Jenny Magnus

HOW TO CARRY LOVE

(enters with futon on back, drops it and steps onto it…)

One

There is something I do to men.  It’s a private little trick that really hooks them in and keeps them invested, intrigued.  I grab them by their feet and drag them around on the floor.  Their feet are usually very sensitive, and they often have a complex about them, finding them ugly, or stinking, or something to be ashamed about.   So I hold them tenderly and gain their confidence and gratitude that way.  Then I slowly lift their legs and they begin to both tense and relax because they think they’re going to get “what they want.”  So when I start to pull and drag them, it’s confusing at first.  They really don’t know what the hell I am up to.  That’s when they start to belong to me, that’s when they let me in, in that moment of confusion.

So once I know I am really in there, I can speed up.  I drag them all around, and the big men in particular are affected, because they have always felt themselves to be too ungainly and monolithic to be moved so fast.  And they start to really have fun.  They get into the ride.  I give them a great ride, whipping them around, sharp corners and momentous arcs.  It’s the best ride, once they really give in to it.

So then, they start to feel the burn: the rug burn on their back where all their weight has been riding the floor.  The pain creeps up, instead of flashing out, and it grows and builds with every passing moment, every inch they are dragged.   They can’t even perceive it as pain at first because they’re having so much fun.  But it grows and grows, and soon they are in agony, screaming for me to stop, to let them go.  Once I know those burns are deep enough, I do let them go, dropping their feet.  They turn over, groaning, trying to feel for the place on their backs where they’ve been hurt.  But the burns are in that one place that you can’t reach yourself, perfectly shaped, healing eventually into scars that forever show anyone who looks at them where those men once had their wings, before they were burned off, cauterized, by me.

 

Three

(sung)
I had some candles that were red
Dripping into my hot water heater
That could explode at night
The feel of the steam on the back of my neck
As I lay in bed.
And on another night
I heard the viscious sounds of growling
And the hot breath of a dog next to my ear.
I lay there, adrenal, its presence certain
Till I turned my head.
These visitations are happening all the time
Heating and freezing me over.
And there’s nothing I can seem to do for it.
So if I can I want to make it be
That I feel the scald of the steam
Just as the dog is reaching me.

 

Four

Oh my god!  Oh my god!  She didn’t even seem to know it.  She comes home and its just sticking out.  She’s walking around like its nothing.  Like nothing had happened.  I’m not even paying attention, and then I notice it.  I could see the handle!  She’s just walking around.  So I think, no, it can’t be.  I look again and it was!  The handle of a knife!  Sticking out of her back!  It was in that one place on your back you can’t reach yourself, so of course she can’t get it out.  I scream, and she stops and looks at me.  What, she goes.  I’m like, there’s a knife! Sticking out of your back!  Oh my god!   She goes, I know.  And starts just going about her business.  I’m like, oh my god!  It’s a knife! In your back!  We have to do something.  And she looks at me and she goes, leave it alone.  I’m like, leave it alone!?  She goes, yeah, don’t touch it.  It’s mine.

So I’m like, ooookkkkk.  It’s your knife, and you don’t want me to touch it.  Like, whatthefuck.  And she goes, that’s right, I want it to stay right where it is.  That’s where it belongs.  I’m like, doesn’t it hurt?  Aren’t you scared?  And she goes, yes, and yes, just like that, yes and yes.

So I’m like, fuckingA….fuckinA!? whatthefuck…fuck…that’s fucked.  And she goes, that’s right… Fucked.

