A Razor’s Use: A Monologue in Parts.

Kelly sits on a couch as if she’s talking to a therapist.

That first time I tried, I sat on the floor of the bathroom with a razor in my hand. It was the razor I used to shave my legs in the shower. My mother had given it to me for Christmas—a fancy pink one with some kind of triple action blade I always forgot to replace.

Of course, that didn’t work. Do you even know what the triple action is for?

I got up, pushed away the cat and went to the garage junk drawer where I found a box cutter. To be truthful, I hadn’t really touched a box cutter since 9/11. I know that seems ridiculous. It’s been oh so many years and I didn’t even know no anyone involved. I’m not even particularly patriotic.

Can I say that here?

I’d always wanted to be a cutter. Someone who could displace emotional pain with the tangible pain of a bleeding gash. The ideas of scars didn’t bother me. My husband and I had long since given up sex, let alone sex in the light. Even on those rare nights he rolled over and fondled my right breast, his overture for sex, I figured his discovery would enliven our sex life. Eventually.

After the horror, I suppose.

So I got the box cutter from that drawer my husband refused to organize. That’s why it was in the garage rather than the house. I took it to the bathroom and closed the door. The cat’s paw came under the door and she meowed. Usually I’d let her in. She liked to sit on my lap while I peed. But I ignored her. I sat on the edge of the tub.

Another aside. Is it okay to just go from one thing to the next like this? I hope so. You probably think I’m crazy or something. Anyhoo. I hate that too, I don’t know why I said that. Makes me feel like some middle-aged suburban overweight yokel. That one word—anyhoo—and I think of that fat woman on TV who always plays the annoyingly nosy neighbor.

So anyway. That tub. It’s one of those Jacuzzi tubs that came with the house. It wasn’t even an option. I wish the sunroom or the kitchen island had just come with the house. But my husband and daughters just loved the idea of a Jacuzzi. We had seen so many houses—the Heights, the Plains, Wine Estates, you name it. This one had the master bathroom of all bathrooms. It was really the only difference I could see. This bathroom had a built-in couch and a double shower with four shower heads, as if the developers wanted me to throw a key party like it was the 70s and we didn’t have two kids still sleeping in our bed.

So. It’s this Jacuzzi 4000 with a huge picture window overlooking the forest they are going to clearcut for another development. That’s what I told my husband. But he’d have none of it. He got in the tub fully clothed and pulled my daughters in. They giggled. They talked of champagne.

My daughters are 10 and 7.

Now we’ve lived here for four years and you know what they do? They wash the dog in it. My husband took one bath when he hurt his back playing tennis. We chose this house instead of the house with the covered porch because of this tub.

The dog is very happy.

I hate baths. Aren’t women supposed to love baths? Calgon take me away and all? But I hate them. Don’t all women? Every time I take a bath, forget that the water is first too hot and then immediately too cold, forget that you are lying in your own filth, forget that you usually have to clean the tub before you get in the tub, let’s just really say why all women should hate it.

Water in the (she points to her vagina).

One time, a long time ago—my last bath, in fact—I sat in a tub because I thought it would relax me. I thought I was the very picture of a young, hip woman who takes baths to relax. I lit candles, played music, the whole bit. And then, with my skin both supple and wrinkled, I went to meet friends. I lived in the city then, my life was all Sex and the City. Ha! I was getting off the metro and walking down Connecticut Avenue when—

Gush!

There’s no other way to put it. A gush of water so utterly fast and complete and sopping. I stooped as if to tie my shoes—I don’t even think my shoes had laces—and there was the spreading stain of tub water all over my light beige pants.

Cargo pants were in that year.

I didn’t know it then, but it was worse than your water breaking. Of course because at least then, everyone knows you’re having a baby. I don’t know if anyone saw, but I looked like I wet my pants. I know, I didn’t smell of urine. I know, we’re all human. But really.

It’s like when I saw a man have diarrhea on the bus. It’s human, but really. Last time I ever took a bus.

But can I tell you that not only have I never taken a bath again, I mean who would? But now I have to think about how much water can fit up there. I probably have body image issues. I know I do. You should probably write that down. But that’s not part of this story.

Stay tuned. . .

The Expletive

Today. My mother is in hospice.

Again.

You don’t think people come out of hospice.

But my mother is not people.

 

Last time she lived on diet ginger ale and coffee, and she waited for death.

We said good-bye.

Then she ate a grilled cheese sandwich.

 

This time, no food and no drink. No more diet ginger ale. No more coffee.

Will it take?

 

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, she tells me.

The expletive.

I teach my students not to use expletives.  

I’m not referring to shit or fuck; I like a sailor’s mouth.

