Author Archive

Dear Tina Hubrecht

May 15th, 2018 — 10:55am

“Pregnancy by rape is God’s “Silver Lining”
– Missouri Rep. Tila Hubrecht

Dear Tila,
I hope this finds you well & you have enough Kool-Aid to last the week; I also hope you’re sitting down, with your legs & ankles crossed.

Pregnancy by rape is not a silver lining. It is a fucking crime. A horrific violent crime, and it should be punishable with years, if not life, in prison. Let’s repeat that together, Tila: pregnancy by rape is not a silver lining. It is a fucking crime. Please, write that down in your little notebook and earmark that page, so when you’re talking to young girls about sex and boys, you will go to that page and read that out-loud because no young girl or young woman should believe that crock of shit.

One more thing before I go – another little tidbit to scribble down – an abortion is not a God awful horrendous choice; the bad choice, the awful choice, the really shitty choice is the boyfriend or the one night stand or the every Tuesday guy who leaves the girl or woman high & dry when he finds out that she’s pregnant at the age of 15, or 17 or 19, or 22 – and he chooses – because men get to make choices without anyone giving them shit – he chooses to have absolutely nothing to do with her because he doesn’t wanna have a kid, or doesn’t like her anymore, or his wife is not gonna be happy that he had a side-fuck, and uh-oh he forgot to use a condom – so his choice – the one he gets to make, is to bolt. Leave. Walk away. Leaving her wholly & fully responsible. In other words, he aborted their relationship – he was the god-awful choice she made. The abortion she chose to have is what saved her life, and probably his, because you know what, women have empathy & common sense.

And by the way, Tila, clouds have a silver fucking lining, rape does not.

Best & warm,

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Forever is Not Long Enough

August 26th, 2017 — 4:15pm

There is an interfaith chapel at the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital.

My best girl’s husband is very ill. Intensive care. I drove her into the city so she can be with him, kiss him, smooth his hair and look into his eyes and tell him how much she loves him; to hold his hand and watch him sleep. She couldn’t bear driving into the city, she hadn’t slept last night, and who wants to drive all alone for two fucking hours – 4 roundtrip – in traffic while your mind is racing all over the crazy-ass place.
I told her today it would be just like a girls day out, except, you know, without all the fun and the wine. That sounds peachy, she said, with an extra side of sarcasm.

I left them alone in his hospital room, while I moseyed on over to a fancy schmancy nail salon on the upper east side and told the mani-pedicurist to please, please, massage my feet for at least seven hours. So much nervous laughter; she had no idea if I was serious. And, why would she? I settled: 20 minutes and a pedicure. Heaven. Or for now, close enough.

My friend texted me: a half-hour more, please? She wanted a half hour more with him. To wash his face, and feed him some food, and you know, more time.

Of course.

More time.

Who doesn’t want that.

I found myself sitting in the interfaith chapel. A place I never go into, never wander into. Ever. I sat in row by the exit door. Four men – all Muslim – kneeling on prayer rugs in the front of the chapel, praying in unison, as if it were perfectly choreographed. A beautiful black woman, impeccably dressed, across the aisle, her eyes prayer closed as she held onto – grasped – the cameo pendant around her neck. Two jewish women, maybe, possibly, a mother and a daughter, sitting a few rows in front of me, their heads slowly nodding, bobbing, speaking hushed words I couldn’t understand. A young white boy, a just turned teenager, his body rubbing up against the wall, as he fought back tears. A stain glass mandala, massive carved candlesticks, Giacometti-esque figures, a long narrow altar table draped with starch linen. Just the right touches. A small intimate room for personal prayers.

I closed my eyes, I thought of my friend, his joy full big life, his now battle, his massive bravery. All of that became my prayer. I thought of my gorgeous friend; her heart, her worries, her fears, her deep uncluttered and unconditional love for him; all of that became my prayer. I thought of Ken and his health and his worries and his uneasiness about showing, revealing, his frailty and how that keeps him more to himself and that became my prayer; i thought of some friends who I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while, and how in that moment, that exact moment, in that chapel i knew they were etched deep in my heart and nothing could or would change that and that became my prayer, and I thought of my mom and dad and I tried to imagine them together as I squinted real hard conjuring them up in my minds eye, and how on some days I longed for them and that thought led to my brother, and to my entire family, a family that is no longer, and for a few long unplanned moments I travelled from anger to resentment to sadness to peace, and as I stopped trying to imagine their faces, I began to wish them well and that became my prayer.

