I’ve started my own site Les Beehive that will feature posts from Bohemea, Pussy les Queer & Suicideblonde. Join me, won’t you? It’s a dripping honey hive of delights!
I could tell a story about my unique and beautiful relationship with each of these cover boys, but I’ll tell just one.
When I was 11, the fantastically white trash neighbours who lived next door moved out and a new family moved in. We adored the family that lived there because our family was also WT, but just a little less trash, so our bonkers front yard filled with broken cars, a barely functioning above-ground pool and cats (so many cats!) was largely ignored by the neighbourhood while the boy next door pulled shenanigans.
Luckily, when he and his dreamy brother moved away, an even more fantastically dysfunctional family moved in. They were glorious! The family consisted of two cranky smoking parents, twin blonde daughters whose names began with the same letter and three boys whose names began with a different same letter. The youngest boy was rambunctious and everyone said he looked like a real-life Bart Simpson, because it was the late-80s, you see. The middle boy was quiet and polite. I wrote my first poem about him. Its title was Love. The eldest boy was a half-brother, the result of some teenage romp the smoking mother had before she settled down with the smoking father. This boy was magnificent: slim and tall and plump lipped. A blonde, cruelly beautiful girlfriend had shaved one side of his head; the unshaved side covered one eye that I never saw. Maybe it didn’t exist!
I was obsessed with this boy from the moment I got over my brief crush on middle-brother until I discovered the Internet when I was 16 and also discovered it was totally cool to love ladies. He did not care for my bod, but was always very sweet to me, which actually led to more humiliation than would have resulted if he had simply ignored me. During my obsession I wrote my tender mono-eyed love many poems, one titled True Love, because my feelings had deepened. I also composed a many-paged love letter that I foolishly asked my brother to deliver. Instead of the confession being passed along, it was instantly opened, read, and laughed at by our siblings. When I peeked out my bedroom window like an awkward princess in a tower and witnessed my shame, my brothers and his youngest brother huddled around my painstaking verse, guffawing with wicked joy, my Gallant Knight’s eye caught mine and he silently snatched the letter out of the giggling boys’ hands and returned to his house alone, while I slid down the wall of my bedroom and pushed play on my Paula Abdul cassette. I can’t remember one word contained in that precious document, but a part of me still hopes he read it, and still remembers that at one time, a sweet eager girl adored him.
Sometimes the mother of my Sweet Love would visit with my mother. They would sit at our kitchen table to smoke and gossip. During one visit, they moved their cigarettes and sweet tea outdoors, and Smoking Mom left her purse hanging from a kitchen chair. I was a tremendously well behaved child, but suddenly overcome by my irrational desire, I dove into her wallet, released My Tender True Heart’s school photo from its plastic confines & scurried to my bedroom with my stolen treasure clutched in my palm. I couldn’t look at it though! I couldn’t have such intimate eye contact with my Darling Man-child. He never looked away, just stared at me soulfully, slouched impatiently in his grey flannel. “What was he thinking?” I wondered. Even though I couldn’t interact with the photo, I also I couldn’t bring myself to toss it; the thrill of committing a crime in the name of (true) love was too delicious, the evidence must remain. So I hid it carefully behind a pin-up photo I had hanging on my wall, above my light switch, of Tommy Puett. I don’t even remember what show Tommy Puett was on (Life Goes On, maybe? I dunno.) He was just a space filler, surrounded by more important faces: Saved By the Bell cast members; Johnny Depp; New Kids on the Block; Mariah Carey; Winona Ryder, but behind Puett’s stupid face hid my True Love, and now that mullet-clad boy is a part of my heart’s history.
In “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Jean-Dominique Bauby explains the alphabet he used to communicate with visitors after waking from a coma caused by a stroke, leaving him paralyzed with only the ability to blink his left eye. Visitors would recite the alphabet, in order from most popular letter to least, and Bauby would blink when they reached the letter he wished to use. According to the kind of personality each visitor possessed, he or she would interpret the language differently – some given to fits of frustrated emotion when they couldn’t decode his words, others committed to painstaking, meticulous transcription.
The recollection reminded me of 2010, when my Mother, after waking from a coma, was unable to communicate for a time. She couldn’t speak, but she could hear. I wasn’t with her, but I would call every morning so she could hear my voice. My Dad would hold the phone to her ear and I would talk for a few minutes – fill the empty space with frivolous words: first of love, then mundane details of my days, then more love. Sometimes Papa would pull the phone away and describe Momma’s reaction if she smiled or nodded and my voice, not knowing its direction, would fill empty space, never landing. Words like “love”, “hope”, “miss”, today” never reached a destination; are still floating in the atmosphere in a North Carolina hospital room.
