that it was neither one of those. She wanted to be relieved, but she couldn't yet, since something weird seemed to be happening. Apparently there was, since most of the students turned around to look at a girl who was being dragged into the gym by an associate principal, not quite kicking, since she was still standing on her legs, and not quite screaming, either, for though her voice was audible to everyone and she did seem to be demanding the associate principal to do what she was telling him, it wasn't ear-spliiting.
"Take me back! Take me back!" she yelled.
"Stop it! You can't make me -- make me, go!" she cried out, pulling away from the associate principal, who was holding on to her by her shirt. Everyone laughed and cheered for her. The associate principal didn't look mad, so much as he really wanted to get ahold of this girl.
He grabbed her shirt again, not noticing the reactions she had elicited from the audience, or pretending not to. She didn't seem mentally handicapped, not that all of them, or most of them acted this way by any means, but some of them had trouble comprehending the complexity of certain situations and would respond to them inappropriately. Of course, she was prone to this too, sometimes, so who was she to talk? But anyway, back to the situation unfolding in front her.
For some reason, the girl looked familiar. She had dark brown eyes and light brown skin, with thick, soft-looking curls that fell from each side of her head and rested, suspended slightly in mid-air, but still moderately relaxed.
"My mother is a Christian, and my father is a Christian, and we won't stand for this!" Apparently she liked the attention she was getting, and wanted to be the center of the show. But even though she was purposely acting, exaggerating her statements to sound like a first-year college drama student who takes himself or herself a bit too seriously, there was a tinge of genuine desperation in her voice, a sober, earnest cry from her heart for someone to pay attention to what she was saying. It was as if she was trying to show respect for her parents' wishes -- that she should be a good Christian child. It also seemed like she wanted to get caught for hiding a secret -- such as, she didn't really want to obey her parents and wanted someone to help her, or if not help, then at least to listen. Patricia couldn't tell which one it was. It really depended on the severity of the environment her parents had created for her.
But, here she was, analyzing the situation without paying attention to it, again. Only this time, it did not seem to require her attention so as to prove her wrong, so that there was really nothing to worry about, but needed her to notice because there was actually something big happening that she shouldn't undermine.
"Come with me," the assistant principal said, dragging her to a seat at the far left corner of the room.
"We live in a Christian household!" She was still acting a little bit. She continued to do so a little bit more.
"Christians! Christians!" she cried out, before she finally sat down.
Everyone in the gym started talking about how weird it was what had just happened. From the general tone of the noise, most people had found it amusing, but several were concerned for the girl as well. The principal got up from where he was sitting at the bleachers and yelled at everyone to calm down.
"Okay, quiet, quiet. We just had a little interruption. No need to get excited. Now, if you'll please pay attention to our speaker, once again, Ms. Woods. I'm sure you'll give her the same respect you gave her earlier. Patricia, you can go ahead now.
People turned to face her, the uniform rhythm of their feet moving so their legs could face startling her a little bit. Nobody seemed to be laughing or talking. Not that she was nervous. It was just strange to have the attention of the room focused on her again, especially after that event.
"Did anyone else want to go?" She remembered Donald, but she thought he might not want to go. When she made the effort to raise her hand in school and something big happened, like a fire drill, she could never answer the question she was going to answer, or say what she going to say. Of course, that was just her. It was arrogant to assume that he would be the same way. I'm just a little lazy, and I don't feel like answering his question. Here I am, thinking to myself again. This is stupid. God, everyone is looking at me, waiting for me to say something, and here I am, thinking these inane thoughts.
Nobody answered her question, so she moved on to the next topic.
"So, how many of you in here like your breasts?"
Several of the more endowed teenagers raised their hands jokingly. Thinking about that made her said for some reason. But everything made her feel something, or think something. It probably depressed her because it reminded her of those shirts at Ambercrombie and Fitch that said, "Who needs brains when you have these," or "I'm too pretty to do math," as if girls should rely on their physical features to get ahead, and had none of their own intellectual merits to get ahead in life. But we're analyzing again. No, she didn't mean this was the same thing, at all.
"Now, why do you think you like your breasts? Because they're part of your identity. They're part of you. And they're beautiful." Oh God.
"Now, come on, I didn't have enough hands before -- how many of you are proud of your breasts?" This time, she saw a wider range of breast sizes. She smiled at the response to her question, and also to herself, for asking it. For some reason, she was pleased with herself and the situation. Not in an arrogant, self-centered way, though, she thought. Of course not. And it wasn't.
"Don't you think it would be bad if you had to lose them? Whether or not you're comfortable with how they look -- which you should be, but that's another presentation -- you all could say that you wouldn't want to leave them behind. Now, this is where that paper you got when you came into the gym earlier comes in handy. I want you all to look at that. Yes, even the boys, that's why I gave them to you."
"The first step is to become familiar with your breasts. Laugh if you want," They didn't, and it made her a little uncomfortable. "This is a very important step. Get to know their shape. Not in here, of course, but when you get home this afternoon." She really should stop trying to sneak jokes in every other sentence, she thought.
"Your breasts can be examined more easily when you are lying down. So lie down on a bed, preferably placing a towel under you to prop yourself up a little."
"Great presentation, Patricia. Very informative. I hope you can come back some time to speak to us again."
"I'm glad you liked it. I'll be seeing you again, sometime, maybe, in the future."
"We certainly will see."
"I guess we will," she said smiling. She was not very good at making conversation, she thought to herself.
That girl there, that girl. She couldn't believe she had forgotten until she had gotten into the car that the girl at Daniel Thomas High School looked a lot like the one at New Haven Middle School, the one who had been sitting at the basketball court waiting for her dad. They must be sisters. Yes, that would make sense. She knew something was amiss. You don't just make a scene in a public place at the drop of a hat, unless you're one of those particularly brazen types. And she had no reason to believe that this girl was. It was more common to sit with your arms around your legs by yourself outside, but it had seemed peculiar. And it turned out that it was.
"I guess I shouldn't doubt myself on these things."
But why the hell did she have to help anyone? How did she know what was going on? And what right did she have to interfere with someone else's life. And as the girl seemed to be half-black, she feared that she would be called a racist by the parents, like she was just a good White person doing her duty to cleanse those dirty Black animals, she thought with her nineteenth-century Southern accent. But that seems a bit of a stretch. No, they would not think she was just some cosmopolitan, suburban, well-off White woman who thought all Black people were uppity. But it still didn't seem like her place to draw attention to the girl's potential "hardline" Christian upbringing. But still, it felt like she had to do something.
"Like I said, I really, really, do not want to interfere with anyone's life. I don't even know what's going on."
"What are you talking about?"
The woman was thinking, "Come on, don't you know what I'm talking about?" She really didn't want to explain it.
"Were you there for my presentation about breast cancer the other day?"
"Oh, that was you? I heard it was very good. But, no, unfortunately, I couldn't go. I had to finish a lot of work. I know it was for teenagers, but I probably could've used a lot of that information."
"Oh, I just kind of threw it together," She thought about how this attempt to sound humble could come across as insensitive, like she didn't know what she was talking about. She corrected herself, adding, "I didn't mean it like that. You know what I mean," she smiled, trying to alleviate the tension, at least what she perceived as tension. It turns out there was no tension at all.
"Oh, I know what you mean. What were you talking about?"
"I had called on two people who had shared stories about having women in their families who had breast cancer. Well, one of them turned out to not have had it, but you know what I'm trying to say. So, anyway, I've listened to them, you know, and everything is going pretty well. But then I notice that everyone in the gym is looking at something happening at the other side of the room. And this girl starts screaming, 'I live in a Christian household!', 'My mother and father are both Christians', and stuff like that."
"Yes, I've heard about her already. She was referred to the administration and got a day of suspension, but I appreciate your reporting her."
"No, I wasn't reporting her. Honestly, I'm rather concerned about her. I don't think she's living in the most supportive home she could, and I don't think she would have been skipping a mandatory presentation if she didn't have, um -- Christian -- parents."
"What are you saying?" the counselor replied, seeming a bit defensive.
"No, no. I didn't mean it like that. Most Christians are kind, loving people, who raise helpful, wonderful children," She felt like she had to butter the counselor up, so she wouldn't be too hurt to listen to her. She felt a little bad about having said what she said.
"No, I just mean a sort of dictatorial household. You know, one in which homosexuality is considered a disease, and women's lib is written off as a 'useless, rowdy hippy' sort of thing. And I don't mean to imply that their parents are homophobic misogynists. But --" This wasn't going too well.
"I just think that her parents told her that it was wrong for a woman to use science to interfere with natural processes. Of course, I'm not in favor of plastic surgery, but if someone I loved had a chance of surviving because a medical process interfered with the progression of a disease, I think I'd let them undergo whatever medical process that was."
"You said 'their' -- whose the other one?" Patricia felt a little bit hurt, as if the counselor hadn't been paying attention to her. And what about 'their'?
"Huh? What do you mean?" Oh, never mind, she remembered now. But it was too late to answer.
"You said 'their' -- whose the other one?" she repeated, this time placing emphasis on the words "their" and "whose." She was pretty sure the counselor didn't mean to sound hostile, but the woman still felt slightly attacked, in a way.
"Oh, yeah. Well, have you ever been to New Haven Middle School? It's about twenty minutes away from Daniel Thomas. I went there to deliver some boxes that had pamphlets about personal hygiene in them," She knew she could have phrased that sentence better. Oh well.
"As I was taking in the last box, I saw that there was a little girl sitting on the -- well she wasn't that little, but you know what I mean -- sitting at a basketball goal, leaning against the brick wall of the school. She had her head on her knees, and her arms wrapped around her legs. Now, I'm no teenager anymore, but in my experience, it seems like people would only sit like that when they were thinking about something, something they didn't like. They were worried. Anyway, I'm just rambling, but you probably know what I'm trying to say."
The counselor nodded in recognition. This made the woman feel better, like she was finally listening. Of course, she was pretty sure before, but it was nice to have a clearer indication.
"I mean, even the most recluse, reserved kids would look at least look at the other kids. Speaking of which, there weren't any other kids, and also no supervision, which is another problem I guess. But it's not what I mean." She had briefly considered adding, "I know, I was one of them," after her comment after recluse, reserved kids, but she figured that the humor wasn't appropriate for the situation. And besides, it was distracting. But she hadn't used it, one of the better judgments in her speech she had had all day.
"Wow, that sounds like a serious situation. But you still didn't say who this girl was. Do you think she's related? Do you think they're sisters?"
"Yes, exactly. You've read my mind. But do you think I'm jumping to conclusions here? Or do you think something could be amiss?"
"Chances are they could be, Ms. --"
"Woods. Patricia Woods."
"Chances are they could be, Ms. Woods. There are a high percentage of students in this area who were raised by Christian parents, at least those who call themselves Christians. North Carolina is rather religiously conservative, generally speaking. They have their beliefs, and they won't waver."
"Yes, more like that then --"
The counselor interrupted her without realizing it.
"But some are worse than others. They tell their kids they have to stay inside all day, and they aren't allowed to watch TV on cable because it promotes 'liberal values'. I have my own issues with the amount and quality of television children are exposed to, but that's different. And they aren't allowed to read anything at home but the Bible, and all that. But even among those, some are worse than others. You don't think she was -- abused -- do you?"
"No, no, of course not. No, not like that at all. And I doubt that they made her read the Bible all the time, like you said, or told her that she couldn't celebrate Halloween because it used to be a Pagan holiday. But I definitely think there are some ideas that they refuse to give up, you know, like they don't believe a woman should have control over her own body. But they are not sexist, or homophobic, or prejudiced or anything like that. And they mean well about not letting the girl go to the breast cancer presentation, I'm absolutely, almost 100 percent sure of that."
"I guess this issue isn't something you'd like to -- disclose to the parents just yet, right? It seems like a pretty heady subject."
"Yeah, I'd appreciate if you didn't contact the parents and tell them about this just yet."
"Of course, I certainly would not let them know about what you've told me until I've received written permission from you. But I will keep it in my notes."
"Thanks. That's great of you to listen to me like that, after I went on so long."
"Oh, no problem. And thanks so much for dropping in. And you didn't go on too long. In fact, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned anything about this until now. Besides the associate principal, but that was just about that student's behavior. This seems much more important that the fact that a girl skipped a presentation and yelled in front of people."
Patricia left the counselor's office and walked outside into the dark night. There was a full moon overhead. There was nothing she could do at this point but stay put and not do anything to interfere with the situation. Not that she was the kind of person who would really do that. It seems more like psychiatrists would want to butt in like that. But they were so disconnected from reality they probably wouldn't even want to visit a school. But what the hell would they have to be doing with school? Patricia was trying to think about other things besides the girl in the gym and the one outside. She probably was making too much of a deal out of it by mentioning in to the school counselor. Maybe all of this was a dream. Maybe she was just making a fool of herself in her own mind. When she woke up, she would deliver pamphlets to the school, and there would be a whole group of kids there at the basketball goal, and about 3 or so staff members watching to make sure they were okay, yelling at them to stop what they were doing every other second. Yes, and there would be nothing to worry about. And the breast cancer ceremony would go as planned. And the girl who shouted in the gymnasium would simply ask a question about whether it was correct according to Christianity to get a breast removed or even to get a mammography. And Patricia would answer the question thoughtfully and completely, giving brilliant insight to the girl's problem. Okay, now that was just more masturbation than anything else, Patricia thought. No, I didn't mean to make it a pun like that. It's an awful one, if it is one. No. What I meant that it was like I was stroking my ego a little bit. I was just fantasizing more than anything else now. Oh, stop it -- stroking, fantasizing -- just stop it. I have the mind of a 15-year-old.
Yes, but the counselor, that was real. Only, instead of writing down the details of the conversation she had shared with her, she would say, "Completely insane -- recommendation for immediate treatment in psych ward. And request the electrodes, if possible."
No, that was wrong to think about. She was right, or at least she had good intentions. Yes, everything was good. And if she wasn't completely right, at least she had had someone who would listen to her, someone who worked at the school, and would back her up should she ever end up looking like an idiot. So it wasn't really bad no matter how it turned out.
She got into her car and drove the entire way to quiet radio, turned down low on a country station that played older songs by Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, and the like. She didn't know why she had it there, but she really didn't feel like changing it, so she stuck with it the whole time until she got home. She thought she heard the song, "Fifteen minutes to go" by Johnny Cash, but that could've just been her imagination. All the songs sounded basically the same.
"Okay, here I am," she said when she got home. She didn't know why she had said that. Maybe it was to get a sense of normality back into her life after sharing with the counselor what she did and opening up another can of worms. No, she shouldn't think like that. She hadn't interfered with anyone else's life yet, so she could turn back if she needed to. Yes, it would all be okay. She knew it was far-fetched, but she was afraid that the parents would end up working for Greenpeace and wouldn't be able to spend time with their daughters and would have to send money back home that would just barely cover food and the babysitter. And the kids would act out because they missed their parents. Well, one of them would. The only one would just grow gradually more cynical with authority and leave home at 16 without the babysitter having said two words to her. This was probably a much more serious situation, but it wouldn't be the faults of the parents this time. They would be working in Bangladesh and Senegal and Eritrea and Barbados and other places, working with the local populations to built clean, stable communities that had all the necessary amenities. They were helping people have fresh water easily available so they would have to walk three miles to get it every day. And you would dare have interfered, wouldn't you have, Patricia. And the parents take their kids to Barbados, and everything works out for them at least, but they never want to come back there again. And you are left looking like a damned fool, and everyone will point and laugh at you. Okay, she had to admit to herself, that last part was for my own amusement that anything else.
Just then, she realized she had forgotten to do an important thing during her conversation with the counselor. She hadn't given her phone number. How would they contact her? I guess they would know her number at Meaningful Media Industries, right? Oh, okay, nothing to worry about then. But she didn't want to drag anyone else at work into this. What if she was wrong? There was no way she could take them down with her. That wouldn't be fair. But couldn't she tell them about it? She wouldn't be exactly the same, she knew, until this was off of her chest. But she would plead with them, beseech them if she had to, to not worry about it at all, that this was just something she needed to say so she wouldn't worry about anymore. She was going to deal with the matter herself, take it into her own hands. Don't do anything, she would beg of them. They would probably just say okay after the first thing she said. For some reason, she had a bit of an active imagination today. She really didn't know why.
What is wrong with me? Why do I keep making up all these strange scenarios? Am I scared I'll be wrong? Or scared I'll be right. Either way I'll have to deal with the situation that unfolds from my actions, and I'm not sure I'm quite ready to do that yet.
She made a cup of green herbal tea, and sat down on the sofa, grabbing the afghan and wrapping her legs with it. She sipped the tea in silence, trying to clear her mind yet again. She was beginning to relax. She could put this out her mind for a little while, couldn't she? Patricia thought about turning on the TV, but decided against it, choosing instead to maintain the steady quiet around her. The voices on TV would probably simply annoy her, and drive her further into gloom and contemplation. She decided to read a book she hadn't read in a while. A classic fiction story would help clear her mind, not reinforce what was in her head already, right? And it would go nicely with herbal tea, wouldn't it? It seemed like it would, for some reason, but she didn't know why.
She went to the shelf to pick up a book. It just happened to be The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. For some reason, she didn't feel like reading about tricking someone else into painting the fence and anyone who faked there own death. She was seeing references to her own life in anything now. Making someone else paint the fence by making it seem like a whole heap fun equals making someone else handle the situation with the girls by making it seem like an interesting mystery to solve. But what was she saying? She hadn't said anything that would give an element of macabre and indicate intiguing, intricate twists and turns. And of course, faking your own death and having everyone feel sorry for you at your fake funeral was like what would happen if she told everybody at the office about the situation with the two girls. They would all help you out, or rather, do the entire work of discussing the supposed scenario with the parents, and work out something that ameliorated the parents' fear about science going against religion through logical, reasonable examples and well thought-out answers to any loopholes the parents could find in the arguments. But they wouldn't even be loopholes, they would just be possible exceptions to the particular facet of the argument at hand. And she would get credit for the whole thing, which would be grossly, grossly unfair. To them, of course. Now this was really a far-fetched comparison. It wasn't even the same type of thing.
Just then, the phone rang, just as she had finished making comparisons to 19-century fiction stories and her life. She wondered who it could be. It was probably her mother, or someone from Meaningful Media Industries, telling her she left something at the office or something. But that didn't make sense. Why would anyone be there at this time of night? She had convered her bases by telling everyone to just leave if she wasn't there. She partly wanted to get rid of the guy who helped her carry one of the boxes and who had joked about calibrating the staplers. It was kind of mean, seeing as how he was sweet and nice to her, and actually seemed to respect her enough to make sure she was okay and didn't need anything before he left. And her reasons were selfish enough. But her reason for getting rid of him, and everyone else for that matter, but especially him, was almost worse than wanting to get rid of him because she hated him. In all honesty, Patricia really just liked to have the office to herself for a few minutes before she left. It was so you could that saluting thing, that why you told everyone to get the hell out of your office. She thought the first part jokingly, and the second part with an accusational tone. Wait, what saluting thing? Oh, you mean that approving nod I did, one time. She was starting to talk to herself, to that voice inside her head. And why the hell did she sound like a steretypical tween? Or a Valley Girl?
She picked up the phone and said hello. It turned out to be that guy whose name she couldn't remember, the guy who had helped her with the box that one time. Ah, him again. Why couldn't she remember his name? He had been the one who had interacted most with her since the company had started up in 2001.
"Hi, Patricia." I'm such an asshole. He remembers my name, and I don't know his.
"So, uh, what's up?"
"Not that much really. I just wanted to tell you that I got a call from Daniel Thomas High School." Oh shit, not already. Please, no.
"And they said that you were telling them about this girl that was acting up there, who was saying to the associate principal that her parents were Christians. And that everybody in the gymnasium could hear it. Do you know what's going on?"
"Wait....what did I say about the..." she started, about to incriminate herself, but stopping before she did.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. I really didn't think you were the kind of person who would put yourself into that kind of situation. What, with that school's history and all."
"That's not what I meant --" she started, almost incriminating herself again.
"Oh, nothing, just nothing."
"That would be really, really stupid if anyone did that. I've always known that you've had more common sense than that."
"Yeah, I don't know why they said it was me."
"They probably just got you confused with someone else."
"Yeah, that must have been it."
"Yeah, I guess so. So, anyway, that was weird, huh?" he said with a slight laugh.
"Yes, very weird."
"Well, I'll see you on Monday."
"Yeah, I'll see you too."
She took a second to hang up the phone, holding it near her chest, thinking about what had just happened, then she slammed down the receiver.
What kind of situation? She knew she could possibly get into some sticky territory if it turned to all be a big misunderstanding on her part. It would be embarrasing, for sure, and she would have to apologize profusely to the parents of the girls whose lives she had gotten involved in, stuck her nose where she shouldn't have stuck it.
By why did -- Dan -- she had finally remembered that guy's name -- why had Dan made it sound like she was interfering with some extremely secret ritual that had been going on for thousands of years? It was just a private matter between her and the school's counselor, and possibly the parents if she had any more reason to believe they had something to do with what happened in the gymnasium that day. What kind of history did the school have? She knew it wasn't probably the wisest thing to bring up an issue that would most probably turn out not to be an issue, but Dan had acted like she had infiltrated the Skull and Bones Club, or had the secret to the Illuminati, and the world's highest-grossest company knew about. But this was nothing of the sort, right? Nothing like that, at all, right? Of course not, that was ridiculous.
"What have you done with our little girl?"
