<![CDATA[femmeruthless - femmeruthless.com]]>Mon, 29 Feb 2016 02:27:52 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[i shall take the heart]]>Thu, 27 Feb 2014 07:07:05 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/i-shall-take-the-heart
It was a good afternoon to meet.  August had hushed away but a bit of the summer heat lingered.  At the end of it I’d swung round to drop him off to his motorcycle.  He collected his gear from the car, was busy putting all of it on when I saw him frown slightly.  I had been pleasant, conversational and smiling.  In fact, genuinely interested.  But I also knew I'd come off a year of not feeling much, if I was politely distant it was only because I'd gotten used to being cold as my own life required it. 

I motioned for him to say goodbye again, reached out to shake his hand but at the last minute hooked my fingertips on to his and pulled him in.  I kissed him on the cheek when he didn’t expect it, but he had leaned easily forward for the peck, his own fingertips hooking back.  The Tin Man feels. 
I call him the Tin Man for a few reasons.  First as a joke to his robotic tendencies and bionic parts.  

The second, as I grew to know him, I realized his dreams of the life he’d eventually want to lead, with the kind of person he decided would suit him the best for a long and successful marriage had in fact, some obstacles to overcome.  But as with the Tin Man of legend, he is just as determined and stubborn.  Just as untiring. 
PictureKelly Reemtsen, Splitting Hairs, 2012. White Hot Magazine Feature.
In the Oz books, the Tin Man is a wood chopper whose ax was enchanted by a witch to keep him from the girl he loved.  In time, the enchanted ax took all his limbs till finally his entire body was replaced with tin.   His brain, his heart.  It left him unable to love, even the very person he’d made the sacrifice for.  

The irony of this character is that he is in fact, the most tender and heart driven of all of Dorothy’s companions in Oz.   He laments for a heart, when he never completely lost his.  But it can be pretty convincing when most of you is made of metal.    

The ax, of course a metaphor for every distraction we engage in to convince ourselves to feel less.  Whether the distraction is a person, place or thing.  We think it occupies time, provides some entertainment, but it chops us down little by little.  Takes a bit of ourselves away without our realizing it.  

Our energy, our goodness, our ability to believe.  

While my own Tin Man is neither heartless nor so doomed, there are echoes of that with him.  While incredibly logical and stoic for that matter, he is profoundly feeling and instinctual by nature.  He manages his emotions to calmness, though I sometimes argue there are heart storms meant to help change and grow him.  Meant perhaps to reduce the dry coldness that can come of entirely analyzed decisions and outcomes. 

I stand corrected though, and ought not to assume he doesn’t weather them. He does, but rarely shows it, which leads me to the third and last reason.  

Our first huge argument was over his declaration of utter self-sufficiency and absence of vulnerability.    Anyone who knows me, probably also knows this is just about the same as waving a red flag in front of a bull.  

It also taught us both that face-to-face physical expression makes such a difference in such sensitive topics..obviously at the cost of him tiring of lengthy audible conversations and my being accused of being Le Vague Mouth. 

Though much later, our arguments softened, he was able to explain to me patiently and honestly, why this was difficult.  Difficult, he said, not impossible.  He understood emotional openness but didn’t like weakness itself.  In time, he told me this without the air of throwing down a gauntlet though he had at first and I’d reacted badly to it.   In time, I myself had softened from the anger this loss of vulnerability creates, how it bleeds away authenticity and dulls down our responsiveness. 

Why the anger?  Because I too, have felt what it's like to be made of Tin.  Though in many ways I may be far more progressed in the loss of the real feeling limbs and heart department.   I live self-sufficiently enough on a daily basis, away from family. But it’s never escaped me that living, in fact the essence of humanity is about the play between our individualism and inter-dependence with each other.  If it weren’t, then we’d all be happy being alone in a vacuum. 

The issue isn’t whether or not we can survive alone because we know we can – it’s whether or not we can thrive.  Thriving is predicated on connection, and connection on vulnerability and trust. 

I quickly realized from the Tin Man that the term “vulnerability” raises all sorts of clenching in men, whom all their lives have been trained to be NOT that.  I’d been blind to this when we tussled over it initially, not thinking of how many more barriers there are for men when we ask them for something like this.  

In my own way, I’d been too intent.   At first, I mistook it for semantics.  Isn’t emotional openness the same as vulnerability?  Not always in a man’s book.  

It isn’t just about saying I’m sad, or happy to them.  They can do that too.  Instead, it presents a real movement to disarm themselves when everyday they live their lives prepared for a war.  Geared towards a purpose.  Being vulnerable strikes right at the heart of what expectations there are of men.  

In the softer world of the feminine, vulnerability can be expressed in a conversation about feelings, we can talk about it all day long.  Even if some of us aren’t really as open as we profess to be, we know as women we won’t be judged for being so.  Yet for men, how they talk about their feelings, or their weaknesses butts right up against whether or not it fits with “being a man”.  

I’m always surprised at how keenly aware they are of this, and how much our perceptions of them weigh in.  In Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, she writes of her encounter with an older gentleman who’d approached her after a lecture on shame.  He’d asked her what she knew of shame in men, and she’d replied at the time that she only studied women.  

He thought it was “convenient” and when asked why, he revealed an oppressive truth, “My wife and daughters – the one’s you signed all those books for – they’d rather see me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall off.   You say you want us to be vulnerable and real, but c’mon.   You can’t stand it.  It makes you sick to see us like that.”  In short, men live with one constant and relentless edict: Do Not Be Weak.  Ever.

I could also add to that, the corollary unspoken command of, “Always Win, Never Fail”.  These are so deeply ingrained in men that their awareness quickly identifies the smallest pinpricks that run against these, and like any good operating system, acts to decimate them.  The Tin Man would tolerate no such things, and so upon the argument of vulnerability we fell.  
Looking back now, it was probably slightly hilarious.  Like we were gripped in an oddly twisted, childish noogie-wrenching wrestling match with me going, “Just. Let. Go.” And him replying through gritted teeth, “Nope, not going to.”  

He’d even topped it all off by saying he technically “dated” himself, which I’ve now discovered is a concept popular in quite a few dating/coaching blogs.  Don’t get me wrong it has some merit.  But to me, it hardly speaks to the epic mysteries and adventures that underlie our chosen couplings.  You don’t partner up to be so self-contained. That’s just a defensive position rather than a powerful one. 

No amount of flow-charting data crunching analysis can ever yield the perfect equation.  With all reason taken into account, you know, checking on your potential’s grid of fiscal, emotional, physical and mental health, and asking the right questions, life still manages to throw you curve balls.  

This seems an unusual tangent in writing about the Tin Man, but knowing him has only furthered my soliloquy on how love can be confounding, yet so undeniably necessary.  How the choices we make about it speak of even the things we can’t verbalize.  What we believe, what makes us tick, what combination of things create feelings in us for one and yet not for another, and how much of that do we allow.   

Which leaps do we make, and which hearts do we let lay fallow.  

I see a lot of myself in him.   There are people like that, whom despite being so far flung in origin and background, in approach and orientation, provide words to the sentences we can’t seem to finish.  You feel them belong to you, in the half-light world where nothing else matters.  Though you may handle things differently, you share parts of the same nature, the same twinges of pain.  You’re iterations of the same wave, kissing the shore in each your own way. 

There was a point when I looked at him thinking I could no more solve the years I’d lived before him, than he could his deafness.  An impairment of years and ears combined.  Yet, we were gripped with the same dilemma, what Wizard would grant each of us the right heart?  

When I think of the Tin Man, I see him standing on the cusp of one life, nearing a leap into another.  What joys would await him, but also what sorrows?  I hold my breath unconsciously sometimes, instinctively feeling a crumpling, some kind of heart muscle memory that I’ve learned not to pay too much attention to.  I understand the need for strength and invulnerability, after all I’m always strong by default myself. 

Still, there is a cost to the armor.    And apparently the Egyptians knew this when they crafted their belief of their underworld, where a heart’s destiny was determined by its weight against the Feather of the Goddess Maat.  The mythology goes that if the heart were lighter, then it would achieve a peaceful after life.  If not, it would be devoured and the owner condemned to restless wandering in the perpetual loss of such shadowed lands.

