“How did they meet?” he asked looking into the fire. “What did you hear?”
“At a funeral,” she answered, looking at the same fire. She picked up the fire iron and stirred the cedar wood until it flamed up.
“Me too,” he said. “That’s what I heard. A murder. A family feud or something. Then a shootout.”
He looked at the waitress hoping his glance would get them another drink.
“Grandpa was from Coyote,” she started. “One of his cousins was killed by someone from grandma’s family, from Chimayo.”
“And the way I heard it,” he went on. “Grandma’s dad came to the fucking funeral. Like Banquo’s ghost or something.”
“Not sure that’s the right allusion, sweetie,” she said staring into the fire, a smile growing at the edges of her face.
“Maybe you’re right,” he conceded. “Grandma’s cousin or something was the guilty one. I’m out of allusions. Point is, what was he thinking?”
“He was looking for forgiveness.”
“That’s fucked up.”
“It got pretty tense,” she said. “There’s a highway there, and the vigil the night before ended, and in the morning they started a procession toward the cemetery on the other side of the highway.”
“How do you know these details,” he asked.
“Because I listen,” she said. “That’s my job. Your job is talking, mine is listening.”
He knew that he should be pissed off and irritated. Even hurt. But she was right. His job was talking. Her’s was listening.
“So the procession moved across the highway,” he said. “And they way they told me, Grandma’s dad, I guess Great Grandpa showed up on the highway holding her hand.”
“Yes,” she said. “What an image. The two of them standing in the road watching the procession. Then there were gunshots.”
“I don’t know.”
“Grandma ran, and hid under the floorboards of a patio. So did Grandpa. That’s where they met. Hiding under the slats, looking up through them, listening to shooting.”
“That’s pretty fucked up,” he said, pulling out a cocktail stick with four olives.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Some people might say it’s romantic.”
“Yeah,” he said. “First date at 12, hiding from gun play at funeral. That’s pretty sexy. Almost as good as the way we met.”
Some silence passed. He was happy to be confirming these stories with someone else. That he loved her, and that she was the source of most of his thoughts made it better.
“Here’s your allusion,” she said leaning over and looking at him intensely, her green eyes holding the reflection of the fire’s flame. “Henry and Elizabeth.”
He felt aroused as he often did when she said something perfect. But he knew he would have to hold himself in reserve so he wouldn’t seem weak and fawning.
“Right,” he said. “Chimayo is York and Coyote is Lancaster. That makes you Elizabeth the first and me, what, Lord Darnley? Or something.”
She laughed and crossed her legs on the chair.
“I think the analogy breaks down after that.”
“Grandma, though,” he said. “I see her in you. I feel her. I think she’s still around. She’s watching all this.”
They were quiet as the fire crackled.
“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”
Book of Job
Chapter 4, Verse 6
The adobe house had a long driveway, and when cars would come and go, dust would flair up, especially in the dry summer air. Her husband was driving off, and the dust was lit up red as it swirled behind the car.
She held a baby on her hip as she moved some things around on the stove. She had a purpose this morning. She had been patient waiting for him to leave.
She put the baby on the floor; he was fed. The other children were asleep. So, she moved to the bedroom and to a cabinet. She opened it, drying her hands on her dress. She pushed around his things, bibles, books, hats and handkerchiefs. It all smelled like him.
She pushed the suits and clothes back and forth on their hangers. Then she knelt down and saw a box. She reached in and pulled it out.
“She had nine kids,” she said. “Nine.”
“Are you sure?” he wondered.
“Yes, there were nine kids. There was . . .” she was ready to start naming the names.
“No, you don’t have to name all the aunts and uncles,” he said. “Yes, that’s the number I remember too, nine kids.”
“And the way I heard it was,” she said, “Grandpa was a philanderer.”
“Yeah,” he said. “He was running around with some other woman and she decided to do something about it.”
“What do you think about him?” she asked. “I think he was a real son of a bitch.”
“Well,” he said. “I haven’t really heard his side of the story.”
“I don’t think you need to,” she said. “I think the story tells itself. I don’t think there’s any sides.”
“Well, maybe,” he said. “But there’s always an explanation for things. Things get more complicated the more you know.”
“That’s true,” she said. “But I think it’s pretty plain the guy was an asshole. I don’t’ think you need any more information than what we’ve already talked about.”
“I’m not trying to defend the guy,” he said. “But I’m just saying, I just don’t know enough about him. I never talked to her about this either.”
“Neither did I,” she said. “I wanted to.”
“Why didn’t you?” he asked. “Your Spanish was always better than mine.”
“That’s an understatement,” she said. “You never even tried to speak Spanish. But it never seemed like the right time to dig into it with her.”
“Then I guess we have to depend on what we’ve heard already,” he said.
“Sometimes this shit skips a generation,” she said.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “Don’t make this about me and what I did.”
“I think it’s worth thinking about,” she said. “Isn’t the past prologue. Doesn’t their story say something about ours?”
“They prayed to the same God,” he said. “You have to remember that both of them held on to the same religion, the same faith until the end. How does that work?”
“There it is, right there,” she said. “Illusions and denial are sometimes stronger than common sense.”
“Now you seem to be making this effort between us to remember,” he said, “Into something about us, about me.”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” she said. “What I’m saying is that we’re all tied together with these people. It’s all part of what we are.”
“Yeah, that’s true. But I feel like you’re implying that somehow or another I’m like him.”
“Well, I don’t know. Maybe you are.”
“C’mon that’s just not fair. Maybe a little bit. Maybe there’s something about his lack of his commitment,” he said.
“Do you feel that way?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I look at these people and I admire them in many ways.”
“Grandpa, you admire him?”
“Well, what I mean is that they were dealing with this shit as best as they could. You knew grandma as well as I did.”
“I did,” she said. “Maybe better because I spoke Spanish to her.”
He avoided her efforts to start an argument about his Spanish speaking abilities.
“All I know is that he’s part of who we are and part of who I am,” he said. “I can’t deny that. And wouldn’t deny that. But am I like him? I’d have to think about that. I’d have to think about that for a while.”
“I heard he was a terrible singer,” she said, “But a very good preacher.”
“Are you saying you don’t like my singing?” he asked. “You are saying I’m like him. Fine. I won’t sing to you anymore.”
“Oh, c’mon sweetie,” she laughed. “Don’t be a baby. I love it when you sing to me. But not when you preach.”
“Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.”
Book of Job
Chapter 8, Verse 22
She set the box on the bed, their bed. It was a cigar box, but it was full of paper not cigars. Not just paper, letters. She started reading them.
“Your hands, they are rough. I love how they feel on my skin. And what can I say about your green eyes, the way they look at me when you fill me.”
She seethed inside as she read the words.
“When we’re done, I love to nuzzle your armpits, and bury myself in you.”
She knew it. She knew the woman’s name. She lived just up the road, past the end of the driveway. The woman was married.
She went back to the kitchen. She turned on the radio. She heard Cuco Sánchez singing Guitarras, lloren guitarras.
A pecho abierto
Un canto que haga temblar
Que es el gran puerto
Donde unos llegan
Y otros se van
She went to a kitchen drawer and dumped it on the floor. Knives, spoons, forks, and ladles clattered on the tile. She wanted a weapon nobody would notice but large enough to do damage. She kneeled down and searched for just the right one. She tucked different knives in her dress and apron trying out how well she could conceal it. The noise woke a son. He walked out, bleary eyed.
De cada cuerda
Llorando a mares
“Que te pasa, mama?” the boy asked.
“Nada,” she said as she was on her knees sorting through weapons.
She felt a sudden urgency and grabbed the largest knife and left everything else on the floor. She took the letters from the box she’d set on a counter, and stuffed them down the front of her dress. She put the knife in a pocket in her apron. She practiced drawing it, like a sword from a sheath. She thought about how satisfying it would be to kill the woman.
“Vamos,” she said, grabbing the boy’s hand.