A woman in a dark-hooded robe emerged from one side, holding a flaming torch with a long handle. Patricia could only make out her nose and mouth.
"What is wrong with you? How dare you corrupt the sacred honor of the school with this charade. We have known these words for years, the most potent words known to man! I thought you weren't going to make me do it, but oh, you made me do it!"
"Send in the chains."
Patricia looked all around her. About twenty people, also wearing black robes, appeared from all corners around her.
"Answer the phone, Patricia. Answer the phone please --"
Patricia woke up to hear the answering machine. Dan was calling back, pleading for her to pick up. She had to come to her senses for a minute. It wasn't normal to hear the answering machine when you're about to strangled to death by a horde of henchmen.
Patricia picked up the phone.
"Hello," she said, somewhat groggily.
"Hi, this is Dan again. Hope I didn't wake you up during a nap or anything. Are you feeling all right?"
"Oh, yes, I'm fine. No, you didn't wake me up at all. I was just resting."
"That's good. But, anyway I just want to tell you something,"
"Are you nervous? It's not bad, Patricia."
"What, oh, yeah, I know." She wasn't aware she had sounded nervous.
"I just want to tell, that thing I told you before, you know, about the school having a secret history and all, I didn't mean to make you scared or anything. It's not like that, really it isn't."
"Oh, yeah -- I knew that," Patricia lied.
"Really, I'm glad. I didn't want to make you conjure up images of secret societies or anything," Dan said, laughing a little. Damn you, Dan, quit reading my mind, already.
"So -- how did you come to know about its history? And what in the world does that have to do with the girl at the presentation and the one who was outside at the basketball goal that one time?"
"They have names, you know." Well, duh. Oh -- you mean names that I don't know, and so keep referring to them by their signifigance to the potential situation with the parents, what I talked to the counselor about.
"Sarah and Jessica. Jessica is the older one, and Sarah is the younger one."
Why didn't the counselor tell me the name of at least the girl who got referred to the administration? Oh, well, it didn't matter. She let Dan continue, because she thought he was going to continue what he was going to say. Apparentally, he was waiting for her to say something.
"Patricia? Are you there?"
"Yeah, oh yeah -- sorry. I thought you were going to say something."
"No, I wasn't, Patricia," he said in a way like he knew something was different about her, like she had just started thinking about something that changed the way she acted. Patricia wasn't aware of anything she had said in any way was said in a different tone or anything.
"Patricia -- do you have a bit of a crush on me?" he said, partly as if was expecting it, and partly as if he wasn't quite sure.
"Crush? Huh? I didn't think I sounded love-struck or anything." That's weird. If there had been any sort of attraction going on, it had come from his direction.
"Well, you didn't sound exactly love-struck, I just noticed a certain happiness in your voice." But you were just saying I sounded nervous a few minutes ago.
"Oh, I didn't notice."
Dan paid attention to the fact that she had said some more words, but not specific attention to what she had said.
"It's nice to see you have this interest and focus on me lately. It really makes working at Meaningful Media Industries a lot brighter."
"Well, I'm flattered to hear that."
"Yeah, makes the day go by a lot faster, too. I really enjoy that attention. And of course, just seeing you be happy all by yourself is pretty great, too."
"Wow, thank you -- thank you so much. And thanks for telling me more about the girls. But I still don't understand."
"You'll find out soon enough. I'll give you a hint, though. My father had something to do with it. Bye."
Huh, wow. That was bizarre.
When she got to work the next day, the first thing she did was look up Daniel Thomas High School online. Surprisingly, she got 300,000 results. That seems like a bit too many, she thought. She realized that she hadn't put quotes around it. There we go. That gave her a more reasonable 35,000 results. That was better. But it still wasn't specific enough. So she added North Carolina and came up with 345. There, that's much better.
She decided to go against her normal searching habits, and look at the results in order. The first one she looked at was a Wikipedia article. Strange. Daniel Thomas must be popular enough to have a Wikipedia article done about it. Usually those were only reserved for colleges, and even those had articles of varying length.
She began to read the page:
"Daniel Thomas High School is a high school for children in grades 9 through 12. Established in 1971 by an Episcopalian minister and his wife --"
Patricia stopped reading. From what I know, Dan's father wasn't a minister. I had never heard Dan talk about church or anything, and he certainly didn't seem religious. She scanned the rest of the page quickly, not coming across anything that seemed to be right.
I had called her about the history of the school. Then I flirted with her a little bit. I don't know if I should've done that. I was going to tell her that my dad was asked to design the school. I looked at Patricia typing away on the computer at work. My guess is that she's still continuing her search on Google to find some monumental statement about some fame my dad had back in the day. Oh, he was big all right. If at didn't at least used to be famous, tell me why I'm not recieving a residual income, or at least some of it, from even one or two still-adoring fans. I love Patricia, though. I really do. I think I came across a little too strongly to her. I hope I didn't scare her. I was trying to temper my behavior with a compliment on the way I liked how she made me feel at work. Okay, that didn't sound right. But, anyway, I said that. I did mean it, though -- but I don't know if she knows there was an alterior motive that I had in mind, another purpose for those words.
There is something significant about the design, though. I doubt it has anything to do with the situation she's dealing with. I know'd she just call it a "potential" situation at the risk of sounding arrogant and drunk with power. Come on, Pat, that's so not you! Maybe a little misguided at times, but always well-intentioned, right! Come on girl!
So there is nothing more that I would like to do now than hold her. No, I don't mean it like that. I just mean that I would like to calm her fears. Let her know that my dad is no more important to the founding of the school than a nude model is to the development of art. That the history of the school is just a little confounded and complex. It is nothing to be afraid of. No mystery men in black cloaks or anything like that. Or white pointy hats, either, if that's the kind of road she was taking.
I was going to ask her about that class she took -- "Definitions of a Modern Woman" at some community college. I can't remember which one it was off the top of my head. I wanted to ask her how it went and stuff like that -- pretty generic stuff, actually. I didn't intend to flirt with her, but that's the only way I can ask questions. I can never really ask anything in a too specific way, because I'm afraid I'll come across as ignorant. So I just keep it general. I hope people don't doubt my enthusiasm with topics like feminism, class structure in American society, things like that. So, no -- it's not the enthusiam that I lack, you can be sure of that. I just don't consider myself particularly suited to be dealing with some complex topics on the same level that other people can. And before I write myself off as an uneducated redneck, I should remember that I did go to college. Not that that's particularly signficant anymore, since after the 1950s or so, it was pretty much expected that you were going to college, and not signing up for four years of military service like your father demanded you to. And I don't think Patricia has written me off as that. She doesn't overtly say -- "Yes, I know you went to college, unlike everyone else," but I can see it in her eyes. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean. I can tell it about her. By the way she looks me in the eye when she's got an important point to make about women's issues or something. Like she respects the fact that I really want to understand her. And from what I know, nobody else at the office respects me quite like she does. They're fine and good people, of course. They work hard every minute of the day. They're dedicated and all that. But I can tell that they don't get the same impression of me -- that I'm some backwoods ignorant country redneck with a big mouth and his head in the sand. Well, for me, having a tendency to talk a bit more than I should at times doesn't exclude me from happen an open mind, unlike that popular catchphrase that someone said. Or maybe it's not a catchphrase. Maybe it's really just a saying or something like that. I can understand the country redneck part -- seeing as how I came from the agricultural center of Maryland. And I guess you could defend the backwoods part as well. Our town had about 700 people -- certainly not completely deserted and out-of-touch. It was small, though. But at the same time, times have changed. Before the 1960s or 1970s, America had more small towns. That was just the way things were. You almost never see triple-digit populations anymore. Even the smallest towns seem to have at least 1,000 people. Yes, 700 is an extremely small number. But still.
I guess I sound like an old curmudgeon. No, worse than that. I sound like someone who goes on and on, pushing a point into the ground, and revolving the entire discussions on his own self-righteousness. Well maybe I'm not really that much like that. It's just that I've noticed that I can get sort of argumentative at times. I don't like it very much. And I do it at places I don't expect. Okay, that didn't sound all too correct either. Here I am with my country grammar again. And wasn't that a CD released by the recording artist Nelly a few years ago? I didn't get it from him, though. As you can clearly see, I am certainly very knowledgeable about today's youth and their culture. That was sarcasm, just to let you know. But you should, seeing as how I'm not quite clever enough to do any fancy plays on words or anything like that. I have to keep it at simple sarcasm, that of which is often lost on me when people use it. I take things so literally sometimes. Like, one day, Patricia was joking with me about how I would have to make 5,000 copies of the pamphlet if I didn't want to be fired. Well, I honestly was scared half to death. I began to plead with her. She didn't tell me it was a joke, but I got that from the reassuring smirk she gave me on the way out. Now I think it was an obfuscated (though not much) compliment on the way I work so hard all the time. That's what she thinks, not me.
Like I said before, that woman seems to have a higher opinion of me that the rest of the people at Meaningful Media Industries. But that could just be my impression. It could all just be some big joke about me that I don't get. But I highly doubt it.
Now that I've quit defending myself and my various personality "quirks," I guess you could say, I'd like to tell you about a few other people in my life. And this time, they may actually relate to the girls that Patricia was talking about. Well, I know they do. I was just using foreshadowing. I bet it was painfully obvious to you, so now I look like a fool for trying to explain it. Oh well. On with the story.
My dad was an architect back in the 1960s, like I said. But he wasn't someone who lived like an executive, as you must be thinking. Back then, there weren't too many executives. Things were smaller and quieter back then. I didn't mean to reminisce, but you probably knew that. But oh well. On with my story.
No, he wasn't desiging the Sears Tower or the Brooklyn Bridge or anything like that. And I think those structures were built earlier than the 1960s, but I digress. No, he was the one designing churches and small-town stores. By today's standards he would seem a bit conservative -- not with his politics I mean, but that's a different story. I just mean that if you look at him today, he doesn't exactly seem as ambitious as he could be. Why didn't he just move to the city? Well, you would have something about right. I guess he did have "connections," in a sense, but not the same way that sons of wealthy executives do. He had people who expected him to design a quality building, and he kept to his word and did it. It was more of an honor code. Like, I'll scratch your back, and you'll scratch mine. I know that sounds horrible, seeing as how it's used so much. But, despite the fact that it's a cliched expression, I think it fits pretty well. You gave a few months of your time to build something for people to sell stuff in, pray in, or eat in, and you got protection. Not like Secret Service protection or anything. But he would always be there for you if you needed it. Like, if you had your car break down in the middle of the road, and you were stuck, you could stop at the nearest pay phone and just give him a call. And he would be there to fix your car. So what if it was 10:00 at night, and he was just about to close up his restaurant. In fact, if he had just finished turning off the lights and had just locked the door, and he heard the phone ring -- if he even suspected that it was ringing, he would pick it up, and ask -- always as if it was important -- he would ask, "Hey, ya need anything?" You just give him the details -- or don't give him the details, just tell him "My car's broke down on the interstate." And he would be there in an instant.
There were other things he said would he do, but I never got a chance to test them out. Like, he said that he would help bust you out of jail should your ass get locked in there. Not that I would really want to test that, but you know what I mean. And luckily this has never happened to me, either -- but if he said that if you were in a fight -- even if you were dumb enough to start it -- that he would help your tail out. He would knock the guy out cold, whether or not you had the upper hand in whatever you had been arguing over to lead up to the fight. I wonder if he would have the heart to do it though. He seems like too nice of a guy to be doing that type of stuff, you know. Like one of those "gentle giant" types, I guess you could say. But I can imagine him angry, on second thought, actually. He probably has secret fighting skills that I don't know about, that he's been practicing in his basement or something. There are a lot of things you really don't know about people, so you find it out as you grow closer together in a relationship. As you become friends, you discover that there is a lot more to a person that you had realized.
Patricia sat back down on the sofa again. She had decided she didn't want to read any books after all. Not that she didn't like reading -- she did, and had never thought she would, seeing as how she had hated reading from doing it so much in school, things she tried to like but could never understand -- but that she was just simply too tired. She wouldn't call herself sleeply though. People often use that word when they mean sleepy. It was more like the feeling you get after running a marathon, she thought. You're exhausted as hell, but you don't necessarily need a nap. Well, probably after a marathon you would, she thought. Bad comparison. Well, after a shorter rest you probably wouldn't. Okay, here I am, going on way too long on a subject that nobody cares about. At least it is just in my mind. All is well.
She decided she would lie in bed for a while. It was only 7:45 P.M., so she was far from ready to go to sleep. But she wanted to rest her bones a little. She almost wished she was tired, so she could feel the comfort of sleep. It was weird, seeing as how she really didn't want to go to sleep just yet, seeing as how there were some more things she wanted to do, and she just wasn't quite in that mindframe yet, anyway. But sleep felt really good when you were tired. The best part was the beginning of it, when you were still conscious. You could just feel your brain soaking all that sleep in, like it was just taking in the nutrients or the energy you were giving as soon as you gave them. She remembered about going to the junior/senior prom in her senior year. She stayed up until 2:00 at a party with some of her friends, but mostly other people. And it wasn't hosted by anyone she knew. She was surprised she stayed up that late. Not that that was particularly late to be up on a Saturday near the end of the school year, but it was still significant. And it was important as well that she had gotten up the nerve to go with her friends and see all these people she didn't know. Not that she was particularly nervous in front of people, though -- it had just felt like a milestone for some reason.
She didn't know what she wanted to watch on TV. Maybe an old standby, like Jeopardy! or something. She used to watch those shows when she was younger. For some reason, a different one from that, they reminded her of the past. Not like Dan's past. I guess not even really like a specific time period, even. I don't exactly know if it does or not. But just a simpler time. Something about that show represents something about the way the world was. Well, probably not even how it really was.
She tested her knowledge for a while. She knew a few of them. Sometimes she did better. She wanted to feel like she was smart like other people. Of course, she was smart, she thought. But she wanted to be quick. And that's why it pleased her when she had found some obscure fact from searching on Google during research, during down time, or when she was supposed to be researching, and they asked a question. Or gave an answer to the question, Patricia thought. She didn't know exactly. It made her proud for a brief, shining moment when Alex would say, "A rhetorical technique based on representation of an opponent's position." And she would say to herself, "A straw man argument." And one of the contestants would buzz in and say, "What is a straw man?" And Alex would say, "Correct," or something like that. And then, for just a second, she would feel like she could compete with the big guys. Of course, she could, but still.
After several more attempts of answering questions, and several hits every now and then, she turned off the TV. Maybe she should go to sleep, she thought. But not for the night, of course. It's only 8:05 P.M. But I have just gotten in the mood to take a nice, refreshing nap. As before, she almost wished she was tired enough to actually have the nap be refeshing. But it would still be enjoyable. And maybe she would dream of something interesting. And maybe, just maybe, her mind wouldn't misinterpret real life for her and turn it into a Skull and Bones meeting where she was the victim of reprensible torture. But, looking back, she had actually been saved from those chains, hadn't she? But still, she didn't want to have that kind of dream again, even if her brain saved her before she had gotten brutally slaughtered. Once again, she wanted to escape in some way, shape, or form, and her mind was the best place she could do that.
"Hello, Patricia. I've got a surprise for you."
"Oh, that's nice. What is it?"
"It's a special box of candy. Only, the secret is, is that it doesn't really have any candy inside it. Or the candy's not as good as you might have expected."
"Well, that's good. I kind of wasn't hoping for candy I could sink my teeth in that much anyway."
"Thanks for not getting mad at me for not getting you a better present."
"Yeah. 'Cause I probably just would have gotten fat from it. And who knows, I might throw up on everybody too."
"Well, that wouldn't be too good, would it? But I may be wrong, and it really may have some candy in it."
"I promise not to enjoy it too much, then."
"Okay, well I hope you enjoy -- or rather, don't enjoy -- your candy too much."
"Thanks. I know I will. Or rather, I know that I won't. Yeah, that's it."
"Well, I'll be seeing you."
"Okay, goodbye. And thanks again for the nonexistant chocolate."
She could understand the allusions to her life pretty well, but why had the dream centered around chocolate?
She didn't know what else she could do but fall asleep again. It's not that there was nothing she wanted to do, it was just that nothing she could think of to do wouldn't break the strange, contemplative mood she was in. She wasn't really thinking anything, though -- she was just in a pleasant, blank, philosophical state. But she wasn't mindless. Not, not by any means. She was just sure of the fact that now, everything would be okay, or at least it seemed that it would. She didn't know what was going to happen with the parents and eveything, or if anything would happen at all, but somehow it just seemed like she hadn't made a fool of herself.
All my life, I've tried to wonder how people rise away from ignorance, from the fear within their hearts that causes them to say and think cruel, heartless things about people. You would say they are cowards, and you are right. But they are not cowards in the sense that they will got go up and say a racial slur to your face. No. Instead they are afraid of growth, afraid that it might not really be such a bad idea to respect other people who don't look like them and cast off the chains that bind them from appreciating every person in their lives before they are given reason not to. Are they afraid that when they start to look at other people for who they really are, that other people will see them for who they really are? And are they really nothing, when it comes down to it? Have they wasted their entire lives projecting their own problems onto other people, making up reasons to hate, and repeating the headlines on the TV screen whenever the mainstream media offers another lollipop for the mindless and ignorant to go right ahead and lick? And then tells us that we're the ones who are ignorant? I may be going too far in my analysis, but there is one thing I do know -- that the only way these people can be "saved" -- if that's what they want to call it -- is if they go through such an incredibly life-changing experience, one that alters their whole way of seeing things. But alas, such a change has not happened yet. And maybe it shouldn't, just for a time, no matter how desirable it would be. Just so long as though with a modicum of humility and the ability to recognize their own inner prejudices and faults when it comes to relating to members of other races, then I think we can leave the ignorant, mindless, rednecks behind. They will be like robots in the background, like at an amusement park. The normal people go about their lives in the usual fashion, and these robots buzz and whirr, in the background, occasionally acting up. Either way, everyone who can think will ignore them.
I hope it all works out in the end. I really do. I listen to both sides of the story over and over again, finding merits on both. Knowing one side manipulates the meanings of words while the rest of the country eats it up, and the other side just stands back and lets the other people take control of the argument, letting them win at every turn. Of course, there is good and bad on both sides, and differing degrees of moral and ethical depravity. Everywhere I turn is another friend, or another foe. Sometimes I don't know who to trust. I try my hardest to not be a hypocrite and judge other people before I get to know them, since I don't want any rednecks to smirk when I make an assumption based on the average of several personal experiences combined with my own analysis of the roots of the person's behavior -- and it just so happens that I have made a mistake.
I never really thought I was much of anything. I mean, I guess I kind of liked myself. But really, I just made it a point to smile pretty while I took in all that self-esteem crap. Don't make me feel good before I do anything -- I want to feel worthless even after I've accomplished something. In school, I was never made fun of -- but I was looked at kinda funny sometimes, that kind of look that indicates that everyone has stopped just for a second to look at you. Then, whoever has designated themselves the leader of the conversation by the natural laws of high school hierarchy -- or middle school, or preschool -- this reaction is basically same no matter what level of school you attend -- will shake their head a little -- but enough for you to notice, of course -- and maybe wave their hand at you, letting you know that they've given up trying to pay attention to you. So I thought of myself as a freak, and I guess I was sort of happy about it. And this was before it was cool to call yourself a freak, by the way. I was happy about it in the sense that I thought being ignored meant that I was destined by God -- not unlike Jesus, though on an extremely significantly reduced scale -- and I knew this. I was humble. I thought about him and about nobody respected him and he was spreading his good message to anyone and everyone. Of course, I knew I wasn't that kind of outcast. But I felt like he should be the one that I emulate in terms of keeping myself as scarce as I could so I wouldn't be noticed -- and as seperate and distant as I could be when I was. I felt like this was the only way to live -- well, at least the only way that I should live. All the better, actually, if everyone was laughing and talking loudly and getting drunk from their dizzying happiness. I was the wise one. I was the thoughtful, philosophical warrior. Although I didn't really need to think -- I just sort of needed to stare at the other people in their ignorance. I wasn't arrogant -- I just thought I knew something that nobody else did. But, of course, I had to let it out sometime. And the moments that I did -- when I didn't find it morally reprehensible to laugh at a joke I thought was funny -- or worse, mention one of my own -- those were the times I was looked at funny. It should've made it seem like being Jesus's protegee wasn't such a bad idea. But after about the tenth grade -- well, technically, not until I entered my first year of college -- I still had a bit of the "silent warrior" attitude in me in high school -- did I completely give up the whole "Jesus protegee" thing, and quit acting like such a fucking idiot.
I never knew what I saw,
Never saw what I knew
To be true --
'Til I looked in your eyes,
And knew that I saw it in you.
Nothing could prepare me
For your smile, and touch --
The way you kiss and caress
And on my body, no less -- oh my!
I want to reach out and touch the sky
And thank God for the wonderful
Beauty that I've found.
Of all His creatures, out of all
His great creation --
You are the saving grace.
I used to believe that His power
Made the stars shine at night --
Make the waves crash against the shore --
And make the moon bright.
Now I know that it's you
Who perform these great wonders
That I used to take for granted.