As Momma’s voice returned, conversation resumed, but because it was a strain, she chose her words carefully, was her own editor, spoke only what was necessary. Now her words come rapid-fire, but still laboured, still interspersed by attempts at great gulps of air that never fill her lungs. That never deters her; she keeps going, keeps talking. She no longer edits, when we speak, she puts on me every detail of the events that transpired to make her day miserable; every word spoken by those who have wronged her. I try to slow her down when she coughs or gasps, but she speaks as if in a race, forces all the words trapped inside her and making her ache, out of her and onto me.
I rarely speak; I don’t attempt to fit my own words into the space between hers. I listen, mostly silent, a sympathetic tsk here, a confirmation that I’m still on the line there, but no words of my own reach her. Even if they did, she would let them float with nowhere to land, there’s no space for me, no time for my words. She speaks as if her breaths are numbered, and I understand how she must feel, surviving what she did, feeling as though death will fully grasp her around the throat one day soon and squeeze, finish the job it started when she felt its fingers brushing along her skin. I’ll absorb what she spills onto me, do what I can to keep her breath coming, but sometimes, at my most selfish, all I want is for her to smile as I describe my day.
Young Hearts Crying feels like one of those stories about children growing up. The stories usually begin with a cast of characters in elementary school and we watch them grow and change through high school, college and into adulthood. This story portrays our cast beginning in college, in their early 20s, and as they grow into middle-age, we see how each character chooses to change and evolve. The times change around them; some adjust, some resist. Success and failures in relationships, career, and personal health plague each character, each react by either accepting their limitations, challenging themselves to grow, or stagnating.
Stagnation is one of the most crippling fears that grip us as we age. Every character in the novel possesses a varying level of creativity: some are geniuses blessed with talent and success; some are clever minds who spark soon and fizzle, never able to grab hold of what they imagined would be a life-long career of creative success. My favourite character is a creative hobbyist. She throws herself into various creative endeavours: acting; writing; painting. She’s very talented at some art forms, only minimally talented at others, but she throws herself fully into each project, and falls out of each just as easily, her attempts to find herself felt organic and open more to experience than success.
Every character in the novels stays in contact with the others in one form or another throughout the course of the decades-long story. As they age, every meeting feels more forced and uncomfortable. It’s an excellent message I’ve been advocating for years: as we age, we change; we cannot always hold onto the passionate friendships from our 20s into our 40s because circumstance and experience will change us, fundamentally. We don’t stop changing once we reach adulthood; we do it our whole life. There might be people who you find when you’re young that stay with you for life, but chances are better that they won’t, and that’s ok. Live fully inside the time you’re in, and it won’t matter that this relationship that means so much when you’re 25 means nothing when you’re 52. It’s not a detriment of either person, whether in a marriage, friendship, or professional relationship, it all changes. Hold onto the people who are running along the same course as you, let the others go; attempt to do this without bitterness, and if you do come together again, years or decades later, your nostalgia will feel like a pleasant ache, and not as if admiring or loving this person from your past was a bitter mistake.
Prompt #1: I was born…
I was born first. My story was the most vivid; the most told; the loveliest; the easiest. I was a gift: easy to unwrap, well presented, just what was wanted.
Prompt #2: When I was five…
When I was five I had already amassed 3 years of memories. I started my record young, first remembering my brother at my mother’s breast, next my doll at my toddler chest. When I was 5 I was a mother for 3 years. My first memory is of wanting what she had; finding and seeing peace that existed only in that moment, only in memory. Now the rosy memory seems a lie. I want nothing of what she has.
Prompt #3: My mother’s father…
My mother’s father has no name. She can’t recall the name of the man who she belongs to biologically and the name my Granddaddy’s wife and sister used is a mystery. My mother’s fathers are nameless, they are titles: “my father” and “Daddy”. The first spoken as a statistic, the second with reverence.
Prompt #4: My dad…
My Dad is a pervert. My Dad is ill. My Dad is brilliant and creative. My Dad is embarrassing. My Dad is fun. My Dad causes both panic and comfort. My Dad is strong and weak. My Dad is Swedish. My Dad is strange. My Dad is tired. My Dad is not wholly loved by anyone.
Write whatever comes to mind after you read each prompt. Write in any style, for as long you please.
Prompt #1: I was born…
Prompt #2: When I was five…
Prompt #3: My mother’s father…
Prompt #4: My dad…
photo credit: Self-portrait writing in my diary, Boston, Massachuetts by Nan Goldin, 1989