Over 50 years and 50 pounds ago she must have been a woman who spoke only one language — body. Put the pup in a man’s tent. And no one ever ‘squandered’ the time ‘sleeping’ with her.
But eventually yearning faces stopped turning up and she sadly started turning hers down. She despaired. Gravity went to work. And finally she gave up. Instead of the hands of eager lovers, there was only the icy winter winds ripping at her clothes…
Until he came along. And soon the snow drifts melted. In time, they got to sharing the same hearth and home. But eventually it happened. Her church came along. Even though she was in her youthful grandmotherly years with grown children, the Baptist gave her a choice: Your way to hell…or the church’s way to heaven.
Let me ponder the solemnity of such an eternal life choice – for a nanosecond. And the reason I’ve got to deliberate even that long is that Linda approached me the other day with the hurt still lingering in her soft eyes two-and-one-half years later.
And as I am often asked to recall: G-d is far; man is near.
She somehow recognized me jawing in line in a butcher shop along Philadelphia’s 9th Street Italian Market. I was trying to disengage from talking with an overly self-indulgent couple. A cannibal’s banquet, they were. I swanny: They had more chins than a Chinese phone book.
But their immediate monstrous misdemeanor was the massive over-consumption of my allotted share of oxygen. Hell, you could have burned her bra to heat half the Northeast.
Now they were tisking and tusking about the just resigned CIA director and retired General David Patraeus. How one wrong turn ripped the covers right off his king-size bed of exceptional and honorable service to G-d and country.
How on earth could this brilliant leader – though admittedly somewhat of a geek — get caught up doing what they found impossible to fathom. Even though it is what most any man is all too often reduced to: Sticking his gander up one more goose.
Whoops! Was that you honking, dear?
“And after 38 years of marriage…” sadly exhaled Porky and Miss Piggy.
Hmm… After 38 years – of anything! — I would have stuck my winkie on a butcher’s block. In fact, I think my last future-ex-wife already did.
Isn’t it amazing that we so easily see in others what we find so difficult to see in ourselves?
“Would you schtoop her? The wife?” I asked the man who obviously hadn’t seen his ‘little’ piggys since his feet got so small. “Or, how about Hillary? Or even Mamie Eisenhower…”
They got to hemming and hawing. I wasn’t about to wait around until these pigs turned kosher.
“A man’s winky never dies,” I said rather dismissively. “Man does what man has been doing for the last 5 million years.” I paused to assess their beachball red and white faces before adding: “I heard tell that even a good Boy Scout takes a turn for the nurse now and again. Even for a male nurse…”
Obviously, any thought more taxing or appetizing than the making of hamburgers clogged up their gas pipes. With discomfiting heartburn they burped something about being good Christians. And I, with some acid reflux, proffered: “I heard that the good founder of the Church of England beheaded a wife…or two…”
Such heresy got lost in all their physical and psychological underwater caverns. The wife suddenly wondered aloud: “And what’s the woman – Petraeus’ wife — supposed to do?”
Before I could respond, Linda, in a voice simmering on brassy blues, approached and injected: “Feed the dog…A dog that gets fed keeps coming home…”
Hmm… Who let the dawgs out?
We men are such simple, easy-to-please fools. We’re dogs?
At that Linda introduced herself with the question: “Didn’t you go to Christian Stronghold Church?”
I don’t quite fathom why 4,000 black congregants there readily seem to recognize me all over town. I must look a tad different. Maybe it has something to do with the way one or two many of my landsmen parted more than just the biblical Red Sea…
But of course…
“Still do,” I replied. “You still there?”
She smiled softly and looked up at me kindly. “I got one of those letters…Two-and-a-half years ago now. Since my man and I were living together, but not married… the letter said I was no longer welcomed at the church…”
It still pained her to speak of it. Obviously some old wounds never truly heal. Only takes a word to get them bleeding. “I never quite made peace with it,” she said. “How they did it. In a letter…”
I was about to bring up about how they did the same thing to a church deacon a couple years back.
But then I shivered with the distant thought that perhaps this was the woman with whom the deacon had found summer again, after his deceased wife’s long suffering illness left him out in the cold.
So I only offered that the church has some strong and strange rules. Almost like the military. In fact, I said, I understand that adultery, under the rules of Petraeus’ Army, is punishable. A court-martial offense.
But, obviously, as I am apt to point out the obvious, “the rules have never stopped men and women from doing what men and women have always done. Has it?”
Since when, she wondered out loud, did a church get to be a military….
Perhaps since: “Onward Christian soldiers…” I started to sing glumly, but then halted abruptly when her plump middle aged daughter approached us. She was garbed in a full, black hijab.
Hmm… A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim all under the same roof – so be it in a butcher shop. In America… What a country!… Talk about the making of hamburger.
Linda told me that she and ‘her man’ have joined another church. “They’re more open. They accept us,” she related. That is: No questions. No peeking in bedroom windows. No deciding how your private life should be between you and your G-d. No demanding choices…Judged on your many good deeds, not damned by your celebrity… Mercy and Grace and all that…
“All people find a road to heaven,” she said.
“And hell,” I added.
I didn’t ask any questions of Linda. You know, like her not desiring to get married again. What would such questions serve? In our moment of time Linda told me what she told me. I know there is so much more and so many more sides to every story.
Like Petraeus’ hearsay. All that matters is what you are willing to believe. Or not believe. Or want to believe. Or what you need to believe… and so forth, ad nauseam.
What fools be us one and all…What liars, betrayers, adulterers, cheats, pedophiles, beasts, barbarians and the rest…
But, in the end: does any of it really matter? Other than treating another the way you would like to be treated.
I mean, except for the Schadenfreude, does anything really ever change? Other than just for a moment, a pause before we repeat the same old story again and again?
Linda’s and Petraeus’ tales are older than our own once-wagging tails. They are older than the Hatfields and McCoys, Shakespeare and Greek tragedies.
Yet we persist. We stand in judgment of one another, supposedly for one sake or duh other. And we no longer know why. That is, if we ever truly did. The truth is nothing but another illusion buried in the ‘Grand Lie.’ And so we rely on faith. Because in the end, what else really is there?
The truth – if there ever be such an anomaly – doesn’t ever really matter. All that matters is what people are so willingly led to believe.
All stories are pretty much the same of love, lies and glory. Those of a man, no matter how brilliant and successful, tripping over his winky. Those of a woman, no matter how beautiful and talented, seduced by the aphrodisiac of ambition and powerful men.
A woman supposedly loves a man who loves her passionately. A man more readily prefers a woman who already prefers him than one with a great pair of… In other words: A man simply needs a place. A woman needs a reason.
In between there is all the treachery. Vanity. Wealth. Power. Greed. Disappointments and self flagellations…
Our lives are disparate vacillations between desperation and optimism, aspirations and limitations…. Glories and failures…
There is no rhyme nor reason. Only shouting and shooting. And, as always, gossip travels faster than the speed of light.
Linda’s story is no different – no bigger nor smaller, simpler nor more complex, easier nor more difficult – than Petraeus’. They all have desires. For without desire there is no action. All journeys begin with the first step of discontent.
Petraeus wanted more. So did his biographer, Paula Broadwell. And so did Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. And so did everyone else in this ongoing, forever-unfolding confederacy of dunces where everyone is consuming, using, abusing and afflicting someone else.
We come into this world naked, crying and screaming, with our tiny fists curled and demanding. We live clothed in lies. Cravenly we die a thousand deaths. And finally with our hands wide open, and merely a whimper, we ache no more… Simply left to wonder: What was it all for?
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony….