If my daughter stands any chance of surviving her sexual trauma, I have to deal with my own.

Yesterday I hung on the neck of an abuser I love like fireworks. The only maniac who would huff gasoline with  me in ___________’s basement when we were kids. An ex-roommate who threw his lit cigarette at me the night after he (date? friend? roommate?)raped me and claimed he did it in his sleep. The cigarette, not the sex.

He walked in where I work right now–a cavernous “sports” bar that rarely has more than ten customers on the day shift unless you count the quiet stream of gamblers who sit on the four machines along the front wall and bother no one. The Greek owner never pops for any pay-per-view, the huge screen on the wall rarely has anything projected onto it, and all the liquor bottles have electronic collars that tie each pour to the register and measure them out.


This isn’t what bartenders at sports bars dress like.

I’m here because I’m on leave but need a tether to the outside world. FMLA days from a university job that I NEVER should have taken, except I learned a ton and–whatever. I went publicly insane for a while. Again.

Here, we are.

When my Shouldn’t Be Friend walked in, I hugged him like I was surrendering. I didn’t mean to. I hung like death on him, limp, because we haven’t seen each other in a year, and the way I’ve always dealt with this particular pain is to never try to see him but allow myself to take advantage of it when The Universe throws us back together. So I did.

This morning I’m sobbing. I’ve been in my bathroom with my hair pulled back, searching for a hair tie but spotting scissors. Walking out, then back again.

This is the kind of pacing I don’t want anyone to ever see, the physical manifestation of too-much-happening-in-my-head. Boyfriend did one time. It was just a glimpse, but I heard the catch and dawning in his voice when he saw it (it elicited tenderness ultimately, not a break-up, but I felt him seeing me–I think it startled him).

I swallowed a dozen pills in that apartment, the cigarette one. I don’t remember trying to die; I just wanted to go to sleep. We lived next door to rock stars, played poker with matches pilfered from another roommate’s diner job. I called ___________ and told him what had happened. He came and sat on our third-floor porch stairs that night, but he kept being Friends with him. And so did I.

I won’t write my child’s story here; I can only tell my own. Part of my story is learning how to safely mother a sexually traumatized child.

Yesterday was a gorgeous, terrible lesson. I have to deal with my own shit. FML.



Journal 11/20/18

I can’t slow it down. What if I just start typing it all? The whole river that’s coming through my head. Word after word after word–there’s no way to do it. The moment I start making sentences, organization begins. All those words, all those feelings I’ve learned to associate with sound conventions designed to transmit meaning to others and create a sense of communion–that’s why I write. It helps me.

Sometimes I talk about Writer Brain. If I never see another word of mine published, I still have it. The way I’m wired, I need it all to connect on paper, because I spend most of my time feeling out of order. Whatever diamond thread stitches 1995 to 2018, right now to last week, I struggle to find it on my own. I grasp at it running through stories, the narrative I construct in order to keep going in “the right” direction.

I’ve learned to live by the cardinal points. Am I going north or south? Up or down, and which way do I want to go? The devil is forever in the details, so sometimes I keep it vague. Other times I lay out an intricate plan so Satan and I can rendezvous and have a snog (I would like to steal this slang from the Brits–sometimes it’s just the word). And then I set things on fire.

I’ve junior high-daydreamed several versions of a Why I Write (that thing, that personal essay requested by an editor, that I learned as an undergrad to associate with Making It As A Writer), and I even have one pretentious stab at it on a story that a flash fiction site published (it was my way of trying to explain why I’d stayed with my daughter’s father after I realized his transgender thing wasn’t a thing, she was she and that was that–I should have gone immediately out of kindness to us all, but I stayed and let falseness mark our lives. I contorted myself and swung from one flaming treetop to another and pretended it was all right. I went nose-to-nose with strangers in stores who harassed my partner, then I hate-fucked them at parties weeks later). It’s not necessarily false, what I wrote, but I tried to make it slick and palatable.