That’s pretty graphic and messed up.  But like it or not, to me this all points to a lightness only possible with a certain surrender.  

Love isn’t a destination - it’s a mode of transport with weight restrictions.  It will take you to less than ideal places, into detours and dead ends, but it will, if you let it, make you a worthy traveler, capable of being present and happy in whatever circumstance.  
<![CDATA[the tin man]]>Wed, 26 Feb 2014 11:56:55 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/the-tin-man
The Doodle Book
I’d met the Tin Man in early September, coincident with the advent of yoga.  He liked to tell the Frugens that my face was unfathomable the entire time, that I didn’t know what to make of him.  Perhaps, he'd conjuncture, even whether or not I were to stay or go.  He comes across a bit differently in writing than in person.  

In the written word, he's a touch colder.  Or maybe logical's the right word.  Robotic - his words, not mine.  Apt to spurts of sprightly humor that can cycle really fast.  He’s analytical, and prone to break things down into neat little packages that have naught to do with each other.  He compartmentalizes.  Life is a series of systems he knows and intends to master.  What makes him good at his work as an analyst also happens to be what can sometimes confound him in relationships. 
Try as they might, people don’t exist in separate portions of themselves.  I should know, right?  I certainly tried.  Doing that requires running parallel lives that almost always fall short of one full and vibrant one.  You either maintain distance from the most heartfelt things out of necessity – guilty as charged.  Or you’re a psychopath, and even they fail at that.  Equally people don't perceive statements anyone makes as completely independent of each other, all of it paints a stroke in a single picture. 
PictureNo, not THAT kind of aggressive http://shirt.woot.com/
He loves risky, adrenaline-driven sports, and probably has a higher than average testosterone level.  Once I told him it's probably why he heals so quickly, the so-called Wolverine Effect.  

Manly and athletic, his aggression is often sheathed in the lambskin of his Cancerian sun.  He’s mindful of his resources and uses them wisely, in many ways I admire him for even the things that would sometimes cut me.  He’s direct, but savvy enough not to be too direct should it thwart him from his goals. 

In person, he’s much warmer, with large blue eyes that hardly miss a thing.  They’re slightly disconcerting for their depth and expressiveness.  The Golden Venus would call it goobly eyes.  Princess Diana had it, that propensity of drawing empathy rather quickly with a lingering look. 

He'd accurately described himself to me, but first impressions always vary for the amount of physio-emotional data that comes rushing at you.  He’d been behind me in the restaurant and when I turned there he was, wiry, slight in stature, with a twitchy yet muscular restlessness you find in the highly active.  His features are small and fine, if he’d opened his mouth and spoken French, I would’ve not been surprised.  But he didn’t.   

We talked over lunch, I made him as comfortable as I could.  He explained how the bionic ear worked, how it aggregates vibrations into an approximation of a sound.  What made it easy to hear, and what didn’t.  We talked for a while in the compact quiet of my car, and I was aware even then, that I said many things without really saying much.  It’s hard to get out of the habit of hiding. 

But what was I really thinking?  There were the demographics.  The numbers of age, the distance in geography, backgrounds.  These are all things that run through my head as an initial filter of whether or not the entire exercise may be a waste of time.  But beyond that, the strange expression he saw flit across my face was recognition and my wariness of it. 

I listened to everything he said, but concurrently wondered of the dangers of his emotional empathy.  It could draw you in, but it could also drop you from a very great height.  I’d already badly fallen once, and there are no spares for any more broken wings.  He spoke of having many friendships, as well as many past girlfriends.  It was a little dizzying.  

Adam Baron
I’d met him through a piece of experimental writing, which neither directly invited nor asked for commentary.  My only goal was to study any reactions that came of it.  With references to the French Republic’s motto of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite, it had garnered emails from about half the French male population of Los Angeles.   Long, convoluted proposals in several languages, some attempts to mimic mine.  His was a simple, “are you still looking for something?”

“Yes, something”, I’d answered shortly.  It was an ambiguous enough word.  I’d written back to no one else, save for one close-ended thank you note for a brilliant poem someone submitted as a continuation piece to mine. I’d replied to the Tin Man due to the lack of embellishment, the simplicity of his question.  Which I hoped reflected an equally simple and direct person.  I love a straight line, even if my thoughts don’t always keep to them.   He had much more to say in further replies. 
In the car, I narrowed my eyes, because I recognized the something while still not quite understanding it.  He wanted me to tell him if I found nothing in the encounter to go on with, if I’d judged him for one purpose or another.  He was comfortable meeting many people, and it would not hurt him he said, if I felt no urge to go further. 

And I thought, but that’s just the thing – you can say that, while I’m wired for such immense caring, once it happens.  Still I kept quiet. 

I looked at him from the safety of my bubble, not feeling much.  It’s often like that with me when I meet men.  There are no stories I care to paint from their appearance or their prospects, even the extremely attractive and the wildly rich hold no sway with me for as long as there is no contact made.  Only my skin will say whether it’s a yay or nay.   Which often leaves me, restrained and away in my corner.   

<![CDATA[kintsukoroi, the golden broken]]>Wed, 26 Feb 2014 08:14:21 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/kintsukoroi-the-golden-brokenPicture
Kintsukoroi.  I was fascinated by this word when I first ran across it, defined as “the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.”   Several pieces fused together to be whole again.  

It reminds me of the night of the Frugens’ intervention.  Yes, that’s right.  An Intervention.  

It happened shortly after I’d blithely shared stories of childhood discipline meted out by my then menopausal Latin Piscean mother and rather Aqua Maddie brother, an unfortunate convergence of tempers that resulted in incommensurate punishments for my crimes.  

I thought nothing of it, it was history after all but it seemed the perfect storm for Frugen# 1 to posit a theory that perhaps it had made me afraid of men and explained my having moved so far away.  “I mean, sweetie, if you’re seeing infidelities as a young girl, and home doesn’t feel safe, then where would one go?,” he worried, “no wonder you’re here and everyone else is there.”  

I didn’t realize how serious this was till I saw the color high on his cheeks.  It had been shortly after they’d met the Tin Man, whom they liked but had doubts over.  The worry it seemed was because it had been a while since I had someone around me, as Frugen#2 would say when I protested to saying much about him rather demurely, "Nuh-uh-uh, sweetie, you better tell us what's going on.  Right now.  Are you telling him who you are or not?"  They tended to view most men against the specter of the Sewer and it had not escaped them how all these years I’d been alone.  And they wanted to be sure I wouldn't be..well, forever.

I gathered this was both a Come to Jesus/Don't Fuck Up talk.      

I listened patiently and carefully chose my words, looking at the dinner dishes laid before us.  If only it were just as easy to serve the truth.  “Yes, I am,” I admitted slowly.  “Men do frighten me to an extent, I often have to think of them as people first to disable that.  Does it influence whom I choose or how I manage things?  Perhaps.  But not in any way that intends a design.”  I paused - touched they’d gone to such extremes. 
Comics by Alex Noriega
"The truth is I live my life in pieces, if I had to choose a number, I'd say five.  Let's call it five easy pieces.  It’s what happened, but now it’s more of a failsafe.  If someone says no, to only one or two things of the five then it won't be so bad or as damaging.  Do I want to be known completely?  Yes, of course.  But who would ask the question, and who would go that far?”

They understood what I meant.  And it sat there on the dinner table as if I'd pulled out five little boxes of something.  Frugen #2 interrupted my drifting thoughts, "But Angel, you're so strong and we love that about you, shouldn't that be the thing that anyone you choose should love about you too?"  

They'd brought up the point of how on the very rare occasions they'd met someone I was with – to date only two over the span of five years, that I wasn't quite the gay man in a woman's body they saw me as..not as flippant, playfully flirtatious or sexually open as I was with them.  Not as Alpha as they saw me.  I sighed. 

“But it’s safe to do that with you darlings,” I explained, “nothing comes of it.  Besides there are things that can only be aroused by someone I’m with, and appropriately so, only quelled by them.  I don’t want to be the man when I have someone who’s precisely that..and I don’t know where they are in the fairy tale.”  They pursed their lips thoughtfully and nodded.   Those straight people and their damn fairy tales. 
There is a decorum in the courtship of friends and lovers.  A space where you navigate getting to know someone and understanding what place you may have in each other’s lives, if any.  The courtship is just as much about the stories we hold about love and how we picture ourselves in it.  The lure of this is so epic that it likely accounts for far too many failed marriages. 

