Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.
Margie came over at 8 the next morning, rousting Ginny from the study daybed with “Frances made crema fritta last night, I have some leftovers.”
Ginny was still limping as she came downstairs. Margie said “Is your foot infected?”
“I don't know” said Ginny. She pulled off her sock and they looked at the wound left by the glass.
“There's no redness. I still think you should have had stitches. Maybe you cut some small muscle” said Margie.
“It's just sore. But I'm sore all over” said Ginny.
“Immobility” declared Margie. “Frances sent over prosciutto, too. Make tea, I'm getting Mom up.”
Two minutes later, Myra emerged from the front bedroom with Margie's arm linked through hers. Moon and Gidg rushed to greet Myra, stepping politely around Keller. Myra looked at Ginny without expression and said “Hi” in a flat voice.
“Well, better than nothing” said Margie cheerfully. “Sit down, I'm your server for today.” She set a bowl of mandarin orange slices on the table and joined her mothers.
Ginny was already eating a slice of crema fritta. Margie poured tea into Myra's cup and said “All right. Spill.”
“No” said Myra instantly. “I can't rehash it over a meal. Besides...we're not done.”
“But something shifted with Nancy, can you tell me that much?”
Myra looked at Ginny. “Information was exchanged. Ginny, one thing we need to figure out today is how to tell Carly.”
“I know” said Ginny. “Before it gets released into the whole family.”
“Carly?” said Margie. “Because of Pat? You're really not going to give me anything more than that? Damn. Well, what about today, you're going back today, Mom said? Will you talk with me after that?”
“Maybe” said Myra. “Margie, this is as good as it gets right now.”
“All right. I wish I liked the taste of prosciutto, it's such a lovely color” said Margie.
“Who has the grandchildren for date night tonight?” asked Ginny.
“Allie and Edwina” said Margie. “And I want to remind you, Mimi's birthday is Wednesday after next.”
“We know” said Ginny. She felt instantly nervous about that “we”, but Myra didn't react.
Ten minutes later, Frances joined them, sleep still in the corners of her eyes. She made an espresso and heated milk to pour into it. She acted like everything was perfectly normal, which Ginny found extremely reassuring.
After two sips of coffee, she said “Mimi asked me to give her a pony for her birthday.”
“A girl after my own heart” grinned Margie.
Myra looked at Ginny. Every time their eyes met, Ginny's heart flipped over. “Maybe it's time to make some stick horses for this lot?” Myra suggested.
“With extras for guests” said Ginny, and they both smiled. Myra told Frances about the time Margie tried to give away Gillam's horse to Truitt and the meltdown that occurred. Frances said to Margie “You had too many stinky boys around, huh, baby.”
Ginny snorted. “The only boys within a mile were toddlers. They weren't the problem, it was all the fawning aunties who thought Margie farted rainbows.”
“That is not in any way how I remember things” said Margie. Frances winked at her in commiseration.
When Myra finished eating, she excused herself, saying she needed to shower before she dressed. She went into the front bedroom and closed the door. Margie said to Ginny softly “So, are you definitely going to be working things out?”
“I don't know, Margie” said Ginny. “I now know what all those exes of hers felt. When she goes away, she's gone. Like frozen tundra.”
“But you were lying on the daybed together last night, I saw you” said Margie.
“We slept a few hours together. Don't get me wrong, it's a major change. But...things are still...up in the air.”
Frances made a hand gesture Ginny didn't recognize and said “Tempo al tempo.”
When Myra came back out, Frances and Margie were still there. “Uh...I still want us to drive separately” she said to Ginny uncomfortably.
“All right” said Ginny. “I should get dressed too. No, you two don't have to go.”
Myra began carrying dishes to the kitchen. Frances helped her and fed a tendril of prosciutto to Moon on the sly. Ginny went upstairs, returning to find Myra heading out the door and the kitchen empty.
“See you there” said Myra.
Ginny had to go back inside after starting her car because she'd forgotten her wallet and had not set the alarm. She felt anxious about being late, but also wondered how safe her driving was at the moment and forced herself to not speed.
Myra was sitting in the armchair. Ginny took a place beside Nancy on the couch. Nancy put her fingers on Ginny's pulse and said “So, how did it go?”
Ginny wanted to hear what Myra would say. After several moments, Myra said “Better. For a while. Then questions came crowding back in.”
“And you allowed them? Good” said Nancy.
“I...I have a question for Myra” said Ginny. Myra met her eyes. “Why did you change your mind? I mean, why did you finally agree to see Nancy, to talk to me again? Was it something Chris said?”
“You know about that?” said Myra, not pleased.
“Just that she talked to you. Not what she said.”
“No. It was not Chris, or Allie either.” Myra looked stubborn. “Or the visitation, at least, not directly.”
“What visitation?” asked Ginny.
“I thought since you were all sharing information” began Myra snidely. Nancy waved a hand in her direction and Myra stopped for a minute. She resumed talking in a normal tone. “A couple of days ago, my mother appeared to me. By the whaleshark, next to the pond.”
“Appeared? You mean, you saw her?” Ginny's eyes were wide.
“And heard her. So did Margie, in some sort of shared hallucination. And – it seemed like, Keller and the dogs.” The story had to be dragged out of Myra. When she was done, Nancy commented “You don't believe it was real.”
“I don't. Listen, is there a way you can muscle test to find out if it did happen, like, get past my delusion or whatever?” asked Myra. Nancy grinned to herself and said “All reality is delusion, at bottom.”
“But – if you don't believe it was real, then – you said that didn't influence you either?” Ginny persisted in getting her question answered.
“Not directly. It got to me, though, to think I was sliding over an edge like that. And somehow dragging Margie with me. I got...scared, I guess you'd say. That I'm so lost, I'm making shit up. And then, when I told Gillam about it – well, he more or less said he thought my mother had come back to intervene on his kids' behalf. That if I was going to be like her, he wasn't sure I was fit to be around his children.”
“He said that?” Ginny wasn't breathing deeply.
“More or less.”
“And that's what shifted you?”
“Well, if I lose the grandkids, I lose him too, really. And eventually Margie. I'd already lost you, and they were all having Sunday potluck without me. I had to do something” said Myra.
Nancy looked at Ginny, but Ginny had no reply to make. Nancy said “So, do you have any questions, Myra?”
“Questions are all I have” said Myra, rubbing her forehead. Nancy scooted over to sit on the arm of her chair, taking pulses. Myra leaned against her for a second, then looked up into Nancy's face and said “If I'm honest today, I may break her heart. I don't want to. I'm not mad any more.”
“She's strong enough for the truth, Myra” said Nancy. Ginny hoped that was true. She dug herself back into the couch cushions.
“I don't understand...how she could have let this happen to her. I know that sounds like blaming the victim. If it is, I'm a fucking hypocrite. I don't think it's her fault, what Pat did to her. But I don't understand how she could let it go on for even a second. It doesn't fit with the woman I thought I knew. And – Listen, Ginny, I absolutely know you didn't want Pat, never did. I believe you. But even so, you kissed her back. If you could do that...I'm scared about us. About what you may have done with me, that maybe you didn't want to. I've never had that worry about you.”
Myra looked queasy. Nancy was working on her steadily. Ginny met Myra's gaze without flinching.
“I don't understand it, either. That's...been the problem” Ginny said hoarsely.
“So maybe you've got some crud in there neither of us knew about?”
“What if she does?” Nancy asked. “What would that mean?”
“Well, for one thing, I want to re-examine her relationship with her parents. Both of them.” Myra's tone was briefly harsh.
“That's not your work to do, Myra. It's Ginny's, unless she asks for your company in that quest” reminded Nancy.
“But...I made a sexual agreement with her based on her not having...her not being like me and Allie and Chris” said Myra.
“You've counted on her being outside the kind of damage you carry, is that it? So now you see her as what, less valuable to you?” Nancy's voice was soft.
“NO. Not that. But it means I have to be careful in a way I never was. Careful to not – I don't know how to explain it.”
Nancy looked at Ginny. “Ginny, when you became lovers with Myra, in your sexual relationship with her, have you had be more careful than with other lovers because she's a survivor of abuse?”
“Uh...no. I mean, sometimes stuff hits and I need to change what I'm doing, or listen for a while...but that's true for any lover, isn't it? That kind of consideration and reciprocity?” Ginny felt confused, also.
“Myra, your identification of Ginny as somehow not being your full equal if she has sexual abuse in her past – which she most assuredly does, the incident with Pat counts as that – I think it's a judgment you are passing on yourself. Not Ginny.” Nancy flexed Myra's arm and said “Yes, that's right, that is what's going on. Okay, we'll begin there.”
Myra was fighting an urge to throw up. She closed her eyes and let Nancy do her magic. When her nausea began subsiding, she looked at Ginny again. She whispered “When did I become someone you couldn't come to and tell what had just happened to you? Was that barrier always there between us, or was it because that year, how terrible it had been?”
Ginny swallowed. “It was Margie's rape. When she came home, she told you. She asked to talk to you first. Not me. I thought – sometimes, I still think – it's because I'd let her down in a way you had not.”
“Not true” said Myra. “It was because you were so in at her core, and she had to step back from her own insides to know what happened. Once she broke the silence, it was you she wanted most of all.”
Ginny began sobbing. Nancy didn't cross over to her, however. She said to Myra “I'm sensing a block, still. What's going on with you?”
Myra's fists were closed. “All those years. Every second of every day, there was a secret between us that I had no idea existed. Ginny was living with it, living around it, trying to – what were you doing, Ginny? Were you trying to make up for what happened? Were you never going to tell me? What if I had died before this came out?”
“I wanted to tell you, once I realized we could work through it, once the kids got better, I ached to tell you. But by then, enough time had passed – you know how you are about being lied to. You would have left me. As you did. You did leave me, Myra. I'm not sure if you're back or just doing the work because you always do the work.” Ginny gasped her words around her weeping.
“I can't give you a promise right now” said Myra. Ginny interrupted with “I know that, dammit. I'm just telling you what I think, how I feel.”
Nancy smiled briefly. Myra unclenched her hands and said “It was easier when I was mad at you. Now I keep thinking of times, during the past 14 years, when you must have been slammed, been terrified, been all alone. No wonder you never got past that irrational jealousy – it wasn't that I was untrustworthy, it's that you were afraid you were. And having to deal with that scumsucker Pat around Carly and Gillam's relationship, and her – she really did a number on Patty, with the move and the shit that went down in that family. And you couldn't call her on it, couldn't tell Patty, couldn't do anything but walk a tightrope. I want to tell you that you deserved all the hell you must have gone through, but instead I can hardly bear that you did, without me, without your best friend and girl sitting here. I hate it that I have empathy for you, but I do.” Myra burst into tears as well.
“You wouldn't be Myra if you didn't” wailed Ginny. Now Nancy was openly grinning. She moved to sit beside Ginny and tend to her. After they had both cried themselves out, Nancy began mixing oils. She said to Myra “You did not deserve to be lied to, we're all clear on that. But somehow you played a role in the dynamic that got constructed. You need to think about what that might have been, without blaming yourself or Ginny. We can discuss what you've come up with next time.”
