He's just waiting for me to voice the ending. Jennifer Edelson is a local artist, writer, former attorney, Bollywood fanatic and pizza connoisseur. You can find her art and some of her writing on all the finest refrigerator doors in New Mexico. We gathered on the bridge and cast half my son's ashes over the edge.
God knows I tried to hold him back! We fought, then screamed for him not to jump when he shucked me off, old coat. His hand wrenched out of mine. I cradle the other half of his ashes, and I can never sleep. Unnatural mother. All the old concerns that were about losing Zack are now about me. That I am too needy and my desolation must come to an end. You'll get past it. Please be gentle with me about this.
My friends have dropped me. These days, I talk to strangers. One reminded me, "Fiesta is next week. All Spanish still alive when the Pueblo Indians rampaged fled into a year exile, carrying their willow-wood statue of the Blessed Virgin which their Captain Don Diego de Vargas solemnly promised to restore as the true Mistress of Santa Fe if She would lead them back.
She was renamed La Conquistadora. Zozobra is Spanish for sorrow. He is a foot giant puppet fashioned to be his own kindling. He turns troubles to ash. Setting fire to misery strikes another chord in me. I smile again. He is made to burn; he's our pain; he is all of our nemeses. But that's the way of this town, and tomorrow we will gather in a field for the bonfire yelling "Burn Him! Kill Him! A week of dancing and drunken songs will burst forth uncomplicated by the morning Masses and candlelight processions.
I intend to go. For company, I called Ashleigh to join me.
I hate Zozobra," Ashleigh said. I need crowds. My relationships even with myself have slowly shifted so that I can no longer be alone. Ten thousand tickets have been pre-sold. No way Ashleigh can know I have actually pinned my hopes on that trick, trumped-up Zozobra, counting on that newspaper-stuffed marionette to dull the feel of losing hold of my son's hand and his endless scream bursting out, growing more complex the farther he fell into the gorge.
I remember it as a searing pitch echoing off the granite sides, echoes compounding his screams, echoes answering those echo-screams until the last hopeful crescendo began the echoes' demise; the echoes, manifold echoes fading. Fading until human ears fail, the tangled sounds cease. Except in my head, in my skull bones, in my hairs.
Ashleigh is from Dallas. She never speaks of my terrible loss but she's heard the whispers. I admit I'm crazed. At first, they said, "Get it out—talking is good. To comply, I swallowed worthless Ativan, Ambien, Aleve, anything to still echoing screams. Zack became a forbidden word. I could not utter his name. Call Goodwill. You'll be so relieved. So, I wrote his name on a prayer flag slip of silk and gave it to man tightening long metal wires, Zozobra's stays. Okay, okay," he said, looking up from his work. He stood, his hand open.
He expects people to bring him requests. No problem. After he did, he smiled kindly at me. This night, virtually half the town has turned out. I hear no murmurs about me. No one here knows me and if I need to, I can talk about Zack. Although people often wander off before I finish my story. I talk of my shame, even before they shake me off. Zack was 17, a difficult age for boys. Sure he was difficult, teenagers are difficult. But mine died. His stuff is still in the house. Skateboards in the shed. Half his ashes … My heart grieves; my plans have not worked out.
Nothing drowns the echoes of his scream. Their children in strollers. Their children who are alive. I follow. The Fiesta Queen smiles to all of us, crowned as much for her family line as her black-haired beauty. She stands regally with this year's appointed Fiesta-Conquistador, Don Diego de Vargas, a vanquisher of hearts in his tin helmet. Across the crowd, rock boom-boom music surges. Where are the mariachi? I need songs to help me hound my ghosts. Everyone knows boy ghosts hate mariachi. Screens pulse colors and video patterns hit me but the boom box droning drags me back to the day on the gorge bridge, to the families driving past—their music pounding.
Seven low-riding cars, slowing but not stopping, deaf to the huddle at the railing, pleading, arguing, "No Zack, DON'T! Their windows open, they could not hear our shrieking. Two senseless months waiting for the stupid OMI to certify the cause of death. I grew hoarse repeating how he slipped my grip, falling backwards into his scream.
How his body exploded. Painlessly, I interrupt. Ahh, Zozobra! The crowd is restless. Get this show off the fucking ground. I join in.
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As a mob we call for fire, for cremation. Cremated like Zack after the rescue workers winched up his parts yard by yard up to the bridge and me. At last, the Fire Dancer comes to execute Zozobra. She flings her torch at him. Strings of flares run ground-up and my silken ribbon catches. These downward candles spill their sparkles in fountains. But the foot effigy is slow to catch. Bright silver tourbillon comets splash the sky in splinters of prism colors. Gold, ruby, sapphire and emerald.
