Category Archives: endings

The Killer In Me

Twelve years and some months ago, I knelt on the concrete steps that bisected my terraced garden and, in one of my very first efforts at gardening, tore weeds out at their roots from cracks in the stone. As it is even when I kill a fly or an ant, it wasn’t lost on me that I was ending a life form. The parallel was particularly poignant, as I had just come through a hellish year in which I endured three unplanned pregnancies, all of which ended in either a spontaneous or induced abortion.

In a moment of strange philosophical lucidity, I found myself thinking almost wordlessly about how I was killing something to make room for something better. I was tearing the weeds out so that I could grow flowers and plants that heal; I had killed the life in my womb in order to improve my own. It was a sentiment that many will find horrific, others cold, and many pragmatic, and it was a moment that has stayed with me – every time I rip a weed from its roots, and at other apropos times, as well.

A year later, back in Ireland, I told my ex-husband’s therapist that ‘leaving him was like cutting off my hand to save my arm,’ and in the weeks and months following my return to California, I felt as if I were walking around with a layer of skin burned off, shedding in strips, revealing the tender new growth beneath.

I’ve gotten good, at times, at this killing thing. Today, 7/7/13 (whether you’re using the American or European system), I killed again – but this time I didn’t just kill. I put a knife in a nearly-seven-year-long odyssey that has taken me to the depths of hell and to the darkest corners of my soul, I shot three arrows into the heart of a dead dream and then I threw that shit in a deep grave and kicked dirt all over it. And I didn’t leave a nice tombstone or even a fucking flower, just footprints on fresh soil and tracks out of the cemetery gates.

I didn’t do this cavalierly, or with glee or venom or even indifference, though anyone who loves me will probably tell you that I should have. I did it with a heart heavy as lead, with tears and resignation, but also with love for the killer in me. I love this murderer that lives in the corner of my soul, hovering with knives and guns and poisons and an ever-watchful eye, this stone-cold killer wiling to cut the throat of anyone or anything that would threaten my self-actualization, that would choke my beautiful flowers.

And this is something they don’t teach little girls: being a woman doesn’t just mean giving or nurturing life. There is an equally important duty to destroy when one must, a homologous obligation to be willing to tear apart with weapons or one’s bare hands that which would seek to usurp our autonomy, overgrow our garden, suffocate us where we sleep. To be whole, one must be as willing to take up arms as to open them and to attack until our target is six feet under the black dirt.

In this moment I feel the whispers of a bad sunburn around my edges – I want to take a cold shower and wash off the red marks of betrayal, disappointment, years that have disappeared like fog moving in off the coast – but I can’t, because burns don’t wash off – they heal. And so will I – with my pen and my friends, my medicine and my flowers, my knives and my three flaming arrows.

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The Shore of Ireland

A month in Ireland and I would never feel dry, the entire time. It was the wettest summer on record and the water was coming from everywhere – the sky, the ground, the sea, my eyes, my very heart.

The second day I was there he walked me through his silent village, the river a black ribbon and us under a bell jar, walking in molasses, sticky and slow. He took me to the abandoned train station, overgrown with reeds and foxgloves and the loneliest place I’d ever been and there on the platform my face broke open and turned to water, my nose my mouth my hands, and I keened my sorrow into the green. Inside I admitted what I’d known the moment I’d put my arms around him at the Dublin airport and felt the birdlike bones in his back – he was mine no longer, I mean he was mine for the taking but I knew he wasn’t made for me or me for him; it was out of order, disordered, it didn’t fit, but I put on my weak American smile and soldiered on for a day or two until we sat on the platform and I knew it was gone.

The next night he disappeared into the smoke of the bars in town my insides scraped raw and for the next four weeks we tried, we pretended, we rode from one end of the country to the other and we kept at it. Solstice rainbow on Malin Head, as far north as you can go, the silent treatment on Clare Island, him out of his mind in the green muck of Belmullet, and all the while me letting the love die, coiling out of me and left there in the soil of his country and nearly mine, a place with her fingers so deep into me that to this day I weep like an exile. I emptied myself of the dream, the life I could have had all of it, I still can’t tell you why, my best friend says it would have been ‘too small’ for me, but I can tell you that although I answered the call of my truth and that’s the best thing you can do in many ways it broke me and I have never been the same since. I never believed after that and I am now only so many grains of salt – I know better now and I will never break on the shore of Ireland again.

The Longest Day Of The Year

Five years ago I was in Ireland, and had this funky little obsession with being at northernmost point of the island, on the tippy top of the Inishowen Peninsula in a place called Malin Head, for the solstice.

