One of my sisters has spent the last week being tortured by a waste of skin who happens to be her boss. He won’t have her in his clutches much longer- the unpleasantness has come about, in fact, because she has discovered a way out of his fortress of pain, and he is passing fell and wrath at the thought of her escape. While he still has her under his thumb, though, he is doing his level best to make her life miserable, and so I get regular SOS alerts throughout the day, letting me know about some other horrible thing he has done. And then, of course, I reply as any good sister would, by wishing bloody destruction upon him and all his works.
And so it is that when I open my “Sent Mail” folder and glance at what I have been writing to my sister over the past few days, it all looks like this:
You are a nice person who cares, and he is being a jerk who jerks. Chastisement must be applied to his buttocks. I am warming up the bottom-poking stick as we speak.
Oh god, the stupid fucking jerk face piece of cock cheese. He is marinating in huge, huge, terrible wrongness and I will wear his spleen as a hat.
OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE. I am symbolically kicking the air at the level where the wankstain’s nuts would be.
It may be hard to believe, but back in the day, I didn’t cuss, not at all, never ever. When I was a teenager, the only arrows in my profanity quiver were stuffy, pouty-type words that made me sound like either Little Orphan Annie or Paddington Bear. Real gems, like “Oh, bother!” and “Heavens above!” and “Egads!” and- the nuclear option- “Good galloping gravy!”
Take a second to marvel at the fact that nobody shot me in the head. No, I don’t understand it either.
Well. I got over it. The first time I got dumped, I found my latent ability to swear, found it real good, you’d better fucking believe.
Yes, I know, it’s easy to overdo, and it loses its impact- in the real world and on the printed page- if you use it too often. (One reason I curse so much when trying to yank my sister out of the doldrums is that she’s still not used to my swearing, so it still makes her sit up straight and pay attention. I managed once to talk her out of doing a very, very silly thing by deploying the phrase “buggered with a cucumber” at just the right moment.)
Nevertheless. There are some emotions so strong that they need their own language. The ancient Greeks had it right- they had oodles of different ways to say This sucks and I hurt, all of which you can picture yourself screaming into the teeth of a howling gale. OIMOI! AIAI! A A! PHEU! IO MOI! IO!
Cuss words, in all imperfection and all their filthy glory, are pretty much the language that we have for frustration, pain, and loss. They’re the medium for translating something unspeakable and vast into something four letters long.
You know what I’m getting at, don’t you? The world of lesbian fiction- and the world of fiction in general- lost someone terribly important this past week. Sandra Moran and I shared a publisher and, to some extent, an online community, but we never met in person and I didn’t know her in any meaningful way. I knew she was brilliant, that she had received many well-deserved accolades, and that she was just getting started. I knew she was moving beyond “lesbian” fiction to the wilder and choppier waters of mainstream books. I knew she was going to find a lot of fair winds.
I thought, you see, that there was going to be time. When, after much dithering, I decided not to attend the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference in New Orleans this year, where I would have a chance to meet Sandra and the rest of my stablemates at Bedazzled Ink, that’s exactly what I thought- “Right, well, next year for certain.” Now I’m kicking myself so hard that I’m limping.
The people who did know her are wrecked this week. The rest of us are feeling the ripples that come with losing an inspirational figure and a part of our community- and we’re thinking about all of the unwritten books that we won’t get to read.
More eloquent and expressive people than I am have said eloquent and expressive things about this sudden and painful loss. There will be a lot of fierce remembering, there will be honours and recognition, and there will be people taking up the torch.
But sometimes there’s only one language you can use to express what you’re feeling. So give me a moment’s indulgence here, folks, or- if you like- feel free to chime in:
DAMN AND BLAST and FUCK FUCK FUCK and DRAT motherBOLLOCKING HELL on a STICK. BLIMEY O’RIELLY this is ALL KINDS OF SHITE oh for the LOVE of LEMURS this is just…BOTHER.
Sometimes words aren’t enough, but that’s what I’ve got.