Stretching always up, I regard the dazzled sky. I can breathe now. I can almost bear the present. Large golden willow fireworks and dancing butterflies are set off. Next the thunder candles. Missiles, parachutes and wheelies tease the crowd waiting for the Hasta La Vista Baby fountain. And underneath the luster, Zozobra burns; his wire frame is now an X-ray. Our sorrows and depression turn to ash. It is exhilarating.
My brother was sailing one night under the Golden Gate Bridge when he saw a man falling, his clothes flapping like a shot bird. His screams, if there were any, were lost in the roar of the wind and the heavy rushing the water. Charlie came about swiftly. On the rise of a wave, he caught a view of the body slipping away, down a trough. His wife threw him a rope and masterfully, they managed the difficult rescue.
Was he drowned? Blankets were brought, they stripped the body, undressed and wrapped him. His carotid artery weirdly palpitated. Charlie shivered, exultant, and tugged his own sodden clothes off. Call —get an ambulance! Hours, days passed. No one knew his name. Splinted and restrained, he shed his coma, and a white room organized into his focus.
All heavenly white. He heard choirs, the music of the Spheres. When an angel drifted in, her shoes squeaked like a rubber bath toy. His mirage sickened. Zozobra has turned to ashes, the crowd is ecstatic. They were never blood-thirsty. The grand finale bouquet shoots a ransom of jewels, taunting the star-crowded sky now.
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Forty thousand people cheer, shoulders to my shoulder. The heart-ratcheting thrills will fade tomorrow, lingering in the mind. Like Zack, lost but still in me. His terror screams soften some. They pulse a new note of promised rapture, staking out his bed in the leaves and flowers of poetry, warmed by flames of blistering love.
This is all a trick of my mind, more of my madness. I do know that much. For me, it's less Zozobra than the fireworks. In them I see fresh-dead souls streaming up, flashing back to rejoin the stars of their birth. They light the route. Marvelous that rockets take their splendid colors from Zack's young bones—his potassium makes violet, calcium is the orange, yellow is sodium and iron makes gold. White is his magnesium. I see him abandon my grip, falling, floating into the retreating galaxies; he is part star now.
Yes, even on moonless nights, I pick out shadows under the trees from the light that comes from light years away. Stars are that mighty. Tori Shepard has a masters degree in writing and has published articles, short stories and two historical novels about Santa Fe, where she has lived since the '70s.
I woke to the sounds of screaming machinery in the street below. As I opened my eyes, I was relieved to find myself in my own bed that morning. When I woke on those other mornings, I was overcome with dread and unable to hide my desperation. The not knowing was the hardest part. Not knowing how I left the bar. Not knowing how many drinks. Not knowing her name.
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Not knowing where I put his watch. The nights would remain a blur, long after the awkward "good morning" and the obligatory "I'll call you sometime. I looked across my dimly lit bedroom toward the windows and the noise, and winced at the sunlight peeking around the curtains. What time was it and where was that watch? I wished I had closed the curtains all the way the night before. That last night. What happened that last night? When I sat up, I realized I was naked. My head pounded as if to remind me to try to remember the night before. My mouth felt like it was filled with cotton.
My face hurt. I needed water and some ibuprofen but first I needed to find my watch, the only thing my dad left me. My clothes were strewn across the room, my wrinkled shirt by the bed, my pants over the chair, my shoes by the window. Everything had the air of being removed with haste and placed without thought. My watch was on the floor by my shoes. I rose to retrieve it, trying not to aggravate my head even more. I moved like my dad used to, after the chemotherapy's aggressive assault on his body. Throughout it all, his mind and spirit had stayed strong, but his body failed him.
As habit after one of these nights, I started to berate myself for drinking like I had no need for this body anymore. Like I had given up my life for whatever comes next. My dad would not be proud. I walked across the floor eyeing my clothes, as if they emitted clues. I remembered buying a round of drinks at the bar for me and my buddies. One round turned into two which turned into I don't remember much more than that.
As I reached down for my watch, I saw the blood spattered on my shoes. That's when I remembered the woman in the bar.
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I noticed her despite the close crowd and the distracting music. She had the most perfect smile I'd ever seen. I remembered staring at her mouth as she sipped her wine. She wore a ruby red lipstick that left a perfect impression on the rim of her glass. I watched as the shape of her lips shifted with every word she spoke. In my drunken state, I had a sudden urge to kiss her. And that hair, that long beautiful black hair. So black, it reflected blue from the overhead lights.
