She had plugged the laptop directly into the wall outlet. I couldn’t believe it. One year has passed, but it still sticks out in my memory.
Before the babysitter left, I tucked H- in for the night. After paying her and saying, “Thanks again!” I showed her the door and she exited. There was always a peculiar tension to our interactions, likely due to the fact that she was young and happily married and I was divorced and didn’t buy it.
But she had plugged. The laptop. Directly. Into. The wall. Who does this?
Moments like these confirm that I am not meant for marriage.
Did she not know how much a laptop costs? Or how much of me she placed at risk?
Quickly, I double check that, sure enough, the surge protector is on the ground, visible, and within reach of the wall outlet–right where I left it.
But come closer now. There is something else. I want to tell you something that I already feel guilty for sharing. There is a part of a lover that I miss dearly. I don’t hear much discussion of it among the ranks of men, but I find it to be enchantingly erotic.
It is the feel of the tender, meaty flesh of the inside of your upper arms. You only offer it as you lie naked beneath me, having willingly allowed me to push your arms over your head in worship.
Now there is only longing. Longing for my thumb to again devotedly caress the skin that spans from the bones of your wrists to the muscles of your arms as I finally and firmly enclose this part of you in my palm.
Vulnerability, your scent intoxicates!
And what of this confession?
Harsh wind enraged remnant embers
“Cain, my love!” his mother cries
She bids him, “Here!”, she scrambles near.
A Sestina is form of poetry–a restrictive form of poetry. It has six stanzas of six lines, then a three line stanza. The last words of each stanza are the tricky part. After the first stanza, the last words have been chosen. The full pattern is as follows:
- ECA or ACE (called envol or tornada–it must also contain the other end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six appear in the final three lines.)
But who can explain longing to my child?
The teardrop tries but fails,
For it carries many.
The silenced voice is unheard,
The pounding heart, muffled.
The knotted gut is unseen,
The lumped throat, concealed.
But who can explain longing to my child?
I could explain longing to my child,
But for it is not when I am with her.
All she did was remove her daughter’s jacket. Her adult daughter. Her daughter that normally attended the mega-church, but was either guilted into joining her parents at their church or she possibly understood the importance of going with them this one Sunday each year.
It wasn’t really that warm on the sunny Easter morning, but the building’s south facing stained glass definitely did little to shield her from the sun’s heat.
At eleven thirty the service had been going now for an hour and yet there were at least ninety more minutes to go. All this is to say that I can’t put it beyond the young woman that her decision to remove the jacket at that precise moment had nothing to do with the temperature and everything to do with an attempt to increase her busy-ness and thereby make the time go by faster. In any case, it was her mom’s action that caused my attention to remain on the movement taking place on the padded pew in front of me.
Her mom brought nothing less than a mother’s tender, loving care to the moment–and a whole lot more. Her fingers, as they brushed her hand, her fingers lingered. And in that infinite instant lay an entire childhood. In that instant, I saw the reason to grab her hand every time she reaches up for mine, the reason to hug her body every time she opens her arms, the reason to kiss her cheek every time she is about to walk away, the reason to pick her up every dinnertime, the reason to rub her back every bedtime, the reason to never put whatever passing chores life presents ahead of touching her. That instant showed those with eyes to see the inescapable truth. It is its temporary nature that bestows upon touch its insurmountable value.
Yes, ladies, I’m talking to you. You did it! And I couldn’t be prouder. Not that I ever doubted you.
But here’s my question: What would I have to do if I wanted to become a woman? Don’t laugh. I’m serious. I want to know.
I don’t mean that I want to go under the knife for this change. You didn’t have to for yours, so why should I? What would I have to do?
I’m no good at small talk, so let’s get to the point. I don’t actually want to be a woman. Not because I see anything wrong with it, but because I love being a man. Love it. I get to be stronger than you. I got to fight a war. (Well, if put under our days’ heavy scrutiny on claims of valor, it is more accurate to say I got to “participate in combat operations where our aircraft (rental) was fired upon (small arms) only a (singular) handful of times–if that (it was dark)”.) I get to be taller and heavier than you. What else? In 2015, what else do I get to love about being a man? Oh, here’s one. *Don’t shoot me* but manual labor-wise, I can out work you.