“You’re a religion guy, a philosophy guy,” she said. “How do you explain all this shit?”
“Why we’re here? How all this happened?” he asked, and then went on. “Why we feel this way about each other? How do we fix it? How do we make it stop?”
“How do you explain it?” she asked again.
“How do I explain it?” he repeated. “I can’t explain it, except that I know that this is how it turned out.”
“Well can’t we fix it? Can’t we undo this shit? Can’t we make it stop?”
“Can I stop loving you?” he wondered and kept on. “Can you stop loving me? Do we want to? Do you want to?”
He didn’t expect such a firm, ‘no’ from her. There was no coyness or silence. Her firm clear answer was so uncharacteristic he doubted it and thought about challenging her. Was it so clear because she felt it was genuinely true, or did she answer swiftly to avoid hurting his feelings, something she had no problem doing? Instead fighting it, he silently chose to take her answer and its apparent certainty and firmness as a point in his column, a win.
“What difference does it make why it’s this way? It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I mean this is how it’s turning out for us. This is, I guess, what we’re supposed to do.”
“No, we’re not. We can do whatever we want.”
“We can? Hmmm. Right. I can give up on you, and you can give up on me,” he said. “Grandma could have walked out of that fucking house and become a movie star. And there it would be in the Wikipedia article, about how she overcame her hardscrabble background.”
“Are you saying we stay in a situation no matter how fucked up it is or how fucked up it becomes?”
“Yes, we have choice. But we’ve chosen. This whole family is a mess. Yes. But this is what we do. We get a mess, we make the mess worse, and then we hand the mess over to the next people. That’s what we do.”
“I don’t find that satisfying,” she said. “That’s not an answer. That’s not the answer.”
“Apparently you do, because here we are.”
“Oh, fuck that.”
“I don’t think there is a satisfying answer to these questions.”
“Except the answers we make up.”
“Now, on that we agree.”
“We do?” she said with some suspicion.
“Yes, we have to make up the answer. Nobody is going to come out of a whirlwind and give us the answer. We have to work with what we know and what we have.”
“God?” she asked raising her eyebrows and drilling into his eyes with hers.
“Even if He did or Shiva or Brahma or whatever, would we know what to fucking do with the answer He gave us? We have thousands of years’ worth of literature documenting God talking to us, and we still argue over it. Krishna in the Chariot, God talking to Job, the Roswell flying saucer crash. Nobody buys it.”
“You know what I mean,” he said. “We have to make the best of what we’ve got.”
“You’re saying, ‘make the best of it,’ but you’re really saying ‘fake the best of it.’ It’s all bullshit.”
“No. C’mon. One thing we agree on is that we build our lives,” he said. “You can call it faking it, but nobody is in charge of that but you and me. Think of the stoics, control what you can and accept the rest. Build the boat with what’s on the beach.”
“We don’t agree on what the materials we’re using to build it though. I think its truth, you think its tradition.”
“I like that,” he said, relishing her phrasing and smiling at her. He almost winked. But he worried that might set her off. “But if you and me, our lives, are a story about fighting over that, what we are using to build our lives, then that’s good enough for me.”
“Sometimes I want to strangle you and sometimes this is fun.”
“Let’s keep it fun. I don’t want you killing me in my sleep. How about another drink?”
“And tonight, Franny, you can have my olives.”
“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?”
Book of Job
Chapter 11, Verse 7
She marched out the door and down the driveway. As she left, the radio was playing Elvira Quintana singing A La Noche Con La Luna.
Vamos a cerrarlo
La puerta pasado
Vamos entrar lo
Alla lo olvidados
No voltemos nunca
Atras en la vida
Y vamos querido
Como nadia a mi querido
A la noche con la luna.
She held her son’s hand as she walked purposefully toward the woman’s house. Along the way, she took her hair down from its tight bun on the top of her head.
When they arrived, she pounded on the door. She didn’t knock. She beat the door with her left hand as hard as she could, holding her son’s hand with her right.
“Abre la puerta, puta,” she shouted. “Esta la hora de tu muerte!”
