“Zen By Default” ~ An Outtake

ASMR- Fear of Darkness ScriptWhen night falls, the face of a darkened breeze changes expression. To my concern, once everyone is finally asleep, I still feel uncomfortable. Sitting in the safety of the front porch, I fidget & listen. Sound is more distinct in darkness & as the eyes try to focus on something concrete, the ears fill with the movement of night. In this buzzing world, nothing is permitted to surprise. Poised for some unknown danger, I catalogue each sound, scan each shadow gauging any potential for genuine threat, ready to react. No noise is insignificant & from within this anxiety, I fantasize about defence.

Even during daylight hours, behind a performance of sassy confidence, I look over my shoulder when no one else is around. It didn’t at first but this place scares me now & I don’t want anyone to know this.  Donna & Stephen sense my edginess but dismiss it to intense enthusiasm brought on by watching too many movies. I amuse myself by imagining their reactions were they to comprehend the magnitude of this apprehension. If they suspected how I clung to their presence, losing myself in wave after wave of contact, conjured for self-preservation & validation, they would turn away. We have boundaries, unspoken yet strongly positioned & if detected, these needs of mine would shatter a silent accord.

Sometimes I watch from an unseen place, trying to detect the same fear in one of them, hoping that any similarity might offer the opportunity to reveal my true nature. I watch but recognize no signs. I re-join the group, my talkative blithering enough to deflect the desperate truth.

This darkness finds me locked in entanglements which prevent any return to a world of light & order. When the captain of the ship is lost & not even the winds of chance will stir—this is what chaos feels like. Fears too great to ignore & imagination is unkind in the face of all this empty space.

What do I do now that I’m too frightened to reach the place where darkness is dispelled?

& & &

This part is from the past: I still have courage to take the Stephenson’s dogs for long walks. It has become our custom, this daily hike & they wait patiently until I’m ready. Each morning, after finishing a mug of tea & the first cigarette, I rally Toby & Sally from their posts. Operating from the comforts of ritual, formation is the same—the friendly cockapoo is scout, racing ahead but never out of earshot & the purebred Sheltie stays back with me, barking & circling her great excitement.

We linger at the spot on the lane-way which serves as crossroads—to the left is a beaten path which leads up to old growth forest; straight down the road continues to a neighbour, then eventually the highway. At my indication, we veer towards the trees & excitement breaks them both to race ahead. We have embarked.

The first leg is through the waterway. At this time of year, the area is dry & there is no trace of a creek I’m told bubbles beneath the thick canopy of green leaves in springtime. When snow at higher elevations melts, a picturesque stream forms to meander down the hillside but all I see now is a dry bed.

The dogs dash ahead, noses to the ground, absorbed with investigating the comings & goings invisible to a human eye. Occasionally, they break-off from the path, following a scent too powerful to ignore. A gentle call brings them back & our pace quickens. We are eager to reach the opening ahead.

Past the safety of the waterway, we move into the field jokingly referred to as the “U.F.O Landing Spot.” It’s an area which was cleared decades ago, by a former owner & is distinct because of it’s absence of trees. Apparently, Stephen went through a phase where he was convinced such an occurrence might be likely & this open area was the perfect spot. I believe none of this but the name sticks.

7-themes.comThe first stop is at a patch of wild daisies mysteriously always in bloom. I stop to gather a small bouquet, the dogs circle round & around with intensity they never reveal back in the compound. Their impatience is clear so I hurry. Once flowers are gathered, we continue across the open field, moving around clusters of re-growing trees & stepping over rocks which have tumbled down the nearby mountainside.

We move fast, our pace encouraged by fresh air & morning sunshine. Crossing on a diagonal, we reach the spot where we must climb the steeper part of a mountain. By now the dogs, who had memorized this route & could lead unaided, allow me to loose myself in streams of spontaneous thought, maintaining only a faint awareness of where we are heading.

Movement is fuel for fantasy. In this freedom, the mind forgets limit. I organize indulgences & weigh the merits of former interest. In fantasy my character grows strong. I understand complex situations with an ease absent in the regular world. Inside the privacy of a mind scarred by loneliness & loss, there is nothing I can’t assimilate. These projections take on an intensity that shadows reality & my will is loosened as the grip on immediate reality relaxes. Like waves in an ocean, I splash through levels of awareness in the comfort water provides.

We reach a small meadow at the top of a steep incline. This is one of my favourite spots on the property. I’ve been told by Natasha that during the winter months, a large herd of elk gather on this part of land & this flatter area is a sleeping place. Framed by the edges of old growth forest, the openness allows for visibility of predators & the natural grasses provide a comfort no other area offers. I breathe & space fills with a peace that is savoured like prayer.

We cross this sanctuary & ravens arrive to investigate. High above, black birds, large birds hover slow circles. I call a greeting in a weak attempt at speaking their mysterious language. We are part of the tribe, I assure them through my strange croaking. Sometimes they answer back & these exchanges feel friendly. The ravens are the barometers of the land. It’s possible to tell when something has been killed in the vicinity, for the raven tribe, some forty in total will gather above the kill-place to celebrate. Their swooping grace is offset by shrieking calls; they are the eyes from above & I am comforted by this vigilance.

We reach the end of the field. This is where the mullein grow—tall, slender, odd-looking plants that rise up to flower nearly seven feet, as though training the eye to look up into the towering heights that mark the beginning of the old growth forest. Stepping inside this closer world is crossing a threshold into another atmosphere. There is quiet tension in the air which is unique to this part of the walk, as though the trees can sense our presence.

endangeredecosystems.orgFollowing a path beaten by visiting elk, far below the top branches that block direct sunlight, around thick-barked trunks of looming pines, we slow the pace. The dogs dash less, their investigating more purposeful. In filtered sunshine, I feel a lightness of spirit; I feel protected.

We reach the halfway point. It is customary to stop, the dogs taking a short rest while I busy myself with the continuation of a project started not long after arriving here. A tree which had fallen over, causing the roots to rip up through the earth, had one day frozen me. From a short distance away, it was the head of a dragon, breaking through the soil of the forest.

Natasha’s words came to inspire: This is the elemental dragon—my attempt at an intersection with an invisible world of wonders. This is an opportunity to blend sensibilities, to visualize the invisible beast I fear will stalk my life forever. I want to make it solid, I need to understand what it expects of me.

The dogs pant their exertion as I arrange nearby rocks, collected to indicate the dragon’s teeth & scales. This springs the illusion to life. Over the weeks, it has grown to an imposing figure, standing as sentinel—a menacing gargoyle designed to survey the natural order. This is a creature brought to life from my own mythology, one who will guide to new perspectives in an invisible world of natural order.

kristenplescow.tumblr.com

I work carefully though it is never long before my canine companions become impatient. Satisfied with whatever additions have been made, after placing an offering of the bouquet of daisies at the base of the sculpture & a quick prayer to seal the experience, we head back.

Continuing down a slope that extends through the columns of towering trees, sunlight is layered in fragments through overhead branches & moisture that clings to the moss sparkles against our movement. The path back is always random but a general direction clears as slowly we move towards what is for now, home. The dogs are slower on the return, often lingering behind, wanting to stretch the time away from guarding duties as long as possible. At my urging, they come forward but their pattern of delay is to repeat itself until we are in sight of the compound.

I feel a sense of resignation as we climb the final hill that brings us to the edges of the Stephenson yard. While the dogs race ahead to check on anything they might have missed in our absence, I pause to savour final moments of contentment. There is a sense of calm which accompanies these walks. I feel perfect, Everything is just as it should be in the world.

Then it changes. Within minutes of re-connecting with this environment, the magic is out of reach. Where does this shift come from? How can it stay perfect like this forever?

