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Friday, August 29, 2014

Are There Tuesdays In Heaven?

I never had to physically view the bodies, but I've imagined the death scenes many times, my mother slumped forward in a recliner, my brother in pieces on an Arizona highway.

I faced their autopsy reports. The medical examiner got the color of my mother's eyes wrong. They were green, not brown, but by the time her body was found, and because of all the retching, blood had obscured the true color.

My brother's body was no longer recognizable. There were extruded brain fragments on his t-shirt, almost every bone broken, his once handsome face and muscular body distorted. The human I grew up in the same house with, played cowboys and Indians with, listened to the Beatles' Blue Album with, was reduced to lifeless pulp.

Just like that. We fall off the planet.

It was these autopsy reports in particular that brought my agnosticism into sharp relief. Nothing could be further from the "Jesus Saves" and "God Listens" bumper stickers than the very real and grisly images of my loved ones in death. It was how they died, and when they died, and why they died. Not death itself. Death is part of life, but not torture, murder, or the irony of someone chronically suicidal finally succeeding by accidentally choking on a ham sandwich. God can't possibly be that ironic. Paradoxical, maybe, but not ironic. That's just cruel.

Any confusion about life after death can be summed up in this burning question: Are there Tuesdays in Heaven? I'll come back to this later.

For a instant this morning, everything made sense. I had an epiphany after glancing at a book on my kitchen counter, Hyperbole And A Half. It's a creation of part web comic, part blog, by Allie Brosh. The comic is drawn in Paintbrush and is described as "intentionally artistically crude." It's about everything from intellectually disabled dogs to debilitating depression. The colorful pages are inspiring, and the humor, even when it addresses all that isn't funny, makes one take life less seriously. I mean, what else is humor for?

So I decided right then and there in the kitchen that creation is an infinite explosion of colorful confetti.  All this, our lives and what we've put into the world, is an amazing gorgeous blast of paper bits -- every flower, poem, song, star, laugh. We argue over where the confetti originally came from, when it came into being. We war when we can't agree on the answers.

It's everybody's confetti, but that's just not enough for some. And confetti alone doesn't satisfy. We have to paste and glue it, dye it, drown it, own it. We turn it into money, churches, walls and dungeons. That's just how we roll.

We've ruined everything. But that explains a lot.

Jesus saves. Saves us from what? Certainly not ham sandwiches, monstrous murderers and heavy vans that kill best friends (a death I left out). What's that I hear way in the back row? Hell? He saves us from hell? No, I'm afraid not. He might hold your hand, apologize profusely, but there are no surefire hell preventions. The best Christians I know have frequent flyer passes to hell. All they have to do is close their eyes, and there they are.

God listens. Hear that? Hear the warmth of being heard? That's all the warmth you're gonna get, because after God listens you're on your own to deal. He never promised bad things would never happen, that you'd never get cancer, that you'd live a long happy life and end up with a condo next to his.

Here's the hardest thing to face, which I've almost mastered: It's not meant to make sense. Sometimes it seems to, in a wonderful My Little Pony for Christmas kind of way, but other times it's just ugly black confetti everywhere. And it doesn't always clean up well.

Are there Tuesdays in Heaven? No, love. There aren't. There aren't Mondays, Mays, Groundhog Days or s'mores. But here, in a wondrous world that won't last forever, there's confetti, lots and lots of it.  Life is intentionally, artistically crude, which is usually a pretty good thing.

Try and celebrate it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rapers & Rape Guards

Whatever his name is, he's still out there, raping 1 in 4 women living in Sweden.  It's 1 in 5 in the US.  And get this, about 35% of women raped as minors will be raped again as adults.  So yeah, you can get struck by lightening and raped twice, more often in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Why are rapers called rapists?  Rapist sounds like specialist, gynecologist, psychologist, psychiatrist.  Raper is nothing special, but you'll need at least one specialist when Raper gets through with you.

