- Why I Love Bike Commuting in Boston [2nd Place Contest Winner, “Fiftiness”]
- Forgive Me [picked up by Slippery Elm Lit Journal in print, Jan. 1, 2017]
- Praise for “The Kickass Formula that Restored My Libido!”
- T-boned (Excerpt picked by Gravel Literary Magazine)
- The Secret to Doing What You Love (picked up by Aussie blog, The Artist Unleashed)
- What More Is There to Ask? (picked up by Foliate Oak Literary Journal)
- Becoming Our Fathers (picked up by The East Bay Review Literary Journal)
- What the Wrong Job Can Teach You (picked up by HuffPost)
- Why Regret Is So Deliciously Fun (picked up HuffPost and Midlife Boulevard)
- The Kickass Formula That Restores Libido (picked up by Rebelle Society)
- The Secret to Doing What You Love (picked up by HuffPost)
- What Happened When I Performed Reiki on My Conservative Mother (picked up by Elephant Journal)
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[Excerpt only—my family would set me on fire if I revealed the entire story]
We embark on the four-hour ride back to Massachusetts. The van’s interior is deadly quiet, the vibe weighty. The mountains, terrain we had covered time and time again, sprawl out endlessly before for us, surpassing their usual proportions. We scale and scale, too much for the van’s transmission, any transmission, to climb with speedy efficiency. It is only a matter of time before one of us is going to break down and scream, beat our fists into the van’s upholstery in disbelief and frustration.
Was this an act of spite? Retribution? Self-hatred?
We don’t break down and scream or beat our fists into the van’s upholstery because two hours into the journey Dad senses we were going to break down and scream and beat our fists into the van’s upholstery, and pulls into a Dunkin Donuts. The five of us make a tearful reprieve over cups of tea and poke plastic knives into a half a dozen chocolate honey-dipped. My sister’s words, daggers to our hearts, still don’t make any sense.
How could this happen in our family?
We sit there at the three small tables we dragged together to make one. I stare at the bottom of my Styrofoam cup, dry for a long time, looking for the same things I searched for in Dennis’s face as we made a mad dash out of the inn. Confirmation of a dream, a cruel joke.
If she didn’t need us for our quotidian love, why now?
Like zombies we board the van on this day that leaves a well-earned shadow on Thanksgiving forevermore. My brother and I come to refer to the incident as “the hanging.”
Remember when the kids came over for a bit on Christmas Day? You know, before the hanging.
Their house looks as normal as others on the street. We pour out of the van in blind panic and when we see the kids, wrap ourselves around them—three numb lumps on the sofa with tear-stained cheeks.
My sister appears with a checklist in hand. Cremation, memorial, people to the house. She had already been to the morgue. The first few words she says to us is in front of her kids. They remain lodged in every one of my cells’ memory. And cells remember shit.
“He hanged himself with such conviction that he nearly took his head clean off.”
She slips her arm through my father’s and storms off to the bedroom saying, “He’s left all this mess.” She isn’t referring to the immediate, but the bills and unfinished work of family. The work and strife. Not the heartbreak of her children. This is about her, her pain and burden. Her husband had let her down at the ripe old age of thirty-six and it just plain pisses her off.
My mother puts her arm around Taylor and clutches her so tightly I figure she’ll squirm free.
Mom’s death grip is trying to melt away the pain.
My sister unleashes a tirade. The subtle bass tones of my father’s voice interject. Hell hath no fury like Chrissie scorned. The two of them stay in the bedroom for well over an hour, talking finances, the problems, the fact her husband wouldn’t replace the stove, three of four burners gone. He couldn’t have at least managed that since he worked at Home Cheapo?
When Dad emerges, my sister pries the kids away from us and into the kitchen. Dad sits down; gazes into his lap. His voice is journalistic, trance-like. “Chrissie and Tom fought last night. Tom left in a rage around midnight. Called half an hour later. Taylor picked up the phone. He said goodbye. He said he was never coming back. He said he loved her. Then Tom told Chrissie me and Mom would help take care of the kids. Then he hung up.” [END]
Just received word Libido will appear in print for the anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex & Intimacy After Fifty. The book is slated to go to print in April.
Through the closed lids of my eyes, I feel the morning sunlight streaming in.
