I recently wrote a bus story about a teenage girl who gets with a middle-aged bus driver. It is what you think. And it isn’t. At one point the main character Renee says, “Sometimes anger is a girl’s best friend.” It’s been swirling in my head lately, that line. Anger is the hardest emotion for me to feel. It usually turns into sadness before it even has a chance to touch air. I let it feed on me from the inside. I’ve made progress. I don’t get sad nearly as much as I used to. I’ve learned to let feelings rise and then move through me because I know they need to travel to the other side. Growing up I never learned how to express my anger so I think much of my adult life has been spent coaxing it out, making it safe. An entirely different thing from growing up surrounded by anger and learning it as the default reaction for anything disagreeable, but still along the same spectrum of self-destruction. Just maybe on opposite ends. It’s a trip, but when I can allow myself to feel angry at someone, it’s usually a sign that I trust them. It’s a sign of possibility. Watch out.
(The anger I’m speaking of is not anger at social injustices, which I don’t have a problem tapping into.)
Years ago when I hadn’t figured any of this out yet, an ex-boyfriend of mine did something precious. I was angry one night. I can’t even remember what it was about. But I didn’t know what to do. I thought I might explode. I thought I might try to drink myself numb.
That night you went through the recycling
pulled out all the glass bottles and grabbed
my hand. You wouldn’t say where we were
going, just drove towards the train yard
in the dark. We stood out on the tracks
metal vibrating beneath our soles.You handed
me the first bottle from the crate and turned
to face the red brick wall. Throw it.
Throw it so hard it shatters.
I hurled the bottle by its neck
watched it fly towards
the wall by the force
of my own motion.
Better than careful words
Better than merciful prayers
Better than song
itching to throw another.
I am already
enjoying my sore
shoulder in the morning.
passing the next bottle
until I empty
Protesters take part in an anti-Mubarak protest at Tahrir square in Cairo, February 1, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
*Credit to Marty Aranaydo for getting the title of this blog into my head like a song chorus.
Current location (body):
Kitchen table in my apartment, Bloomington, IN watching frozen raindrops grow longer as this ice storm hits.
Current location (mind, spirit):
With the millions of people taking over the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez in Egypt as they demand U.S. backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, step down from his thirty-year rule.
I’ve been watching Al Jazeera English on live stream non-stop since the uprising started and it’s hard to feel like anything else is really as important as this people’s revolution unfurling its banner right in front of our eyes (despite the Egyptian government’s shut down of the internet). I get goosebumps and tears wet my eyes when I see photos of women kissing stoic riot police on the cheek, video footage of thousands of protesters forcing the police to retreat while they take over a bridge that crosses the Nile. Then reports of students, army and other civilians forming a human chain around the National Museum to prevent it from further looting.
This is a revolution being led by young people who have never known anything but dictatorship and by the looks of it, they have everything to teach us about maintaining unity across sectors, holding their ground in the face of concessions and major uncertainty and the ability to practice selfless love as lives are lost and people are injured in the process.
My eyes are almost drunk off scenes of such beautiful movement. It’s hard to reconcile that feeling with the cold, dull and uninspiring environment that surrounds me here in the mid-west. I keep sending prayers to Egypt and posting articles or updates on Facebook for friends who may not know or care so much about what is going on. I came to the mid-west to write, to cop another degree. I hope my writing moves my readers in some way. But for the most part I know this time has been an extravagant gift of solitude, learning and creativity for myself. I don’t have any lofty goals of being the next Jessica Hagedorn or Gloria Anzaldua. I have no doubt my writing will contribute to the long and steady tradition of politically conscious writers. But it will never be sufficient enough in terms of making a contribution towards revolution.
So many things that come to us in this world are signposts and maps to help show us where our own hearts and callings lie in between all those mundane importances like stability and security. The revolution in Egypt shows me in vivid colors how much energy I have to support people’s movements, how much my idea of time best spent is being caught up in a crowd of millions making demands and using my voice. Collective action is the stuff of dreams when it is done right. (I won’t bother talking about the nightmare it can be, too.)
I know that Mubarak is on his way out. I know that it will be because people showed up, took the streets and did not leave until he did. I know that the hard part will only just begin after he has left, but that there will be a whole generation of people forever changed in their understanding of what is possible and their role in it. Just to feel a vibration of that change, a visceral echo of it, out here in the middle of this ice storm is a precious gift.
if i had to describe my heart at the moment it would be carole king‘s voice, full and flat watching rain outside the window, AM sound from an old transistor radio, yellow light like all the photos from the 70s. all inside my heart. maybe it’s because my girlfriend just got on a plane heading towards Guahan (commonly known as Guam) and a thirteen-hour time difference for the next month. it’s so strange how my mind calculates distance. we were already three time zones away from each other, but this added distance means something.
it means she is day while i am night. it means our relationship is more of the mind and heart than it is the body. it means i hear her voice in my head throughout the day keeping me company, drawing comfort and longing at the same time. at its best this is a good tension. it keeps me from becoming lazy in my thoughts of her. we imagine each other’s doings throughout the day and night and get pangs of destiny when we compare and realize we imagined right. it makes the sky, the sun, the moon an integral part of our love, the elements we share in our separation. i can watch the september moon waxing and know it watches her though she cannot see it in the day that she moves through. the winds become carrier pigeons of prayers and kisses that i send off from the palm of my hands.
and the best thing, i suppose, is that when we are apart like so much of the year, we each grow, we each fail and we each experience victory. not together. but not apart either. what kind of love can flourish in this separation you ask? solidarity. i can tell you that solidarity, the purest form of love i have only known before in flashes, i have learned to practice daily in this relationship, through this distance. there is no place to hide in this love, no shelter or retreat from growing. there is no dependency to tangle ourselves up in and forget our goals of self-determination. there is not a moment of luxury to take each other for granted. there is far-sighted vision to count each and every surrounding blessing, there is a dual mind and heart’s worth of imagining and bearing witness. there is a commitment to never forget each other, our homelands, our people. to always know when we will see each other again.
this is a strategy for the ache of distance, of missing and of struggle. to plot and scheme to always have something to look forward to. a constant light at the end of the tunnel. and so after two and a half years, over a year of which has been long distance, we are still in love.