{Images by: ASMR – Fear of Darkness Script@youtube.com & 7-themes.com & endangered ecosystems.org & kristenplescow.tumblr.com}

 

Arleta Blue

Zach Vega(Arleta Blue enters the playing area briskly, looking distracted & mildly nervous. She approaches a speaker’s podium, clears her throat & speaks directly to the audience, as a soccer mom might wax eloquently on a subject she feels passionately towards, at say a City Council meeting.)

Arleta Blue: Good afternoon ladies & gentlemen. Ya’ll will have to forgive me for being a little…breathless but I’m on the digital fly these days it seems & I’m starting to realize, stupid me, that I’m not exactly at my best when rushing around like this. Speaking to that, I’d like to invite everyone. . . oh, hush up!

(Arleta is distracted by something in her pocket. She removes a vibrating smart phone.)

What in hell does this damn thing want now?

(Arleta flips opens the phone, checks the screen, then slams the device shut. She replaces it to her pocket, then immediately removes it & considers placing it on the podium. Instead, she changes her mind & puts the Blackberry back into a pocket.)

Oh my stars, the grip of that thing. You must truly forgive me, but I do think it’s time to get to the point of why y’all are being so kind to let me speak here today. Normally, I am a level-headed gal, good-in-a-pinch & always a steady shoulder to cry on but lately? I have not been myself, for months now really & I suppose the best way to explain why is to just come right out & say that my husband… got addicted to the Internet. Not booze or drugs, mind you but a computer & he went at it like people take the church into extremes. I can still hardly believe it myself & have whiled away many an hour trying to figure how this all came about to challenge what was once a model home.

(Arleta feels her pocket, to connect with the smart phone for strength & inspiration.)

I come from a small town in Alabama & as a result of what I consider to be a very fortunate upbringing—I pray I am never without its comfort & protection—I have nevertheless kind of missed-out on this whole Digital Revolution. We just never got interested in bringing a computer into our home when the boys were younger—I mean…the damn things are everywhere these day but like every parent, I realized my kids were eventually going to want this Internet-thing. People talk about it everywhere & they spend half their time at school online, it seems & they are supposed to need it for research & help with homework but I have to admit…that initially? I was skeptical as to it’s actual uses. Like all mothers, I know y’all out there who are parents will understand me when I tell you that I did not want to see my kids left in the Dark Ages but at the same time, I do not want them to grow-up with a head full of razzle-dazzle, mistaking daydreams for reality & do not even get me started on the sexual material they can be so easily exposed to—all the perverts of the world gathered-up in one place. I was really torn on what was the right choice until one morning, I read a quote in the newspaper from the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who said that ‘libraries should be open to everyone–except the censors.’ I didn’t really understand what he meant by that at first but once I had reasoned it all out, I saw his point that I was being like some unfair censor & I am not the kind of woman who goes against the word of a former president.

(Arleta smooths her hair back & settles more deeply into her story.)

I worry about my boys. They are growing up in a generation on the edge—with drugs & gangs & all of that poisonous sex & all the violence in their schools & the threat of being bullied but what is it that encourages all of this? If you said ‘the media,’ then you got it right. Can you believe all the belly-aching about why people are picking up guns & killing each other? Not that I mean to be callous about all the deaths & all the terrible suffering & grief the poor families suffer. All of that terrible sadness but what really worries me is that there is only going to be more of it. So I worry & worry & suppression of concern is difficult for any parent. Being protective, you need to ban things— it’s a common & normal because the desire to guide your child through the rapids of popular culture, far from bad influence is our responsibility. It is understandable why parents are over-protective but then I thought that perhaps I was taking things too far. Albert Einstein said that a new thinking was needed if we were to evolve to higher levels. ‘Never mind,’ I said to that nagging worry. ‘The Internet is going to get it all right.’ That’s when I allowed the house to go on-line. The boys would have an advantage in the research available to them, so they could excel in their schoolwork. People are connecting socially, exchanging all types of things in this controlled, digital world, all peacefully & efficiently. We were thinking like dreamers so I really felt this would be good for the family.

(Arleta checks the Blackberry silently, then replaces it.)

I have not been a woman with an unbending intent for electronics but I do know how to get things done. A few phone calls & a MasterCard number later? We were in business. Naturally, there were ground rules: One-hour daily time limit, longer on the weekends if they kept their grades up; the Internet had to be used for research & schoolwork, before any chatting or games & most important of all—absolutely no porn & I meant it. I was not going to subject my children to potentially dangerous sexual predators & policed their usage diligently. Funny thing is? Turns out, that after months of negotiation on my older son’s part, he decided he didn’t want to spend his free time sitting in front of a computer screen & lost all interest in Facebook after three days. ‘Are you not using the computer anymore?’ I asked him one morning at breakfast. ‘I get enough of the Internet at school,’ was his reply. I could hardly believe it! ‘What about Twitter? You were all excited about that the other day.’ ‘Who wants everyone to know where they are all the time?’ By this time I was getting pretty steamed. ‘You begged me for that computer. What happened to ‘we can’t live without one’?’ Know what he does then? He looks at me real sly-like & says, ‘You tell me to go outside to play, all the time & now you’re trying to make me stay in? What kind of a mother are you?’ He had me there, & out the door he went to play soccer. A week later, his little brother followed suit & the computer sat there collecting dust.

(Arleta removes the vibrating Blackberry from her pocket but replaces it without checking.)

I tell you—kids these days have the attention spans of fruit flies. They may have made a point but I was still pissed & so turned to my husband to ask him what to do with that white elephant. His solution, as always—set by example, so Darryl—that’s my husband’s name—Darryl figured that if he used that computer in a healthy-minded manner, the boys would follow his lead. So online he went & at first he had no idea what to do because he was as computer illiterate as I was. We’re kind of backward people, I guess. In our generation, computers that were smart & talked to you were only gonna tell you to do bad things & try to take over the world but Darryl was brave—a little surfing here, a little browsing there & soon he was having a ball. He set up a Facebook account for the whole family & downloaded vacation pictures & I was really glad to see him having some fun ‘cause he works real hard at his job down at the plant. I even forgot how angry I was at the boys.

(Arleta checks the vibrating Blackberry in a quick glance.)

The weeks went by & the kids were showing no more interest in using the computer than when they walked away but I couldn’t help but notice being online was becoming a bit of an obsession for Darryl. When I tried to talk to him about that, he pooh-poohed by concerns. ‘Great things are afoot, Arleta,’ he promised. ‘Minds are loose the world over.’ Darryl can be a real stubborn prick when he sets his mind to something & I was getting pretty sick & tired of seeing the back of his head while he shared in this global celebration. It was that wilful withdrawal of his personality that was starting to bother me but I kept quiet about it, hoping he would run through some part of himself in this obsessive process & come back to the table & eat meals with his family again. But the time he spent ‘philosophizing,’ in the chat rooms & researching some thing or another grew longer & longer still & eventually he stopped talking to me altogether, stopped looking me in the eye & it’s not like we had a wild sex life in the first place but there was nothing happening between the sheets. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I knew something was wrong. Now… I know this might not be the right thing to do but I made the decision to spy on him. I didn’t hire a private investigator or anything expensive like they do on the television when they think a spouse might be cheating. Darryl has a terrible memory & has to write anything down to remember so I went to the place where I knew he kept his passwords & then checked his email account. I broke his privacy, yes. I went into his private business & big surprise—it didn’t take long to figure out exactly what had been going on behind my back.

(Arleta pulls out the Blackberry & sends a text message.)