Hey, it’s the weekend.
I take inventory of my brain for traces of a hangover.
We’re in the clear.
And then I check for any activity that might be stirring in the netherworld between my legs which has, of late, been about as playful as a schoolmarm.
I can hear Chris breathing beside me. Sweet beautiful man, and yet for weeks now no amount of touching or stroking or licking on his part can bring back the phenomenon of rapture, nothing eases our hearty pursuit of it. Chris has tried, I’ve grimaced.
Sex-wise, everything was going great until I hit 50. Because it had been so easy before, I couldn’t understand why climaxing had become like trudging up Mount Washington with a dead body strapped to my back.
A quick Google search advised me to: “Get a pedicure, touch up your roots, spritz on your favorite perfume, get some exercise, schedule your sex, add a toy or two, try porn…”
But lately I’ve wondered if this was about something that KY Jelly can’t fix.
Hidden in my bedside drawer are sweet almond and rose oil and some ylang ylang I got at the organic food store. These oils are aphrodisiacs, but they are also antidepressants, hypotensives, nervines, and sedatives, and while I want that man sleeping beside me to slip inside and have a go, there’s also a reason I want the regular, easy cures to work.
I don’t want to acknowledge the changes going on in my 50-year-old body, the fact that I am no longer wet at the drop of a man’s hand feels like a failure somehow.
And, because I feel like a failure, I’ve been avoiding my body and therefore my self-Reiki practice. Reiki, a wild healing energy we can apply to ourselves, seeks out what’s maligned and out of whack in the body — blocks to creativity, depression, grief. It’s a catalyst to deepening spirituality that can offer glimpses of the divine.
On this Saturday morning with the aromatherapy hidden in my bedside table, I think: And isn’t sex divine?
With self-Reiki, you put your hands on yourself (absolutely anywhere, it really doesn’t matter… your arm, your belly) and bring your life force through your hands and into the body.
So, on this light-filled Saturday morning, because I am dying (literally) to be with the guy I used to crave, because last night during a scotch-induced haze I fell asleep while he was saying, “How about this?” and I was saying, “Nothing,” I put my hands on my abdomen and start.
My hands get warm, and I feel a deep sense of relaxation, not sleep but something wider, more alive.
That energy, whatever it is, doesn’t care whether you can have sex or not, how old you are, if you are getting a pudge around your middle, how many wrinkles have settled around your eyes.
Time slips away, I slip away, all that remains is blissed-out peace. Like drinking a martini — without the edge.
When I finish, I eyeball Chris. His eyes are half-mast, he’s styling an alfalfa hairdo, an imprint from a crease in his pillowcase runs across the right side of his face.
Not exactly a turn-on, but I don’t care. “Let’s give it a go,” I say.
Being a man in love (if he’s not too far under the influence of scotch), Chris is always ready to give it a go.
With a blind hand, I pull the end table drawer open and fumble for oil I concocted from the health food store.
Forget the sticky KY goop, this stuff glides like heaven.
Chris gets his hands on the love rub, goes about the business of inducing the hopeful rapture amid my numb equipment.
I anticipate the onslaught of banter that has ensued for the past few months like doc to patient:
“How about here?”
Those myriad times when I can no longer tell if his are the hands of a green gynecologist or a prospective cow buyer at auction.
But today something whispers: Hang in, be still.
Stop trying so hard; relax. Look, there, out into the horizon.
That little voice sounds suspiciously like my intuition. I don’t hear it very often, mostly because I’m too busy listening to the voices saying I’m not supple enough, pretty enough, I’m past my prime…
The horizon? I ask it.
Behind your eyes.
There’s a horizon in my head?
Just close your eyes.
In my head, a cumulonimbus cloud appears in the distance, rolling with great billows of white particles.
The atmosphere changes.
And the change is charged.
“Here?” asks Chris.
Humidity — wet blanket type — sweeps in.
The storm hits.
A jagged line of electricity streaks across the room and touches my numb equipment. A lively spark ignites. Eyes squeezed closed, my heart pounds, I begin to sweat, my breath comes in short gasps. The spark ignites into flame, deep inside a pinch expands like fire to paper. I’m sucked into a trippy spiraling vortex.