Though you may move mountains,
You also move my soul --
You seem to always use your
Power for good --
And that's why
You are my
That is just a poem I wrote when I was bored in Pre-Calculus class one day. I wasn't in love at the time, but I had been. It was very deep and nourishing to my soul, as corny as that sounds. And I felt that if he were just a little more powerful, he really could've moved mountains. My world revolved around him. But we had our differences, so we had to leave each other behind. I can't say that I'm upset with him -- do you think I really would've written that poem if I had become mad at him? Of course not. No, we were just two very complex people with different goals and everything. And it wasn't like he wanted to be a drug dealer or anything, so cut that out. We just had different paths in life with the way we were raised is all. But I still love him. I do, and it's weird, you know. I love him because he was so valuable and wonderful when we were together. And since we broke up, I have not been very happy about the way he's choosing to live. But even that I am not mad about. I just pity him. And I fear him -- or rather, I fear the way I think he will turn out. I do not want him to come back to me, because of that. But he was such a beautiful, wonderful person that I will always remember him and keep him in a special place in my heart. I love him. I don't want to be with him anymore, but I love him. I hope you can understand what all of that, since I'm having such a difficult time explaining it.
Without a doubt, it should've been a simple thing to understand. But in her mind, in was like running a marathon that she hadn't trained for. The coach, who had become highly irrational, was telling her, "Okay, you have absolutely zero training, and the marathon is tomorrow, but if you just run 12,000 miles tonight, you just might make it!" On the one hand, she knew that it was hardly like running a marathon. She had had experience with talking to people and working out their problems. She was not and nor had she ever been a psychologist, but she knew how to think about different situations that she had never been in, and get inside people's heads. A few people called her psychic a couple of times. To which she responded, "No, not psychic -- just empathetic and intuitive." She always felt guilty that she was giving herself too much credit. But she pushed that out of her mind with the thought that nobody probably noticed all the behaviors she said she had, because they didn't exist. And also, if they had noticed anything, they had probably been so focused on thanking me, so they could get to using the advice I had just given them. She wasn't exaggerating -- they thanked her profusely. She didn't see why -- her answers to their questions weren't all that great. She could just figure out personal issues, maybe, sort of, because she hadn't been through that much in her life. I'm not implying that experience doesn't help with empathy -- it certainly does, quite the opposite. It's just that sometimes the whole emotional drama that major events take on people's lives can prevent them from seeing simple and logical solutions. Because it was their life they were working on, and their life they were living through. They didn't have the luxury of knowing what to do next to solve an imminent problem. But Patricia was good at distancing herself from traumatic situations and dealing with them hypothetically specifically because she had never experienced them, or at least on as big a scale. That didn't mean that she didn't feel for people -- she certainly did. Their issues shook the very core of her being at times. She could be having a good day, and then listen to someone ask her for advice and become completely drained almost immediately after. Even after someone parted ways with her because it seemed like they had reached a milestone, even then that was something she had trouble getting through. It was as if that person she was talking to had just left the weight of the situation on her for her to deal with. Not on purpose, of course -- it was just what she felt like. At night, before she went to bed, she would sit on the edge of her bed and just think about what the person had told her that day. And she felt completely awful that she couldn't do more, or rather, wouldn't -- at least that's what she said to herself. She never felt good enough. She almost felt selfish for just talking to them and not doing anything else. It was as if she was getting to set aside her own personal time to have a cathartic (though it wasn't really) crying and thinking session. It was her therapy, not the other person's. But, like I said before, she wasn't working as a psychologist. She was just the "go-to" gal for some reason that she couldn't explain and wasn't sure she would ever be able to.
And that let her back to the situation at hand, the one she had gotten strangely astray from when she started comparing it to a marathon and thinking about her work. She wasn't sure what to do. And she just remembered that Dan never told her what her dad had to do with the founding of the school, or how it related to her and what she was trying to figure out at all. It just didn't seem relevant. What? Did he design the bleachers in the gynasium or something? Or choose that particular shade of tan for its floor? It all seemed to have nothing to do with anything, except as an interesting fact. She hadn't know that Dan's dad had anything to do with anything at all. He wasn't a bad man by any means, and he had contributed quite a bit to his community back in the day. Of course, this really was back in the day, too. The school had been in operation for about 25 years -- or since 1979. But that seemed like a different community. The whole world -- or at least the whole country -- seemed much more conservative back then. And it seemed to work. No, no, -- not Nixon. Not goddamned Nixon. But people seemed to benefit more directly from each other. It was as if there a sort of system where the members of each small community in the country would help each other out. Of course, that doesn't work on a national scale -- some problems are just too big to be handled that way. But that wasn't what she had meant even, really.
I hope that everything will just blow over, or something like that. And fucking Dan. Goddamned fucking Dan. No, of course I don't mean it like goddamned fucking Nixon, but I just wish he hadn't brought it up. Especially, I wish he hadn't brought it up and not told what it was about -- let me know some kind of fucking details. Patricia wasn't as mad as these thoughts would make her appear to be. She was just getting tired of not knowing what was right and what was wrong. And as much as she liked Dan, he only seemed to complicate matters. But she knew he meant well. And that's what killed her -- she knew he meant well.
But fucking still. But goddamned fucking still. Like I said before -- she's not really that mad at all. She's more just frustrated. She has her own inner demons to wrestle with. The ones that tell her to interfere with other people's lives and stir up trouble, and then tell her that it was all a big mistake, and why the hell did she do that in the first place? Or at least that's how Patricia would analyze them. I think she is a humble woman, but she is way too hard on herself sometimes. I'm glad that she makes it up with some well-placed undeserved self-appreciation. It makes her a bit more interesting to observe.
More time had passed, and now there really was nothing for her to do except to go to bed. It was 11:15 P.M. She had spent a couple hours thinking about herself and the way she had talked to them, though not as a psychologist -- she tells me, emphasizing it over and over -- as if I won't believe her until she pleads with me hundreds and hundreds of times until I finally crack. No, I have an innate trusting for Patricia. I believe she is good-hearted. And I honestly believe she will do the right thing. Or at least have good intentions about doing the wrong thing.
Now I will tell you some more about me. I have been observing Patricia in the background at work, at home, and everywhere she goes. I am in her heart, in her mind, and in her head. They are two different things, so don't think I was accidentally redundant. Or even purposely -- few people know how to do that well.
Where do I live, and where in the hell do I get such an incredible view to see everything that is going on in her life? I'll give you a clue -- the answer is like a Zen Koan -- you have to think outside the box, basically, in laymen's terms. I don't live anywhere. I am not God, I am not the Wizard of Oz. (Though, on second thought, maybe that's not such a good example -- as he really didn't have the magical powers that Dorothy and the friends she found on the Yellow Brick Road believed he had.) Want to know who I am? Are you confused as hell? Do you really not know who this is?
Well, then -- I'll tell you. This is Patricia.
Forever waiting. There was nothing she could do now but wait. It seemed like everything was slowing down now, and she was waiting for everything to crash and burn in front of her. Although it would take a very long time to do so.
Wow, what horrible writing, huh? Don't worry -- I wasn't going to make you read through the rest of the story with prose like that. I just don't know what else to say now. I don't mean with this book -- there is still a story yet to come. But I honestly don't know what's happening with my life as of late. I worry about where everything is going to go. And sometimes I feel guilty. Though I never feel guilty enough to want to change anything, or at least that's what it feels like. What am I guilty about? I don't know, really? The fact that I talk about helping women, yet don't know what I have really done for them in my life? You know, if I had been called on in my "Definitions of a Modern Woman" class, I really wouldn't know what else to say. Mostly I have just been giving lectures. And that's why I feel I should title myself an "Intellectual Feminist". It sounds horrible, though -- like it could actually be a good thing. But I don't want it to. I want it to be someone who talks and goes on forever about issue. All she does is manipulate words. She may inspire -- and she may have been told she inpires -- but this is not the same thing as doing. No, I don't mean to belittle Martin Luther King, Jr. in the slightest. But I am worried -- truly worried. Why? I have it easy, you might say. And I can talk about things that really matter about feminism -- like body weight concern, how men perceive us, the way the patriarchy makes compassion, kindness, and sharing the fruits of hard labor seem prissy and dumb. But I am White. I know, I know -- what's there to complain about with that? But see, that's the point. Like, I know I can go around and do a lot of good things with my life. But I feel there is something about being White -- or at least my being White -- that prevents me from seeing the ultimate power and reasons behind helping out the world, raising consciousness. And I don't know if I'm doing it for the right reasons. I want to help women -- all of them, but I don't feel connected enough to any other culture. I am not whining about my life. I thank God, or the Goddess, if you will -- about the privilege I have received in my life. And I resent this privilege. And I feel like that's all I can do -- resent my white privilege. But I feel that whenever I do that, the results are always insincere. I once said in that class that there was this one picture of suffragists holding up protest signs because they wanted the right to vote. I said I liked how one of the signs said, "Come march with us." And that just warmed my heart the first time I saw it, because I realized that feminism has much bigger goals than making sure a certain image of women is presented in the media. That is important, but still the real goals are much more heart-warming and inspiring. I don't know how much I believe in the patriarchy -- well, okay -- I guess I do -- it's not too hard after you've been reading for a while. But, anyway, there are these things that I feel all women should want. And don't interpret this the wrong way. I want justice, I want nature to be respected (yes even at the cost of business), I want us to get to know our enemies before we judge them, I want sincere thought and rational, compassionate, decision-making to be see as the true strength, more than brash, mindless, "My way is the only right way, and it is right even though it hasn't been thought through." To anyone smart enough to be able to read through all this, I bet this comes across as elementary patriarchy-bashing. Or not even bashing, probably.
But back on topic. You see, I am not inspired by that picture because it is a whole bunch of White women fighting for a basic human right. I know about discrimination within the suffrage movement -- such as the fact that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton didn't want any Black women to come to their meetings about suffrage. Well, maybe not them specifically -- but someone. And it just about killed me -- I am not lying -- it hurt me to the core -- when I heard about Susan B. Anthony's reaction to the success of the Abolitionist movement. I heard that she was disappointed that her goals had not been achieved yet. And as much as I say, "I'm sorry that you feel that way, Susan," -- as if I am talking to her, I can't get it out of mind that she was disappointed. I know that wasn't her cause or anything, but shouldn't it have been? To fight for equality among all groups of people, including those that have experienced the most oppression since the beginning of the vast takeover of divisive, disciminatory, repressive, Puritanical -- I could go on, but I won't -- institution of Eurocentrism. I know that times were different then -- I head that Ms. Anthony was a racialist even. But I just can't get that out of my mind.
But finally, back to the point I'm trying to make. As a White woman -- though I don't want to judge everyone who is a feminist and happens to be pale -- I feel like I can't escape the institution of White privilege. I hate it. I hate the fact that even within the feminist movement, I am considered the beacon of hope. Now, there are not too many virulent racists in the feminist movement, but still. I don't know if you know exactly what I mean. But that is not your fault. This is kind of weird to understand. I just feel that the other "races" -- and there is no race biologically, but try to deny its cultural signifigance and you are totally and completely, grossly, even -- incorrect.
I just hope that what I am doing is achieving some bigger mission, because I keep on feeling that it isn't. It always feels like I'm fighting for the rights of White women. And maybe I'm wrong about White women being considered the beacon of hope in feminism. And I don't mean that I don't consider their accomplishments unworthy of praise and respect. They are important symbols in the continued goal for true equality. Now, that sounds like a college -- or rather, intellectual -- feminist again. And I worry that I make up problems just so I can dwell on them. And that what I am thinking is insulting. Or would be insulting if I told it to anybody. That it is distracting it -- and by that I mean the Movement -- I am capitalizing it now -- from getting anywhere. From Civil Rights from being truly achieved. And yes, I know that was terribly worded, but I don't care. I am just afraid that I will be thinking all these thoughts, and then one day have the gall to tell a Black person about it -- or an Asian person, or a Hispanic person -- for that matter -- that I will tell them how I think the Feminist Movement should start caring more about racial issues. And they will scream in their heads about my ignorance. And explain to me very politely that I am ignoring the real problems out there. And I know that I am. But I don't mean to. I know that living as a White person, I can feel tremendously. I can have heaps of concern and piles of empathy. But I can't change the whole Movement -- my part of the Movement I mean, from being Eurocentric in its own way. And that's something else that bothers me. That there is an avoidance -- or what seems like one -- I am probably too damn sensitive for my own good -- of certain issues. And then within my own heart, within my own mind -- I am ignoring certain things. It's more like the White person going to another country and writing about their own experiences. But not during the period of U.S. imperialism in Africa or anything like that. It is more well-intentioned than that. Nobody is intentionally belittled or stereotyped. But the focus is on my experiences. And that's what I hope to escape. I sure as hell don't want to be considred a hypocrite -- that is almost as bad as being called a racist. Though you wouldn't really call Jesse Helms a hypocrite if he started fighting for Civil Rights. Unless you were one of his supporters, of course. And as you probably know by now, I am certainly not one of his supporters in the slightest. I hate that damned fool. But he is senile now, and so he poses no problems to anybody. Just a few rednecks that voted for him in my opinion. From the backwoods of North Carolina. And this is in no way an insult to Dan -- I know he is not like that, and I know that he knows that I don't think he's like that. That is all he represents now. And I doubt even them anymore. He's not exactly for poor people. But I don't mean to stereotype a certain group of White people as poor. Though that is not really the same, I know -- I have always known that -- as stereotyping any other groups of people. White people have had the most cultural, societal, and intellectual influence in the history of American and European-centered self-righteousness. And I don't mean to imply that Black people or anyone else has not contributed to Western society -- if not directly as a citizen of it, at least -- and I don't mean to imply lesser -- what we considered to Western achievements -- they certainly have. I just mean that nobody seems to remember them. But I guess I sort of implied that when I mentioned in that last sentence about their contributions to what we think is ours. Sorry for not making sense. I am not really in much of a mood to be coherent right now.
I don't know what else to say right now, except that I want some kind of forgiveness, but I know that that would just be setting the focus on me again. I wouldn't think -- "Well, that was the least you could do after I've been such a good White person," but I feel that I would let it relieve me too much. So, enough about that for a while. I am now going to take a trip back in time for a while, to my "Defintions of a Modern Woman" class. Let's see what we learn from that. And when I said, "So enough about that," well you know what I meant by that, I guess. I always feel the need to apologize for everything. But never mind. On with the story.
"Hello, everybody. I see you all have different reasons for taking this class."
What the hell? How in the world does she know we have different reasons.
"Some of you want to find out more about yourselves, about what makes you a woman. Some of you have stories to share about your past, and how that has affected your womanhood. Still others of you are raring to critique the Feminist Movement, I can see it in your eyes. Others of you have to have your form of love, your sexuality, chastised by people who consider themselves feminists. There is a place for all types here -- each and every one of us.
"Now, before I begin, does anyone have any questions they would like to ask?"
"Um, yeah -- do we need any textbooks for this class?"
"See, here's the thing about this class. You signed up for it, and are taking the time out of your day, so you obviously want to learn something. And I don't think the best way to learn in this situation is to use textbooks. You are welcome to bring any books you think are relevant to the day's topic, but I like discussion. I don't like to teach from textbooks. I would prefer that you participate in your own learning experience. But I will guide the discussions and set the foundation with a few key ideas about the day's topic."
"Why do you wear those purple high heels?"
"Are you insulting my wonderful heels?"
"No -- I was just wondering where you got them?"
"Oh, you mean these old things? I got them from a thrift store honestly -- Orange Congregations in Mission. I think many of you have been there. That wasn't meant as an insult by any means."
"They look nice."
"Yeah, thanks. Okay, does anyone else have anything else to ask before I start my first lecture?"
I raise my hand.
"How much time will we spend exploring College Feminism in this class?"
"Oh, yeah -- that's not a topic we really get to in this class. You mean feminism as a subject, right? As a philosophy?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"I'm sorry, no. But you are welcome to look through the library for books about it."
"No, that's not really what I wanted to do. But thanks anyway."
I tried not to look at the other women. I was slightly embarrased. I knew they wouldn't think that was an odd question to ask, but I was afraid to see their faces anyway. I don't know why.
In a class called "Definitions of a Modern Woman," I wasn't expecting to have required discussions. I was thinking it would be completely lecture format. I really wouldn't have minded that. But it was going to be exciting seeing what the discussions would entail. I knew I would have to participate. If I could even mention one thing that went along with the topic of the discussion, I would be in business. Hell, even if I could answer one of the teacher's questions, I would be proud of myself.
"For our first day of class, we are going to explore what makes each of us a woman. I see how that could be misinterpreted. But that is important too -- our physiology is very important. And if anyone wants to discuss female circumscision later in this course, I would appreciate if you would mention it. It's very distressing and unusual. And we will also explore the normal -- "How are women presented in American media and society" - type stuff. But that is not the purpose of today's lesson. Right now, I just want everyone to share what they think makes them a woman. Does anyone have anything to contribute?"
Oh, shit, what in the fuck have I done with my life? Well, I guess the fact that I told girls at high schools that it wasn't bad to actually like the way you look, even if it doesn't fit a certain image. But I haven't actually done anything. Come on, women, inspire me. I will try not to get jealous.
"My name is Mary Anne Catherine. My father says that sounds like an eightteenth-century writer's name. But that's not what I want to talk about. I think what's important about my being a women is that I have another experience besides being black. And I think those two things about me, even though they are superficial characteristics, have been extremely important in shaping my view of the world. My dedication to promoting civil rights has been nourished by my learning more about feminism. I know what I want -- peace, justice, compassion, an end to mindless, meaningless, consumption triggered by greedy, destructive companies -- I could go on. But I saw that that was what I wanted to fulfill, in its own means as well, but especially considering African Americans. They went through the Great Despression like everyone else. Economic issues affect them tenfold. I saw that I could apply my ideals to what I was already a part of, what I already knew. But at the same time, learning more about the contributions of Blacks to societies all over the world, I saw the unique role that women have played in those societies. How they were queens in Africa, or teachers in Rome, medicine women in World War Two, and more. A whole lot more. So, yes -- I will have to say that when I talk about my "sisters," I still mean Black women. But I think I will absolutely love this course. And every one of have pure hearts and minds. I know that all of you are strong, powerful, creative forces. And that's why I have to cheer with y'all, too, you know. And I smiled when I saw that "We can do it!" poster. I can't remember what that women's name was, but that's not important. So, I can contribute a lot to this discussion. I hope we remember how wonderful we all are. But that we have our flaws as well. I think we will each learn something. I think I will learn something. And I think it will be an enriching experience for all of us. As women."
That was the first story that we heard on the first day. And it was a nice introduction. I only wish I had taken the opportunity to say something before there was a long stream of really good introductions, so I could've gotten mine out of the way, and still have saved some face. But oh well. I was taken in by every word.
"What I want is acceptance. And that's what I think a lot of women want. That's the whole thing about the Riot-Grrl music, the rejection of consumerism and consumption, this new devotion toward perserving the environment, and just generally hating "The Man". And "the men" of course, but that wasn't really the whole idea of the thing, of the Feminist Movement, so you can't really look at it from that perspective. I gain a lot from what Mary Anne Catherine said -- that your race is part of your image of yourself as a woman. And I am Korean and Sequoia. Since birth, or at least since my mother told me, I have been very fond of where I came from. I would look at the images on TV as a little girl, and I would see all these White faces -- blondes, brunettes, redheads. And I would always say, "Sorry, I don't look like you!" And I think that was the beginning of my appreciation for my roots. And I guess my locks too -- the roots on my head. My hair was dark, tight, shiny, and long. I absolutely loved my hair. I never hated anyone else -- keep that in mind. But I always loved my heritage. And I learned about how the American Indians came to America by crossing a land bridge from Asia to here. And I was like, to myself, "That is so cool." And you know, like, maybe the combination of what I was wasn't so weird. I sound a little self-absorbed, something I don't want to sound like at all. But definitely, the values of the Sequoia and Koreans have kept me grounded in reality. I like to do a lot of reading too from American Indian and Asians -- not just Korean. I think that's what keeps me connected. And hopefully, the world can get more connected. White America can open its eyes to the cultures that have always existed, to the worlds that have always sustained themselves, and like Mary Anne Catherine said -- maybe we could all learn something. I know I want to. I know I want to learn how people react to new images, new faces, new voices."