Bang, bang, bang.
The door flew open. It was the woman’s husband.
“Get off my property, bitch,” he says. He was holding a gun in his right hand. “Go home!”
She stood there for a moment. Then she took the letters and threw them at his feet. She stared at him and their eyes locked.
“Puedes leer?” she asked. “Entonces, leer esa.”
She turned and walked away, still holding her son’s hand. They marched back home. She opened the door, picked up the baby. She put her hair back up. She changed the radio to a different station. Now Marty Robbins, I’ll Go on Alone was playing.
There’s nothing we can do it seems
We’ll never get along
With you believing like you do
You say I live so wrong
But I can’t change my way of life
I’ve lived it much too long
You’ll either take me like I am
Or I’ll go on alone
“So, she walked up there” she said, her voice warm with admiration. “And could have killed that woman or been killed.”
“That’s what I understand,” he said. “But what I can’t understand is what got into these people.”
“Well, she’s a woman. She was pushed to the limit.”
“I still don’t understand the violence.”
“Imagine having nine kids. Nine kids,” she explained. “And this guy, your husband, the father, is roaming the earth, running around, cheating on you. And then he’s preaching sermons. It’s bound to drive you crazy.”
“But at some point, don’t you get a hold of yourself.”
“That’s easy for you to say, you’re a man.”
“This is what I don’t understand about you. It’s not about that.”
“Of course, it is, she was a woman in a world that was run by men, men that said that they talked to God, and worked for God, and were with God, and for God.”
“I can imagine what it would have been like to be her.”
“No, you can’t.”
“Well, OK, I can’t.”
There was a pause. She looked at him sternly.
“OK, I can’t, but I want to.”
“No, you don’t.”
“I don’t want to imagine what it was like to be her?”
“No, you don’t. You don’t have a clue what it is like to be a woman.”
“No, I don’t. I’m a man. How am I supposed to understand or even have a clue what it’s like to be a woman except to want to understand?”
“You’re so much a man that you don’t even want to understand what it’s like to be a woman. You can’t. You won’t. And you don’t want to. Being a man means you don’t want to understand what it’s like to be a woman, except just to say that you do want to.”
There was a pause. She wound herself down a bit, not wanting to open another front, another topic.
“Fuck, that is one vicious circle. And once again,” he ventured. “I think, you’re imposing something on me, on everyone, on men in general that is just not true.”
“You refuse to accept the inaccessibility of certain things,” she said flatly, “Some things are inaccessible to you.”
“I know what you’re talking about,” he said his words filling with slightly more agitation as each one left his mouth, “Because every time I try to break across that boundary, every time I reach across it, to become vulnerable, you tell me I can’t.”
“I can’t? Then why should I even bother to try?”
“Because you’re supposed to.”
“That is what you consider to be love, a relentless but hopeless effort to access the inaccessible.”
“Because I say so.”
“That’s the kind of statement that makes me think we’re no different than them.”
“Maybe we’re not.”
“The Godless in heart cherish anger; they do not cry for help when he binds them.”
Book of Job
Chapter 36, Verse 13
She found the knife in her apron and laughed to herself. She put it and all the others away in the drawer. She put together the pressure cooker filled with beans. Tonight, there would be a church meeting, led by her husband. She needed to prepare the food.
When the people arrived that evening, she was exhausted from cooking and arranging things in the tiny house to accommodate all the people. Cars began to arrive. People started coming in and sitting down. She greeted them. Then her husband walked through the door.
She staid as officious as she could be. Her husband introduced her to the group of people now sitting in the kitchen. She started to speak about her day, and about how she walked up the road to kill her husband’s lover; how she took her son with her. Then he pushed her into the bedroom and took off his belt and beat her. She screamed as loud as she could, she fought back with everything she had.
Some of the men at the meeting came in and held her down. There was a rug in one of the rooms. She was kicking and screaming. They held her down. One of the men suggested rolling her up in the rug. They carried her there, set her down, and rolled her tightly in the rug so she couldn’t punch or kick them. Only her head was sticking out.