 

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, my mother tells me.

She speaks in expletives. I have no idea what “it” she refers to.

Deciding to go into hospice, I ask.

To die, she tells me. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to try and die.

Mining Old Writing

I wrote this under a different name in a different place in a different publication. And still, it’s the same. You have to find joy.

“Love, far from being blind, is the very emotion that allows us to see,” writes Cristina Nehring in her new book, A Vindication of Love (Harper 2009). In her opening chapter, Nehring argues that “[i]t is the only state of mind in which one is entirely and uncompromisingly open to another person.” She reclaims the countermovement: Love is wise. But are the two incompatible? Isn’t “love is blind,” short for “I see past your shortcomings to your true and lovable self?” I fear the author’s hook—an attack of a proverb—begins with mere tautology. Because to me, love is at once blind and wise.

With enchanting language, Nehring asks, “Why is it that we so often see people differently—and more darkly—after passion has passed? Could it be not because our vision improves after the fog of infatuation clears, but—for the opposite reason—because it deteriorates?” She answers her own questions several paragraphs later: “What happens when we cease to love is that we return to the world of surfaces and stereotypes.”

I don’t disagree, wholly. When love is strong and new, we are engaged with the world in hyperdrive. We read more, create more, exercise more, fuck more, grow more. And because it is new, and the attachment fresh, we forgive or even find charming the small idiosyncrasies (may I say turn a blind eye to them?) that would chafe if anyone else performed the same act.

Adam would be down to his last dollar and still buy the fancy Italian tuna in olive oil. No Bumble Bee for him, he was making tonnato sauce to accompany grilled swordfish. Forget Starkist. Not that he could even afford swordfish. I paid for it. As I paid for most our meals, when just plain salt, just plain mustard, just plain olive oil wouldn’t do. He was an excellent cook, he made each meal romantic and so, of course, I found his incessant overspending charming.

We do see the deeper person, the potential of that inner person, the reflection of our better self even. And this allows us to surf over the waves of dysfunction that lurk underneath.

On those nights, I would be his loving sous chef and we would prepare course after course at our own pace. Figs dressed with goat cheese and aged balsamic followed by sex on the kitchen floor. Spring pea soup with a dollop of crème fraiche, diver scallops seared and served over wilted escarole followed by dancing to Sinatra’s I’ve Got the World on a String. And then there was dessert, often cheese and nuts, sometimes a panna cotta. I saw his inner creative and nurturing soul, the person he wanted to be. And in that I saw the reflection of the kinder, softer person I could be.

This is wise, but it is a form of blindness nonetheless. And when the love fades—what does Nehring mean? Love, the urgent kind she speaks of, fades and one of two things happen: Urgent love fades and evolves into something more beautiful. Life is no longer in hyperdrive—we are refocused on the nitty-gritty and not creating as much, not exercising as much and not fucking as much. But a deeper honesty—a deeper intimacy—is achieved because the now annoying idiosyncrasies get addressed (put the toilet seat down, avoid the beans before bed), the dysfunctions faced, and ultimately more personal growth achieved. This second phase of love, to me, is the truest love. This is the deeper connection.

After five years living together and managing the financial turbulence of two freelance careers, his nose turned up at vegetables in a marina sauce for a cheap one-pot meal was no longer charming. It was annoying. This wasn’t love fading, this was me seeing past the romantic gesture to the dysfunction underneath. We talked. I understood what fine cooking meant to him after a childhood eating powdered mashed potatoes and sterile casseroles, how meditative cooking was for him, how he liked to nurture me. We adjusted our budget to spend more on food and he became more economical. We grew closer, more intimate. And who knew you could braise ever-economical sausage and sauerkraut to gourmet levels? Just add the juniper berries.

The other option is that love fades, hearts are broken, and grief ensues. To love again, a necessary refocusing takes place. A return to the surface with this person becomes necessary to break the attachment and move forward.

Sure, I resist returning to a shallow stereotype of Adam. My loyal friends returned there quickly so I can feel protected and loved by them and still heal without scars. My oldest friend calls him an immature, despicable dickhead. My mother calls him an idiotic disappointment. I’ve found myself referring to him as the depressive. But I haven’t resorted to food snob. Nehring calls this a reassertion of blindness, but isn’t this reassertion just making a long story short? This seems necessary; otherwise, each introduction of Adam would be a treatise. I would have to discuss how much I love him still even though I am well on the road to healing. I would have to explain that despite his penchant for depression, withdrawal and general self-destructive tendencies, I am who I am because of Adam. For one, I am a much better cook. He is who he is because of me. We are a dysfunctional family. To me, that is not blindness reasserting itself; for even after love, it is both blind and wise.