"Yeah, I'd like to expand on the presentation she just made. I have a story that is a little bit different, actually -- a little more unusual. You see, I used to be a man. Yes -- I used to be an ignorant, selfish, mysogynistic -- I'm just kidding -- I know you guys don't think that men are like that. Whoops, I said you guys. Okay, well, living as a transgendered individual, I can honestly say that it is so hard to get respect. I had to change jobs because the company's "moral values" seemed to clash with my own. I mean, I gave ten years of my life to your company -- I was one of your hardest workers. And I was rejected, just thrown out. And I still get stared at in public -- the hormones haven't quite finished working yet. I think people notice my Adam's apple first -- I'm not sure if I'll get that removed yet -- or my still boyish-looking frame. I won't look this way forever -- I'm undergoing my transformation gradually, though -- not just rushing in to the whole woman thing just yet. Would have to get used to a very different set of parts. But anyway -- growing up was the worst. I never really felt connected to the guys at school. I know a lot of boys are sensitive or have girls as friends, or whatever, but it was more than that to me. I was totally into just, like, hanging out with them at the lunch table, talking to them about the movies they had seen, what music they were into. And the boys were talking about shooting cans and driving boxcar derbies -- I come from Colorado, is the reason why, I guess. And I used to like to dress up in my room as a girl. I had to borrow my sister's clothes. The only time I could wear them was when she and my mother were both out -- my sister at a soccer game, or at piano practice, and my mother staying late at work or something. I tried on her panties, one of her bras, a tanktop -- all sorts of things. And I was just attracted to the clothes. I loved the way they fit my body. I wanted to, I wanted to cry just so much. I wouldn't be the one to put on makeup without her mother noticing -- well maybe, but for different reasons; I wouldn't be the one to go to the middle school dance with my cute dress. I wouldn't be the one to get my period and have my mother throw me a party and maybe miss school for the day. I wouldn't get to go to the prom and have my mother tell me how beautiful I was, and how her little girl was growing up. I don't think -- no, I know I didn't tell my mother I wanted to be a girl until I was about 16 years old. I can remember going into the kitchen. She wasn't too good with giving advice, anyway, but she said what she knew. And I think she meant well, at least most of the time. But the way I approached her, all quiet and bashful, looking as though I had done something really wrong, or like I was going to betray her or something, that was too much for her already. And I just knew I couldn't go through with it. I just knew it. But I had to. She was like, 'Son, if you've done anything, just --'. She sounded exasperated, like she didn't want to hear anymore. But I didn't care -- I knew I couldn't hold this back. I told her, 'Mother, I think I was supposed to be a girl." And she hit her head on the table and was like, 'Damn it, Nathan, damn it! I'm tired of all your hormones, or whatever you wanna call them. I'm tired of how you want to keep on 'finding yourself'. You shouldn't be worrying about these things. You should be worry about doing your homework, doing your chores, getting good grades, and doing enough in the community to look good for college!' And that just took me back -- I didn't know what to think. On the one hand, this was my mother -- if she was right, and she often had been, or so I had thought -- then there was nothing I could do but live my life in just the same way I had been. And if she was wrong, then it either didn't matter. Or something. I knew it was the other. I knew I had to just reject her. Right then and there. Of course, I didn't say it to her face -- 'Mom, I'm disowning your outdated concept of what a boy is supposed to be,' but I started living more fully. I started sneaking bras and panties from the women's section of the store whenever I went to the mall with my mother and sister. Of course, I wouldn't get the padded kind -- I didn't need to call attention to my chest -- I just wanted to wear it. It was more of a comfort thing than anything else. And it was the first step to helping me establish my identity as female."
"I am a lot like ice cream. I come in a lot of different flavors -- sometimes I'm moody, sometimes I'm sweet, sometimes I'm one heckuva fiery bitch. If you leave me out in the sun too long, I can melt very, very quickly. I can get extremely pissed with you in a very short time, and taste very different. All right, so maybe it isn't the best comparison. But I like how different I can be, yet I feel like I always have something to hold on. So I guess it's all kind of fitting to have all the other stories mixed in with mine. And I guess I'm mixed too -- in a way. I don't mean to take away anything from you guys. I really don't have the same connections. I can't say that my heritage moved me in any particular way. I can't say that I've had to live the same way -- I don't mean that everyone else who isn't White is the same. I just mean that I haven't had the advantage of seeing the world through eyes that weren't turned in to the same frequency that mine were. When I saw an attractive woman in a magazine, I would say, 'Okay, she's sort of pretty,' or whatever. Or, 'I like her hair or something.' And even if she was ugly, I would still notice that her dress wasn't particularly attractive or her face was a weird shape for me. But I didn't think, like, 'She's perpetuating the myth of the blonde, White, female standard of beauty.' And when I watched the Oscars on television, I saw some movies I liked not appear on the list. I saw some that I absolutely detested win Best Actor or Best Action Movie. But I didn't notice that Denzel Washington was only the second Black person in the history of the Oscars to win an award. And I didn't know these types of things, not for a while. And I was changed when I read them. Completely shocked. Yes, I know some of this is old news to other people. 'So now, you're finding out about Denzel Washington?' some people might say. I guess I was just always color-blind -- seriously, no pun intended. But, anyway, by taking this course, I hope to expand my horizons a little bit, learn some new things. It is going to be a great experience for me, I think. But at the same time, I just don't want it to be about me. I want everyone's else's stories and thoughts to stand alone by themselves. This is life -- this is what they go through. I can't take away the important events in their lives and use them as trinkets for my own person gratification."
We now return to the present. The third woman to speak on that first day of class summarized my thoughts exactly with that last sentence. I'm sorry I keep dwelling on this -- I truly am, but I have to work these things out. I don't want people to just be there for my amusement. I don't mean amusement. Of course I take them seriously, but I don't want to be someone like that. I don't want to be a true college feminist. Not that I'm implying that most of them are all talk and no action -- I don't mean that they don't grow, not at all. I don't even know what I mean anymore. I know I've said that so many times, that it is probably now cliche, but it is true. And that is about the only thing I feel the least bit honest about anymore. Let's just face it -- I want to expose Sarah and Jessica's parents as strict, abusive Christians -- the most hardline of Fundamentalists -- and rescue them by putting them in a nice foster home. Deep down, I know that isn't true. But do I? Have I always just assumed that I would never sacrifice other people's feelings for my own personal gain? Sacrifice the truth just so I could benefit? I am human, aren't I? There must have been times where I've just wanted to take the money and run, leave a situation with no consequences. Lie, cheat, and steal -- all for the pure personal satisfaction it gave me. I am no angel, of course. But I really can't remember acting like that -- or at least intentionally. There have been times when I have done something insensitive, but that was back when I didn't know how to read people as well as I do now. I was rude occasionally -- which is a weird part of my life, actually -- I don't like to remember that particular part of myself very much. And I was callous -- though once again, I didn't mean to be -- though the defintion of the word makes it seem like it is required to be intentional. I wasn't -- there were just times when I thought of me, myself, and I. And that was it. And that's all there is to it. But seeing as how I wasn't perfect then -- and honestly, looking back -- there was no way I could have never meant to be callous or insensitive, even a tiny. If I want to be honest with myself, I have to admit that. But I don't know -- does that mean that every action I do is selfish? Even a little bit selfish? Even the hippies, even goddamned Mother Teresa -- no, I really don't mean it like goddamned Nixon, or even goddamned Dan -- even Mother Teresa was selfish. Sure, she had tremendous concern for the poor and helped thousands of her people in India. But she was selfish because she wanted a world without poverty. This woman was concerned for other people. Now I know what you're saying -- you're saying, "Well, that sounds like the exact opposite of being selfish -- that sounds like selflessness, not selfishness." But selfishness it was. In a different way of course, but still selfishness. She wanted the world to be a better place for people who had given a bum wrap in life. She wanted everyone to be equal -- to live without fear that they might be homeless in a week, or a day -- or have to go without food if someone didn't throw it to you. It was equal opportunity, it was a wonderful dream. But it was a dream that she wanted. Maybe I'm just speaking in overly deconstructionist terms here. But talking about Mother Teresa might help me frame my argument well, or my case against me. See -- now I'm feeling like I'm doing this all for show, for my own benefit, my own amusement. But I'm not -- I'm just trying to figure things out.
So I don't know what I can do now that won't entail doing all this whining. Even if it's necessary, even if it's important. I don't feel like it's important enough to waste so much of your time -- and quite frankly, mine -- since I can't see where in the hell all this is going -- talking about how I can't figure my own damn psyche out. I think I need a break for now. But I want to stay here and talk with you for a little while longer. I want to tell you some more things that have been on my mind lately.
I look at carousels -- okay, that might be a weird segue, you say -- but stay with me here. Anyway, I look at carousels in the mall or at a playground or something -- well, it's actually not a playground -- it's more like an amusement park. But anyway -- I look at them and think about what would happen if I actually got on there and time slowed down, like in that hypothetical math problem. Or physics problem, or whatever. And I think about that. And it's actually kind of fascinating to me. But it also makes me absolutely crazy thinking about it, like almost everything does, as I guess you've figured out by now. Somebody is there -- watching the world go by at the speed of light, and the rest of the world is just living as they normally would, going about their daily lives as if nothing is different. And I just think it's weird. I know that the people are experiencing every minute in time -- the woman on the carousel is just being propelled through it faster -- but still. It's like going into space for 40 years, and coming back, and seeing everything 2,000 years later. I get scared, sometimes, even though I know I'll never become an astonaut. I just think -- well, what if Dan irritates me that much -- and he never would, but still -- if he irritates me so completely that I just feel I need to release my tension by spending a couple of decades floating around through black nothingness -- what would happen next? I feel as though I would be making everyone die who was close to me. But of course, that wouldn't happen -- time just progresses normally for them. It is me who has aged 40 years. I am the anomaly. I haven't killed anybody. But that would make me afraid -- very afraid. I don't even know why I think about such things. I apologize for going into another rant about my psyche again. Now back onto why they fascinate me. I guess because there is a conductor who can make it stop or slow down at any time. There is a person who controls the experience. You are there, and he is sitting in a cold, little metal chair in the middle of everything. And of course, you see him about ten or fifteen times during the ride. And he's probably not doing very much. But still, he's there. And he knows how long passengers like to be on there. He may not have done any studies -- on second thought, he probably doesn't make too much more than minimum wage -- but he has a sense of how long people want to ride the carousel. And he keeps it long enough to be enjoyable. He may not have to do much except take tickets and stop the ride when it's over -- and maybe hoist up or carry down a young child or two -- but he is still there. All the better that he's just sitting there for most of the ride. He has power, but he doesn't feel the need to use it. I know it's probably against the rules to speed up the ride on purpose so that someone you really disliked was just flung right off the carousel, but I know the thought would have at least crossed my mind had I taken a few different paths than I did to land a job like that -- I can't honestly say that it would never have seemed at least moderately amusing and delightfully sinister to do that. Of course, I'd probably get in extremely seriously trouble -- only in my imagination would I be able to make up such a wonderfully-detailed, plausible story, that the cops and the workers at the amusement park would all eat it up, never doubting a word I said. For one thing, I wouldn't even be able to hide what I had done for half a second. I am just way too damn honest sometimes. Okay, all the time. Or I try to be. But anyway. So I don't even get two words of my story out of my mouth, and already they can tell I'm bullshitting. Not only that, but I would also find myself beseeching them -- pleading with them to grant me mercy. "I'll work extra hours to clean up the mess, to repair the carousel. Oh, come on! Please let me pay for the hospital bills. I don't think I can live with myself!" Yeah, some great scenario that would turn out to be, Patricia. They'd probably just get you in deeper trouble, since you just admitted it was completely your fault. Don't think that'd go over in courts very well. And even if the judge listened to you, there was no way the boss of the company would. That would be entirely impossible. No way you could even think of rebuilding your reputation without the investing of a few years of extreme overtime -- no more going home for you! Get to know what one hour of sleep per week looks like, Patricia! Or at least they could give me heck of a fine -- one that would take the rest of my life to work off. And of course I would try to rationalize it -- okay, so how long could it take to pay this $300,000 dollar fine? Doesn't look that bad -- just a couple extra hours per week should do it. Yeah right, let's get serious now. Let's get fucking serious. Even if you work as hard as you can as carousel operator and ticket-taker -- and honestly, how hard is it to sit around on your ass for three minutes, get up and wait around for eight, maybe ten, and then sit right back down again. And what do carousel operators make per year? We said a little more than minimum wage, so probably like $10.00 an hour? Okay, that's $10.00 per hour, and for overtime, you might get $13.00 per hour or something. But amusement parks really close down at the end of the day -- you can't just keep working there when there aren't any customers -- there's no point to running the carousel when nobody's there to ride it. They wouldn't let you be there all night -- just going through the motions of taking tickets, starting the machine with a little lever, then sitting for a few minutes, stopping the machine, waiting for everyone to get off, and then taking the next round of tickets. Unless they were particularly moribid. But if they were, they probably wouldn't pay you anyway. And this is all degenerating into mindless fantasizing now, so I'll stop.
Thanks for being with me for so long. I really appreciate it. I honestly don't know how you can handle me. I can personally take myself in only small doses. But at the same time, I have to live with myself, so maybe it all balances out. Somehow. But this book isn't about me -- that's what I keep forgetting. It's about two sisters and their parents, and about what I learn from dealing with them, and what I learn about myself concerning the "Definitions of a Modern Woman" class. I'm not giving away the ending -- I really don't know what is going to happen next. I'm just guessing that something will happen with those two girls, and I will end up learning something signifigant that has to do with that course. But you know you can always count on me to guide you when things get rough. Or I probably won't guide you, most likely I won't. But I will be there, grabbing the rope for dear life at some moments -- and completely forgetting about it during others. I don't twist it around my leg or anything -- it's always there, and I'm always holding on to it. But sometimes I hold on a little more loosely than other times. But of course I blame the course of the ship completely on myself, even though you were the ship's captain -- and you could've stopped the boat at any time -- or told me to hold on to the rope differently. Not that I'm blaming any of this on you, the reader -- I was just using this particular situation as an example. Don't put me down in the record as having said any of this. Don't tell your friends that I make an absolutely horrid first mate. Not that I would particularly want to have anything to do with guiding a ship -- heck, I don't even want to travel on one -- but still, I don't want everyone to know that I might let go of the rope! Oh, my God! Just kidding. I mean I would let go -- I guess I should just shut up now. I know I always go on way too fucking long with these damn things. I don't even know what you would call them, like if there is any literary term for them. I was pretty good with English in school, but I can't seem to remember any. So I guess there probably isn't one. It can't be a solliloquy, since I'm purposely writing this with the intention of having you read it.
Days go by and I just stare at the screen, wondering if I'll get another instant message anytime soon. I doubt it -- he hasn't called me or attempted to make any kind of contact with me for the past three months. Of course, I shouldn't expect him too -- after all, we've broken up, but still -- I just can't get him of my life. I can't say my life is worse, but it definitely is emptier. I don't hear the same voices I used to. I don't mean in my head, of course -- I mean I never get to hear the sweet nothings he whispers in my ear as we finish up our brief "meeting" in the hall each morning at school. I don't get that call from him, when I'm in the middle of studying very hard for a huge history test or something that requires my intense concentration -- and he'll just call me and say that he wasn't doing his homework or whatever, and he wanted to know what was going on in my life, if things were okay. Well, first I would tell him that he really ought to be doing his homework. But then I would demand to know why in the world he felt he had the nerve to interrupt me at this time? Didn't he know I had a lot of homework to do? But I could never stay mad at him. And I never really was that mad at him in the first place. The second I heard his voice, I knew I would be in for a strange, interesting, bizarre, yet always strangely moving -- conversation -- even if that was at the expense of pulling an all-nighter. But that never actually happened. We didn't talk for hours on end -- but for at least 45 minutes I would be too distracted to tell him to get the hell off the phone and do some damn homework already -- after about the first three, I've forgotten about all that -- of course, after those 45 minutes I would be like, "Oh hell, where has the time gone?" -- but of course, I knew it -- but during that period of time I would just sit on my bed, enraptured, overwhelmed with him. I mouthed, "I love you, I love you, I love you," to myself during those conversations. They are how I first fell in love with him -- by talking to him on the phone.
And there was no way I could get him out of my head or my heart for the longest time. But I couldn't tell him. As you can probably tell, I can swear on the phone with him, you know, tell him to do his damn homework. But at school, until we got to know each, until things got much more serious -- as they always seem to -- until then, I could only smile at him in the hall -- only stare at him affectionately as he walked by. Of course, he didn't notice -- I never looked at him when he could see me, and I turned my head away as soon as I even assumed that he might detect me. But I wouldn't have stared that long even if he hadn't watched -- I probably would've run into quite a few people if I had -- and I might've needed something else to look at -- not that he's bad to look at, by any means -- but I would need a change of scenery. And of course, even if I didn't want one, I would still have to go to my next class. But enough about that. Remember that poem that I told you I wrote earlier? No, I'm not going to shock you by saying I didn't really write it -- of course I did. But I didn't write it in Pre-Calculus class. And this is what might sound weird to you -- I wrote it in my sleep. I'm not saying that that sleep was particuarly signifigant -- I wasn't in the hospital having brain surgery or anything like that -- I was sound asleep in my own bed. But I was dreaming when I wrote. The words just came to me. I remember writing them down. I remember waking up and saying to myself, "I absolutely have to record this." And it was so weird, because I almost never remember much of anything about my dreams. And here I was, having this incredibly detailed dream -- and I could remember every second of it perfectly. Uncanny. Absolutely uncanny how I could do that. But I saw every word. I didn't hear every word. They just appeared in front of me, with a silvery sheen all around them. Maybe it's not that great of a poem, but the fact that my brain put it all together when I was sound asleep is pretty incredible to me. In fact, if I can keep this up, what other truths could be revealed to me? No, no -- I know I won't come up with anything else. My poem isn't that brilliant anyway. Sorry to go on about the powers of my unconscious mind.
Anyway, I don't have anyone else besides him. As I told you before, and as I am sure you are probably already tired of hearing, I will never be able to forget him or to stop loving him. I love him with the very core of my being. I want to jump, to cry, to scream, and to laugh when I think about him! It is so corny, as before, but all of it is true. Sorry if I come across as crazy, but I really and truly mean it. But, as I also said before, the values of my parents' and his parents' values are very different. And this is where the real story starts.
"Jessica! Are you gonna come down here or what? Breakfast is getting cold! Hurry up!"
What in the hell do I have to hurry up for. It's not exactly urgent. We don't even go to school today. But all right, I'm coming downstairs. I look around my room for something to wear -- maybe a t-shirt and jeans or something like that. Or maybe my old Usher shirt that my grandmother gave to me when I was little and used to like him. Well, not little -- but I consider anytime before the 9th grade to be my immature phase. My grandmother used to say that I was really "into myself" too much. But I can't help it -- I just liked what I liked, and that was it. You know how it is -- we all go through phases where we really like something a lot, we can't understand why other people don't understand why we don't like it a lot. And then we eventually grow out of it, looking back at ourselves and realizing how stupid we were to have followed something with such zeal, such enthusiasm.
But there is nothing that would save from the next phase I am in. And I am glad -- I really think I have been developing, you know what I mean. I really think I have been coming into myself. I know what I want out of life and am not afraid to drown out all the other voices who would dare say anything to drag me down. I'm sorry if I sound determined -- I've made up my mind to not have the slightest dealings with even well-intentioned idiots anymore. Anyone who doesn't get why I don't support their close-minded thinking, why I don't listen to them while they spew all that shit they heard from the television, from the newspapers, even from those goddammned blogs or whatever they're called. I have an extremely low tolerance for bullshit as of late. But I just don't listen to those people. I didn't mean that I reject them -- I mean, of course I do. I meant that I don't attack them -- I simply let their mindless chatter flood the space around me, and let it just dissolve into thin air. Maybe that's why all those rednecks -- sorry for the stereotype -- I can't see shades of gray anymore -- not that I would always even want to -- but never mind -- maybe that's why all those rednecks say I'm pretty tolerant for a black person. Well, you're pretty nice for an unattractive, inbred, ignorant, close-minded, racist hick! I always tell them thank you for saying that. And sometimes I say that I agree with what they say, or that I will think about it at least. And they always walk away, humble-looking as can be, as if they have just save me from the burden I have placed on those poor, innocent, white people. Oh no, wouldn't want to hurt those White people. Shut the fuck up, I say in my mind. But not out loud. No, never out loud. But maybe I should. Maybe then I wouldn't have such a good track record with all those cracker-ass motherfuckers. Story to invoke race into this. But they did it first, you have to understand. They insulted my heritage, denounced the work of all my ancestors and anyone with the slightest connection to Africa. I don't mean everyone, but you know what I mean. And they denounced it only when they wanted to acknowledge anything that Blacks had done at all. They called me "uppity" in those situations, they called everyone I knew as "restless", which may be true. Y'all weren't giving us no freedom like we were promised, you dumb ass motherfuckers. See, I get a bad mouth when I talk about rednecks. Nothing meant against you, of course, if you are White and have ears to hear. If not, then maybe some of this should be directed your way. But never mind. And when they didn't choose to judge every single action of every single Black individual that has roamed this planet since the beginning of time -- once again, you know I didn't mean they had a huge listed printed out that they read from. And when they "opened" their minds -- their words, not mine -- when they gave us enough credit to be responsible for all the bad things that have happened in this goddamned country -- that's when they decided to switch gears. They said that every last one of us deserved to go back to our goddamned places. Which is either the plantation or in the back seats of the bus -- I don't know -- like I said, I tune most of this shit and dribble out -- I made up that phrasing "shit and dribble," just now. Hope you like it. I guess it's not really a phrasing. Damn -- what's the word. Oh, never mind -- I'm about to get off topic here. Let me just get to my point about the godforsaken cracker-ass motherfuckers. Once again, excuse my language. I don't mean to offend, but right now, in the state that my mind is in, I don't really give a damn if I do. Yeah, you heard me.
I am not about to spread the rumor that all Black people are militant like Malcolm X was, or I guess used to be. You have to look at his earlier years, before he made his pilgrimage to Mecca and changed his name. Honestly, I don't know what will come from any more portrayals that Black people like to hoard guns around, that we are divisive like that, or that we want to be if we accidentally say something that would indicate a modicum of that belief. More than anything, I want an integrated society. And that's why I reject all those Marcus Garvey types who say we should just give up on integration. Well, no -- they more say integration has failed in this country. And I can see that there is still a huge amount of work to do before Black people are given the same credit in the media, in schools, for what they have done for this country. They have built it from the ground up. They have cried out for freedom, they have fought for freedom with everyone else, even when their bodies would legally be the property of someone else, when they would have fewer rights than a goddamned donkey. Sorry if I sound pissed -- I just have to release my tension. I've been thinking about a lot of things, and I know that I said that just basically tune out ignorance, but still.