Sam WolffSometimes? I can get as hot as a Texas pistol when I’m angry but that day—at that particular moment when my world had been so completely rocked—I didn’t get upset. ‘You’re having an affair,’ I said quite plainly, considering the shock I was in. Naturally, he played dumb. ‘I went into your email, Darryl. I read the letters you sent to her.’ ‘Who?’ he says, still pretending not to follow. ‘Stormy Weather?’ I enjoyed the look of guilt that spread across his face. ‘Now Arleta,’ he pleaded weakly. ‘It’s just electric masturbation.’ He threw me a real line about how he had never met her in person and it was just an Internet-thing & you know what happened? I decided to believe him.

(Arleta inhales deeply, smoothing back shiny hair.)

It all kind of made sense: If he hadn’t actually touched this ‘Stormy Weather’ how could it be considered a real affair? Besides, if a former first lady of our country could overlook a little sexual indiscretion on her husband’s part, then I should be able too, right? He is a man after all, & every woman in this world has to wrestle her worry about whether the dog is going to stray, so I backed off. I decided to turn a blind eye & let him have his fun.

(Smirking to herself, Arleta slams the phone open& shut.)

Call it a sense of adventure; call it stupid denial—I might even agree with you. I couldn’t get past it—how forbidding him was only going to make the matter worse—the irresistible lure of forbidden fruit. God alone knows how big a fool I’ve been in the past, trying to get blood from a stone. I watched my mama grind my daddy down into a stub, so I well understood that a big ‘ole hissy fit will only fan the fires of any curiosity. I didn’t want a divorce from him—I wanted the man I had pre-Internet. I always knew Daryl would stray one day; any woman who thinks her husband won’t is an old-fashioned idiot. It wasn’t like I’d caught them in bed together, for Jeepers sake. Besides, ‘Stormy Weather’ looked quite a bit like me, which was kind of flattering so why not let him have this harmless little fling in the non-physical world of cyberspace.

(Arleta closes her eyes & sighs deeply.)

I had done everything I could to make my home proper & correct so I played along, turned that blind eye & allowed him to carry on with whatever he was doing in the spare bedroom. Yet rather than appreciate this noble understanding of the male psyche—none of my other friends would have ever dreamed to put up with that nonsense, believe you me—Darryl didn’t appreciate a thing I did for him. He just kept pushing it & pushing it further still, until one morning after he’d been on the frickin’ computer the whole night long, he comes down to the kitchen to say he’s decided this whole ‘family thing’—the very ‘thing’ we’d dreamt of & created together, at great sacrifice & effort—this whole ‘family thing’ was now ‘obsolete.’ Lord have mercy—that was when I lost my mind.

(Arleta pauses a moment in reflection.)

When I was a bartender, just before I met Daryl, I worked with this woman who had a nervous breakdown. She was a tad weird normally but one morning, she came into worked all dressed-up in her wedding dress. It was quite a pathetic site actually, because she had been married many years before or I should say many pounds before & she must have really fought her way into that old gown. It had ripped all along the sleeves & the zipper in the back was torn pretty much wide open—fat squeezing out everywhere—it wasn’t a pretty site, let me tell you. She came into the bar & acted as normal as she could. Like she wasn’t bursting out of her wedding dress, until someone went up & asked if everything was alright & then she burst into tears. Right in the middle of the room, bawling like a baby. Crying, sobbing—couldn’t seem to stop. People were laughing & I felt sorry for her at the time but I thought at the time— come on! If you’re having that bad of a day, maybe it’s better to call in sick?

(She pauses for dramatic effect.)

woman_depressed - www.alternet.orgI feel differently about that woman today.

(Arleta fights back a few tears.)

The truth—that’s what made my husband leave me & the boys for Miss Stormy Weather, a.k.a Beth Chapman. I was taught to chose your battles wisely in this world & there was no way I was taking this dirty shit lying down! If my family wasn’t worth fighting for, what the hell was? The problem remained: after Darryl left? I was lost at sea—broken & humiliated like a drowned surfer or a skier caught in an avalanche. I never in my wildest dreams saw this coming & didn’t know where to turn. I lay on the couch watching terrible television for weeks, the will to fight draining out of me, all the while looking for something on television to make sense of the endless chattering in my mind. Then suddenly—through all of that pain & confusion, mine as well as everyone else’s I was absorbing on the television, I suddenly remembered a piece of scripture from Sunday school. ‘Faith which may not be understood now might reveal itself tomorrow.’ I can’t recall if it was Jesus himself who said that but it got stuck in my head, that’s for damn sure. One morning, I woke up & instead of being angry & full of that terrible, burning shame for having lost my husband to another woman, I knew my next move.

(Arleta sends another text message while continuing the story)

Rage should not be wasted on revenge. It can serve as a rudder to navigate a course through rough waters—into some new frontier for adventure & excitement. I’d always secretly felt sorry for those Internet people, spending all their time in a phony electronic world but if that bastard Darryl insisted on eating, smelling, listening, watching, feeling, tasting & screwing anything he wanted—then why couldn’t I? According to him, there was a whole electronic frontier just waiting to be conquered so why the hell should I sit getting fat on the couch when I could be the creator of my own destiny? Let him walk in the sun with Stormy Weather—I went out & bought myself a laptop.

(Arleta snaps the phone closed.)

It was just the beginning of summer vacation for the boys & I decided to give them a break from their mother’s nervous breakdown. I’d tried to make it easy for them, to be strong when they were around & say it was all gonna be okay, but my boys are wise beyond their years. In a funny way, I think they felt responsible for what happened by insisting the computer be brought into the house in the first place. They noticed how their mother was really suffering & were so sweet but they needed a chance to get over what had happened too. I decided to send them to their grandparents for the summer—they couldn’t pack their bags fast enough & after tearful goodbyes at the airport, after I promised them a new mommy when they returned, I drove back home fixing to connect to this infamous world wide web.

(Arleta eyes the Blackberry.)

Now y’all need to understand— I knew absolutely nothing about computers. I’d been the stay-at-home, traditional kind of wife & the www-thing had taken place in a world far away from cleaning toilets & making brownies for a church bake sale. I marvelled at how it all so suddenly became completely accepted. Twenty years ago this thing would have sounded like science fiction & I was clueless about how to get in on it myself. To solve this predicament, I did what any smart American woman does when she needs help—I called customer service. There I found the good people at Dell support both courteous & patient. Soon I was all ready to log on.

(Arleta opens the phone & types something on the keypad.)

Brian KerriganBeing online felt like the first time I went water skiing—shaky, exhilarating but completely out of control. It felt like trying to read your watch, in a tidal wave. There were a lot of re-starts & back tracking & a few tears of frustration. I hadn’t typed since high school & all of those confusing abbreviations in the chat rooms & those tedious registration screens— I tell you—but once I got used to the cyber world, I was clacking away at that gizmo like a guinea hen picking scratch.

(Arleta looks at her Blackberry, then laughs at something on the screen.)

The reward for my effort was the completion of a challenging task but I was still pretty angry with Darryl back then, so I happily chatted with other men. I got the feeling that anyone I’d meet online was either crazy or soon would be. After several missteps, I finally met someone who asked me out for a nice dinner instead of a naked picture & descriptions of what I wanted to do to him in bed.

(Arleta laughs to herself.)

The guy had said to me he had a ‘football players build’ & I have to admit, I was kind of excited by that. It had been a long while since I’d actually enjoyed sex & thinking about this guy really got my juices going. Well—after one big whoopty–doo buffet meal at ‘Foody Goody,’ I regretted not asking him which position he played on that football team because it definitely wasn’t the quarterback.

(Arleta adjusts her dress.)

So that was it for the romance idea. I started shopping online & it was like a big old tornado sucking that money up so I put away the credit card & rather than get discouraged, I decided to spread out into international waters, something outside my own backyard. Soon I was chatting with people I never knew existed: A person who explained how crop circles are actually made by a whole team of people, for instance & a nurse who had tragically applied the wrong medicine to a patient. All of these fascinating people online—a former member of some boy band I’d never heard of—there seemed to be a website for anything & everything.

