Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Butler’s Gift

‘Sometimes I fear for your immortal soul.’  The Butler said that early in our marriage before he’d fully grasped what living with a writer meant.  

The morning walk
 And that’s what I’m thinking about while Big Nose sniffs grass beside the path in hope my attention will lag long enough for him to sneak into the verboten copse.  Verboten because local gentry feed pheasants there so they can later blow them to smithereens.  Local poachers feed deer there for the same purpose but tend to leave carcasses behind for Big Nose’s pleasure.  The latter is more a deterrent to me than the former.

My attention is diverted to the other side of our path where a track runs through knee-high crops.  In the middle of that track, what looks like a large bird.  Not the right colour for a pheasant – about the same shade of L’Oreal that I use.  We’re a bit far afield for my neighbour’s chickens, but the oval shape and colour, a chicken is what my brain tells me it is.

Said chicken turns its head and transforms into a fox, oval because it's sitting down.  A cool metaphor, but my optical prescription’s a bit hefty, so I give the image a moment to settle and yes, it’s definitely a fox scanning the field, unaware we stand thirty yards away.

Big Nose's moral dilemma
Big Nose catches the scent and tracker extraordinaire that he is, dashes into the off-limits copse.  A cue for any responsible dog owner to bring her Big Nose into line.  Right.

Sometimes I fear for your immortal soul.  

Granted, I was plotting someone’s murder when he said it, but even so, not what you expect from a lay person. I laughed.  Not in derision, but in the pure joy of how wonderful that remark was.  Kinda sweet that after the long years of knowing me, he still believed I had a soul. 

More remarkable that he believed in any god, let alone an all-loving one, because his work routinely had him with a weapon between his legs and the hope between his ears that his aircraft wasn’t shot out of the sky a la pheasant before he could help put Humpty Dumpty pieces of young people back together again.  Or watch Afghan children die. 

So the two of us together, the Butler and me, I knew my compromises, all the pheasant and fox hunts I didn’t moon, all the plants in neighbours’ gardens untouched by midnight relocation, all the people who’d caused him pain still taking in air when I knew of places on the moors . . . what was the Butler’s experience, sharing space and a life with someone like me?  And if a wife’s plotting turned into murder, how would the Butler respond?  How would anyone?

Fortunately for the loathsome in my life, I explore these type questions via my writing rather than scientific method. 

Conor (played by Gary Goodyear, Cats in a Pipe, 2013)
Photo by SiniHarakka Urban Photography
 I created Conor O’Donovan, Irish Catholic ex-pat in a country where not his skin colour but his accent makes him a target.  Where being called his nationality equates roughly with being called stupid.  He’s the second of nine children, his mother’s favourite until his youngest brother dies.  Then he becomes the sin eater for the family.  And he continues to be the sin eater for the rest of his life because hard as he tries, he can’t be heterosexual, he can’t meet his children’s expectations, he still believes in immortal souls and an all-loving God who says if only he were a better son, a better doctor, a better officer, a better father, a better partner, everyone else around him would actually stop all this sinning.

Bert (played by John McMahon, Cats in a Pipe, 2013)
Photo by SiniHarakka Urban Photography
Enter stage right, Bert Statler, Conor’s shadow.  Bert’s also gay, but from a US military family, in the Navy himself during the death throes of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, so still living stealth.  His long-term partner has recently transitioned male to female, and though they’re still together, Bert feels abandoned.  But to Bert, that’s life, isn’t it?  You’re created by a fuck, spend your whole life getting fucked, and your funeral costs fuck someone else out of their inheritance.  The world doesn’t suck because of Bert, but because the world sucks.  Sometimes to dilute the suck quotient for someone else, you have to sin.

Conor is who we’re all told we should be.  Bert is the part of us we never admit out loud, sometimes not privately to ourselves.  Their friendship in some measure, represents the polarities between the Butler and myself, but also a polarity intrinsic to me as well – my struggle to be socially acceptable (stay out of jail), contribute to society (be able to afford the things I want), continue to grow as an individual (find new ways of staying out of jail and getting what I want).

The irony is that, before I married the Butler, I wrote about other people, my keyboard the conduit for stories gifted to me as a trauma therapist.  Once my life was shared, my writing became about me.  Disguised as a tall, lanky gay southern male who cuts people open for a living, I finally tell the truth.  And I’m able to do that because one day a long time ago, the Butler feared for my immortal soul.

The Butler & Big Nose, on the fox track headed toward the Verboten Copse

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