I am not stupid. Far from it. I understand a thousand factors conspire to determine how you approach and react to the day. Its events. Its nuances. Its surprises.
I know this. Really. I do.
I knew this when I woke and saw the volume of blood stains had increased since all this started a few months ago—and it felt like a measurement of something. I knew this, soaking the two pillow cases in bleach in a cream basin I bought in another life—one that cannot be retrieved.
I sat down with a cup of tea and wrote furiously—details to record things I have not spoken of publicly.
It all felt urgent and wrong, and I explained this to the Almighty, but I have feeling He already knew this.
I read a review of Leslie Jamison’s new book The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath. I really shouldn’t have, I lost too much time remembering.
Remembering. The hot liquid hitting and running down the back of my legs accompanied by an uproar of laughter—and how it stopped when I became upset and distressed, switching to irritation and scolding.
“Jesus, you’re a real little poh face, lighten up will ya, it’s only your brother practicing his aim with his willy”
That they were the ones who choreographed and directed this scene seemed inconsequential to them.
The review said that Jamison, by examining the personal was creating a universal—the language was beautiful but I knew it was not a book I would ever read because I don’t think she spoke about who cleaned up her vomit in the middle of the night, before having to go to school the next morning or how Santa once came on Stephen's Day instead of the 25th because he was too busy.
She won’t remember feeling responsible for cleaning and changing urine soaked sheets and a mattress in Gaza—or the feeling of unrecognisable gratitude when two teenage boys took her aside and said,
“We’ll take care of it, it’s not something a girl should be doing”.
Two teenage boys who grew up to be well known and successful business men—who I have not seen since forever, but for whom, nearly thirty seven years later, my loyalty and affection remain.
Jamison went to Yale, so there is an assuredness that her narrative is truly compelling—it’s just that my viewpoint on the subject is somewhat variant.
But, we must be positive and measured—look for opportunities to turn things around—mustn’t we?
So I drifted to the vines, the place I used to sit that I knew was out of bounds. A small acreage that belonged to the Haj, the landlord, dedicated to the growing of white grapes, until a sound on my phone alerted me to people being killed in Gaza and my lungs filled with water as I watched the three boys approaching talking about practicing with their willies—making me the target for their piss.
But there was no-one to go to. No-one to tell. Wash up, lighten up—then scramble as another Gazan is shot knowing there is no-one for them to go to, no-one for them to tell—I wanted to scream, to run into the burning tyres and pick up pieces of flesh and glue them back together—make it better—but I got lost in the fog of a life I cannot retrieve.
I had lunch. Humus and olives without their branches, then continued trying to repackage my suffering into something that resembled meaning—until Jared and Ivanka started praying with a Rabbi who compared people of colour to primates and I remembered the man who loved Jesus trying to strangle me because he was offended I had come out as a dyke—and I lost more time remembering.
The pristine suits standing on immaculately designed stages near the Old City walls, in my Jerusalem as I scrubbed the stains on the pillow cases, thinking I was going mad when the memory crashed into my brain of a managing partner threatening to fire a young graduate for sending an email to his pal in PwC laughing about the removal of custard creams as a new measure of austerity—a story that eventually made its way into the Sunday papers—the same managing partner who told a woman to go back to her desk and keep working—and not to worry her pretty little head about the partner who was sexually harassing her.
I re-filled the cream basin and enjoyed the smell of disinfectant for longer than I should have, before resuming my search for opportunities to turn things around.
I retrieved Gideon Levy’s book The Punishment of Gaza—now filled with an unbecoming desperation, like walking a thread of cotton, to be near someone who understood what it was like to assemble body parts in dark rooms while the world was busy praying or to continue strangling in the solitude I prefer (Suzanne Vega, I thank you)—watching them repackaging their own violence into a PowerPoint Presentation to ensure we all stayed stupid—telling Hamas to lighten up and stop looking for attention, stop disrupting the celebrations.
That they (the Israelis) were the ones who choreographed and directed this scene seemed inconsequential to them.
People who make use of all their senses in trying times are no less patriotic than those whose restraint is lost, whose senses are dimmed and whose brains are washed. This is also the time for the patriot to say: Enough. (Gideon Levy)
Yes. Enough. But sometimes enough is too late—when you finally understand, despite hearing it for a lifetime, you are neither stupid nor crazy.
“I’d be out the door in a flash if anyone even thought of treating me like that”, said the PhD candidate downloading my past for her lauded research.
I quickly explained to her that she was viewing my experiences from a place of emotional and mental wellbeing—and as my mouth was giving up all these words, the fog inside my gut was supressing a tiny voice that was beginning to criticise.
If you’re doing a doctorate on violence, surely you should know all that.
This was the very moment of my emergence and I began looking for opportunities to turn it around—to ask for a second chance—to decorate a new stage on which I could perform.
But the women who write beautiful words and stand on podiums talking about personal, cultural and societal trauma explained to me that I didn’t have a piece of paper that said I was worthy to be accepted onto one of their courses.
When one did, I didn’t have the money and lunged forward to remember to be positive and measured—look for opportunities to turn things around—attempts to avoid the path clearly marked Twisted And Bitter.
When the sun set, Maria and Mattie were filling the screen with their words on Claire Byrne Live. Explaining their compassion meticulously only to reveal they didn't have any, reading from PowerPoint Presentations and demanding that women whip out their breasts and continue feeding the children and the patriarchy—declaring that God would repackage their suffering with a crown and a life everlasting—and I thought I might need to clean up my own vomit.
After, I picked up Audre Lorde and Camille Paglia, two women who showed me, in different ways, I was entitled to fight—no. That I was obliged to fight back—who made me feel comfortable about standing up and saying Fuck With Me At Your Peril—though it wasn’t until there was truly nothing left to retrieve, I found the courage to say it.
60. Sixty. 60 pieces of flesh scattered across a battlefield I could not reach. I put up signs, asking the Almighty to make sure they could see them. I Stand With You. I Stand With You. I Stand With You. I STAND.............................................................................................................. WITH YOU.
At one o’clock in the morning I gathered up all the body parts in my arms, mine and theirs and went to bed.
I looked at the pristine white pillow case, knowing there would be fresh blood on it in the morning—that I would pick up my pen and search for opportunities to turn it around. Again.