This period, while observed, may reveal the exact opposite of being a prince or a princess.  Mostly it reveals agendas so crafted and goal oriented that you wonder if people even see each other.  Real love itself demands we accept the fire of truth, no matter how decimating it can be.  To be real is to occupy your own truth, while seeing others for theirs.  And embracing them through it. 

Most people will never say, “I do not, will not or cannot love you because..” instead parceling out their hesitations in waning interest, flaccid conversations and a creeping ennui.  It’s almost practice for the indifference that kills most relationships.  It is the dull ache you feel when a lie is being told, yet no mouths open.  It is the weight of pretending.    

I’d overshot the fairy tale by about a million miles, but it wouldn’t be my place to destroy someone else’s.  It did burden me with truth serum vision; sometimes I hated this lack of escape from the grit of things.  How patterns would form easily for me, how you want to tell someone “stop, don’t” but you know it’s best they live it out for themselves.  The truth comes with the responsibility of compassion. 
I explained this in so many words.  "And as for being strong," I continued. "Yes, I am and whomever I'm with will see that soon enough, but I'd like to experience them being strong as well.  That's just as important for balance right?"  

I loved them for asking, but the questions made me wilt.  Obviously it had got to the point where they felt compelled to say something.  The Tin Man was mildly mannered, in fact, gentle in many ways.  He has the sweet politeness Southerners are famed for and at the time they hadn’t yet experienced being told off by him, which when warranted he was apt to do.  He had also sussed out my propensity for hiding, and rather aggressively took me to task for it. 

“So like, I can’t find a lot about you,” he pointed out, “and what’s with not friend-ing me on facebook.  That’s just weird.”  

I was uncomfortable with this line of questioning, but replied that perhaps it was just better to experience me in situ.  He scoffed at this and took to arguing the point with a battering ram.  Over and over again.  Ram, ram, ram.

After some time I eventually conceded.  I hadn’t been pushed this far before, and it seemed he needed the information.  I dragged myself through the inches between each piece, feeling my stomach drop as they got nearer to each other.  

Would they fuse together, or fall apart into even tinier ones?  When I finally sent him the friend request as of course I'd been difficult to find, he chastised me promptly, “now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”  

Kintsukoroi.  No, it wasn’t. Eventually. 

<![CDATA[LE VAGUE]]>Tue, 25 Feb 2014 22:42:11 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/le-vague
So here I was at yoga again, after a week of illness.  The teacher’s voice drones gently over, and you hear nothing but the padding of her feet, soft thuds and the stickiness of the mat responding.  It’s so quiet yet so full in the room, because we’re all here to zone out on a piece of rubber.  

There’s an anonymous yet reassuring companionship in knowing I’m here working through my limits, and just a few feet away is someone else doing exactly the same thing.   There is no competition, nor argument.  Just the simple fact that I can only deal with what’s on my mat.  

As we go through the poses, I notice the instructor looking at me.  I’ve dropped so deeply into the bliss of the practice that I feel profoundly still.  I open my eyes to see her staring, she nods gently as if to say, yes you’re there.  There are no epiphanies or plans.  No sadness.  Just a quiet acceptance of everything the way it is.  
I know when I leave this room that situations yet unresolved remain the same.  I know the same issues I’ve been gnawing on at work will be no less.  I know my finances will still need building.  I know I’ll still be trying to find a new home while being appreciative of the current one, poignantly aware it’s had its time.  I’m aware of all the old and new.  Joys beautiful and fleeting.  Changes vibrating into being.    
PictureFlicker Member 9000
And I know the person I’ve thought more about in the last few months is on his own journey parallel in ways to mine.  It felt better once we just accepted the connection and camaraderie defies certain definitions and let it be.  He accuses me of talking too much, partly as I do rather helplessly, partly as it’s tiring for him. He likes to remind me he’s hearing impaired, as if I would forget. 

But I of course, don't really remind him that the silence cast upon him physically is a silence I live with internally.  He had once said it was the worse impairment for robbing one of the ability to communicate and socialize.  I’m sure it doesn’t even compare and it would be unfair to try, but even while I hear, I socialize less than he does tending to save my conversations (unfortunately for him) for the few rather than the many.  

Ironically, I sometimes feel impaired around people.  Writing tends to mandate it’s own solitude.   You’re constantly absorbing life into ideas which never really resolve in single conversations, lost in your own world where mysteriously random things are sparked and woven together or where situations you’re contemplating forge a war in your head. 

You’re acutely aware that were you to attempt explanation, most people might think you’re a little mad or as the Tin Man accuses me of, Vague.  With a capital V.  Because nothing is ever quite “finished”, not even when you get to the page.  There is no immediacy to conclusion, but a constant turning over of facets to feed the words you hope will eventually present themselves.   You mine the nuances. 

Your goal is to share the uncertainty with an audience largely unfamiliar to you - often it’s like a cry in the dark.  You wait for the echoes to come back, so you understand you’re not alone or are satisfied that someone else knows they aren’t either.  It’s the same kind of companionship the sky provides, broad, looping over great distances, but constant.  

Then the moment you’re connected to someone who gets behind the pen to the hand that wields it, there are fizzy spurts of thoughts said out loud, or you simply can’t help yourself when the chemistry encourages it.  You’re just a person.  You draw from them, they or the situation inspire you.  What’s your excuse then?  I write? 

Unlike conversation, whether spoken or signed, once you’re done, your writing is a finished product separate from you, available for beholding and perusal at leisure. While you on the other hand, are experienced as a jumble of abstract thoughts and musings, which for the most part seem to have no immediately useful bearing on regular life.  Except of course, for talking too much and possibly wasting time. 

“I’m going to call you Le Vague Mouth,” said the Tin Man one day, albeit with affection.  “Your need to talk is like having to exercise a really energetic dog.  You just have to run it out.”  He smiles at me widely.  I frown at this and he tosses me a dubious look when I inform him I’m actually not considered a big talker.  That in fact I spend most of my time alone in quiet rooms both at work and at home.  “You do?,” he raises both evenly blonde brows when I tell him this, “then why aren’t you quiet around me?”  

At first, I didn’t quite know how to take this.  Was this a “sit there, shut up and look pretty” edict?  Was this a preference for someone with the same impairment who could somehow laser beam their thoughts via Morse code?  I began to feel a little shy for talking, the same way one does when you take the last cookie, or show a bit more enthusiasm than you ought to.  And for someone who lives a thoughtful and articulated life, it had cut rather closely to the bone. 

I could no more prevent my mind or its expression than I could change the color of my eyes.  It was, and is after all, the way I’m connected to the world for all my own solitude.  It’s easy for me to encourage a person’s nature by adjusting my language to theirs, to diffuse tension with humor and word play, in fact with a lively wit.  I weave entire bridges with it.  On a good day, I could build you a castle. 
PictureКрасочные скульптуры из полимерной глины
By the same token, I’m too aware of it as a skill that I’m consciously spare in writing letters to a lover.  Too many past relationships have been prolonged by words that made them feel…everything while I wondered if they remembered who I am beneath all that silver on my tongue.    

I decided to selectively ignore the Tin Man’s humorous complaining.  After all, much of the talking transpired over events he’d spurred, and the natural inclination to have my thoughts hurtling forwards to reach him.  

And as he wearily explained, his bionic ear could only cope with so much.  He wasn’t being mean about it but just trying to tell me how to work with it.  Fair enough.  I’d read somewhere that deaf culture was collectivist, where personal information was gladly shared and exchanged.  

This is very much unlike the hearing where privacy and individualism is more the norm, where we layer our points with nuance, soften blows and take circuitous routes with our words.  We are text-heavy.  Most hearing-impaired can be jarringly direct, even sign language omits articles.  As he describes it, “it’s like really bad English if you write it out”. 