I recently read an article in the New York Times about rape kits sitting for years on shelves, untested.  Law enforcement's excuse was that the testing was just too expensive (meanwhile, they're polishing their new shiny semiautomatic weapons).  I bet they wouldn't say that if more men were raped.

Men do get raped (1 in 71), which isn't far from their breast cancer odds (1 in 100).

Women are also more likely to be raped (1 in 6) than get breast cancer (1 in 8).

My own rape kit, which is an assortment of hairs and body fluids collected in the emergency room, sits on a shelf in Houston, Texas.  It's covered with thirty years of dust, never tested.  Raper is 30 years older than he was the morning he broke into my apartment.  If the fact that he raped someone else one week before me is any indication of his usual frequency, I don't want to do the math to determine how many more victims he assaulted these past 30 years.  Even if he were caught, only 3% of Rapers ever see the inside of a jail cell.

Quail Walk Apartments let me out of my lease after the rape.  It was simple.  I walked into the leasing office the next day, sat in a chair across from Lisa-the-apartment-lady and said, "I can't live here anymore.  I was raped."  That last word got tangled in my mouth for a minute, just like it did when I called the police the morning before.

"I'm afraid," I'd told Lisa-the-apartment-lady, but I stopped there.  The rest of it was too weird, that I was afraid Raper could still get into my apartment through the tiny air vents, that no matter how many times I checked the door and window locks, I feared Raper could unlock them somehow, perhaps with telekinesis.  The apartment just wasn't safe anymore, especially since many Rapers return to the scene.  Plus, everywhere was a memory, the kitchen where he searched for a knife, the bedroom where I fought him, the floor where he bound my hands and mouth with electrical tape, the bathroom where the rape occurred, or the end of it anyway.  Worst of all was the living room I crossed to unlock the front door when my boyfriend, a policeman, called to say he was on his way.

The boyfriend was late.  He had another girlfriend, I would later find out.  He gave Raper his opportunity, he and I, the ditz who unlocked the door. 

Raper raped another girl down the street, in a local park beside a recreation center.  There were no Rape Guards on duty.  They should have been stationed as frequently as fire hydrants and flagpoles, churches and Starbucks. 

A Rape Guard should have been alerted had the girl pressed a little button implanted somewhere on her body, a place Raper would never find it, perhaps under her right clavicle or beneath her bellybutton.  Maybe hers was a dental implant, a lever she could flip with her tongue and bite down.  Silently, the nearest Rape Guard would have been notified, could locate this latest victim by the signal of her rape prevention implant (RPI). 

But Rape Guards didn't exist back in 1984.  Oh yeah, they don't exist now either.  One can't even Google "rape guard" and see it appear as one word, like "lifeguard."  There's a website which is, ironically, a poker tournament site.

She hugged her Raper, that other girl.  She hugged Raper, maybe to save her life or miraculously, out of compassion and empathy.  I remember being shocked by this.  She mentioned it nonchalantly as she and I sat with a sketch artist working with the police.  We were there to describe the 5'9" white male with frizzy blondish hair.  He had a tan.  He smelled almost sweet, like exertion sweat, not nervous sweat.  He wasn't nervous at all.  Just determined. 

He's still out there, probably forever, but let's at least get his name right.  Raper makes rape sound more common, more everywhere, like a bad rash, like it is.  Raper sounds more like dangers waiting to pounce, like they are.  It sounds like both acting alone or in a group, one big party or a genocidal war game -- Let the rapes begin...  It's bride kidnappings, honor killings, bride burnings, acid attacks, female genital mutilation, human trafficking, ritual servitude (sex slaves).  It's all rape.

Raper is what we call him now, like driver or baker, shooter or taker; loser, hater, killer.  Raper is ancient, patient, and nowhere near retirement.  He can't tell you why he rapes, why women, especially, have it coming.  We won't forget his name, but he'll never know ours, the 1 in 4, the 1 in 5, the too many to count because not all want their names on kits collecting dust, collecting stigma and shame.  Why the shame?  There's a lot in a name.

What was the name of that other girl in the park?  Oh yeah, same as mine.  Nobody.