Today the words are a stream in my head, but they’re slowing down. I’m technically on vacation; all of my children are with their fathers. I’m using this time to study the map. I’m using it to reconnect. Right now, everything feels shattered.



That Time I Pretended to be a Masseuse in Kentucky

I lit this candle today

for the first time

in years. I let it burn

while I said my Prayer

To the Hustle-Gods and The Universe (because

this candle came from Paducah,

from a barn where I might have died

but instead gave my first commercial hummer–

I hate that term, but it flows. I’d told him

I was a masseuse, then I rubbed him

with olive oil I’d scented

with cheap, drug store perfume.

He bought wax fuck-ups from a nearby candle factory

and poured it into glass and sold them for $3.

He gave me this one on my way out.)


My dime store Voodoo runs like this:

Today I lit this candle

that I haven’t lit in years.

It’s perfect. Serendipitous even.

So all hail  the hustlers,

the lunatics and queens

of making it all come

together. Bless those

saloon girls and the men who pay them,

the honest dealers who mean no harm

(like that one in Gary

who came to my apartment when he found out

I’d overdosed on his stuff.

I gave him a book on Egypt and cried.).

Thank you for all this grace.


Sun In Winter

I know it’s only November. I know that neither meteorological nor astronomical winter has started yet in the Northern Hemisphere, that the meanest part of autumn hasn’t hit and I shouldn’t complain, but there are snowflake lights hanging in the business district where I live and my Facebook feed is getting saturated with Old Timey Holiday events in every county questionably near Chicago, so I’m gonna bitch about the winter weather for a minute: it sucks.

Eventually the air is going to hurt my eyeballs. There will be those cathedral-hushed moments when the snow is falling and it’s 30 degrees outside with no real wind, just feather-clusters of snow intercepting and absorbing all the world’s sounds at night, but more often, it’s just going to hurt when I go outside and steal my good feelings.

So I’ve built sun nests. I didn’t realize it was what I was doing until I’d done it, but I have physically turned my life upside down and shaken it to see what falls out, and what’s landed is sunshine. We’re totally redoing our apartment, as if we just moved in (because my youngest daughter did…the outcome of a hideous-for-all custody fight that I will type about some other morning…), and now that the rooms are getting settled, I’m realizing that I’ve reset our home around the sun, and it’s good for us. (Sunshine, incidentally, is my youngest daughter’s middle name, and she, my little Leo, lives up to it. Boyfriend, also a summer cat, helps me remember how to communicate with her when she’s burning, as fire signs do. Me? I melt. I flow. Cancer sun with a Scorpio ascendant makes for the wateriest water you’ll know.) I have to have sun every day.

In the morning, I sit at the kitchen table by the window, the one that faces east, and I flood my brain with all its necessary chemicals: THC, CBD, extra serotonin, and caffeine. And I give myself water and vitamin D. Some quiet and some chatter.

In the afternoon, I move to the living room. It’s my new bedroom, because I want each of the three kids to have their own space to claim and learn to take care of and retreat to, and I like sleeping on couches. Last night, I looked at it and realized I’d covered it in warmth and glow.

leo love

This is apparently what a Cancer Mama living with two Leo children and learning how to have a “normal” relationship (defined as: neither living together nor making me pregnant on purpose or otherwise) with one does to living spaces. 

As my babies and I start re-imagining our space and figuring out where we all fit in it, I love seeing all this warmth manifest before Real Winter. (Oh, and WINTER IS COMING, MOTHERFUCKERS–April 17, 2019, in case you don’t already know.)


The Green Current (Pritzker and Weed)

Midterm elections are over. Blue Waves, Red Tsunamis–whatever they were or wanted to be–saturated pre-Tuesday headlines, but the Green Current of medical and recreational cannabis floated to the top of a few states’ polls. This Forbes story gives a nice surface view of the big wins, from municipal decriminalization in Ohio towns to Michigan going recreational statewide.

