Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bat Girl Chardonnay

Many great eons ago, my friend Fred posted this picture as his Facebook status and challenged people to make up a caption. I told him I'd take it one further and write a story. Fred probably thinks I've since forgotten, and maybe so has he, but I haven't. I look at this photo every now and then and ask her what her story is. This past week, she's finally gotten comfortable enough with me to tell the tale. So, here you go, Fred, especially.


He walks past me and I can tell he's trying hard not to look. About ten feet later, his curiosity gets the best of him and he turns. "You do realize that we're nowhere near Halloween, right?" I level him with a look that people typically interpret as "go the fuck away", which they also typically comply with. But maybe he isn't getting the proper translation due to the interference of my mask, because he just stands there. So, I make him wait as I take a slow drag off my cigarette, follow it up with a sip of wine and say, "I'm a prostitute. My john, who is late, gets excited when I wear Daisy Dukes and a Bat Girl mask."

I'm rewarded with an actual jaw drop.

"For real? You are?" He has that nerdy, stammering, William H. Macy adorable thing going for him. "I mean, it's okay if you are. I didn't realize I'd booked into that kind of a motel. Shit. Not that it's a specific kind of... um... seriously?"

"Nah. I'm fucking with you. I'm what's known in current vernacular as a soccer mom. Once a month my husband, Jack, and I like to keep the pot stirred, so to speak. We hire a sitter and check into a motel and get up to a bit more wickedness than we normally allow for, what with the constant threat of children walking in on us. Yesterday I was going through old boxes of crap, looking for stuff to give to the shelter and came across this mask. Our daughter wore it to a party a couple of years ago. I figured, what the hell, I'll change things up a little on date night. That, sir, is the true, boring story."

"It's kind of sweet, I think." He says. "And more impressive than the hooker story. How many kids?"

"Three. One girl, two boys. Eleven, eight and six. They are the joys of my life but for the many times a day when I want to auction them off to the highest bidder."

"You could just give them away...?"

"Never! I require recompense for the hard work I've put in, the least of which was a cumulative thirty seven and a half hours of labor. For free? No way in hell. And why am I telling you all this?"

He cocks his head and points at my now empty wine glass. "Could be...?"

"Oh, no. Momma can hold her liquor quite well, thanks ever so. It's probably more because I haven't talked to a grown up in over three days. My husband has been out of town - and where is he? He was supposed to be here over an hour ago. The only person I've talked to is the grocery store check out girl. She's hardly a grown up. I'm certain that if I named an early 90s band, she'd tell me how much her mom 'totes loves' them." I suddenly remember that I'm still sporting a Bat Girl mask. "You don't find the mask disconcerting?"

He gives me a shrewd once over. "No. I kind of like the anonymity of it. Plus, without it, I wouldn't have stopped to talk and I'm enjoying this. Nice evening, mysterious stranger... beats whatever's on TV."

I smile, but it's not a great smile. I'm really beginning to worry about Jack. I pull my cellphone out of my pocket and say, "Hang on a sec. I need to find out what's keeping the man." It goes to his voicemail. "Hey. Last I heard you were on the ground and about to head over here. Kind of worried that you're not here yet. Call or text me? 'K. Love you, babe. Bye." I shove the phone back in my pocket and turn my attention back to the William H. Macy Wannabe. "Sorry. I'm kind of concerned. It's not like him to be this late."

"You want me to take off? Probably wouldn't look good anyway if I was standing here when he drives up."

"No, it's okay. He knows me well enough to know better than to make stupid assumptions. And, you're helping pass the time which is helping to keep me from freaking out. I think I was a border collie in another life.  I'm not happy unless I know where my flock is. So, now that you know everything there is to know about Bat Girl, tell me about you."

"I'm a serial killer."

My turn for the jaw drop, which makes my laugh sound strangled and rough. I raise my hands in surrender, "Whoa. Okay then, Mister Serial Killer. Woo woo... seriously."

"Seriously. I am. See the van over there?" He points across the parking lot. I nod, feeling chilled. "I have your husband. And if you want to see him one last time before you both die, you'll come with me. Quietly. Or, I can walk away. But you'll never see him again and I know where you live. Maybe I'll stop by sometime when your children are home."

