Friday, April 13, 2007

"Hope I die before I get old"

I was what? Fifty-two, I think. Some nerve, huh? In some of the other pictures, you can see the tattoo on my upper left arm - the tarot card, Strength - a lady closing a lion's jaws, so I had to be over fifty. The tattoo was a gift for my 50th birthday. My friend, beautiful Cristina, is the photographer and later we put her in the body suit and I take the camera. The cats needed no costumes.

Some people buy a little red sports car. For the pictures, I am a little red sports car.

See how thin I am? I'm not bragging, here. I am thin because my marriage is finished and my husband and I are painfully living together in the house we couldn't sell for nine agonizing months. I can barely eat or sleep. I am thin because I'd come to love someone wrongfully serving a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit. I am thin because my pre-fifty world and all my notions of how it works have collapsed. At first it caved a little on the sides, got soft and wobbled. It wasn't long before it couldn't hold at all. I am thin because I no longer belong anywhere. And I am the bad guy. I'm the one leaving a marriage everyone used as an example of "See? It can work."

I am thin and wearing a see-through spider lace body suit, posing for a camera because I have rediscovered that I am still a sexual being and because the pictures will make a man in a far-away prison cell happy. Just for a day, maybe, an hour, he'll forget the walls and the shouting male voices and the way it all closes in - a constant menace. Just for a little, he'll just be a man looking at the woman he loves. I can't send him a book or a pair of socks - but I can send the pictures.

I am thin because I've become one of those talk-show women - or at least that's how I feel. I don't feel like I belong to any race, to any culture. And people I thought would credit me with some intelligence are looking at me like I'm some kind of geek. Not all people. My close friends understand some, or they worry, and sometimes they're as outraged as I am at what I'm learning about how justice works. I have crossed a line and the only thing I know how to do is keep walking.

At this time, I'm writing. I am devouring books on race, justice, the penal system. I publish some writing. Preaching to the choir. I do research for a Prison Action Committee. Each step I take is one step farther on the wrong side of the looking glass - where the rules are backwards or tricks of the dark. Each step strips away a little of my privileged naivety. White. Middle-class. Surely that kind of thing doesn't happen here.

I am fifty-two or thereabouts. I have been patted down, screamed at by guards, processed through metal and drug detectors, and ordered to leave because the prison regulations for visitors didn't tell me that I could not bring a purse and store it in my locker.

I have walked, barefoot in the rain, high heels in hand, a mile or so through Southern Missouri farmland to leave the offending purse with surprised and kind strangers at an auto body shop in the middle of nowhere, down the highway. I have traveled over 1500 miles for the visit. The people at the auto body find someone to drive me back, bless them.

I am fifty-two and I am exhausted beyond belief. I am thin. I am a raw nerve resting against a high tension wire. I am grief and stupid bravery. I am love and loss and horrible awareness and can't be reasoned with.

"Cowgirl of the century" Marko called me - understanding more than I could let myself, and even as young as he was then, what kind of price I'd pay.

I look at the picture and have ambivalent reactions. I'm glad I'm not there anymore. I've learned not to tilt at the world and that screaming doesn't wake the dead. I've learned to swallow the things that break my heart and make me rage. I've learned that bravery is best used with careful strategy and needs to be balanced with a little care for life and metaphorical limb.

And I think...that even though I was more brave than wise, I am not sorry. For any of it. But most of all, I am not sorry for having loved.

Rather my life as it is and was than to let death find me saying, "What? But I still have to...."

20 comments:

zhoen said...

If your true path is rock strewn and steep, it is up to us to cheer you on. But, we will worry for you.

TMBG's version goes, "I hope that I get old before I die."

LJ said...

Thank you Zhoen. If it's not steep, I don't know who I am. But I try to avoid the worst of the rocks these days. (AndI stand corrected on the lyric) - glad you recognized it.

Teri said...

God LJ, this is so honest and raw and beautiful. Thank you for sharing, for exposing yourself.
xo

Teri said...

P.S. You had the correct lyric from The Who's My Generation.

phlegmfatale said...

You are an exquisite vision at 52, or any age. You are a phenomenal woman. Fuck the critics.

edvard moonke said...

lj lj lj... just tremendous. what a woman!

you are right not to be sorry. if your heart is in the right place, follow it and apologise to no one.

Mr. X said...

Certainly don't look anywhere near the age you state...very sexy!
Hang in there, there's always something to come.
We were going to add a comment about about following your heart, but Marcos has already summed it us beautifully. (As usual)

LJ said...

Teri...I've skirted a lot of this since I started writing here. I got to thinking about a friend's predicament...and sorting through old pictures. It became a kind of meme. Who was I then?

Phlegmy..."Fuck the critics" was my mantra for a long time. I go easier these days, I guess - but the mantra is still there when I need it.

Edvard and Mr. X - thanks. And you're right about Marco's summaries. Now, If we just get him to do more writing these days.

Thanks for indulging me, folks. I'd never quite managed to come out and say all this so plainly before and last night. I was thinking about a couple friends, actually. Both going through painful changes...lives on the verge of dismantling and changing. Most people face tremendous change at some point in their lives, times when they walk off the edge of the cliff...and it's hard, it's heady, it's terrifying - and it's often necessary to allow our safe lives to blow up so that we can grow.
In a way, this was for those friends who are currently looking for just a tiny piece of solid ground to stand on.

zhoen said...

Teri's right, you had the lyric right. They Might Be Giants riffed on it, and that was the lyric I was quoting. Different song.

When the tower crumbles, we see what was hidden beneath.

herhimnbryn said...

Raw and beautiful lj. ( oh, I see someone has already said that!).

This is bloody good writing...thankyou.

beadbabe49 said...

awesome post, lj...it came like a gift this morning, so I'd like to send one back to you...


"The heart has its reasons that reason does not know."

(Pascal)

Darkmind said...

Your hair in this picture reminds me of Gilda Radner...who DID die before she got old. BWA HA HA HA!!

LJ said...

Strange, isn't it, that the stuff you think is least acceptable, that you edge around, approach sideways because you really want to hold out some hope that you don't come across as a raving lunatic, is the stuff that people want to read? And they don't throw eggs when you do.

And D? "It's always something."

Teri said...

got it. thanks. xoxo

Ariel said...

Hurray for you! This is one amazing picture and a very courageous post. And don't you ever, ever apologize for being who you are because we shall go on cheering you on from the sidelines...

Mr Farty said...

Nice pussy shot.

I just thought you needed cheering up B-)

LJ said...

Teri - Good! Was it helpful?

Ariel - Just remembering...still brings back some jangly memories. Thank you for cheering? Do you have pom poms? Pom poms are very cheering on an unlikely candidate such as yourself. Sort of like heels on Mr. X.

Mr. Farty - Well, that did cheer me up. I had a kind of dull, stupid split second where I nearly checked the picture (what???)and then it clicked I and burst out laughing.

Laurie said...

That was exceptionally raw and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Clare said...

Wonderful language, intriguing and eloquent post, and you are very hot in that photo.

LJ said...

Clare - thank you. Folks - I recommend you click Clare's link and have a little boo... Don't miss the older entries!