Oh, snap -- wait, I shouldn't have said it like that. Promise me you won't judge me just because I phrased it like that. Sorry, for getting on your case so much -- I've just been a little testy lately. And don't misinterpret that. I know I did. So, anyway, guess I'd better be going downstairs to eat breakfast.
"You almost missed your food, you know that, right?"
"You weren't going to throw it away, right? Wait, why am I saying right? You weren't going to throw it away, were you? You know it always makes me much more miserable to eat cold, disgusting, tasteless food than to go without eating, don't you?"
"What makes you think I would want to make you miserable. Now eat your damn food already!"
"Dad, why are you saying that? You're giving Sarah a bad example!"
"No he's not -- he ain't giving me no damn bad examples!"
"See dad -- look at this! Fuck that --" I said those last two words under my breath. I knew I shouldn't have said them as soon as they came out of my mouth, but it was already too late.
"What did you say?"
"You know what I said."
"Of course I do, I just wondered if you knew what type of hypocrite you were being."
"There are types of hypocrites?"
"Don't get smart with me," he said, sounding angry, but he was just joking the way he normally did.
"You were a hypocrite. You told me that I wasn't given Sarah a good example by swearing and then you broke the rule that you made for me!"
"I guess I just have double standards, then? Well, aren't I'm allowed to when I'm pissed at you for breaking your own rule, aren't I?"
"That's how a double standard works, see -- you have different rules for other people than you do yourself."
"I just admitted that I had one -- I think you're a bit confused." He didn't seem to hear me.
Hello -- this is Patricia again. Sorry to interrupt like this. I just really don't want to be a hypocrite -- I said that is was almost as bad as being a racist and everything. Remember those hypocrites -- they have something to do with the ending of this book. Not that I know it, of course. Carry on -- I'll just interfere.
What a morning. No, I don't mean that a lot of stuff happened or anything. In terms of how Sunday mornings go, it was about average. I just mean -- what a morning for me to forget what I was angry about so suddenly. Yes, I know that was a weird thing for "what a morning" to mean.
I'm still sitting at the table. I've pretty much finished for the morning with all my redneck-bashing that I've been doing. So I'm pretty much empty-headed now. Now don't take that the wrong way -- I don't mean that I think about nothing else besides rednecks. I just meant that there really is nothing for me to do now except sit here absentminded, staring out into space, dangling my fork about my mostly-eaten eggs. Well, okay, i ate them all. So why do I seem to care so much about whether I ate my eggs? I know that seemed weird to you. Well, lately I've just been feeling really conscious about my weight lately, and about my appearance. My dad always thinks I must be joking when I ask whether or not I look fat, and that doesn't really help much. See, I'm trying to decide whether I should go on a diet or not. I might. I don't know. But I really need his answer to help me decide. I know that he thinks I'm beautiful. I know that my mom thinks I'm beautiful. I know that my old boyfriend -- his name is James, by the way -- I sure as hell know that James thinks I'm beautiful. Maybe I should just be a vegetarian, or something. That would be a lot healthier than eating only one meal a day or something like that. So what is a vegetarian? No, I honestly know what it is. I just know that there are a lot of different types. There is one where you don't eat any red meat, but you can eat chicken. And there's another one, where you eat dairy, but not white meat or red. And there's still another one where you can eat fish, but not meat or dairy. And then there's this whole other thing -- veganism -- where you don't eat any animal products. Some people who are really into don't even use anything made from animals -- which would be very hard to do for me. I have this really nice leather jacket and I couldn't think about giving it up. But I do agree with the idea behind it. Well, animal rights -- but that's not what I mean really. I mean that I should follow something because I believe it is the right thing. I need to do what I'm going to do -- I need to have a mission in life, some kind of purpose -- if I am ever going to realize my full potential. I think I've mentioned this before. Only, I think I said that I already had. Well, I already know that one them is not paying any attention to rednecks. But I really don't want to make that my only goal. And look at my success rate with ignoring them. I'm not doing very well. I'm not going to lie and say that that's not one of my goals in life -- I'm just saying it shouldn't be the only goal.
I guess I have no goals for the time being. You'd think that'd free me up to just actually live or something, wouldn't you. I wish. You see, the thing is that I only feel free when I have something I have to accomplish, some way I have to make myself better. I can't just been sitting idle, letting the breeze run through my hair. The breeze doesn't run too well through my hair, so don't interpret it like that. Sorry, I guess I haven't really completely recovered from thinking about rednecks. It was just a metaphor. Anyway, I always have to be doing something. Not because I'm jealous of anybody whose done something really great, like contributed to ending hunger in America or in the world, or to contributing to cleaner water or democracy or whatever. I'm not trying to compete -- I just want to live like I'm supposed to. And I'm afraid. Afraid that I'll die and the world will all fall to shambles because of something I didn't do. And I don't think I could live with that. Even if I didn't have to live through the end of the world, I don't think I would be able to live through it. I hope you know what I mean. But really, I'm not as paranoid as I sound. I just want everything I do to make an impact. I always want to make a difference, because it could make things better in the long run. Like, I tutor a couple of kids on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. It takes a bit more time and planning on my part -- seeing as how I have my own homework to do. And I still have to do my chores of course. My parents like what I'm doing -- mostly my dad, my mother just expects me to be doing this, but I still have to wash the clothes and the dishes, take out the trash, and make the beds. All right, you're saying -- that's not too bad. Maybe not -- but I can't say that I enjoy doing it. So I do that -- I also help out at the animal shelter a few weekends each month and read to kids at the library every several weeks. Okay -- now I sound like just your stereotypical do-gooder, who's like, "Look at me -- see how I'm just the most responsible wonderful human being in the whole entire world! Whoo!" Okay, they don't really say, but they imply the "whoo" at least with their tone of voice. Man, I hate those people. But I guess I am one of those people. So, I hate myself then. No, not really. I'm just talking -- I'm just being stupid. I'm doing all right for college -- but I could be doing more probably. The SATs are next week, and I've been too tired to study for them. Well -- that's not entirely true actually. I've really only been tired for the past two days. The rest of the time I made up that I had more homework to do than I did, so I would have a reason to stay in my room all night. Not that my parents have any problem with my staying in my room, but they do like to check on me to see if I'm okay -- and I want to make sure that they don't interrupt me when I decide I would rather be goofing off. But I really need to do more. And I need to get my grades up. Well, not really I guess, seeing as how I've been getting straight A's lately, and have A's in every subject on my report card for the first nine weeks. Well, duh, you might be saying. Well, I guess I didn't think this through. The teacher always says, "Unless you always get 100s, I would recommend that you pay attention to me," when she thinks that people are paying attention to her. And I don't get 100s in that class -- which is Pre-Calculus actually, but I do have a pretty damn good grade in there -- like a 98 or something. I've gotten hundreds on most of the tests. The only grade that really brought me down is my homework grade. We don't have our homework graded, but we still have to have it. And I forgot it for a couple of days. Of course, I didn't forget to do it -- I just left it at home, and didn't realize it until I got to class. By that time, I was basically fucked. Some days, the teacher wouldn't check it, and would just give the answers on the board at the left side of the room instead of putting them on the overhead. but it's not like you could B.S. it either -- by having a blank sheet of paper or some other day's homework out on your desk. You would get counted off if you didn't have your homework -- even if the teacher said she wasn't going to check it. I guess I can see that -- she's trying to make us learn that it's still important to do your homework -- that there's more a reason than to please the teacher -- you should be doing it for yourself -- to learn the material. But the thing is, actually -- I did do my homework. I really did. But the teacher wouldn't accept that as an answer -- well, why would they? But I even said I would bring it to her after school. Now I just sound like I'm whining or something. Sorry about that.
I think of myself as a tree sometimes. I know that was a weird subject to just suddenly bring up after I've been talking about math. But honestly, I feel like go through different stages. I start out as a seed, then I develop into a seedling, a sapling, a young tree, and before you know it, I'm old, decrepit, and decayed. Just some fodder for a logger. No, I don't mean it like that. And I guess that was a terrible analogy anyway. So let's try plants. Well, if trees didn't work, then how in the world are plants going to? But see -- there are different types. Some grow better sheltered -- as a houseplant in the windowsill of someone's living room. Still others find themselves in the rainforest among thousands of different species of animals, everybody struggling to survive, being needed for more than just a pleasant-looking decoration. Needed for survival. Yes, I know how terrible a comparison this must seem. But I can't help it -- I know I'm like a plant. I had this really great metaphor cooked up to tell you -- well, actually it was sort of a private one for myself -- no I don't mean I used the word "bush" in a disgusting way. I just mean that it was sort of an outline of what I want to do with my life. I'm sure it will come to me. But that doesn't matter right now -- but it was really, really good! Or at least what I think is really, really good! But I should quit being so hard on myself, shouldn't I? Yes I should -- that question was rhetorical, if you couldn't tell. Well, it wasn't actually. So never mind. Fuck it all. There, I swore again. Wonder if my dad will catch that. Heh heh. Don't get any images in your mind of any old Black blues singers saying that -- especially blind ones. Maybe that was just me. I really don't need to think that way. I don't need to conjure up images of myself like that. I don't really mean myself as in myself. I just mean my race, my Blackness. Okay, that sounded really stupid. But I'll explain it towards the end of the story. Or maybe not. I don't even really know what the hell I'm going to do about anything now. Don't get me wrong -- I'm still very happy. But like I said, I don't just want to be happy. I can't be idle -- it makes me feel like a useless person. One who is just sitting around while the rest of the world is moving quickly ahead, while other people are accomplishing things. And I always feel good after I do what I do. But then I think about other people that do more than me and mean it -- by that I mean they are sincere about it. But then I think that it is not always about what you do, but about the heart you put in it. So, I say that I put a lot of heart into what I do -- and I do. I truly care about helping kids learn, and about helping them getting inspired by books. I don't just do this stuff because it looks good for college. Okay, that is another reason, I'll admit -- but not the first one. So, then I think about the people who do a heckuva lot more stuff than I do just because it looks good. And I don't want to be like that, either. Even when I think I could do more in my community to help out and stuff, I don't want to be like that. It just seems like a wasted effort to me. And selfish. Selfish, of course, because you're just doing so you can feel happy about yourself, just to stroke your own ego. And wasted because I think it shows when you aren't sincere about what you do. You can help out at a homeless shelter serving soup to people. But if you don't enjoy helping them -- get a real satisfaction from giving a meal to those that probably wouldn't have got one otherwise -- then they're going to notice. And they'll take the soup and crackers, and smile at you and say thank you and all that. But they'll think about it. Not there -- their feelings of hurt and pain would be too obvious. But later -- when they're back on the streets again -- they'll think of how you treated them. And they're gonna be pretty damn upset. I didn't come here for very much -- just to get a quick bite to eat and get warmed up for a little while -- you didn't have to treat me like an inconvenience. I didn't want much anyway. But I've been thinking way too much about these things anyway. I really need to just take a break -- I really do. I don't need to cut off my duties to the community -- all that tutoring and blah blah blah, whatever. I don't even know anymore. But a good vacation would do it. A spiritual vacation. But not the kind that involves Christianity. I've always felt that organized religion could never answer any questions I've had about myself and the world -- it always seemed too rigid -- too authoritarian. And that's something I've never really liked for a long, long time. Probably ever since I was a little girl. No, I know for a fact that I was like that as a little girl -- I'm just talking in the certain way that I talk when I'm thinking about stuff in my head. I keep forgetting that I have an audience. But whatever. Anyway, as a little girl, I was very sweet and nice to everybody, but I could always detect when someone was serving me up a plate crock full of B.S. I would never say anything -- I would turn my nose up involuntarily and squint my eyes a little bit, as if to purge the distasteful thing they had just said from my system. My father always hated this, but more for the embarrasment it gave to my mother. My mother was worried that White people would get the wrong image of Black people -- that they were impolite and didn't behave well in important social situations. Not that they were really important -- just a visit to a friend of my dad's, and sometimes my mom's -- my dad was more popular actually. But when I was there, with the two of them, it was always as if we were riding on very important stakes. As if everything we knew in our lives depended on my smiling pretty and taking in whatever they fed me. So maybe that was a little harsh -- it wasn't that bad what they said -- and I was a little girl after all, and there are different rules for dealing with young children than there are for dealing with teenagers or adults. But still.
It just seems like they always saw me in a different way. I don't mean to imply that my mom's or dad's friends were racists -- I would never assume that -- although I would ascribe different reasons for Black people to be uncomfortable with White people than White people being uncomfortable with Black people. It has to do with a little something called a power structure. But oh well. I'm trying to get all pedantic on you again. You guys might start thinking I'm Malcolm X -- which is really your own damn fault. Sorry for swearing -- I still haven't gotten over rednecks yet. Well, actually -- I'm beyond rednecks. I guess I just have to get all my agressions out. And if some of it lands on you, well then, the best I can say is that you knew it was coming. So suck it up. So, they weren't virulent racists or anything -- nor did they have a problem with race mixing. I don't know why I included that in a special category. But oh well. Just listen. It just seems like they have a different attitude of how I'm supposed to act. They look at me, apparently trying to judge how much black I have in me and how much White I have in me. Well, that was probably taking it a little too far. They probably just liked my dress and wanted to see what material it was made out of so they could get one like it for their kids. But it matters to me, even though I was young. It's like, if you believe that you were sexually harassed, then you were sexually harassed. It doesn't matter what the other person's intentions were -- whether they just wanted to say hello or congratulate you for a job well done by giving you a pat on the back. It's not always fair, but that really doesn't matter. So, anyway -- last interruption -- I promise. Anyway, they wanted to judge how much of me was each color, black or white, as if they could tell whether I was going to be uppity or behave myself well. No exceptions for particular settings -- like sometimes, and this would sound a little old-fashioned -- but we would have tea sometimes. No exceptions made for that -- who knows, I could be uppity sometimes and polite sometimes. But they would always assume that I was black by the way I acted. Of course, they knew I was biracial -- or else they didn't have many qualms about dating outside marriage, if they thought that other woman wasn't my mother, but I highly doubt it -- but they always treated me like I was Black -- even if they were Black themselves. Which is something I don't understand very well. Like slavery. Like I can understand -- though certainly not excuse, but enough about rednecks -- why'd you'd be fearful of someone who was a different race from you. You don't understand them -- you haven't developed the capacity to see beyond your own initial impressions of people. But it's like -- why would you want to act that way with someone who you were supposed to be unified with. You had a common enemy. Maybe they were afraid my behavior would reflect badly on all Black people, like my mother thought -- I think I told you that before. But of course, I was young, so I probably was misinterpreting everything wrong. But I really can't doubt my B.S. detector. I believe it's still in good working condition. So I know I must have been right.
What I am afraid of most -- I am off the topic of rednecks now, and I really mean it this time -- is losing my identity. I really would like to say some more about that. I just hope that I won't join some clique or club or even a loose online "gathering" of people who supposedly share some common interest, and then I go there, and there's nothing but idiotic -- amusing, but idiotic -- chatter about a myriad of any other topics -- like what people ate for breakfast -- though I know that's sort of a cliched example of a blog topic, but still -- shit -- words are really failing me now. I don't know what else to say. All I mean is that I don't want to become part of something that's supposed to be meaningful, and it turns out to be just another general group of friends. And believe me, I like friends -- even though you probably couldn't tell by the way I was talking before -- swearing at you even -- no, not at you -- with you. But enough of that, anyway. Like a political party. I know that's a really big group, but even with the corporateers, those CEOs who decided to get into politics because it was a nice way to bide their time, and would earn them a quick buck -- there are still people out there who are dedicated to changing the world. To stopping illegal wars started by greedy, money-hungry politicians who can lure the American people with a few well-placed, purposely ambigously-worded phrases about some dictator in a distant land we had no connection with until our own politicians gave him the weapons he needed to fulfill his dirty deeds. And the weapons aren't even there! But anyway -- enough with that thinly-veiled political rant. Not that I really wanted to veil it anyway -- I purposely sacrificed a decent segue so I could preach to you. And like I said before, don't conjure up any images of stereotypical Black people in stereotypical roles -- like preacher, which is what came to my mind. Oh no, here I am, bringing down the race again. No -- I'm not stupid enough to -- what the hell am I saying? I need to have confidence in -- but I do have confidence -- I just have incorporated some of the images created by the White-run media to -- shit, here I am, ranting again. But, as before, I could give a fuck about how my segues turn out.
Which reminds me -- I would like to own a Segway. Well, no, not really -- I'll have you know you can build one of those things by putting a third wheel on a plain, old-fashioned scooter. I just mean that I would like an easy place to get from here to there. I must admit -- I was taken in by the whole metaphor of the thing, though probably no one else noticed it, because I most likely just made it up. I guess I am just intrigued by the idea that you can cut through the hordes of busybodies that would otherwise block your path -- they are going in a myriad of different directions -- and you can just completely intercept them -- cut right though their x and y-axes -- and no, that wasn't supposed to be a sexual metaphor -- with your own zig-zaggy -- that's not a word, so sue me -- z-axis. And I just find that intriguing on so many levels. Well, for one thing, I would like to leap from one thought to another, the way the myth of the mighty, all-powerful Segway leads me to believe I can glide across town in a flash. I want to start off with a fuzzy, obscure hypothesis, and end with a beautiful, logically sound and coherent-sounding -- conclusion. That is my goal -- to impress the world -- or at least myself -- with the death-defying speeds at which I make order out of chaos, sanity out of insanity, and wine out of water. Not that I am religious. Oh, fuck it -- you wouldn't believe me. And that was a bad comparison anyway. So sue me. I couldn't think of any more parallelisms.
One time, I was thinking I would like to make a shirt -- or at least to buy one -- I'm not the most creatively-inclined -- I like to think about designs for real-life products more than I would like to invent them. I know "products" covers a lot of territory -- and my writing is really suffering right now. I'm sorry about that -- truly I am -- well fuck it, you're not the boss of me. Anyway -- back to what I was saying. Shit, it's all wasted now -- it was just -- all right, already. So I want there to be a shirt that says, "So screw me." At least I thought I wanted that -- I think I changed my mind when I started reading Esscence -- yes I read that and it talked about "Troublesome T-Shirts." It picked my interested -- I don't know why -- most people my age aren't terribly interested in these kinds of issues -- and I just learned a lot from it, probably because I can read criticism of popular culture, the U.S. government and its people, and not get totally defensive, sensitive, aggressive, or hopeless. I don't know what it is about me -- maybe it's in my DNA or something, or maybe I've just always had to fight -- seeing as how I'm both Black and White. That wasn't meant to be a rhyme -- and surprisingly, I'm not about to go into a rant. I've just had to fight for acceptance in both circles. I'm like Jimi Hendrix -- he was too Black for White audiences, and too White for Black audiences. And he wanted to play for both of them. And that's what I want to do to -- though not play the guitar, of course. I'm a terrible musician, mostly out of lack of inclination to continue my lessons after I kept messing up Yankee Doodle. I don't know -- I think I could be really good if I just applied myself. And yes -- a regular guitar, not a bass guitar. Sorry -- almost started ranting again. Didn't mean to do that.
And here is something that you may find weird -- it is not my dad who buys the Esscence magazine -- though you wouldn't expect him to necessarily, since the magazine is catered to women -- but who it is is even more unlikely than that. She is someone you would think wouldn't have too much in common with the usual audience. That "she" is my mother. I don't want to be like, "Just because she's White, she can't read that" -- I guess it's just a little weird is all. At least to me. I don't want to judge White people the same way rednecks judge me -- I want to judge people who are rednecks, but here we go again, me talking about rednecks and I said that I wouldn't mention them anymore. So, like I said, I don't want to exclude her from being a connisseur of the magazine -- by that I mean I don't want to say that if she likes it, I want to change the rules so that she doesn't really like it, or that she likes it only because it's in vogue, or whatever. I mean, I guess it's kind of cool in a way -- I mean, your mother is reading the top source -- or at least magazine -- nobody, not even Essence, can capture the entire meaning of what it means to be Black, the importance of sending a positive message to each new generation of Black children about why should be happy about being Black and what they can do to empower themselves -- not that I think they are lazy or have taken to drugs or crime like the media portrays. Of course, some of them do -- but that information -- when it's exaggerated, is used to convey that image of our youth. Most of them are just looking for a Messiah -- someone to tell them that things really can get better -- that they're not always -- and should never be -- in competition to rise to the top by superficial means to achieve superficial ends. Now I sound like the opposite of what I want to sound like. Hope I didn't come across as conservative, like, "Those damn kids better shape up and stop listening to that hip-hop music." No, that's not what I meant at all. And I'm afraid that I'll imply that the media is contributing to kids turning to other things because of the images presented. I feel as though I'm apologizing for the kids for being a certain way -- and at the same time being an apologist for the media. I say, anyone who thinks they know you better than you do -- anyone who claims to be an expert, when you know, deep down, what your reasons are for living, what your motivations are for what you do -- those are your own damn business. Of course, I wouldn't say that with the word damn to the kids -- on second thought, I might. They need to see someone -- they need to see a Black person face the White-washed -- pun intended -- American media. On second thought, that so-called media would probably start a little media circus -- act like I'm the next Martin Luther King, Jr. But not in a good way. No -- I can't say that. Corporate puppetmasters -- disguised as being liberal and "tolerant" -- and you will do more than just tolerate me -- foam at the mouth at any chance to show the world their appreciation for the dead civil rights leader -- a few minutes of standing still, hands clasped, or arms crossed, holding a handbag or purse maybe -- the finer details don't really matter too much. Just so long as they can stand with fake solemnity long enough to fool an ignorant populace -- I'm not mad at them, they just don't understand the lengths -- if it really is that hard to pose for a minute -- at which their respected leaders -- and by that I mean both politicians, past and present-day, as well as overpaid public relations specialists -- and by that I mean journalists -- of their supposed appreciation, admiration, and gratitude for all the wonderful Black people that have fought for the equality of their people. This is thusly followed, when the cameras turn off -- maybe not immediately after -- want to preserve that fake sincerity for a second -- must practice for the next PR shoot -- by a huge sigh of relief, a round of bawdy laughs at inane jokes, including tales of those horrible, horrible times when you actually had to go and pretend to like someone for two seconds who actually wasn't one of the elite, "Cheating is working, stupid," class. Ha ha. How funny this all must be. So then they return to their White little homes -- I know they don't live in little houses -- after all, the only way to live properly is to make sure your undeserved, environmentally wasteful living quarters -- of which you only use about a tenth -- is to make sure a few more families have to spend a few more months looking for a new home as they are driven into debt and deeper and deeper into poverty. But you don't care it all comes back to you -- the only requirement to anything you do -- but I guess your home is the first thing you think of when making your brash, ugly mark on the world -- everybody's money will get to you somehow. You rely on the capital of the people, but that doesn't matter. I'm sure they don't mind working a few extra hours just for you -- just to keep you riding around in your nice cars, eating your nice meals, living in your nice homes -- all that stuff that you really need anyway. Yes, you certainly do.