Here in Illinois, we elected a new governor: J.B. Pritzker. I have a J.B. story. It goes like this:

I stood behind J.B. Pritzker at a rally for higher education funding in Springfield one time. I didn’t know who he was, but he seemed pretty all right. Then he won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, said he’d legalize recreational weed, and got elected.


Soon-to-be-Governor Pritzker in Springfield, IL when I had no idea who he was until he spoke during the rally I was photographing for a university marketing gig I fail/learn a lot at. If you would like to turn him into Weed Jesus using your bad-ass Photoshop/whatever-suite-you-use-now skills for me, I will proof and edit some writing for you. Or write you a very mediocre poem on any topic you’d like.

So happy day, Illinois stoners (and cancer patients, poor people, incarcerated ones, and accidentally suicidal ex junkies–and congrats to everyone who will benefit from the cannabis industry that’s about to boom)! The headline:

Pritzker wants to legalize recreational marijuana ‘nearly right away’ in Illinois

Go to :40 and watch from there if you’re too impatient or hate Fox News a lot and feel dirty watching so you want to  get it over with fast, then read this Onion piece on Jeff Sessions.

(In a perfect world, Illinois will go legal on St. Patrick’s Day. We’ll all have a party then. Dye the river green and storm Cricket Hill on the lakefront to lay in early spring grass. Windy City Weed Fest, you were so lovely until the radio station got its hands on you. Read the second comment.)

It Always Gets Better

Meds swallowed and half a cup of coffee down by 9:38 in the morning. Plans to visit a Friend at 11 moved to 11:30 so I can take a shower, scrub my face, and fix my hair before I leave the house (yesterday’s attempt was bizarre, and I know it). Right now I’m barefoot with the remnants of Halloween hair–a tangled crimp job that I rinsed out but didn’t wash yet–at my kitchen table.

My apartment is clean–mostly. My bedroom remains an utter shit-show of thrift store clothes and unnerving tchotchkes, but my living room floor is open and the couches have the right pillows on them. Last night I lit candles in my kitchen and felt peace.

Earlier this week, Sister washed my dishes. The same pile had been sitting for two weeks. It filled one side of the sink, covered the small counter and trailed out like a caravan on the floor. Every dish dirty. We’ve been washing-to-use. Life has been suspended on this little string, this one thread that has kept most of the plates scraped for the duration, but bacterial film grows fast–I’m humbled and indebted to her for stepping in to help me rally.

So today I’ll leave. Go see my Friend who I don’t have to fake it around but who will let me practice.

(And in the midst of this writing, my teenage daughters have accidentally locked themselves in a bedroom. The 1960s gold-tone doorknob finally stopped budging. I pulled it off, but the lock mechanism is still snug in its hole, and I can’t get it out without breaking the door. Help is on the way. Happy Saturday, Tribe. Be kind to you if you are able.)


Crazy Love

Boyfriend says it’s important to get up and shower every day.

He says, Leave the house for something. You have to or you’ll go crazy. 

I tell him, No major life decisions when you’re manic, and he agrees.

We talk for nearly an hour, his manic chatter recognized and named, my seizure-like anxiety (it’s sudden and physical, every molecule screaming to my central nervous system Something terrible is about to happen to you) tamed.

Thank the stars that he and I rarely sync up on symptoms. He’s Italian with a temper, and we’re both good with words.

The risk isn’t yelling, I said. We were gliding south on Lake Shore, one of our first car rides together. It’s sadness. We’ll drown if we’re not careful.

So we are.

Some mornings I wake up to a message that says, Love, I’m not okay today. On a good day, I ask him what I can do and he tells me, Nothing, you’re doing it. It’ll get better. It’s just bad right now. And it always does.

But self-awareness binds us; we disintegrate without it. We make nooses of guilt and stare at one another across gallows on the bad ones. We hallucinate fingers of blame, carve black holes in the sky around us. Climb inside.

When we come back out to breathe, we confess and offer absolution.

It’s okay to fall off the edge sometimes. Just try not to. Unless you need it, love. Then I want you to float.