Thursday, June 07, 2007

For those who are wondering

I'm taking a hiatus from blogging for the time being. I'm in the midst of writing a book.
If you miss me, and want to read my old stuff, you can find it archived at CultureKitchen or at My Left Wing/Lorraine's page.

At the moment, I've been seized by a writing daemon so strong I have no choice but to obey. The Muse is a stern taskmistress. I bend myself willingly to her commands.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

House For Sale

My house is for sale. Listing Details are here.
Photo 174

It's a gorgeous house, inside and out. I'm going to miss it, and I hope that it winds up in the hands of someone who will take good care of its historical charm. The house was built in 1848, has four bedrooms, a carriage house (for those who have always dreamed of having an artist's studio), a study, living room, dining room and eat-in kitchen. (The kitchen is bigger than the studio apartment I used to live in.)

Here's the carriage house.
Photo 170

Monday, February 12, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth


Fascist ideals of masculinity had no real use for women other than as the vessels through which passed the next generation of fascist males. Its aesthetic was built upon a world where women were the conduits for sexual release and the pride that came from having reproduced a junior version of yourself who would carry on the ideals with which you yourself had been inculcated. Women, when they were not serving their purpose as mothers, or as virgins—potential mothers—were garbage, part of the larger population of undesirables and vermin who needed to be brought to heel, to be destroyed.

In Fascist Spain, in 1944, Franco's forces had been triumphant, but there was still opposition in the countryside. It is against this background that the splendid movie, Pan's Labyrinth takes place. Billed as a "fairy tale for grownups" it is just that. An old-fashioned, pre-Victorian fairy tale. A myth. As such, it is full of disturbing nightmarescapes and brutality that will sicken you. It is also one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen.

I should say right now that I saw it with my 15-year old daughter, who also loved it. It would have terrified her 9-year old sister (who did not attend), and my recommendation to parents is that consider carefully the ability of their children to contextualize both the horror and the beauty that the movie presents.

Pan's Labyrinth combines many of the tropes from the ancient myths. The main character, Ofelia, is a 12-year old girl who travels with her pregnant mother to the country headquarters (the mill) of Ofelia's new step-father, a captain in Franco's army who commands a base of men who are seeking to root out and destroy the band of guerilla fighters who hide in the wooded hills that surround the headquarters.

Ofelia refuses to call the captain "father," a disobedience that annoys her mother, but that also contains within it a larger struggle: the refusal of the feminine to obey, be disciplined, by the masculine.

Almost as soon as she arrives, Ofelia is befriended by the magical creatures that have inhabited the woods for eons. A fairy leads her to a faun, and it is the faun who charges Ofelia with the completion of three tasks, before the waxing moon is full. The tasks are terrifying, and as is the case in all such myths, require great ingenuity and courage on the part of its heroine. And, of course, the food-rationed child is tempted, while in the underworld, by luscious food. There's a pomegranate, of course, but I won't spoil it by telling you whether she partakes of the food that did in Persephone.

Running alongside the mythical story is what is happening in the battle between the Fascists and the rebels. Mercedes is the captain's housekeeper, and she efficiently directs the day-to-day operations of running a large household full of important men, while leading a secret life that disrupts the Fascist work and aids those in the woods who seek to free Spain of the tyranny of Franco.

The third major female character is Carmen, Ofelia's mother, who has been made sick by the carrying of the Captain's child. The pregnancy is draining her of everything, and the metaphor of a Female Spain, having been penetrated and impregnated by Fascism and thus sickening and dying, is personified in Carmen, who is kept constantly drugged and bedridden in order to be able to give birth to a healthy son.

And yet, it is Carmen, in a moment of wellness made possible by her daughter's heroics, who says some of the film's most memorable and heart-breaking lines. She tells her daughter that adults cannot believe in magic, that Ofelia must give up her magical thinking, because everyone has to deal with reality, even if that reality is ugly. The message is clear: the Fascists are in power, and it is we who must accede to their demands. I was reminded of Thucydides' History of the Pelopponesian War when he wrote that "the powerful extract what they can, while the weak grant what they must."

