Saturday, October 01, 2005

"We are what we think/All that we are arises with our thoughts" -Dhammapada

The Scorpio, having warmed to one of his favorite subjects, says, “Well, I have some questions to ask God, if there is one. Like: what do you have to say for yourself about the sick bastards you put on this earth…the child molesters, the murderers, the racists. What about Hitler?”

I stay neutral as he revs up. There is no such thing as a reasonable theological argument with this man. Religion either pisses him off – or he views its’ adherent's activities with amazed amusement. And The Scorpio has definite ideas about dealing with perceived injustice – occasionally in the Tony Soprano range.

He says, “I’m going to ask him or her about them. And then I’m going to say, ‘and if you don’t like the question, then push the button. No, no, I’ll push it myself.’ And then let’s see who’s down at the other end and whether he wants to try crossing the line I’m gonna draw in front of me.”

It’s his old way of dealing with what hurts, although I don't doubt he’d try to stand toe to toe with the devil.

The Scorpio doesn’t see everything in black and white – but some things push him past his limit. He’s attended nearly 60 funerals in a few short years. Some people have died of old age and illness, but some have been young, one died of AIDS, one childhood friend - a suicide…

I put my arms around him and lean my head on his chest. We’ve been talking about his friend’s son. The kid was in trouble…into the life…drugs and the bad stuff. But he died because he acted up at a party and wouldn’t leave. His murderers tortured him, threw him in a dumpster and tried to eliminate the evidence by burning his body. Nobody deserves to die like that. No parent should have to live with that image of their child's last moments for the rest of their life.

“I couldn’t even talk to my friend about his son's death,” he says. “I couldn’t talk to him because the advice I’d have given him would be wrong.”

And this is the crux of his anger. His profession and calling is pulling kids like that out of the fire. He's very good at it. Only there are too many fires burning out of control and he feels more alone every time he puts on that black suit for another funeral. Right or wrong, he’s wondering, if there’s a God, why isn’t there backup?

Another time, when the hurt is not biting so hard, maybe we'll talk about his grandchild and his eyes will clear, his smile will come back, and he’ll put away his quarrel with God. Who, after all, has done at least that much right.

Paper Dragons

9:30 am, Saturday

A half-full glass of water on the floor beside the bed.

On a tray on the dresser: three-quarters of a bottle of el Jimador tequila, a plate of lemon rinds, a shaker of salt, a bottle of red wine accompanied by a wine glass with a stain at the bottom.

Wax has dripped onto the night table and there are half-damp white face cloths strewn around the room. Last evenings’ clothing (mine) is heaped on the floor. And the sheets definitely need to be changed.

My hair looks like it’s been run through a tornado.

I take an Aspirin and brew a cup of coffee strong enough to remove rust from metal. I’m stretching out kinked muscles. I have a mild hangover. And I can't stop grinning.

You’d think, after nearly ten months, me and The Scorpio would have slowed down. Both of us are over 50. People, according to my understanding of conventional wisdom, are supposed to slow down, or develop other interests, or buy that little red sports car. I have no problem with those options - they just aren't mine. And if you don’t choose one of those options, you might be advised to keep it to yourself lest your behavior be deemed inappropriate or plain freakish.

The glorious and terrifying part of being over 50 is that, if you are brave enough, you get to decide what is appropriate for you. The clock is ticking. And the rest of your life is not the infinite span it seemed to be at 25.

Gloria Steinem said in an interview, for women over 50, there is no map.

It’s a scary process, making the map as you go, wandering in places where most of society has marked the words, “here there be dragons.” Frequently, I find myself in swamps and bogs, scared, lonely, and emotionally lost.

But sometimes I wake up to a pristeen blue sky, the clear, perfect air of a September day, surrounded by happy evidence of the night before, and I know for certain I wouldn’t want to be 30 again – or trade lives with anyone.

I will forget this, of course. Return to the hell of falling asleep to myself and the world, to the hell of ingratitude or the compulsion to follow scripts written by someone else for someone else. But right now, today is the first day of the rest of my life. That "the rest" could be as little as five minutes or ten years, makes it all the sweeter.