“And you, Ginny...You'll have to forgive Myra for not noticing you were keeping something from her. You'll have to do that before you forgive yourself, I think. I want the two of you to not have sex right away -- “
“And if one of you is uneasy with talking about these issues on your own, then don't. Bring it back here. There's no rush.” Nancy handed them each a small bottle of oil.
“That's it? We're done for this time?” said Myra, as if Nancy had not just said “No rush.” “We haven't figured out how to tell Carly – how to tell the whole family, for that matter.”
“It's up to Ginny how to tell your family” said Nancy. “And yes, I agree, Carly will be very hurt by the whole story, but it won't surprise him.”
“But what if he turns to us, to me, for comfort?” said Myra.
“If you feel you can't offer it to him, help him find someone who can listen” said Nancy sensibly. “Give him my home number, he can call me. My guess is that he won't turn to either of you, or his mothers. He'll use other parts of his support system. He's a level-headed man.”
“But -- “ began Myra.
“Go back to as much of your normal routine as you can” said Nancy firmly. “Cook and eat together, you can manage that. See your grandchildren. Garden, do chores. And if creativity is something you can manage, that would be ideal. No pressure, though. Same time tomorrow?”
“All right” said Myra resignedly. They hugged Nancy and left, walking down the stairs in a single line. At Myra's car, she turned awkwardly and said “About the grandkids – I can't handle it on my own, but I think she's right, all they want of us is to be around us. I'm ready for it. Are you?”
“I am. For a few hours” said Ginny.
“I want to go eat lunch out somewhere, think for a while. Will you call Jane and tell her we'll take the Golden Horde at our usual time tomorrow?”
Ginny nodded. “I may talk to Margie when I get home. But I'd rather not tell the story a dozen times, I'd rather wait until we can get everyone else together. Well, maybe not Carly and Eric, I don't know yet. Are you going to be able to be part of that gathering?”
Myra took a deep breath. “Yes. You'll need me to keep Allie from rushing out to murder Pat. Or, depending on how I'm feeling at that moment, maybe I'll drive the car for her.”
Ginny let herself laugh. “I'll take that as a compliment. But I don't want you to do that work for me, either.”
Myra stepped over and gave Ginny a hug. “God, you smell good. You've not been bathing much, have you?”
Ginny laughed again. “I'll be in the garden, if I'm not at the house. Thanks for – everything.”
“No problem” said Myra. They both cracked up, with a hysterical edge to their laughter. Myra was still chuckling as she drove off.
© 2009 Maggie Jochild.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
(Cantaloupe, oil on canvas by Judith Soloman)
After I wrote the fundraising post last night, I was emotionally drained. Drank 16 ounces of water and went to lie down, watch Spain: On The Road Again which I had taped from earlier. Fell asleep before the paella was done, and slept until about 9 this morning. Which is fine, I can catch up today, it being Saturday and all.
In case you don't know about the series above, it's a great chef (Mario Batali), a great food writer (Mark Bittner), a great actress and lover of all things Europe (Gwyneth Paltrow), and a great Spanish historian (Claudia Bessole) taking an extended road trip across Spain, mostly eating everything they come across. Gwyneth is a vegetarian, Claudia is a local, Mark and Mario are unceasing omnivores and epicures (funny how Mark out-eats Mario every time, plus is given to indolence, but he's slender and Mario is an energetic rotundity). The art, regional appreciation, and conversations are wonderful. Plus it's two funny guys and two strong women, two of them happily married elsewhere with children, so while there's an occasional flirtation, mostly it's all about connecting as human beings, to each other and to Spain. I'll be sorry to see their adventure end.
When I woke up, I watched the re-run of This Old House our local PBS station plays on Saturday mornings, followed by Home Time (though I still miss butchy little Robin Hartl on that one), then Norm Abrams in Yankee Workshop. I fell asleep again during Rick Steve's monotone tour of Europe and some poseur who travels around fancy restaurants talking about novelle cuisine (can't remember his name), and woke up in time for a grocery delivery from Barbara, who does a spiffy job for reasonable rates. As I type this, I'm taping Sara Moulton, Ming Tsai, Lydia Bastianich, Jacques Pepin, and America's Test Kitchen. At 5:00 the current This Old House hour comes on, and at 8:00 it's Rosemary and Thyme, a gardening-based BBC mystery series starring two fabulous British character actresses.
Saturdays, it's all about PBS at my house. Until midnight, when I tape American Chopper just to see working class masculinity and massive male-conditioned dysfunctionality in a garage setting -- it's my Bill fix for the week. He was an auto mechanic, then race car mechanic, then truck auto parts dealer, as well as a blue musician. Hanging over my computer monitor here is a photo of him in a stock car he build and raced -- and eventually crashed.
My hands are still shaking from the work of bringing in and putting away my groceries. Imagine trying to haul groceries while using a walker. Yes, of course, I hang the bags from the top supports, but lifting that laden sucker is tricky. I have a chair halfway so I can stop and rest. I keep reminding myself of the treat at the end -- a full fridge/pantry and at least one thing I've been craving. This week, its cantaloupe: There's fresh cantaloupe in there. By the time I'm done, however, I'm too stretched to eat. So I drink another glass of water (electrolytes plus I'm a mouth breather) and come to the computer to check e-mail, chill out. Dinah is rampaging through a paper bag I put on the floor for her. It's a sunny day, supposed to get up into the 60s. All is well.
Now, I can either be responsible and write a GNB post, work on Ginny Bates, and/or a couple of other writing projects -- or I could play a little Chocolatier or Tradewinds. (I have all three Tradewinds, the original Fertile Crescent version, the Caribbean version, and the newish Silk Road one. They're all different challenges.) If anybody out there plays the Silk Road one, have you figured out how to manage to get the red ink from Damascus, the white powder from Constantipole, and the sheep guts/rabbit fur from Heratt in time to meet the deadline? It's not a quest that's essential to winning the game, and I always win now, I'm a trading savant and I buy up masses of heavenly fire plus two Summoners and a Tao Mystic, I cream opponents in battles. But I've never managed to solve that one puzzle, despite selling off elephants and racing with horses, carrying no merchandise, and having only warriors who can run like the wind (no chunky battle-axe wielder or siege elephants, for instance). The strategy guide at Gamezebo doesn't say how to do it, either.
Shit, I can tell I'm going to play instead of work. At least for the next hour. After that, cantaloupe and being industrious, I promise.
(Screenshot from Tradewinds Caravans)
(Card created by Liza Cowan in 1983 for her company, White Mare)
My second semester at North Texas State University, I signed up for a speech class to get rid of my "hick" accent. NTSU suffered from an inferiority complex in general, not being part of the UT system, and aside from its music degree and the honors program of which I was a part, every department I encountered there went out of its way to put down anyone seeming too rural or provincial. I'm sorry now I took the speech classes. I think the way I talked was probably lovely, rich and full of colloquialisms which do still come to me. My vocabulary was stellar and my grammar impeccable, thanks to the women in my family. The accent was no indicator of my intelligence or education.
But I was still in the closet about my class background, so speech cleansing it was. As part of that course, we had to learn a "piece" and declaim it with two or three other students -- not really a performance, no sets or props, but still on stage and with all attention focused on pronunciation. Ironically, we were encouraged to select from an assortment of dramatic works, and my little group chose A Streetcar Named Desire, full of florid Williamsesque accents and linguistic contrivance. I was given the part of Blanche Dubois, mostly because the other girl in my group flat-out refused and I was too shy to actually insist I couldn't possibly do it.
It was agony for me, in every regard. I got by, I think, because I had of course memorized my lines and that was half the grade. Also, the boy Tim who had the Stanley Kowalski role was a 90 lb. weakling with long blond hippie hair and a faint voice. What we really should have done is traded roles, me and Tim. Instead, the rest of the class managed to not laugh at us and the bored TA gave me an A mostly because I did shed my accent by the end of the year.
I loathed Blanche. The one line of hers that I appreciated was "I have always relied on the kindness of strangers", with all its lie and misdirected meaning and gender subterfuge. It actually comes up in my head often.
The last few weeks, it's been a mantra. I am relying on the kindness of strangers for survival. No sarcasm and no manipulation here, just frank reality.
It's hard to describe. I'd call it a state of grace, except that's such a christian reference. It does have an awe-some element of fear, and a sense of responsibility whose parameters I cannot completely scribe without encountering shame, still. (I'm working on it.)
I think about the choices I've made along the way which brought me to this place, and try to see the power in it. But there's also circumstances beyond my control -- at least, some of them are, but sorting out which are genuinely random and which are the result of my class training to assume helplessness is another sift I'm having to do.
Some of the changes from last month to now are intense, and mostly expressed in my body. I'm sleeping solidly, and waking up without panic. I'm eating real food, usually two meals a day, with fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains making the bulk of it, instead of bologna and -- well, I don't want to say. Eating two meals a day instead of one or none has altered my chemistry and energy. I can "afford" to think about certain issues now, afford to do more around the house, afford to let myself cry.
Even more pronounced has been the change in my dreams. For three months before hope came my way, I had been dreaming several times a week that I was living with my family of origin again, one or all of them. I was usually the age I am now, but they were younger, during the years when we were in crisis and crammed together without community or sanctuary. These nightmares revolved around me trying to get space (literally), like a corner of a room to call my own, freedom from hostility, find a door to the outside, get to a phone, land a job, always juggling my needs against those of my mother and little brother (if they were in that dream). I would wake up feeling wretched. I couldn't go right back to sleep, so my sleep cycles had become two and three hours long. A bad cycle to be in.
No more. I have always had strong dreams, full of symbolism and creativity, and these have returned without any appearance of my family. Hallelujah.
Often I've come in, rested and fed, to my computer and begun writing about what I'm feeling and thinking. I haven't been finishing these pieces, because the future still seems open-ended to some extent. Here's one such effort:
"It's been months since we had cat treats in this house. Dinah had given up looking for the canister on the shelf next to my computer monitor. But with the grocery money available last week, I felt it possible to spare $2 and buy some Whisker Lickins. When I pulled the package from the grocery bag in her presence, she didn't register any recognition. However, when I popped the seal, her sense of smell brought her memory back in full force.
Since then, she's been unctuous and abnormally attentive. In fact, night before last, she crawled under my comforter and slept with me -- not in actual physical contact, which would have been strange enough to make me call 911, but still within reach if I so chose. It was startling, and made me realize, once again, how much I miss having a pet who is affectionate. Dinah will Allow Me to stroke her back, and that's it. No cuddling, no adorable reaching out. When she wants my attention, she licks my arm but that's not an expression of love -- she knows full well I don't like it, and it gets me to notice her. Negative feedback is fine with her."
Here's another uncompleted start:
"I just ate a huge bowl of frijoles negritos and brown rice, garnished liberally with garlic, onions, and peppers. And a couple of taquitos on the side. Excellent breakfast -- the only thing I'd add is cantaloupe, but tis not the season, alas.