You can hear a pin drop.

And I thought about this world, our world, and the black woman praying across from me as she grasped her cameo pendant, and the young white boy velcro-ed to the wall, his bottom lip quivering; and the muslim men deep in prayer, and the jewish women reciting something under their collective breath while they now held hands, and we were all, no doubt, silently offering up our fears and our worries and our heartache and our greatest doubts and deep need for hope and comfort and ease and love, and rekindling – doubling up – on promises once made, somehow forgotten or lost, and bartering with the Universe or God or deities or cameos or Netflix or John Stewart or whoever you call it; bartering in hopes that what we offer up – exchange – will add more years more days more weeks more months – more time – enough time to make good, to say I’m sorry, enough time to admit fuck ups and fuck downs and fuck offs, enough time to mend misunderstandings, miscommunications; some scattered misfortune; enough time to say – ad nauseam, i might add – I can’t fucking live without you; enough time to love more, to love better, to get love right, to do it right; enough time to say I won’t let you go so fast; not so fucking fast. I got you.

In that chapel on this day with death circling every floor; the absolute take away: forever is not long enough.

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Mount St. Helena

December 29th, 2016 — 11:49am

it was december 28th – in what now feels like a thousand years ago – and we, ken & i, got a phone call a little after 3 in the morning – our friend’s daughter had just died. just. died. an overdose. a fucking overdose. the world, the entire world, went dark. it was as if a light went out and the world stopped. she was an entire galaxy wrapped in one. she was as sassy as all get out, and filled with a spirit that only matched her incredible beauty, and sense of humor and style. she was a warrior and a worrier, she was light and dark, soft and hard. love filled and sorrow filled and she wore her heart and her pain on her sleeve, and she was only 19. i remember speaking at her funeral. i don’t remember what i said – but i do remember choking on most of the words. what do you say about a young woman who managed to change a room the minute she walked into it, how do you describe a human who was filled with all of life – every bit of it – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beauty, the awful and managed to sweep in and make you feel as if you were the most important person in her world for a minute or two or three; and change that person’s life because yes, you can do that, you can change, transform, a person’s life in a minute or two or three. a word, a touch, a gesture, a hug, a kiss.

we are here for a fraction. a sliver. a blink.

we are here on this earth and we witness moments that take our breath away, and we witness breath being taken away, and we witness the very best of humanity and the worst of humanity and we shrink and cower and we offer up hope and love and goodness and we are filled with fear and we are fearless and we must stop giving a shit what people think of us and live our lives out-loud and full-on and with as much courage and brave as we can muster and stop caring so fucking much that what we might say or might do may not make every single person happy because the truth is we are not here to please others, or cater to others, or live someone else’s life. we are not here to master suffering. we are here to be bold and audacious and fierce and mighty and be the fucking light. to stand in our shoes – our own shoes – and declare our worth, and own it and to own every bit of our lives and not just lease it – but own it out right; and if we have the chance to shine a light on another life and if it’s only for a fraction, a sliver, a blink, then that’s what we do.

we shine a light for however long we are here.

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November 14th, 2016 — 10:30am

I’m gonna leave you with this.

So, tonight I went to our local yoga studio here in town. Truth be told, I don’t do yoga often, I’m more of a sit on your ass and watch it grow kinda woman. I know, I know… I know, but i’m learning to love every bad-ass inch of it, thank you very much. So, I go – reluctantly – and it’s jammed packed. It’s a cleansing bell ceremony. One hour. For the first 15 or so minutes I can barely breathe. Bells are ringing and chiming. Big bells, small bells, copper bells; little finger chimes. My head hurts. My heart hurts. I can feel my entire being shaking. I can feel the vibration. I can also feel every bit of anxiety & fear & worry and I wanna scream out-loud, but I don’t. I’m not a chime kinda girl.

Twenty minutes in, maybe twenty-five minutes in, I have an epiphany – a breakfast at epiphany moment. I no longer feel anxiety. I feel oddly calm, at ease. i feel – dare i say – buoyant. I kinda feel like I felt when I took Quaaludes.