 

Six

(wrestling moves onto futon; falls, flips, slams…)

(moves)
Yeah, love.  You got to practice love.  It don’t come “natural”.  Hate that word.  No such thing.  You got to practice.
(moves)
You might think, what’s the big deal?  Don’t look that hard.  Ok, yeah.  It’s not hard.  It’s not hard to love.  What’s hard is to love right.  To not get hurt.  And especially, good.  To love good.  That’s what’s hard.
(moves)
Ok, like this here?  This hurts.  Ok?  But you can take it.  You can learn to take it.  If you practice.
(moves)
(hurt) Good morning, good morning, good morning.  When I get hurt, I say that.  Instead of cursing.  Cursing don’t get you nothing.  It just brings you down.  But I had to practice that too.  A lot.
Alright, lets break it down.  Ok, love.  First, fear.  Fear.  This is scary.  Nothing’s there, no garuntees.  Its wide open.  You gotta know that.  Once you know that, then its just deciding.  Am I or aint I?  If you aint, fine.  Don’t.  just walk away.  If you are, then do it.  Don’t hesitate, thinkin, thinkin, should I shouldn’t I should I shouldn’t I go go go.
(moves)
A side note.  A lot of noise is helpful.  Kind of takes the fear and, uh, expresses it.  Out.  So its don’t stay, in.  Ok, fear.  Then, confusion.  Do I, er don’t I?  Really.  Yea er nay?  Really.  Word of advice:  don’t matter.  It don’t matter.  If you can, you do.  If you can’t,you won’t.  so it really doesn’t matter what you think.  Put it this way: if you find yourself there, doing it, then you do.  ‘Kay?  Simple enough.  Just don’t get cocky.  Remember, this is hard work.
But there’s a payoff.  Didn’t think I was gonna get to that, didja?  Here’s the payoff: after you practice, after you get it goin’, you feel…different.  You get a feeling for it, a real deep feeling, like, it’s working you.  And that is really something.  That is something else.  Something else again.  Yeah, love.  That is something.  Something else.  Again.

 

(18 lb bag of rice falls from the ceiling, lands with a plop…performer sits on bag to sing….)

Eight

(sung)
She’s the mother of the dream
A symbol to us all
She visits us and licks our butts and licks our wounds
Dries us upside down like grandma’s flowers
The complicating malice of the powers that be has she
The mother of the dream
A window to us all
The crowning crack beyond and back
She’ll versify the by and by
She’s the mother of the dream
A mommy to us all.

 

(rice bag held as briefcase, constantly looking at watch….)

Nine

I have always loved pets.  I had them in my childhood, and then into adulthood.  I can just really relate to them, you know what I mean, spiritually.  The last pets I had were two cats, a brother and sister team, black cats, named Toughie and Bart.  They were as different as night and day, you know what I mean, spiritually.  But they were related.  Isn’t that funny?  Bart was the brother, and he was literally a cool cat.  He was long and thin, and when you picked him up, he was the kind of cat that would just drape over your hand.  He was that relaxed, you know what I mean, spiritually.

He had gotten hit by a car, and had a pimpy limp, and that just added to his coolness.  I really just liked him.  He ran away.

Toughie was his opposite in every way.  Where Bart was relaxed, Toughie was tense.  She was short and fat, and looked like a guinea pig.  When you picked her up, she would stiffen.  Bart would sleep on your neck like a mink stole, and purr and puddle around you.  Toughie wouldn’t sleep with you, I don’t know if she ever slept, she was that tense.  Bart had a meow like a yawn, he would say, “meooooow…”.  Toughie had a meow unlike any I have ever heard, before or since.  She would never sit on your lap, but she would follow you around crying “meer, meer, meer…” like that, insistent, it was really annoying.

Then at one point I wanted to move, to San Francisco, and I didn’t want to take Toughie, I didn’t want to take anything, so I gave her to some friends to watch after.  They did, in a way.  They left her outside all winter.  When I came back to visit, I took her to the Humane Society.  She got put to sleep. Nobody wanted her.  I had a little twinge, you know what I mean, spiritually.  I decided I shouldn’t have any more pets, that I had used up my chances, karmically.  So I never did….. I did just have a baby, though….