The rice came out perfect, may I say. I set the timer and did not lift that lid, no matter what. Most days I can't resist a look. Positive reinforcement like this wars continually with a cook's fear of scorched pans. I wondered, how did people make perfect rice before the days of timers or see-through lids? I bet someone out there knows the answer. My best guess was that they set something to bake or rise at the same time which took exactly 45 minutes to look right, and when that was done, they knew the rice was done, too.
I once worked in office of six other women who were all on the no-carb, high-protein diet. Breakfast for them would be a small sirloin and half a pound of bacon. Lunch was equally obscene -- they had permission to avoid apples and carrots, for instance, because of their "carb count". Then, around 2:00, they'd start jonesing and talking feverishly about french fries or pancakes. Eventually pretzels would be sneaked out from someone's desk and they'd all have a few, then whine the rest of the day about how they had failed themselves. Meanwhile, their breath peeled paint from the walls and the gas was ignitable.
I brought in my brown rice, my roasted blue potatoes or Red Bliss, my quinoa and amaranth and stone-ground corn meal with pintos and squash. I tried to explain to them how whole grains are often nearly whole foods, why it was that massive peasant populations worked sun-up to sun-down on nothing more than rice or potatoes or whole wheat bread. But I was fat and refused to feel shame about it, so I was the leper who lived in an unclean hut."
The plain truth of the matter, I don't know how to thank you all. I really don't. Except to maybe show you (keep showing you) who I am, to keep doing the work I think I was born to do, and to keep holding out hope in the particular way I am able to -- a skill nobody else in my family possessed.
We still have a little way to go before I'm out of serious peril. Jesse is doing miraculous work, over at Group News Blog, raising funds for me -- here's his most recent post. In order to get some of the state-supplied services I must have to be safe, I have to undergo another round of doctor visits (to get documentation) because it's been too long since I had a complete examination. This means funds to pay for it out of pocket, plus transportation, plus assistance. Next month, maybe. Social services in Texas were shredded by Bush and have not been restored since. But I'll find a path through this swamp, now that I can eat and sleep and not fear eviction.
My mind keeps going to all the ways I've done extra for others, all my life. I'm not sure if this is me trying to convince myself I deserve this help, or if it is a way to give me common ground with all you out there who are choosing to send me love in the form of dollars. I had a friend for a few years who had severe environmental illness, such that she could not work, could not do her own dishes or housecleaning (no products safe enough), could not fill her truck with gas, had to wear a mask out in the world. I would go by her house after work and wash her dishes for her, get her car gassed up, go with her on necessary errands out in the world to keep her company and remind her she was not a freak, no matter how people looked at her.
I've wiped adults who've crapped themselves, help change catheter bags, talked people out of suicide, made meals and washed clothes and hauled groceries and been the person you call when you have to put a pet to sleep. I've done none of it for money, all of it for love, and I've done way, way more than my share. When I was mobile and seemingly able-bodied, I never stopped doing a little more than my share, every single day. When I saw someone panhandling, I gave 'em a buck. If it was a woman or someone with a kid or a person of color, I gave 'em half of what I had in my pockets, even if they reeked of booze or huff: So what if they're an addict, half the people I've known have had some form of addiction. That's between them and g*d. I've had people I love become homeless, you don't choose it any more than you choose falling off a cliff. And when I handed them the money, I touched their hand, their arm, I looked them in the eye and said "I hope this helps."
Was I paying it forward, then? Did I know, or suspect, or fear I'd reach where I am now? I honestly can't answer that question, but it keeps coming up.
I have a few memories of being a baby and toddler in India, of walking the streets of Kolkata in the arms of Nilmoni and her friends, the nuns who worked with Mother Teresa. I don't remember meeting Mother Teresa, though Mom told me I did, many times. I do remember feeling happy and safe with these women, that what they/we did was talk to people, all day long. Listen to them and talk back to them as human beings. I was glad to be not just with the sisters but with all the other people, the beggars and lepers and starving -- we were all the same, all good and doing our best. There was never any tension in these street scenes that transmitted itself to me. Life was good, even when it wasn't.
So, perhaps that is the source of my choices, my strength, my commitments. Or maybe, as one energy worker told me, I'm simply unusually strong.
Whatever --I'm glad to be alive. Glad to have found another way to keep writing my letters to the world, even as I live separated from you against my will. Glad you are out there and decided to reach my way. I'll keep writing, letting you know how things are.
Friday, January 2, 2009
As a New Year treat, here's a little lagniappe portion of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. This day occurred when Margie and Gillam were 11 and 8, and was just written, not part of the earlier chapters. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.
It was a warm summer weekend. When Margie found out Truitt and Carly were staying over Saturday night, she asked to invite Amy and Myra drove them to pick her up. However, boy-girl tensions ran high from the moment of Amy's arrival. Amy refused to go swimming, and Margie began making fun of the boys' legs, which mostly bewildered Carly and Gillam. Truitt was stung, however. Finally Ginny ordered Margie and Amy to find something constructive to do. They wandered into the house where Myra was wrapping potatoes to bake for dinner.
"Can we get on your computer?" asked Margie.
"Just to look at stuff."
"You can go in under your password" said Myra. But after a whispered consultation with Amy, they declined.
"Can we play music in the living room?" was the next question.
"Be my guest. Volume is under my control, however." Margie stomped upstairs and came back with her boombox. Amy had pulled magazines from her pack and already littered the living room with them.
Ginny joined Myra in the kitchen. "What else besides potatoes?" she asked.
"I thought I'd drag out the round grill and set it up like a firepit, let them roast wienies. Maybe veggie-ka-bobs with that?"
"I'll make those" said Ginny.
"Then I'm going to start some ice cream in the electric maker. Vanilla; they can add in fruit as toppings" said Myra.
"Truitt blew his nose in the pool and Gillam immediately followed suit" said Ginny.
"Barbarians" replied Myra. "They can clean out the damned filter tomorrow morning, then."
"What on earth is so fucking hilarious in, that is that, Mademoiselle?" asked Ginny sotto voce. "And when did Margie start laughing in that fakey way?"
"She's eleven" said Myra. "Insincerity should be the name of the nail polish they market for that age."
"We're rich" said Ginny. "Let's ship them all off to camp and take an extended Alaskan cruise. King crab for every meal, calving glaciers, and rocking ship motion at night."
Myra stopped scraping vanilla seeds from the interior of a pod for a moment to allow herself a belly laugh. She put pod and seeds into a saucepan of cream and said "Did you go to camp every summer?"
"Only if Mother wasn't punishing me" said Ginny. "She couldn't keep me from the Gulf Coast, but the threat of making me stay home with her the rest of the summer was a serious motivator for my behavior."
"I used to read about camp in Mad Magazine and daydream about how great it'd be" said Myra. "The most I ever had was three days of Vacation Bible School. I won a prize for being the first to memorize all the books of the Bible in order, though."
Ginny stared at her, trying to imagine that girl. "What did you win?"
"I don't remember. Probably a Bible." They laughed again.
At dusk, they were all on the deck jostling for space to put their hot dogs over the best coals. The boys had changed into shorts, and Truitt's were baggy, hanging down in the back to where the top of his crack showed when he leaned forward to twirl his coat-hanger wiener roaster. Amy nudged Margie and whispered something, and they broke out into machine-gun giggles.
"Knock it off" said Myra. "There's nothing hilarious about partially revealed segments of the human body."
Margie glared at her. "You don't know what we were saying."
"You were certainly rude enough to whisper about people present, you're right, but the fact is, I find it tragically easy to read your mind" replied Myra.
"Oh yeah -- " began Margie, but Myra cut her off.
"I'll prove it. Do this in your heads, all of you, and don't say anything to each other. Pick a number from one to ten. Okay, now multiply that number by nine. Gillam, if you're going to do it in your palm, turn it up so we can't see what you're tracing. Ready? Your number has two digits. Add them together -- like, if it's 10, add one and zero. Now, from that number take away five. Then, take that number and find its corresponding letter in the alphabet. Hang on, I'll explain. A equals one, B equal two, and so on." Myra paused to give them time, and saw that Ginny was playing as well.
"Are you all set? Okay, the letter you came up with, think of a country that begins with that letter. Now, think of an animal whose name begins with the last letter of the country you thought of. Last letter, Carly. Okay, now, take the last letter of that animal and think of a fruit whose name begins with that letter. Everybody on board?"
Myra turned to Margie and said "I don't think kangaroos eat oranges, do they? And there are no kangaroos in Denmark."
Margie's nostrils flared in shock. Gillam and Carly said in unison "Whoa!" She heard Ginny beginning to laugh. Amy muttered "Pathetic" under her breath and Myra ignored her, sliding another hot dog on her skewer in triumph.
© 2009 Maggie Jochild.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.
Sunday, 6 May 2018
Sunday morning, Ginny heard Myra go into the kitchen and mix something in a bowl. After a while, all sounds stopped, and Ginny decided Myra had gone back to her room. She looked down the airwell and could see no one at the dining table, so she started downstairs. Near the bottom, however, she was startled to discover that Myra was standing in the kitchen, leaned against the counter. She couldn't bring herself to flee back up with Myra watching her. She walked on toward the stove, intending to refill the tea kettle.
When Myra spoke directly to her, Ginny flinched involuntarily. “I poached some extra eggs, if you want them." Ginny looked at her, feeling like they were strangers. She was unable to read her expression.
"Yes." Myra turned and lifted the poached eggs onto Ginny's favorite plate, which happened to be at hand. Ginny took the plate carefully from Myra. At that moment, a buzzer went off. Myra opened the oven with a potholder. "I made blueberry muffins. For the grandkids, but I've got another batch to go in, so you can have as many of these as you want." She emptied the muffins onto a second plate and carried this with the butter dish to the table at Ginny's chair.
Ginny got herself a glass of milk and sat down, walking around Myra without touching her.
"Are you going to eat any muffins?" said Ginny. She wasn't sure what was going on.
"After I put the second batch in the oven" said Myra. Ginny got up while Myra was spooning muffin dough into the pan and got Myra's favorite plate and a glass of milk, setting them at Myra's chair. She went back to her chair, and had split and buttered a muffin by the time Myra sat down. Ginny handed her the buttered muffin: "Here, the cook gets first taste." She began buttering a second one.
Myra looked her at for a moment, then took a bite. She closed her eyes and said "Oh, I knew these berries were going to be memorable."
Ginny took a bite too, then forked open her egg. It was cooked to the doneness she preferred, not Myra. They ate in silence. When the buzzer went off again, Myra got up and pulled out the muffins, setting the pan on the counter to cool.
"I'll bag these up later" she said. "Maybe Margie will take them to the kids. I'm not ready to go there yet, are you?"
"No" said Ginny, looking at the table.
"I'll say these are from both of us. Hope it helps." Myra walked over to the table and picked up her dirty dishes. She took them to the sink and rinsed them, then set them in the dishwasher. Ginny had stopped eating, still looking at the table.
