A Prisoner in the Temple of Doom / Halsey

New Brunswick, New Jersey, circa 2000

New Brunswick, New Jersey, circa 2000

January 22, 2018, Day 4 of 30 Day Music Challenge

I am on the floor. Laid out. Since I read the musician Halsey's poem about sexual assault on a friend's Facebook feed. F*cking laid out.

I live on the side of the mountain. I do so, in part, to check out. I do not hear about government shutdowns. I choose to not hear about 'natural disasters'. I do not tune in to the harassing noise of the news. I have friends who are self-assigned 'news junkies'. They tell me it is not good.

When I drive around, I see the news - styrofoam cups washing into the river, road salt, herbicide saturated fields of corn and Kentucky bluegrass, dead animals, poverty, miles of road without life. That is news enough for me. I can read into it. I know what it means.

We use hand me down newspapers from my parents to kindle our wood stove. I check in with the news then. It is bad. Horrifying murders and robberies and rapes. Human interest and broken human stories that bury other stories of corruption and theft, that could handily be called The Work of The Man.

I listened to a song by Halsey. I have never heard of her until today. I am not going to talk about her music. I am going to talk about her poem, which you can watch her read here. You can read the transcription here. I liked the latter best.

Take good care, should you choose to read or watch, the poem is about rape and sexual abuse. It is graphic, but I think that most works on the subject are raw... whether direct or vague.

A couple men have asked me, "Why are you so angry?" One went on to philosophize, "All things change. Things will change." It was some new age crap without any perspective on human rights.

I have not seen too much good - at least not enough good - come since the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, and believe me, I am an optimist and a fool. I am waiting for the signs to align in the Temple of Doom. I am. I could use a break from the murders and crimes of broken people that feed my wood stove.

This is our shared culture and heritage. Murders and crimes of broken people. None of us are free from it. So I am supposed to sit around waiting for change?

And, if I am asked, "Why are you so angry?", I am likely to also get angry at an individual. The individual with the query. Instead, let's start with "You're angry. Tell me about it." That is better. That is a start. Just read the Halsey poem. Some good reasons to be angry are in there. 

This is one reason why I like reading writing and poems of Alexandra Schueler in her weekly email. Her website's tagline is "Destigmatizing Women's Passion, Anger & Rage". She is angry, righteously angry, and real. Thank you, Ali. 

Sometimes, I have sat down with my women friends and talked about being so f*cking angry, and got... nothing.

Sisters, I am angry.

Brothers, I am angry.

I have been told by a few men that I looked so pissed off when they first met me. I used to scowl a lot. I was tough and hard and out there. I presented myself. I wore serious make-up, serious boots, serious black clothes, and a serious face. Underneath, I was that, too. Underneath, I was also otherwise.

I have been told, by men, that I looked scary and unapproachable. It's true. I was was scary, and I did not want to be approached. I did not want to be approached. I was also protecting myself.

I did not want to be approached. Can you hear this? I wanted to be acknowledged. I wanted to be reckoned with. Reckoned with, not like a storm (though I was one, and still am), not like an army, not like an adversary. I wanted my force, my humanness, my creativity, my brains, my body to be considered. I wanted to be considered a full, complete human being. Still do.

I went on to have a long, solid relationship with one man that told me I looked frightening and pissed off. I remember meeting him at in the deejay booth at WRSU in New Brunswick. I wore boots, stockings, make-up, all black except the lipstick. We didn't talk until later.

That's how I handled things. I had my defense. I looked pissed. I had my desire, and I needed a defense, too.

After the deejay and I split up, maybe a year and a half later, I was still living in New Brunswick. I was in a good place. I was solid. I was very alone. I was very solitary. I was taking care of myself. I felt the deep goodness of being alone, solitary, and full of care. And, the goodness of wanting to be exactly there.

I went dancing at the Melody Bar on French Street at least once a week. Downstairs, they spun 80s punk, goth, and pop. Upstairs, house, rave, and dance. I fancied both. I found friends upstairs and downstairs.

I danced.

I drank cranberry and orange juice mixers with my roommates at the bar. Straight, no alcohol. I was too busy taking too much good care for too much alcohol. Just the occasional 50ยข Pabst Blue Ribbon on a Monday night. I watched a friend spin and learn to beat match upstairs. I cut a rug to The Misfits downstairs. Good times, good times.

I wanted to be free. I was free.

Sometimes I drove or caught rides. Sometimes I walked. I liked to walk.

One night, I walked home alone. Down French Street. Between and beneath the expanding corridor of Robert Wood Johnson medical buildings. Just me hurrying home and the buildings, and man across the street also hurrying home, heading the way I had come from.

I felt alone and frightened. Suddenly.

He had no interest in me. He was hurrying home.

And yet, I felt alone and frightened. I was not alone. I wanted to be free. I wanted to take good care and be free. And yet, I could not, at that moment, have both. To take good care of my person, it seemed I needed accompaniment. I could not be free and alone. I could be not free and feel safe. I could not be free and will being frightened. I was, and am, a prisoner. A prisoner to the need for freedom, for the lack of it.

Sisters, I am angry and sad.

Brothers, I am angry and sad.

I was, and am, a prisoner and so are you.