I remember the jolt of surprise I had when I first learned of how many events and groups there were for the deaf, everything from associations to sports to bars.  Due more to my ignorance than anything.  I was impressed to find they were no less talkative than the hearing, though “talk” as such involved much less sound and noise.  If communication could be compromised due to impairment and the threat of isolation abounds, it made sense for the culture to provide an offset.  A protection if you will from the wall of physical silence. 

It is a distinguishing and deeper commonality beyond interest and activity. A unification over a shared and more importantly, very obvious impairment that requires little explanation.

I wonder if the Tin Man realizes that beyond the deep and narrow circle of friends I hold here and the world over, no such place exists for me.  Being a foreign non-drinking, non-shallow person born of several cultures (East vs. West), religions (Taoist vs. Catholic) and ethnicities (Oriental vs. Latin) of such polar natures doesn’t make it impossible of course, but it does mean I can offer little by way of the sameness most Americans typically rely on.      

Alma mater?  Overseas.  Family?  Overseas.  Readers?  Mostly overseas.   Friends?  Half here, half overseas.   Number of revolutions survived?  One.  Number of coup d’etats experienced?   Approximately ten.  Most common question after I say this?  What the hell is a coup d’ etat?    

"One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others. By the time I finish my song?"
The things which have helped me find and keep my Others are my mind, the values I consistently practice, and the very same thing he’s given me a name for, my articulation.   I bond with people over thoughts, over feelings and over the actions it would take to build friendships to last a lifetime well beyond the safe harbor of the common.   

Usually those are not always easy things.  Often, these are out of the way and hidden, much the same as diamonds, tucked into the dark corners of the heart.  I see my loved ones beyond the capable striding of their daytime selves, I see the profundity of their presence in this world but love them just as equally for their mundane couch lounging on any slow evening of a Wednesday. 

He would, I’m sure, chime in to say I could change that any time and choose to be more social.  The Tin Man is nothing if not imbued with a can-do spirit.  He pushes me.  Hard.  
Picture“Push Hard – Pull Harder” by Luca Barcellona.
Yet the one common theme I’ve seen in all my friends is that each of them are immensely strong people who’ve experienced a fair amount of marginalization either through race, age, sexual preference, socio-economic status, circumstance or worse, tragedy. 

On our own friendship, I’d been driven to ask him why he wanted mine, since he seemed so flush with too many other friends with the Magic Common as it is. “Because,” he stubbornly replied, “I want it.  You’re consistent.  And you’re special.”

I nod. I too could understand the value of seeing the same bright star at night, even if its light was not precisely like mine. 

His impairment is challenging in ways not easy for the hearing to comprehend, still it also offers him the gift of that common bond with others like him.  Mine is rarely seen save for here, and it is, unfortunately not easily quantified in terms of impact.  Nor something I can offer ready solutions to or a simple language for.  Maybe that's why I'm a little vague.  It is riddled with mistakes I’ve made, and wrong turns I’ve taken.  It has a bit of shame.  I acquired it, knocking about in the world and loving the wrong people the very right way.  You know, consistently. 

It’s a fragility I draw strength from because it has taught me compassion beyond the obvious.  After all, anyone who meets me would never think me so tender.  But I’ve also had to make the choice to share it with people who matter and to risk judgment for it.  You must expose yourself to go from repair to building.  

Much of my traipsing about as FA on this blog had sat on veins of brokenness, and last year’s silence brought this persona to question.  Too harsh in some senses, too tender in others.  When does the past become just that, the past?  Do I leave femmeruthless behind?  Where do fallen angels go to fly? 

I think of this immersed in the mute blanket of yoga, where watchfulness is beyond the visual.  You fulfill a pose not because you hear nor see it.  Even sheer athleticism won’t get you there.  In yoga, you can only reach it because you feel and move your way through it.  It is the difference between contemplation and worry.  It is action in stillness.  Strength in vulnerability. 

But it is also letting go of everything. 

<![CDATA[Got wood?  Do Yoga]]>Tue, 25 Feb 2014 11:58:06 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/got-wood-do-yoga
I’m late to yoga class, but I run in anyway.  I’d been away for a week struggling with a relentless cough that kept me up at night and broke my voice into a rasp.  The room is dim, everyone already prone on their mats.  I skip in lightly, quickly unrolling mine in the front of the room.  

Just the night before I was at the track, running surreally through a fog that settled over the soccer field.  It was cold and misty that by the time I’d stopped, my hair laid limp from sweat and the damp wind, my muscles heavy from both the run and its attempts to generate more heat as my breath came out in puffs of air.

But now, in the heightened temperatures of this large wooden room, my body slows to a hum that finally stills itself.   Everything tight from the cold would unfurl itself in all this welcoming warmth.  All I would have to do is let it.  No pounding, no pushing.    
Picturetake a look in the mirror by ~mattthesamurai
I’d done yoga off and on for over a decade, but those early times were fraught with a worried grasping for some kind of peace.  Times I could hear myself thinking over each pose, times I’d feel angry for not doing better.  Times I’d feel tears coming on from out of nowhere.  There was a dissonance I couldn’t solve.  A strategy for my life in general I couldn’t find, which I’d somehow hoped to in a peaceful place. 

So I’d stopped.  It wasn’t hard to dismiss leaving, the odd thing was even the people who’d practiced alongside me then seemed just as lost and angry.  It was too easy to look at everyone and everything, like the surface of who I was then was polished blank as a mirror and all I felt was a restless churning behind it.  I’d begun to think of it as one of those things I had to try but really found nothing in.  

THAT was just unsettled youth.  But then more years came, and by that time, peace just seemed well, irredeemable.  Over a solid period of devastation, it was pretty much sod yoga, what I needed was an exorcism.  And maybe the same guys who put humpty dumpty back together again.  

But last year in early September, I returned to yoga in earnest.   I’d been going for massages every month and every month without fail, Lala the little Thai lady who worked on me would tsk-tsk her way through every body part.  “ Is too tight, Anjil!  Too much muscle stick together,” she’d exclaim.  “Shoulders like block, here,” she’d push an elbow in hard to make a point, “you need relax, you need happy!”  I’d wince because it was the only expression available to me as she tried to unknot everything. 

I’d stare helplessly at the floor through the donut hole thinking great, not only did I feel wooden inside, I was actually, literally turning into wood.  It was a year of almost complete absence from the blog, a year of speechlessness.  A year of work away from this work.   

It was the fore runner to my last entry, when all I could write was a horrifying admission of losing my own hope, which no matter how much I believed in as a necessity and still do, I’d found myself qualifying with the words, “for others.”  Not for me.  

The crossroads.  The nearer I inched to hopelessness, the more my body changed.  I hurt less it was true, but I also felt less of pretty much everything.  An ex-colleague visiting over lunch glibly asked, “So hey, what about love, eh?”  He’d always marveled how he never met any of my beaus and suspected I simply had too many.  I stuck my fork in some meat and didn’t even blink to answer without thinking, “I don’t feel anything about love.”  If it weren’t for the hush that cloaked the table after, I may not have even realized I’d said it.  

Considering how much of this blog is a reflection on love that was disturbing.  I was still mute here, privately writing, rewriting then mercilessly scrapping everything.  It was being 14 all over again, when I’d spend the summer writing volume after volume of stories only to pile them all up into a bonfire before school started.  My best friends got to read them once, but never again.  They’d wistfully look at each other as they handed each volume back after the go around, they hated knowing it was destined for kindling.

Back then the hopelessness was about writing in an environment where no place for that existed.  Another crossroad.  “Business school,” my Chinese father argued, “or Computer Science, both better.”  He meant than this.  You lose your voice when you are something in a somewhere inhospitable to that.  You just can’t articulate. Was that what happened?  Was I thwarted by the very thing I wrote most about? 

Ever practical, I decided in early September that while love was not around to redeem my rapidly woodening heart, I was certainly unwilling to have the rest of me turn into a creaky relic.  Ergo yoga.  

<![CDATA[the expert's guide to crying without tears]]>Thu, 19 Dec 2013 06:09:09 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/the-experts-guide-to-crying-without-tearsFour years ago in the course of talking about her relationship, a close friend of mine concluded that "this was it" for her. She lived clear across the planet from me, but women and men, regardless of creed, age or color, all understand the buoyancy we derive from when love is right and equally, how it petrifies us when it goes badly.  I nodded forgetting I was on the phone, "you mean he's the one?"
"No", she clarified, "I mean, if this doesn't work, this is it for me."  I was confused.  "I don't get it, what do you mean, like there's an expiration date to this thing or what??"  I could immediately feel a knot forming in my chest, I didn't like where this was heading.  