Myra walked back to the table. She set one hand lightly on Ginny's shoulder. "Have as many as you want, I really mean that. There are more blueberries in the freezer, if it comes to that." She didn't squeeze Ginny's shoulder, just turned and walked back to the guest bedroom, Keller trailing along behind her. Once she was out of sight, Ginny closed her eyes and put her own hand over where Myra's had rested. It was the first physical contact they had shared since the truth had come out.
She sat there for an indeterminate amount of time. She couldn't finish what was left on her plate. When she heard a sound from the front of the house, she came out of her thoughts and started to stand up. Myra returned to the kitchen, looking at Ginny's plate. She made no comment on it, however. She stood uncertainly in the middle of the room for a moment, then said "I think...it would be good to see Nancy together. I'm ready for that, if you're still up for it, that is."
Ginny sank back into her chair. "I am." She kept her face neutral. "Shall I call her, or do you want to?"
"If you don't mind calling..." said Myra. She laughed bitterly. "My schedule is clear, you can pick any time in the next week. Except – Mimi's birthday is in a week."
“I know” said Ginny.
Myra didn't seem to know what to do with herself. She walked over and put kibble into the cat bowls, even though some of them still had food left. Mother Courage sprang down from the top of the sideboard to investigate.
Ginny cleared her dishes from the table and bagged up the cooled muffins. She wanted to look around and see what Myra was doing -- was she just standing there watching her? But instead she went to the wall phone and dialed Nancy's number. Nancy surprised her by answering.
After a minute, Ginny turned and met Myra's eyes. She was standing by the sideboard, as if waiting. Ginny said "She said she'll see us today, if we want, at 2:00."
"Today?" said Myra, with evident dismay. “Isn't it Sunday?” She looked away from Ginny then, out the side window for a few moments. "Yeah, I guess. Might as well."
Ginny said yes to Nancy and got off the phone. "I'll be upstairs" she said, not looking at Myra.
"We need to take separate cars" said Myra.
"I'll see you there, then" said Ginny. She started up the stairs, then turned and said "Thank you for breakfast."
"You're welcome" said Myra.
Myra showered and left the house before noon without a word. Ginny wondered if she was having lunch with Allie, or out at a diner somewhere. Or maybe not eating at all. Ginny called Margie and told her what was going on. Then she spent the hours lying on the daybed, not sleeping but not really present, either. She had set her watch for 1:15, and when it rang, she got up and put on some pants and a clean shirt. She got to Nancy's a few minutes before 2:00. Nancy was making tea. Ginny sat in her living room and leaned back in a chair, closing her eyes.
At 2:00, Myra was still not there and Ginny couldn't help beginning to panic. Nancy had come out and brought her a cup of tea, and after looking at Ginny's face, she sat down next to her and simply held Ginny's hand. Ginny thought it was all that kept her from screaming.
At 2:10, Myra knocked at the front door. "I'm so sorry" she said as soon as Nancy answered. "This will sound crazy, but I got lost."
"Did you forget where I lived?" said Nancy, hugging her.
"Something. I don't know what. It took me a long time to figure out where I was and what roads would lead back to your neighborhood. I'm -- not quite tracking, I guess."
"It's all right. You're my only clients today" said Nancy. "Come in and sit down."
Myra sat on the sofa at an angle from Ginny's chair. Nancy offered her tea, and Myra shook her head. She had not said a word to Ginny. Nancy sat down next to her and took her pulses, then touched various pressure points, murmuring questions that Myra knew she didn't have to consciously hear to be answering. Ginny fought hard not to cry. She didn't think she had Myra's permission any more to cry in front of her.
After a few minutes, Nancy sat back and looked at Myra with a sweet smile. "I really, really appreciate you finding your way here today. In every sense" she began. "The first thing I want to say to you is that I apologize for giving Ginny completely wrong and destructive advice fourteen years ago. When she said being honest with you, at that point in time with all the difficulty your family was in, would be too much for you to handle, I believed her because I didn't know you yet and it would be too much for almost any other human being. I felt it was most important to keep at least one of you functional for your children, and we could deal with the consequences later. Once I met you and got to know you, I realized she had been wrong about your capacity -- an error she made based on her fear, not based on how she knew you. Her fear clouded her judgment temporarily. By the time she realized she had been wrong, so did I. I know you are dealing with two separate blows, the original incident and then the years of lying about it. I doubt if you can disentangle the two in your mind and heart yet, but you will be able to eventually, if you so choose, and I can help you with that. If you need to be angry or disappointed with me, I'll be glad to hear it. We can start there, if you like."
Myra was silent. At one point, she looked in Ginny's direction, but when she saw Ginny's pinched, white face, she looked away again. Finally she said "I have no idea where to start. I have no idea what to do. The most I could manage was to get myself here, and even that was an ordeal. I am completely hopeless about anything ever making sense again."
Nancy said, "Okay, then we'll start with your hopelessness. I am assuming that if you came here, you're willing to at least consider trusting me and working with me. Is that correct?"
Myra had to think for a minute, then nodded.
"I'll start with a question" said Nancy, "and we'll muscle test your answer: Do you believe there is any way you can trust Ginny again enough to be in a relationship with her?" Nancy had her hand on Myra's wrist. Myra looked at Nancy to answer "No. I don't see how." Nancy said "Okay, that tests positive. You really believe you can't get past this, so that's where we begin."
She turned to Ginny and said "You have my permission to cry, and my permission is what matters most in this room. Go ahead." Ginny burst into tears.
Turning back to Myra, she said "Here's my next question: If you were able, with help, to find a way to trust Ginny again and reinvent your relationship with her, not just endure it but make it new and whole, would you rather do that or would you rather get my help to leave her and build a life without her in it? You can get my help either way, it's up to you. I make no judgment and I'll help just as much either way. So the question is, try or go?"
"How can I answer something that's impossible?" said Myra.
"Imagine it were possible. If I could grant you a magic wish, would you wish for repair or a new life elsewhere?"
"Is this a trick question, Nancy? Do you think if you get to me answer something I don't know how to do, it will somehow prove I can do it?" Myra was getting a little mad.
"No. I'm asking your soul what it wants. Your soul doesn't deal with impossibilities, does not recognize them. If it wants what is impossible, then it's up to you, with my help, to see if we can find a way to satisfy it. I know there's likely a way, I will go with you on that path wherever it leads us. But your soul has to want it. If it doesn't, if you really would rather start over in another form, then we have to honor your soul's desire."
Ginny didn't think she could just sit here and wait for this answer. But her legs weren't working well enough for her to get up.
Myra's chest was hurting. She said so, and Nancy began doing something in the air around her body. She had the look on her face she had when she was calling in entities. The pressure in Myra's chest eased a little. She was terrified. She wanted someone to be holding her, and thought about asking Nancy, but decided she probably needed more whatever it was Nancy was doing. She looked up into a corner of the room and opened her mouth, still not sure what was going to come out of her.
"I want Ginny. I want a life with Ginny."
Myra burst into gut-wrenching sobs. Nancy pulled her onto her shoulder, still waving one set of fingers in the air and murmuring, and held her there. She smelled like rosemary. Myra was afraid she might throw up. There was a line of pain around the crest of her head, as if someone was prying off the lid of her skull. But Nancy kept very busy, and slowly the pain receded, her stomach settled, and the crying trickled off.
"Good work" said Nancy. She handed Myra a tissue, then a glass of water. She turned around and looked at Ginny, who was pushed back in her chair, her knees folded up against her chest, still deathly white but with a tiny smell of hope in the air. "Hang in there, Ginny."
"That's all I know how to do" whispered Ginny.
"Okay, Myra. I think part of why this looks impossible is because you don't have enough information. You're missing some key details. I'm going to fill in the blanks for you about what happened. Ginny, you need to listen to this hard, too, because some of it will be news to you, also, at least a new perspective. Usually I just allow a client to figure these things out in their own time, but I'm short-cutting that process for two reasons: One is that you are suffering, needlessly -- it's not the kind of pain that creates growth, it's old rehearsal suffering. And second, this issue, this incident is not the main lesson you need to deal with. It looks like the elephant in the room, but it is not. So I'm going to give you an assist, so sometime in the next while you can see the real elephant in the room. Both of you."
Myra was confused and wary. "I don't want to know more -- details -- than I already do. Ginny told me about what they did. It made me sick."
"What they did is not the issue, and your focus on that is a little delusional. What matters is why Ginny did what she did, and why she wasn't able to tell you."
"I don't want to hear any goddamned excuses" said Myra.
"Not excuses. Why. You know this woman, inside out, or you believed you did -- can you tell me why she did this? No? Then you have something yet to learn. How about listening for a minute, can you do that?" Nancy was firm.
"Okay." Just barely.
"At the point Ginny was unfaithful to your relationship agreement, you two had been together how long?"
"Seventeen fucking years" said Myra.
"Seventeen years, two children, and a great deal of sharing. But that year, things were hard in new ways. Your children were both in adolescence, struggling with forging their own identities separate from you. At times, you didn't know what you were doing. Then Margie got raped, and you had to face, both of you, your failure as parents. It's a parent's job to protect their child, and you didn't protect her from this terrible thing. You had to not only help her heal -- and for you, Myra, that was a much more difficult job than it was for Ginny, because your own delayed ability to heal gave you no reliable role model for how it might look for her -- but you also had to forgive yourselves for having failed. Does this make sense so far?"
Ginny said "No -- what do you mean, Myra didn't have a role model for how to heal? She was the only one of us with a role model."
Nancy turned so she could see both of them.
"No, Myra had eventually found her way to healing, but she had no idea how it was to be a 15-year-old dealing with a single incident and a world of help. She expected things to be harder than they were. I'm not minimizing the rape, but we are born with a capacity to deal with whatever depravity human beings can conceive of, and with resource and room, we can heal almost anything. Margie was positioned to move through it rapidly, something Myra didn't know how to expect. And you, Ginny, colluded with Myra in that lack of knowledge, giving up your power to her, yet simultaneously resenting her for her perceived expert status. You need to figure out why you didn't stay equal with Myra in dealing with this. And you, Myra, need to forgive yourself for not only letting Margie get hurt but also for not being completely on top of the healing process. Forgive yourself for your damage."
"We worked on this after the rape, remember?" said Myra.
"Yes, but we didn't work it all the way through. Obviously. No blame, not on you, nor on me, just an acknowledgement. So...Ginny has given up expert status to Myra, who is not an expert here, and neither of you can completely grant yourselves absolution for your failure as parents. And then Gillam starts having PTSD, not only about the rape but also about his role as a male. And again, Ginny, you decide Myra is better equipped to deal with Gillam than you are, again for reasons you need to figure out. And you can't ask Myra for reassurance, because she's stretched terribly thin. But you are walking around doubting one of your reasons for existence, your role as a parent. And because you feel like you can't take it to Myra, you don't take it to me or to someone competent to help you puzzle it out. Not at that point."