There was a man with her. They were leaning into each other and talking, intimate and flirty, taking turns talking into each other's ear. He noticed me looking at her but I didn't care. I felt emboldened by the vodka. I downed the remainder of my drink, waved a hand in his direction, and stumbled through the crowd. As I approached her, I tucked in my shirt and pushed the hair out of my face.
I wasn't sure what I was going to say to her but I would figure that out when I opened my mouth. What came out is not what I expected. I tried to compose myself, tried to stand without swaying, tried to speak without spitting. He was glaring at me through thick glasses, which made his attempt at fierceness almost comical.
She was smiling. If he doesn't, I'll be sitting right over there, waiting for you. That's when the man punched me in the face. I didn't see it coming. I didn't think he had it in him. I remember the bright light from the instant pain of his fist hitting me solidly in the nose. The blood on my shoes was my own. I pushed the curtains aside. The sun was already intense, the room was already too warm. I turned around and that's when I saw her.
I was startled because I didn't remember bringing anyone home last night. It was the woman from the bar. I would recognize that hair anywhere. I looked at her still, naked back. Her skin seemed to glow, illuminated by the sunlight filling the room. I didn't remember her name, assuming we were even properly introduced. I had a feeling we didn't talk much, although I didn't remember the sex either. I would let her sleep, maybe make us some coffee. When she woke up, at least we would have cups in our hands to direct our awkward looks.
I slipped on my pants and walked around the bed. I wanted to see that mouth that led me to this moment in time. That's when I saw the pool of blood on the floor. It was coming from her once-beautiful mouth that was now frozen in a scream. I screamed. The air in the room became suffocating. I struggled to breathe, instead, gulping in the thick and rancid smell of clotting blood that filled my mouth and nostrils.
I forgot about my pounding head as I stumbled backwards to the bathroom and threw up on the floor. I stood on shaky legs that didn't want to support my weight anymore. I grabbed a towel from the rack and wiped my mouth. I wanted some water but I knew there would be no washing away the taste of vomit and drying blood, not that morning. Using the edge of the sink for support, I looked at her reflection in the mirror. She was so still. I forced my gaze away from her and looked at my face. I wasn't surprised to see I had several bruises on my cheeks and nose.
I was surprised to see the fresh scratches on my face and neck. I reached up to touch them, trying to trigger my memory. My heart started racing again, this time in reaction to how much trouble I was facing. I have done some inane and even dangerous exploits while drunk. I pretended to be a movie star so I could kiss a girl in a restaurant parking lot.
I passed out at my cousin's wedding reception after vomiting on his bride's dress. I borrowed my neighbor's bike and rode it into a lake. I slept with countless women with no intention of calling any of them. But nothing like this. I took a deep breath and turned around to face her. My head was spinning. I was sure she was dead but I needed to do something. I was afraid to go back into the bedroom but I couldn't stay in the bathroom, surrounded by the stench of vomit and my pathetic reflection. As I approached the bed, I felt like I was floating. I had no sense of my feet touching the carpet until I stepped in the wet pool of blood by the bed.
I cringed as it seeped between my toes. I suppressed my urge to throw up again. I willed my hand down toward her face and pushed the hair away from her neck. She was not as cold as I thought she would be. I left a bloody footprint as I walked around the bed to the nightstand to get my phone. I jumped when it started to ring as I reached for it. The caller identification said it was Charlie.
He was probably calling to see if I made it home, like he did every time. I would call him later. I hit the call reject button and pushed the phone icon. I don't recall what I said to the emergency operator. I remember saying the words "not breathing" and "blood" and "so still. I remember the police arrived first, then the paramedics. I remember the questions "what happened" and "how long" and "what is her name. I remember watching through thick tears as she was draped with a sheet and wheeled away.
Never to smile again. I remember succumbing to being handcuffed and put into the back of a police car while my neighbors gawked and shook their heads in unanimous disgust. I remember the relief that it was over. I remember wearing my watch. My dad would be proud.
I feel things. Sometimes feeling things doesn't feel comfortable, and I am very aware of how redundant that sounds. Feeling feels uncomfortable. I'm a New Mexico native. My father grew up working the fields and animals on the lands his family had worked for generations. In his teens and young adult years he toiled in the mines of Colorado and Northern New Mexico.
