I crawl out of bed in the wee hours, take up my soulful readings, close my eyes, center my attention. Some days it’s all an exercise in frustration, a sense that I’m getting nowhere.
Some days, I experience what I can only describe as “the whoosh”, which feels like an instant upward surge, pulling every erg of energy in my body from my toes up to some focal point I have to trust is my 3rd eye, that not-just-symbolic center that leads the spiritual student eventually into wholeness. When this happens, I feel my whole body vibrating, as if I’m a guitar string that’s been tightened and plucked, the note I now sound pitched ever so slightly higher than before.
In such a state, stuff just is clear. I don’t mean it becomes clear, by some process of intellect or emotional self-control. I mean it just is, insights and understanding simply appearing, full-blown. Problems not solved but rendered non-existent when viewed from some higher perspective. The bull actually approaches and lets me pet him, before he runs off ahead again, out of sight.
On the Path, I’m still green, still inept, still unable to maintain any state of grace for much longer than a few minutes. But those few minutes in the early morning propel and buoy me, if incompletely as yet, as I bounce through my day, tilting at twin windmills: the health care industry that holds my husband and mother in its cold scientific grip, and a political demagogue who seems gleefully hell-bent on bringing the entire country to its knees.
The thing about D.C. is that everyone crosses paths with everyone else, eventually. I certainly didn’t socialize much. I didn’t have time or energy. But Fran, my boss at NOW, called me up one morning and insisted I come to a cocktail party in Georgetown that night. There would be a mix of movers and shakers there, including a source I’d been trying to track down. She also reminded me that I did work for NOW, and that it would be good for the organization for their reclusive blogger to put in an appearance. She didn’t add what was always unspoken: I was the wife of a very rich man, and a woman like that is always welcome anywhere.
No one, not even my contacts at NOW, knew just how bad it was getting for Bob. We kept that to ourselves.
But I decided to go. For one thing, Fran was damned insistent. She informed me she was sending a car, and would be at my door herself if I wasn’t ready when it arrived. For another, it wasn’t far, and Bob insisted he was good to stay home alone for a few hours. Bless his heart, he wanted me to have some kind of life, any kind of life.
So there I am, wearing my fallback little black cocktail dress, looking decent for a change. I admit I wasn’t processing the noise and crowd very well. I was just too fried out. Still, I forced myself to mingle and track down the congressman I’d wanted to talk to.
I could read his surprise at my appearance. People who read my blog and connected me with NOW tended to imagine me as old, dumpy, and pissed. The congressman, apparently nudged off balance by someone young-ish, and well-turned out, gave me at least a little of what I wanted to know before he wandered off toward bigger fish.
Trying to mentally organize his information without benefit of pen and paper, I found an out of the way spot to sip my drink and rehearse in my mind what I’d heard, and how it fit with what else I knew. This was what I loved about what I did, fitting the puzzle pieces together. I was already framing my excuses to my boss for a hasty exit when around the corner comes… Lester Worsham.
I’d seen a lot of pictures, but never met him face to face. He was a large man, probably 6’3’ or more. Heavy through the shoulders and chest, thinning hair and a florid face with sharp little eyes that immediately pinned me down, like he’d been looking for me.
Gunning for me.
He loomed over me, smiling with that smarmy charm he’d perfected, and held out a hand, calling me “Hani”, a little verbal familiarity that somehow felt indecent. I didn’t use my nickname professionally.
His hand was large, slightly damp and aggressively engulfed mine. He held on, didn’t let go, but brought his other hand on top of the grasp, politician-style. With the top hand, his thumb slid ever so slightly along the delicate underside of my wrist.
Talk about creepy. I wanted to jerk my hand away, but felt his strength holding me in place. I felt a spike of panic, the air of menace was so thick; I was frozen between the instinct to run and the instinct to cuss him out. But I got a grip on my fear: Cool it, Hani, he’s doing it on purpose. Do not let him freak you out. Do not let him get to you. Come on, show him you’ve got some cojones, too. I grounded myself more firmly in my kitten-heeled sling-backs and looked him square in the eye.
He told me he was a regular reader, a real fan. He said my column always left him wondering where I would go next, how far I could go before I …hit my limits. Such a fine mind… he said “mind” while giving me the up-down leer – another politician’s move I’d long ago gotten used to. Except when politicians do it, you know they’re just eyeing the real estate. The way Worsham did it weirdly made me flash an image of Hitler smiling flirtatiously at Poland in the summer of 1939.
He went on, still holding me in place. He really admired a woman with such perseverance, he said. The way I got onto a topic and just kept digging. No matter where it led. No matter the consequences. He said it made him wonder what it would take to stop me.
Then, he did that thing again, stroking my wrist; having had his say, he brought my hand to his lips and kissed it like a gentleman, except, oh, god, there was tongue involved.
I was too shaken to get out the “screw you” I so wanted to shout at him. I stumbled out of there like a shot, unable to stand a second more under the same roof with that snake. I didn’t say goodbye to my hostess, I didn’t tell Fran I was leaving, I just fled, struggling to compose myself on the short car ride home.
I didn’t say anything to Bob, either. What would have been the point? Besides, even being the mild-mannered sweetheart that he was, he would have probably have called in a hit squad right then. In hindsight, that would have changed everything, wouldn’t it?
No, I just went home, took a long, hot shower and spent a long, sleepless night listening to Bob, still blessedly alive beside me, still filling my life with love, one breath at a time.