Well, that's enough of my rant about the elite for the time being. And don't get me wrong -- when I say that the media is White-washed, or that these people live in White little homes, I'm not necessarily referring to their race -- although that was certainly a huge factor in receiving their unearned privilege, and that's the race I associate most with unearned wealth -- though I really don't want to stereotype. I hope you can understand that. But anyway -- White may be the race that most of these people belong to, but the elite class is expanding to including Black, Asian, Hispanic people, and others. Anyone who can be convinced that they will be protected -- or rather, their assets will be protected -- when they are surrounded by the comforting cloak of a scripted, rehearsed life -- well, I guess they are protected more than most people as a member of the elite -- but they still will be worse off because of their race -- anyone who can be forced to betray their people like that -- has been known to play along. And quite happily, for a while. I would say don't be offended when I said I associate White the most with unearned wealth, because I didn't mean to offend you, but I say, fuck that shit already! I'm sorry -- I'm just tired. But I mean every word I say. So don't get on me later, like you found some loophole in my argument that invalidates every point I just made.
I forgot what I was going to say about Martin Luther King, Jr. I made up this rant -- well, I had known the material for years -- I mean, I just took the time to insert it into my speech just then. Oh yeah -- well it's not exactly about Martin Luther King, Jr. -- just what I was going to follow that up with. I was going to say that they would -- and by that I mean the media -- would portray me as some hostile, aggressive, insane murderer leading dumb, delusional, impressionable kids away from all the good White people. I guess it's like how Malcolm X portrays -- well, actually that's exactly how he was portrayed -- except for the leading kids part -- that's why I just said all that, because I was thinking of him. Sorry for talking like this -- I forgot that I was saying this all to an audience instead of just to myself. Well, not really -- I knew I had one -- otherwise I wouldn't have said everything the way I did -- I just mean that I didn't exactly script what I was going to say, I just let it flow. But I hope I made a good point or two. No -- I know I made a good point or two, damn it. And if you listen to me for just a little while longer, I promise not to swear very much anymore. I can't promise none -- hell, I can't even promise not to swear a lot, that's how bad I am. I'm not bad -- but I won't go into a rant about how you're judging me solely based on the way I talk. And I don't mean to imply that it is okay to judge someone on how they talk and a few other superficial characteristics. But I shouldn't have to explain that to you. I mean, it's not your fault, because I chose to tell you everything anyway, give you all the subtle nuances of my speech so you don't have to look for them and find them yourselves. Which you should have to do. Okay, that's all I'm saying. I'm done, at least for the time being.
So, right now, I would like to think about myself a little more. I want to think about what the hell I am going to do with the rest of my life. I don't even know. Like I said before, I still want a mental Segway -- that hasn't changed yet. But, like I also said before, I don't want to be idle, either. I know those two things aren't mutually exclusive -- I can still tjink the way I always have been thinking -- which I think is quite good -- and still accomplish things. What I mean is that I am afraid I will turn into that type of person who always talks but never acts. Always thinks, but never gets involved. Always makes plans, but never follows up on them. That's what really scares me -- I may be repeating some of the things I said before, but that doesn't matter. I don't care anymore.
I almost, sort of, kind of want to take up some kind of religion. But I can't do it how my parents do it. They are not dictatorial -- they do not limit my normal behavior as a teenager -- not that I act up or anything, or take drugs or even have sex or anything like that. Not that I'm implying that most teenagers regularly do those things -- they do have lives, and goals that they're working towards. But enough of my trying to clarify everything for you. So, anyway -- they don't try to control me very much, and they don't enforce their biblical, all-knowing, omniscient, "God knows better than you do," doctrine on me every time I try to ask a question concerning the natural world -- and by that I don't mean necessarily mean nature in the purest sense -- I mean the physical world, the human world, though I did ask questions like, "Why do we get so many thunderstorms in the summer?" when I was young. No, more like, "Is it okay to have sex with someone if both of you love each other a lot and understand the risks involved?" or, "Should I feel forced to act like a different person just to impress someone I like?" You may be confused about my saying physical. When most people say tangible, they are referring to a physical object, something that can be touched, squeezed, or otherwise manipulated in some way. But I am also saying physical to include the tangible parts of our lives -- the situations we control with our words, thoughts, and actions. I said I probably shouldn't explain things to you anymore, or something like that -- I can't remember exactly what it was -- but this was vital to you understanding the rest of my explanation. Which is a weird defintion of tangible, and an odd way of having something be physical -- and that wasn't worded too well, I know -- but that's what it includes. And I just repeating myself now, so I will just get to the point that I was trying to make -- that my parents didn't say what I had to do or how I had to do it, and they didn't give me simple answers to complicated questions that have more than one answer. But I still don't want what they have. It just seems like too much of a vague, hazy spirituality. Not hazy because they do drugs -- they are not Rastafarians, of course, but I doubt that crossed your mind in the first place. But anyway, what they practice doesn't really seem to be grounded in reality. I guess it is delusional, though you would really have to contort the definition of delusional to make it fit. So I don't really know what they practice. I have heard my father mention that we are Christians in casual conversation, by "we," I was assuming he meant all three of us. I told him I was an atheist one time, and I think he thought I was joking. That was almost like the time he thought I didn't mean it when I asked him whether or not I looked fat. I don't think he means any harm, but he really doesn't seem to understand that his daughter is trying to tell him something important. Maybe I wasn't trying to make a decision -- I mean, I know I wasn't -- I had my mind made up, and was just choosing to inform him -- but it was still something he should acknowledge with some type of response. He doesn't even seem to react very much -- just moves his hand, purposely letting it fall and doing that weird little smile he does. I don't know what he means to convey, but I get the impression that he is rejecting everything I just told him, that he just thinks I am going through a phase, and, "Of course my way is right," kind of thing. I almost wish he would get mad at me. Maybe then I could at least feel like he's listening to me.
I know I like to dwell on everything that I'm thinking or feeling or anything that has poked its way to the surface of my psyche, basically. I don't even know what I want out of religion. If I wanted inner peace, I could meditate. If I wanted to worship a myriad of gods, I could take up Hinduism. Heck, I could even decide I'm Jewish if I decided I didn't like pork anymore. But all those reasons seem so shallow anyway. Not that I really want those things, nor would I call myself a member of a certain religion if I decided to do one of these things, especially since I would decide to do it out of my own free will, and not because I heard about it somewhere or read it online that it was a tenet of some religion. Anyway, all I really want is something I can connect with, and yes, I know that that was the reason many religions were started. But I want my religion to have some sort of connection to modern life. But I guess that can't really happen, since the whole point of a religion is to worship invisible creatures or follow a certain path to help you achieve some particular destiny. Not that there is anything wrong with either of those things, unless they take away your free will. Don't assume that I hate religion, because that isn't true. But maybe it was a little insensitive -- okay, maybe very insensitive -- to say invisible creatures instead of God or animals or whatever. And I know that a lot of people are very "grounded" by religion. They feel as if the world has been explained to them -- they know why they're here, what they should be doing while they're here, and where they'll go after they've done everything they're supposed to. For a lot of people, religion makes them better people. It wakes them up. I almost want to go into a rant and say that the reason they appear happier and more "alert" is because they have chosen the best way to delude themselves and smooth out the complexities of life because they would, though unintentionally, prefer not to deal with them. Although I know that that isn't always the case. Not that it is always that bad to fool yourself -- it can be a good thing. It can mean that you're searching for something, and you're out there all by yourself, and nobody can take away your path, nor prevent you from achieving it. If it makes you feel powerful, go right ahead, I say. If it gives you a reason to live, then, by all means, do it. But understand that what works for you may not work for me. And don't try to push your beliefs on me -- I am having enough trouble figuring out where I stand on certain things -- please don't cloud my mind with your pleasant-sounding but slightly confusing rhetoric -- I don't need to focus on anything other than that which makes sense. Although, I guess that is kind of weird -- using absolute faith in my own correctness to dissolve someone else's before I even hear it. But it is not really the same, since I do not assume I am right about everything, or even anything, sometimes. And I do not really think the same way those types of people do -- though there isn't anything necessarily wrong with it. I just mean that I actually weigh the merits of my potential beliefs on an objectively-valued scale. Yes, that was redundant, and I don't know if "objectively-valued" is a linguistically correct description. Besides, it's redundant, seeing as how if it's a scale, of course it's going to be objective. But even statistics can be maniupulated to suit a particular purpose. And I guess the value of my values is purely subjective, which would make "objectively-valued" less redundant. But, anyway, it's still a poor phrasing. Let's just leave it at that.
I guess I will leave it up to my values to decide which one of them takes the most importance in my belief system. Though I really don't want it to be a system -- it makes it sound like it can grow and evolve, yes, but only in the most limited and basic ways, like only according to certain guidelines. Which probably isn't really growth and evolution at all, though are some things you learn about the world, and the more you learn about a particular thing according to a certain set of values, the more you know about the world, period. Like, you can never be too human-centered about anything. Well, maybe if that makes you condone horrible, inhumane, and barbaric treatment in slaughterhouses, but that's not really what I meant. I mean that you can never find out too much about a particular culture without it helping you to complete your entire understand of the world. Now, obviously, you can't know everything about every culture, but you can judge by repeating patterns in history what certain countries are going to do, how their people are going to react, things like that. I wish there were more people who looked at patterns like that and were paid a lot more money. Not that they necessarily should be, since it's not that hard to figure out some things once you know a few cursory details about a particular culture or cultures. But think of what a valuable public service that would be. And maybe you think that I mean scientists, but I don't -- although science is important too. This person doesn't perform experiments, or even look for patterns in "data" in exactly the same way. They are just gifted -- or maybe they just have common sense -- observers of the world. People everywhere, when they found out certain information about American history, they would stop, right then and there, and give up everything they had ever believed before. Well, maybe not -- some people, well most people, actually -- have a few sacred tenets -- not necessarily religious, mind you -- that you can't touch with a ten-foot pole without making them upset. And by that I mean that you can't even approach them from an abstract point-of-view. That might even be the worst -- that what they believe is just another belief, another way of looking at things. But anyway, no matter how much that person's insight and wisdom -- or at least perceived wisdom -- helped to change people, as long as it affected everybody a little bit -- I think the world would be a largely different place than it is now. But in the world we live in, it probably couldn't happen. Those people -- those truly wonderful, creative people are never exposed to the world for too long, if they are at all. Maybe they have some sort of heavenly -- no, not in the strictest sense, but you should know that -- DNA. Maybe their code will never come around again because it is so valuable. And that it also why the world can only recieve it in small doses. Maybe it is so valuable that it will die out if it is abused. Now, I'm not saying I'm glad that musicians like John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Buddly Holly -- I'm not particularly glad they died. But at the same time, I'm kind of glad that they didn't have a chance to screw up their music before they stopped making it. It's like when one of your favorite TV shows is canceled while it's still in it's peak. You may have not liked every episode, but you appreciated the show's existence enough to be surprised, even offended, by whatever changes came along that would destroy your image of that show. I don't mean to imply that I do nothing but sit on my ass and watch TV all day -- not by any means, and you should have figured that out by now -- I was just making a comparison to a real-life experience -- no matter how small it really is, both objectively, and secretly, within your own mind -- to help you understand what I'm trying to say.
So, maybe when it comes down to it, I really just don't want to be confused, so I reject whatever does make me confused. Now if you're not familiar with me -- well, you don't have to be familiar with me -- if you haven't paid attention to a word I said, you would think that I would actually want to cloud my mind with pleasant things that make me happy. But this not true, and anyway I rejected that I would want to cloud my mind, using that exact word -- cloud. But anway -- what I'm trying to say is that there is a difference between cutting through the bullshit of religion -- again, did not mean to -- okay, never fucking mind -- I can't promise not to offend and say what I want to say at the same time -- to find your own path that is based upon values that you have decided for yourself -- and cutting through the complexities of everyday life just to ignore everything. Sometimes, it's like those people have been injected with a dead virus, like they've been given a flu shot or something. And on the one hand, it prevents them from catching the disease -- and by that I mean hardline religious thinking -- but at the same time, it permits them to keep parts of the religion in their systems enough to make them contradict themselves with logical thought and reasoning, and prevent them from seeing why they are doing that, or want to do that -- whether they know it or not -- when they do. I know that wasn't a very good explanation, but I don't really care. I can't think of one. On the one hand, religion isn't as harmful as it could be for many of those who practice it, but at the same time, it is alive enough to attack them. Yeah, I guess that's what I'm trying to say with that comparison the flu shot. Because, when you are vaccinated, the virus that is being injected into you is nearly dead, but not yet. You are trying to prevent yourself from being extreme, on the one hand, but at the same time, you still have the poison within you, and even when your body is fighting it off, and maybe you only get a cold or something -- again, this may not actually always happen, it is just part of the comparison -- you can't help from having parts of the extreme creep up every now and then -- you may feel violently ill sometimes, even if you don't intend to -- because your body is trying to get rid of the nearly-dead virus before it kills you, and at the same time, it has to remember that this virus still exists within the system. So I guess those changes are inherently a part of the balance between your psyche is trying to get rid of, but at the same time, has to keep a part of it for you to fuction correctly. Even if that virus is only a reminder to your body not to get some really bad disease. I don't even know what I'm saying anymore. If it is just a reminder -- but I never said that this would be a totally perfect comparison -- but that's what I was trying to do, so you would get it. Well -- fuck it all -- that's what I always say. Or at least right now.
Sometimes, I go to websites about nihilism, and that just makes me want to find a religion even more. It's like nihilism's compltete rejection of arbitrary rules that shape your life and prevent you from seeing the truth -- it's like that makes me want to find out that there is some absolute truth somewhere out there. Nihilism offers many hard truths -- and by that I mean hard to swallow, in addition to concrete -- about the world we live in -- but it doesn't offer any one simple truth, one that I can easily incorporate into my life. Of course, I could incorporate nihilism into my life fairly easily, but that's not what I mean. But the weird thing is, what I want out of religion is something based on reality. I want to see reality unfiltered -- yes, I want to see it like how nihilism sees it -- to some extent. Like I said before, I really have no problem with digestion uncomfortable facts about America or about the world -- they do not make me uneasy and make me have to defend something I don't even know that much about with a great deal of emotion. But even nihilism doesn't satisfy me. Now you might say that I am contradicting myself -- that I am both saying I don't want something more watered-down than nihilism, and that I want something even deeper than that -- something more than nihilism. I can take the truth -- I have absolutely no problem with it. But nihilism unnerves me for different reasons. While I consider myself to be a very realistic person, I also like to fantasize, though not in a religious way, and I guess it really isn't fantasizing -- anyway, I like to think that things can be better than they are now. I'd like to think that we really can achieve a pure democracy in America or something like that, and that the good guys will actually win eventually. So, as much I prefer to see things completely unfiltered, no B.S., as I've said -- well not exactly -- I've more or less implied my low tolerance for it, actually, but anyway -- I still like to believe that change is imminent, and that it can happen if everyone just puts forth a little extra effort to make it happen. But I don't think that that really clouds my judgment at all, it just gives me something to work towards, something to hope for. Which is why I guess I don't like nihilism very much -- it seems to be throwing everything away. And as much as I think it would be extremely cool and wonderful -- to say the least, I'm not good at thinking of complicated words to explain myself now -- to reject the unhealthy systems which we all live in day in and day out -- at the same time, I don't want to completely just throw away these systems -- I'd like to think that they are growing, living, breathing -- if you will -- systems where everything is not static, where fundamental details can be changed to create a much more beneficial system -- one that is actually useful and extremely helpful to the members of mankind, or whatever. A system that actually helps the society that it is a part of -- and maybe the entire world, if possible -- though I know we are not all exactly the same -- but I think I'm just dreaming now. I think I'm just fantasizing. But at the same time, I can't turn to nihilism for answers, even though that's what it provides -- maybe even because it provides those answers. I don't want answers -- well, of course, I do, and you know that I do -- but it's not the same thing to me. I think I would just feel hopeless were I to incorporate nihilism into my life. Which I guess is kind of the point -- to abandon looking for invisible, nonexistant goals to work towards. But I still don't think I would like it very much. But I think it would be very freeing, but feeling free is not something I necessarily want. Now -- don't get me wrong, I really am not fond of slavery, though that is beside the point. I want freedom, but at the same time, I want to chance to struggle. And maybe I consider that the true freedom, in a way -- not to throw everything out and start anew -- but to work with what you set yourself out to work with -- to do what you've decided to do, to change what you've decided the change. In other words, I can take the struggle, I can take the feelings of hopelessness, I can take the feeling that nothing is ever going to work out no matter how hard I try or however much I work. I don't really even care if my goals are ever achieved -- well, I mean, I certainly do -- but I would be perfectly content to toil on fruitlessly if I felt that what I was trying to do was contributing to some future -- even many, many centuries from now -- even if it was contributing to a future that I would never get to see, or see only tiny fragments of, only the beginnings.
So, my dad told me about this Patricia woman that called my house the other day. I don't know what to make of that -- she said that she was concerned about me because I was yelling that my family was Christian in the gymnasium several days ago. I mean, I can see why'd she be concerned, but honestly, I've actually sort of forgotten about it, so I don't really want to bring ip up. I'm not really mad at her at all, I just can't associate that with myself anymore -- I mean I know that I did it -- I just mean that it's sort of something that doesn't really feel like I did it, and besides, I already got the punishment for it, and nobody really seems to care about it anymore. So my dad had a nice long conversation with her, and here I was, wondering what in the hell that woman was saying. I wasn't really mad though -- more just curious. For some reason, my dad didn't get mad at me, and I'm not sure why -- though maybe it's because I was presenting the fact that we are Christians to a fairly large audience. I don't know -- like I said, my parents have this weird, sort of vague spirituality that I don't exactly understand. So, why would it matter if I professed your, not "mine," as you claim, "faith" to the crowd. It is weird, though -- because even though he does not indoctrinate with strict, arbitrary Christian principles that take away my free will -- of action, not of thought -- I am always able to keep control of my mind from whatever demons that may try to possess -- not that I believe in demons, or think that my dad is a demon, but you know what I mean. I was just making another inane comparison -- inane because I would rather prove a point by appealing to your emotional logic -- and yes, I know that sounds like a buzzword or a stupid made-up word that I just threw in to make myself look smart -- but I really do mean something by it. I mean that I can say something that makes you feel a certain way -- maybe it makes you uncomfortable, maybe it makes you sad, or confused, or whatever -- but then you think about it too. Not only do you uncover -- or rather, admit -- the reasons you were feeling angry or confused -- you also can see the issue from my point of view as well. So you learn from me, and have your empathy for others picked at the same time. When was the last time you really felt for someone? I'm not going to manipulate you by saying emotional, though illogical statements and making you believe them through insensitive manipulation, when I know that they are ambiguously-worded and very confusing. Not that I will do this by accident too much either. I will try not to waste your time by being nice -- well as nice as I can be, considering the particular aspect of the argument I am explaining -- and by making sense. Now, isn't that nice? Yes, I thought it was.
