. . . who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out. . . .Luke 8.2 NASB
There’s what my husband knew about me, and then there’s everything else. The latter seems to add notches to itself often and fast, faster certainly than I could ever distract him. Some world, huh, where a woman has to make herself as open as she can bear simply to carry her own history.
They even teach you that in school, that the study of history is really the study of his story. And any literate young woman can see it’s the truth, that the story of humans being human is really the story of men being boys. Hell, the very first story gives it away.
Here we have the Grand Hebrew King who makes a woman only after the man got bored because his crank found no suitable helpmate with the beasts of the field or the fish of the sea or the birds of the air. Logically, a woman is brought into the King’s game as a plaything for the King’s first male heir. Then, all of a sudden, the court jester slides along and tells her the slanted truth, and fortunately for humanity, the woman has an ear for this, so she eats what the King forbade under threats of immediate death, as Kings are famous for doing, and lo and behold, the serpent tells more of the truth than the King, and not only do the woman and her man not die on act, but they are given the two greatest gifts ever gifted to humanity: consciousness and the ability to escape eternal life.
In any sane reading, the woman is the hero of creation, the truly godlike of the two in her ability to create and sustain new life, and the most promethean in her courage to wrestle thought and meaning away from the King himself. If the first woman did not believe the she-serpent and force that bloody nectar to drip from her chin, then thousands and tens of thousands of years ago the very concept of vacancy on planet Earth would have gone extinct—an embarrassed earth busting at the seams with unconscious, bipedal automatons, who, though immortal, would not be free of the confines of matter, and thus basic movement would eventually be rendered impossible by our own good manners.
It was this way also in marriage.
You notice things as a child you have no chance noticing no other time. Might be just for girls or might be just for me—that’s the thing, you can never know. But as a child, I got to feeling how unfair it felt that some people got to smile up huge without a hitch, whereas others couldn’t find a smile if their life depended on it, which you learn it most certainly does. You notice how certain people during the time after a church service could toss on a smile for a whole hour straight and seem to mean it, too. They could turn from one face to the next, holding that smile the whole time without a shudder. Talk of the town and talk of the affairs of the children and how so-and-so are getting along and always how good the Lord is. And as a child you get lost in rows of frilly dresses and are able to look up when no one is looking down, and you can see these smiling people from an angle you are not allowed to see at any other time, and you can see how easily the smiles come to them, the smiles and the talk and even the way they only eat one sweet during the whole hour and never look to the table again.
If this were all there was, a world or after-church fellowship hour with only people who could smile on command, talk and know what to talk about, and eat only one pastry—one pastry eaten sloppily alone in the dark janitorial closet where the scratches of the pastor’s thorn in his side are still visible, a world or fellowship where we all had straight teeth and travel stories to rely upon in a pinch and an appetite fit for a lady, then I would have no great qualms with the Grand Design.
However, as it is, a girl of any intelligence has to come to the conclusion that there are not just human beings on planet Earth. A girl of any brains has to conclude that there are human beings, certainly, some who can smile and perform well and others who clearly cannot, and that there must be a third category, another being on this planet that we like to continue to think of as our planet, our planet that has wound the gears in us so tightly that we can’t help but run around like greedy rodents through ever improving, ever complicating tubes and balls and slides and wheels, and this all must be for the pleasure of someone else. It must. One wonders if this makes sense to whatever you you’ve become.
It would certainly not make sense if I were to say there was a world in which people would be at their happiest doing the least but have instead been convinced by an unknown Mover that time is money and money is real—nonsensical if I were to say people were convinced human competition was good but dog fights evil, if there were a crumbling world in which acids like envy and pride were taught to children as ambition and success. It would not make sense to say human beings built this world that is such a masterpiece of inhumanity. It cannot be human beings who made the world human beings call survival of the richest, can it? So far out of the food chain, and still we say and believe it’s a dog-eat-dog world, so it would be foolish, would it not, for us to believe it was we who civilized ourselves in this twisted up way? Would it not be more optimistic to choose to have the faith that there is a third party out there, yet unnamed or unseen, but very much provable by how we treat one another? Would it not be wiser to consider we have learned nothing for one hundred thousand years, not because we are dumb brutes like we behave but because we are not alone and not in charge. Are we too blind to see we have those who can smile through this life, those who cannot, and the others who watch from the other side of all that secret ice?