The ex, Brian, and I had just come back from four hellacious days in rural Belmullet, County Mayo, and he wasn’t all that eager to get back on the road, but I was having none of it. We were going. So on a Sunday afternoon, I called up the bus depot in Letterkenny (County Donegal’s main town) and asked if there were a bus headed up that way. Being Sunday, there wasn’t. However, said the fella on other end, ‘Our Dave lives up that way and he’s headed home tonight, so let me check and I’ll call yis back.’ Yes. For reals, people. And sure enough, five minutes later the house phone rang and it was yer man, asking us if we could get there by four to get on the bus. We said yes and since it was about three-thirty by then, threw a bunch of stuff in a bag and begged a ride off the ex’s Mam into town.

We got there by the skin of our teeth and boarded the empty coach. The ride up through the Inishowen Peninsula and along the banks of Lough Swilly was breathtaking, and I laughed when we drove through the village of Carndonagh and saw a pink-haired teenager skateboarding down the street….I might as well have been in Venice, or Carlsbad. When we got to Malin Head, the driver (Dave!) dropped us off at the side of the road and pointed vaguely west, telling us we’d find our hostel ‘just down the road’ (note: everything in Ireland is ‘just down the road.’ I don’t care if it’s 20 paces or 2 or 20 or 200 miles, it’s always just down the road). Thus began a pleasant, moseying journey through about a mile of bucolic farmland until we reached the stellar Sandrock Holiday Hostel, where we checked in, dumped our bags, and headed out to do the most important of things: find a pint.

The ex rapidly noticed that he and his wallet had become separated, and thus he was now out of his ID and about sixty euro. He figured he’d left it on the bus, and I was pretty sure it was a write-off. We refused to let it bum us out, though, and we set out from the hostel in search of Farren’s: Ireland’s Northernmost Bar (note: everything in Malin Head is Ireland’s Northernmost Something). Shortly after leaving the hostel, we came to a fork in the road, at which we could have either gone right, and back the way we’d come, or left, along an unknown road. The ex chose left and I enthusiastically agreed. While being bothered by swarms of midges, we made our way though a scintillating a collection of cattle: a black bull sequestered from the rest of the herd who bellowed of his isolation mournfully, and a charming bovine I immediately christened The Flirtiest Cow In Ireland. Happening upon a field full of sheep, I called and cooed to them until the ex christened me The Sheep Worrier of Malin Head, a title I relished.

Around a bend and almost into town we ran smack into a storybook white house. With a giant motor coach out front. I stood there in amazement, with my jaded urban jaw hanging slackly, whilst the ex marched up the door and explained to Dave (who answered) the wallet saga and to which Dave replied, ‘Sure go on, it’s unlocked.’ Unlocked! An enormous bus! Brian clambered aboard and found his wallet on the rear seat and we headed off happily to Farren’s, where he had a Guinness, I had a vodka & Coke, and we played with a little boy of about three who was fascinated with a bouncy ball I had in my bag. It was the only shop in the town, so we bought a pound of Inishowen beef, a bottle of spaghetti sauce and some pasta shells and at about 10pm headed off northward along the twisty road that eventually leads to Banba’s Crown, the real northernmost point of Ireland.

It was a magical walk, lit by the sunset-ish hue that is late night in Ireland (it never really gets truly dark at high summer). Along the way we posed in front of a rainbow dipping into ‘The Saddle,’ a rock formation off the coast, encountered Ireland’s Rowdiest Sheep (who ran up the fence bleating like he was about to whup my ass), peed in ditches, and ended up in this eerie valley with a few traditional cottages planted on it (the northernmost houses in Ireland) just before you ascend the final hill to the top of the Crown.

We reached our destination and just before midnight, with a bit of light still illuminating everything, including the word ‘EIRE’ painted on the rocks below. Just when the majesty of being in this remote, otherwordly place was beginning to sink in……..Brian’s mobile phone rang. It was Mum, just checking in. We laughed hard and bummed a ride off of what we assumed was an older guy and his younger mistress, who had joined us at the peak. They dropped us off on the main road and we ambled back towards the hostel, past the tinker’s spooky house.

In the morning I woke before 6 (it’s hard for me to sleep in a room full of strangers) and the view out the windows was unreal: expansive, unbelieveable cliffs, sea, and sky. But by 9, when I managed to roust the ex, the rainclouds had taken over and all was grey and sodden. We had breakfast at the Seaview (me: toast, him: beer), then killed some more time (and him, more beer; me, collecting rocks) in a pub on the main road and then caught a bus back into Derry, where I was greeted by the cognitive dissonance of seeing Union Jacks flying on Irish soil. He peed in a water bottle on the bus (all that beer) and I lost the phone. He got pissed at me in Strabane because I had the rush-rush attitude of city folk. I was getting tired of the country, and the rain.