So for months & months & months we’ve all been saying, writing, chanting #ImWithHer – our hashtag. I’m with her. And we write and share and galvanize. We are with her. She is our girl, our champion, she is our President. We forgive her all her flaws, we cheer her on, we adore her. We admire her. We criticize her, and yes, we judge her. We appreciate her. She is smart & sassy & bounces the fuck back. She is mighty. She is fierce. She is strong. She is grace. She is our imperfections, our mistakes, our foibles all rolled into one. She is our darkest secrets. She is our greatest dreams. She is our hope. She is cautious, collected. She is funny & quick. She falls down – she gets up. She is vilified, humiliated, embarrassed. She is saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, wearing the wrong clothes, wearing the wrong shoes. She falls down – she gets up. She is called under the carpet, she is swept under the rug; she is bold and audacious. She is our best moments, our worst moments and our nasty motherfucker moments. She takes punches. She takes jabs. She takes one hit after another after another. She is thrown under the bus. She is disliked. She is loved. She is ripped to shreds. She is put under a microscope. Dissected. She is ridiculed. She is a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, a wife. A public servant. She is complicated and messy; beautiful and gracious. She is resilient, passionate, committed. She is determined. She is the stars and the moon, the whole fucking SHEbang.

And then bam, she loses.
And holy shit, we all lose.
We all feel like we’ve lost, and that we are lost with no GPS in sight; that we’re spiraling into the darkest dirtiest most horrific abyss, and we mourn and grieve the end of her.

But here, this – this is the rub:
We woke up.
We needed to wake up.
This entire fucking election has been about waking up.

We have been screaming & marching & screaming about patriarchy & misogyny & sexism & equality; racism & homophobia for years & years & years & years. And she was gonna save us, make it happen – our knight-ess in shining armor.
So, i’m on a mat on the floor and my heart is pounding and my back is killing me and the faux suede oblong pillow under my knees is moving & shifting & slipping and i get it – a moment of clarity, not the pillow – I get it. We have now come face to face with the boogey man, and now what? We gotta save ourselves. And for one moment I see this as a huge motherfucker gift: we need to go from #ImWithHer to #IAmHer because we are her.

We are each her.

You are her and you are her and you over there in the corner you are her and you are her and you sitting down you are her and you are her and you are her and you are her and you texting your friend you are her and you are her and you are her and you eating sorbet and wishing it were ice cream you are her and you are her and you are her and you wishing to be seen and heard you are her and you are her and you are her and you are her and you are her and you with the baby screaming you are her and you are her and you with the broken heart you are her and you are her and you are her and you with the passion in your belly you are her and you are her and you are her and you with the desire to change the world you are her.

You are her.


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September 5th, 2016 — 12:35pm

They can lift you, inspire you, move you, rattle you.
They can shape you, mold you, flatten you, devastate you.
They can cut you deep.
They can rip you to shreds.
They can make you brave.
They can fill you with courage.
They can haunt you forever.
They can hold you up or hold you back.
They can stop you dead in your tracks, or make you jump for joy.
They can let you go, or let you in.
They can relieve you, encourage you, enlighten you, enliven you.
They can be engraved or tattooed; promised or broken.
They can fill you with hope, with worry, with sorrow, with grace.
They can make you taller, and stronger and kinder and more generous.
They can melt your heart. Change your heart. Break your heart. Mend your heart.
They can anger you. Enrage you. Send chills up your spine.
They can fill you to the brim with goodness.
They can carry you, calm you, caress you and challenge you.
They can make you feel like a million bucks, or be offered up as two cents.
They are spoken, written, whispered, signed, danced to, silenced, shouted, screamed. They are shared, spilled, scattered, sung, performed.
They form sentences and paragraphs; poems and sonnets.
They are plagiarized, minimized, maximized, hyphenated, and sized to your favorite font. They are on cards, and mugs, and a picture can be worth a thousand of them.
They can wish you well or wish you gone.
They can fill a thousand pages or a post-it.
They can move the universe.
They can shake your soul.
They can change your mind.
They can make you weep.
They can make you proud.
They can be bold and audacious; cruel and nasty, and yes, they can put the fear of God in you.
They can sting you, or heal you.
They can whip you into shape or soothe your weary tired soul.
They can be forgiven but not forgotten.
They can be recited, memorized, remembered, recalled.
They can be tucked away for years and suddenly a memory.
They can make you cower or crawl; stand tall or stand up.
They can change you forever.
They can make you feel like you swallowed the sun.