“Take her,” he says.
“We will,” the other man says.
They carried her off into one of the cars parked in that long driveway. And they disappeared in a cloud of dust.
“Lo siento,” her husband said to the group. Then he called for singing a hymn. “Grande es Tu Fidelidad, por favor,” he said to the musicians. Everyone began to sing.
Oh tu fidelidad
Oh tu fidelidad
La veo en mi
Nada me falta
Pues todo provees,
Es tu fidelidad!
“Rolling her up in the blanket, taking her away like that,” he said. “I understand they gave her shock treatments.”
“That’s what I heard too, shock treatments,” she said. “That’s horrible.”
“I’ve seen that shock treatments actually might not be so bad after all as a treatment.”
“Of course, you’d think that,” she said glaring at him. “You probably think I’d benefit from a few treatments.”
“I think maybe we both could,” he said smiling at her. “Maybe we could use a lightning bolt.”
She didn’t take the bait. She didn’t roll her eyes or make a face. She pressed on.
“The whole mental health system then and today was arrayed against women, crazy women that weren’t crazy at all; they were standing up for themselves. And to torture them? You know what they did to Emmeline Pankhurst and her followers. The forced feeding. The way you think about things is fucked up.”
“You can’t consider anything without this institutional frame,” he responded evenly. “It is always with you, that something has to be identified as ‘the cause’ and then everything turned upside down, inverted, to fix it.”
“That system is there to reprogram people.”
“Institutions evolve, they change, and they are there for us; it’s an ongoing relationship. You mention Pankhurst, eventually Margaret Thatcher was elected. As for Grandma, the woman had a breakdown; it was what they thought would help at the time.”
“You’re always willing to contextualize the most fucked up shit!” she said louder. “Margaret Fucking Thatcher. Really? Grandma had a breakdown because she was being abused, tortured by her fucked up husband. And you think she should have gotten shock treatments? That’s what you’re saying. I can’t believe I ever slept with you.”
“That’s what I’m saying. That’s what I’m saying? I don’t even know what I’m saying. She is my grandmother. That’s what I’m saying. All I want is that somehow, that this, all of this, turn out for the best.”
“Happily, ever after. That’s how you think,” she said, pausing and looking down at her glass. “Things will just fix themselves and we’ll all live happily ever after, like Cinderella.”
There was a longer pause and they regrouped, edging back into their corners.
“My mom said that when grandma came back,” he said, returning to the center of the ring, “After all that, the shock treatments and all that.”
“When she came back, she had bruises, like…”
“Like what? Where?”
“Like where the shackles were.”
“Yes, shackles. They must have restrained her.”
“Yeah, there were, my mom said she saw, on her wrists on and ankles.”
“From the shackles?”
“Yeah. They had her, well, restrained. Tied down.”
The gravity of the memory and the image had an effect on their usual rhythm. The thought of the woman they knew and admired and loved shackled brought them back toward each other.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“I’m sorry, too,” she said to meet him halfway.
“I’m sorry,” he said again for nothing in particular but himself.
“What are you sorry for?” she started.
“I didn’t mean to…” he said sensing the fists rising.
“Me neither,” she said, only to agree to nothing in particular, but just to agree, to end an argument about what exactly they were sorry for, and if they were really sorry at all.
“I love you,” he said leaning across the table.
“Yeah,” she said. “Well, I,” she said and paused looking down then up at him again, “love you too.”
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” God
Book of Job
Chapter 38, Verse 4
“Twist some dials, and the machine trembles, two robot arms pick up soldering irons and hunch down on him. He gives me the wink and speaks to me, muffled, tells me something, says something to me around that rubber hose just as those irons get close enough to the silver on his temples—light arcs across, stiffens him, bridges him up off the table till nothing is down but his wrists and ankles and out around that crimped black rubber hose a sound like hooeee! and he’s frosted over completely with sparks. And out the window the sparrows drop smoking off the wire.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
“Why won’t you cooperate?” the doctor asked.