But, in Pan's Labyrinth, the weak have another power at their disposal. It is the same power that the weak—and especially women—have been associated with in those cultures in which the state (whether as represented by a monocultural church, or, as in the case with Fascism, the ultra-rational state) has attempted to take all power from the people. Magic. The manipulation of a magical realm to attempt to effect change in the real world. And it is not accidental that the person who is invested with this power is a girl.

For me, Pan's Labyrinth was about watching the feminine archetype of nurturer, possessor of secret knowledge, and wise warrior goddess in battle with the rational, brutal, and psychically wounded masculine archetype.

The further you venture into the labyrinth, the less clear it becomes where evil ends and justice begins. And yet, the one true thing I held onto is that Ofelia, with all her flaws and fears, is the heroine that I would want to be.

The Feminist Blogosphere Vs. Bill Donohue

I have sat with this for days now, trying to bring to fruition in language the tremendous anger, sadness, and yes—fear—that flooded me last week as I watched Amanda and Melissa become the targets of Christofascists' attacks. (For tremendous work on the topic, please see Liza's posts, including a full roundup of links to the feminist blogosphere's reaction.) I choose my words carefully, and when the urge comes upon me to let loose a string of expletives—necessary language for me sometimes, the ur language that boils forth from an angry soul—I try to tamp it down. I want to be heard.

One thing I do know. Jesus did not say: "Shut Your Pie Hole."

But Paul did: In I Corinthians, 14:34-35, he writes, Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.
And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

Women, you see, are to be seen and not heard. But it was Paul who said that, Paul who took on the mantle of interpreting he who had already spoken. Paul put words in the mouth of the dead and called it church law.

"But," you say, "Look around. There are plenty of women out there speaking, writing, making noise. They are not told to shut up."
Oh, but my friends, they are. Last week, the John Edwards for President campaign was asked to fire two of its voices because those voices--with their consistent calls for women's equality; their sometimes sarcastic, angry venting against the injustices perpetuated against women using language that offended because it was considered profane; with their ceaseless calls for gender equality that sometimes, in rage, they thought might only happen when women were freed of the shackles of religions that keep them perpetually pregnant and slaves to their own reproductive systems--those voices, the Edwards campaign was told, were offensive.
Leading that charge was William Donohue, President of the Catholic League, who had no problem telling women to shut the fuck up. He has claimed a membership of 350,000, and using the hammer he thought such membership entitled him to swing, he went after the uppity women. And it's not just Amanda and Melissa. It's Rosie. And Joy. And Barbara. And Mara. And Brenda.

from the "Tucker" show on Wednesday, February 7, 2007, was chilling. This exchange, in which Donohue brags about silencing women and Tucker Carlson cheers him on was nauseating.

DONOHUE: Well, (INAUDIBLE) in 2004 worked for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. I found about her background and they had to silence her. Then they got Brenda Bartel Peterson (ph) to quit or be fired because of her background. What I‘m saying is this, these people are somewhat clueless. They are somewhat naive. They need to find out who is working for them.
You know, you‘ve got to vet these people. You need to have a gate keeper. Apparently they don‘t have one.
CARLSON: I have the feeling they‘re going to have one from now on.
DONOHUE: I hope the Republicans and the Democrats are all watching this carefully, because there‘s a lot of Bill Donohues out there which are watching this.
(quotations from the transcript are sic.)

(By the way, the "Inaudible" from the transcript is not inaudible at all. You can watch the video below the fold. I heard the name the first time Donohue said it. It's
. And you should definitely look up her story.)

The entire video interview between Tucker and Bill is deeply disturbing. Why? Well, read through the transcript and see if there are men mentioned who need to be silenced. Silenced. Don't you love that word? What does it bring to mind? Muzzles? Ball gags? Women should be seen and not heard; isn't this one of the principal messages of conservative Catholicism, fundamentalist Protestantism, fundamentalist Islam, fundamentalist Judaism? Shouldn't we all just shut the fuck up?

But Donohue messed with the wrong people. As soon as word got out that Amanda and Melissa had been attacked, the forces of the feminist blogosphere flexed its muscle and pushed back. And, as it turns out, we have at least two million voices—and growing—with which to counter the forces of misogyny.