"I mean", she explained, "well, sort of.  But more on me.  If this doesn't work out, I'm never having another relationship again." 
I froze taking it all in, "you mean, you don't think you'll meet anyone as good --- or you'll feel as much for?"  I asked this quietly with eyes so carefully narrowed as if I were afraid to miss a thing.  I could feel her shrug even without seeing it," I mean, I won't have it in me anymore.  To love someone.  Anyone. This is it. This is the end of the line."
I was appalled.  To my ears, this felt like a violation of natural law.  I remember thinking my reaction would be no less than if I'd seen something mangled, bloody and left on the street to die.   

I was shocked to hear her say this, more so by the fact that she's a beautiful, in fact stunning woman with so much to offer the world. When I first met her, she'd reminded me of a tall woodland yet delicately elfine creature, her eyes were the green of sun-faded sea glass, the ends slightly tilted upwards to where it gave her an air of alert curiosity.  

She would not have been out of place on a throne of leaves and flowers.  Surely, this was not the fate of someone so vibrant, so feeling and so fantastically funny.  

Persephone by Max Eremine
Yet apparently she's saying it was.  This gave me serious pause then as it does now.  

She'd told me this in such a quietly calm voice though she might as well have screamed it, the vision I had of her remained grossly incongruent with that of someone I'd ever think of as ready to give up.  I'd heard variations of this conclusion before from others, one well-traveled and extremely busy friend appeared to be happily engrossed in her work saying she found relationships much too tiring.  She punctuated it with a shrug, seemingly content with the cleanliness of her uninterrupted life.  She'd never married and if she did, it seemed the terms would be rather onerous.  It's hard to compete with a hefty 401K. Touche she's a Capricorn. 

Yet another had completely lost the ability to cry.  During sad movies and crushing moments, she'd ramble on lightly, skimming over sorrows I sensed were there, festering hurts only betrayed by the sometime sharp edges of her words or her tendency to loop back contemplations on a current lover to a past one.  If ever a new story were to be written, it would have to survive rather stained pages riddled with etchings of the past.  Sometimes listening to it reminded me of a bird trying to fly with a single wing.  You hear the flapping but you see no flight.  You feel the tears but never see them. 

And now having traveled some way myself, I feel the same wooden creaking inside me.  Like one of those mythical cricket chirps some cultures tell of as a warning, an unassuming yet dreaded death knell sound that says it's coming soon and this time it will come for you.  I'd started this blog upon the behest of the Golden Venus, my hesitations disappeared when more friends and readers urged the same thing.  It has become a significant part of my deliverance, my own attempt to take flight while healing.  
From the very beginning, I've been conscious of how affective words can be while only too aware of how humble mine are.  In short, Shakespeare this blog is not.  Still part of this awareness requires a constant exercise of choice, of knowing whatever truth I hold as mine ought to be offered as simply that and definitely not as philosophy, that regardless of how avowed this truth may be, there remains an inherent responsibility in the way we parlay our understanding of it.  The truth itself does not exempt us from compassion.  

Hence, I am conscious of how I share what I champion for myself, usually that's hope.  The stuff that keeps us keeping on.  

Yet I have to confess, I struggle with this now.  And it is not a theoretical struggle, in the many pieces of my heart, it has become a full on hand to hand combat.  Fist, knife, broken glass, ice picks.  I have refused to write not only due to the demands of my work life, or the vagaries of everything else outside of it, but due to a stubborn refusal to even say this.  It is what I have feared defeat would be like, that the distance between a life I barely survived and one I'm continually trying to create is paper thin.  One little cut and it would all be over.  

Belief is that relevant.  That critical.  Mandela had said it, that "one of the most difficult things..is to change yourself".  

But how would I change this?  What change could I offer the friend who has no tears left?  This is a point when crying would be a gift.  Proof the rivers of life and love had not run dry inside you.  Yet I know how much easier it would be just to never, ever cry.  To decide then and there, to feel nothing and rest on risks calculated by logic.  To estimate the surest pathways we think are safest, choose the people we have deigned to be most ideal for the lives we aim for.  The dream girl.  The dream man.  

The heart refuses to be left in the dark.  Even while we calcify at our edges, and follow the programs we've set forth (you know the ones), it pulses a drum beat into a universe we assume has been rendered dumb by the disappointments of the world. We become really good at professing doubt, and bitterness?  Well, it just sort of arrives, like a belligerent unwanted guest who querulously challenges any request to leave.  We find ways to accommodate it.  Maybe we develop a tome of rules, or find a position to rigidly dig ourselves in.  

Some overwork (guilty).  Some perpetuate dramas we don't even really care for except for their distraction/destruction value. Yet even some of us punish the people who really do love and care for us, who accept us from halo to clay feet, take the tests we put them through and smile understandingly as we scratch them.  They believe we are lovable, even when we do not.  They bleed willingly and we think them stupid for it.       

But we all create strategies to be sure we will never be pressed to such terrible tears again.  It could be anything, it could even look terribly normal.  Because in this world, we're all overwhelmingly taught to guard our hearts with the same kind of well-intended practicality we use when reminding someone to turn off the lights before they leave the house. 

This is all lost on me, and I am paradoxically, the poster child of a previously hideous love life and the most fervent advocate for hope.  When it comes to others at least.  But now, I feel the coldness of the crossroads nearing.  I approach with trepidation the juncture those who've come before speak of and the very one I've fought valiantly against.  I am on the verge of sighing into this dead place and I could fall soft as a feather into it.  Light with emptiness.  
Check.  Another one bites the dust.  This is the expert's guide to crying without tears.  

<![CDATA[fukujin-zuke, the seven gods of happiness]]>Sun, 01 Sep 2013 07:21:41 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/fukujin-zuke-the-seven-gods-of-happiness
Kunichika Toyohara - Seven Lucky Gods Making Rice Cake
This small and simple Japanese restaurant has been here for ages.  I know it from when I was married, and frustrating late night talks would end with the only hot, non-fast-food meal you could get at 1am in the morning.  Food was a default pleasure, the sort of shared yet neutral there-there in a public space because being in the same four walls with the same irresolvable problems became too much.  Now many years later, on a whim I decided to grab dinner here.  The owner is a Japanese version of Woody from Toy Story, without the costume.  He flits around, just as high strung but efficient, throwing deferential Hais to every request and question from patrons. 
I'm just waiting for my food and really taking in how nothing, not a single thing, has changed in the place.  Would the dishes taste the same?  I wasn't sure.  He wraps everything up in a bag and I ask if I can please get extra red pickles.  I'm not sure how else to call them, usually in foreign restaurants I can't manage my rule of thumb is to point at things.  He nods, and a smiling man hovering round the kitchen comes round to tell me it is Fukujin-zuke.  I repeat it carefully like a slow child.  He makes me say it again then explains that it was named after the Gods of happiness.  
Happiness?  Wow.  Well, that was haunting.  Had I, in my hunt for happiness, found the deities who could possibly grant it? The thought made me shake my head involuntarily, and the smiling man beamed quietly at me as if he understood.  In the corner, the Maneki Neko cat waved its ceramic paw at me as if to say, that's why we're all here at 1 in the morning.  

It was now June, and my birthday had just passed.  Ominously absent from writing here, life had been a blur of work projects, each increasingly more intense than the last one.  Beyond that, it was all very adult.  Paying debt, paying bills, going to conferences, mentoring people, battling through things.  My workload had exploded and the bosses had more or less made it clear that getting help for everyone else but me was the priority.  I was so busy, I barely spoke.  

And sputtering through all that was the Cappo Comedy Writer who I'd officially started ignoring earlier in the month.  I'm not sure if it was just him, work, or how life felt like an endurance race to some point of destination that kept shifting farther and farther.  

But somewhere a curtain had fallen ever so quietly.  

