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Sex and the Single Girl Survivor

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By Sharon Cretsinger


Art by Amy Smith

Hey everyone, Sharon was a big fan of my fiance Jennifer's website and work. Her memorial of Jen was so good that I have decided to allow her free reign to let her brain out all over this blog. She sent me two pieces to publish but both are pretty intense - I'm spreading them out so that people can handle it. Enjoy. - Michael

I turn the camera on myself.  There we are, face to face.  My words in front of me are

reflected into infinite space in the flash and my bifocals.  This is what it is to survive. 

Turn the camera on yourself, if you dare, women.  At least consider falling in love with

the little swelling of crow’s feet under your eyes.  I thought I held off middle age by not

looking in the mirror.  Evidently I did not.  But it is not as though I have completely

stopped casting a reflection.


Things are different for the women survivors of psychiatry.  We move on, or we are told

that we are worthless for not moving on in someone else’s time.  We pretend we move

on, or we think we move on from the hard places that made us either die, or survive. 

We stand alone, and we don’t fear the worst.  The worst has already happened.  It has

happened and we live there.  There is nothing tangible for those that admit living in

those places forever.  There is suicide and addiction.  There is the adventure of another

misogyny that we tell ourselves will not obliterate us.  As far as I can tell, there is

nothing fucking else, yet I have the nerve to believe I have some value anyway, in the

place where I am in middle age, with my plans to die a balancing dialectic against the

daily contradiction of my life, my hidden needles, the gray highway and the chain of

horrible jobs and bad motels.  There is nothing in the middle of the dialectic but my age.

A Motel 6 outside of Cleveland.


The night manager had barely managed to paint the inside of the cinderblocks to any

shade of putrid yellow at all.  The floor was a putty-looking kind of tile, I thought,

perhaps, to make it easier for the woman survivor to clean up her own blood the next

day.  I was crazy crazy with the desire that only comes from the root cellar of a now

burned out farm, somewhere in the middle of West Iowa.  Old men, very old men, with

their inappropriate leering and rough, probing fingers substituted for now limp cocks. 

The stubble they don’t bother to shave, rough against my baby skin.  Those first digital-

anal orgasms, taken from me and at the same time given to me.  At forty-five, I am wild

for a taste before I grow too old to organize another appropriately awful age gap. 


You are slow, way too fucking slow, at 78.  Forty-five and 78 is not as good as 30 and

57.  Not nearly as good as 16 and 42.  And never anything close to 5 and 35.  I guess I

will be chasing that fucking dragon until he incinerates me.  “Our bodies react.  We don’t

have control,” said my best therapist ever.  She was Israeli, and her father survived the

Holocaust.  At 33, I thought she was very profound.


I pulled him by his shirt collar out of the old vinyl chair and out of his indecision and

complacency.  I silently let him know I knew that he found me marginal.  Marginal in

beauty and firmness, relative to what he thought he deserved.  Marginal as an activist,

an intellectual, a human, a vessel very marginal to serve his many intense needs.  I

shoved my tongue in his mouth and let him know I did not care.


A few minutes later, I am naked and disappointed, while he carries on about his

fractured psyche.  “You remind me of her!  You should publish your book!  You know she

published her book!  It gave her credibility!”


Oh, my god.  I mean it.  “Oh my god.  Shut up and fuck me.  I don’t need your bullshit.” 


You talk way too much, disastrous love of mine.  I am often chastised, ignored and

psychologically torn to bits for failing to consign the past to the cargo hold, but I feel

really comfortable ripping off the personal identity tag and sending this one down with

the captain. 


And then there was the other one. 


What on earth to say about the other one. 


Pure devastation in dark green nail polish. 


I ran away from that one so fast I forgot one teal flip flop. 


This can be a problem in Florida. 


The summer is endless shades of polished jade, still only a moment of dew in the grass.


I am a veteran of the domestic wars of intense seduction and almost subversions and

overt self sabotage.  And I can outplay any one of you.  I am a woman and a survivor of

psychiatry.  I am an addict who is a couple thousand miles and a little psychic space

past the last bad relapse in Jersey.  What is a good relapse, anyway?  Was the last

accidental overdose in upstate New York any good?  I’m still not sure.  I hope to depart

for my final resting place from somewhere better than a leaky Super Eight non-deluxe

smoking room.  It is a baseline level of hope that is obviously not too high. 