My guess is, as this campaign season moves forward and the blogosphere plays a significant role in analyzing, persuading, cajoling, advocating, and venting—serving as a conduit between voters and the candidates who seek to represent them—we will see more of the Bill Donohue-type attacks on the left. What people write on their blogs will be read, archived, brought out at opportune moments to try to embarrass or, as Donohue hoped, silence us. But you know what? Fuck 'em. Fuck 'em all.

I speak only for myself, but I speak as a member of a network that I watched counter the ravings of a lunatic (and his nodding, guffawing puppet, Tucker). But as an individual I say this. I will not be silent. I will not be cowed. I am not a member of the Christian Church, and whatever woman-hating Paul said does not apply to me. It does not apply to the feminist blogosphere. We will not be moved. We will not be silent.
Just fucking deal with it.

Friday, January 19, 2007


David Grossman addressed a crowd that had gathered on November 4, 2006. November 4 is the date that Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. It is important to note, if you read through the entire speech (and please, please do so), that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in the crowd.

And these are some of the reasons that, in an amazingly short time, Israel has degenerated into heartlessness, real cruelty toward the weak, the poor, and the suffering. Israel displays indifference to the hungry, the elderly, the sick, and the handicapped, equanimity in the face of, for example, trafficking in women, or the exploitation of foreign workers in conditions of slave labor, and in the face of profound, institutionalized racism toward its Arab minority. When all this happens as if it were perfectly natural, without outrage and without protest, I begin to fear that even if peace comes tomorrow, even if we eventually return to some sort of normality, it may be too late to heal us completely.

This diary is not intended as a criticism of Israel. It is intended as an appreciation of a beautiful speech that is itself a reflection of what happens to a country, to a people, who are continually at war.

In that respect, I read it as an opportunity to ask what will become of us, of Americans, if we continue on this path that we have set out upon, or, if you prefer, that has been laid out for us by this administration.

But, in the past 100 years, I wonder how many armed conflicts we have engaged in. (Anyone? I know there's an historian out there who can give me that exact figure.) And I'm not just talking about our official wars. I mean the unofficial ones, too. The "police actions" in the Dominican Republic; the interference in elections in Chile; the intervention in the former Yugoslavia.

Our need to take up arms, to have an enemy, to step into the perceived "fray," regardless of whether it, in fact, exists.

How much of our refusal to deal with our own racism, with poverty, with the suffering of our own people is a direct result of the constant distraction of war? Do we not care that immigrants toil in our cities for close to nothing? That our toys and knick-knacks are made by slave labour? That women in this country slide ever closer to their former status as chattel? That our elderly choose whether to pay for prescriptions or food?

One of the harsh things that this last war sharpened for us was the feeling that in these times there is no king in Israel. That our leadership is hollow, both our political and military leadership. I am not speaking now of the obvious fiascos in the conduct of the war, or of the way the rear echelon of the army was left to its own devices. Nor am I speaking of our current corruption scandals, great and small. My intention is to make it clear that the people who today lead Israel are unable to connect Israelis with their identity, and certainly not with the healthy, sustaining, inspiring parts of Jewish identity. I mean those parts of identity and memory and values that can give us strength and hope, that can serve as antidotes to the attenuation of mutual responsibility and of our connection to the land, that can grant meaning to our exhausting, desperate struggle for survival.

Today, Israel's leadership fills the husk of its regime primarily with fears and intimidations, with the allure of power and the winks of the backroom deal, with haggling over all that is dear to us. In this sense, our leaders are not real leaders. They are certainly not the leaders that a people in such a complicated, disoriented state need. Sometimes, it seems that the public expression of their thinking, of their historical memory, of their vision, of what really is important to them fills only the tiny space between two newspaper headlines. Or between two police investigations

Can one lead if one's leadership comprises the constant refrain of "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Can one lead if one's finger is constantly pointing at some other and emphasizing the differences rather than the commonalities? Can one lead if one asks others to do what one is not willing to do oneself?

We have no leadership. We have corruption. And fear. We have no history. We have no vision. We have only the blaring of headlines that distract us; we look away from the bloodshed and the suffering of others in order to participate in the pornography of celebrity, of the news of the fantastical, the marvelous, the grotesque.