I can't believe I did it -- I just went ahead and called them. Even with my reservations about doing it that I so explicity expressed to that counselor woman at the school. It's nice that Jessica's dad didn't make a fuss -- I just wish I had told him about Sarah too -- but I guess I don't need to interfere with their lives anymore. I don't know why I was so concerned about -- nothing seemed to be wrong. The dad answered me with a sort of, "Don't worry about it -- she's like that all the time." Now, I really didn't perceive her as that type of person, so I think that at least for specific meaning, the dad was just saying some meaningless words. As for the underlying theme of it though, I think he is implying that it doesn't matter what she does with her life. I got a sense that even though he meant that -- or possibly meant that, I don't know for sure, but I can guess -- that he wanted to control her. Well, maybe not exactly. It was more that he knew he had this power over her that he could just wield by not paying attention to her legitimate concerns about following a certain religion. I am extrapolating enormously here -- I don't even know if they're Christians, or if they are followers of any particular religion. But it all seems to fit -- the dad is the strong, silent type -- friendly and fun, but you kind of have to follow his rules anyway. There's no way around it. Even though he's a nice person -- again extrapolating, but I got a nice response from him on the phone, didn't seem mad at all, though I would certainly give him reason to be -- I sense that he's sort of passive-agressive. He is not outrightly hostile to the children, but he won't let them grow. He isn't concerned about their well-being enough -- well, I shouldn't say that actually, because that's not what I mean. I mean more that he doesn't consider it essential to the development of their children into mature, responsible, healthy adults to provide guidance for their growth as well as giving them some certain set of rules to keep them stable. And I think it is important to let children come into their own -- let them discover what blueprint of the world works for them, and let them follow it, understanding that there may be consquences, but that you can't -- and shouldn't try -- to control them forever. Like I said, though -- he seems like a nice guy. I just wish -- and this may sound sort of ironic considering how I want him to let them -- or at least Jessica, I guess Sarah is still sort of just a little girl -- but I want him to offer his opinion about the questions that Jessica asks, even if he disagrees completely with her. Why? I just there to be some sort of dialogue, which I really don't think is happening right now. But actually -- and this is my real reason for wanting him to say something -- anything to Jessica when she has concerns about something -- is because I think it will help her the most in the end. Not to say that I have no respect for the father's beliefs -- I just think that it's not always appropriate to dictate them to her. But at least within a discussion, alternative viewpoints are being traded, and the father will know where Jessica stands -- if she is making her claims to some different lifestyle or way of thinking not previously advocated or enforced by her parents -- or if she has a certain question, his response will alert her as to whether or not he is comfortable with providing answers -- and if he isn't, or gives an unsatisfactory answer -- then she can find information on her own. But this whole silent treatment thing seems a bit disrepectful to me. He doesn't seem to want to listen. This whole analysis of their "situation" is starting to sound cliched and academic -- and, dare I say it, like something who professes themselves to be a special breed of intellectual -- not necessarily feminist, that's not what I meant -- would say. I'm even acted like I have the liberty to extrapolate information like that about other people that I don't even know -- at all. I know absolutely nothing about them -- despite the fact that because someone's teenage daughter made a random comment about their parents being Christians, that this could indicate a slightly rough environment at home. And by rough, I don't even mean that her parents hit her or anything -- not that that's not important -- it's just that I can't even proclaim that there was anything that needed to be done. I don't think I'll have any more contact with their family -- which I guess is kind of a relief, since I don't really want to have to deal with this anymore, however it turns out, one way or the other. If it's something bad -- and don't get me wrong, I don't want anything bad to happen, nor am I trying to escape from a situation that could potentially take a turn for the worst -- then I won't have to constantly worry -- am I messing things up by my continued interaction with the father? And if it's something good -- well then, maybe my call got some sort of a dialogue going. I think I sound sort of arrogant right now -- as if I was their saving grace -- like I just knew that I was helping them out so tremendously -- or if I didn't that I can just run away, leaving their lives in shambles without getting so much as a scratch on myself. But that's not what I mean at all. I just mean that either my phone call created minimal damage that I didn't exacerbate by calling more than once, or that, in the latter scenario -- if the outcome is positive -- that the one call was necessary somehow to creating a connection between them, but that any other interaction would have muddled this dialogue and created hostility when I mentioned other specific details.
I am afraid to feel like Robin Hood, though -- like I'm doing something noble like stealing from the rich to give to the poor -- not that I mean to imply that Black people are poor -- it's just an apt description because it fits the situation. The "poor" person could be the daughter -- remember, figuritively, hypothetically speaking -- the sweet teenager whose been deprived of any chance my her mark on her life, to paint with her own palette, to sing her own song -- I could go on, but it'd sound terrible if I did -- I think it did already -- and the "rich" would be the father, I guess -- the one who takes away her freedom for his own personal satisfaction and fulfillment. I don't really think he's like that, even if there is something going on. It's just that -- it's not a situation that I get involved in and try to help solve -- it's the idea that there is a situation because of me -- that I have the right to say anything I want and do anything I want precisely because I was so bold as to get involved. That's what I mean when I say I'm afraid of feeling like Robin Hood -- when I'm creating something out of nothing on purpose, for my own benefit -- and delude myself -- though I know the truth down to my very core -- into thinking that I am some kind of hero.
Of course, if something really does go horribly wrong because of the fact that I called, I could always get plastic surgery and skip town. No -- besides the fact that I have reasons that I refuse to change the way that I look -- and I don't mean anything against those women who are pressured by the media into getting that sort of change done -- I pity them so much, and wish I could help them. Now I just sound self-centered and preachy. But what I'm trying to say that even if there was a way I could get myself out of whatever scenario I created between the father and the daughter, I don't think I would want to. And yes, I know that that was an odd comparison. And I also have moral reasons for not abandoning people in the heat of a crisis -- especially one that I have contributed to -- at least in small part -- in creating.
I'm afraid that someday I'll be looking at a newspaper -- it will be on some rainy, idle Tuesday night, when I've got nothing else better to do but sleep, no demons to haunt me -- or so I think. The sky will have cleared up a bit, so I'll go outside nonchalantly -- interrupting my idle reverie about nothing in particular with another uneventful trip all of thirty-five feet to my front step to get the newspaper. I'll pick it up -- maybe expect to read about the war in Iraq, -- if that's still going on then -- the faults of the current administration -- nothing too pleasant, but still objective issues that I can think about, get furious over perhaps, and then let it go, summing up my feelings about those who disagree with me with a few pithy slaps to the forehead and the banging of my head onto the kitchen table. I will be pissed -- but I will get over it for a little while as I continue whatever dull but pleasant activity I was doing before I decided to read the paper. But instead, on the front page, there will be a scathing article about my callous, disgusting, insensitivity -- who would dare break up a happy home and lead the father to kill himself, leaving Jessica to take care of her sister and now pill-popping mother -- so overcome with panic and worry constantly -- the poor thing -- and cut her losses in such a slick, vile, barbaric, pathetic way. Not to mention -- and I am not overly concerned about maintaining my appearance -- there would be a really awful looking picture of me on the front page as well. One that makes me look absolutely evil and horrid, as if I have no other goals in life except to make innocent others miserable. And I will rue the day that I even so much as breathed a word about Jessica and her family. And maybe then, I really will decide to skip town, though that wouldn't help with my condition very much. I wouldn't lament my stupid, idiotic behavior any less -- there would be no way to forget what I had done. Okay, now I'm just letting this devolve into self-serving fantasizing again. Not that I want to cause harm -- I don't happen to have some morbid fascination with speading pain and misery -- or that I want to hate myself. I just mean that I let things take a turn for the worse because I feel that I have to to make up for whatever I did. Yes, I know it wasn't bad to have called the father -- and who knows, maybe some good will come out of it even. But I still worry -- worry that I'll rearrange the order of life and mess up some particular detail that kept everything in place, and would've ensured that everything would be okay -- until I came along and wrecked it. No bonfire would serve well to erase the past. That's something else I'm afraid of -- though, like the article, it'll probably -- or more likely, never -- come to pass -- is that I will leave my disgusting stain on the threads of time. Like Hitler and the Holocaust, they will "never forget" what I did that just changed things so much. Like that situation, "What if someone could have killed Hitler but kept being interrupted when he was doing it?" or, "Hitler's mother told the doctor she wanted an abortion." I'm just worried that people will make up hypothetical examples like that, "If you went back in time to kill Patricia Woods, and you failed, would you try again anyway?" or "Patricia's mother's doctor said that her next pregnancy would kill her." It is extremely paranoid and useless to think this way, I know, but I can't help it. I keep worrying so much. And I don't even have any selfish ends -- no reasons for wanting to get involved in some other people's lives except for having an altrustic desire to bring the father and daughter to some sort of agreement about how much he will interfere with her life -- no, really, as self-serving and passive-agressive that sounds. I would almost rather have my efforts be wasted -- you know, at least I didn't hurt anybody, maybe was a little inconvenience, but still -- nothing to feel guilty about -- than having things turn out well. Well, I mean, of course I want them to. I just mean that I'm tired of waiting. As you can see, waiting makes me extremely anxious -- I want to know right now how things seem to be turning out -- so I can take the appropriate course of action before my paranoia overwhelms me.
I have figured it out now. I have discovered the secret that Dan was hiding about his dad with the creation of the school.
Dan's father had been a relatively small-time architect, but he got his big break after he finished the project he was working on before -- Oakley's Pub and Grill. Winstead Oakley Jones was the name of the sole bartender at the place, the one Dan's father built for him -- an odd name it would be now, but you have to remember that this was back in the 1960s -- when change was being ushered in faster than you could think the words, "women's liberation," "integration," or even "civil rights," but there were still the "good old boys" remaining. He wasn't one of them -- he was an anomaly that had had the misfortune of being born several decades earlier -- in 1922. Dan was the first in his family to go to college -- he was right about the military thing -- except his dad wasn't in the military, but the idea was the same -- you would spend your life doing something "beneficial" to society, not furthering your own interests. I don't mean to imply that construction wasn't beneficial, and that it wasn't important, but I just mean that it was lucky that Dan's father actually enjoyed building things for people. He was busy a lot of the time, but he didn't get a glimpse of fame -- more like he got a lot of "referrals" from people who had
enjoyed the work he did.
There was nothing architecturally special about the bar -- it was made out of a relatively nice pine wood -- but that was about it. But he had a special client, and that's why word got out. At first, only the old curmudgeons really made a fuss about it -- most other people either squirmed in their seats and smiled politely, attempting to bear this new information as best as they could, but later on, a group of "hippies" -- at least that's what many of them were called when asked to promote it -- made it acceptable to enjoy this type of bar.
Of course, it wasn't really a type -- that was just how the older generations of the town perceived it. They had to pretend that it was an incredibly hard experience for them -- that they were doing something really extraordinary and wonderful by going there. People liked to get drunk in Maryland -- no question about it. That was just sort of one of the "givens" of the town, something that was just accepted, but never discussed. Just like guns. But, of course, rape was turned into a big issue. I don't mean to imply that it's not important -- they just didn't draw attention to it for the same reasons that you or I might -- taking away a woman's freedom to decide when she wants to have her body used for sex. But it was just the sex part that perturbed them. They were offended by it. Well, I shouldn't say just the sex part, actually -- I mean they were concerned that someone had harmed one of the town's children. But they always talked in terms of "purity" and virginity. They would say, "That girl was deflowered before it was her time," which I guess implies that they don't want her to "spoil" herself before marriage. Now, I do not make light of rape, but I would think their conversations about it should have centered around her rights being violated. But that really wasn't the style of the time.
Anyway, for people who claimed to have the "final truth" about issues relating to sex, and violence -- rather that, one shouldn't be tolerated while the other was just an unfortunate occurance that they had no control over -- they had a bit of trouble "seeing the light" when it came to issues of race and anything to do with it. Or maybe I should say they could only "see the light," so to speak. There were two "sides" -- the "proper" side, and the "filthy" side, if you know what I mean. The proper side has sound moral values, "correct" beliefs, a "low tolerance" for anyone who dared to "disturb the quiet," so to speak. The "filthy" side had promiscuous sex, wild parties, and lived lives full of nothing but poverty and crime, at least in their eyes. Well, it just so happened that Dan's father got into a lot of trouble for building a bar -- and it was a bar for one of "them." Now, the reason that nobody much minded at first was because they all thought business would go straight to hell -- there was no way one of "them" knew how to attract customers, manage money, or earn a profit from selling drinks. So it was only the older folks, the ones who weren't even polite enough to keep their beliefs to themselves. Nobody made a fuss about it for a little while because they though there was no reason to. But after a while longer, Winstead Oakley Jones started getting more and more customers -- younger people who were a bit more "color-blind." They had a good time and enjoyed hanging out there with their friends on the weekends. Well, they just couldn't believe that their kids were going to a place that catered to "both sides". They went there under the guise that they were concerned about their young adult children drinking, but of course, that didn't bother them very much at all. They just couldn't believe that not only was a Black man running a successful business, that he was attracting "others like him," thus "disturbing the quiet" of their peaceful little town. They even tried to boycott the place, until everyone finally caught notice and they just looked like fools. There was no way their town would ever be the same again. And here's where the "hippies" come in. Some creatively-inclined students at University of Maryland at College Park decided to make a satirical advertisement for their Influence of Art in Media class. Everybody seemed to get the joke, but the boycotters didn't see it as one.
"Winstead Oakley Jones makes the best swill in town," the ad read, "But I won't tell if you won't." Of course, people did "tell," and the bar became the first popular integrated bar in the Southeast. But that was just a place for the grown-ups to drink liquor, but it paved the way for another facility -- an integrated high school -- which was practically unheard of in the South in the late 1960s. Nobody forgot who started the bar, but they appreciated Dan's father for actually building the structure that came to see its share of fame. Some of the more liberal workers in the town -- at least those who weren't
uncomfortable admitting they lived in White privilege and wanting to take the first steps out of it -- quit their jobs and decided to start their own company. I say "company," not "companies" because they just decided to work together as a team of contractors. They called Daniel Thomas, Sr. -- which was the name of Daniel's dad -- and told him that they had seen the ad, and that they knew about him, and would he be interested in being the chief designer on the team. They got a government grant -- somehow -- from the state -- and work was underway for the high school.
But everything wasn't completely all right with the construction of Daniel Thomas. It turned out that the wood they were going to use, Red Cedar, one of the more common types of wood in that particular part of Maryland -- couldn't withstand cooler temperatures. And it turned out that Maryland was going through a highly unusual "ice age" or so it was for them. And it was fairly cold -- temperatures reached only about 55 degrees in the summer. They had two choices -- either find a stronger wood -- a route which wood require them to re-think some unique structural elements they had in place that worked particularly well -- or bail out of Maryland and take the project a little further South. And that's how they ended up in North Carolina.
So I guess it's not really much of a secret in the way you were hoping. And frankly, not how I was hoping either. And, as you know, my skills of deduction aren't good enough to just guess at all those details.
I called her back. I told her what happened. I don't know if she's very impressed or not. I think she's sort of relieved that there wasn't some big secret she had accidentally revealed, no code she had broken that would undoubtedly and irrevocably disturb the sands of time, the hands of fate. That sounds kind of like the name of a bad soap opera, or maybe a motto for one -- "As we crawl through the maze of mystery, so do we follow the sands of time." Not very original, I know, but as you heard before, the best thing I can do with words is attempt to be subtly sarcastic. That sounded a bit like the Days of our Lives motto, didn't it? I think I subconsciously got it from there.
But I'm not disappointed. Really, I'm not. I think it's kind of a nice thing that happened -- his father having been a tiny part of history or something. But now I just feel guilty again. I said I wouldn't, but I do. I'm guilty of not being guilty enough of my white privilege, or so it seems. I know I grossly exaggerate things like this. But I sort of look at those moments as progress, which seems sort of arrogant in a way. Why? Because it makes me think that I should be doing more. That an integrated bar is a cool thing, but if anything, it should serve as a reminder for me to continue my goal of making the whole world integrated. Besides that being a poorly phrased sentence, please don't get in your head the idea that I want to be Superman or something. I don't want to be the "Great White Hope" or whatever that is. I don't even think that means the same thing. But anyway -- I can't stop feeling bad about things like this. And I feel like being liberal is the new way not to give a damn. It used to be those conservatives who were those goddamn, no-good, evil thieves who wanted to leave the poor out in the cold just so they could enjoy a few more moments counting their gold coins. And not giving their employees the day off for Christmas. Or giving any money to charity. Okay, so maybe that sounds more like A Christmas Carol. And that is where I got it from. But you have to admit, it works pretty well.
But I can't help feeling bad whenever I go online and get masochistic on myself. I read about controversial issues like affirmative action. And I read about someone who doesn't like affirmative action because it's racist -- because it unfairly makes a person's race the reason they got the job, instead of getting to prove their abilities like everybody else. On the one hand, I can see that it could be considered offensive -- look at my application, dammit -- not the letter in the race box. But at the same time, I know that it isn't really used that way. Minorities still have a hard time getting into a good college -- despite the myth amongst conservatives -- I would guess other ones, probably -- that Blacks have special "privileges" that enables them to bypass all the rules for qualification -- and finding a good job -- you know, one with benefits that don't expire once you miss a day, a secure retirement fund, decent working hours, wages that match their abilities -- things like that. The point I always think to myself is that nobody at all paid attention to them before, and affirmative action made employers give Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and anyone else "of color" -- the chance to succeed -- or more accurately -- a fraction of the chance that White males were currently getting. But I don't mean to rant, and I really can see other points of view. I just wish I had the nerve to say mine. More than that, I wish I had the nerve to write so forcefully and so strongly that nobody would be left unconvinced of the merits of my argument, but I feel like I couldn't even do that. See, I don't even want to change a person's mind -- I just want to get them to see things in a different way -- I want them to incorporate my view with their own. Maybe they could learn something. But I wouldn't say that. And even if I did go through with my half-assed persuasion, I would still have to say that I learned something from what they said, and that they have opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.
But now I just feel like I'm calling attention to myself again. I don't know what else to do -- either I can stay here and do this -- let you take a glimpse into my multifaceted, although fragmented -- mind -- or I can swallow it up -- and by "it" I mean my guilt and pointless, fruitless searching for every flaw I possess. But I want to be perfect. I would love to be perfect. I would love to think and say the exact right things every second of the day. I would love to be able to adapt to any new ways of respecting people -- and that sounds odd, and you probably don't know what it means. I think I really could have phrased that better -- I just mean that I want to be able to know how I should act -- and not just so I can be "P.C." -- but because I want to respect people -- when there is another group of people, or there is a national crisis or something. Mostly, I just basically cry my eyes out for those. Maybe deluge my sorrows with an extremely tart-tasting, surprisingly ineffective glass of antiseptic wine.
I feel like I should at least call Jessica's father one more time -- just one phone call, and it would be to say I'm sorry. Sorry that I said what I said, and for intruding -- even though I didn't really -- into their lives. I just keep feeling guilty -- and once again I don't want to come across as arrogant with my misery -- like I want to rub the fact that I'm feeling such-and-such a way, and that you should pay attention to it, even though I'm not even feeling that way. But I am.
For the last class of "Definitions of a Modern Woman," we were asked to write a poem that summarized what we had learned from the class or how it had made us felt, that sort of thing -- basically, how it had filled our heads and our hearts -- as corny as that sounds. I didn't get a standing ovation, or wild cheers from the audience -- but people did smile at me. They appreciated what I had to say -- and I am grateful for that. I was glad to have grown the way that I did. I feel more perceptive -- though I wasn't imperceptive. It's weird though -- it's like I can care more -- or I should say have greater understanding and awareness of -- certain issues that I didn't realized existed -- but at the same time, I become more aware of the strengths I already had. And there is something deeply moving and powerful about that. And it's not as weird a feeling as you might imagine -- just a weird thing to notice. I don't know what point I'm trying to make with this, and no doubt I'll just ramble on if left to my own devices, so I think I'll share with you the poem I wrote at the class:
Defining me, the class was called --
Well, not exactly, but it called out to me
All the same --
I wanted to grow and expand --
And I did --
I grew fat from knowledge and tasted
The fruit tree of wisdom --
Learning the richness of our past --
And the diversity of our goals.
But I'd like to think that we all
Have the same message --
A cleaner world, more responsible government,
More women in the media --
But at the heart of all this is a message --
What we fight for, when we ask to retain our
Rights to our bodies, the liberty to form
Our own sports teams --
We are asking for a voice --
We are asking to be represented
In a world of thought that has
Never failed to discount certain voices
As less worthy, less important, less meaningful.
I would rather have a soul, than live in death for
The rest of eternity --
So I think that I learned more about defining us --
Than defining me.
I learned that across nations, cultures, and the chaotic
Hands of time, confounded and confused by history books
And documentaries --
Is one resounding message.
But I think the fruits of our labor come
From the soil we enrich ourselves with,
From the diversity in beauty we possess.
And it is a labor of love --
And thankfully, I have found the tools
I need for the journey.
So maybe it doesn't exactly flow the way a poem should, but I think I like it anyway. I actually spent less time on it than some other people did. I can tell -- I didn't have the same care for the words I used, and I didn't really mind that I repeated the word "diversity" twice. The writing could have been better, but I think it's perfect anyway. I think it reflects me because I didn't edit it. Now that's not saying that it is good to be lazy when you write -- but I'm glad I didn't go back and correct every minor little detail just because it didn't flow right, didn't sound right, or something. In other words, I'm happy with imperfection -- because it is perfectly me.
And kind of -- who gives a fuck about defining what a modern woman is anyway? I'm not saying I'm sorry in the least that I signed up for the course -- no, quite the opposite -- I am grateful for the opportunity to have such a great experience -- but is the point of Modern Feminism really to define ourselves? We have been doing that every day -- ever since the beginnings of time. When our husbands emerged from the cave to hunt woolly mammoths, and we were there -- looking at the sky and sensing that conditions weren't right, and that it would be foolish for him to go on the hunt. But maybe there is a better example than that. How about every day -- when the rights of women to speak are marched on, stomped on, shoved into the ground. Like, at the board meeting -- why were you the one who was asked to get the coffee when you clearly had something to contribute. Or in school -- though I guess it's not nearly as common now -- and your hand is passed over for someone who must know the answer more than you do -- since you obviously are not capable of synthesizing vast quantities of information and making an important statement.