Figments and fragments are so nearly the same word it can get to hurting if you think on it too long. Inasmuch as my childhood seems made of mere fragments of memory, just like yours I’m sure, fragments that can change shape and size depending upon which smell comes wafting my way, that really has nothing to do with the memory at all, not really, but there comes the rectangle-shaped memory that I could swear was more of a square type memory before, and the shades are all off and hazy, though sometimes they’re all too crystal, if you get my meaning. These bits and pieces of memory from my days as a girl, a girl of school age but damn well no schoolgirl, are so bitsy and piecey that it doesn’t seem right to call them fragments at all, as the word implies something solid, though not complete. Solid is the last thing I would call that girl’s memories, which are not made of matter at all, though figmentary as they may be, they still seem to have some workable hands in the affairs of the here and now.
Funny. Fragments of stories made up by a child inside of your mind so broken and misbegotten that they swerve and sway into mere phantoms, figments of the imagination, ghosts in our mental machine haunting our futures, my future, the one I am constantly in the process of misshaping to the designs of the figments. From fragments to figments to the figuring of the Fibonacci sequence, it all adds up to nothing more than the adding of fucking in the end.
The strangest figmentary fragment from my early days as a child is of you answering my question as to how I came to have the ludicrous name of Magdalene. I knew the name came somewhere from the stories about Jesus in the Good Book, but that was about all. It’s hard to say in my mind how old I was in this or that fragment, because I do not have the luxury of saying around what grade I was in as you might, but I know it was years before I had my rag introduce herself to me and that too without warning. Do you recall?
“Can I ask you about my name?”
“Excuse me. May I ask you about my name?”
“Didn’t you just do so right now?”
“Yes, I suppose I was getting to it.”
“Well, why did you name me a name only a Bible person has?”
“I didn’t name you after no Bible.”
“Why? One day you will smarten up and get that word out of your head.”
“I named you that. Myself alone. No one else. No Bible. I named you that,” I recall her stopping everything completely without a choke or a snivel. “I named you that from and to,and that’s all you need to know.”
You were wrong, but I deserve to know if you know that, don’t I?
A faction is a fraction of a larger group set apart from and at odds with others by their ideals. America began with factions, whimsical bunches called the Whigs and the Tories, and when those finally felt too Old World worn, factions were traded in for parties. Parties being a part of life and not the whole, a fractional representation of the reality sought to be improved as a whole, the meanings of the two words are so nearly interchangeable one finds it hard to bitch about the change from political factionto political party. Or would you disagree?
Until you answer—well.
All the better.
But since a partyimplies an invitation and a good time, and everyone around me and everyone around you, and so on down the line, all look and sound so much like lonely party poopers, perhaps we, as the equitably humane, inclusive, and transparent society we are, might consider rebranding once again. The partieshave not received a true and needed namelift in over two centuries. Perhaps we all would feel less alone and more at home if we would be so brave as to change from partyto some good, down-home company. Who alive today couldn’t use some good company, now more than ever?
Speaking of that, I no doubt missed the company party during which we decided to cease being beings. It seems we have kept the name and lopped off the meaning, just as we did with Republicans and Democrats. To better match our minds, and therefore our lives, would one not prefer to be referred to as a human was or maybe a human will be? A planet full of billions of beings would look and act so differently from this planet, or any version of this planet that I have read about or that is in the process of being, would it not? Or am I catastrophizing again, as you used to say?
Having only the ability to be in being in one very specific set of parameters, as you are too, it is nearly impossible for me to understand anything to do with being in the affirmative, but I think I can know that whatever is meant by beingcan phenomenologically have nothing to do with regrets lost to time or fears of hopes unbecomed. I tried to read the German you liked who had this all figured out, but I got confused, and then I got to thinking, the more I read and fretted, that confusion might have been his goal all along, a goal with which I can breezily sympathize. Just like us calling ourselves beings for all these millennia with all the rules and motivations being so forcibly against the act of being a being at all. Maybe it was a translation issue though, with the German, I mean. I heard German was the most difficult language to learn, but I forget why. Maybe it was you who told me that. Or maybe it was you who told me, told me until I couldn’t forget, that being alive is the most deadly condition there is.