 

Thirteen

I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly, my daughter is in charge.  She’s one of these organized types, lists of phone calls and emails to return, she has a little calendar book she’s always whipping out.  I don’t know where she gets all that energy, not from me, I couldn’t care less about what day it is or who I’m supposed to be calling back.  But she’s so fired up, she knows what appointments I’ve missed before I miss them.  And I know she makes some of this crap up, tells me I’m forgetting things. Hey, I saw Rebecca, she’s like Mrs. Danvers, killing me with kindness.  I don’t want to see her go down in a blaze while Manderly burns, but I do wish she’d leave me the fuck alone.  Frick.  Firk.  She’s after me about the cursing, says its one thing to hear it coming out of our mouths, but it’s vulgar in a child.  And I agree with her, .  That’s the thing, I agree with a lot of what she says, but I hate giving her the satisfaction.  The little shit.  Shite.  Shoot.  You know what she said to me the other day?  She was looking at me, all squinty and judgmental, and she says, “Ma, you taught me how to nap.”  And then she leaves it there.  So I’m thinking, is that a good thing, er…but it can’t be, because of the way she’s looking at me.  So I think, maybe she hates that because she’s too busy to nap now, or cause it unmakes the bed in the middle of the day, or oh hell I don’t know.  Heck.  So I said, “well, what’s wrong with napping, honey?”  And I can hear this meekness in my voice, like, don’t be mad at me, I know I hurt you, and this is just another way I did, but I don’t really understand it so please enlighten me.  And that really pisses me off.  I mean ok, I wasn’t the greatest mother.  I worked, I didn’t clean, I got impatient, I was resentful, I wasn’t all that happy, I drank, I smoked, but I did the best I could.  That’s all you can ask of anyone in my opinion.  And somewhere along the line she’s just going to have to give it a fuckin rest.  Godammit.  All of this is going through my mind, and she’s looking at me, reading my face.  Then she says, “its just that napping doesn’t really help me, ma.  It just makes me more tired.”  “But doesn’t it feel good to shut it all out for a while, honey?”  she says, “no, because it’s all there where you come back.”  And she’s right.  The little shit.  Shite.  Shoot.  Shit.

 

(rice bag hung up as punching bag, performer works the bag….)

Fifteen

I am an attractive person.  I am.  I have always been attractive, not one of those geeks in high school who blooms into an attractive person later on.  I was attractive then and I’m attractive now.  Its not ego, or anything, that lets me say that, its just plain fact.  No big deal, I’m attractive.

Now my wife, for example, is not attractive.  I know, that sounds terrible, but I don’t mean I’m not attracted to her,  its just that she’s not an attractive person.  She’s more… repulsive, not ugly, but not…attractive.  When you walk into a room, and see my wife and me together, you don’t think, wow, that’s an attractive couple.  You think, he’s an attractive guy, and what’s her deal?  Its plain fact, not a criticism.  My wife is not attractive.

One of her problems is how stressed out she is all the time.  I say to her, “honey, what is the big deal?  People have been having babies forever, and they don’t all melt down and fall apart.  Why can’t you just get it together and lighten up a little bit?”  She doesn’t like it when I say that, but hey, the truth is, its not attractive to be so uptight and exhausted all the time.  She hasn’t lost the weight, she doesn’t take care of herself, and you know what?, she looks like she had a baby.  She reads those magazines, and I say to her, “honey, look, Kate Hudson lost the weight, Debra Messing’s gonna lost the weight, you can do it if you want to.”  She doesn’t like it when I say that stuff, but being attractive is work.  You have to work on it.  I work on it, I don’t take it for granted, and you know what? I’ve got more product than she does.

I get home from work, I’ve been to the gym, I’ve worked all day, and all I hear about is how hard her day has been.  No matter what I’m going through, she’s always suffering worse than me.  I know it’s a juggling act, having a kid and a career, but people do it all the time.  She not living in some unique hell of having no time.  Nobody has any time.  When you’re young you don’t have enough money and when you get older you don’t have enough time, that’s true for everybody.  She just takes it really hard.