“No intiendo,” she said.
“I know what that means,” he said adjusting his glasses off the bridge of his nose. “I know what that means.”
He wore a shirt of violent green with a tag: “Kenneth.” She would never know if that was his first or his last name, but he was a Kenneth.
“No intiendo,” she said again calmly.
“Yes,” he said, exasperated. “Yes, you don’t understand. Right. That’s just your way of saying you won’t cooperate.”
He walked away. Her arms were fastened around her chest and locked together with shackles and chains behind her back. She was tired. It had been days. Her feet were shackled too. Because she had threatened someone, she was considered dangerous, criminally insane.
The doctor returned.
“Because you, well, don’t understand,” he said, “We’re going to try something different.”
She really didn’t understand. She couldn’t deal with her rage, her hurt, her anger. She longed for her children. But right now, that was blurred by her desire for something else. She prayed.
“Dios,” she’d say under her breath, “Dios mio, Señor Jesus Cristo, ten piedad de mi.” She’d say this over and over. Over and over. Over and over.
Orderlies put her on a gurney, secured her to the bed, and wheeled her into a small room. A man sat with a small box on a table. They moved various things around the room.
“Dios mio, Señor Jesus Cristo, ten piedad de mi.”
The restraints were tightened and someone put something smelly on her temples and stuffed a piece of rubber in her mouth. It happened fast.
“Ready,” somebody said.
“Dios mio, Señor Jesus Cristo . . .”
The electricity hit her and she bit down on the piece of rubber. When it subsided, she had memories course through her mind. Her dad was there, picking her up and holding her. She could hear sparrows buzzing and chirping. She fell asleep.
After a few days she was going home. There was a box on her cot and in it was a red plaid wool dress she remembered. She put it on and sat and waited. They wheeled her out to a waiting room in wheel chair where her husband waited with his hat in his hand. He spoke to the doctor and they shook hands.
They drove home in silence. She found herself watching the passing country side with a feeling of peace. Something had changed. She knew it was her prayer.
“Dios mio, Señor Jesus Cristo, ten piedad de mi.”
When the car pulled down the long drive dust stirred up into the wind. Children and dogs came running toward the car. She hugged as many as she could. She was happy to be back home.
When she sat in a chair, one of her daughters asked her about the bruises on wrists and ankles where shackles had been.
“Mama,” asked the little girl touching the bruises, “Que es eso?”
“Nada, hita,” she said picking up the girl. “Nada.”
“You believe in God, don’t you?” she asked.
“Oh boy, here we go,” he said exhaling and leaning back in his chair.
“Well, don’t you?”
“I don’t believe in the God you don’t believe in.”
“You and your spontaneous order bullshit,” she said laying the premise. “If everything just falls into place, then doesn’t the idea of spontaneous order fall apart when you put a God in the picture, a maker, an unmoved mover?”
“Now that, my dear, is a good question. That is a really good question.”
“Don’t patronize me.”
“I’m not. Remember that old guy in the boat from Vernon, Florida, the Errol Morris film.”
“See, that was a good film,” she said shifting tone suddenly. “This is what baffles me about you, is that I love things about you, like that movie. I’m happy you introduced me to Errol Morris. He’s a great film maker. But what about spontaneous order?”
“OK, well, you remember he’s paddling that canoe,” he said sensing an opening, “And he talks about the unbelievers who say the world just happened. Remember, he said they always say, ‘That just happened.’”
“Well, he says, ‘That just happened’ is God, ‘Let’s just call God that – ‘That just happened.’ Spontaneous order is God.”
“That’s at least circular reasoning if not affirming the consequent.”
“OK, professor,” he said. “You did better in logic than I did.”
“Which is hilarious,” she laughed shaking her head. “And so is the idea that God is the market.”
“It’s value exchange, not “the market,” you know I hate that term.”
“God is capitalism! That’s your whole philosophy right there. That’s as funny as it is fucked.”
“No. That’s not it. It’s Leviathan, it’s what Hobbes calls sovereignty.”
“So, God is what? God is us?”