I feel as though I live in two words -- I don't mean to undermind anyone else's struggles, but I feel like I constantly have to switch between fighting two evils -- White privilege and male privilege. And I am caught on both sides -- I feel an attachment to both causes. I am not making light of racial problems -- I just feel like I'm the wife of a "pioneer" in the West back when the country was being started. When I see him shoot buffalo and threaten the American Indians with money -- a fate far worse than death -- I feel like calling out. I feel that there is violence and injustice, and that, as a woman, I cannot allow cultures to be displaced, guns to replace meaningful dialogue. But at the same time, I am benefitting from the privilege of being who I am. Because I am White, I get certain things. I get a home to live in and a place to raise my children. It is easier for my husband to find work. I would have given anything, or at least I would like to think, to have been on the other side. To be completely blameless and free of shame about the world the people I knew created. Yet I was in a position of submission -- I wasn't allowed to take control of where we built our home. Still -- even though I had the feelings but not the power or the influence -- I feel like that is irrelevant. Couldn't I have done something?
The fact that Daniel Thomas was the first integrated high school in the South will seem like nothing more than an interesting, slightly charming -- okay, maybe that's not the right word -- fact, safely tucked away in the annals of history as a few words in a textbook or maybe a Trivial Pursuit question. But there is much more to it that has to do with the situation between the father and the daughter -- but I think that blew over -- I don't think much of anything really happened with that. Patricia told me she called the father and they had a good conversation, that he was a nice person. She said she suspected something was up with the father not allowing the daughter a fair say in her life -- I don't really mean it was nothing -- I just mean I think it's pretty much a closed wound now. In other words, I think there isn't much more to say about it.
Every couple of years, there is a play that commemorates the history of the school. There are basically two sides -- the crotchety old white people, and the black people and the younger people. Everyone sort of gets into whatever part they play. It is an open audition, so whoever gets into the play is often surprising -- like, you wouldn't expect that quiet girl who sat in the back of the class to sign up for an audition. But some people just care enough about these things to try for a part in the play. I don't mean to imply that it's revoultionary anymore, this topic -- but it gets people talking -- even those who might not otherwise. I don't know how things have changed since the school's beginnings, but I suspect that not much has. I guess it's just one of those traditions that doesn't get trampled on because it is too "quaint" or too "old-fashioned." I'm glad that the children -- I mean teenagers, sorry -- I'm just glad that they still see the value of something like this.
So, as I was saying, there is a lot of fuss about the play at Daniel Thomas for a couple of weeks before the play. And a lot of fake disputes are created between both sides. Sometimes, two kids will start it in the middle of class, and at first the teacher is a little frustrated with them and asks them to quiet down, but then the dialogue will start to get interesting, and more students will decide to participate -- mostly as secondary characters, yelling things like, "All right!" and "Hey, that's not fair!" in the background. It makes quite a show, and if you happened to walk by the classroom and overhear some of the "performance," you would be convince that something serious was really going on in there.
I'd like to think that this was all -- that the banter and fuss made about the play was all positive. Unfortunately, that's not the case. When I got off the phone, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I forgot to tell Patricia something. Of course, when I told her that it would be really stupid if she called, I was just kidding -- I just meant that it would start up that fake rivalry and get people talking about the history of the school again. But there is something else. Beyond the good-natured fun of the impormptu performances is a heated discussion about religion -- who was Christian, who wasn't, who was more likely to fight on "the good side" -- believers or non-believers. People with either stance make valid cases for their positions. The "hippies" -- this time I'm including anyone who supported integration, not just the designers of the satirical advertisement made at the University of Maryland for Oakley's Pub and Grill -- were Jesus freaks who believed in tolerance and respect for your fellow man -- things like that -- and the curmudgeons were soulless, godless atheists who thought that nature rightfully kept seperate races apart. Others were as equally passionate in support of the other view -- that the hippies were the rational ones -- though the curmudgeons weren't really rational at all, but you know what I mean -- and that those against integration were Bible-thumping, Fundamentalist lunatics who burned crosses in secret. I doubt they burned crosses, but their whole attitude does seem to reflect a kind of moralistic, paternalistic worldview. Of course, the whole thing pretty much dies down within a few days of the performance of the play, but even with the progress made in Maryland with racial issues, it is clear that there are still divisions that inspire the same fiery devotions to either one side or the other.
I'm going to be in the play -- the one at Daniel Thomas about the foundings of the school and all that.
I guess you would expect me to be on the Black side. Now, surprisingly, I'm not going to go into a rant -- at least about that. It's a nice story and everything -- two sides, one stuck in the past, the other firmly planted in the guture. The old people learn how to drink at a bar with a few people they used to criticize and belittle. Some people get together and decide they want things to be better, let those sweet Black kids get an education, and bam, our school is born. It's all very good, with its metaphors and grand themes about life -- nothing is gained by hating your fellow man, if you can't love the one you want, love the one you're with, that sort of thing.
I just can't take the religion part of things. I wish my dad would listen to me when I tell him that the people who supported integration were religious. It just kills me inside, quite frankly. I'm tired of religion being associated with all these good things -- love, tolerance, respect, patience. If Christianity were a peaceful religion, why did we have the Crusades? Why did the immigrants from Europe try to convert the Indians, totally displacing them from their lands, and killing and raping their people? Of course, when people say that people were doing things in the name of religion, it seems to be the case usually that they were doing it under the guise of religion. Now, I'm not saying people can't be sincere about Fundamentalist, hardline Christian beliefs, just that the people who say they are guided by religion often aren't -- in other words, they don't even really believe that what they are doing is divinely right or anything -- they are there to divide and conquer, kill and destroy -- and nothing else. I don't mean to paint the majority of Christians in this bad of a light, though. I'm just tired of people saying they have "seen the light," when they convert to Christianity, when really they have just deluded themselves. I'm not saying it doesn't make the world a more pleasant place, just that you have to sacrifice some of your logical reasoning when you convert. I think I've been through this before, though. And I can't take, no matter how sincere, the "I'm right and you're wrong," method of discussing particular topics. Now, sometimes it is appropriate to play on people's emotions so they can understand the cause you're trying to promote. That is not the same as saying, "Well, what about all those cute little babies you're killing in those awful, awful abortion machines." And I just want to say, "Shut the fuck up," but of course I don't. The worst people -- the people whom the majority of this rant is targeted towards -- are those who say things like that and get away with it. And it just makes me want to scream. I think to myself, "No, you don't want to protect sweet little babies -- you want to make women who have made up their minds, deliberated over the facts, and have done a lot of soul-searching -- to feel guilty about their decision. You want them to give up all their other 'liberal' values too -- like actually caring that our nation starts violent, illegal wars for their material gains." And I just can't take it anymore. I'm tired of thinking about this. I shouldn't have to. And I don't think I will anymore for right now.
That play sounds like a pretty cool idea. I know it has been around since the creation of the school, so "idea" really isn't the correct term, I suppose. Oh well -- you know what I mean. I just wish I could go see it. Unfortunately, I can't -- I have to work that night. You would think, seeing as how I'm the boss of my own business, I could just close the place down or something. But I can't. And I don't want to. It's not that I don't want to go -- I just really need to get some more work done. Only, this time, it's a different kind of work. It's sort of a personal project. I am going to make a collage. Well, that kind of makes it sound like I'm going to cut out pictures from a magazine and glue them onto a piece of paper or something. I guess that's not really the right word for it then -- collage. No, it's more like a web, or a map of ideas. Admittedly, it won't make me more efficient with my work or help me write better presentations. But I think it will point me in the right direction when it comes to answering the question -- what is the definition of a modern woman? Now, I know there are several, and I even said that we have been defining ourselves since the beginning of time or whatever. But I need to make this web. No, it's not life-threatening if I don't do. But I'd like to think that I could leave with a few final thoughts that would summarize the message I got from thinking about feminism and talking to Jessica's father. I hope that I can tie those things together somehow. The class I took -- "Definitions of a Modern Woman," will be my launching pad, of course. I could rant on and on about my psyche, I could list pages and pages of reasons why I am a feminist -- but I won't. I'm not going to kill myself this way any longer. But at the same time, I am not going to avoid answering the harder questions about myself. And maybe, at the end, you will see where I stand. Here goes my half-assed persuasion again. And maybe you will be able to make some connections of your own, as I explore these topics in greater detail. I never could really appreciate graphic organizers in school -- I always just wanted to write a lot, even if it was simple, boring notes. It didn't matter. But now I have come to appreciate them a bit more. I can be creative without specifying it. That sounds weird, and I'll admit it was oddly phrased, but let me just explain what I mean. It's like writing a poem with implied syntax -- like, your readers know where breaks between lines are, all the commas are, things like that. Except it's not really the same. I just more mean that lines between concepts imply connections between them, without my having to tell you why I think this should go along with this. I have the basic outline for it already. In the middle will be "Definitions of a Modern Woman" with a circle around it, to imply that it is the central theme. I already think that my branches will be preceeded by the topics "Racism," "Religion," "Puritan Values," "Race/Sex Correlations and Dichotomies." Yes, I know the last category sounds like the name of a badly-written dissertation more than a web. I think I will probably change it -- especially since their would be too much overlap with "Puritan Values." Or maybe I should just chuck the whole damn thing altogether. No, I have to follow through. I'm tired of having common sense. When I was a girl, my mother did not tell me that I was screwing up my life through bad decisions -- or through the lack of good decisions. I studied hard, didn't stay up too late, didn't drink or smoke. I think she wanted me to take more risks, which is why she would say, "You know, it's your own life -- you're allowed to screw it up," as if she wanted me to go ahead and make a mistake already, destroy my life before it's even begun. But of course, I toild through, and I finally got where I am today -- the head of Meaningful Media Industries. Sometimes I wish I just could have chosen a completely different path in life. I know that everyone at least reminisces -- if not because they are disappointed with their own life, but because they are curious -- about what other roads they could have taken, decisions they could have made. Jobs they could have passed up. Or taken. Hobbies they could have pursued, trips they could have taken, et cetera. But I still feel like I've made the right decisions. I would always get scared in high school that I would wake up and realize that I had done all the wrong things -- that I wasn't working hard enough in school to pay for college and had to quit and get a job at McDonald's, that I didn't have enough extracirricular activities, and was going to be punished in some way, shape, or form. Of course -- as it is now -- none of those things were really going to happen. And deep down, I didn't believe they were. But on the surface I wanted to be scared in a way, if it was the only thing that would keep me trying harder to improve myself. I was afraid to quit.
I think I'm going to go to bed now. It is only about 8:30, but I think I need to rest up for the last several hours before I start my project. I'll see you sometime tomorrow, hopefully rested and ready to go. And at least if I go to bed this early I can always wake up in the middle of the night, discombobulated and bleary-eyed, and get a head start. But I don't think I will do that. I think will just go to sleep. Maybe spend the few minutes that I am semi-conscious planning what I am going to say to Dan. I know he will be worried about me. I have to relieve his fears. I am doing something incredibly stupid that will waste a lot of time, and will probably not make me very healthy in the end, but he can just continue to calibrate the staplers or whatever the hell he said before -- just stand the hell away from me while I make myself go insane.
I got a call from Patricia. She sound restless as hell, like she was getting ready to do something. Now, mind you, she didn't sound upset or mad at me, but it seemed like she just wanted to share some urgent information with me before she did something else in preparation for it. I think she is really just going to sleep -- I don't know why I'm using all these words to explain something so simple. But I think she thinks of it has training for the marathon or something. It's several days before the race, but you stay dedicated to your fitness plan, your nutrition plans, et cetera. You take it just as seriously as you do the race. You are "hardcore" now. I was going to tell her, "Wish you luck," or something like that, but she hung up before I could say anything. I just heard, "I'm going to sleep now, Dan. I'm working on a web to help me define feminism." Maybe those weren't the exact words, but you get the idea. Then she hung up, and that was the last I heard from her. I probably just would have sounded stupid anyway. She doesn't see me like that. But maybe she is just polite enough to conceal her displeasures with my ignorant redneck ways. Not that saying "Wish you luck" would indicate anything about my level of ignorance -- I guess it's just not the most probing question I could ask. I don't mean I want to pry, but sometimes you need more information. Why did you decide to do it? Do you think you can manage such a large undertaking? I don't really know how hard it is -- those were just some examples. And it can be the sign of a caring person if they question what you are going to do. I know that I'm caring, but I didn't try to make her think through the project a little bit. Or even if they doubt you from the start, if the doubter can express it tactfully and politely enough. But at the very least I could have said something a bit more modern and a bit less quaint. But enough of that. I think I'm starting to act like Patricia a little bit -- always criticizing everything I say and do. But I don't think I'm really like her. I just tend to stay out of harm's way -- to not doing anything so I won't hurt anyone. Sometimes, I wish I were more like Patricia though -- it seems like she took a few risks to get where she is now. But, strangely enough, she didn't hurt anyone or anything -- except any reasonable show of pride she had left in herself. I tell her I hope she won't kill herself. I know she's not suicidal -- I just want her to feel happy about who she is. She can manage all these other complex things -- like race as it relates to feminism -- I heard her mention that one day at work -- without completely destroying her ego. I think I will just lay low for a while. I can sense that she probably won't want me to interfere with her for a while. I'd leave the office, but I think I'm too attached to the place to do that. And besides, she needs me there to provide the irreverant humor I am so renowned for offering. That was just a joke. I hope you think it was a better one. Maybe being around people with certain characteristics can help me improve myself with those particular characteristics. But I guess not, since I've stood near Patricia, taking in everything she says and still not understanding a lick of it. I mean I do know what a lot of it means, but I want to have the deep understanding that she seems to. But I think I will just get out of the picture now. No more character osmosis for me.
I really had intended to say more to Dan, but I hung up before the words came out of my mouth. I hope he doesn't feel like he has to completely avoid me for the next couple of weeks. In fact, I hope that he can walk by every forty-five minutes or so just to check up on me. It irritates me so much when people do that, but I think I will need that irritation to keep me stable. And so I can say that I haven't completely alienated myself from other people, that I'm still maintaining human contact. Dan often -- well, maybe not often, but often enough for me to be reminded of it -- asks me how suicidal I am today. Anyone who decides to stop and listen to us because we have picked the interest and extreme empathy will be disappointed, or, I guess I should say, relieved, when I reveal in the minutes after that I feel like I'm not giving myself enough credit, that I'm committing "ego suicide." It is sort of like making yourself feel worthless for no reason, but it is different. The term sounds a bit like the name of a heavy metal band, doesn't it? Anyway -- enough about me, or at least enough directly about me.
Hello -- it's me again -- you know that woman who said she wanted to feel worthless about herself even after she's done something? That's me. My daughter has been thinking about a lot of things lately. Well, duh -- but you know what I mean. I look at her as she talks to her father. I remember when she said she wanted to be an atheist, and my husband just paid no attention to it. I mean, he heard the words, but he diluted them. It's not -- "I'm expressing to you what I truly am, so I'd appreciate it if you gave a flying fuck," but, "I'm just your flightly hormonal daughter who is going through one of her phases as a teenager. Please ignore me until further notice." I'm not saying he doesn't recognize her achievements, but this isn't about that. I love that he encourages her to keep striving for more, to get even better grades than she has already, to take on more extracirricular activities. But that's not the point. And it's kind of disturbing, in a way. It's like, you see your daughter doing all these wonderful things with her life, so why don't you respect the fact that her opinions are being altered as well? I want to say something, but I don't know quite how to say it. On the one hand, I want to confront him, tell he what he should be saying -- while Jessica is in the room, watching us. But at the same time, I know that Jessica and her father have such a strong bond that even conflicts of this nature would not tear them apart. But the defense would mainly be on Jessica's side. She would say something like, "No, give Daddy his due." I'm surprised how formally she says things sometimes. But maybe she would mean that sarcastically, and she would run out of the room, enraged with both of us for trying to control her. But even if she didn't explicitly say it, I would know that she feels more connected to her father when things are heated. I can tell that it hurts her very much to have to betray her father's beliefs. But now I just sound like a therapist -- but not a good one. Maybe like Dr. Phil or something. But this is my life I am dealing with -- I'm not just giving advice like he does. Anything I say or think relates to the task at hand -- my daughter -- and isn't just another empty, as-if targeted generic response to a problem. More than anything, I just wish he would act like he cared about her. And I know he really does want her to do well in life, but in a way, it's just another way for him to have his rules. I doubt he thinks like this, but to me it seems like it's just another method of controlling his territory and setting arbitrary boundaries that Jessica has long since outgrown. Maybe I will confront him later, when Jessica is asleep, or at least when she is out of the room -- I don't know when she goes to sleep, since she seems to be cooped up in there focusing on her homework. It's absolutely crazy the amount of pointless homework teenagers have these days. But enough about that. I bet I will pray -- and I use that word loosely -- for her to have a huge chemistry test she needs to study for. I need all the time I can get, especially since he reacts to me in similar ways as he does her. It's not exactly the same, but still -- he comforts me, letting me know that there is nothing to worry about. But there is something to worry about -- the well-being and happiness of our oldest daughter.
Puritan Values branches off to Frontier Woman Psuedo-Dilemma. That sounds really stupid, but I am still in the planning phases of the web. I feel sort of bad about saying Frontier Woman Dilemma without adding some indication that the decision shouldn't be one at all. Remember that example of the woman whose husband had taken her West, killing American Indians and knocking them off their turf as he goes along his merry way? I sort of think that the woman should do something in that situation, a hypothetical one, but still a decent representation of the concept I want to convey -- if only to myself -- the "helpless but ethical" image of women. But I want her to be more than helpless. I want her to act on her ethics. And sometimes, I am mad at her. Why doesn't she seek to destroy the system that denies her the freedom to make the laws concerning the stolen land? Does she want something more? Or does she not really care about the indigenous people, does she not value leaving the hell alone people who want nothing to do with you? Does she cry only because the violence scares her? I hope not, because then I will have to hate her. The bitch.
I hate to disappoint you, but I have decided to scrap this whole damn thing, or at the very least, suspend its completion indefinitely. I don't want to end it for any reason that makes sense -- because I think I will learn more about myself if I don't take the time and effort to look at my values and beliefs from such an abstact, instead of realistic, point of view. I wish it was, because it's a pretty damn good reason. Don't get me wrong, though -- I still want to grow. But, as I said when I talked about throwing up some definition earlier about feminism, I just sort of don't care. Unlike the rest of my life, I don't need to know where I am going or what I am doing before I take charge of my place in The Movement. In fact it is probably better to leave myself with so much leeway, so much room to improve. Like I said before, I want to be perfect. In reality, I know that this will be very difficult. I want to say impossible, but at the same time, I don't want to distance myself from attaining perfection too much anyway. Not that I wouldn't try damn hard as it is to improve myself. But there will also be times when two women will simply see things in a different way. And I think that is important to understand. You are not always wrong, so quit beating yourself up. You just have a different perspective, and it is just as "right" as anyone else's. People have different experiences in life that shape them in different ways, not to mention that even similar situations can affect two people in astoundingly disparate ways. This isn't a bad thing, though. And now, I think I see the point of all this, or at least a part of it. Those that want to crush The Movement, those who want to destroy peoples for material gain and wealth and power -- they do this by taking away the strength we have in diversity. It's weird to think about, but sometimes, I think it is easier to stick together with people if you have differences. And that's what The Man wanted to interfere with. They wanted to make us feel the same -- they wanted all of us to be poor, to turn from the issue -- which is how they're trying to infiltrate our systems with their lies and the gentle but guaranteed diffusion of the soul. And ironically, we all start to feel seperated, and that really does bring us further apart. But I guess that's more because they convince us that we're unworthy of life -- that we have to dedicate our waking hours to consumption, consumption, and consumption. Messages every day -- no matter how innocuous-sounding -- fill our brains, corrupt our headspace, and make us too weary to turn away. We waste, we hurt, we destroy, we lead lives that are less than fulfilling but necessary for survival, at least according to The Man's defintion. The Man does not care about your well-being. The Man does not care whether Black people have to work 40 times as hard to achieve middle-class status, and that Hispanics are only paid 55 cents for every dollar a White man makes. But the problem is not "the men." We can shut the men off from our lives if we have to, purge them from our systems, until we are left with the values that we know matter the most. But men are good, at least most of them. Some just need to grow up. And we can teach them. Even though they are men, they are ruled by The Man. And until we acknowledge that we had definitions of ourselves before The Man stripped them away, I doubt we can ever be free. It is my wish, my hope, my aching desire that everyone redefines themselves and purges the system. It is the only way all of us can be free again. And I'm done now. This is the poem I wish I had written for my "Definitions of a Modern Woman" class:
Fuck Definitions -- We Can Escape Them!
Take me to the place that I know and trust
Take me to the place that I really think is us.
It is beautiful, and pure, with love that reaches the sky.
Solidarity is a potent, powerful, thing,
But I'm afraid we've lost it, my dear.
Unity through diversity, is what you can
Expect from us here.
No more destruction in the name of greed,
No more want when you take more than you need,
No more debates about war versus peace,
We've tried that before, and it never works, to say the least.
Take it back, take it all!
You care for creatures great and small,
And woman is the hunted in this world,
And woman is the one who won't survive.
But I know that if our hearts are ready,
And that our minds can think just one more thought,
Then we have what we need, and if they say anything
About wanting in to our ways,
"We say, some things can't be purchased that way."
They will lament their chance to make peace with us,
As they take their horses back home,
And because they didn't care enough
For the Indians,
Have the conscience to stop buying the slaves,
Because Our Mother, the Goddess, Our Nature,
Is allowed to be raped every day,
That is why it is now too late --
And maybe destiny has sealed
Our fate as well.
But unlike you, who writher up and die,
We will go out with a crash and a bang,
Ending with a bright light,
Like we always have.