(Arleta clutches the Blackberry to her breast.)

I discovered that being online was good for you, like daily aspirin. Everything we need to know about the modern world is right in here. So strange to say this now but it seemed like I’d been waiting, just passing time doing things that didn’t seem as vital as being online. I could not for the life of me understand why I hadn’t done this sooner. Finally, I was starting to enjoy the notion of being free.

(Arleta wipes the screen of the Blackberry with the sleeve.)

Those people who imagine themselves from a different time because they don’t understand technology? You know the types who wander around in historical garb, experiencing the excitement of life in another century? I was once like them but not any more. If the digital culture is like a wave, then I was riding the wave on a broken ironing board—a fierce, bright light shining from my eyes. I’m sure y’all realize that information carries fast in the undercurrents of that world—the speed of conception, plus & feeling like an ancient navigator, from a more luminous dimension, I flowed through the currents of the Internet, preparing for destiny.

(Arleta stares off into the distance.)

Being online had helped push back the walls that had closed in on me. Going from site to site, like some wet hen trying to find a place to roost—no story is too insignificant—a galaxy of voices out there to shine alongside but that turbo-speed, digital pace is draining. I didn’t feel like I had any opportunity to reflect on anything. It was just a constant stream of fresh material. From the millions of online possibilities, I knew there had to be a focus to my journey. I must have logged into countless databases to read what seemed like a million clever online suggestions. Everyone wants to somehow make a difference in this crazy world, but I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities. I needed to make a statement about our broken home—that much was clear, but was still frustrated by the inability to come up with a good idea for a blog—until all suddenly, I got inspiration as clearly as if it had been a direct message. Something political in nature was required but something that would highlight the positive emotional aspects of a demoralizing situation. That was the original vision—build an integrated community for Internet widows. All those who have been abandoned because of online extracurriculars, both men & women, young or old—my website would be a refuge to those trying to recover from the selfish acts of other.

(Arleta calmly studies her Blackberry.)

Lente ScuraOn land, it is the business of physical construction—the need for bridges, solid frameworks & borders clearly marked, which then form the paths allowing the flow between all the many opposites. In cyberspace, the connection is less permanent, more transitional, like the flowing of electric water. Inside that flood of information, my blog would serve as a port in the storm for those who had traveled into the same self-disgust as I had. I needed to massage my anger—work it out like a knotted muscle. The website would make a difference & even poor-little-old me had to admit I might have tapped into something significant.

(Arleta is suddenly quite serious.)

This world can be a shit-stained place—sadly, we all know that. Understanding this, I wanted my online representation to be a safe harbour for people looking for the relief of answers to questions they couldn’t figure out for themselves. I put my thinking cap on & set to work constructing a blog targeted at Internet widows—all the many people who lost a spouse due to the cowardly convenience of meeting someone so easily online. I figured there had to be legions of this type of folks & in confirmation of my hunch, once I had launched & worked out all the kinks, I had a thousand hits the very first day it was live—thank you, Google!

(Arleta does a fist pump in the air.)

I just could not believe the response—people not only cared, they responded by telling their own stories & we found comfort in each other‘s similar disgrace. A digital band of good people, decent people who believed in family values & would speak for injustice everywhere because of the pain of their own experience. The same force which brought us together, would also return our stolen happiness through the private beauty of this amazing technology.

(Arleta flips the hair from her face with her Blackberry.)

Being, having & doing—all possible modes of existence. My weird little online world quickly expanded into a pulsating congregation of new-media activists. As a untied front, this anonymous group of hopeful dreamers, unique & beautiful visionaries, each one aiming to show the world they are dressed in a colour of the rainbow that has yet to be discovered. A world, a flood of information— this was the world after that flood.

(Arleta scrolls down her Blackberry.)

Then about a month in, the oddest thing happened. Almost overnight, the tone of the postings shifted. While everyone had once been so sympathetic & positive, so supportive, it suddenly became like when the family gets together & engages in that game of competitive bitching. ‘Who’s the worst off?’ Sob sister stuff, wallowing in the same bitter sentiment I’d desperately tried to escape. It was at this point, if I am to remain truly honest with y’all? It started to feel anti-climactic, in that Peggy Lee, ‘Is That All There Is?’ kind of way. People were sharing electric tears & frustration, that’s for sure but the personal pain from each family; that nitty-gritty bad news from each crumbling home stopped seeming to matter once it had been unburdened. We were supposed to be helping each other heal but the blog didn’t seem to heading in that direction anymore.

(Arleta replaces the phone.)

Postings began to appear advising how to best ruin somebody’s life—how to web-stalk someone & even though I’d remove them daily, they’d be back up there in no time. Did you know that to successfully annihilate someone in the internet world, all you need is a Social security number & a credit card? I didn’t & soon, companies like ‘Spy Whip’ started asking if they could advertise on the site, telling me there was big money to be made for all the online traffic &…I was so torn. I needed the extra income, believe you me but how could the site remain an active healing force if it was encouraging people to be so petty & cruel?

(Arleta looks sadly at her phone.)

All of that negative paranoia—it makes me cringe when I remember. I was starting to feel that this new digital age had brought with it an era of spiritual darkness, illuminated only by a glowing screens. There were crazy postings by the hundreds, arriving daily, ranging from explanations on how to spy on lost ‘loved’ ones to postings either bragging about destroying an unfaithful spouse or justifying their intrusions. The site had lost its focus & I started to feel that sense of sick depression that had ground my life to a halt after Daryl abandoned ship.

(Arleta checks the Blackberry, frowning at what she sees on the screen.)

I had beat my drum to gather the broken from around the world & now all we did was exchange links for the newest satellite spyware? It was too crazy— how was revenge going to make things better? It’s as if we’d all somehow clicked on through a link to a bad place & we needed to change course, lickety-split. I needed to backtrack & re-connect with the original intention.

(Arleta takes a drink from a bottle of water.)

It’s hard to keep the facts straight here & now, talking with y’all but I’m pretty sure it was right after that when I started wondering if maybe I wasn’t spending too much time on my dashboard. Maybe visiting other forums would give me an idea of how to improve my own. I visited several. Once you figured out the specific jargons & abbreviations, I couldn’t help but see that there was a similar shallowness & defensiveness from people who were supposed to have at least one thing in common & the smugness—like a preacher delivering his sermon to the choir.

(Arleta looks coyly at the audience.)

‘Course I eventually had to visit the sex sites & while that whole exploration wasn’t entirely unpleasant, the world of cyber-porn, though vast & all-too-easy to access, is really nothing more than a screen of pretty narrow horizons. It didn’t take long to turn-off to that sleazy exploitation of what seemed mostly good looking, well-endowed, well-paid, desperate people. I needed to give myself an old–fashioned, southern-style slow-down. This Internet thing was happening way too fast. I was finding it hard to think straight once I started swimming through those dirty waters & seeing as how I was no closer to figuring out how to return my site back to a forum for positive–thinking people, maybe this whole wild idea was something I’d cooked-up just to cover the pain of being dumped?

(Arleta looks thoughtfully at her Blackberry.)

Give, take; absorb, reject. Back & forth, on & offline, coating over any practical sense of personal history or any real purpose in the physical world. I had surrendered to all of this but was free to re-negotiate anytime. It was my life, my choices & making them all inside that Digital Forrest seemed not only selfish, but foolish as well. Maybe it was time to get to know that tired looking woman reflecting back from the monitor screen? Maybe I’d learned all I needed from that experience. It all moves so damn fast but still—I saw the problem—the problem in all of that frantic business, & all of that fast, careless money. I saw the pain in those sex sites, with broken dreamers getting bought like meat at a butcher shop. I saw all of it blinking & swirling in that never-ending steam of expression—it was greed so magnificent, it had opened a whole dimension of anarchy.