If being alive is the process of living, then would not being alove refer to the process of loving? If so, then it is no small wonder that alove is not a word in this world.
Was it you who said that Jesus of Nazareth was the most alove person to ever be alive? Or would you cringe at a name like his, what with all the male historical heft and societal sway the name has hung upon it, horizontal and vertical, respectively. My namesake was supposedly close to the man. Not the Christ but rather the friend of fishermen, the strange boy who threw playmates from roofs just to heal them. Only because he could. The strange adolescent who ran away from home to teach the great leaders of his day without being invited or, more impressively, turned away. The strange man who flipped over the money-heavy tables in the highest of places and calmly walked out, on his way to continue his walk upon the water, as if nothing had happened worth killing someone over. The strange mission-eyed man who looked the Ruler of the World in the eyes, and with the entire wealth of man reflecting in them, told him to go to hell.
Jesus, the most divinely nonchalant of the species to yet show up on earth, record has it, took a unique interest in the woman you lied about not naming me after. That Magdalene was afflicted with seven demons, which shows how alove she was, hell itself needing seven warriors to bring her to her knees, which, providentially for her, happened to be at the feet of the incredible son of a very credible carpenter and nothing more.
“Teacher,” Magdalene said to Jesus. “I am in the middle of a very wild ride.”
“That I can see, child. Would you like the ride to end? I cannot help you until I know.”
“Before, no. But now, yes,” Magdalene and her seven said.
“Good. Go freely now to the other women and tell them where healing is to be found.”
“But what if I want you all for myself?” as any newly free person as alove as Magdalene the first would’ve said.
“Fair enough,” Jesus said. “I can take the afternoon off.”
At least that’s what he would’ve said if it were me, Magdalene the second.
This is my seventh and final demon to share. Then you are free to go, if you like. Or stay. Just do not linger lukewarm in the middle. Lukewarm gets you nowhere near alove in this life or the next. Just ask the author of the last book, the one where the world gets torn to rags as the grand culmination of the Creator’s maniacal vision board. Part architect, part arsonist. God in two persons.
I dogmatically, some would say violently, go by Mags, and everyone alive and alove who knows me only knows me as Mags. My husband had no clue, or need of one, that my full name is Magdalene, that I was never given a last name, a maiden name, never given a childhood or a toy, and certainly never given a sane and fair explanation for my name by you, not a hint or sniff at why you pissed on my existence, an existence I certainly had no say in and one I would retire from if I could only figure how to stop finding so much to love about my confusions with this world—this world I was thrown into just like you, just like Jesus and Magdalene One and Herod and Pilate and Barabbas and poor sniveling Peter the Pebble and every other sorry and beautiful being moving about the surface of the soon to be deep, once the others melt all that ice.
My seventh and final demon tells me with artistic variety how all humans are rags, as if that is some kind of a condemnation. I tell him, hell yes, we are—ragged incomplete nonsense, soiled rags twisted and squeezed right out of being at times, a whole civilization on its rag, wagging fingers and weapons and laws at one another for ten thousand years to no avail, raging our way out of alove now with an electric, phantasmagorical lust so impressive and impugning all at once and all the time.
My seventh demon, so intrusive in his work, can make hell’s thoughts sound and feel exactly like my own, but today, this demon and his friends are not my kings, merely melodies finding their rhythm, like magical Miles with his trumpet on his roughest nights. I hear their hisses, snarls, and snaps, and I giggle. I pluck each thought of theirs and toss it in the Sea of Galilee atop which my old pal Jesus is taking a stroll, and my demon’s thoughts feed the fish underneath his feet that his fishermen friends are busy hauling in for their night’s meal and day’s wages. It is a musical and self-sustaining cycle, and it works for me. Can’t say the same is true for my husband, God rest his soul. Only you can say for you.