I stand up, letting the cape drape over my arms. I'm hoping he'll forget I have the wine glass. And the cellphone. And... fuck. "This isn't happening." I whisper.

"Oh, but it is." He pushes my shoulder a little to get me moving. My legs feel weighted and the parking lot feels like it's miles wide. He nudges my shoulder a couple times to keep me going. We finally get to the van. He fishes through his keys and puts one in the lock.

I clear my throat. "Um. Is... Are you..." As he turns to look at me I grip the stem of the wine glass as tightly as I can, bring it up and ram it into him just below the jaw line. It shatters against his windpipe. Blood spatters my face as I bring my knee up hard into his crotch. He howls - I'm happy to say it is a gurgling sounding howl - as he stumbles away and falls to the ground. Before he can recover, I whip out my cellphone and dial 911. Before the operator can spit out, "Nine one one, what's your emergency." I interrupt with, "A man just tried to kidnap me, I hurt him, but he's still conscious. He says he has my husband. I'm in the parking lot of the Waterside Motel. His van is in the parking lot, a powder-blue Ford, license number three beta seven roger nine beta." I'm surprised by how calm and clear my voice is. The operator comes back with, "Stay on the line, Ma'am. Help is on the way. Are you safe right now? Or can you get to a safe place?"

I tell her to hang on a second. I walk over to where Mister Serial Killer is moaning and writhing. I kick him in the back of the head, right at the base of his skull. The gurgling moan stops. I put the phone back up to my ear. "I think I'm okay right here. My husband - he said he had him. The guy is unconscious right now. Or maybe dead. I don't know. I just kicked him... I'm... I..." It might be raining, because the flashing lights that are speeding toward the motel waver, but it isn't raining - I'm crying. "They're here. I mean, they're still coming down the street, but they're almost here...."

"Stay on the line, Ma'am. Don't hang up until they're right there with you."


Three police cars pull into the parking lot. I begin sobbing. Two cops run to where the killer is, one trains a weapon on him while the other cuffs him. Two others jog over to me, while another two hang back at a distance. "Ma'am? Ma'am? Are you injured? Is that your blood? Let me take your phone. It's okay, it's gonna be okay."

"No, not my blood, I don't think, I don't know... I'm.... I think I'm..." My knees suddenly refuse to work and I wobble. One of the cops grabs my elbow with one hand, wraps an arm around my waist and helps me sit down on the ground.

"Do you mind if I take this mask off of you, Ma'am?"

"Oh my god. I didn't even realize. Yes. Take it. Take the fucking thing and throw it as far away as it'll go. I never want to see it or touch it again... I..." I'm making big chuffing, sobbing noises between every other word. They're in rhythm with a loud banging noise. My head is swimming - noises sound like they're under water, lights look alien and surreal. One of the cops whirls about in slow motion and turns the key that was left in the van's back door. The back door yawns open and there is Jack, pale, wild-eyed, wrists and ankles bound with rope. What little grasp I have left on my emotion slips completely. "Ohhh. Oh... J-J-J-Jaaaack! Ohhh..."

Medics arrive and one of them gives me "a little help calming down" is what he called the shot. My husband has been released from his bonds and checked over and now has his arms wrapped around me. I'm mostly back in the real world. One of the cops squats so that we're eye to eye. "Ma'am, we'll take a longer statement later, but we'd like to get something from you while it's all fresh. Can you give me a brief description of what happened?"

I turn my head and give Jack a watery smile. "Yeah." I nod. "Yeah, I can tell you. I can tell you that bastard picked the wrong day to fuck with Bat Girl."

Friday, July 22, 2016

Policing the Laundry

Earlier today my friend Jacob posted a line on Facebook that made me remember this poem. I wrote it back in 1998, when my relationship with my late mate, John was brand new. It was a tenuous, weighty time in my life - one that I was willing to wade through because I sensed great reward in staying the course. I wasn't wrong.

This piece resurfaces every now and then, reminding me that even in the everyday, there is a clear message and a path that needs following.

Without further ado...

Saturday Night at the Laundromat

Policing the laundry,
machines spinning
an endless cycle of dirt
that measures the days -
you with your things,
me with my things,
our stuff mingling
like so many mismatched socks,
and we just wait to fold.

The dryers hum a litany.
You roll your eyes heavenward
to say if there was really
a real god
there'd be no laundry.
This is why
I am thinking of atheism
(that spiritual fig leaf)
as I fold underwear.

It's all too real,
this business of our lives,
the place between
pleasure and progress,
where we are stuck
in a minefield of the mundane -
we worry about the steps, but
nothing ever does explode.
Hey, the towels are fluffy,
the sheets are warm.
It's absurdly important.
Yeah. I, too, wonder
what the whales must think of us.

It's done again, and
we face another week
of things gradually
filling a basket.
I slip my hand
into yours,
and ponder
how complicated it can be
to simply live.

BAB 1998

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Maybe She's Born With It

I was born into privilege without having a clue what it was, much less what it meant. My parents were, by appearances, middle class. Although, I think they were, more often than not, living half a step ahead of their means in trying to shelter, feed and clothe five children. Still, I never wanted for anything that might have left my health or life in danger.

I was born into prejudice and even outright bigotry.

To this day, I feel certain that the creators of Archie Bunker patterned that character after my father. He never failed to slight another person based on ethnic background or religion. Most of the time he wasn't trying to be mean. Sometimes he was, but by and large he was simply ignorant when it came to relating to the differences in his fellow man. Even as a small child I would wince when I heard him referring to a neighbor as "that dumb Hollander", or any Native American he happened to meet as "Cochise", or (and it hurt my heart as much to hear it then as it does now) referring to blacks using that horrible "n" word. The list could go on - he had a pejorative for every group.

I always wanted to ask him, "What did they ever do to you?" Wanted to, but never did. Those were different times half a century ago.

My mother was more passive and went the route of quiet prejudice. She was the kind, respectful woman who would simply go out of her way - crossing the street, ducking into a shop, etc. - to avoid (in her mind) questionable people. I saw this happen a number of times with black people, but I also saw it happen with gypsies when we were in Hungary together, and with homeless people in Washington, DC. Once, when we were lost in Baltimore, I pulled to the side of the road to ask a man for directions. He was black. As I rolled down the window she whispered, "Shouldn't we just go to a gas station?" I shot her the don't-be-absurd look and hollered, "Hello... excuse me, sir!" The man ambled over to the car, I explained where we were trying to go. He gave me great directions. I smiled and said thank you, and he replied with, "Have a fun time in Baltimore!" We went on or way. Like humans do.

I wanted to ask her, "Don't you understand what your fear is doing to you?" Wanted to, but never did. She was my mom and she was a nice lady.

I'm as white as white can be. My heritage is Irish Hungarian. I get a sunburn if I stand next to a nightlight. I grew up in a predominately Dutch community filled with fair-haired, blue-eyed children, where the rally cry of the day was, "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much." As a good Irish Catholic in a Calvinist neighborhood, I always felt a little ashamed of my lack of Dutch and grateful that at least my looks blended in. Because I didn't understand what the big deal was, even when a friend told me I was going to Hell for playing outdoors and going to movies on Sundays.

I wanted to ask her, "How can your religion decide my fate?"

I remember watching coverage of the race riots back in the '60s. Anger erupted on the streets in Detroit, and Detroit was in Michigan, and so was I (albeit on the other side of the state). Suddenly, all that danger and irrational hatred, and fear and destruction, and unbridled vitriol was much too close to home. Mixed in with that were nightly images of the Viet Nam war. Mixed in with that were images of the Kent State massacre. Mixed in with that were a president being shot, his brother being shot, and a visionary leader who was trying to bring an end to the hatred and violence... shot. I remember asking my mother, "Why can't people just be nice to each other and get along?"  She told me I was wise beyond my years, but that it just wasn't the way of the world.

I didn't understand then. I don't understand now.

I saw a post on Facebook today, something about how it's time to bring back the Hippies. No it's not. Hell no, it's not. The Hippies never changed anything. They did drugs and swapped STDs and left garbage in their trail. Then they realized that it's cold when you can't pay the electricity, being hungry sucks, not showering for days isn't very sexy, and sleeping in a musty van with four other people isn't all that fun really. So, they grew up, got jobs and are now running the country that everyone is bitching about.

