BITTERLY, BITTERLY, BITTERLY
This post is a reaction to a post by T. on Medium.com who just returned from failing to save one of his boys from death. Bitterly, bitterly, bitterly.
There are eleven years between T. and I. At one time that would mean I was too young to be his mother — not now that girls are getting pregnant at nine years old so that they have skipped adrenarche, the years in which people form their identities. Their identity is their baby and their black cocktail dress. The dress is a good thing because then they have something decent to wear to their son’s burial.
Deborah Kerr and John Kerr in "Tea and Sympathy"
Central casting always puts me in a bow blouse or a pastel sweater set. Pearl earrings. “Tea and Sympathy” casting — Deborah Kerr offering a therapeutic mercy fuck. No son and not quite a lover. Not even the Maureen O’Hara Irish shawl.
T. is right. I was up in the middle of the night to check his blog because I had an idea what was happening. AIDS doesn’t kill one directly, but sits on the sidelines (as long as the money for drugs lasts) and grins while the infections and traumas do the work, a plastic respirator on the mouth as though it were a ball gag and tubes going in, tubes coming out, in places that have better uses: arms and dicks for expressing intimacy. T. sits alongside desperate for the power to do more than hold a hand.
The part I play in this virtual world is the English teacher and the auntie. In actuality I didn’t do either one very well. As T. points out, I’m too much the narcissist. (See above.) Just as his own English teachers and aunties were. I think they saw him accurately, and their crime was failing to intervene to stop the torment. They knew his father was abusive, a near-killer, but they needed MAN power, like Woody Allen’s brother who thought he was a chicken and no one wanted to cure him because they needed the eggs. But this man was a rooster and he could kill with the spurs on his heels, aside from treading all the hens.
I’m not supposed to be me in the better version of this story — I’m supposed to be a man, maybe Jack, who can make an author notorious; or maybe that agent who pushed writers to go to extremes (esp. people who were already extreme); or best of all one of those original powerful SM leathermen who are dead or old now. Someone powerful enough to carry a young man’s body in his arms.
It’s not a sex change needed, but rather a cultural pattern they call “primogeniture” that goes back and back and back to when men were the heads of clans and castles, “landed”, in a time when men swore fealty to their lords by putting their hands under their master’s kilt to swear on his balls. No books.
Two other deaths I’m processing this week are both men. One was my fourth grade science teacher, Mr. Garnett, who had been a sergeant in WWII. He was the only person to realize that my scowl was an effort to see. I lived in a blur but no one would believe my complaints until he simply called me to the back of the room and presented a vision chart. They say he was bitter late in life, but not why or how. Mr. Thuringer, who had lost a leg in combat, lectured us about the destruction of war and drove a knife into his wooden leg so we’d believe him. Then one day he disappeared.
The second death was Mike Burgwin, my boss at Multnomah County Animal Control, where success pressed him to process his life. After we got to know each other, he’d call me up late at night and tell me stories, many of them terrible tragedies from his work as a cop. He was a big physical man, highly intelligent, with little formal education. I wrote about him on 3/28/16 prairiemary.blogspot.com. The memorial is soon so what I wrote is being edited for use. I look forward to hearing what others say, but I won’t be there.
T. writes with video, words read by Leighton, “Hypocrisy is my sacred lover and i suck his cock in old canoes/” Their work is not for the faint-hearted, the uninitiated, or the mommies except the ones who go to their son’s burial high enough to bear it. There is a community, but a shifting one, like a classroom or congregation. Still, it’s much bigger than anyone suspects, global.
“Anger is the new pornography.” It’s the old one as well. Dean. Brando. Pacino. “Father Knows best.” (Doesn’t watching it make you indignant? He was lying: he knew nothing, Jon Snow.) “Coronet Instructional Films.” Notice they just give instructions, not enlightenment or challenge. On and on and on, esp. on Friday afternoons when teachers are tired. All those classrooms with little chairs, accommodating the baby boom, boys obediently sharpening pencils (which can be weapons), seeming to be safe and happy.
These kids are the age when they don’t just attract abuse for crying and messing and failing to go to sleep. Now the sexual predators get interested, because the kid is old enough to ask why — “Why are you doing this?” as they ask in “Game of Thrones” and “American Odyssey”. We ask it all the time: why are you doing this? Because it’s so much fun to make you hurt. Because I can control you. Because it means I’m superior because I’m cynical.
from "American Odyssey"
There are escapes and compensations. Today the kids can slip away into tech worlds that adults can’t access. They can directly confront porn as extreme as it can get, crossing over into death. The boys in particular take refuge in movement: surfing, skate-boards, parcours. The adults object, “Oh, that’s too dangerous! Why don’t you go in for football where you will only get concussions or basketball where you will only blow out your knees? Or you could be a wrestler with a big important coach like Denny Hastert.” But the boys go free-form, and around here ride fast on horses, dogs running behind. Fathers say, “I know best. Get out of my house.” Around here you go stay with your auntie a while.
Dangerous is the knife that cuts both ways. One gets respect for beautiful danger, esp. if there’s singing. One can be a movie star. It’s a bit of protection, even in a time when as soon as the new “Star Wars” episode comes out, fans begin writing pornographic versions. It’s arousing. It’s a kick of adrenaline, the true addiction of our time.
Clever danger creates double-binds that guarantee results. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Tell about these semi-secret, sometimes marketable patterns, and you will be accused of knowing because of participation. (That was in “American Odyssey,” the movie I marathon-watched last night. The heroine survivor witnessed an American atrocity but the perps said she only survived because she was a collaborator. So much for patriotism.)
Don’t tell about the seething pit of violence under our society, and you are accused of being stupid, oblivious, uncaring. Nothing that can be cured by wearing a ribbon or even getting on the board of a nonprofit. So the first thing to do is accept the idea of being damned, but at least out of choice. Observe. Testify. Take the consequences. Which may be death, not even your own. Bitterly, bitterly, bitterly. But with love. Because you can.