Friday, January 15, 2010

The Secret Life

Secrets. Best Friend holds mine. I try to hold hers. It's how we work. In my head there is a tree house fort where my secrets live and sometimes I go visit them, play for awhile and then go back to the rigors of life. Leave me in a room with someone for a few hours and I will tell you how many secrets they have, where they live in their head not because I am all that perceptive but because someone who keeps their secrets close to their heart can usually have some commonality of spirit with someone else who does.

Best Friend and I were at a family wedding a few years ago. This was a south side of Chicago wedding so there was a lot of alcohol and chatter you won't find on the North shore (thank goodness, not a lot of pretense here). Well I am sitting on one side of Best Friend's Mom and she's on the other side. The pastor is reading the vows and he mentions changing things up in the bedroom (that caught my attention, this may not be a traditional wedding situation) and then he says something about how they will share all their secrets. As though this was a cue from heaven best friend and i lean back together immediately and she says "you hear that?" "Ayup" I said back. and then I add "We are really screwed." I could hear her whisper "Oh god yeah, we're never getting married." All this handled in due time by her mom saying "That's enough girls in a little giggle." We're screwed for sure. I'm not telling ANY MAN ON THIS EARTH all my secrets. They're mine. I worked for them, lived them, waited to live them, keep them, share them with my Best Friend who will tell me the truth without some strange motivation. I don't need the earthquake in my heart and I like to play with smart boys and smart boys are danger. They can perform surgery on your heart when you aren't looking and they won't need a sharp tool they can use your secrets.

"American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough."
— Pat Conroy (Beach Music)

Conroy is one of my favorite writers. He turns his prose into a story and turns you around and around and around and teaches me things about the soul of a man, who he is, who he wants to be and the bridge between the two. That bridge is long and I have often commented that the world rests on a man's shoulder between his neck and his shoulder, oh that lovely line of strength and pain and how I love it.

I was reminded recently when telling someone of secrets that Conroy spoke to me when he wrote of secrets:

I will speak from my memory- my memory- a memory that is all refracting light slanting through prisms and dreams, a shifting, troubled riot of electrons charged with pain and wonder. My memory often seems like a city of exiled poets afire with the astonishment of language, each believing in the integrity of his own witness, each with a separate version of culture and history, and the divine essential fire that is poetry itself. - from the Lords of Discipline

When secrets are of the memory it's because we've held them for awhile and when you hold a secret desire that desire turns into the holy grail and you are left wanting and wondering and wondering in all it's finery isn't real. You can't hold it, play with it and boy do I love to play with it and keep it for your own. This makes your secret huge, almost a hope diamond of sorts that can cut your heart as it turns around in your belly. Sharing it although something of terror can heal your soul, heal all those cuts, make you whole and make that secret seem real and attainable. Pick wisely though, that's my only advice, pick carefully the vessel of hope and
then don't look back, just jump.

Years ago when trapped in a marriage I hated and a life that wasn't what I had charted I read Conroy and he read to me, as he wrote in the Prince of Tides after this amazing affair that changed his life he returned home, as men do and as women do, but I didn't. He wished "At the top the bridge with the stars shining above the harbor, I look to the north and wish again that there were two lives apportioned to every man and woman." He wanted every man and woman to have the life they were fated to live and the secret life "that sustained him now." Even though he wasn't with this woman he dared to love outside of his life he was still with her because love doesn't change local, it just changes who you are. Someone you love listens to Joni and you hear Joni and she's now part of your gray matter, swimming in there singing about clouds and illusions and love, of course love and curiosity, Love's mistress.

And it is the secret life that sustains me. I wait and when it gets dark I am at ease slipping into the dark water waiting for the words, waiting and letting it wash over me the tide of secrets shared of nothing ordinary, no agenda, no positioning. When I am sure I am running on empty, when the world has had it's hand in my head all day when I am too exhausted to figure one more damned thing. When I am done worrying about the kid and his classes, when I am sure there isn't an idea that hasn't been played over and over in my head, when i have crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's, when it's safe it's the secret life.

