Sixth in a series [gs *]
As I’ve said elsewhere, this story unveils itself subtly, in layers. You might just have a nagging sense of confusion at this point. What is this woman’s problem? Why is she such a bitch? Why is she so stupid? Words or deeds don’t line up, lack of clarity about meanings, things that jar but it’s not clear why, a fundamental inconsistency. That’s as it should be. Stories have their own life, and must be told in accordance with their own inner logic. I’m just the teller.
Well yes, I’m the protagonist too. Even so, we all have many selves, and several of mine got dragged into this mess. They each have their own response and come to their own conclusions in their own way, in their own time. I’m letting them all be present and swirl around. and it doesn’t entirely come together until the end. Anyway, between being and telling there is a dimension I can’t control – the dimension wherein meaning is revealed. That dimension of meaning belongs (in all my narratives) to the Sacred Whore (and is inevitably shared with what I call ‘the missing voice’ – the traumatized and silenced omnipresent perspective of the sexually exploited and demonized women of prostitution over millennia). Given its sovereign, that dimension of meaning only reveals itself one filmy layer at a time.
We cannot enter her realm with one thrust. She draws aside one gauzy curtain – we penetrate that layer, then pause as she feels the nature of our presence. She tests our intent, and even our courage. She may shock us to make sure we’re awake. If we are conscious, attentive, present, loving and imperturbable enough, she opens another layer. Slowly. There is no fooling her, nor can she be rushed. Move in faster than she opens, and we will find ourselves back in the shallows. Slow down, slow way down. This languorous awareness is the wisdom she offers.
She is teaching us how to be present in another’s vulnerability, teaching us how to touch, the way of sustainable connection, trustworthiness in erotic communion – this, she tells us, is union – this attentive awakening to the exotic other’s experience that never rests on its laurels or takes the least wriggle for granted. This, is union – not that crash of opposite poles discharging into one another in a pseudo-connection that is broken by it’s own violence before it begins. Not the ownership that is the one bond civilization fully understands. Another layer opens, another layer in, open and in, open and in – the only limit is our own ability to stay with her. That’s the slow-burning allure of the Sacred Whore.
Then the missing voice – she’s the counterpoint. In shock and shocking. Outraged by the weight of millennia, by the multifaceted torture that history reverberates through her. The slightest resonance of that his-story (to which she is zealously attuned) provokes fiery eruption. The missing voice concentrates Lilith and the degradations and insights of the whore, with the the perspective of poverty, the class hatred, the gender hatred, the hatred – not the intellectual disapproval, but the pure visceral explosive fury – of exploitation in all it’s guises.
As you ought to be catching on, the only thing that’s simple about me is a particular rage – clear, immediate, sharp. Beyond that rage, everything is complex, nuanced, ambiguous.
To know everyday prostitution is, in most cases, to already have known poverty and violence and profound alienation. To know prostitution is to know how, even in America, every day can be lived in a state of siege. To know sexual exploitation is to lie down with the enemy, and to know better than to completely close your eyes.
The contempt you may sense in me about the lunch-guy’s freshly broken-open heart comes from an awareness that never leaves me, that a broken-open heart is a luxury most of the world doesn’t have. I don’t mean a broken heart, or a heart that can love or be ground to dust. But a ‘broken-open’ heart has an exalted spiritual connotation, like an infusion of grace that cracks through a hardness, a suddenly-valued shock of vulnerability, and the miraculous taste of compassion. It smacks of a kind of security, privilege, and self-absorbtion. How special for you all. But when are you going to use that privilege and new-found compassion to strike a blow at the systems that keep you safe and make life ever-more-miserable for the least among us?
To be honest, these are the words that hissed at the back of my own mind during the years when I could have been the lunch-guy, gushing about my wondrous spiritual experiences (well – I’ve never been much for gushing, but still). Think about the scrawny veteran standing in the gathering evening snow on the freeway exit with the cardboard sign and ask yourself how he feels about lunch-guy’s broken-open heart (or mine). Think about the streetwalker kneeling in a back alley in the cold, with gravel digging into her bare knees and a john slamming his dick down her throat for $10, while he preens about his broken-open heart (which is essentially my image of class warfare) – no, there will be no congratulations or admiration forthcoming from her. And no illusions either, about what ‘merging’ means to that guy.
This is not your cranky grandma having an ‘I’m going to wear purple’ old-lady fashion rebellion, berating some poor kid for walking accross her lawn. No, this is a conflict more ancient and intimate than Israel and Palestine, than Northern Ireland Catholics and Protestants, than Bosnian Serbs and Croats. This is a mutually re-inflicted wound so deep and so old it seems to have no beginning and no end. But this is a war in which the irrevocable losses are all one side – the abuse and oppression of the whores and the witches across the broad sweep of history, the Scarlet Letter and all those people in poverty who had no choice, the slaves of all types – ground into dust. But this is not just an epic war in which I identify with the losers – to me it is viscerally personal. It destroyed my family, narrowed my options, diminished all my people, and ejaculated an overflow of primordial rage into my body. This is a war in which my side bears the loss of life, sovereignty, and the other side bears the loss of communion and its own humanity.
The difference between this perennial conflict I’m talking about and those others I referenced, is that those other conflicts make themselves visible. And this one doesn’t. This is the archetypal war in which history goes to the victor – and if you don’t get what I’m saying here, that tells me who you are.