They can save your life.

Words matter.

join us at our writers festival!
Gloria Steinem, John Berendt, and MK Asante

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August 17th, 2016 — 10:58am

i had this amazing moment in walmart today. yes, walmart. forgive me, i live in a rural area. i no longer buy shoes at prada, i buy shoes at peebles. but as always, i digress. a man, a trump supporter – the give-a-way was a ‘make america great again’ tee-shirt – didn’t have enough money to pay for his groceries & baby supplies. i was behind him on line. he started to remove some food, diapers… i tapped him on the shoulder and said: i got this, i got you covered. both he & the cashier were speechless. he was also embarrassed. i get that. he thanked me in a sorta sheepish way. i winked, and said: really, i got this. and then he said: that’s so kind. i hope some day i can repay you. i said – not at all sheepishly – vote for hillary. she’s also got your back. it was a moment. a weird fucking strange moment. it was also after 5PM. rush hour at walmart. he looked me up & down, and then he looked me in my eyes and asked: you like her? i said, like her? you bet. i’m with her. she’s sassy. like you, he said. yeah, i said. then i said: i don’t know if you have a baby girl or a baby boy, but trust me, as president she will make sure that your child is taken care of, grows up believing – knowing – that anything is possible. he hugged me, and thanked me, and said: i trust you.

i didn’t say fuck.
not once.
i am so fucking proud that i didn’t say fuck once.

donald trump will not be president because there is much more good in this world than there is bad.
and love wins.

love will win, people, love will win.

beginning of story.

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under the wooden table

April 1st, 2016 — 3:19pm

A ritual.
Every Saturday we took the Long Island Railroad from Bellmore to Manhattan. New York City. The train ride was about forty-eight minutes, station-to-station. At the candy store in Bellmore, he got a newspaper and a coffee with a little milk; and I would get chocolate milk. On the train, we would find seats – two together, side by side – and we would sip and he would read, and I would stare out the window watching the world swish by.
He had been arrested.
A bribery case.
The United States vs… My Dad.
He didn’t expect to be caught. He didn’t expect to be arrested. We didn’t expect life to change. She didn’t expect to pawn all her jewelry. I didn’t expect to be bullied and harassed, and to have imaginary friends. We had never known that kind of fear and sad before, and now they had moved in with us, constant companions, tagging along where ever we went.
You don’t expect that kinda shit when you’re 8 years old.
He needed a job; to feed us, to pay the bills, the mortgage, the car, the clothes.
He got a job working at Melvin’s Frame Shop in the West 30’s. Or maybe it was the West 40’s. We would walk from Penn Station, the LIRR, to the shop. His friend, Murray, got him the job. Melvin was Murray’s cousin. Melvin made frames for Museums, and Art Gallery’s and was pretty well known in that world. Elaborate frames. Fancy frames – gold, and silver, huge frames. My dad was hired to sweep the floors, and clean the place. A janitor. He would sweep, and clean, and label frames, and organize things, and I would sit on the wooden table, my little-girl skinny legs dangling, and I’d watch – mesmerized – as my dad swept the wooden shavings from under the tables with a huge broom and dustpan. And Melvin would berate him, in an accent sprinkled with angry. “Sweep here. HERE. This. This. Here. THIS. This dust, and this sand, and these wood chips… and the mess… sweep, god-damn-it, sweep, you lazy man, can’t you see where you’re sweeping, Goddamnit?” And my dad would shrink right before me – right before my eyes. He would shrink, and disappear, and I was so scared he would disappear forever. He was a tall man – six foot one – but Melvin could make him disappear. Melvin had the same tattoos that Phyllis and Henry had. The same exact tattoos. I called them cartoons. I didn’t know what tattoos were. Numbers – like a telephone number – on their forearm. Melvin had the same tattoo as them. I knew about those numbers. I knew that Phyllis and Henry had lost both sets of parents. All four. They had burned to death in an oven. I knew that story. I had heard that story over family get-togethers, dinners. Incinerated, was the word used. I watched, witnessed, as Melvin spewed at my father. Goddamn you, you lazy man. And I would sit on the wooden worktable, my little skinny legs dangling, and watch my dad lose whatever faith he was clinging to while I was clinging to him. I wasn’t sure why he brought me with him on Saturday’s. Maybe he wanted me to know that he loved me. Maybe he was lonely. Maybe because it was a Saturday, and he never needed to work on Saturday’s, and that was our day. But our days were different before the arrest. They were filled with hope and possibility; museums and plays, and theater, and movies and Aunt Jemina pancakes. Maybe he needed to know that no matter what, no matter fucking what, I would love him. We would leave the Frame Shop right on the dot: Five O’clock, and we would walk down Broadway to Penn Station. Stopping at the automat. He would get a hot steaming cup of coffee, and I would get a milkshake. Chocolate. And we would sit at the counter, and I would watch my dad stare into his coffee, a million miles away. And I would make believe that I was a Princess from the Island of Long, and we were having a day out and no one – no one – could find us. I liked that game. And then, we would stand up, and almost on cue, we would both exhale, and then he would leave a tip, a few coins for the waitress behind the counter, and we would walk to the train station, a few blocks away, and climb down the stairs into the station, and find the track number, and go to the platform, and wait for our train, and the train would swish into the station, loud and steamy, and when the conductor said: all aboard – because back then they did – we stepped in, and found our seats, and I grabbed my dad’s hand and didn’t let go.
I didn’t let go.
And I could feel every bit of his sad, and his unhappy, and his burden and his disappointment and his humility and his anger and his disgrace and his embarrassment and his shame and his worry and his fear and his doubt entwined in my fingers. Our hands. I could feel it. And when I finally caught his eye – when he finally looked down at me – his little girl, his princess – my eyes were saying, you’re my hero, Daddy, you’re my hero. And I think maybe for a few seconds he believed me, and I think that maybe that gave him just a little more courage. A little more hope. At least enough courage and hope to get us home.
After months – day in, day out, day in – my dad was acquitted on a technicality. And our life came back, piece by broken, chipped, cracked piece. He stopped working at the frame shop, and my mother stopped pawning her jewelry, and I stopped having imaginary friends, and we never, ever talked about that time. It was taboo. That huge, massive cluster of shame was hidden deep, tucked away, because that’s what you did back then – when something bad, awful, horrible happened – and it was swept under the wooden table along with all the wooden chips and all the dust and all the shavings; into corners and crevices and cracks and under rugs – hidden and buried deep.