(Arleta waves her Blackberry in the air.)

There is so much expression but no one is taking anything seriously. All of my chat-friends wanted to know why the sudden change of heart? ‘This is the future, ‘angrymom’ — that’s my chat nickname, by the way—‘If you really wanna make a difference, this is the cutting edge.’ That seemed to be the consensus. Trouble was? I didn’t believe it. Feeling like a fool, I said my hasty goodbyes & was one step away from logging off that damn computer cold-turkey & boxing it up forever when one day, in my junk mail folder, I received an email that not only changed the setting of my inbox but my outlook towards the future, as well.

(Arleta speaks directly to the audience, very serious.)

HansPieselTurns out that innocent email was nothing short of revolutionary. I opened it & something changed inside of me as I read about Barack Obama. I don’t mean to sound like one of those people with their eye on the meter in life, because those people are rarely heroes. The last Republican years had been like playing Monopoly with my younger son—the rules kept changing & more & more money disappeared from the bank as the game went along. I’m talking about the Republican Bush Clan, that elite that took everybody’s retirement money & stretched their greed so wide it broke like a fan belt running the world. During those years, my ‘fine’ kept shifting, further & further from what I actually stood for. I love America & I know America loves me but things have drifted from what my grandparents built their lives upon.

(Arleta places the Blackberry to her chest.)

As far as W. Bush is concerned? I was raised to have respect for the office of the President but I was a fervent believer that America needed a change. The GOP were behaving like kids blaming someone else for breaking the toy but it wasn’t a toy they broke—it was our country. Somebody was going to save us from the uglier side of our society & while I have always been an ardent Hilary Clinton supporter, identifying with her courage & strength many a ’ time during my own troubled period, but I had to change allegiance & put my faith in a man who seemed to be in touch with a different soul force. His campaign included dignity & harmony for all—not just a blind eye & a pity party for the losers.

(Arleta stares at the phone in a moment of reverie.)

Choice is the hinge of destiny. Once that voice for change surfaced in the gathering momentum of the Obama campaign, I was thunderstruck with excitement. There was actually a candidate to fight for people who were drowning in a sense of powerlessness. For me, Barack Obama seemed like a presidential hero, in composite: the affectations of Lincoln, the social vision of FDR, the moxy of John Kennedy & he has Bill Clinton’s brains.

(Arleta’s speech grows in quiet intensity.)

Obama was the ideal synthesis of both sexy & smart & I don’t care what people say about overblown propaganda & over-exposure & all the rest of that ‘critical analysis.’ Until my campaign work for Barack Obama started, I’d been waiting for something. It is difficult to explain—I had worried so much about their being good influences in the world for my boys & when my husband Daryl walked–out, that notion was a real laugh-riot so I was desperately seeking to re-define myself on the Internet as some artificial substitute for real courage.

(Arleta speaks intently.)

I had found some truth of my own & this was what permitted my broken home to mend in common purpose. Barack Obama became a role model for a fractured family & I know this is going to sound like too-much, but I thank the Lord Above for that. If a skinny, big-eared boy from a single parent family married such a Goddess & then became President of the United States? Well then…we had nothing to worry about because there is a force helping even things out in the Universe. As the dreamers of ‘now’, we shall assist everyone to whatever safe, wholesome, sustainable destiny that awaits them. We can make this country better not just for our children but for their grandchildren, as well.
I had so missed that feeling of day dreaming & loving visions & ignoring my fear—it was like being a child again, so strong did faith re-fill my empty heart. The vehicle for positive change had been re-captured & was now heading in the direction of salvation & hope.

(Arleta stands to attention, military style.)

Albert Einstein said it is easier to break down an atom that a prejudice. The Obama-factor: globalization as cleansing force.

(Arleta studies her Blackberry sceptically.)

We’re still humming from the backspin. Obama’s first presidential victory solidified the Internet as something more than just a portal to escapism. From screen to screen the word traveled, enough to put him in power politically & support his visionary notions. It was not that I felt proud to be an American again all of a sudden—it was that I felt safe, so y’all keep believing in President Obama—Golden Child of the social networking scene, making a concrete contribution to America the Republic, not the global monster the rest of the world thinks we are. I’ll do the same & let’s none of us regret that.

{Images by Zach Vega & Sam Wolff & www.alternet.org & Brian Kerrigan & Lente Scura & Hans Piesel}

 

 

Quotation from Thomas Merton

www.thomasmertonsociety.org.uk“Consciousness is the emotional link to Memory.”

~ Thomas Merton

 

{thomasmertonsociety.org.uk}

Quotation from Chogyam Trungpa

Khenpo_gangshar2“If you must begin then go all the way, because if you begin & quit, the unfinished business you have left behind begins to haunt you all the time.”

~ Chogyam Trungpa

 

 

 

{Photograph by Kengpo_Gangsgar2}

 

Arleta Blue ~ Part Two of Three

woman_depressed - www.alternet.org(Arleta pulls out the Blackberry & sends a text message.)

Sometimes? I can get as hot as a Texas pistol when I’m angry but that day—at that particular moment when my world had been so completely rocked—I didn’t get upset. ‘You’re having an affair,’ I said quite plainly, considering the shock I was in. Naturally, he played dumb. ‘I went into your email, Daryl. I read the letters you sent to her.’ ‘Who?’ he says, still pretending not to follow. ‘Stormy Weather?’ I enjoyed the look of guilt that spread across his face. ‘Now Arleta,’ he pleaded weakly. ‘It’s just electric masturbation.’ He threw me a real line about how he had never met her in person and it was just an Internet-thing & you know what happened? I decided to believe him.

(Arleta inhales deeply, smoothing back shiny hair.)

It all kind of made sense: If he hadn’t actually touched this ‘Stormy Weather’ how could it be considered a real affair? Besides, if a former first lady of our country could overlook a little sexual indiscretion on her husband’s part, then I should be able too, right? He is a man after all, & every woman in this world has to wrestle her worry about whether the dog is going to stray, so I backed off. I decided to turn a blind eye & let him have his fun.

(Smirking to herself, Arleta slams the phone open & shut.)

Call it a sense of adventure; call it stupid denial—I might even agree with you. I couldn’t get past it—how forbidding him was only going to make the matter worse—the irresistible lure of forbidden fruit. God alone knows how big a fool I’ve been in the past, trying to get blood from a stone. I watched my mama grind my daddy down into a stub, so I well understood that a big ‘ole hissy fit will only fan the fires of any curiosity. I didn’t want a divorce from him—I wanted the man I had pre-Internet. I always knew Daryl would stray one day; any woman who thinks her husband won’t is an old-fashioned idiot. It wasn’t like I’d caught them in bed together, for Jeepers sake. Besides, ‘Stormy Weather’ looked quite a bit like me, which was kind of flattering so why not let him have this harmless little fling in the non-physical world of cyber space.

(Arleta closes her eyes & sighs deeply.)

I had done everything I could to make my home proper & correct so I played along, turned that blind eye & allowed him to carry on with whatever he was doing in the spare bedroom. Yet rather than appreciate this noble understanding of the male psyche—none of my other friends would have ever dreamed to put up with that nonsense, believe you me—Daryl didn’t appreciate a thing I did for him. He just kept pushing it & pushing it further still, until one morning after he’d been on the frickin’ computer the whole night long, he comes down to the kitchen to say he’s decided this whole ‘family thing’—the very ‘thing’ we’d dreamt of & created together, at great sacrifice & effort—this whole ‘family thing’ was now ‘obsolete.’ Lord have mercy—that was when I lost my mind.