Humph. Now that I’m attempting to write this clever post, I’m struggling. Everything I love about being a man involves physicality, which seems to have been used in times past to protect, to guard, to keep safe. But what needs protecting, guarding, or keeping safe if you women are now men in every way save size and strength? All along, I thought women were what needed this protection. But now that you all are men, I’m confused. Maybe the mistake was mine. Maybe men never were protecting women. What were they protecting then? Seems like weakness is what some would answer, men were protecting the weaker members of society. Maybe some men were, but not me. I never wanted to protect weakness. I wanted to protect rightness. Keeping weakness alive and safe is counter-intuitive. What were men protecting?
Were men protecting strength? Like a Batman “[You have to] Endure, Master Wayne,” kind of strength? Were men protecting forgiveness? Were they protecting decency? Were men protecting grace? How about love? Were men protecting love? Would love exist if there were no women? Seems like making love would be tougher without women. I wonder if they were protecting life itself, in protecting women. Is that possible? And don’t tell me that you women haven’t become like men in this regard, either. I see you. I hear you. You don’t want to make babies, just like men can’t make babies. Have you thought that one through, though? Really thought it through?
Look. Like most men, I’m no saint. Read my book and you’ll see. I messed up. But that doesn’t mean I’m dumb. I get it. You’re scared. But I’d suggest joining me in striving to be better, rather than overcoming your fear by changing into what you dread (second Dark Knight mention if you’re keeping track George). You did it. You proved you could become one of us. But now it’s time to put the costume up (third). It’s time to show me what it means to be a woman–only you can do that.
Ladies, don’t be a man. Be a better woman.
It is. I know it is bad. I know it is bad because I have felt a woman willingly place her hand in mine. I know because I have enjoyed the exponentially arousing feeling of her fingers brushing down the length of my fingers as we interlace them. Because my shoulders have received the full weight of her eyes after she concludes that they can bear her trust. Because I have been allowed to consider each and every subtle quality that define her face and neck. Because my tongue has tasted the deposit and withdrawal of her unfamiliar breath.
I know because I have been caught unaware by the ferocity with which my delight in the delicate dance of our tongues was overcome by an unmistakable wish to devour my prey without obtaining permission or forgiveness.
I know because I have seized her narrow waist and smashed her concealed hips into mine before granting my hands license to hunt for the entry point. Because, ever confident, I have triumphed past that magical barrier which separates exposed from unexposed.
I know because I have lifted her into the air and felt the unrivaled trifecta of her fingertips guiding, her legs surrounding, and her body enveloping as she descends.
Oh yes. I’m convinced. Sex is bad.
Happy Valentine’s Day
A bitter poem as the worst holiday ever conceived approaches dreadfully slow.
Longsuffering does not mean suffering through long hours at work to buy you jewelry.
Longsuffering does not mean suffering through long lines with other procrastinating men to buy you flowers.
Longsuffering does not mean suffering through long years of staring at some perplexingly huge teddy bear that got me laid once.
Longsuffering does not mean suffering through long explanations about why you can’t make friends with women.
Longsuffering does not mean suffering through long lists of men’s names who you thought really loved you.
Longsuffering does not mean suffering through long years of hoping you’d get the clue that I wanted to be more than friends.
Longsuffering does not mean suffering through long periods of silence as you conclude life is as your dad said it was, not as you wanted it to be.
Longsuffering does mean suffering through long days and nights which add up to years of wondering where the hell a woman worth her salt hides and if I will even be able to recognize her.
“Large keyboard instrument that produces soft and loud (Barron 95).”
At seven feet long, six hundred seventy pounds, and taller than a toddler, it demands attention. But for a few aesthetic nuances, there is purpose in every handcrafted stationary and moving part. Equally beautiful and functional, the black behemoth exemplifies creativity. Neither do its origins disappoint. Cristofori’s problem was monotony. The harpsichord produced one sound. The strings were plucked. No matter how hard or soft the musician pressed down on the keys, the resultant volume was the same. But life’s spark would not let the matter rest. He sought both soft and loud, and henceforth created a new connection to the Infinite.