"So...enter Pat. Pat who has her own set of difficulties about parenting, who feels under siege from her partner because she is not living up to expectations, who cannot understand the alternative model of parenting you are all operating under, she only signed on to be a Dad and she is angry about finding out the small print. She is sick of hearing from her partner about how you two do things, she is especially sick of hearing about Myra, the non-biological mom, and how great you are. But she doesn't have a process or a framework for even admitting her own feelings to herself."
"Feeling desperate one night, Ginny, you go over to your best friend's house to finally admit how inadequate you are. She isn't there, she's out for -- whatever it was, doesn't matter. You began crying on the way over, so when you get to the door, it's obvious you are in tremendous distress. Pat asks you in, sits you down on the couch, offers to listen to whatever is bothering you. And you made your first error then, Ginny -- you needed help so much, it had gone on so long, you said yes to an offer of help from someone who was not competent to listen in the way you needed. It's a mistake we all make, all the time. It's a mistake Myra can understand and forgive."
"Maybe" said Myra.
"What Pat hears you say inflames all her sense of being wronged, of being misunderstood -- you two are not the perfect couple, Myra is not the paragon, and she seizes the opportunity to be vindicated. She begins telling you, Ginny, that you are the birth mother, you are the real mother, and Myra is undercutting you, freezing you out, secretly taking over your role, with dire consequences -- maybe Margie wouldn't have been raped if it had been you, Ginny, who talked with her about sex."
"She said that? She said that to you, and you listened?" said Myra, in a rage.
"Not directly, and not immediately" Nancy answered. "She worked her way up to it. Mostly what she did was play into Ginny's fear that she was the bad parent, the wrong mother, by insisting no, Ginny was the good one, Ginny was not the problem. It was close enough to Ginny's fears to be persuasive. Ginny was crying, without reserve, by that time. And when you and Ginny cry together, Myra, it's a process of bearing witness. You would never in a million years use that moment of vulnerability to manipulate the other, to play with her emotions, to do anything except just listen. I am willing to bet you've never had a sexual encounter that was mixed up with a crying session about other things -- maybe you've cried during sex, but you haven't used sex as an answer to crying or vulnerability. Am I right about that?"
Myra was shocked. "Of course not. That would be predation."
"You understood that, Myra. You have the background to understand that. Ginny did not. Ginny made her second mistake. She was preyed upon, and she didn't recognize it immediately. When Pat kissed her in the middle of her crying, telling her she was the good mother, it was not her fault -- it shut down her thinking -- as predation intends to do. And Pat wasn't interested in a connection between equals, she wanted to take something from Ginny, from the two of you, in order to try and make herself feel better. So she pushed. When Ginny kissed back, confused because this had never happened to her before, and what was in her mind was not Pat but you Myra, you and your relationship -- Pat pushed further, putting her hand in Ginny's pants. Then she took Ginny's hand and put it inside her own pants."
"Is that what happened?" said Myra, looking at Ginny.
Ginny was crying again, completely humiliated. She nodded.
"Why the fuck didn't you tell me? Why didn't you tell me last week?" Myra couldn't believe it.
"Because it was my fault, Myra, not hers. I'm not a victim, I'm a grown woman."
"You -- " Myra didn't know what to say.
Ginny wailed "And then when my hand was on her and it was wrong, completely wrong, that's when I realized what was happening. But I can't explain why it took me so long to realize it."
"What do you mean, completely wrong? Is she built different somehow?" Myra couldn't help her curiosity.
"No, not that I remember. I mean it wasn't you -- when I could feel it wasn't you, I freaked out. You're the only woman I've wanted to touch, ever, since we fell in love." Ginny was gasping out the words between sobs.
Nancy took over the narrative again. "So at that point, she pulled away, shoved Pat away, in fact, and stood up. She went into the bathroom, scrubbed her face and hands, dropped her pants and scrubbed her crotch, then walked out. At the door she turned to Pat and said 'If you tell anyone this, ever, you will destroy my family.' She left and had nowhere to go. Who could she tell? In Ginny's mind, she had just betrayed your faith in her. She had made an error she couldn't explain, and even though it was less than two minutes of deviation from a lifetime of commitment, she didn't know how to forgive herself. She sat in her car for hours, until everyone at home was asleep. She slipped in and went back to her studio. The next morning, when you took the kids to school, she went to the women's clinic and got tested for herpes. She didn't have sex with you again until she got an all clear. She waited for the bomb to go off, for Pat to tell Patty, but when that didn't happen in a few days, she came to you and begged for you both to get help. When she came to me, I agreed her confessing to you would be, at least in part, an attempt to make herself feel better. In my estimation, she had not in fact been unfaithful to you. If she could find a way to carry her secret, get clear about what really happened and not ever pull away from you, I thought it would be kinder for you. I was devastatingly wrong, but we already know that."
Myra didn't want this story to make a difference, but it did. She looked at Ginny and said "You got used. Not that differently from how Margie got used. And you couldn't see that?"
Ginny looked away.
Nancy said "Margie was raised by the two of you, a different generation. She was able to not blame herself right away, to take care of herself right away. Ginny was not because, well, you don't have to be an incest survivor to be hurt around sex and intimacy."
Myra wanted Ginny to say something to her. "How could you believe you were the bad parent? Why does there even have to be a bad parent?"
Nancy laughed. "Funny thing, you asking that question. You both grew up with a good parent and a bad parent. You were set up to believe in that dynamic. In your case, Myra, your father was openly assigned the role of bad guy, so there was a little wiggle room for you to not blindly recreate your parent's relationship. But in Ginny's family, her mother's coldness, just like her mother's alcoholism, was a secret covered up by Ginny's father. It was a fault line ready for someone to exploit."
"Goddamn, Ginny. If you couldn't be David, then you must be Helen? Is that what you thought?"
"You are always so clear that you are Jo's legacy, Myra, that everything good about you comes from Jo. But she's not perfect. She's not who I'd want raising me" Ginny flared.
"Who'd you rather, spineless David?" yelled Myra back at her.
"These choices are the lie" intervened Nancy. "These rigid ways of thinking, of choosing sides -- that's evidence of where you got hurt."
"And Jughead, she's the one who figured out how to seduce you?"
"It wasn't seduction, Myra" interrupted Nancy. "Don't disrespect Ginny that way. It was an error in judgment on her part, the kind of error you have countless examples of in your past."
"Yeah, but I made all my mistakes before we got together" jeered Myra. "I didn't truck it into our bedroom."
Ginny stared at her. Myra stopped, and tried to argue with herself in her head.
"Exactly" said Nancy, as if she could read Myra's thoughts. "Ginny made a mistake later than you. Women make mistakes."
"And...Ginny, I have brought my past with me. You've never -- trashed me for it" Myra admitted, almost mumbling.
"All right, then. Good work, you two. You still have a long way to go. Myra, you need to not stuff your hurt and betrayal down just because you have a little understanding of what happened with Ginny. You need to let this percolate through, and figure out what betrayal really means to you. And Ginny, you need to do some serious forgiving of yourself, stop waiting for Myra to make it better. You need to get over thinking your choices are David or Helen. I can see you back tomorrow, if you two want a 10:00 session." Nancy was chipper, as if something really remarkable had occurred.
Myra was stumped. She didn't want to leave until things were fixed. She still didn't know how they could be fixed, but she was now beginning to believe Nancy could maybe pull it off. She looked at the clock. It was almost 4:00.
Ginny stood up and said "Okay. I'll see you then." She didn't want to face Myra, didn't want to hear anything more. She wasn't sure she should drive home, but she walked out the door and got into her car. She rolled down the window so fresh air would blow on her face. She drove slowly home, walked in the front door, and almost collapsed with relief. She began crying as she trudged up the stairs. She crawled under the quilt on Myra's daybed, with Franklin beside her, and cried quietly, unable to single out one clear thought in her head.
After half an hour, she realized Myra had not come home. Fear swept through her: maybe she had gotten lost again, or had a wreck, or wasn't coming home. She got up and went to the front window, looking out at the driveway. Myra's car was there, and Myra was sitting in the driver's seat, leaned over the steering wheel. She watched for five minutes, trying to figure out if Myra was crying. Unable to tell from this angle, she went back to the daybed and covered up again.
Several minutes later, she heard the click of the front door latch. She heard Keller's hello meows, and the soft jangle of Myra's keys being set down on the kitchen counter. She waited for the sounds of Myra making something to eat. When Myra was done, she'd go down and walk over to Margie's for dinner. She almost stopped breathing, she was listening so intently, trying to track Myra's movements downstairs. For a long while, there was no sound at all. Suddenly she heard the creak of a floorboard at the top of the stairs. She rolled over, startled. Myra was standing there, staring at her.
"Why are you on my daybed?" said Myra.
Ginny rolled back, so she wasn't facing Myra. "Mine is still being reupholstered."
There was a long silence. Then Myra said "Would you scooch over a bit?"
Ginny scooted without registering what it meant, then felt Myra slide in behind her, fitting herself to Ginny's curve. As Myra's arm came around her middle and pulled her close, Ginny gave herself up to grief.
Myra had never heard Ginny cry like this. The sounds she was making were so harsh, Myra wondered if it hurt her throat to push them out. Ginny's body was jerking in spasms. She held her tight, as tight as she could, and when there was a moment of silence, as Ginny drew in another big breath, Myra would say into the hair behind her ear "I love you, Ginny Bates. I want to find a way back."
It was only ten minutes of all-out crying, but Ginny felt weak and exhausted afterward. She didn't want Myra to move away from her, not yet. Finally she said "Don't go. Please."
"I am so sorry, Myra, I have been sorry for fourteen years, you need to know -- "
"Ginny. I don't need or want your apology."
There was a long silence. Then Ginny said "I need an apology from you."
Myra was shocked. "What for?"
"For calling me a cunt."
Myra felt a second shock. "I called you a cunt?'
"During the fight, downstairs in the kitchen. You yelled it at me."
"Oh, hell, Ginny. I have no memory of that. But I'm not denying it -- I have no memory of much of that fight. I was out of my mind. I should never have said that, I absolutely don't believe that about you and I wish I could take it back."
Ginny rolled over onto her back and looked at Myra. "Okay. That helps."
Myra looked into her eyes. "I miss you something awful."
"I'm right here."
"I -- I can't, Ginny."
Ginny closed her eyes briefly, then said "All right. I understand."
"Have you been sleeping? I don't think you've been eating."
"Not really....Is that why you made the muffins?"
"Blueberries. Your favorite." Myra grinned a little.
Ginny turned back and snuggled into Myra's body. "I could sleep now, if you'll hold me."
"Me, too. For a while."
Keller got tired of waiting for Myra to come back downstairs and yowled up the airwell. Myra turned away from Ginny's ear to yell "Up here, Keller. Come up here." They heard Keller's footsteps up the stairs, with accompanying complaining chirps. She jumped onto the daybed and lay down against Myra's neck, almost upside down.
"I can not only hear her purring, I think I can feel the vibration traveling through you to me" remarked Ginny.
Myra pushed her forehead against Ginny's hair, and they settled into exhausted sleep.