Just as there is unavoidable war, there is also unavoidable peace. Because we no longer have any choice. We have no choice, and they have no choice. And we need to set out toward this unavoidable peace with the same determination and creativity with which we set out to an unavoidable war. Anyone who thinks there is an alternative, that time is on our side, does not grasp the profound, dangerous process that is now well underway.

Peace is possible. Our administration tells us that it is not. That we must be ever vigilant against those who would destroy us. But it is that constant vigilance that does destroy us. We lose a part of our souls each time we stand in line at a security checkpoint. What must we do to make peace a reality? If war is the not the answer, what then must be done to find another solution?

From where I stand at this moment, I request, call out to all those listening —to young people who came back from the war, who know that they are the ones who will have to pay the price of the next war; to Jewish and Arab citizens; to the people of the right and the people of the left: stop for a moment. Look over the edge of the abyss, and consider how close we are to losing what we have created here. Ask yourselves if the time has not arrived for us to come to our senses, to break out of our paralysis, to demand for ourselves, finally, the lives that we deserve to live.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere


The town of Roscoe sits at the confluence of the Willomec Creek and the Beaverkill River. It is tucked into a niche in the Catskills, a valley through which the Beaverkill traipses like a dancer. Unlike the Mississippi, say, or the Columbia, there is no sense that this is a river of broad, burly shoulders, pushing aside huge mounds of dirt on its way to the sea. No, this is a gentle river, home to thousands of lazy trout, and eventually, the river flows into the Delaware and after that, Chesapeake Bay.

But back in late June, central New York state and northern Pennsylvania were drenched in ten inches of rain. And the tiny little Beaverkill became leviathan. Roscoe, Walton, Livingston Manor and other towns were under eight feet of water. People drowned. Houses were carried downstream. Roads were washed away.

In August, I walked along the river. It had returned to its pre-flood daintiness, and in fact, I was told that the river was now so shallow that you couldn’t take a canoe down it. You’d have to portage the canoe through the shallows. The signs of the destruction were everywhere. Part of the motel where I stayed, a motel I’ve stayed at several times before because it is quiet, inexpensive, and sits upon the banks of the river, had washed away. People told me how they’d watched the motel building run into the bridge, and then, smashed by the torrent, watched as it was carried miles downstream. On the door to my room was a dark mark a foot or so above the door handle. It was the waterline. Inside the room, only the bare essentials had been restored. There wasn’t even a phone. Just a bed, and a couple of pieces of furniture that looked the worse for wear. The bathroom had been scrubbed clean, but the smell of bleach and mold was overpowering, sickening. In the corner of the bathroom grew a fungus that looked like kelp, something Neolithic, as if it belonged on the sea floor.

So, I did a lot of walking. The sky was a shade of blue that would break your heart—so much deeper than forget-me-not, but not as dark as the indigo indications of an encroaching storm. How to describe the ripple of water over stone? As I walked along the Beaverkill--the sun on the back of my neck, its warmth on my shoulders as if someone had draped his arm there—I watched the water. The movement is subtle in most places; your senses tell you that it is, in fact, still, but the water moving across the stones dispels the notion of stillness. The sun glints in such a way off the angles of the water, those angles the signs of the disruption on the surface as the water moves over stones.

And the stones are testament to motion. The stones are not jagged. There is not a rough edge left on any of them. They are ovoid, softened by the caress of water. I’ve noticed these changes in my face of late. My face is softening, like a baby’s face, the skin that used to cling so tautly to the bones beneath are letting go, sliding. Maybe I have smiled too much in my life. Perhaps I’ve focused on too many things out of my reach. The furrow in my brow is now a gorge, a chasm in the otherwise smooth plain of my forehead.

I feel too fleshy. Such a privileged complaint, I know, to lament the passage of time and its effects on the body. I have already surpassed the average life expectancy of entire sections of the African continent. I should be grateful. Instead, I bitch. But I note the patterns of sun and wear on my neck and chest, and I see a glimpse of my older self.