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dear mr. trump…

March 22nd, 2016 — 7:41pm

dear mr. trump,
many, many years ago i was in an abusive relationship. when i say abusive, i mean i was bruised & battered. this was years ago. years & years ago. when i was young & had no self-worth, no self-esteem what so ever. i had no sense of what it meant to love myself, the whole of me, with all my imperfections. i was young, and truly hated myself, and i did awful things to myself. i treated my own life as if it didn’t matter at all. and as you can imagine, or maybe you can’t, i attracted men into my life who treated me badly. horribly. they constantly berated me, telling me how i wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or sexy enough. or beautiful. i attracted these men into my life at a time when i was lost & scared & needed – wanted – to feel beautiful. to feel special. i didn’t have a fucking clue who i was in the world. and so, i dated and slept with bad men. mean men. crazy men. and then, i stayed with one for years. i knew he was bad for me. i knew he was awful. he was a fucking bully. he was the kind of man who would lift me up only to beat me down. he was the kind of guy who would humiliate me in public. he would shove me in a corner. and when i say shove, i mean push. he would tell me repeatedly that he was wonderful & great and that he was gonna take care of me. my savior. make my life great (again). the kinda guy who thought he had all the answers. he was like a petulant little boy when he didn’t get his way. and by petulant, i mean cruel, nasty, hideous. and then there was this: the moment when he wrapped his hands around my throat – around my throat – and he was so filled with rage. seething. wild. crazy. the kind of rage that spreads like wild fire. the kind of wild fire that ignites an entire explosion. the kind of explosion that often ends with broken spirits, and bones. he had his hands around my throat and i mustered every thing i had in me, and i spit in his face. yes, i did. i gathered my saliva, and i spit a wad in his face, and i pushed him away hard, and i grabbed my bag, and i left. i got in my battered beat up car, and drove the fuck away. and while i sat in traffic, the black and blue marks started to manifest, show, and i could see them in the rearview mirror. i can see where his hands were wrapped around my throat, and i was startled, mortified. i wept the kind of tears that leave stains. i was horrified that i had stayed with such an awful horrible guy. that i had no self-worth at all. none. that i was so misguided that i equated anger with power, and desperation with love. i knew that day, in that car, sitting in that traffic that i would never go back to that man. ever. or any man like that. i knew that i needed to rise up. to own my life. to stop being bullied, and mistreated. to find the beauty within myself. to find my voice. my passion. to be able to say no to all the false fucking promises that come with someone keeping another person small, and in fear. i walked away that day and i never looked back or turned back. it was what spiritual folks call a huge fucking turning point.
i healed.
i grew.
i dealt with my self-esteem and self-love daily. weekly. minute by minute on some days.
and finally – finally – i was able to smell a bad, awful, shitty man a mile away.
you, mr. trump, are a bad, awful, shitty man. you’re an abuser. the worst kind of abuser. you’re a mean unhappy miserable man who has grabbed the throats of millions of people, telling them – reminding them every single fucking day now – that they’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough or worthy enough, and that you’re the only one who is gonna save them. that you’re gonna make us all great again. you, mr. trump, are so full of shit. you’re the kind of man who beats the crap out of people just to feel strong and powerful, mighty and important.
i’m quite sick of men like you, mr. trump.
you’re not gonna live in the white house because millions of women aren’t going to let you, because what you fail to recognize in your arrogance is that many, many, many women – and many, many, many men – millions of men – will not allow an abuser back in ANY house, especially one we hold so dear.