His hands were rough, calloused from years of hard work for little pay. During the summers we would ride up to the local reservoir in his old rusted Chevy to fish. I'd be bouncing around riding shotgun while he would casually steer, occasionally taking pulls from the small brown bottle he carried with him "It's medicine," he would tell me when I'd ask. We would sit on the bank, mostly listening to the sounds of the water. I must have been about 7 when he started telling me his stories. Stories about working in the mines, about being in the Army and working the fields with the older men when he was a boy.
He would cast, reel in the slack off his line, and tell me how his father would punch him across the face at the dinner table when he, a boy of no more than 9, would accidentally forget to say please or thank you. He would take another pull from his bottle and tell me stories about men being crushed to death by falling boulders in the depths of the mine. He told me of a man being crushed by a rock at least twice his size and how his limbs twitched and fluttered, fading echos from a misfiring nervous system.
I never asked him why he told me these stories; it never occurred to me to ask. Years went by, I grew up, he and I became estranged. I left that small town and created my own stories. They come from the dust of Camp Pendleton and 29 Palms, from run-down cheap motels and bars in California, and from the wastelands of Iraq.
I came home and had children of my own, like my father. Also like my father, my marriage ended in resentful indifference. One day I looked in the mirror and saw his face staring back at me. Except this time I didn't see my father; I saw the man he was trying to hide. I saw his desperation for release, his need to be understood. I saw that silent living death, writhing on the bathroom floor trying not to vomit. But mostly, I saw the wall. I have no doubt that every man has a wall of one kind or another.
It comes in sullen silence, plastic smiles, casual avoidance. We carry them like one would carry a backpack. Some days the backpack is empty and easier to carry. Other days the backpack is full and it weighs on you, as if you are carrying the weight of ages on your mortal shoulders. And like a backpack, you feel like everyone can see it, and maybe it is something you should be ashamed of. You want to drop this load.
You want to free yourself of this unseen burden. There are people you know who would gladly help carry this load, who would be there to relieve you of this terrible weight. But you can't let them. As a boy, you fall and scrape your knee. Be a man. You swallow your tears and laugh it off. You laugh it off when you get rejected. You laugh it off when you lose your job.
You laugh it off when everything depends on you. When you get your heart broken. When you want to fall to the floor, curl up, and weep like a child. You take your feelings and you put them in a box. Then you throw that box into the deepest, darkest hole that is your ocean of secrecy. You keep them there because boys don't cry. As time goes on, you forget how to cry.
You become conditioned to not feel. When you're at war you have to become different. You must be as hard, cold and unrelenting as the wasteland in which you are fighting. If you hesitate during the moment of truth you will come home in a thick black bag with a heavy zipper. After being immersed in that environment, you learn how to turn off your soft side. Within a couple weeks you forget how to feel the loneliness.
The soft negative feelings disappear. It is through this hard mental conditioning that you survive. You wake up day after day, night after night, and somehow you make it home. Somehow you survive the horror and the terror. The wheels of the plane bounce and screech on the runway in Maine and everyone sings a chorus of "mama, I'm coming home" way better than Ozzy ever did. You see your family when you get off the bus, you have that first cold beer and that first American cigarette and nothing has ever tasted so sweet.
You find that one special girl and it feels like the first time again. The greens are greener, the water is fresher, and for a moment the war feels like a million years ago. You can finally breathe again. It doesn't last. They teach you how to kill, how to switch off your heart. You become a merciless weapon, exactly how they want you to be. And when you become no further use to them, they cast you out.
There is no simple way to understand how the world works when you have been somewhere nobody understands. It's easy to not feel; it's feeling again that is nearly impossible. Getting my first job felt empty. Being with my family again was meaningless. When I held my newborn daughter for the first time, I felt nothing.
A decade spent struggling to just feel again. The depression was there, but knowing how to handle it the right way isn't there. The depression becomes rage; at least that you know how to channel. But it comes out on your friends and family. You pour yourself shot after shot of cheap whiskey, ignoring the concerned looks on everyone's faces. Then the morning comes and you feel sick and confused. You are on the floor of a jail cell, wearing that thick green smock so you can't hang yourself. It all comes rushing back. The bottle, the pills, the gun with a single hollow point bullet in the chamber.
Now the loss is real: your children, your job, and a possibility of spending three years in the state penitentiary. Recovery is hard, but admitting you need help is harder. Pride is a bitter mistress and she refuses to let go. You find it eventually. You get help and bit by painful bit you learn how to actually smile again. Maybe all the darkness and guilt isn't everything you are.