(Arleta pauses a moment in reflection.)

When I was a bartender, just before I met Daryl, I worked with this woman who had a nervous breakdown. She was a tad weird normally but one morning, she came into worked all dressed-up in her wedding dress. It was quite a pathetic site actually, because she had been married many years before or I should say many pounds before & she must have really fought her way into that old gown. It had ripped all along the sleeves & the zipper in the back was torn pretty much wide open—fat squeezing out everywhere—it wasn’t a pretty site, let me tell you. She came into the bar & acted as normal as she could. Like she wasn’t bursting out of her wedding dress, until someone went up & asked if everything was alright & then she burst into tears. Right in the middle of the room, bawling like a baby. Crying, sobbing—couldn’t seem to stop. People were laughing & I felt sorry for her at the time but I thought—come on! If you’re having that bad a day, maybe it’s best call in sick?

(She pauses for dramatic effect.)

I feel differently about that woman today.

(Arleta fights back a few tears.)

The truth—that’s what made my husband leave me & the boys for Miss Stormy Weather, a.k.a Beth Chapman. I was taught to chose your battles wisely in this world & there was no way I was taking this dirty shit lying down! If my family wasn’t worth fighting for, what the hell was? The problem remained: after Daryl left? I was lost at sea—broken & humiliated like a drowned surfer or a skier caught in an avalanche. I never in my wildest dreams saw this coming & didn’t know where to turn. I lay on the couch watching terrible television for weeks, the will to fight draining out of me, all the while looking for something on television to make sense of the endless chattering in my mind. Then suddenly—through all of that pain & confusion, mine as well as everyone else’s I was absorbing on the television, I suddenly remembered a piece of scripture from Sunday school. ‘Faith which may not be understood now might reveal itself tomorrow.’ I can’t recall if it was Jesus himself who said that but it got stuck in my head, that’s for damn sure. One morning, I woke up & instead of being angry & full of that terrible, burning shame for having lost my husband to another woman, I knew my next move.

(Arleta sends another text message while continuing the story)

Rage should not be wasted on revenge. It can serve as a rudder to navigate a course through rough waters—into some new frontier for adventure & excitement. I’d always secretly felt sorry for those Internet people, spending all their time in a phony electronic world but if that bastard Daryl insisted on eating, smelling, listening, watching, feeling, tasting & screwing anything he wanted—then why couldn’t I? According to him, there was a whole electronic frontier just waiting to be conquered so why the hell should I sit getting fat on the couch when I could be the creator of my own destiny? Let him walk in the sun with Stormy Weather—I went out & bought myself a laptop.

(Arleta snaps the phone closed.)

It was just the beginning of summer vacation for the boys & I decided to give them a break from their mother’s nervous breakdown. I’d tried to make it easy for them, to be strong when they were around & say it was all gonna be okay, but my boys are wise beyond their years. In a funny way, I think they felt responsible for what happened by insisting the computer be brought into the house in the first place. They noticed how their mother was really suffering & were so sweet but they needed a chance to get over what had happened too. I decided to send them to their grandparents for the summer—they couldn’t pack their bags fast enough & after tearful goodbyes at the airport, after I promised them a new mommy when they returned, I drove back home fixing to connect to this infamous world wide web.

(Arleta eyes the Blackberry.)

Now y’all need to understand— I knew absolutely nothing about computers. I’d been the stay-at-home, traditional kind of wife & the www-thing had taken place in a world far away from cleaning toilets & making brownies for a church bake sale. I marvelled at how it all so suddenly became completely accepted. Twenty years ago this thing would have sounded like science fiction & I was clueless about how to get in on it myself. To solve this predicament, I did what any smart American woman does when she needs help—I called customer service. There I found the good people at Dell support both courteous & patient. Soon I was all ready to log on.

(Arleta opens the phone & types something on the keypad.)

Being online felt like the first time I went water-skiing—shaky, exhilarating but completely out of control. It felt like trying to read your watch, in a tidal wave. There were a lot of re-starts & back tracking & a few tears of frustration. I hadn’t typed since high school & all of those confusing abbreviations in the chat rooms & those tedious registration screens— I tell you—but once I got used to the cyber world, I was clacking away at that gizmo like a guinea hen picking scratch.

(Arleta looks at her Blackberry, then laughs at something on the screen.)

The reward for my effort was the completion of a challenging task but I was still pretty angry with Daryl back then, so I happily chatted with other men. I got the feeling that anyone I’d meet online was either crazy or soon would be. After several missteps, I finally met someone who asked me out for a nice dinner instead of a naked picture & descriptions of what I wanted to do to him in bed.

(Arleta laughs to herself.)

The guy had said to me he had a ‘football players build’ & I have to admit, I was kind of excited by that. It had been a long while since I’d actually enjoyed sex & thinking about this guy really got my juices going. Well—after one big whoopty–doo buffet meal at ‘Foody Goody,’ I regretted not asking him which position he played on that football team because it definitely wasn’t the quarterback.

(Arleta adjusts her dress.)

So that was it for the romance idea. I started shopping online & it was like a big old tornado sucking that money up so I put away the credit card & rather than get discouraged, I decided to spread out into international waters, something outside my own backyard. Soon I was chatting with people I never knew existed: A person who explained how crop circles are actually made by a whole team of people, for instance & a nurse who had tragically applied the wrong medicine to a patient. All of these fascinating people online—a former member of some boy band I’d never heard of—there seemed to be a website for anything & everything.

(Arleta clutches the Blackberry to her breast.)

I discovered that being online was good for you, like daily aspirin. Everything we need to know about the modern world is right in here. So strange to say this now but it seemed like I’d been waiting, just passing time doing things that didn’t seem as vital as being online. I could not for the life of me understand why I hadn’t done this sooner. Finally, I was starting to enjoy the notion of being free.

(Arleta wipes the screen of the Blackberry with the sleeve.)

Those people who imagine themselves from a different time because they don’t understand technology? You know the types who wander around in historical garb, experiencing the excitement of life in another century? I was once like them but not any more. If the digital culture is like a wave, then I was riding the wave on a broken ironing board—a fierce, bright light shining from my eyes. I’m sure y’all realize that information carries fast in the undercurrents of that world—the speed of conception, plus & feeling like an ancient navigator, from a more luminous dimension, I flowed through the currents of the Internet, preparing for destiny.

(Arleta stares off into the distance.)

Being online had helped push back the walls that had closed in on me. Going from site to site, like some wet hen trying to find a place to roost—no story is too insignificant—a galaxy of voices out there to shine alongside but that turbo-speed, digital pace is draining. I didn’t feel like I had any opportunity to reflect on anything. It was just a constant stream of fresh material. From the millions of online possibilities, I knew there had to be a focus to my journey. I must have logged into countless databases to read what seemed like a million clever online suggestions. Everyone wants to somehow make a difference in this crazy world, but I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities. I needed to make a statement about our broken home—that much was clear, but was still frustrated by the inability to come up with a good idea for a blog—until all suddenly, I got inspiration as clearly as if it had been a direct message. Something political in nature was required but something that would highlight the positive emotional aspects of a demoralizing situation. That was the original vision—build an integrated community for Internet widows. All those who have been abandoned because of online extracurriculars, both men & women, young or old—my website would be a refuge to those trying to recover from the selfish acts of others.

Brian Kerrigan
{Artwork: woman_depressed ~ www.alternet.org & Brian Kerrigan}

Arleta Blue ~ Part One of Three

Zach Vega(Arleta Blue enters the playing area briskly, looking distracted & mildly nervous. She approaches a speaker’s podium, clears her throat & speaks directly to the audience, as a soccer mom might wax eloquently on a subject she feels passionately towards, at say a City Council meeting.)