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pieces of you

November 29th, 2015 — 10:00pm

it had been imbedded in the palm of his hand.
they had to pry his hand open, and remove it.

it was their 20th anniversary, and life had not been overly kind to my mom and dad. a set of circumstances spiraled and set them back, and back then, in the 60’s, you kept secrets along with some memories – some trinkets, a diary – hidden deep in the back of the drawer next to a pack of Kent’s, or Marlboro’s that you didn’t want anyone to know you were smoking.

it was a little after six.

the doorbell rang, and my father opened the door. two men stood with a huge cake box from the local bakery, wishing my father a happy anniversary, and asking where the lady of the house was. my father turned from the front door for maybe, maybe a split second – calling for my mom: a cake from bambi’s – when the two men pushed their way into our home, and pulled two fully loaded guns from the cake box. pointing one directly at my dad’s face, demanding everything. every. thing. my mother was upstairs, getting ready for a dinner party – an anniversary party at a very favorite restaurant with twenty-five friends and relatives – because, well, twenty years was a milestone, a big deal. it was to be celebrated until the wee hours. my mother stepped out from the bedroom, wearing a favorite housecoat and full make-up, and hurried downstairs where she was expecting a celebratory cake and congratulations, not a loaded gun pointed directly at her. the second man demanding everything. give us everything. off came the jewelry, and the watch, and her wedding band that she couldn’t get off her finger and he, the man, demanded the ring or he would cut her finger off. now. right now. she licked and licked her ring finger – soaking it with her own spit and saliva – until it felt like the skin was coming off along with her diamond wedding band. a simple eternity band. they led my father and mother upstairs, to their bedroom. that’s where they wreaked havoc. all drawers were pulled out, and everything was scattered on the floor. everything. where? where? there, my father gestured, there – the sock drawer. socks were unrolled, and cash flew out. antique piggy banks were smashed to bits, and coins spilled everywhere. jewelry boxes were flipped over and all and everything scooped up and tossed into the pillow cases that were ripped from the pillows – one extra soft, one extra hard – from the king size bed – that was really truly two single beds pushed together. wedded together. perfectly and beautifully made, bedspread and all. one mattress shredded with a box cutter. everything ripped a part. my father stood and watched helpless – mortified and horrified – as my mother’s wrists and ankles were being tied and bound; her mouth silenced with duck tape. or maybe it was masking tape. his heart racing and pounding to the point of breaking and cracking – as he tip-toed – tip toed a few inches backwards – maybe three, four inches – to the bedroom door, where his sports coat hung over the door knob, and as he held his breath, and silently prayed – he prayed for their lives, he prayed to be given more years, he prayed for them to not hurt her sully her dirty her rape her; he prayed like we all pray when we don’t believe in god but we have no where else to turn – and he reached deep into the pocket of his sports coat and grabbed it and clinched his fist with every ounce of strength. every single ounce he had in him, and kept his fist clinched for what must have felt like forever. and then they turned to him, the two men, and it was his turn – his arms and ankles bound, spinning and rotating the tape around his ankles and feet until his toes bled – but he was not gagged, they did not gag him – and from what was told to the police officers later that night – smacked with the butt of the gun at the side of his head – his temple. not pistol whipped, no. no. smacked. the bruise lasted months and months and months. and then he stumbled to the floor, and they rummaged through everything. everything. every