This war, I’m tired of pretending not to see it. Tired of overlooking the Ups and Downs of almost every social interaction, tired of my own patience and understanding while the privileged Ups remain ignorant of their myriadly privileged Up-hood. I know from the places where I am an Up that it is frightening and uncomfortable when the ‘Downs’ speak up, but the emperor will not go get himself properly dressed if everyone keeps pretending to see his new clothes. I’m tired of this mass-induced lying. I’m tired of this war in every way, and am especially tired of trying, unilaterally, to find some sort of Truth and Reconciliation act. Because it doesn’t work unilaterally, which leaves me beating my head against the wall. So I’m trying to find a way through these differences, a way to a new place for all of us, but I’ve so exhausted my patience and understanding that when people insist of being blind, the only thing that keeps me from blowing someone’s brains out is to swear a lot and indulge my violent fantasies – but don’t worry, I know how to contain myself.
To know poverty, violence and prostitution and live to tell the tale is to know how to take the one and only power-source civilization provides such a person in abundance and use it to fuel the long struggle back into the world. This contempt may not be the ideal energy source or navigation panel, but I make the best of what I was given, and I get tired of being told my anger is not spiritual enough when it is the one thing that has kept me alive, guided me out of danger, and strengthened my strongest relationships. I will continue to work on my anger, because it makes me more alien, and because the war needs to end somewhere. I will work on the anger because that’s what the Sacred Whore does – she leads the way to reconcilliation, she serves the goddess of love.
But I am human, and I have never gotten to love by pretending not to be angry.
Anyway, a more accessible, concise, or placid (less ‘mean’) telling, my mistress of meanings reminds me, would mislead. And isn’t that exactly what this story is about? A misleading accessibility.
But from here on out, all the drama is on the inside – of course, I’m a whore, where else would the drama be? In the words and responses, the feelings, the psychological triggers. Flashes of fire that seem to come out of nowhere (but I know, if I dig, I will find sources – or at least, I’ll learn something new).
If you’re feeling impatient, go away.
oooohhhhh, the cardinal sin of a writer, to push the reader out of the story. Badbadbad badbadbadbadbadbad badbad bad. bad bad. bad.
Do I keep that badness in or cut it out? Keep it or no? Keep it, or. . .
just that question, no before that, just the editorial voice that says ‘bad’ triggers a flare-up – though I generally welcome the editorial chop-chop.
Expect the missing voice to do anything more accessibly – nudge her legs before they fall open on their own, and. . .
– this is not a simple story, and it isn’t an easy path. The least it asks of you is patience and a willingness to tolerate ambiguity. Oh, and a fat dose of crude language. If you can’t appreciate the offering enough to wait for it, well
here – watch me restrain my violent imagination – and where did that violence come from? My mother would assure you, I wasn’t born with it, au contraire. . .
Ok – please just bear with me, I’m doing my best to be honest here and I need your attentive patience – I’ll make it worthwhile. . .
there, wasn’t than nicer? See, I can do that. . .
If my foreshadowing has you lusting after a narrative of menace or violence: stalking or rape or raised voices – you’re in the wrong place. The only menace we’ll be facing here is threats to egos and propriety. The only danger is to our sense of ourselves. The only violence is in my language (which, I grant, can be unsettling coming from an old lady) Ultimately, it comes down to a battle over interpretation. It’s not a conflict about who is right or wrong so much as whether one set of definitions will dominate, if both can co-exist, or if peace consists of going our separate ways. It’s also about a universe of ‘shoulds’ that makes that conflict inevitable.
I failed miserably to assert my own reality in those moments (why? is what I’m still trying to discern), and contributed a bunch of gooey muck. Trying to behave according to an ideal that was beyond me, I surrendered to a misinterpretation that led to insupportable expectations and have been playing catch-up ever since. I wanted to set the whole thing back in order, but the initial conditions have had their impact. A butterfly wing that should have flapped in Brazil (an eye that should have turned away as we stood in the lunch line) caused a hurricane in China. I take responsibility for the whole thing, start to finish – because I should have known better. This entire narrative is about why I didn’t look away when I should have, and about how that missed off-glance relates to the collapse of civilization.
This story is dramatic, but only at those deeper levels we rarely explore out loud. Only psychologically, only in relation to theories or dogmas (those ‘shoulds’) of interpersonal interaction that swirl around us. It’s dramatic in what it reveals about the way my own embodiment of the missing voice and the Sacred Whore fit into that myriad of theories, and what it reveals about how some of those theories impact the active feminine.
In any case, all the action has already happened – now it’s about peeling back the layers of meaning. There are some emails back and forth. Offenses and hurt feelings. Definings and redefinings. And an ending yet to be discovered – the pearl wrapped in all these slippery layers. Throughout, the truth shifts. Sometimes I seem like a bimbo, sometimes like a rabid dog. Sometimes he seems like a vile stalker, sometimes like an innocent, yearning and wounded little boy.
The truth shifts as I try on all the possible lenses. It also shifts based on your lenses. There’s plenty here to react to. The readers that respond offline seem to have strong reactions, but they’re all different (and, often, quite telling). So, in the spirit of the narrative, you could ask yourself – what do your reactions tell you about your own lenses, as well as about mine?
I’m showing you as it happened (to the best of my ability), not as I’d like to stage it prettily afterwards.