Bring back the Hippies... I think not.

I won't proclaim that I don't see the differences in people. That's like saying you don't notice if an animal is a cat or a dog or a wombat. Of course I see differences. I see color. But I love it. I love seeing those differences. After growing up in a city where every kid looked like a cast member of Village of the Damned, I fucking love differences. I want to know about other cultures and traditions and join in the celebration. I want to know what makes people tick. All of them.

For nine years I was privileged (it doesn't have to be a bad word, does it?) to live with a man who was paralyzed and confined to using a wheelchair for mobility. I know a little about being on the sharp end of prejudice. It was there when idiot servers would look to me to place his order at restaurants, even though he was clearly all there mentally and could do it himself. It was there when people would look at him, then look at the able-bodied girl with him and you could almost hear them thinking, "I wonder what she's doing with him...?" If I was feeling particularly feisty and righteous, I'd size them up with my own look and whisper loudly, "I'm in it for the awesome oral sex." I'd see it when people would hug the wall as they walked by him, as if whatever put him in a chair was communicable. When he'd come up against barriers, especially in the form of attitude from others, he'd sigh and say, "I feel like a black man in the 1950s."

I never understood what the big deal was. I never understood why anyone couldn't see what I saw - a man with gorgeous eyes and killer wit.

A few years back I worked closely with a realtor who was from Iran. She would bring her Iranian customers to me. One day we went to lunch and I thanked her for her business. With tears in her eyes she said, "Oh no. The thank you is all mine. You are always so kind and respectful. You have no idea what we go through and how mean people can be." I looked at her, perplexed. "You mean, because you're from Iran?" She nodded. "People see our skin and hear our voices, and presume we are terrorists." I hugged her and told her I was sorry, and that I was sorry for the idiots who would never have the pleasure of knowing such beautiful people.

They were beautiful. I was honored to serve them.

I will confess, and this is a big one... I will confess that there was a time when I claimed to love gay people even though I was certain they were all going to Hell and that AIDS was probably their punishment for "deciding to be gay". Yes. I did. I was that person. Because I listened to an expert who told me that was how God felt about it. I was an idiot. I didn't do my own research and make my own decisions. It was a pretty significant lapse in judgment, and I swear it won't ever happen again, because I was wrong. I was so very fucking wrong. I didn't bother to do what I usually do when I encounter "different". I didn't bother questioning and learning. I forgot to celebrate the difference. That was thirty some odd years ago, and self-forgiveness has been slow on that particular score.

A quarter of a century ago (give or take a couple of years) two dear friends of mine decided to marry. Amy is white, Ricky is black. All I've ever seen were a couple of good looking people whose love for each other was something beautiful to behold. When I told a mutual friend that they were marrying, she clapped her hands and exclaimed, "I can't wait to see their babies! I can't wait until the whole world is the color of a latté." Sadly, that particular friend is no longer on this earth. If she was, she'd delight in the photo that Ricky posted today...
The picture made me cry - the strength, the love, the awful recent events that made Ricky feel compelled to post it. It came on the heels of Amy posting that they'd had a talk with their grown sons about how to stay safe. I know the kind of parents they are and I'm fairly certain such a talk wasn't necessary, but they needed to do it anyway. That my dear friends are afraid for their sons to do something as simple as going to the grocery store... I'm not shocked. I'm not outraged. I'm heartsick.

Because 50 years later, with everything I've learned, I still don't understand why we can't just be nice and get along. I'm not perfect - there are days when I wish everyone on the planet would go away. I don't leave my house because I don't feel like dealing with people. I've pretty much lost any naïveté I had when I started this journey, so it isn't that I'm deluded about the way things are. Not even close. I think I was born lacking the gene that makes my fears turn into hatred. Heck, I can't even really claim to hate spiders. They're really kind of cool - I just don't like having them near me.

What you want
Baby, I got
What you need
Do you know I got it?
R-E-S-P-E-C-T... sock it to me. Nah, sock it to the world.