The rapture fills me — a delicious swell that comes from the bottom of the ocean, too big to be experienced but a moment or two.
The wave recedes, leaving me pie-eyed, legs in rigor, fists clenched tight.
I look to Chris, who is hovering over me, his expression one of delight, the crease from the pillowcase stretched thin against the smiling muscles of his cheek. Given that he has a technical mind and has a limited repertoire of reactions, it’s rather comical.
“The self-Reiki,” I say, “the essential oils.” I catch wind of my torso. It’s charred in places and emits wisps of smoke.
We may have a formula to bring about a bit of the ol’ spark.
As the blood begins to seep back into my flesh, I let out a laugh — ribald, raucous. Besides having a great partner who will push and prod without feeling like a jackass, and will let you get as woo-woo as you want in the sack, I no longer feel old. Sex can last until 90. We just need to nurture ourselves in order to feel sparked about anything, including our libido.
And, in order to feel the wonders of the Universe, we need to let go and let god, whatever the hell your definition of god is, to be a part of it.
Outside the ER it’s a winter wonderland. Snow pelts the ground. Visibility is practically nil. Two men dressed in bright lime-colored gear, crisscross one another gathering snow in the plastic blades of their shovels. The sliding doors retract and close; the sensor dumb to their indiscreet footsteps. Sirens scream into the dense moisture-laden air; an ambulance appears in the circular drive. Its beacons intermittently strobe the exterior of the entryway. EMTs hop and pop from the circus of lights and noise, emissions choking out of the vehicle’s exhaust; open the rear doors wide to wheel out the wounded.
It’s the perfect sort of day for a boy and a girl to curl up with Grandma’s crocheted afghan, a movie, and bowl of hot soup, one of the EMT muses. Cop a feel when a parental unit isn’t paying any attention. Watch the snow coat the ground and evergreens with a fresh blanket of white. Stay out the elements, keep safe and sound. Like what Barry Burbank, WBZ’s weatherman, said this morning.
Keep safe. And sound.
I am not aware of the siren screams, nor the strobes and snow falling, the men shoveling and carting in damaged bodies. I don’t recall that I’m in the midst of college break, it’s right smack midway through the glorious eighties, I’m nearly twenty and leaving my teens behind. I don’t know my first love, the one I’m supposed to be curled up with and swatting his hands away from my breasts, is reluctantly chatting with his mother in the small ER waiting room designated for loved ones of the injured about which new car she’ll buy since the Jaws of Life just destroyed her other one.
I lay comatose in an adjacent room. My mind, the faculty of my consciousness and thoughts, remaining numb to stimuli. There’s no perception, no transmission; it’s void, dark, deadly quiet. My brain is busy sustaining that void, deploying an arsenal of chemicals to compensate for the split in time, suppressing the sensory receptors from the blunt trauma—my broken bones, the hit taken to my abdomen that’s pulverized tissue and organs, and punctured veins and arteries. My heart, the renegade, the betrayer, as always, is not listening to my brain—its pumping blood out at a spastic rate through the holes.
An external disturbance registers. A voice. It’s relentless, miraculously breaking through that mechanism of my brain’s fortification, bringing me into the present. Breathe, Lease, breathe, it commands. There is only one person that calls me Lease. My mother. The person who heard Burbank’s forecast and eyeballed the elements herself and tried to protect me so my brain wouldn’t have to. I am granted a fleeting window of awareness. But not through my eyes. My lids are heavy, steel traps. A depiction of involuntary desperateness is felt in my body. Each gasp caused by my choking, thrusts a knife’s blade deep into my gut. Choke. Stab. Choke. Stab.
Something foreign is tickling the back of my throat. I listen to my mother, it’s a precedent. I stop resisting. Succumb. A tube slips down my windpipe. I can breathe. The stabbing doesn’t abate, giving rise to the melodramatic statement, it only hurts when I breathe. And not breathe. My brain is wrestling, calling me back to unconsciousness; the pain galaxies beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before, flirts with my semi-consciousness, invites me to become fully awake. It’s a struggle. A shot of morphine provides no contest. My brain, working in concert with my mind, fires the artillery it has left. A barrage of fireworks ignites behind the closed lids of my eyes. I fall into that quiet dark place again.