I sat under the silver lightfall of the November full moon tonight and allowed my thoughts to range back down into the past. What follows is not random, but neither is it particularly well-organized or directed. It is simply what came to me tonight. Within it are seeds of other, more coherent works that will grow and bloom in their own time. But for now, read if you wish; move on if other things claim your attention.
Yellow Corn Sister
She was nut brown, with a face as round and unperturbed as the full moon and a shock of coarse, steely gray hair standing out like an aureole. Her heavy-lidded eyes missed little, as bright and dark as the sparrows that thronged the evening desert skies. And if her mouth folded tightly in upon itself, her laughter was comfortable–a ready, infectious thing. This little candle lump of a woman was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. She traced her heritage through the Yellow Corn Sisters. She came from Acoma. And while I was in her class, she showed me the painful cost of my own assumptions.
I find myself thinking about her now, late at night–thousands of miles and years away from that classroom in Albuquerque. It was my first encounter with Whiteness and White Privilege so bluntly stated and unavoidable. It was the first time language had been put to these poisonous and insidious things that had so long been invisible. She showed me things that hurt me that semester, that marked me deeply. But once I was shown that assumption, I saw it everywhere. I could not avoid seeing it.
Things of Beauty and Pain
I think it may also be when everything began unraveling for me. I know that it was the semester in which I wanted to believe that Thaddeus cared for me. The months I spent courting him–a thing I could not bring myself to do while we were classmates–and which were ultimately wasted; a semester or handful of months, that ended in heartbreak of several varieties, betrayal, and complete disillusionment. But perhaps such endings happen to everyone. Whether there is a deeper meaning to these times when we crash and burn utterly, I don’t know. Perhaps it isn’t so neat as that.
I do know that what I felt for him wasn’t really love. It was far more like a thrall. I craved him like the junky craves the needle. Had I succeeded in wooing him into my bed, I would have consumed him, bones and all. Who wants that? I don’t really blame him for not knowing what to do with it. How could he? Now that I’ve experienced it, I can say that I never want to feel like that again. In all fairness, I had never felt this for a man. It was utterly alien to me, who for so long was quite content to dabble my toes at the water’s edge, drink deeply of infatuation, and move on to the next fascination. A few weeks of dopamine, and then, I would begin looking for my next crush. I never actually wanted more than a bit of swooning. But with him, it was different, more potent, and ultimately uncontrollable.
I also know that our association, for I cannot call it friendship, likely began as a game for him. When we first met, I’d been dismissive of him, not intentionally rude, but brusque. I would like to think that perhaps he came to feel tenderly for me as we spent more time together, and his evasiveness in answering my questions, talking about “us” wasn’t meant to hurt. It was a part of a stupid and cowardly thing many people do when they don’t want to hurt someone. Apparently, telling the truth is no longer considered a mark of respect. Either that or he simply did not respect me. I will never know, and quite frankly, I’m comfortable with that.
Jill receives no such leeway. She knew better and her actions were a conscious violation of every tenet of the friendship we held in common. I will never forgive her. Not really. But I’m pretty at peace with that. I do have an answer for her at last, a year and a half later.
“Why are you making such a big deal out of this?” She asked me one of the last times I ever saw her. I was being, admittedly, a toxic little brat. No, I’m not sorry, even if I wish I had handled myself with more aplomb.
My answer, then, was, “Semper fidelis. You broke that.” But I think, beyond concepts of friendship, passion, betrayal, and shame, my behavior had less to do with her or Thaddeus, and far more to do with the fact that I couldn’t do anything with it. I couldn’t build anything or create anything. I was spinning my wheels, in pain and hopelessly, bitterly infuriated at the entire Universe. In a way, I’m glad I was horrible and toxic. It kept me relatively harmless and busy with my own bitterness. It also drove people away. Lives were saved.
Seeds and Ashes
When Mount St. Helens blew her face off in 1980, there was quite a bit of damage done. In fact, she’s not the same mountain today that she was prior to the eruption, which is termed “the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.” Her summit is now a horseshoe shaped crater. But things don’t just stand still after such an event. New glaciers were formed in the crater, the site was restricted for research purposes and we now know much more about the nature of volcanic activity than we did prior to the event, especially in that part of the world.
As is bound to happen, all life in the path of the eruption and the resultant pyroclastic flows was eliminated. What the superheated gas didn’t get, the falling ash suffocated–at least in terms of plant life, which can’t run away. It looked like a lunar landscape afterward, and for a time, nothing grew. But we also know that volcanic soil is some of the richest available for plants, and they grow like crazy once they can get situated.
The point? I blew my face off–at least in a metaphorical sense. It was devastating. And even though 57 people didn’t die, that’s about the number of individuals I stopped interacting with as a result. So they might as well be dead for all the conversation we have. But if the element of deconstruction is an inherent part of any system, as Derrida points out–in fact, it is essential to the system’s structure in the first place. Then, too, I think the seeds of the next beginning are a part of the system of an ending. The ending must occur in order for those seeds to take root, germinate, and grow.
While I would wish that Thaddeus had been more open with me or that Jill had just come clean about bedding him in the first place as opposed to trying to hide it from me–what has happened can’t be undone. I would wish that I’d been a bit less vitriolic, too. But I can’t unspeak my acid language anymore than I can unspeak the first hello between us. I will never see either of them again, for which I’m profoundly grateful. The horseshoe shaped crater knowing them left on me is enough. But, too, there is good in it, after all.
I know more about myself than I did before. I’ve come out on the other side of the whole experience–battle scarred, but intact. I don’t believe I’m owed anything, anymore. One thing that had to go, once I’d processed my bitterness was my sense of emotional entitlement. I don’t deserve love just because I’m not a piece of shit human being. I no longer seek or desire it. I have too much work to be done. But in order to see that, I had to explode and then lie dormant for more than a year. It’s strange how things work out, sometimes.