If you didn’t notice the smashed guard rails, the washed-out sections of road, the boarded-up buildings, there would be little evidence of what had happened along the Beaverkill. Already, the wildflowers have filled in the spaces created when water washed away earth. The downed trees have become part of the landscape. The Canada geese, the loons, drift undisturbed. The water was clear, and I could make out the tiny fish fry—just a couple of inches long, that swam close to the banks. A bald eagle beat its wings and flew a straight trajectory, the center of the river directly below it.

Only the people had suffered. They had built their towns on flood plains—not even 100- year flood plains, either. The river has flooded twice in three years. Despite that fact, folks were rebuilding, in exactly the same spots that they had been flooded out of just six weeks prior.

I keep that in mind as I contemplate my body, the one that nature is wearing away. Time doesn’t seem to be moving, but it is. I don’t think I’m changing, but then, every now and then I catch a glimpse of myself and I think, “Have I always looked like this?” I could undergo plastic surgery, could coat myself in miracle products that promise to rejuvenate my skin, make it appear fresh. But there’s no stopping this process. I am getting older. My body is getting older. Eventually, bit by bit, I’ll be washed away. But the wildflowers will still be there, as will the eagle and the loons. And ultimately, that means everything to me.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I come, not to bury the decision, but to praise it.
I also come to mourn for the young women, those under the age of 18, who for whatever reason—fear, for example—cannot tell their parents that they need an abortion and thus suffer unreasonably.

Parental consent laws are a hot-button issue. Many, many on the left support abortion rights, and yet, when it comes to the fate of those under the age of 18, there seems to be a "NMD" (not my daughter) attitude that consumes them. They argue, and I know because I've argued against them, that no person under the age of 18 should be allowed to make their own medical decisions.

This is what I wrote a few months back:
I want to talk about parental consent laws, and why I have a problem with them. I'm not condemning anyone for feeling different than I do; I already know that there are people here, people I respect, who believe that parental consent laws are a good idea. So, I want to offer this in the spirit of discussion, and not in the spirit of rancor.
Communicating with your children about the intimate act of sex is not easy. Communicating with a teenager about anything is not easy. I'm not a perfect mom. I fuck up on a regular basis, and I've learned to say "I'm sorry" to my children for particularly egregious fuckups because it's important to me that they know that I'm aware of my limitations. Which I think gives them room to know about their limitations.
My children talk to me. Because I believe in their right to privacy, I cannot tell you the things they have brought to me as issues, but needless to say, I've dealt with things that are relevant to this discussion.
I know that being a parent is terrifying. I make the assumption that parents love their children and want what's best for them, while I also acknowledge that such is not always the case.
New York is not a parental consent state. I'm glad of that. Even as I hope that if either of my children were faced with the kind of decision that abortion is, they would talk to me about what they want and need to do.
These days, when I take my eldest to the doctor's office, she goes in alone. She has private conversations with the doctor, and unless she gives the doctor permission, I learn nothing about what happened within those walls. I'm okay with that, because it's crucial to me that my daughter understand that what she says to her doctor is private, confidential, sacrosanct. That's the way it's supposed to be.
As it turns out, she usually chooses to tell me what's going on. I take her to the doctor already knowing what the issue is. But I don't pretend that there may not be things I don't know about.
The other thing that has helped tremendously in the raising of my daughters has been the notion of a "pod." My daughters are surrounded by other people who love them. There have been instances where my eldest daughter has confided something to a friend's mom, or to one of my friends, sometimes with the instruction that said confidante should approach me with the issue my daughter suddenly feels shy about discussing. And sometimes, she just talks to another adult female because that's what she wants and needs.
I'm okay with that. I wish that other people were okay with that. i wish that adults could allow their teenagers to grow and develop into young adults, instead of treating them as extensions of themselves to be disciplined, broken, bent to a higher will.
Parental notification laws, to me, are a blaring neon sign that proclaims that people are afraid to trust their children. And I don't have naive beliefs that teenagers don't fuck up on a regular basis. But that is part of their humanness. And if I am going to maintain my commitment to the humanity of others, I have to extend that to my children. My children are not me. I gave birth to them, and I am here to love and nurture and protect them, but I do not own them. The line between "doing something to protect teens" and "declaring your ownership of teens' is thin, but I cling to that line, and trust that it will hold.