Maybe you are more than a man on a sinking ship screaming into the storm. But there is always something worse. Nobody made you do it. I see my father in myself every day. Only now can I understand why he had to share, why he drank. I remember him putting his fists to me and his rationale, while disgusting, is something I can finally conceive.
His stress, his fears, his lost dreams. He could be very well-spoken when he wanted to; he was a charmer. But now I realize he never had an outlet for his feelings because, naturally, he wasn't supposed to have them. I never understood the phrase "toxic masculinity" until it was broken down for me. Only then did it occur to me that I was emotionally hamstrung as a child.
What they didn't teach me was to expect the breaking point. There was no warning of the isolation, the feeling of falling into a gray void and feeling totally alone. That would be a terrible lesson if it were true, but that's not the lesson Lot himself says that it's about hospitality: he has "given shelter" to the visitors, and to violate the code of hospitality by turning his guests over to the mob would be a sin.
Reading the story as a lesson in injustice is new to me, but I think in this case injustice can be related to violating the code of hospitality. Even if I were to accept your inference, the read literally, these desires were from God - not from themselves. Should we not plead for mercy on them rather than castigating them for this God induced condition? Gary, My translation does not use "strange flesh" but I think you have read Jude 7 correctly. John, There is no doubt that homosexuality was common in Sodom and Gomorrah, and no doubt that God condemns it.
I suppose that sexual perversion was not the only sin of those people; most wicked people are guilty of a variety of sins. Homosexual desires are from God? Romans 1 says "God gave them up unto vile affections". I think that means that God removed his restraints from them and let them do what they wanted to do.
Not sure you could say that means that God made them homosexual. If God has given up on someone, would it do any good to ask God to help them? I doubt it. Romans 1 seems to indicate that they are a lost cause. A sad situation to be in. Gary, My translation of Romans reads: "26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. That does not mean they cannot or should not pray for mercy, for themselves or for others. It is one of the best way to love one's neighbor.
If it is God's will that something should happen presumably so it will be, but even Jesus was heard to pray "if it be your will let the cup pass. Joan Calvin said…. I am intrigued by the homosexuality alleged in Sodom and Gomorrah. Is it a loving relationship between two people or is it a power relationship as occurs today in prisons where men are required to provide sexual favors for other more powerful and otherwise heterosexual men? Wouldn't that make a difference?
It seems to me in the original story of Sodom and Gomorrah it is a question of power, not sexual desire. Joan Calvin, There is no context in which homosexuality would not be immoral. God made no exemptions for "love" in homosex. Joan, Interesting reflection - the morality of heterosexual sex depends on the circumstances, i. The sex itself is not immoral, it is just an act. And the circumstances which have the most affect on the morality have to do with the consent of the parties, and the love they share for each other.
Even sex between a husband and wife is immoral if it is undertaken as a non-consensual act of force and violence. And for homosexuality? Should the issues be so very different? John, God's rule is: no homosex ever, for any reason, at any time, in any context, between anyone. Consent, age, relationship, or circumstances of the participants will not cancel God's condemnation. God allows moral sex ONLY between a man and his wife.
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And a man cannot be a wife. Leland Bryant Ross said…. Unless Anna Case-Winters holds Genesis 19 to be from the Hellenistic period, I don't know how she gets to "It is not until the Hellenistic period that sexual conduct is even alluded to in connection with these cities. That said, it's true that this specific act was only a corollary to the basic sin of the city, and the OT information on the sin of the city nowhere suggests that sexual behavior was at the core of the problem. Il suoFratello said….
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Sodoma and Gomorrah were destroyed due to their wickeness. They will "rape" the stranger, its animals. It wss a perverted society. Had nothing to do with the intimacy between to persons of same sex that love each other. Perversion is what destroys the soul. Greed, prejudices. They all ride an ugly horse named Ignorance. The Lord did not condemned the Roman Centurion that came seeking for his "slave" to be healed. When the Lord said, Let us go to your house to heal him. The Centurion said. Suffice be your word and he will be healed. The Pais was healed immediately and the Centurion left with gladness in his heart.
Remember children what separate us from God is our lack of love for our fellowman. Greed and the excesses of the flesh. I leave you all with this verse from the book of Thomas They are also your neighbors. Let God take care of the wicked and concentrate on your salvation one day at a time. Doing your best, that God will do the Rest. Jonas Coblentz said….
The fact that people use the David and Jonathan story to justify gay relationships is, I believe, a stretch. If a husband and wife relationship is based on a sexual relationship, that relationship will most likely fail.