At 5:30, Margie began to wonder where Ginny was. She stepped out onto her back porch and saw no lights on at their house. She left the dogs in her own yard. As she opened her mothers' back door, she felt a changed energy in the house. Instead of yelling out a hello as she usually did, she looked through the downstairs, noting car keys on the counter and the open bedroom door. She walked quietly up the back stairs, and at the landing, she saw the two of them spooned together on Myra's daybed. From their breathing, she could tell they were asleep. Franklin sat at the top of the stairs, staring at her intently. She went on into the study, flanked by Franklin, and looked down at her mothers. Relief was making her light-headed. One of Ginny's legs and feet were exposed, and she pulled the quilt very gently back over Ginny's flesh, tucking it in. Franklin jumped onto that section of the daybed, now covered with quilt, and curled up, as if he had been waiting for someone to make a place for him.
Margie tiptoed back downstairs and walked to Gillam's house. She told him what she had just seen. Nobody else was there for the potluck yet. He went and sat down at the table, his forehead in his palms.
"Do you think this means it's all better?"
"No. But it's a start. And it's the start they needed. They communicate so much by touch, they always have."
"Thank god. Thank you, god." Gillam closed his eyes for a minute in prayer; Margie could see his lips moving.
As the other family members arrived, they were filled in. They were all in the family room singing when Margie's vigilant watch on the house behind revealed a light going on upstairs. She nudged Allie, and together they saw Myra came into view, walking downstairs slowly. Alone. They watched for a few more minutes, but Ginny didn't sit up from the daybed.
Margie tried not to see this as bad news. She and Frances helped Jane and Gillam put the children to bed, then went home and talked themselves to sleep.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
(Whale shark iron gate sculpture in Los Zacatitos, Baja California, Mexico by John Warren)
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.
4 May 2018
The following morning, just past sun-up, Margie and Ginny were at the table when Chris let herself out of the front bedroom. She came and sat with them, pouring a cup of coffee but declining a bowl of oatmeal.
“Well?” asked Margie.
Chris looked short on sleep. “I did my best. I saw it land, but it didn't sink in. Rolled off like rain on chaparral, I think.”
“What are you talking about?” said Ginny.
Margie turned to her. “Aunt Chris tried to bust through. Aunt Allie's trying, too.”
“Allie called her nuts” said Chris, with a grin. “Funny how my friends throw that word around.”
Ginny was staring at her. Chris tapped the table beside Ginny and said “So, how about you? Are you crazy, too?”
After several seconds, Ginny said quietly “Yes.” Margie was startled.
“Well, you're rich. We'll keep them away from you, out there. Listen, I need to run, I want to catch Sima before she leaves the house.” Chris carried her cup to the sink on her way out.
Margie played with her spoon for a couple of minutes, as Ginny stared into space – or maybe she was watching the front of the house. Finally Margie said “Tonight is shabbos again. Are you coming?”
Ginny looked dismayed at finding out how much time had passed. “No” she said hoarsely.
“Well, then, you're not just sitting here. You've eaten exactly one bite of the oatmeal, and I made it the way you do, like wheat paste. So put on some clean clothes, not those funky sweatpants again, and you're coming home with me. I want to see you refuse Frances' breakfast. Then – that rosebush you gave me, the Audrey Hepburn, it's got problems. You need to be in the sun for a couple of hours. After that, Edwina is taking you to her house until late afternoon. You can come hole back up here while the rest of us welcome the sabbath.”
Margie's voice wasn't irritated but it was final. Ginny trudged upstairs while Margie carried the oatmeal outside and dumped it on the bird feeding tray. She left a note for Myra, outlining the day's plans but with no appeals in it.
Myra emerged from her room around 11:00. She read the note, opened a Coke, and drank it down standing in the kitchen. Then she put on shoes and walked out to her meditation bench by the pond, Keller trailing after her. It was overcast but not imminently rainy.
After half an hour, Allie came in the front gate carrying a small paper bag. “I made you a ham sandwich, the way you like it” said Allie. “And there's a bottle of cranberry juice in there. I ain't leaving until you take at least two bites and drink all the juice.”
“So you get custody of me while Edwina sits with Ginny, is that how it works?” said Myra flatly. She unwrapped the sandwich and sniffed at it, then set it down. She opened the juice and took a couple of sips. Keller's nose was twitching. Myra picked up the sandwich again and took a small bite.
“My, I don't get why you won't go see Nancy. I know you freaked completely out, but it ain't like you to refuse help from the one place that always worked before. Are you trying to die or something?” asked Allie.
“I feel like I'm already dead” said Myra. “I'm just waiting for the dirt to drop on me.”
“That you plan, then? Wait to either die or for somebody to save you?” said Allie with a trace of anger in her voice.
“I don't have a plan. I have no fucking clue, except to stay away from any room where Ginny might be, since I'm trapped here” said Myra bitterly.
“It not Gitmo” said Allie.
“Don't you get it, asswipe?” burst out Myra. “I spent my entire adult life trying to clean up the residue from being raised by liars, by a man who never did anything but lie and a woman who covered for him at the expense of her own kids. And now I find out I chose as a soulmate another woman who is just as big a liar, just as willing to use me like toilet paper to keep from having to deal with the consequences of her own behavior. I'm too fucking old to clean this up. I'm ruined, every choice I've made is in the crapper.”
“Every choice?” said Allie.
“Oh, hell, I don't know. I can't figure how to sort it out” said Myra, putting down the sandwich.
“That why you need help” persisted Allie.
Myra leaned forward with her head in her hands. “Maybe I can move in with Margie and Frances. Or the back bedroom at Jane and Gillam's. I can't afford to buy Ginny out of this house, and I don't have any of my own money left, except for the pension. I guess I could start drawing on that. I don't want to lose access to the grandkids.”
“You trying to solve the wrong problems first” said Allie.
Myra looked up at her, her eyes flat. “You know what? If this is the best listening you can manage right now, I'd rather not have you around.”
Allie stood up stiffly, then bent over to press an imaginary crease in her jeans. When she righted herself again, she said “I'm not giving up on you. I'm just taking a little break. Or not, if you don't want even that.”
“I know you're not gonna walk on me, Billups. That much I do know” said Myra, putting her head back in her palms.
“Okay. Well, see you later” said Allie. Myra heard the gate click close. She lifted her head to look at the whale shark carving. In one of the concave spots on its back, near the head, was something brown – a fallen leaf, maybe. She stood tiredly to go pull it out. It would not dislodge, however. It was a solid small hump that left dust on her fingertips.
“I think it's some kind of cocoon, maybe a tiny wasp larva” said a voice beside her. Myra turned to see her mother standing there, vivid and opaque. Myra leaned her palm flat against the whale shark and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, her mother was still there. Keller had her head turned toward the space her mother occupied, her ears tilted forward.
“I should have known you'd appear one of these times” said Myra. “Or maybe this is an outright sign of my going off the deep end – I've never seen anyone before, only heard them.”
“I chose to come this time” said Jo. “You've never needed me this much.”
I most earnestly beg to differ Myra thought.
Jo laughed. “Of course you'll argue, you always did argue with me.”
“This proves I'm hallucinating” Myra said. “Because how could you read my thoughts...” Her voice trailed off. She felt very sick to her stomach.
“You're leading up to making the biggest mistake of your life, you little slack-jawed moonwit” her mother said in a conversational tone.
I haven't heard that phrase, or even thought of it, in decades thought Myra. Slack-jawed moonwit, she used that all the time. But I'm dredging up memory, it's no proof of anything.
Jo turned around and crooned to Keller “You are such a wonderful kitty, I'm glad to meet you.” Keller stood, preening. Jo bent over to pick her up, and Myra heard her mother distinctly break wind. Keller pushed against her mother's chest, with a purr Myra could also hear.
Myra had forgotten the details of what her mother looked like. She stared at Jo's brown eyes, the dark patches below them, the missing molar which showed when she smiled. Her pantsuit wasn't familiar to Myra, and she thought zanily “Is there a Lane Bryant in the afterlife?” She wanted to touch her, to melt into her mama's arms. But she was already going crazy. She stayed put.
As Jo stroked Keller's forehead, she said “Your Ginny: I didn't send her to you, you found her on your own. I did play a hand in those children of yours, but I was working with another old woman, on her side of the family. Which is why Margie came first, not Gillam; I didn't have seniority, as it were. Ginny is the right one for you, Myra. She always has been and remains so. You have to stop embracing confusion and weakness, and do this right.”
“Funny coming from you” emerged from Myra's mouth before she could stop herself.
“Baby girl, you have never been the kind of coward I was. Make your own legacy here.”
Myra heard another gate click and turned to look, lifting her hand from the whale shark. Her mother vanished, and Keller fell abruptly to the earth with a yowl. Margie was standing in her yard, staring at Myra.
“Who were you just talking to? And what happened to Keller?”
“I was talking – I was hallucinating, Margie. And Keller must have jumped down from my arms.”
Behind Margie, Gidg and Moon stood with huge eyes, heads lowered, looking around Myra's yard. They would not cross the threshold from their own property. Margie looked around also, saying “But there was another voice, where is she? She can't have moved that quickly.”
Myra swallowed. “You heard her?”
“Of course I heard her. What, are you saying – was that your hallucination?” said Margie.
“It was my mother. She came to tell me what to do” said Myra. Margie felt for the arm of the bench and sat down heavily. Keller jumped up beside her and began washing.
“What did you hear?” asked Myra hoarsely.
“First it was just two voices but I couldn't make out words, I was still by my back door. See, Gidg came and scratched at my work room, and when I came to see what was up, she growled with the hair standing up on her back. And Moon had his tail between his legs. So I thought there must be something scaring them in the yard. I came to the back stoop, and I could hear you, and I walked over. When I got to the gate -- “
Margie stopped and looked around at her dogs. “Come on, you two. Come in here.”
They balked. Myra bent over and held her fingers out to Moon, saying “It's okay. I'll look after you.” He slid through the gate, knees bent, and sidled up to Myra. She rubbed his head, kissed his forehead, and let him lick her cheek once. “You are so very loyal to us all” she murmured to him. “Your heart is true blue.” When she removed her hand, he hurried back to his own yard.
Margie caught Myra's gaze and, with her uncanny gift for mimicry, said in Jo's voice “Baby girl, you've never been the kind of coward I was. Make your own legacy here.”
Myra suddenly needed to sit down, too. Margie made room for her on the bench, picking up Keller to do so. She sniffed of Keller's fur and said “She smells like sauteed garlic and onions. And some kind of lady perfume.”
Myra had to close her eyes again. “Avon” she whispered.
“Mama, I'm telling you flat out, I am not hallucinating. I just heard my own gramma, I guess. She sounded – the way she said 'baby girl', it was exactly how you say it. God, I wish I'd been in time to see her” said Margie. “What else did she say?”
Myra kept her eyes closed. After several seconds, she said “I have to think this over. I can't talk about it with you right now.” She looked at Margie and said “I also need to ask you not to tell anybody else, not yet. Except Frances, I won't ask you to lie to your partner.”