Many people whom I have a great deal of respect for, disagreed with me on this one. Alas, I have learned that ultimately, it's best not to get into any kind of discussion about raising one's children. We all have our ways. We all think we're right. And ultimately, I believe, we are all doing the best that we can.

But still, I look at this map and I wonder what it's like to be in a state that is not shaded "white" on this map.

David Beckham: Designated Hitter?


David Beckham, once considered one of the best soccer (football) players in the world was told yesterday by his club, Real Madrid, that his contract would not be renewed. The news had been expected for weeks. Beckham has lost something in his step. He's not as fast as he used to be, and there has been much criticism that Becks doesn't seem to take the game as seriously as he once did.

So, what was the solution?

Go to Los Angeles.

The 31-year-old former England captain will sign a five-year contract worth as much as $250 million, according to Sky Sports. He'll join the Major League Soccer team in August, Beckham said in a statement today.

Beckham, acquired from Manchester United partly to help increase Madrid's merchandise sales, will play out the end of his career in the U.S. Since he and his England team exited in the quarterfinals of last year's World Cup, Beckham lost his place in the national team and has failed to secure a regular first-team berth at Madrid following Fabio Capello's appointment as coach.

If you have never seen David Beckham take a free kick, you have missed a thing of beauty. You've missed a thing of beautiful physics as he is renowned for being able to "bend" the ball so that it bypasses the defensive wall and swirl into the goal.

Unfortunately, lately, the only thing Beckham seems able to do is to take free kicks. Which leads to the question: Will American soccer actually create a "designated hitter" so to speak. That is, someone whose sole job is to come in and take free kicks? Beckham is only 31, and yet, his legs seem that of an older man.

Still, he may be able to bring magic to Major League Soccer. And, as someone who grew up in a family where soccer is a religion, that isn't such a bad thing.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ashes on My Fingers

When I lay in bed, I clutch a large teddy to myself. It's an infantile reaction to my loss, but it helps. When I lie in that position, on my side, my legs pulled up in a semi-fetal position, I can almost feel Yves tucked up against me. When we were laying in bed, that night, that only night that we were together, he wrapped himself around me, his chest against my back, and he said, "I think this was the most perfect sleeping position ever invented. Because it allows me to kiss the back of your neck like this." And then he sent shivers down my spine as his lips brushed underneath my ear. He didn't stop there. He kissed the place where my neck met my shoulder, and then trailed his lips, in tiny increments that thrilled me not only with the sensation of the kiss but with the anticipation of the next, he moved his lips all the way down to the small of my back, and then turned me toward him so that he could kiss my belly. "I love this belly," he said.

I don't often find men with whom I'm sexually compatible. Of course, I find men who are perfectly content to fuck me, or be fucked, but, magazine bravado to the contrary, I don't often find men for whom sex is a passion. Certain men touch you as if they are you; so closely have they familiarized themselves with the female body that it's as if they've become female themselves. And no, the men who claim that they are lesbians are not the ones I'm talking about either. I'm fascinated by the inherent insecurity and shallowness I've encountered in men who consider themselves to be modern-day Casanovas. And there are other men who are so intimidated by women's bodies that they they never fully give themselves over to love-making. In fact, I've been told by more than one of those types of men that I'm too much woman, that I'm too voracious, or have too much of a sexual appetite for them. So, finding a man who has a passion for sex but is not a "dog" and who is secure giving himself completely over to the experience of making a woman happy is a rare, and wondrous, thing. Another thing to be pissed at the universe about.

Because it was incredibly clear that Yves and I were each other's sexual mirrors. To open myself up to the pleasure he was giving me, I had to trust him. I can imagine that for those who have never fallen into bed with someone on the first date, this may not make a lot of sense, but for someone like me, who is driven by her need to understand the world through knowledge filtered through her flesh, first-date sex has a certain ritualistic quality to it. It's when the date is outside the ritual, when it's clear that despite the short amount of time that has been spent together, there's real knowledge of the other there, that's when magic happens. And there was magic between Yves and me. Rough magic. Sweet magic. Sexual magic.
And I'm upset that I lost that, too. That one is hard to admit, because it makes me sound so shallow. "Oh I miss Yves because he was great in bed." But it's true. Sexual compatibility can be more difficult to find than someone you can simply talk to. Because true sexual compatibility presumes, I think already, that you can talk to this person.

