It’s Samhain–the Pagan new year, Halloween to nonwitches–and there’s a new moon in Scorpio, the sign of death and rebirth. The veil is lifted and the dark goddesses are all around us, Lilith in full effect. For nearly a week I’ve been haunted by my highest spirit, in addition to everyone else’s. I’d complain except I know this is the universe’s not-so-subtle way of nudging me forward since I’ve been resisting all gentler hints for the last six, twelve, oh, thirty-six months. A friend reminded me this morning of the words of Chickasaw poet Linda Hogan: “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” Tonight I feel that.
It was a quiet day–most of my Mondays are quiet, by design and default–and when I finished work I went to get my nails done. My manicurist’s name is Lisa too, and we’re the same age. She lives with no green card, three kids, and an “only half good” husband in a one-bedroom apartment, and asks pointedly sympathetic questions as she works around the raw hamburger of my cuticles. “You’re strong,” she says. “You need someone nice.” She’s not wrong, though I’ve only recently admitted this. More than that, I can feel my great grandmother behind her eyes as she speaks–my grandfather, too. They’ve given up the idea of continuing their ancestral line but are still invested in healing it.
The sadness I carry–the mistrust, the unrelenting, corrosive alertness to the darkness everyone harbors–is their burden to bear, and they know it. Tonight, with the membrane between their world and mine at its thinnest, I feel my ancestors’ sorrow as well as their ardent wish to mend the life I have left. So much is ending that I’m open to what they have to say, though usually I can’t take them on. They did their best but that best was base, often perilous. The last time I let them in to this degree was when I stopped being a professional girlfriend and stepped into my career. Now I feel them tugging me into my calling–bigger horizons, brighter ways–and I am as wary as anyone being asked to jump off a cliff. Or a bridge, come to think of it.
My dreams are not dreams right now so much as Soviet-style propaganda, full of bells and whistles and neon signs blazing above doors swinging of their own accord.
You must end your life, pronounces one sign. You mean, you must change your life! I cry. The Rilke quote is ‘You must change your life!’
But no one responds, and I know that Rubenfire, my great grandmother, is sending the message, and has meant what she said. She’s never been one to mince words. End the life that you are leading, she is hollering, hand on her hip. Begin another, and stop whining that it’s too hard. By your age I’d lived in three countries, survived the pogroms, survived your no-goodnik great grandfather. By your age, I’d made a million running a brothel and this was 1940. By your age I had every police officer in Salem in my backpocket and my hand in their front pockets, too. When I was twenty years older than you, I still had the most beautiful lovers, with big, beautiful cocks! What are you waiting for, young lady?
My great grandmother wants her story told, if you can’t tell by now. It’s part of my calling, as far as she’s concerned, along with building an empire that honors what she started. Only her granddaughter who was her grandson has accomplished this so far. But there’s something in me she adores, so she won’t let up until I find a bigger platform for my salt and spice.
You’re not going to be a looker forever, flashes another sign. Why are you home on this of all nights? I stare in the mirror, and sigh.
The veil is lifted, and Rubenfire is lit. It helps that my dearly departed overfamiliars Max and Ruby are around too, but I can’t even get my nails done without her wagging a finger. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s nice.