Month: September 2015

Squash Blossoms and Chess: On Identifying Fellow Sheep

“We are eating like thieves,” I told him as we polished off the stuffed squash blossoms and began on a spaghetti dinner that smelled like Western Pennsylvania church basement potlucks.  Earlier, we had been given our pick from a Rochester, New York’s church community garden after sleeping in their lot and playing their cool, dimly lit sanctuary the night before.  A bundle of kale and Swiss chard, a warty orange squash, and five delicate yellowy zucchini flowers found their way into our camper.  We made way for them after two rainy days that left everything we owned damp, the thin tapping on our metal walls lifting halfway through the night for a Monday morning cleaning.  The kale made its way to a marinade and has already gone through our systems.  The warty squash rests among the endless supply of cherry tomatoes my mother gave us– which rest among the endless supply of pastas and sauces and oils and vinegars and candies and other foods she gave us that we didn’t know til now that we couldn’t live without.  The chard is slowly wilting itself on our counter, but will be breakfast before noon today.


But something about the squash blossoms, stuffed with the last fresh herbs of summer, fried in corn meal for a glistening golden finish, dipped in a velvet red sauce we didn’t pay for– we are eating like thieves.  We are eating like people who don’t know when delicacy will come again, or even how to define it.  We are eating like people who appreciate it, but appreciate it quickly, because who is to say that a loud bang on the door and a uniformed gentleman won’t take it away before we reach our last critical bite.  We are a queen and a king of alleyways and parking lots, hunched with our smorgasbord of collected crumbles, hissing at the shuffle of footsteps around us– we stole this fair and square.  

This was Monday night in the romantic buzz of the Syracuse Camping World parking lot lights.


Tuesday morning, I woke to find an article in my inbox and a reminder to never check my inbox first thing in the morning.  That little science-fact-spitting-know-it-all-but-everything-could-be-his-if-he-wanted-it-smart-kindly boy I used to baby sit is going to prison.  He is a thief.  The 9-year-old that taught this former 18-year-old robbed himself a bank.

The article sounds just like him, even though I haven’t seen him in years.  He was the son of my former pastor– the pastor who asked me to leave the church after he insisted I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing because the 30-year-old worship pastor took advantage of my 15-year-old body for four formative and long years.  I have been clawing at the accusation since then, wandering into wolf’s den after wolf’s den trying to find my kind and ending up pawed over and partially devoured.  It has taken years to get the wool from my eyes, repeated shearing, and even now, I am more comfortable bleating and grazing in the garden just outside the doors of the sanctuary than among the other sheep inside.


When I re-read the article, I realize that it sounds just like me, too.  I didn’t want to hurt anybody, I said.  The gun wasn’t loaded, he said.  He made off with over $20,000 in an effort to make something of himself– get an apartment, move on– after his father came into his room that morning and yelled at him to make a life for himself.  I picture his scrunched up brow and soap opera-esque stroking of his chin as he works out the problem on his chessboard.  I watch his apologetic conclusion as he moves and looks to me, checkmate.  

I’m giving up looking for wolves, even if they are ex-husbands or ex-pastors.  I think maybe we can assume the others are sheep, even.  Some as they are.  Some in wolves clothing.  Some in bank robbing masks.

Bum Feet and Patchouli: On Healing the Body from the Soul

Jenny said the pain in my foot might be my man trouble.

To note, Jenny was the first to say she wasn’t sure how much she believed in that sort of thing.  The physical and the emotional, the mental and the spiritual– how they overlap and where they cross over– a mystery and whatnot.  And Jenny is not the type who wants her clients walking away feeling like they’ve just been dowsed in verbal patchouli oil.  But evidently somewhere in the line of human history, someone made the connection that pain on the right side is related to men, and pain on the left to women.  And I have been having the most rigid pain in the bottom of my right foot.

I got confused somewhere this year between Oregon and Kansas.  Maybe it was the heat that warbled visibly like poisonous gas over the black asphalt.  Maybe it was weeks of seeing strangers and friends of strangers.  Maybe it was the four, five, six hours stretches we drove between little civilizations.  But after a long swim in a flooded reservoir in the Black Hills of South Dakota, pretending I was Wonder Woman and moving logs bigger than our camper around the water’s surface, I surfaced myself with a crick in my heel and a series of flashbacks.  I was fifteen again.  Then nineteen.  Then twenty-one.  And these men turned monsters turned men were back into monsters, and more vivid than I remember.


Jenny told me I didn’t have to tell her anything.  She said that sometimes we hold on to things we thought we forgave, and then that thing that isn’t really forgiven manifests itself in our bodies, until we are laying face down on a massage table with a good friend trying to help us work out the two month old pain in our right foot.

I woke up several mornings confused as to who was next to me.  I drank too much whiskey one night and forgot who I was fighting with.  I siphoned the venom from a few angry men in my history to my present.  I apologized frequently.  I got confused again.  My Someone was patient.

It has recently come to my attention that my Someone doesn’t know the mean parts to schoolhouse rhymes.  Being the son of two teachers may explain the oversight of “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.”  But being uneducated of the latter half of “I see London, I see France…” in which you declare someone’s underpants to stink (rhymes with “pink” previously) tipped me off.  This creature, this perfect creature who’s first memory is passing a ball between himself and his father, this thoughtful stringbean who cries harder than I do at the end of Steel Magnolias, this present and saintly cowboy who gets his feelings hurt when Junior High punks make a snarky comment about his tie– he drops everything hurtful like a hot pan on the fire.  And while everything in me wants to recount to him the dirty jokes written on paper folded like footballs and passed around the classroom, the loud sing-songy ridicules that echoed off locker room walls, and the ferocious and pointed threats that were whispered in the backs of schools buses, there’s something about encountering someone on a daily basis who doesn’t know that girls drink pepsi to get more sexy and boys drink rum and get more dumb that delights me.  Me, who currently carries all those cutting things in the arch of my right foot.

Jenny says its time to let it all go.  Whether that means talking it through endlessly or dropping it like the mean parts of a schoolhouse rhyme, I think she’s right.  Mostly, because the limp of the emotionally damaged isn’t covered by insurance even if I had insurance.  And because it’s a damn shame to be in Appalachia trails with a bum foot.