How was it left last?  Oh yes.  Going organic.  It had been that, despite his earnest attempts to make it otherwise.  By fall last year, we were both so busy that things began to die down, and I looked on silently, waiting for it to cough to a halt.  Instead, the new year had come and each fresh from our family trips, mine to Asia and his to the midwest, we'd come back to LA to resume life as we knew it.  It was only the second day of the new year, I was still bright.  I always felt more powerful accepting it would never be, so it was a surprise when he rang and wanted to see me. It was difficult to keep the conversation decent, and later obvious we'd deeply missed each other.  

But that's what happens right?  Distance making the heart grow fonder.  His visits became more frequent, our conversations quiet and steady, everything else a bit more impassioned.  I'd cook dinner, we'd talk.  He'd automatically wash up.  There was some kind of tacit acceptance of things being this way, for a while.  Yet so much of this was still wrapped in unreality, he had no idea how old I was even, or any of the usual details that anchor us all down.  All I wanted to know was an answer to a question that niggled at me for so many years, how did I really feel about him?  Was all that three years ago just a dream? 

These aren't questions answerable in thought but only in being.  In an inexplicable way, we were tied to each other, yet in extremely practical ways, we weren't at all.  I never met his friends, nor did he meet mine.  The moment where you think, God this is really happening, never came.  And I was unwilling to let it play on after it had taken up so much already.  I decided to throw everything at it and confessed, things had developed for me I wrote.  I hated the thought of not ever speaking to him, or not seeing him so much, it made me want to puke.  Yet I felt the situation left me no choice but to do just that, since one can never insist on being loved back. 

goodbye summer, hello fall - digishoptalk
And now as I try to finish writing this, it's nearly the second day of September.  I had resisted returning here for the mere fact that I'd tired of traveling pain with my words.  The goodbyes were inevitably protracted, there was one hopeful bit that found him driving to me like he'd sprouted wings and he was hell bent on saving this.  This, whatever this is.  Yet even that single spark of courage had flickered out.  He wanted time he said, to figure out what he wanted to do.  

Yet it was a very simple question, does this thing live or does it die?  

One month passed, then another.  Then I left.  He chased, if you could call it chasing.  First with humor, then with nonchalance.  Then with earnest confessions of having missed me.  Email after email.  Message after message.  All words. In my effort to keep solidarity with the knowledge this could go no further, I had to take all the beautiful letters, all the sweet, mewing pleas and ignore the lot of it. 

But that's the thing with words, they carry so much emotion.  When you cut yourself off from sorrow, you just as well cut yourself off from happiness. 

Hence, silence.  Is the place I've been in all this time.  Wondering where the Gods are. 
<![CDATA[that which shall not be named]]>Tue, 29 Jan 2013 11:12:12 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/that-which-shall-not-be-namedIn the spaciousness of everything, in all the time and all the things I've yet to know about the Cappo Comedy Writer, to say I didn't expect this was an understatement.  I'd deliberately employed a careful cocktail of nonchalance, terribly low expectations and detachment to this endeavor.  In fact, I'd even hesitate to call it that as if naming it would bring the Furies upon me.  Is it ironic it gets the same treatment as Voldemort?  Oh yeah, this whole thing is That Which Shall Not Be Named.
It's not a promise, it's not a promise, chanted somewhere in my head and I could hear the well-oiled machinery of my own defenses clicking into place.  But as I saw him out of the flat and the opening door, even the light seemed to sear my eyes more acutely.  Was this a new world I'd cracked open?  

Today I thought was only the second time I'd ever seen him again, until then it was the one night stand that simply wouldn't die, stubbornly refusing to accept its fate and wreaking havoc as it went.  I must admit that in all sorts of unlikely moments, it would echo from some far hallway I'd stored it in.  What if..it would woo eerily.  All sorts of what ifs.  What if the funny man returned, what if he was actually here again, with you?  What if he made you laugh again but cried for the same things you do?  In one way, it wasn't hard to contain these at all.  His eventual disappearance was proof enough he simply couldn't be there and that it was for all intents and purposes, the right thing. 
Jared Nickerson
Is being left behind, refused or rejected ever the Right Thing?  Far from it when it happens.  Maybe Fate has fault lines, and love like landscapes, doesn't always get formed at the first go.  Maybe every experience, even the awful ones, batter us into a shape that allows us to arrive at the lessons we must learn but cannot even name.  It's never the things on our must-improve list that gets struck by the bolt of lightning, but always that sneaky little nugget of pain wearing away as we so dutifully live a life which cannot acknowledge it's existence.  

I had told him there were no mistakes, and I believe it.  It's simply difficult to accept that it takes so much for us to finally be who we're meant to be.  The days we live are the days we hone every skill we have at this being-ness.  Even if we share our stories with many others and partake from the same cup of sorrow, or share similar joys, every thread weaves into our uniqueness.  That thought delights me.  It makes being here make sense, especially during times I find a longing to evaporate and I am jealous of the air that gets to go everywhere.  

I blink a little at the light touching his blonde head, but he leans down to kiss me goodbye.  I'm a little bothered by how familiar his comings and goings are already, even if it's idiotic to claim familiarity of someone you've only seen twice.  With him, I hate the feeling.  Because it feels good and I'm not sure what it all means.  They are not epic, these goodbyes.  They're comfortable, the same way someone you've known all your life saunters off with a carelessly mentioned, "be right back" and you don't doubt it.  Mostly I'm suspicious of myself for feeling it, I don't want to give him all the credit! 
Cynical Love Machine by Phillip Harper
He says it all again, about staying and being around.  I'm not sure why he feels the need to declare it quite so much when I've not said much of anything.  I'm fantastically absent of recriminations, wary of giddy excitement and all I can afford is a sweet little smile of I hope so.  We shall see I suppose, everything is in the doing.  

It was summer, according to my almanac this could very well be some kind of weather induced hormonal disturbance.  He could be the sort that can't be with just anyone, or at least needs a hot girl who can be as melancholy as he at times.  Who knows.  I at least had some skill at living several lives, so I went on with mine and wrapped the one that contained him into a careful little ball.  It was so fragile you see, and a hint of too intense an inspection would probably make it explode into a cloud of dust.  His fragility, mine.  Ours.  All unabashedly together.  It was hard to look at anyway.  

In the midst of work, and flames, present and former, he called again.  And again and again. 

"So...where do you want to go from here?," he asked me one day, too weak to resist the norm of his over-think.  
 Ah, I thought, the over-think.  The ever-present built in feature of the Capricorn male, comes standard with every single sodding edition since the beginning of time.  It's very possible the Capricorn man came right after Adam and that dratted apple, a redesign with a pre-installed fail-safe so that THIS time Man has the sense to ask questions about any damn thing he wants to sink his teeth into.  Except like with every corrective action, there's always a tendency to go overboard.  I sighed and unceremoniously woke my Lilith up. 

"I think we need to go organic on this one," I stated.  A pause.  

"Organic meaning what?," he clarified.   Gawd, not this again.  "Organic, like talking about this is insufficient activity to determine a direction, it has to be empirical," I replied, not particularly caring if he understood.  I wasn't in the mood to build this like Rome.  

"Like we should see each other and go from there?," he ventures.  "Yes, but I think it would be better if we don't jump into bed or rush things because you know, it's been a while and I wouldn't really feel comfortable doing that.  I hope that's ok, I wouldn't want you to be disappointed," I hear myself say, oh shock and horror.  I could've had him for dinner and twice for dessert the last time, but I was trying to be sensible.  

"Actually, I can totally understand that.," he agrees then adds,"Men aren't completely sans feelings you know?  I could come over and we could have a walk, some coffee maybe?"

I say ok, and am distractedly thinking of how to control myself when he says, "But I have to say you've kept me up so many nights, I can't actually promise you I can be that good.  But we really should get to know each other better, like that's not a euphemism."   I groan.  This man was going to be my own personal poltergeist. 
Uhm, not really sure who to credit this to..but Ralph Fiennes is a Capricorn?!
<![CDATA[i'm not going anywhere.]]>Mon, 28 Jan 2013 10:42:49 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/im-not-going-anywhere"Oh, boy, are you still mad at me?," he wrote again one day.  I ignored it.  

"Hi, really, are you ok?," he asked again the next day.  I ignored it. 