Normally, it takes me more than two or three motel room nights to go from a “bad”

relapse to an overdose.  This time, the motels were particularly seedy, which meant that

the chance to score something great was about 100%.  The dealers really hate the

women who can pay with money.  They prefer to take it out in trade.  I’ve stopped

asking myself what I would do if it came to that.  It all falls under the category of the

things we most fear that may actually happen. 


The other one loved me like no one’s business.  He came to me for therapy.  It was

another life for both of us.  There were at least three weeks of watching him lie on the

futon in my office and cry about his bipolar diagnosis.  He was still thinking he was a

woman at that point; and, I already knew him better than he knew himself.  I watched

him grasp what I knew about his gender the first time he called me on my cell, unable to

find my office.  I looked out the window and saw him walking the wrong way, toward a

busy highway.  This would become the most important person I ever met, and I knew,

right there in that moment, this was another survivor, but not a woman.


I watched him become complacent about his psychiatric medication.  He drew pictures

on my DSM, surprised that I let him.  He slid from binge drinking and daily pot smoking

into methamphetamine dependence.  I accepted that I loved him, and he would

probably die, and ached for my own relapse, which came right on time.  My private,

dissident clinical practice became a center for advocacy, activism and anything anti-

psychiatry after the state took my license to kill for refusing to prove I was sane. 

It was over a year later when I sent the text message.  I was coming out of CVS and

saw him walking to the Save-A-Lot grocery store.  I still felt the same.  He was the same

man he had been when I first saw him walking.  Still devastating.  “Are you ready for

brunch?” I asked in the text.   He was early in his recovery from the addiction and afraid

to eat in public.  We ate at my house and slept tentatively together in my bed, where I

put my fingers gently around his wrist and felt his pulse, ecstatic that he would not die.  I

smiled, and he loved me back for a few months.


We were torn apart in much too short of a time by his recovery and my relapse.  He

again reduced me to someone not worth knowing until I got into recovery or therapy and

made some better choices about my life and managed to be more of what he wanted

and less of what he despised.  His reduction of me shook me out of my complacency

and put me back on the highway.  I told him, “I do not remember talking to you from

Florida,” just to make him furious. 


Today, I let him for the last time, trapped in his own filthy kitchen, afraid to walk past me

on the run down porch and past me, sitting on the rotted step.  I left him like I have left

at least a dozen others who thought they could break me with their small vials of

useless testosterone.  I left unbroken, with a stash of his needles neatly wrapped in a

number of tissues, on the inside zipper pocket of my bag.  I took only the small things I

could actually use. 


I hope not to be found dead, alone, in a cheap motel room, especially not on the toilet. 

But I fully accept it as a possibility.  We singular, survivor women are at peace with the

knowledge that whatever we fear most may actually happen.  And, we are not ashamed

of the possible eventuality.  We survive many such eventualities from the past as well as

the near or remote future, daily.  We survive this, and the men, and the women, and the

bad choices, and New York city as it begs for a post 9-11 relapse.  We break.  We are

locked up for breaking.  We come out of the ward more broken.  We exist, and reflect. 


And sometimes, we speak.


An example of our acceptance and endorsement of everyday brutality:

“I don’t allow men to make remarks about my body.”  This was my response to a woman

older than I who seemed to think I was not wearing enough clothes. 


“You will be okay until some man makes a remark about you,”  she had said.

Much trickier are the ones who feel qualified to make remarks about my brain.  I talk

about him and that Fall in ’99.  I met him in the Spring; and, he disappeared for the

Summer.  In retrospect, it was a metaphor for our entire relationship.  But oh my fucking

god, that September.  Septembers and Octobers have always been special to me.  I

always like to spend them with someone.  There’s this fantasy, about my long, dyed

black hair and a really thick but soft oversized cardigan sweater, like one that was

featured in Twin Peaks, a tall guy who looked like Clark Gabel and a hayride.  I can’t tell

at this point if it really ever happened.


I left you for the last time today, trapped in your kitchen, afraid to walk on your own run

down porch and past me, sitting on the rotted step.  I left you like I have left at least a

dozen others who thought they could break me with their small vials of useless

testosterone.  I left unbroken, with a stash of your needles neatly wrapped in a number

of tissues, on the inside zipper pocket of my bag.  I took only the small things I could

actually use.


In the end, I still feel I hardly know our women survivors.  I know our men even less.  I

guess I can say our men all look the same in the dark.  Don’t know what else I would

say.

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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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