Arleta Blue: Good afternoon ladies & gentlemen. Ya’ll will have to forgive me for being a little…breathless but I’m on the digital fly these days it seems & I’m starting to realize, stupid me, that I’m not exactly at my best when rushing around like this. Speaking to that, I’d like to invite everyone. . . oh, hush up!

(Arleta is distracted by something in her pocket. She removes a vibrating smart phone.)

What in hell does this damn thing want now?

(Arleta flips opens the phone, checks the screen, then slams the device shut. She replaces it to her pocket, then immediately removes it & considers placing it on the podium. Instead, she changes her mind & puts the Blackberry back into a pocket.)

Oh my stars, the grip of that thing. You must truly forgive me, but I do think it’s time to get to the point of why y’all are being so kind to let me speak here today. Normally, I am a level-headed gal, good-in-a-pinch & always a steady shoulder to cry on but lately? I have not been myself, for months now really & I suppose the best way to explain why is to just come right out & say that my husband… got addicted to the Internet. Not booze or drugs, mind you but a computer & he went at it like people take the church into extremes. I can still hardly believe it myself & have whiled away many an hour trying to figure how this all came about to challenge what was once a model home.

(Arleta feels her pocket, to connect with the smart phone for strength & inspiration.)

I come from a small town in Alabama & as a result of what I consider to be a very fortunate upbringing—I pray I am never without its comfort & protection—I have nevertheless kind of missed-out on this whole Digital Revolution. We just never got interested in bringing a computer into our home when the boys were younger—I mean…the damn things are everywhere these day but like every parent, I realized my kids were eventually going to want this Internet-thing. People talk about it all the damn time & they spend half their time at school online, it seems & they are supposed to need it for research & help with homework but I have to admit…that initially? I was sceptical as to it’s actual uses. Like all mothers, I know y’all out there who are parents will understand me when I tell you that I did not want to see my kids left in the Dark Ages but at the same time, I do not want them to grow-up with a head full of razzle-dazzle, mistaking daydreams for reality & do not even get me started on the sexual material they can be so easily exposed to—all the perverts of the world gathered-up in one place. I was really torn on what was the right choice until one morning, I read a quote in the newspaper from the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who said that ‘libraries should be open to everyone–except the censors.’ I didn’t really understand what he meant by that at first but once I had reasoned it all out, I saw his point, that I was being like some unfair censor & I am not the kind of woman who goes against the word of a former president.

(Arleta smooths her hair back & settles more deeply into her story.)

I worry about my boys. They are growing up in a generation on the edge—with drugs & gangs & all of that poisonous sex & all the violence in their schools & the threat of being bullied but what is it that encourages all of this? If you said ‘the media,’ then you got it right. Can you believe all the belly-aching about why people are picking up guns & killing each other? Not that I mean to be callous about all the deaths & all the terrible suffering & grief the poor families suffer. All of that terrible sadness but what really worries me is that there is only going to be more of it. So I worry & worry & suppression of that concern is difficult for any parent. Being protective, you need to ban things— it’s a common & normal practice because the desire to guide your child through the rapids of popular culture, far from bad influences is our responsibility. It is understandable why parents are over-protective but then I thought that perhaps I was taking things too far. Albert Einstein said that a new thinking was needed if we were to evolve to higher levels. ‘Never mind,’ I said to that nagging worry. ‘The Internet is going to get it all right.’ That’s when I allowed the house to go on-line. The boys would have an advantage in the research available to them, so they could excel in their school work. People are connecting socially, exchanging all types of things in this controlled, digital world, all peacefully & efficiently. We were thinking like dreamers so I really felt this would be good for the family.

(Arleta checks the Blackberry silently, then replaces it.)

I have not been a woman with an unbending intent for electronics but I do know how to get things done. A few phone calls & a MasterCard number later? We were in business. Naturally, there were ground rules: One-hour daily time limit, longer on the weekends if they kept their grades up; the Internet had to be used for research & school work, before any chatting or games & most important of all—absolutely no porn & I meant it. I was not going to subject my children to potentially dangerous sexual predators & policed their usage diligently. Funny thing is? Turns out, that after months of negotiation on my older son’s part, he decided he didn’t want to spend his free time sitting in front of a computer screen & lost all interest in Facebook after three days. ‘Are you not using the computer any more?’ I asked him one morning at breakfast. ‘I get enough of the Internet at school,’ was his reply. I could hardly believe it! ‘What about Twitter? You were all excited about that the other day.’ ‘Who wants everyone to know where they are all the time?’ By this time I was getting pretty steamed. ‘You begged me for that computer. What happened to ‘we can’t live without one’?’ Know what he does then? He looks at me real sly-like & says, ‘You tell me to go outside to play, all the time & now you’re trying to make me stay in? What kind of a mother are you?’ He had me there, & out the door he went to play soccer. A week later, his little brother followed suit & the computer sat there collecting dust.

(Arleta removes the vibrating Blackberry from her pocket but replaces it without checking.)

I tell you—kids these days have the attention spans of fruit flies. They may have made a point but I was still pissed & so turned to my husband to ask him what to do with that white elephant. His solution, as always—set by example, so Daryl—that’s my husband’s name—Daryl figured that if he used that computer in a healthy-minded manner, the boys would follow his lead. So online he went & at first he had no idea what to do because he was as computer illiterate as I was. We’re kind of backward people, I guess. In our generation, computers that were smart & talked to you were only gonna tell you to do bad things & try to take over the world but Daryl was brave—a little surfing here, a little browsing there & soon he was having a ball. He set up a Facebook account for the whole family & downloaded vacation pictures & I was really glad to see him having some fun ‘cause he works real hard at his job down at the plant. I even forgot how angry I was at the boys.

(Arleta checks the vibrating Blackberry in a quick glance.)

The weeks went by & the kids were showing no more interest in using the computer than when they walked away but I couldn’t help but notice being online was becoming a bit of an obsession for Daryl. When I tried to talk to him about that, he pooh-poohed by concerns. ‘Great things are afoot, Arleta,’ he promised. ‘Minds are loose the world over.’ Daryl can be a real stubborn prick when he sets his mind to something & I was getting pretty sick & tired of seeing the back of his head while he shared in this global celebration. It was that wilful withdrawal of his personality that was starting to bother me but I kept quiet about it, hoping he would run through some part of himself in this obsessive process & come back to the table & eat meals with his family again. But the time he spent ‘philosophizing,’ in the chat rooms & researching some thing or another grew longer & longer still & eventually he stopped talking to me altogether, stopped looking me in the eye & it’s not like we had a wild sex life in the first place but there was nothing happening between the sheets. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I knew something was wrong. Now… I know this might not be the right thing to do but I made the decision to spy on him. I didn’t hire a private investigator or anything expensive like they do on the television when they think a spouse might be cheating. Daryl has a terrible memory & has to write anything down to remember so I went to the place where I knew he kept his passwords & then checked his email account. I broke his privacy, yes. I went into his private business & big surprise—it didn’t take long to figure out exactly what had been going on behind my back.

Sam Wolff

 

{Images by Zach Vega & Sam Wolff}

Quotation from Manly P. Hall

Willem Goeree“Blessed are those who can profit by the experiences of
others, and can add to that which has already been
built, their inspiration made real, their dream
made practical.”

 

~ Manly P. Hall

 

 

 

{Illustration by Willem Goeree}

Quotation from Dion Fortune

tumblr_lkjub6zquJ1qd98d3o1_250“It is the real self that matters, not the series of transitory personalities.”