"Ok, so I really wasn't just saying hi back then," he admitted the day after that.  I ignored it.  

"I'm really sorry.  Please stop being mad, please.  I think about you all the time and I didn't know what I was doing.  I don't think of you that way at all.  Don't be mad anymore.  Please?," he pleaded again.  "And yeah, I get you're into someone else now," he finally added.
The benefit of the lie, I thought.  I didn't know him like this, persistent.  Constant.  Maybe we just had to bore each other to death, get rubbed raw by our tiresome habits until we really had no choice but to shove each other into the past.  "Fine,"I answered, "Just you kind of scared me and it's just weird of you to ask me that, I'm not a stupid replacement for anyone."  I sounded flat as I said it.  And sore.  Well, because it hurt, and at the time, it didn't quite occur to me he was just as much lying through his teeth about having someone else as I was. 

He apologized again and we changed subjects, the farther from it the better.  Still, I suppose the man knew what he was doing.  How Capricorn of him to take it slowly but surely, building each little block carefully. Planting the seed and waiting till I remembered everything I'd tried to forget.  Later he suggested we should catch up, in person.  I laughed.  "In person?," I repeated. "So you can freak out again?  When is that - like a year from now?." 
No, he argued.  There would be no hand-wringing or indecision this time.  "Seriously, no twenty questions? No which-way scenario discussions or summit meetings?," I asked him sarcastically.  Eventually however, it did happen.    

It seemed an impossibility that this man who could drive my temper into a loss of reason, who'd disappeared at such a forlorn time in my life was suddenly here, at my door.  But even that had happened with argument, he'd ended up coming back from a work trip after I flipped my hair and told him to forget it.
He looked as ever, blue-eyed and pale.  He'd lost weight but acted as usual, crotchety and older than his years.  He'd started running, he said and watching what he ate after he realized he had the diet of a ten year old.  

"I must've been eating 3 lbs of cheese a week or something, oi.. don't even ask me how much work this BS takes," he said loosely referring to his slighter frame.  I didn't blink, "I liked you even when you were heavier, but who cares about my opinion, right?"  

Some things hadn't changed, we both still worked at the same places, he still wrote for a living and we were both still single.  I think anyone would at least say this had the makings of an utterly romantic story, maybe so for people much less damaged than either one of us.  So as he went on being droll and funny, I watched him quietly.  He was nervous, appropriately so.  I was always more than a little unpredictable with him. 

I wondered if this was the patter that got him somewhere with other women.  The kind of quietly intelligent, reserved but funny talk that never exposes anyone and takes forever to get to the point.  How safe this all is I thought, then promptly told him I'd rather he kissed me.  

His eyes widened even more before he leaned over gingerly.  I smiled to myself, he hates this and I knew it.  He had never been able to reconcile my sensibility with how I looked, my calm and inescapable reason vs my unabashed kitten-likeness or my measured thoughtfulness vs my moving liquidly through the room.  I'd decided long ago being a paradox was not a problem.  Or if it was, it wasn't mine.  

pink butterfly of death
As far as I'm concerned, this was one of the last bastions men could even attempt to conquer.  Make sense of the terrain mate, I smiled as he kissed me tenderly, nipping at his lip unexpectedly.  He looked at me in disbelief but decided to take charge after I stared innocently back at him.  Somehow, we managed to stop.  "It's the same," I whispered as if we were testing a long buried soup recipe we'd once again unearthed.  I uncoiled myself from the couch and dragged him to bed. 

Which he tried to resist with such panicked charm, "Oh NO, bad idea.  Seriously, I won't be able to stop.  I can't.  You know Penis, he'll just ignore me."  Yes, despite years of this back and forth, we had a pet name for it.  Penis had solid allegiance to me, having turn-coated years before.  I kissed the huge hands that covered mine, once on each knuckle. "No, he'll stop as long as I ask him to, remember he follows me?  Besides the bed's bigger and you can stay as far away from me as you like at one end."  Poor long lost Capricorn.  

We laid facing each other and in desperation he told me that he musn't do more than this.  I shook my head earnestly, "Of course not, no, no, NO.  Bad idea." while I lazily twined a thigh around his.  "I have to.." he breathed laboriously, "I have to prove to you that I'm not going anywhere, I have to prove myself to you.  That I can be around."  I froze slightly. 

Was he saying what I thought he was saying?  I looked at him gently as he added, “because I want this to be a regular thing.”  I nodded, it was a few years too late but I’d thought then as I did now, that it was all we could manage.  Manage to believe as possible at least.  He watched our hands against the light above us locking fingers and looked aghast at my smile.  "Stop that," he ordered. 
Rico Blanco
"What?," I frowned still smiling.  He shook his head, "You know,"he said firmly,"you can't smile at me like that.  You just can't." I laughed, and he promptly chastised me again, "No laughing either, but you just need to..stop smiling.  You smile and it's just..," he didn't finish the sentence, pursing his lips in agitation.  I looked at him and whispered I wanted yet another kiss.  He groaned loudly,"You're killing me," but kissed me thoroughly anyway.  

We stayed in bed for a while, still fully clothed and talking a little excitedly.  It dawned on us we could actually maybe get this going, whatever it was.  "You sure you don't have a boyfriend?,"he asked double checking.  I shrugged, "I told you, I don't really have relationships.  Anymore."  

He looked at me a little angrily,"That's a bit of a fucked up policy."  I closed my eyes briefly and opened to see his trained on me, I smiled softly, "Not a policy.  Just a fact.  It just didn't really happen, not that way."  We both went quiet at this.  It's what brought us to each other, wasn't it?  And apparently, as sad it is to say, it's what kept him coming back and my being unable to really forget him.  We were veterans of the same damn war.  Just we each seemed to react differently to finding we had more than that in common.  
David Perez
He didn't like hearing that.  Maybe because this was the empty doorway he'd left me under three years ago.  I didn't even ask for it then, it was just one of those blindingly obvious things that happen when you're with someone and you each know without any real understanding of how or even why, that a tiny moment could be something more.  It's small but beautiful, you just know:  I like you and you like me.  It's even more ironic when it happens just as you're trying to swallow believing that it could take a while, or maybe even, never. 

I'd read somewhere that Elizabeth Gilbert once had a monk tell her to never give anyone anything they weren't emotionally ready for, that otherwise they'd have no choice but to hate you.  She wrote how this initially seemed cynical to her, yet years later, after many mishaps of what she thought was joyful giving, she'd found this to be true; inadvertently her offerings had robbed the very people she tried to help of the gifts hidden in their problems. 

It was the same with him.  I'd arrived at a time when he was nowhere near prepared for any kind of connection, and was thereby duly punished.  

"What are you saying then?  You don't believe in relationships, or what?," he questioned me rapidly, still visibly upset.  

I breathed, "I do.  I do believe in it.  But look at you, you're frightened of me.  I'm not," I paused waiting for the right words to fall from the ceiling above us, "I don't like manipulating people into relationships.  I'm not..I'm someone who's there it seems for other people, but I'm either too honest or too brave, or too something.  You know.  You know my history.  It makes me good for those things, but not as such, exactly right.  It seems." 

"Because you're Batman?," he teased, trying to keep it light.  I nodded, "Yep, because Gotham needs me."  But he didn't drop it, arguing the very position he just weeks before himself occupied, "I don't think you should say that.  You can't say it doesn't happen to you, or you don't have them. That's just not right.  I take exception to that."

"I said, anymore.  It doesn't happen anymore.  I didn't say I didn't want it.," I corrected him.  "Besides WHY are you telling me this when YOU said you'd rather be alone in air conditioning?"   

"That's different, that was me reacting to that whole douche bag business,"he pointed out, "you can't give up."

I thought I might cry, this particular subject with this particular person was just too near everything.  He had been there, three years ago, witness to my fragility.  In regular life, I never come across as that.  Not with most people, especially not with men.  My usual role was that of the serendipitous stranger, there to embody some critical kindness that needed to be done, say or write the right words that would've never arrived otherwise, sometimes I'm just a wave to carry someone thru the next bit or even in silence, a moment of protection or kindness. 