“Got it! Yes, God is us. Think of tát tvam ási, ‘thou art that.’ The Upanishads.”
“Oh, Jesus. Your version of Hinduism.”
“Every concept of God has seemingly illogical nuances, because any concept of God necessarily puts the concept outside of things we can conceive of easily, like the Trinity.”
“You’re just restating Durkheim here,” she said, feeling like she was about to put him right in his place, “Elevating value exchange as you call it, to the status of the Godhead. God is society becomes God is people buying things on the internet. That’s truly the apotheosis of bull shit capitalist ideology.”
“I can see where this argument is going,” he said wearily. “But seriously, I’d rather have Hobbes’ notion of sovereignty, people coming together spontaneously and ordering their society and government out of necessity, than you and your friends dictating the ideal society from the faculty lounge.”
“That’s a gross mischaracterization of socialism and my work. Powerful individuals and groups take charge of that process you described and manipulate it for their own gain and profit; it’s not spontaneous and it isn’t out of necessity, it’s designed to keep some on top. You just buy into it, literally.”
“Now we’ve drifted away from grandma into economics again,” he scolded.
“Yeah, when the real reasons are exposed, suddenly we’ve drifted off topic. Her suffering was at the hands of that patriarchal system, plain and simple.”
“That’s reductionist, although what you’re saying isn’t without some merit. But if we’re talking about change, we’re talking about people, individuals not systems.”
“Of course, it is systems versus individuals.”
“But it was her strength and determination in spite of that system, even within that system and in its rules that she raised her children and survived. And that’s what people do, because they have to. Then that system changes, evolves.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said decisively.
“She fought hard for her children, raised them and now here we are, her descendants, arguing about God.”
“You’re not saying anything different from what I just said. It’s people fighting the system.”
“Yes, but she didn’t do what she did because was reading Critique of the Gotha Program, she did it out of necessity, using her intuition and intention, her will, not ideology.”
“But your way, just getting out of the way of the individual leads to the strong winning every time, and that’s what happened. She had nine kids, that’s like slavery. That was imposed by the strong. We need ideas and ideals for individuals to direct their strength and energy.”
“She was strong and things happen because they’re supposed to happen. We don’t get ideas until necessity has given them to us.”
“By the way honey,” she said sweetly, “Durkheim is passe. I know you’ve been in politics longer than you were in graduate school. You probably have never heard of Georges Bataille.”
“Oh yes, the God is Red crowd,” he mocked.
“Copernicus didn’t just discover that the sun is the center of the universe,” she pressed. “We have that system, that view because it was and is an idea, and idea that stands outside what people can know looking out their window. People who don’t know basic algebra know our solar system because it is an idea and a story, a narrative.”
“Yes, but the math still matters.”
“But if we don’t impose a better order, and organize people into groups that can fight, then individuals like grandma become victims of that system. Copernicus in a room with math can’t shift power away from the Catholic Church; it takes a movement.”
“That’s a great speech. Where do I sign up and pick up my armband and uniform?”
“This conversation has turned into intellectual theater.”
“I don’t know. I think it’s sexy.”
“Oh yeah? I’ll get the check.”
“AND I ONLY AM ESCAPED ALONE TO TELL THEE” Job.
The drama’s done. Why then here does any one step forth?—Because one did survive the wreck”
— Moby Dick, Herman Melville
“Last call,” the waitress said.
“That’s too bad,” he said. “We’re just getting started. Any place open after this? Where are you going after?”
“He can’t help himself,” she said. She took the fire iron and put it on his chest.
“Just the check,” he said looking at her, smiling awkwardly.
“You’re such a dick,” she said throwing the iron on the stones of the hearth.
“Fuck, honey,” he said. “You’re such a hard ass sometimes.”
“You’re such a dumb ass sometimes,” she said.
“Yes, indeed,” he said.
“We need to do this again,” he said. “Comparing family stories. I feel like we’ve survived a shipwreck or something.”
“Yes,” she said glaring at him. “If you can stop pissing me off.”