Sharply Off the Edge

6 Jan

A note from my younger self, who struggles each year to find voice between the tinsel and the lights…


I want to know when in your sexual exploration do they take away your shoelaces, remove your belt, and limit your time on the phone?

I’ve never had sex with a man.  Does that make me crazy?  It used to be on the books that way, you know, until a group of homosexuals gathered a clandestine quorum and wiped it right out.  The “gay mental disorder.”  But what I really want to know is – who decides?  What is the yardstick for, or the distance you must go, to be called “crazy”?  Who decides that’s a label a woman – a person – any person deserves?  And what happens to you if you do, if you are, if you are believed to be crazy?

Talking about hard things makes me narcoleptic.


I’m sixteen years old.  My back is solid against this one edge of my bedroom doorway.  I’m profiled in the doorway.  My fingers are clasped around the doorframe in front of me, curled around the edge.  It’s two o’clock in the morning and across the hall in my parents’ room are these firemen in big boots stomping around my mom on the waterbed.  She sloshes back and forth on the bed.  Dad’s crying.  He’s in the corner of the room, but the firemen keep moving him out of the way as they lift my mother’s wrists and ask each other, “Do you feel anything? … Give me a count!!”  They check her pulse and they check their watches.  She’s limp; they’re swift; it’s the middle of the night.

I was having a perfectly good bout of adolescent angst before she pulled this crap.  I had tossed my head and slammed my door, settling into bed early without saying, “Goodnight.”  So what’s this now?  We didn’t believe her?  She had to prove she meant what she said?  Damn prescription drugs.  It’s a violation!  Did you know that?  It’s a violation, having these men in our house with Mom’s mouth hanging open like that and Dad crying in the corner.

They lift her onto a stretcher and wheel her out of the house.  I feel a draft.  The walls slowly start to slip away.


Whatever your issue, whatever your baggage, your story, your question, your life, I don’t believe you can sit on a nerve for too long without squirming from underneath it, without going crazy, without flailing, screaming, without rage, fury, shame broken loose, without watershed or a burst pipe.  You need eventually someone to hold you close, console you just a moment, pet your hair away from your face.  You can’t survive without that, or without rocking in a dark room eventually somewhere, just for the steady womblike movement, or without cracking, letting loose, running wild.  I believe in probing when you can, dissecting, introspecting, being honest, and rising again to frills and frolic when icing is the only part of the bitter pill you can swallow without nausea.  I believe in cold splashes of water.

My mother lived.  She came out as a lesbian, still lives in California, still travels sharply off the edge.  I am my mother’s daughter.  And I will be my children’s mother.  And I will sleep with my woman lover, splashing cold truth over every surface of my skin.  I don’t believe that makes me crazy.  Even when my tongue is sharp.  Even when I travel sharply off the edge.


Even though I travel sharply still.

* * *

–  Adapted from a monologue I performed at the Blue Rider Theatre in 1996, one vignette in a show entitled “Honor Thy Mother


4 Responses to “Sharply Off the Edge”

  1. Sonia McGowin January 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Your writing absolutely mesmerizes me. You’re very gifted! Thank you.

    • rrp69 January 12, 2012 at 11:54 am #

      Thank you so much! So very kind. I hope you come back and visit again. You can let me know when my words resonate with you, or when they do not. We’re all on this journey together, in one way or another. Take care.


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