Monday, November 14, 2011


Writing about writing, writing as a little girl, before I can read, before I can write anything other than my name, my name, written out in full, painfully, unhappy that it is so, so long, so many letters to write, Maria Christina Franke, but at least not as long as my sister’s name, which still has the hyphenated second last name, Elizabeth Diana Franke-Ruta, the Ruta being a post office mistake, a small town on the Italian Riviera where my grandfather, a man I never met, my father’s father, lived and wrote, taking Franke-Ruta as his pen name, his name still popping up as a minor, very minor German writer of the 1930s.

Writing. My mother in the manic periods of her mental illness writing and writing, the typewriter clicking away as she writes short stories, some about us, about three children who live in Switzerland, the three children she sends to Switzerland to live with the German grandparents, the grandparents who had gotten out of Italy, walked out of an Italian jail in Lucca, the jailers not wanting them, this Jewish woman and her German husband, the writer, letting them walk, the jailers eating lunch in the next room, the cell door unlocked. Mother the writer sends us to Switzerland but we never get there, stopped by her mother at Ernst Stein’s Great Neck house with its white painted wooden paneling, so clean and glossy and beautiful. Writing as a little girl, scribbling lines across the page, just lines of scribble, “Look, Diana, I’m writing.”

Writing, my mother telling me how to write a story so that something that seems so hard is now easy, just tell the story to yourself and then write it, just write it, don’t worry, if you can tell the story, you can write it and I do and the little eight year old story I write about a donkey who did something I no longer remember, the story my mother helps me write, the two of us sitting in the rain drenched summer house in Inverness, the ferns wet and smelling of urine, everything wet, leaves dripping, the two of us against the world, safe in our little house, and she helps me write a story.

Writing in Mr. Trouse’s English class, writing about Macbeth, angry, furious, stubborn, twisting my hair into knots, sitting and refusing to write, then slowly, dragging my pen across the ruled paper, writing, writing about Lady Macbeth, about the words Mr. Trouse loved and so I loved too, writing about Lady Macbeth and her madness, pushing, forcing the words out, the writing rough and uneven, the pen tight, the ink spreading. And when Mr. Trouse comes to class the next day, holds up a paper and says to us, “What do you think of this?” and when he reads my writing and I think he is reading it to shame me and my anger, and when a boy raises his hand and says “It reads like honey,” and Trouse says yes, that’s what I thought too, I wonder how the words they hear are so different from the words I felt.

And summer, bored, lying on the couch, my little brothers and sister screaming, the ugly tract house, reading, reading Willa Cather, reading stories of Swedish pioneer girls and prairies, of wheat and sun and trains across the fields and I know that this is beautiful writing, that this is how I want to write.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

LONG SHOT by Lynn Faye

I went through this inexplicable period of promiscuity after I got divorced. I shouldn't say inexplicable in view of what preceded it, but looking back on it now, it seems very far away.

My mother was -- in many ways -- a prude. Oh, she talked a good game on the outside: loved the nudie ladies in Vegas; always warned me and my sisters and girlfriends to come to her if we got pregnant too soon -- said she knew what she was doing at our ages. She married the guy who turned her on and who seemed dangerous and then spent the rest of her lifetime trying to understand why he was such a chick-magnet and liked it that way.

My Dad was actually a prude, too. Wanted us to be ladies. Stay on the straight and narrow. Keep our thighs closed and cleavage covered. He talked a good game, too. And acted out plenty. But basically, he wanted his daughters to be good -- nice girls. I guess to atone for his prostitute sister and keep us away from her life of crime and degradation.

My folks were from hardscrabble backgrounds and worked hard to make up for it.

Mom -- from an orthodox Jewish family. Decided to rebel and marry the guy who wasn't even Bar Mitzvahed. All my Dad knew about orthodoxy was that he wanted to be far away from it. So did my Mom.

So the seeds of rebellion were planted in me long before I was born.

I tried doing the conventional things but was always just a step "out there."
Was boy crazy early.
Had sex early.
Ran off to New York for college to get away from home and never went back while all my friends stayed Midwest.
I wanted out of that stifling home. I'd flee my family and mistakes and make a new life.

So, I married a guy who didn't turn me on.
Avoid my mother's mistake and stay safe.
Our sex life was terrible -- even if we didn't realize it right away.
And then, everything about our life together was lousy, too.
Alas, he was from an orthodox Jewish background and had the same hang ups as my mother - just pretended that he didn't.
Like they say, we all marry our mothers.

So, after five years of lousy sex and playing house, when I got divorced, I wanted to play. I wanted no relationship of import with anyone. I'd gotten hurt and wasn't going to let that happen again.
So, I became a tramp for awhile. Not a big tramp -- but still a tramp.
Picked up men -- wherever. Slept with them. Discarded them. And didn't like them, either.
I was enjoying myself. Or was I?
I was acting just like my father -- acting out.
But I'm not a man and I didn't fare well acting like one. I still got hurt.
You can't just pick up people, sleep with them, and drop them -- without getting hurt.

On vacations, where no one knew me, I was fearless.
Flirt. Pick 'em up. Sleep with 'em. Have great sex. Feel nothing.
Ignored the rumblings of pain; hurt; -- when the men acted just as I expected and had set myself up for.

And one day, I found myself in London.
I picked up someone whose face and name I can't remember anymore.
He was foreign. Maybe Indian. Maybe African.
Mysterious. Dangerous. Interesting.
Had dinner with him.
Slept with him.
There we were in a hotel room. Perhaps mine. Perhaps his.
Along the way, the sex got rough. Not S & M stuff. But rougher than I was accustomed to. I don't remember if he bit me; hit me; or what?
But when I awoke the next morning, I was very sore. I could barely walk. The insides of my thighs were black and blue. He was gone -- as expected. I was alone.

I couldn't believe it. How had I come this far away? What was I thinking?
I could have been killed. Beaten. Drugged. I was lucky. I was only bruised -- in every way.
I was hurt but suddenly alert.
I was so very far away from home; physically, mentally, emotionally.
And I was done with this phase of my life. I would have to rebel in some other way.
I was not my father.
Not my mother, either.
Actually, not even me.