When I put my hand on the urn, it warmed under my hand, and I remembered us curling our hands together at the restaurant. And that look. That look in his eyes when his mouth was between my legs and he was watching me experience all the pleasure he was giving me. These were the words I wrote at the memorial service in the black notebook I had brought with me. On the table that in a religious context would have been considered an altar, there was a photo of Yves—in it he stared into the camera with a puckish glint in his eyes. Next to the photo was the urn containing his terrestial remains—the charred bits of bone and flesh that were all that was left of him. I stayed away from the urn for much of the meet-and-greet part of the service. I was introduced to dozens of people who had loved Yves and who wanted to meet the woman who had been with him when he died. When I finally got an opportunity to approach the urn, I stood, my hand resting upon the urn, my eyes locked with his. I knew that look. And that was what I wrote in my notebook.

No one approached me while I stood next to the urn. It was as if I had been given a cordon sanitaire, or perhaps, more aptly, an asile sacré, a sacred sanctuary where I could be alone with him in the midst of all those people. Around me, people talked, looked at the collages of photos that had been positioned throughout the room, held each other's hands, hugged. It wasn't as if I was watching them, but I was aware that I was not alone in the room. And yet, for the period of time that I stood there—somewhere, I think, between two minutes and twenty—it was just him and me.

The urn was silver, and intricate scrolls traversed it. It had texture, and I stayed my hand from caressing the urn. It would have been easy to do. To rub it, to touch it, to try to bring it to life. I have enough experience with caressing flesh and causing it to change under my hand; I think I was self-conscious enough to know that standing in front of the crowd and stroking Yves' urn would have been too crude an act. But, in my head, there was nothing crude about it. I wanted to unscrew the lid from the urn, plunge my hand into the ashes there, and become sticky with Yves. I wanted to take a handful of those ashes and put them in my pocket, carry him with me for the rest of my life.

Anne Lamott has written about tasting the ashes of a friend. I am not certain I could have done that, I think, sucked the ashes from the end of my fingers, but certainly I can imagine that, given the opportunity, I might have done.

Miss Havisham

I was afraid, in those first few days after Yves died, that I would turn into Miss Havisham. I didn't want to shower, or change my clothes. If I sat and pulled my knees up close, put my face down on my chest, made a tent out of my sweater, I could smell him. He was still there on my flesh, the places he had touched and licked and sucked. The skin he had told me was so touchable, so soft. The skin he had stroked in play, but also in wonder, in awe, that this thing was happening to us. And so, I buried my nose under my cardigan and breathed in deep.
When I finally did take a shower, I wept. I wept that I was washing off whatever remained of him. I wept as the sponge passed over the parts of my body where his mouth and fingers and cock had been. I wept that the previous shower had been a deux, the two of us playing grownup games.
I stayed in the shower for a long time. I needed its warmth to penetrate what had become numb. My interactions with the world that weekend were carried out behind a curtain of gauze. People hugged me, but I did not want to be touched. I couldn't feel anything except that theirs were not the bodies of my lover. It was raining that weekend, but the air had the stifled, semi-opaque feel of summer; it clogged my sinuses, clouded my eyes.
I was so afraid that weekend that I would forget. I wanted to hold on to every little word he had said to me, every phrase, everything that had made me laugh, or shiver in delight of what was to come. Truthfully? I wanted to become Miss Havisham. I wanted to be 80-years old and able to remember every last detail of those few hours I had had with him. I wanted to wear those clothes until they were rags, wanted to be able to tell the story over and over again to a generation not yet born, of what it was like when he touched me. How it felt when his tongue was in my mouth, or the laughter at the restaurant that night, how when I got up to use the restroom at the restaurant, I could feel his eyes caressing me as I walked away from him.
I wrote words and phrases down in a black notebook. The writing was schematic; the details were few. The words scalded me, but I wrote what I could, holding the pen as if it were the fire-end of a poker. But the words look. like. this.
Weeks later, I look at them, and they still burn. I do not want to be reminded of Yves' death, and yet, I know, I knowthat I have no choice.