When you are in the middle of the secret life it's important to take care of the other, to keep their secrets safe, to take care of them a little more than you are sure they are taking care of you, to leave more than you take, to love more than you are sure you can and let me tell you why. Love creates love. It's always true. What you send out will be returned ten fold and when you hear someone say to you in a whisper, almost a sigh, almost not mentionable "it's almost too good to be true." You can feel yourself nod, but not really, because it's something you've felt, the known element in it all. Humans are the greatest miracle, our hearts, our souls who we are and sharing that is a high unmentionable. Conroy knew this. I know this and so does someone whispering. They know.

Just now Best Friend calls. She's off fixing things today, far more important than I care to be today. She says "Secrets?" You can't hold water. She does make me laugh, I do tell her things private things, sacred. I am sitting here laughing now knowing that when I told someone recently a very funny story about our insane past she says, "I can't believe you told that story, I am going to kill you." Shared secrets are even more fun. She makes my life fun. I wonder sometimes if all the stiff suits she works with know that under all that calm, cool, very capable exterior is a girl who could twist a man's soul around her little finger in one of her giggles.


by: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

S she laughed I was aware of becoming involved
in her laughter and being part of it, until her
teeth were only accidental stars with a talent
for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps,
inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally
in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by
the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter
with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading
a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty
green iron table, saying: "If the lady and
gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden,
if the lady and gentleman wish to take their
tea in the garden ..." I decided that if the
shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of
the fragments of the afternoon might be collected,
and I concentrated my attention with careful
subtlety to this end.

THAT is my Best Friend, no poem better written to describe an afternoon lost in lunch with her in some bistro, no better way to describe an impromptu picnic and I can't imagine how exciting that would be for a man to discover. His soul would be lost.

Years ago we were at a renaissance Fair eating giant turkey drumsticks, my boyfriend at the time pissed off because people didn't know that in the conquistadors didn't belong at a Renaissance fair, buying princess hats and showing off my archery skills, I had lost her in the crowd. When I found he she was at a little earring stand and this handsome, oh so handsome tall blond haired boy with sparkling blue eyes was rubbing her ear lobe and he was lost, a goner, pushing the earring into her ear he was so gone. I could only giggle as I saw her violet eyes light up the the booth and shake my head laughing, knowing he'd tell the story later about the woman who stole his heart at the fair that day.


In June I had a secret
Summer secrets turn to music
when the August bugs are singing
and the melody of haunting want
and if you mixed that want with need
and threw in a few nightmares
you can eat a crazy stew
that nourishes you and gets you through
those longer summer evenings
when the white moths are hitting the lantern
when you are in the cool air of the evening
and all you want is to dance in the garden
and all you need is to whisper your secret
into the ear of a lover
who holds them in his pocket
next to his Swiss army knife and
glow in the dark compass ring
he keeps close in case he gets lost
we won't have to ask for direction
to my room, up the stairs
past the painting I can't seem to finish
where the white sheers blow when a storm passes
through the mid west and through my
mid western girl heart
Just when you think it's a storm you can weather
just when you think you've found a girl
who can't have a dark thought in her head
the tornado of want will spin you around
and will that secret still be in your pocket
when the house lands on you and you are sure
those striped socks don't belong to you?
You are are strong arterial, right?
Some blond girls don't come from Kansas
and even those that do are reinventing themselves
believe me
come walk with me down the yellow brick road
and we'll find our souls
you can teach or write a book
and I will plant tulips and nobody will miss us
or even care
and when they do, they'll find us there


I know your secrets too, I listen carefully as all lovers should, as all lovers do. If you haven't told someone a secret recently, don't do it until you're ready, really ready. If you aren't sure if you are ready, you probably are and just afraid. Let's not be afraid this year tender reader. Let's be brave, let's put it out there, let's trust, let's hope, and let's know.

"I stood face to face with the moon and the ocean and the future that spread out with all its bewildering immensity before me."
— Pat Conroy (Beach Music)

Thanks for sharing this time with me.


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