I wrote this piece during a session at our Marrakech retreat in November, and it seems appropriate to share it this week, when women are losing ground again in America, ranked 51st in the world in terms of gender equality. Check out the Daily Show’s “Desi Lydic: Abroad” for more on this topic.
In my dream, a bearded man compares his shark bite scars to the ones from my double mastectomy. He draws a line on the ground, wants to measure the length. Are they this long? he says, but he doesn’t know that my scars are three-dimensional. He seems threatened by my pain, wants to dominate that, too. He sees a power he doesn’t like and doesn’t understand. When I wake, I hear men’s voices downstairs in the house, ghosts or real, I don’t know. I hear footsteps on the stairs.
I am a monolingual drifter, learning languages I didn’t expect. I translate my stories through alternate universes. The alien who can leave her broken body whenever she wishes, the vampire who heals at the blink of an eye—still, both with psychic wounds they have trouble reaching.
A dove perches on a TV antenna like a weather vane. Sparrows gather in a flowering vine. I contemplate loss and gain, a misplaced or sacrificed iPod, found sunglasses and gremlins or fairies, weakness and sickness and falling off a stone step, landing hard but without bruises, missing towels and caterwauling, sweet tea and magic places that hide in a maze of stone walls. I will see more clearly when I’ve gone from here, or maybe tomorrow or tonight or something will happen later and I’ll see how to end my novel the right way.
There was a man in a café in Madrid who angrily demanded my change, shaking an empty plastic cup at me until I demanded he leave me alone, and I think of all the times I should have gotten angry and didn’t, and accepted things because that’s how it was, these things happen you know.
A few random memories surface, bubbling up one by one in a tempestuous boil. The time when I was eleven and an older boy pinned me on a neighbor’s bed, demanding I kiss him before he’d let me up, the weight of his body crushing the air from my lungs. Much later, the time I was promoted to a job I was proud of, the first female to hold this position at the company, and a male colleague said ‘Wow…so, what’s up with that?’ Or how I talked one night at dinner not long ago about walking down the street near my apartment and two different men in two different cars stopped to comment on my appearance or ask me my name. Just be nice and keep walking, my father suggested, and I said why, why should I have to be nice when I feel threatened? That’s been part of the problem all along, that men have seen women as “for” them, to comment on or to offer the gift of their attention, because that means we’re valuable, even though they miss the dimensions, and they don’t see the ways we have to think six steps ahead of any situation, how it distracts us from the things we’d rather be thinking about.
Which brings me back to my novel. Back to making it right. Back to wondering whether I can carry it through, or the other one, and reading last night about Haruki Murakami, how he decided one day in the middle of watching a baseball game that he could probably write a novel and did, a few months later, sending off his only copy to a contest without another thought, only caring about completing it and not what it meant or whether it would ever get published, like a sand mandala, colorful and singular and temporary.