single drawer, closets, medicine cabinets, book shelves; my room, my brother’s room, the hallway linen closet, the bathrooms. removing paintings from the walls, and throwing them on to the wall-to-wall carpet. the noise, my mother later said, was unbearable. they rummaged and stole and grabbed and tossed everything into a pillow case and piled the cash in their pockets, and my mother, curled in the corner, kept her eyes closed because she couldn’t bear the sight and sound and loss. my father was trembling on the ground. his hands clinched. frozen. his knuckles white. pure white. and then the two men left. the front door slamming shut, and they could hear the car revving up. they could hear the car drive away. and then did nothing for what felt like months and months, my mother later told the police. and then, when all seemed quiet and safe, my father crawled to my mother, on his elbows and knees, and he ripped, yanked, the tape off her mouth with his teeth and he kissed her – long and hard and caught her tears – and she crawled to the phone, and managed to dial O on the rotary phone with the tip of her nose because her determination outweighed her fear, and she could hear the operator, and my mother screamed – howled – into the receiver: help us. help us. help us. help us. help us. and the police came and barged into the house and they removed the tape from my mom’s ankles and wrists; and my dad’s ankles and calves and arms and he screamed – an angry bitter fuck you fuck you fuck you guttural scream – as the hair from his legs was ripped from his skin, and then they pried his hands open, and there it was. in the left palm. embedded. the diamond brooch. each diamond – round and perfect – that he had saved every single penny for. that he borrowed money for. that he had sold – pawned – his watch and pinky ring for. the diamond brooch he had begged the jeweler, his friend on west 47th street, to give him the best deal imaginable for the girl of his dreams. the diamond brooch that he designed for her, wanted her to have, to own, because he loved her with every fiber in his being and was willing to die for her. the diamond brooch that she never wore. never. not once. she could never bring herself to wear it. she kept it hidden in the back of the drawer, deep in, next to the pack of marlboros, the too small french lingerie, the love notes and love poems he wrote to her while he was in the army, the cachet that smelled like lilac, the samples of perfume like chanel #5, the little bottles of liquor from pan am and TWA, and the one charm – a favorite charm – that had fallen off the charm bracelet that she had planned on wearing that night, along with the diamond brooch that my father had planned on giving her with a handwritten note that read: hey monkey, whatdya say, 100 more? i love you, sammy

she gave me the brooch when i got engaged to ken.
“this is all you need to know about love,” she said, as she placed it in the palm of my hand.

(both men were caught, sentenced to prison. they were related to the house painter who had been working in the neighborhood for over two years. ours was the 3rd house they had robbed.)

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cosby & effect

November 24th, 2014 — 6:34pm

there is a lot of despicable in the world.
a lot.
i keep reading the stuff about bill cosby, and i keep wanting to share a secret – my secret – with you. and then i get scared and think, no. it’s a bit ugly & dirty and god knows… and god knows: it’s in the details. but i talked to ken about it, and he said, yeah, share it. tell it. maybe it’ll make a difference. so, i’m standing on the ledge, and i know i won’t fall. someone is gonna catch me.

i was 17.
i was 17 and had already quit high school, had already lost my virginity (at 15), had already spent some time on a commune, and i came back to new york, and the shame i had was so very deep, and so big, and honestly, it was like wearing a big old coat that just, you know, hung on me. a big coat with all kinds of shit stuffed into the pockets.

i was 17.
i needed a job.

