“A writer must always tell the truth.” —Gore Vidal
Ma is traumatized again because she believes in the power of vulnerability. Believes in the brighter lights obscured and shadowed by the minor shipwrecks and catastrophes of existence. Believes in the cosmic burst of light in the dark that began it all. She believes fiercely in her two selves—the heart diagnostic self (the emotional self) and the head diagnostic self (the intelligent self). She believes in flesh and bone, glitter and glow. Believes in practical magic and mambo. Subarus and salvation. Rachmaninoff and Ladytron. The stars and the moon. Shadows and soon. But, most of all, ma believes in the sublime susceptibility of humankind(ness) and the invincible flashlights of angels.
IN THE BEGINNING, DECEMBER 2010,
when ma met Angel, she said she jumped in with the full force of the wingless because she is not a bird. She said she didn’t even have one wing. Now ma is curled up on our bed with my batwings wrapped around her solemn mess as she munches on an empty bag of Lay’s Potato Chips as she clicks and clicks the blue lava lamp on/off on/off like Glenn Close did in Fatal Attraction. Ma is fetal-like and nebulous in the intermittent blue glow of light and no light. Write about it, ma said Angel said. And leave me alone. But ma can’t write, not yet, because her ego is a complex conjugation of egg and yolk—sense and no-sense—that she knows she will never understand even in the divine stillness of her most enlightened and aligned yoga position. There are no coherent narratives, ma said, in a shattered mirrorball. I told her I would write her story for her instead, so I did, and will, even with her mouth shut tight.
Angel told ma he was HIV negative when they met even though Angel knew he was probably HIV positive. She asked him about his status before they met because ma is like that. It was even written on his profile, she said, on the dating website where we first met. And it’s still there 9 months after ma took care of him after his diagnosis. When they actually really met in person for the first time, ma asked him again and he said he was HIV negative again. And that was that. What the hell, ma said. What the hell. At some point you have to trust the living or you live in a constant state of spiraling mistrust and fear. So they had sexual relations. And it was fine. It went like this and that and ma said Angel didn’t want her to leave his side because of the humane connection that had developed between them, so he held her tight just like my batwings are holding ma tight now with a potato chip bag clenched in her teeth. Ma said she preferred hugs to a notional life of sex anyway even though she has no problem with sex as sex or sex as an open window we sometimes use to guide each other into and through the surreal, fractured landscapes of our manufactured egos.
You can’t hold love in your body, she said. With the kindness of hugs and kisses even from the hardest of hearts.
Ma said she didn’t care if he was HIV positive or HIV negative because she lives in the real world and would have had sex with him anyway and stayed by his side, which she eventually did through the most radical transition an angel can experience, because ma believes in the power of loving humankind(ness). Ma just wanted to know. Just in case. Because in the Age of Information there is no excuse for misinformation with the miracle of post-exposure prophylaxis. He had reasons to fear revelation, ma said. Because revelation requires guidance. It’s not easy being alone, vulnerable and crippled by shame and regret. Ma supported his silence in silence as her body moved radically against her silence in its attempt to draw him into the light of awareness. But in this process of reverse rationalization and narration one must stop and return to point A and face the light head on.
Ma believed in Angel (and still does) because she believes in herself. Believes in her power of perception and emotional intelligence. In her graceless wisdom and improbable compassion. In her mistakes and trippy tippy toes. In faith and foresight. Patience and providence. Ma said she isn’t afraid of death or dying or contracting or developing this or that because she is aware she will die one day no matter what she she does. But the unintended consequences of shame, ma said, are costly burdens that weigh down the wings of angels weighing down the limbs of the living with iron balls.
Ma believed (and still believes) Angel because she believes in cosmic love born out of bedrooms on the bay, the front seats of sports cars, a pier overlooking the same bay, Key West and Saint Augustine, foyers and Florida rooms, chat rooms and dream states, doctor offices and diagnostic sites and any and every place humans reveal their most vulnerable selves and share responsibility for living with other humans being.
Ma believed Angel because he believes in angels. He believes in God and the violet light, the Universe and levitation, chants and oms, Saint Germain and Saint Michael, Christ and Krishna, Buddha and Shiva, the Bhagavad Gita. She believed Angel because she doesn’t believe in any of that but she is always open to the ever expanding room of experience. Even though ma believes in logic and science, X-rays and MRIs, ELISA tests and red shift, emotions and intelligence and in her fierce inability to be immune to the process of cognition, she always believes in absolute risk.
In every low risk situation there’s always a moment of absolute risk, ma said. At the moment of climax one has to decide what to do with what’s to come. That forces the blaring headlights of revelation.
In April, four months after they met, ma asked Angel again after visible signs appeared that pointed to a radical decline in his immune system. In her car parked in front of Buck 15, she closed her eyes and asked him again if he’d ever been tested. No, I’ve never been tested, he said. I don’t believe in Western medicine. It’s a test, ma said she said to him. Not medicine.
This act of empowerment, of closing her eyes while opening his, allowed ma to see the silences burst out of him as a thing in being, like a floating orb that was stunningly clear and fragile and vulnerable and scared and fiercely defensive as it spun violently like a massive tornado destroys everything between heaven and hell. Ma asked him in the front seat of her shitty sports car on a humid Thursday night and that’s when ma knew there was no shaking it out. No turning back. No more lights out. Just go.
What the hell, ma said.
When ma surrendered to the light, her two selves merged into one. She asked the questions no one wanted to answer. She plugged into the grid of dis-empowerment that weighed him down. Since ma is not a bird, she couldn’t and wouldn’t fly away even if she were a bird. Love is a complex conjugate of revelations, ma said. I tapped into his grid and absorbed his city of information into my sensory system just like an angel must absorb the entire history of a civilization into her bones.