Her face went stony. She stood and said “I need to go sort this out.” She strode toward the back door. Keller carefully skirted the pond, then raced across the grass to catch up. Margie watched Myra through the glass wall, heading to the front of the house. She picked up the sandwich and juice bottle, and returned to her own yard.
After closing the gate, she pulled the sandwich into pieces and tossed them to her dogs, saying “Thank you both so much for coming to get me.” She rinsed the bottle in her sink and put it in recycling. She looked at the clock and decided Frances could spare a 10-minute break right now. She shut the front door in her dogs' faces.
Gillam came through the gate after work, finding Ginny upstairs on Myra's daybed. “I brought chicken enchiladas” he said. “Do you have challah for us?”
“You'll have to get some out of the freezer” said Ginny tiredly.
“Are you napping?” he asked.
“Trying to” she answered. He kissed her forehead and went back downstairs. He knocked at Myra's door and let himself in without waiting.
“Shabbat shalom” he said. Myra was surprised. “What did you do today?” he asked.
Myra studied her fingernails a minute. “I need to tell you something” she said.
He sat down quickly.
“I – I had a thing today. A – like one of my sightings, only – I don't think this was real.” Her face is way too pale he thought.
“You never think they're real” he replied. “Where did this happen? Did you go out?”
Myra recounted the incident clumsily, not able to maintain a clear chronology. Gillam asked several questions, ending with “I don't see why you're claiming this isn't like your other visions.”
“Because...for one thing, those bricks in that wall are at most a few years old. My mother never stood on that earth or touched that wall. Plus...everybody's hammering on me, it's too convenient.”
“I'm not hammering on you” he said. “And you didn't touch Spider Woman rock, but that ancient on its top saw you all the same. That one was visual, not auditory, remember?”
“Dammit, Gillam, I'm trying to tell you – this is a sign of me losing it. And somehow I hypnotized Margie into it, too.”
“If you want evidence of you losing it, you can begin a week ago” he replied. “I don't believe you, or much of anybody, can coerce Margie mentally or emotionally. I was with you at Stonehenge, I saw your reaction, do you think I was being deceived by you, too?”
Myra didn't answer. Gillam said, with a small grin, “So she would have let me be the firstborn, huh. I like that. Who do you think the old woman who pulled rank on her was, Rosa?”
“I do think that, Gillam, but that's my point. It's all coming from my imagination, it's not real.”
“Did she mention my kids?” asked Gillam.
Gillam thought for a minute, and began standing. “Okay. I'm going to talk it over with Margie.”
“No, I'd rather you didn't -- “
“I have to, Mama. Listen, have you forgotten that tomorrow is Jane's birthday?”
“Lucy and Co are driving up, and the main party starts at 5:00.”
“Gillam...I can't. We have – Ginny found an antique music stand and refinished it, and I bought an old music sheet that has notes on it by Charles Mingus, it's framed and matted in the -- “
“You can give it to Jane when you come to see her” said Gillam. “You or Mom, whichever one of you pulls yourself together first.”
He stood a minute, looking at her. She avoided meeting his eyes. He said slowly “I think maybe part of why she came was actually for my kids. To keep this hopelessness from being passed on to another generation. Which I agree with her about. They don't need to see you like this.”
He left, then, not closing the door behind him. Myra heard him go into the storage room and open the freezer. Once the back door shut, she went to her bedroom door and closed it gently.
Ginny stayed on Myra's daybed, away from windows and any possible view of the house behind them. At midnight, she dragged herself downstairs and drank some tea. She looked at Gillam's enchiladas but her stomach rebelled. She could hear the TV from Myra's room. She carried an apple back upstairs and crawled under her quilt, setting the apple beside her pillow. The clock in her studio chimed away half-hours and hours.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
(The flight of non-treaty Nimipu, June 17-October 5, 1877)
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.
April 30, 2018
Chris was home with Sima on Monday when Allie called after lunch to check in about Myra.
“She's lost weight” said Allie. “They both have. Those circles under her eyes are growing.”
“She was wheezing in her sleep, the night I slept over” said Chris. “Course, that cat's in there with her now.”
“Do we need to get her to a doctor?” asked Allie.
“Not yet” said Chris. “Still...this is as bad as when her mother died.” She felt Sima turn and look at her.
“She nuts” said Allie baldly. “And when she switches from being mad to blaming herself, well, we may have to sit watch on her.”
“Maybe we should get her out of there, Allie” said Chris. “Maybe she can't do what she needs to do because she feels confined.”
“No” said Allie stubbornly. “She burns bridges. I've thought about getting Ginny to leave, let Myra felt that place empty. But I ain't got the heart, and Edwina won't do it, either. Edwina...Ginny won't tell her much, she just sitting tight, and – don't you repeat this now, but 'Wina wonders how come Ginny couldn't trust her, either. They've kept other big secrets between 'em before, apparently.”
“Yeah, well, when it's time for us all to sit back down on a clean bed of sand, we'll be reassigning territory and narratives between us, that's what I think” said Chris in a hard tone.
“Listen...” Allie's voice trailed off a few beats. “When she does shift, one thing she may do, she always used to do, is...well, sex. Now that her choices seem like they didn't work out -- “
“Are you actually trying to tell me not to let her jump me? I don't know whether to laugh or hang up on you” said Chris. “Besides, I'm more adept in that regard than you are, hot shot.”
“Okay. Never mind. You taking her for dinner?”
“Yes” said Chris. When she hung up, she blew out her breath before facing Sima.
Sima didn't say anything for a while. She surprised Chris when she didn't ask about Allie's warning. Instead, she said “You know, you stopped owing her years ago for saving you.”
“It's not about toting up scores” said Chris.
“You told me once that white people always keep score” said Sima.
“Maybe I was just talking about you” said Chris, as she stood and left the house.
Ginny spent the afternoon upstairs watching a crew replace the glass wall panel. She carried the painting she'd begun into her varnishing room and left it there, facing the wall. She folded her easel and put it in a cupboard. She threw away the brush she'd been using.
That evening was Monday, Jane and Gillam's date night, and Margie offered for her and Frances to take the children instead of Myra and Ginny. They raided the dress-up box at Jane and Gillam's house, creating explorer costumes, and led the kids out onto Broadway where Frances was Marco Polo showing them the sights of the Silk Road, accompanied by Margo Batiz offering ironic commentary on each new discovery.
Chris and Myra left the house at 5:00, Myra refusing to look in Ginny's direction as she walked out the front door. Chris came to where Ginny sat at the table with a pot of tea and patted her arm, saying “We'll be gone at least a couple of hours. I'm not spending the night, though.”
Franklin had begun sitting on the table next to Ginny. He was there now, his paws tucked under him, eyes half shut. Chris glanced at him but he ignored her.
“Do you want me to bring you something back?” asked Chris.
“No, I'm fine” said Ginny. She wasn't hungry. Chris patted her arm again and left.
The tea was cold. Ginny thought about going to the stove to get more hot water. Instead, she lay her head on her arms, looking sideways at Franklin. A few minutes later, she heard the front door open again. She sat up. From this end of the table, she couldn't see anyone until they were through the foyer and into the hall next to the kitchen. By the time she saw Carly, he was almost to her. Behind him was Eric, carrying bento boxes.
Ginny was on her feet when Carly reached her. He grabbed her into a tight hug. He was less than an inch taller than her, but he was so muscular, she saw him as a tall man. She let him force her close, fighting the need to cry.
“I'm sorry I wasn't here this weekend” he said softly. “I'm here now.”
She couldn't stop the crying, then. “Oh, Carly, I'm the one who's sorry, I'm so terribly sorry -- “
Eric came to hug her from behind, and she cupped his smooth check with one hand bent backward. Ginny's eyes burned, she wasn't sure from exhaustion or chemicals in her tears. She had to stop and wipe them, and sat down abruptly, her muscles demanding release. Carly sat beside her, his arm over her shoulders.
“We brought sushi. And after we eat, we'll turn on your yard lights and go out in the garden with you. Margie said you've not been going out.”
“I feel – It's hard to even leave for her house. It's like I suddenly got agoraphobia” said Ginny.
“Franklin” said Eric sternly. The grey cat shrugged and jumped off the table. Eric carried the teapot into the kitchen for refilling as Carly began opening the bento boxes.
“This place makes real wasabi, not the kind that's mixed from powder” Carly said in a matter of fact tone. “So be careful. We got ika, kani, ebi, and rainbow rolls, because I know you love those.”
“Carly...” said Ginny. When he looked at her, she said “I don't know if I can ask this, but...How is Patty?”
“She thinks she's found the unifying theory which explains why nothing ever worked out with Pat” said Carly dismissively. “Pat has given her three or four different versions already. She's going to play Mom until Mom gets her common sense back. Why don't you tell me what really happened?”
“Oh, honey” said Ginny, putting her hand over his. “I want to. But – I owe Myra first. I mean, I hope you can see that.”
“Where is Myra?” he asked, looking around. “I know she won't eat raw fish, but we have other stuff.”
“She's out. She doesn't eat with me any more. She doesn't talk to me, or even look at me” said Ginny, feeling a lump rise in her throat.
Eric was shocked, she could tell. Gillam hadn't told them everything, then. Ginny wondered what else he'd left out.
The sashimi was excellent, and Carly coaxed, but Ginny ate less than half a meal. There were leftovers, something that never occurred with this kind of take-out. Franklin rubbed Eric's ankles as he stashed uneaten food in the fridge.
“Get your wellies on” Carly said to Ginny.
“I just don't think I can” she said, her cheeks flushed, looking away from him. “I know veggies are going to waste, but...”
“I'll go harvest” said Eric. “You two sit here and talk about my pert, luscious backside as I bend over the rows.”
It drew a smile from Ginny. He gathered clippers, gloves, and a basket, kissing Carly on the mouth as he left. Ginny thought about how much these two laughed together, engaged in horseplay, argued cheerfully, but there was a bone-deep tenderness which never left them. It made her ache inside.
All three kids are bright, strong, have meaningful careers and good marriages she thought. Doesn't this prove that Myra and I must have -- She didn't know how to finish her thought.
Carly had put his hand in hers again. She looked at his fingers and said “When you were born, you had the tiniest hands I'd ever seen, smaller than either of our babies. Your skin was translucent, and your grip was so small you couldn't wrap your fingers around one of my fingers. But even then, I knew you'd be a powerful man someday. A sweet and powerful man.”
He squeezed her hand. She wanted to not have hurt him, his mother, the family that was still his, however much he had claimed hers. She couldn't seem to stop talking.
“About ten days after you were born, we were over there and Patty had gone to sleep, we were sitting with you and Gillam, and I was nursing Gillam. You got fussy, like you were hungry, and Myra went to heat you a bottle of Patty's milk, but after we got you in my lap, swaddled, with your legs over Gillam's, you began pushing at my breast with your face and I told her not to bother, I had plenty. So I fed you and Gillam together. He put his little hand on your chest, glad to share. Glad as I was.”