i wanted to work in the garment district, because, i loved clothes. loved. clothes. i had a job interview with a pretty well known – okay, famous  – designer, who is no longer alive, but trust me, he was a big fucking deal when i was 17. and so, i got myself all prettied up, and took the LIRR into new york city, and walked from penn station to his showroom. i was not very confident in those days. i hid behind heavy eyeliner, mascara, and a mass of unruly curls. i waited – with a few other girls, who were seemingly all older than me – in the outer reception area. the job was for a receptionist. you didn’t need a lot of talent to be a receptionist, but you did need to know how to work a phone. and from what i gathered, was told, you needed to answer the phone with a side of perky, and polite. i watched as a few of the other girls came and went. they all went into his office with hope, and possibility, and all came out… deflated.
maybe even disgusted.
but i didn’t know that then, in that moment.
i just knew that they went in, came out, and none got the job. then it was my turn. i went into his office. a big beautiful office. filled with samples and colors and designs and fabulous art work and a big desk and a bigger couch and he asked me a few questions that all seemed to be related to being a receptionist. yes, i can take messages, yes i can answer a phone, yes, i can type… a little…yes, i can make appointments. and then he asked me how badly i wanted the job. i said a lot. i really wanted the job. and then he got up from his chair, and walked over to me, and asked how badly. and i said, “well, very badly.” i needed the job. and he asked, “enough to give me a blow job?” and i had to think about that for a few moments, and i couldn’t say the word, so, i shook my head: yes. yes. and i gave him a blow job, and it was ugly and vile and god, i felt so fucking dirty. and i got the receptionist job. a swap. sort of. right then and there, i got the job. and i never gave him another blow job, ever. not once. and he didn’t ask me to give him another blow job. i knew that he wasn’t gonna be my boyfriend, or take me out to fancy dinners, or set me up in an apartment with all the, you know, trimmings. i knew that. i knew that because a) he had a wife – i always read about her –  and b) one blow job does not a girlfriend make. i worked there for about a year. and other girls came and went for other job openings and listings, and it was kind of easy to tell who got the job, and who didn’t. did he assault me? no, he didn’t. did he take advantage of me? loaded question. or maybe not so loaded. i could have said no. i could have said no. he didn’t force me to blow him. he didn’t grab my head and push me down on him. i wanted the job, and i needed the money, and i sold myself way fucking short. way short. but this is the truth. i was 17. i didn’t know – or better yet, feel, i didn’t feel – i had a choice. i didn’t know that there would be, or could be another job somewhere else. i had so little self-esteem and self-worth. so very little. and that’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. a truth. you can fake an orgasm, but you can’t fake self-worth. i mean, how many of us could’ve asked our boyfriends to wear a condom, to not cum inside us, but didn’t, and how many of us got pregnant, and had an abortion? and so when i read about bill cosby, i think two things, well, actually three… i think there were and are many girls like that 17 year old me. many. many who would get on their knees, and blow someone because they wanted/needed a job, or the guy was cool, or famous, or maybe their ticket out, and they didn’t feel they had or have the power to say no. no is a hard word to say when you have no confidence. and then there are many girls, many women – thousands upon thousands – who were, and are sexually assaulted. raped. horribly and viciously assaulted. girls and women who are most definitely assaulted by a guy, famous or not, and felt and feel undoubtedly scared and powerless. again, no is not an easy word to say, and is often – much too often – not an easy word to be heard. it’s amazing how many times you have to scream it.

and then there’s this: when i was the receptionist at this fabulous and famous showroom, his wife would often come by, mostly at the end of the day because they would be going to events or dinners or parties, all sorts of glamorous, sexy, fabulous nights out on the town. and she would drape herself on his arm, and fall all over him. she would be head to toe in the most stunning outfits. perfect. head to fucking toe. but before she would drape herself on his arm, fall all over him, she would watch the sample models strutting around, and the dazzling salesgirls pitching his fall or spring collection, and she knew, she absolutely knew, how they got their jobs. she knew it, because no doubt she had been one of us a few years before. and i can tell you this much about her, what i remember, what really stood out, wasn’t the huge fucking rock on her left ring finger, wasn’t the perfectly coiffed hairstyle by kenneth, wasn’t the fabulous (and now politically incorrect) chinchilla coat, it was the deep sad she wore in her eyes. you can nip and tuck, and pull, and fucking tighten everything, but you can never ever hide, or run from that dull humiliated, embarrassed kinda sad.

we all – the showroom girls, the twirling models, his wife and me – shared one thing in common: none of us, not one of us, had the confidence to say no, or no more.

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