~ Dion Fortune

 

 

 

 

{Image from www.freemasonryesoterica.com}

 

Quotation from Virginia Woolf

VirginiaWoolf“To pursue truth with such an astonishing lack of consideration for other people’s feelings, to rend thin the veils of civilization so wantonly, so brutally, was to her so horrible an outrage of human decency that, without replying, dazed and blinded, she bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her rebuked. There was nothing to be said.”

 

~ Virginia Woolf

 

{Photograph by George Charles Beresford}

Baby Doll ~ Part One of Three

CBS - 3(Baby Doll flirtatiously enters the playing area, carrying an old-fashioned portable transistor radio. She is wearing a one-piece bathing suit, a beauty pageant sash and a sparkling tiara. She totters around the perimeter of the stage, making sure everyone sees what a groovy dancer she is and can read what is written on her pretty sash. When she is satisfied with her performance, she switches off the radio.)

Baby Doll: A platinum blonde, a dizzy blonde, a sexy blonde. ‘Blondes have more fun,’ you know. Blondes for every day of the week but eventually you’re gonna come to the conclusion that there’s only one real  blonde and that’s Baby Doll blonde. That’s me, you guys—a spoiled, naughty, pig-tailed former beauty queen who loves to screw! Do I need a spanking for saying that? Have I been a bad girl?

(Baby Doll bends over to reveal her panties to the crowd.)

What turns the motor of your mind, honey? Bet I could figure it out, if you gave me half a chance. I’m a professional at doing that and it makes me kind of goofy how much easier these big tits have made my life. It’s kind of like I’m a royal queen or something. Every evening, I paint my bee-sting lips to match the shade of the muted trumpets in a swing band; I pluck my eyebrows clean and sexy, then shake my Pilates-toned ass into some slinky little dress that I know is going to turn every eye in the room.

(Baby Doll adjusts her tiara and smiles brightly at the crowd.)

Don’t be fooled by appearances, folks. I might not walk it but I am a wise Baby Doll. Some people will find it hard to believe that a bright, empowered young woman could fall into such a trap. This story is not for them. It’ll be aimed at people who like seeing successful people suffer. There’s something in that for you—I’d bet on it. I used to be smart, you know? Won the gold medal in freshman English. It hung there cheap and plastic between budding breasts. Back before the time when I knew how to do amazing things with my tongue. Right around that famed night when my cherry burst in a sweaty frenzy—when I thought I’d met my prince. I told him sex would spoil what we had & what we had was very special. What happened to him? Gone—they all go. So sad. The saddest thing of all is that I learned a very important lesson but I forgot it straight away.

(Baby Doll pauses to reflect.)

I even went to college for a few semesters. That’s when the whole pageant thing got going and I was a pretty good student but one thing leads to another… you know how it is. It was my heyday—arms spread wide, showing a little leg on the parade float. Sassy, but never over-eager. I don’t understand why sex has such a bad rap. I just love boys. Boys are fascinated with holes—digging them, filling them up—mechanical sex, in & out, building to a single combustion. Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me! You boys think you have it all figured out, don’t you? A few of your best years in a pack, riding high and free but one by one you get picked up by those high school spiders—hungry for husbands and matching china. Who’s trophy are you today, bitch? I’m nothing like those girls. I’m real to the tits, baby. Well, not really but you know what I mean.

(Baby Doll adjusts her ample cleavage.)

At what point does the past become history? The conflicted confessions of a desperate beauty—that could be my story. Don’t worry about me—I come from a long line of crazy broads but my own search for stardom began once I experienced its effects. The plan was: I’d take acting classes, not for the craft but for the contacts and when I finally landed a role, I’d dive into it with such gusto and commitment that the critics would notice, even though the role wasn’t that big. I’d get a better agent, a more powerful one, shuffle my friends around, all the while pouring through scripts, hunting, tirelessly hunting for that breakthrough role until it finally arrives and I earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress and then on to win the Oscar! During the acceptance speech, I say something wacky and make it into the annals of Oscar history trivia. I was to become a legend in my own time.

(Baby Doll takes out a compact.)

Pat, pat, pat and the blackheads vanish.

(She laughs at her reflection and snaps the compact closed.)

All those men who date jack-in-the-box girls? The ones whose cranks you have to turn and turn until—bingo! The sweet spot? Know what I’m saying? I am not one of those girls. Between you and me, I love the way someone looks at you once you’ve popped their cork. Men like girls like me ‘cause they don’t have to waste any time guessing how its all gonna turn out at the end of the night. There’s no suspense with Baby Doll cause she puts it right up front. It reminds me of how when I was a kid, my mom used to read those boring historical romances and she was always trying to get me to read them too but I could never get past those hunks on the covers. It was decided very early that when I grew up, I was gonna be the chick in the ripped bodice—beautiful, bent-back by some muscular stud and loving every second of it!

(Baby Doll put the makeup back in her purse and removes a lovely silver flask.)

There are all sorts of blondes—Cadillac blondes, with their leashes and fancy jewels; Jacuzzi blondes with their velvet mouths and fried split ends; blondes on blondes rolling together in tangled, sweaty sheets. . .

(Baby Doll checks her reflection in the flask.)

One thing about being this hot? It takes a lot of energy. More than you might think. That’s why pretty girls needs to be fluffed like pillows—those good looks have to come from somewhere and if you’re expected to keep your mouth shut all the time, I don’t care how blonde your Baby Doll roots are, eventually? You start catching on to the ways things really are. Girls like me always know what’s going on. Put it this way: a successful evening for a girl like me is all about finding the secret fetish. If I am able to unlock the unmet desire in a man’s heart, I’ll be the new drug and that’s what it’s all about in my world. I’m an expert at reading between the lines.

(Baby Doll toasts the audience with her flask.)

Actually? I kinda enjoy being misread. I like the feeling of being able to rip the rug out from under people whenever I want to but will sit around looking sexy and let everybody underestimate me. Pretty and pert I watch the room and the weird thing is that the more I listen to tricks talk about me like I wasn’t actually a real person—like I don’t actually have feelings and am only into this for the dirty shit and enjoy it all as much as they do—the more I play along with that bullshit, the more I become this horrible, Frankenstein-like creature—cheery but grotesque. You wouldn’t believe the garbage my ‘customers’ talk and then having to smile at them and the other working girls, the other whores, with their competitive small talk, all smart-pretending-to-be-stupid; all stupid, pretending–to-be smart? My people and what we all have in common is that we know we’ll leave each other in the gutter, in a flash when the time comes but for the time being, we’ll smile and play along.

(Baby Doll swigs again.)

Pretty girls aren’t always dumb, you know. We’re just not allowed to be heavy so it’s kinda hard to dig into a deep conversation. That’s probably why I’m a bitch sometimes. It so obvious when I think about it that way. I have to tweak and tease my everything; make myself one of those plucked, moisturized and lip-sticked packages. One of the ‘pretty girls.’ When did that happen? ‘cause it wasn’t always like that. My pretty face promised nothing but it did open some doors so why not cash in when you’ve got the chance. Show affection, get rejection. That’s my motto, proven time and time again to be true and there are a lot of people out there that enjoy wasting someone else’s love. So what if I happen to be one of them? It’s not my fault that little tidbit of self-knowledge changed my life. I knew my good looks were a mask I hid behind. Who wouldn’t?

(Baby Doll takes another swig and swishes it around inside her mouth before swallowing.)

Masks are expensive to the true person behind them because they both excuse you but prevent you from being anything else. Once you dress as the slutty French maid and everybody thinks you’re fierce, it’s hard to give that up. What else could I do? I had little to offer suburbia ‘cause I knew there was more to me than domestic drudgery. Keeping quiet helped.

Meadham Kirchoff

{Images by CBS-3 & Meadham Kirchoff}