David Perez
I'd started that way, even with him.  That I expected only to take what I needed, for that time then go.  Not so much be seen, or found, which he had done in all his careful probing.  By the time, I'd held my hand out to him then, it was a tendril, tentative and blind.  I couldn't help admitting what I was, shattered, busy putting myself back together again and intent on preserving the ability to hope, which I must admit, I'm not quite sure I've done very well with.  It didn't help that he suddenly dropped it like a hot potato and fled.  

So now, here he was calling me up on the question I loathed answering the most.  "I'm not giving up, I'm just stating what is.  You shouldn't be so angry about it, I'm not.  Remember, you left too.  There really aren't any mistakes, for the very longest time I wish you never left but that's what was right for you then so there are no regrets and there are things to learn from it.," this was all I would say, or could say, even if there was too much subtext already. 
"Oh?  And what did you learn from my going?  I'm sorry btw.  Again," he repeated.  

I tried to convince him he didn't want to know, that it wasn't something I held against him.  Saying that just guaranteed his insistence, "No, I want to know, I want to know what this lesson is you learned.  I really, really do."

I bit my lip but the man asked, "Right, so lesson one, never give anyone anything they're not ready for, and you certainly weren't.  And two, as much as possible, never let someone occupy your mind, who won't occupy your life and really be there.  Those are the things I learned from that time with then without you."

He looked incensed with himself, "That just makes me feel like the lowest piece of shit ever.  I have no idea why you're even speaking to me, again I'm sorry.  Really."

"Look," I shrugged, "you wanted to know so I told you.  No blame, no rehash. You're here now.  I'm wary yes, of course.  But people leave all the time, and you can't stop them.  You can't make it about you, even if it feels that way."  I said it so matter-of-factly and spent more time studying his fingers because well, I couldn't change the past and neither could he.  

He held my head in his hands to look at me so seriously it worried me.  He kissed me soundly, "I have to prove this to you.  I really have to.  I'm not going anywhere."  

<![CDATA[the tyranny of hope]]>Sun, 20 Jan 2013 18:52:07 GMThttp://www.femmeruthless.com/femmeruthlesscom/the-tyranny-of-hope"I'm sorry," I practically choked in disbelief, "But are you actually ANGRY that I'm free?  This, this is what you're mad about now?" 

"Kind of, yeah.  I won't be able to stop myself from pestering you," he sounded seriously miffed at this revelation while I gawped at how the conversation had turned.  
I'd lied this far, I might as well stay consistent. "This really doesn't change anything.  I'm IN LOVE with someone else, you are too, things could change with her, it could be a ploy you know that.  Besides, it's been years.  You've ignored me for YEARS."

"I kept all your messages," he said quietly. "Every one of them since 2009.  Should I delete them?"  I hated him instantly for telling me that, then realized this was precisely how he felt.  "No," I sighed tiredly,"it's your history, I've no right to tell you what to do with it.  Besides, I kept yours too.  And I wrote you stupid messages I never sent."  This was misery.  I stared at my phone willing it to burst into flames. 
"It was stunning though, that night," he mused. "The chemistry was really, you know, disturbing in a never before kind of good way." 

I was pretty sure my face had at least 7 indescribable expressions.  What ring of hell was this now?  I opted for calm reason, "Look, I know you just took a hit, and it was..yeah, you're right, it was great.  But I'm sure the chemistry with whatserface is probably even better." 

"Yeah - No.  No, it isn't,  We didn't get that far,"he informed me.  I felt the air get thicker but was relieved when he joked that perhaps I ought to give him an endorsement.  I laughed at this, glad to lighten things up but my stomach pitched when he suggested that perhaps we should consider repeating it. 

"The endorsement?," I played dumb.  

"No, I'm saying we're amazing at it and we should do it again," he repeated.  "It'll make us both feel better."  I muttered something and made some excuse about having to go, "please think about it,"he asked.  

I really didn't want to, because I always did anyway. There were so many twists in this story it'd begun to look like an Escher painting.  

Three years ago, this had all started out of my need to choose a post-Sewer rebound, who as it turned out, wasn't even really that. Rebounds are by definition, so unsuitable that their very appeal immediately expires once they fulfill their purpose. It's a little impossible to claim that if you're still engaged in a romantic Paso Doble with them years on. 

And now this sudden turn of my "rebound" asking me to well, be his rebound?  He didn't seem drunk at the time, but in pain, sure probably.  Still, I stayed silent after this request, quiet except for some kind of ire dangerously bubbling away.  At any moment, if I never said anything, we would see that edge again and he'd fall off, predictably disappearing.  He probably loathed himself for saying it at all and he'd just go.  Disappointing but familiar. 

A few days later, he chirpily reported he'd chosen not to think about the rejection at all, who needs love anyway?  "You know how it is with me in relationships,"he quipped rather merrily.  I wondered if this was all by design, the reappearance days before my birthday, the supposed love interest and the conveniently timed dumping barely a week or so later.  They all fell into place like over-orderly dominos.  Was it too paranoid to suspect a man who made his living concocting stories to actually furnish one in aid of having me land where he wanted?  Never mind that I made one up too. 

Jason Chalker's amazing Dressed to Kill
I become even more piqued at how thinking this way fell in line with his portrayal of me as a super-spy.  It's hard to admit that when it comes to love, my heart defaults to its training behind the Iron Curtain.  Everyone is a double-agent, the most incredulous possibilities are true and there is absolutely no one you can trust.  Death and betrayal?  Well, both imminent. 

I didn't hesitate, "Actually, no, I don't know how you are in a relationship.  You kind of ran away before I could form an opinion."  He chose to ignore this, repeating the latest crop of consolatory advice his friends had offered, how in fact "it's always better when things don't work out because even when a relationship's good, there's always the headache and you're better off at home with air-conditioning." 
"You mean to preserve yourself in refrigeration?," I asked.  I couldn't laugh at all.  Why did he even come back?  What did he think he was doing, talking to me all this time, returning year after year like I was his chosen icon for pilgrimage?  That now, tired of viewing me in the box he'd packed me in, I was meant to come alive for this hope and cynicism that apparently, I actually didn't inspire.  I promptly lost it.  

"WHO, do you think you are?," I hissed.  "Obviously someone better than me, if you think I'd sleep with you based on a knee jerk reaction so you can feel better.  I at least chose you before, remember?  I didn't just go How Bout It?  Or that I'd even consider it after telling you I'm in love with someone else.  You think me so disloyal I'd do that?  I wish you judged me better on how I've treated you, which has been nothing but kind.  I know you're surrounded by disingenuous people if that passive-aggressive stunt your little girlfriend pulled is anything to go by.  Are your views so rigid and so safely cynical you can't see what's real and what's not?  You need to know I'm not like that.  I'm never going to be like that.  And I won't be treated that way.  Don't even bother saying you won't email me again or start fruitlessly flogging yourself.  Been there, done that remember?" 
Be My Anti-Valentine Card
He apologized immediately, trying to make me laugh in between,"I'm sorry I didn't realize things with your guy progressed that far.  I really didn't mean to offend you, honestly.  You know I don't think less of you, you know that.  Besides don't you live in another country?" he joked.   
PJ Lynch, Death and The Maiden
I ignored him for days after this, returning quickly to the safety of pretending he never came back.  I was counting on his cowardice of the last few years, that it would kick in and I could slam the door on this little chapter with a resounding thud.  I knew we were alike in many ways.  The same huge families, his plethora of sisters to mine of brothers and nephews.  The same dry humor, the preference for odd nightly sleepless hours, the need for thought.  Similar catastrophes in love. 

We were both so afraid of everything wanting one specific person does to you, that neither one of us could ever really relax.  We each employed space to defend ourselves, once he told me he didn't want to get too comfortable with anyone for fear he'd lose his appeal.  I thought this the anti-thesis of what loving someone should make you feel.  But I couldn't judge him too harshly, I was the same.  

And now, we were both lying to each other, and we both knew it, I thought ruefully.  If either one of us were really interested in someone else, we really wouldn't have spent this much time talking, arguing or irritating each other.  The jig was up, but who cared, right?  We didn't know what to do with ourselves the second we knew we were both free. I sniffed and squared my shoulders, a little ashamed I'd lied so much about wanting someone else to the one person I was actually drawn to.  

Hope, I thought, was really just another form of awful tyranny.