Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Be careful, the mother never said to her daughter, men will package you up and try to consume you.
They’ll suck away your soul like succubi. They will take what you are and tear it apart trying to find themselves in it. Their phallus pulls all their energy away from the lush life inside them and into you. It draws their mind away from their soul, leaving their insides bare and dry. Inside of you, they’ll try to find a salve for their aching loneliness, their insecurity, their inadequacy. Instead of trying to stand on their own two feet, they’ll lean on you until you are crushed under the weight of bearing two people, unable to move, and sunk into the ground. They won’t notice that. (Her silence spoke volumes.)
They’ll blame you for their failures, passions, problems, misgivings, mis-steps, and inquietude. They’ll take all the pain in their own heart and pin it onto you. They’ll deflect whatever compunction pierces through their thick skull to their gnawing conscience, back to you. All human beings are guilty of denial, projecting their problems onto others, making others do their crying for them. Those men, (she didn’t say), do it with a lack of self-awareness that is utterly unknown to we woman who critique our every thought about a potential action in our mind half the day, and spend the other half diagnosing how it went.
They take up your space, spread their legs wide in the subway while the old lady stands, encroach into the private sphere of air you call your own with their hands on your knees, touching you and never even thinking twice about it. Touching you because they need to feel a solid body outside their empty souls. They’ll overcompensate with bluster, harshness, inane prattle. Anything that will prevent them from that terrifying silence called listening. Listening that will force them to acknowledge that insistent, vociferous presence known as you.
Don’t let them package you away. They’ll want to parcel you off to a man who will manage you for the rest of them. Keep side-stepping their hugs, peeling their hands off your knee, back, thigh, arm, breast. Smile, listen, learn. Speak when there is anyone interesting worth saying something to, and know you can suffer fools, but don’t owe them precious time. Listen kindly, but disagree, even about mundanities. They aren’t used to anyone voicing an opposing opinion just because there are other opinions in the world besides their own. They’ll take your disagreement as a personal attack, because they’re right, and people are supposed to agree with them on all things, and a disagreement cannot be a quotidian occurrence, it can only come in the appropriately dramatic tone of a coup or revolt. For them, to have someone question their innate view of the world is tantamount to revolution. They are not used to the world pushing back at them. They have never been pushed by the world. They are the ones being lifted as the world pushes us down, and we push back.
They don’t have a right to your time, your heart, or your body. They place no claim on you. Declare your space, your independence, your freedom. Push them out of the inner chambers. Pluck out the thorns they spear inside your heart, and watch the surface scar and close.
Deep inside you, cultivate you. Cultivate the light that shines in the quiet of your heart, that radiates from your closed face. The light that hides behind your not-smiled smile. Do not let them dictate how you approach the world. Swat away the suffocation like so many gnats. Fill your bedroom with pictures of your loved ones and the beautiful spots of the world where your feet have and will walk, and stuff your heart and mind with poetry.
Her mother said all this in silence. An object lesson in its absence. Speech, subtracted; noise negated; negative presence.
The little girl ran to her grandfather. She asked him to show her the world. He did. He provided a globe for her to explore. He opened up the doors of the world, a stairway to the sky. He showed her birdsong, he caught her carpentry. He read her all the stories of the earth, of the world that existed far before her, around her, behind her, inside of her, before her.
Hurt people hurt people he said, looking not at all the other men, but into her eyes. And eyes that see the world through anger, bitterness, or fear are missing more than half the picture. To see without the eyes of love is to be blind. And the world is too beautiful to be blinded to it.
He wrapped her in his arms in a hug so safe and tender, no deer ticks, rattlesnakes, death, loss of memory, love, or home could reach her there.
He taught her to stand. To sweep up the hurt of the world in one giant motion of hands clasped, fingers stretched with kindness towards the smallest hurting thing: a rabbit, a spider, a man. To live generously, looking not his sins, but on the faith of most people.