Ex-husband Summer (Volume 37, January - July, 1992)
(This volume covers part of my second year of graduate school and the summer after. I spent much of that summer back in Seattle, helping care for my first husband, Pat, who was dying of cancer. We had finalized our divorce almost two years earlier, right before I moved to Wisconsin to attend UW- Madison in pursuit of an MFA degree.)
March 27, 1992
Today Larry took us on a creative visualization journey to receive a gift. We travelled a great distance by boat, train, then on foot over the mountains, where we met a guide. The guide accompanied me on my individual journey for some time, after which I continued walking alone to a cave. In the cave a wise-elder-type man handed me my gift, my special gift.
It was little N.A.T.T.* the Rat, returned to life and sitting in my hand, his little rat nails poking me and his rat whiskers brushing my palm.
* (Not A Test Tube)
April 8, 1992
Ellis and I saw Ram Dass last night. That was truly excellent. But, damn it all, I was so exhausted I kept drifting off. He was humorous as usual.
He talked a long time. The best part was the question and answer period. He had an excellent answer to a question about abortion. Said basically there’s no rule book answer to that question, that when abortion occurs, it’s an event involving the man, the woman and the fetus — each acting out their own karmic issues. He said he believes that it’s possible for some reincarnations to be fully completed as a fetus. How fascinating. There was a loud round of applause after this answer.
We sat with Ellis’ friend, Jeff. Jeff said he tried to sit next to me because I look like the woman he used to love. He didn’t realize for a little while that I was with Ellis, that I was the woman Ellis told him about.
Jeff offered to drive me to the art building to look for my journal, which I was afraid I’d left in a classroom. I declined as I felt it could wait until today. (It was in my studio.)
Had a weird night filled with strange dreams about Stacy and the apartment. Could not tell if I was awake or asleep. Woke up exhausted and depressed. Ellis stayed and slept with Moon until 11:00 in the morning.
This morning, then, I was walking to school. I walked past a guy sitting on the steps of an apartment building on Gorham. He said, “Excuse me!” and started walking towards me. “This is going to sound weird, but yesterday you smiled at me and I was really down. I’ve seen you before and I just appreciated it…this is for you.” He handed me a white bakery bag.
Truthfully, I don’t even remember him, unless he was in a group of three guys that I briefly smiled at, but was that even yesterday?
I asked him his name (Joseph) and told him mine and shook his hand. I said, “Thank you very much. That’s very sweet of you. What is it?” “A blueberry muffin.” We smiled and I went on my way.
I wanted to hug him and kiss him on the cheek, just as I wanted to hug Kim, my would-be apartment sub-letter, who sat in my chair and cried for an hour and a half as I handed him Kleenexes and he told me his life story (a pathetic one).
I am so afraid of being leeched onto; of being asked to give more than I can give.
I realized again what a responsibility we have to be aware of how our actions affect other people. It’s really so pathetic, this world of illusion we’re immersed in. A lousy smile from me, just stupid me, can radically alter someone’s day.
The day before yesterday I left a note in Alexis’ studio that just said that I really love her, I feel she’s a kindred spirit and I’m glad she’s here even though she’s probably not that glad to be here.
The next day I saw her and she said the timing was perfect, she really needed a boost and the note made her day.
May 1, 1992 - Larry’s Class
Sharpening a Knife
Nanao, keep your knife clean
Nanao, keep your mind clean
Sea breeze is bad for a knife they say
Sea breeze is good for a mind they say
Sea breeze not bad for a knife
Sharpen your knife, that’s all
Sea breeze neither bad nor good
The ocean a whetstone for mind
A clean knife mind
A clean mind ocean
Nanao, sleep well tonight
Blossoming crinum lily as a shelter
The coral sand beach as a bed
The Southern Cross as a pillow
-- Nanao Sakaki
May 21, 1992 - Thursday
I spent Tuesday night, Wednesday and Wednesday night out at the farm. I think that’s the longest I’ve ever stayed there.
Tuesday night the strangest thing happened. We were sleeping. It was the middle of the night.
Suddenly Ellis attacked me — he was tearing at my chest; fumbling and grappling. He scratched me. I was terrified. I screamed. I yelled, “What are you doing? What are you doing??”
He turned on the lamp, crawled to the edge of the bed, looked under it, then stared at me blankly. I kept yelling, “What are you doing? Ellis!! Ellis! What are you doing?”
Finally he sort of came to, or woke up, and said, “The baby! The baby fell!” He dreamed that “the baby” fell through the ceiling — he was trying to catch it when he was grabbing at me. My heart was racing. I was so frightened. And so was he.
Earlier in the day we’d been talking about babies. I said that maybe I would consider the idea one day. Maybe. I think childbirth would kill me, though. My body couldn’t take it. Really.
June 10, 1992 - Wednesday
I’m on Northwest Flight 151 to Seattle -- three more hours to go. Seems like it’s been three hours already.
I’m on my way to see Pat, filled with dread and apprehension.
I had a night that was so bad last night that, if I had finally flung myself off the roof, anyone seeing my crumpled, dead body would merely have said, “Well, of course she had to do it, how else was she going to get any peace?”
Poor Ellis really suffers from my insomnia.
June 12, 1992 - Friday
Nanny and Joe called in the late afternoon. They were both so nice, and totally supportive of my being here. They think a lot of me for coming, but I’m not sure how altruistic my motives are. I need to do this for me. Most actions are not done selflessly — even when we do selfless things, don’t we do them because we feel good, knowing that we’re being thoughtful?
I must say, we’re being very companionable, Pat and I. I wonder if Pat is trying to maintain an illusion that we’re still married, and it’s normal for me to be here. In some ways, it is normal for me to be here — that’s what’s so weird. Little things, little things.
Like: Pat and I took a walk all around the yard to try to find Cooter’s collar, which she lost recently.
I was amazed when Pat’s eagle eyes spotted it. It was broken, but I picked it up and looked at the metal tag — and saw my name. As if we both live here and are jointly responsible for Cooter’s care.
Which, incidentally, I feel is one of the reasons I came here. My heart goes out to Cooter, who is mostly ignored. Pat only yells at her. She keeps trying to jump on his bed and he yells sharply, NO! GET DOWN, GET OUT OF HERE! so she runs out of the room. It’s not that Pat’s mean but he’s in so much pain he just can’t deal with her jumping around him.
Cooter has been gravitating towards me. She slept with me on the floor for a long time. She woke me up. Suddenly I sensed this thing looking at me. I was disoriented and frightened — couldn’t get my bearings in this room — which way was I facing? Cooter nestled into my arms and purred. I whispered in her ear, “Yes, yes, yes, Cooter, yes, yes, yes” since all she ever hears is “NO!”
Pat is perceptive about her. He realizes she must sense his dying. He said, “They know it. They can sense it.”
Sunday, June 14, 1992
Pat said a couple times yesterday that his back felt better. He seemed to have a better night last night.
And I’ve brought him and Cooter back together! At least for now. He invited her up on the bed and then she slept there all night. She lays right on his legs — it’s so cute. She watches TV with him. She hasn’t budged. I think she misses him so much. We’re going to buy her a toy before I go.