I mean, I have the baby too.  She’s the hero, she’s got the baby, its all on her, and she’s holding up the world.  So that’s the reason she’s not attractive, who’s got time to be attractive when their holding up the world?  People don’t think about the father having the baby, being just as responsible, I’m holding up the world too, I’m working too, you know what? sometimes harder than her.  But nobody takes that seriously.  Or at least they wouldn’t forgive me what they forgive her.  If I fell apart and lost my mind and couldn’t remember anything and got all exhausted and felt like I was always making up for something and being left behind and worrying about the world to the point of being totally depressed, nobody would say, “yeah, that guy just had a baby, no wonder…”  They’d just say, “whoa, that guy used to be attractive, what happened to him?”  I say, “I’ve been to the gym” and you think, what a selfish prick, he goes to the gym while the poor woman is home with the baby. You know what? I go to the gym.  Yes I do.  I take showers, I eat decent meals, I get some time for myself.  If that’s selfish, well, maybe the whole concept of what’s selfish ought to be changed.  I think its selfish to not take care of yourself and be shut down and miserable all the time.  How is that taking care of your baby?  Sacrificing yourself for someone else only leaves that person with a false impression of the world. My baby is going to know how to take care of himself, and not grow up thinking someone is going to do everything for him.  Because you know what?  Martyrdom is not attractive.

 

Eighteen

I like to suck.  One of the thins I most like to suck are those sport bottles.  I’m glad they invented those; they make sense to drink water out of.  You don’t just drink it, actually, you suck it.  That’s what makes it good.  I like thins that are like that, that are invented because it makes sense.  Some one sat down and thought: people like to suck, and they need to drink, right, so I will make up something that is both of those.  At my job, almost everybody uses those sports bottles, actually, almost everybody I know all over uses them.

Most people like to suck, nobody will really admit it or talk it over, but just look at the way people are and you can tell they do.  People who smoke are people who like to suck.  People who are fat like to suck.  Strong he men type guys like to suck, they are the ones who wont admit it, but somthin  tells me they do.  At the gym they pump and lift, and then, they suck.  Its one of those thins you don’t notice until you do notice it and then its everywhere.  When you see a baby with its mama you don’t need to think about whether that baby likes to suck, of course it does.  And then those bippies or nucks or whatever they call them, the kids like to suck those.  And  thumbs, that’s a big one.  But nobody thinks any of that is weird or somthin, they accept that as bein part of childhood. We’ve all been raised up on sippy cups, right? Even sexyness has suckin in it.  It’s when you think about how people are anymore, how they are when they grow up, that’s when it gets kind of interestin’ to me.

Like, if people are supposed to be grown up and thinkin about thins differently than kids do, why are they so interested in the dumbass tv shows that make the world seem either like a scary place where someone will save you, or like a fun place where everything is always ok? It’s always one or the other, like the world isn’t a place where its surely both.  And how come we know that we are, like, the only people who live on the world who have the time to think about this stuff, because we are the richies, but we snigger or cry about that and wont just admit it flat out?  How we still have to hide our face when the witch comes. And also how it’s no good anymore to use big words, how everythin is made simpler.  And I notice how we all just look for papa and mama to come home, and make somthin with sugar in it for us to eat.  And how we want someone to tell us when to worry and when to feel good.  But we get mad at them for doin it too, just like with mama and papa again  There seems like there is somthin too hard about just looking at it, takin it straight, drinkin the last gross part of the drink, where the spit mixes with the grounds.

I personally don’t mind drinkin that part, but I like to drink it in my suck bottle.  That way it seems sweeter, and there’s some control on the flow.