She could tell she was embarrassing him. She pushed her lips shut.
He asked, “Have you ever told Gillam that story?”
“I don't think so.”
“Then let me be the one. I'll save it for when he's trying to get my goat” said Carly, grinning.
They left before Myra returned, but Carly borrowed paper and wrote Myra a note. He began going upstairs to put it on her desk, and Ginny stopped him.
“She's not going to her study any more. Leave it in the front bedroom” she said. He looked worried again.
“Will you eat the rest of that sushi?” he asked.
“...Probably not. Take it and have it for your lunch tomorrow” she said. “But bless you both for bringing it to me. I – Will you come back soon?”
“Promise” he said.
The DMZ continued for the next several days. Ginny was up by dawn, drinking tea and watching the gate to Margie's. Margie came over early for breakfast, before Frances woke up. After she left, Ginny retreated upstairs to Myra's daybed, leaving the kitchen to Myra who got up late and often didn't eat until lunch, which she mostly ate out with Allie or Chris. Sometimes Edwina or Sima stopped by. Gillam came over before dinner, usually bringing plates for both his mothers, but Myra would not eat anywhere except in her bedroom, so he ate with her in there if he ate with them at all.
Myra's refusal to be in the same room with Ginny was debilitating to everyone.
Margie got Ginny out to see Nancy twice, and could not tell a real difference in Ginny afterward. Margie, and Frances when she wasn't working, also spent as much time as they could with the grandchildren, who were bewildered by the sudden disappearance of their grandmothers. Gillam began looking haggard; Margie was sure he was doing everything he could to keep stress from Jane.
Chris didn't push Myra. She didn't really want to, and she wasn't sure what to say. She just hung out with her. Allie, however, made a point of spending at least a few minutes with Ginny every time she came over, hugging her warmly, and then going in to Myra saying "You can be right or you can be kind, which one you choosing today?" When they went out to eat, she threw a fit if Myra ordered a Coke. "You not sleeping as it is, last thing you need is caffeine, hophead" she told her.
On Thursday, Allie called Chris again at lunch.
"She's cemented in" Allie told Chris.
"There's nothing more shattered than something that's fallen off a pedestal" said Chris.
"Have you heard from Sima what the hell went on between Ginny and Pat?"
"No, Ginny's not really talking about it. I thought maybe you knew -- I mean, you and Ginny are tight. Or Edwina..."
"She's not talked with Edwina, either, and I haven't had a chance to be alone with her -- it'll be a federal issue if I see her and not Myra, and right now, things are tough enough over there" said Allie. "But Myra's got to get some help, make some kind of move. This waiting ain't working."
"I hope you're not expecting me to give her a shove. Not my style, and besides, she's always listened to you, even when it goes against her own inclinations."
Allie shook her head. "She's not listening to me now. She knows how much I love Ginny, for one thing. And for another -- this means revolution, not just a shove. She loves you different than any of us."
"Oh, hell, Allie." Chris was not happy with this assignment.
"It's for her sake, not mine, not Ginny. So, only if you can see it that way" said Allie.
"I'll think about it, best I can offer."
Allie finally grinned. "Your mind and heart -- won't let us down."
That night, Chris showed up at Myra's house at dinnertime with a bag of chili dogs and chocolate milkshakes. Margie let her in and hugged her around the white paper bags in either hand.
"Are you spending the night with her tonight?" Margie asked.
"Yeah. And -- " Chris lowered her voice. "I'm going to talk to her."
"As in, give a talking to?" asked Margie, hope on her face.
"I'll try" said Chris, reluctantly. Ginny wasn't within earshot. "Listen, have you talked with Patty -- has she?"
"No, I called there and got the voice mail, left a message but Patty hasn't called back. I guess being broken up with Pat doesn't change the fact of infidelity back then."
"I guess not. I would never in a million years have believed Ginny would cheat on Myra, and if she was going to, I would never have thought it'd be Pat" said Chris.
"It's like I woke up one day and all the rules had changed" said Margie. "Not my rules, but theirs."
"Yeah, that's what Myra's trying to wrap her mind around. Or, more likely, trying to not wrap her mind around. Listen, I got milkshakes melting here, I should go in."
Margie kissed her cheek. "Thanks so much, Aunt Chris. I love you."
"You too, monkeygirl. I'll talk with you tomorrow." Margie and Ginny left by the back door.
Chris kicked at Myra's door with her feet, saying "Open up, my hands are full."
Myra had on Wheel of Fortune.
"Oh, for god's sake, you've always made fun of that show" said Chris. "If you're going to drug out on TV, at least pick something above the imbecile level."
Myra turned off the TV, then seemed dazed by the silence. Chris said "Ginny's gone over to Margie's, you want to eat at the table like a real person?"
"I got a table in here" said Myra, indicating the folding table she'd set her laptop on.
"Fine. Did you write anything today?"
"No. I found out you can kill the Twin Barons of Hell, though, in God Mode with just a chainsaw if you try hard enough."
"Doom again" sighed Chris, biting into her hot dog.
"I can't find my disk with Wolfenstein on it" said Myra.
"Remember when the kids were little and we'd play tag with 'em in the back yard, and that time you started using the voice of that guy with the machine gun arms from Wolfenstein, saying 'I'm gonna getcha' that way? And Margie started looking for rocks to throw at you and Gillam started crying?"
"Yeah, and they'd never even seen the game" said Myra, smiling bleakly. She was eating, though, not just drinking her shake. That was a good sign.
But then they both remembered that Ginny had come out, picked up Gillam and yelled at them for terrorizing him with a video game. Chris looked at Myra's face; it was blank again.
After a few more bites, Chris said "How much do you know about Nez Perce history, Myra?"
Myra was taken off guard. "Well, I read Jane Gay's memoir, and Archie Phinney's collection. Nez Perce Summer, that you loaned me. The nature guide by Crow and Landee, and Allen Slickpoo's book. The one about Nez Perce women, and several children's books, plus at least two cookbooks -- “
Chris interrupted her. "Relax, you're not about to be tested, I'm just want to tell you something and I need to figure out how much background you need. So, what do you remember about how my family fits into all that?"
"Well -- your mom was born in Idaho, in Lapwai, right? But your dad's family was from the Colville Reservation. Your dad met your mom on a trip to Idaho and married her, then they moved back to the Colville area where you were born. I know your mom is some kind of kin to Lawyer..." Myra's information appeared to run out.
"My dad's name, Kash, comes from someone who was part of the Idaho tribe, I think that ancestor might have even worked with the McBeth sisters. But aside from him, most of my dad's ancestry comes from the folks who ran with Joseph. Whereas my mom's side are all Nimipu who chose to convert with Lawyer and become farmers." Chris was speaking slowly.
"Wow. So, your family is a like a convergence of cultures. Is that part of why your parents were such a bad match?" asked Myra.
"Likely. Aside from the fact that my dad was a drunk, of course" said Chris, grinning without humor.
"Minor detail" said Myra. It was the first attempt at a joke Chris had heard from her in a week.
"So..." said Chris. "My mom was the Catholic one. I mean, my dad was Christian too, at least in name. And he wasn't smart enough to figure out how to buck it, or was too scared, maybe, to find elders who would teach him Dreaming, or Drumming. He had nothing good to say about the Nimipu who gave up our way of life -- he used to say to mom, 'Your people traded 17 million acres for a coward on a cross'. Which would be like stabbing my mom in her heart. But when he wasn't around, she'd talk about how his family had never gotten over being sent to Oklahoma, how they came back here in disgrace a generation later."
Myra was watching her. "Chris...I had no idea, you never told me the things they said. I mean, not about that."
Chris crumpled up the wrapping from her hot dog and said "You know what, My? They were both wrong. Running for Canada was absolutely the right thing for Joseph to have done, and making the best trade he could was also the right thing for Lawyer to have done. We were never a single tribe, we were never a confederation like the Iroquois. We were small bands of kin and kith who each had their own way of connecting to the earth. We were people of the earth, and however anybody found a way to make that connection was good."
Myra wanted to ask Chris what her connection to the earth was, what that felt like, but she could tell Chris wasn't done with her train of thought.
"And you know, it seems like I can't go anywhere around progressives in this region without hearing that damned speech by Joseph, about how he said 'I will fight no more forever', and every single white person I ever knew thinks it's a tragic surrender, his acknowledgment of defeat. But Joseph wasn't beaten. He stopped on his own. He changed course, and he went on from there and did other things. There is no shame on him, not to my mind." Chris's voice was emphatic. Now she turned and looked directly into Myra's eyes.
"Things are never perfect. Sometimes you have to make do, or what feels like making do. It's a Christian idea, shame is. Feeling bad for making a mistake is just a waste of spirit. Or trying to make someone else feel bad."
Myra suddenly saw where Chris was heading. She stared at her in disbelief.
"Myra, you can't throw away three decades because once in all that time, Ginny lied to you."
Myra said, "It wasn't once, it was every day for the last fourteen years."
"No, you're hanging onto that like it was true, but it's not. How she's lived with you, and loved you, raised her children with you, listened to you and believed in you, none of those are lies. It all came from your connection, which is real and undamaged, that's what's true. You just got to see it again."
Myra said, her voice thick, "I can't believe you, of all people, are arguing for Ginny."
"She's loved you better than I could" Chris said. Myra dodged that statement.
"Acts of omission are just as damaging as blows" said Myra. "Her not telling me truth all this time is just as bad as the original -- " she stopped because she couldn't bring herself to name what Ginny had done with Pat. Not unless she was shouting.
"Ah, crap, are you trying to quote Judy Grahn at me? About how her not staying with the black guy on the bridge, or with that old woman in the snow, or the whore, about how all those acts were betrayals because they were sins of omission? Well, then, look at what she's saying, you bozo: She's saying it was a failure to not stay with them, to bond with them, to stand by them -- it was walking away that was the sin. What do you think Judy Grahn would say about your situation? 'Lover leave you, go find another?' Nuh-uh, not at our age. She'd say climb out of the fucking armored tank, reach in and pull out your buddies too, because they are your lovers, and wade to the shoreline. No matter how it looks or feels. You know what's right here, Myra. You just don't want to have to face it, because it will mean going back to Ginny knowing she's been with someone else besides you. Well, waaah-waaah, why don't you just open your veins and be done with it?"
Myra gaped at her in complete shock.
Chris stood up, gathered their wrappers and cups, and carried them to the trash can. When she came back, she sat down next to Myra and laid her arm over Myra's shoulders.
"That's all I have to say, Myra. I'm not out to force you to change your mind, I just wanted to say that much. What you wanna do now? Would you like to go out somewhere, maybe a movie?"
Myra was reeling. She struggled to find her voice. Finally she said "Could we go walk somewhere? Maybe Golden Gardens, along the water, if it's safe this time of night?"
"Ain't noplace completely safe. But yeah, I know a spot that's good. Put on shoes and socks. I'm leaving a note for Ginny and Margie 'cause we might be back late."
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.