Mystifying in its identical name, the keyboard these words are typed on sits atop a wooden table in a room whose walls and closed blinds seem inclined to constantly advance inward. The piano keeps them at bay. Its weight symbolizes its persistence to preserve its place in this world.
The words begin to grow short. The afternoon advances. The man approaches confidently, if lazily. As he steps around the bench, his body brushes against the hanging blinds. He pulls his hand up short of the light switch. As if unable to contain a joyful secret, the swinging blinds reveal the sun is shining. He opens them and smiles.
There is nothing, I mean nothing, that compares to playing the piano in the light of the sun.
*Barron, James. Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand. New York: Times, 2006. Print.
Nobody ever asks me what really sustained me while I was in Iraq. I figure that’s because my friends and family know I’m just so tough. But the truth is I had moments (sometimes so long that you might call them days) of despair, no different than anyone that has visited the sandbox. I argued the war was unconstitutional. I argued that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. I argued that no one, no military, no amount of anything is ever going to quell the unrest in the middle east. I argued that the thinking that it’s fight them over there or over here is flawed because they don’t have ships to get people across the ocean. I went to some dark places, of that there is no doubt. But, like nearly everyone, I found my strength. I found my hope.
Want to know what I would use to lift me out of despair? The Rocky Mountains. That’s right. Ski resorts in particular. I told myself that if someone made the argument that if we don’t go to Iraq and do what we were doing, then the bad guys would come here, eventually making their way to the ski resorts where they would mess everything up. (And don’t kid yourself, they would ruin them). So to prevent that from happening I would stare despair in the face and happily do my duty. I would wake up before my alarm went off. I would hold my head a little higher. I would focus a little sharper. Mess with the Rockies? Not if I had anything to do with it. There is nothing like them and no replacing them. I can hardly hear the word America without seeing the flag draped against a backdrop of the purple mountain’s majesty. When I see America on a globe, I notice most the bumpy yellow and orange band about three-fourths of the way to the left of the Atlantic.
This is on my mind, because I’m going skiing with my brother this weekend (and a good friend that is currently a company commander in the Marines). And I tell myself that I, me, played at least small part in keeping the mountains open. And that makes me smile.
Biggest surprise of my life? Parenting. No matter how hard I try, I cannot escape feeling the complete and utter awe that surrounds the totality of the parenting experience. And yet, despite parenting being a nearly indescribable wonder, there is one moment–one fairly common and frequent action–that keeps surfacing which illustrates it perfectly.
More than the always surprising bump of my hand into hers as we begin to walk toward and away from the car, more than her exasperating desire to be picked up just when I finally can leave the hamburger helper to simmer on the stove, more than her double-checking nightly that after story-time when I get up to turn off the light I will be coming back to rub her for a bit before leaving her alone to dream, more than all these things is her firm tug on my fingers when she recognizes we will be parting for whatever practical reason.
I make her go to her bed when she’s “not even sleepy!” twice a day, and because I am sleepy I linger in my bed when she wants me to get out of it. Still she tugs.
Recently she brought over a toy digital camera and demonstrated first-hand just how annoying it must be to have me tell her that I’ll only be another minute on the laptop or phone for fifteen minutes at a time. (Point taken.) Still she tugs.
I bull-headedly push my play-time agenda to the point of tears when all she wants is to be with me. Still she tugs.
I make her wait as I putz around doing who knows what because I’m not looking forward to sitting on the ground to play stuffed-animals. Still she tugs.
I dictate the order in which she eats her meal and drinks her drink. Still she tugs.
I never let her play in the bath after she’s clean. Still she tugs.
I choose the bedtime story more often than not because I know that these stories will have a lasting impact. Still she tugs.
And no matter how much I want to stay with her, my decisions have given her the memory of constantly leaving one of her parents for the other for an entire childhood. And still she tugs.