 

(holding rice bag like a babe in arms, rocking chair…)

Nineteen

Nursing is a very individual experience.  You can’t really tell how its going to be for somebody else.  For some women it just doesn’t work, they can’t get into the swing of it, or it hurts too much, or they have to work full time, or they just flat out don’t like it.  And other people like it a lot and its easy and no big deal.  My little girl calls it “mushy”.  Isn’t that funny? We don’t know where she got that from, “mushy”.  Actually that’s a fine thing to call it, one friend of mine told me before I had my little girl to be careful what I called it cause if you nursed long enough they were going to talk about it.  She told me how they called it “booby” and her little daughter yelled out one time, “mommy I want booby, I want booby”  and they were in church.  Kind of embarrassing.  I know some people say that if the child is old enough to ask for it, its time to stop.  But I think, why take that away from them if they still get something out of it.  I mean, sure its not for food anymore, but for comfort.  And I just don’t know how much comfort there is in this world anymore.

I think a lot about this one family I used to work for.  Before I had my little girl I was one of those in-home nurse assistants, you know, who go in and help take care of people who are sick at home.  Sometimes you clean them up, or make a meal for ‘em, or just sit there with them until somebody else comes.  This one family had a sick mother, she was dying, and sometimes that’s a real slow thing that the family has time to get used to and then they aren’t as upset, in a way.  This family was still real real upset, it wasn’t something they were used to at all, I don’t know the particulars, but I think it was kind of sudden.

So they had her in this downstairs area, with a hospital bed right up next to the windows so she could look out at the yard and the trees.  They were there with her all the time, at least one of them, helping her, talking to her, but mostly just sitting with her, crying.  There was a husband and 3 grown up kids.  Two of the kids came and went a lot, but one of them was there all the time.  She had her husband there with her and their little baby, who couldn’t have been more than a couple months old.  She would sit on this couch they had pulled up to the bed, and she would nurse her little baby and rock her and sing to her, and keep her mother company at the same time.  It was just real real sad.  I mean, it was always sad, someone dying, but something about that baby coming, right at the same time as the grandma was going, that was sad.

Well, one time, I came over to go to work, and I would just let myself in the front door, that was how they liked it, in case the mother was sleeping.  I  came in, and I heard some singing, so I thought, oh that daughter is sitting with her little baby, but where I came around the corner, I saw that the daughter was sitting on the bed, holding up the mother in her arms, kind of had her in her lap.  And she was nursing her.  I had a real weird feeling when I saw it, it was kind of gross and scary, but I didn’t make any noise, I just backed back out of the room.  And the daughter was singing this little song, just 2 notes over and over, like they call it, crooning, “ah ah… ah ah…”  Just like that over and over.

At that time, I remember very well kind of judging her, the daughter.  I even thought, I wonder if I should report this to someone, cause sometimes people use up their loved ones drugs and stuff, and you have to protect them, the sick ones.  I mean,  isn’t that like, incest or something?  And the picture of her, her big old breast, a vein running through it, and that old lady, cradled in her arms like that, it stayed with me for a long time.  I had to quit that family after that, I didn’t want to think about whether that had happened before or if was just the once, or what, so I never went back there.  Eventually that picture faded and I forgot about it.

Then, when I had my little girl, and I nursed her,  it came back to me sometimes. I guess it kind of makes sense to me now.  People just need comfort sometimes, you know?  And if you love them, you want to give it to them.

 

Twenty

(sung)
Though you have to go
And though I love you so and want what’s best for you
Please don’t leave me now

Cordially invited to remain
Restraining all the little impulses to heartsick you
Give me extra room inside your brain
Remember me remember me remember me
The way I’ve promised to remember you

Though you have to go
And though I love you so and want what’s best for you
Please don’t leave me now

This is the lap we’ve made
Carved out all the hollows till it fits you well
A lavish price we’ve paid
Forever more more more
Theres always more for me to tell, about you

Though you have to grow
And though I love you so and want what’s best for you
Please don’t leave me now
Some other day
Just please don’t leave me now…

 —-

How to Carry Love is the product of falling in love and having a child.  A futon and an 18 lb bag of rice represent the arena for love (futon) and the result of love (bag of rice).  Carrying those things is the work of love.  The work is an action to be performed. Check out more at jennymagnus.com.