Sunday, March 28, 2010

Panem et Circenses

Love is bullshit. Emotion is bullshit.
I am a rock. A jerk. I'm an uncaring
asshole and proud of it.
                                    ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Thank you, but I don’t need anyone to stay the night, you try to say. They’ve come to visit. To pay our respects, they tell you. It’s the least we can do, they tell one another. And you hear their crude and distasteful whispers. And you see the gleam of burdensome, self-inflicted responsibility on their faces. They’ve brought flowers and cards and casseroles. Just a little something to help out, they say. And you try to smile. To pretend like nothing has changed. But you had never asked for Graham’s brain to have a short and bleed without stopping until his heart had stopped, too.

Take a few days, Nadia, your boss tells you. As long as you need. And just as you’re thinking, As long as I need might be forever, Dr. Becker arrives. Late. As usual. He had arrived too late to save Graham the night his head had gone haywire, too. And he can’t seem to explain exactly what had happened that night. Cerebral aneurism is all he has to offer. And he doesn’t want you asking any questions, so he’s avoiding the subject, and he’s avoiding you like the plague. Life is complicated enough when it’s simple, right?

But nature has its secrets. And it has its ordinances, too. And today, Murphy’s Law has ordained that Dr. Becker be sitting right next to you on the ungenerously sized loveseat you and Graham had once shared for countless movies with countless bowls of buttered popcorn. And while small talk dribbles from one pair of lips to the other, Dr. Becker thinks to himself, somewhere in the back of his head, that by the time he sees you again (and he’s hoping that won’t be anytime soon) he will have found a slightly more detailed explanation for the death of your husband. But Dr. Becker's main focus is on something else. He tries, out of the corner of his right eye, to see the mark of Graham’s loss on your face, and in your body language. This is alternated with quick glances at his wife, Veronica, who is sitting across the coffee table from both of you. Would she be so “business as usual” if I suffered an aneurism and met my Maker? He wonders.

And you’re seeing all of it and hearing everything in between. Especially the quietly whispered conversation between Veronica and Frieda. I didn’t know what to write on the card, says Veronica. I feel so awkward. And Frieda says, It’s like being in a third world country and trying to communicate with the locals, right? And Veronica says, I just signed a condolence card from me and Charlie. I think she’ll appreciate that, don’t you? And Frieda says, Oh, definitely. How did he die, anyway? And Veronica says, An aneurism. And Frieda says, An aneurism? What’s that? And Veronica says, A fatal disease, I guess. I never did get around to asking Charlie. And the tears start to brew in your throat. But your eyes are dry. You don’t want to show them that what they just said has affected you so violently, or that you even heard it; that would be humiliating. You don’t want to show them that they matter so much.

And though it’s a strange evening, it passes. And over the following days they invite you over for dinner or snacks – the Mortons and the Dyers and the Taylors. And you accept their invitations – every time; you don’t want to start a domino effect of rejections. But one evening, as you’re driving to dinner with the Shermans, you make a U-turn and go back home. You call and apologize to Mandy. And Mandy says, Rain check, hon? You can hear the sigh of relief in her voice. And you say, Of course. I’ll call you. But you don’t call Mandy. And she doesn’t call you. Life is a lot easier without her having to deal with Nadia’s Curse, right? It’s as if your widowhood is contagious. Not to mention the insecurity. You’re a widow. Your husband is dead. You’re available. Oh! You’re available! All of a sudden, you’re a threat. You’re not to be trusted. You’re not to be left alone in a room with their husbands. You’re a bitch in heat and there is no man in your life to quench the fiery thirst between your legs. You want to be fucked, and any man will do. And they think about their potential future grief from another dimension – they might lose their men, not only to Nadia’s Curse, but to Nadia Herself. All of a sudden, you’re right up there with dangerous bodily malfunctions and death. You’re a probable contagion. And you’re lethal.

But over the following weeks, you start to tell yourself to mellow out. You start to tell yourself that it was all in your head – the whispers and the looks and the sighs. So you call. And they all come over to visit – only the ladies, of course. And they all act like they’re competing to help you. Their faces are understanding and patient and kind. So you begin to feel comfortable. Comfortable enough to talk about the dry bone in your throat. About the lack of appetite. About the apathy. About the anomie. About the zombie days and the comatose nights. But their faces don’t fool you. They savor every word like it’s caviar on white bread, listening closely to the parts of your “confession” that confirm to them you really are a curse. You can smell the condescension for your misfortune oozing like unwanted sweat out of their pores. You can see the gratitude for the normalcy of their lives shining like a wet lust in their eyes. And it hits you like a plane falling out of the sky hits the ground.

In your throat, that dry bone begins to moisten. And you dare a swallow – maybe this time it will cooperate and slide down, disappearing for good. But the bone digs deeper into your throat, and you choke on the tears in your chest and behind your eyes. You just want to curl up in a fetal position on that ungenerously sized loveseat you and Graham had once shared. You want to curl up and become comatose all over again, just like you’d been those first couple of weeks after Graham’s head had imploded. And they start to get uncomfortable because they see it in your eyes… that you’re on to them… that you get it.

And now, when they see you somewhere, they start to glide against the walls, trying to get as far away from where you’re sitting, or standing, or might possibly move – as far away from you – as they possibly can.


  1. Nevine:

    I did not understand the title.
    But the piece, yes. A thousand emotions hitting like daggers. On a personal level, I could appreciate this piece as some of the actions were familiar. I have seen this happening in family. It's sad. It brews murder. It stifles. When death happens it's all of a sudden You versus Others. The Others do their best to behave and act LIKE Others.

    Joy always,

  2. This is something very true, very powerful, it shows accurately the new found stature of the too-young, recent widow. The isolation and the new barriers. Your mind is incredible, Nevine!

  3. Gullible me! I kept yearning with hope that this story was not in real time. Nadia is SO real though, and only your expertness has made her so. WHAT a great read, into the mind of one...of many!

    You are such a fine word processor, Microsoft should have named their program (instead of MSWORD) MS NEVINE--grin! That's the best I can offer you today!

    Poor widow with a half-occupied loveseat!!!


  4. Nevine: I have never read one of your pieces that didnt transport me to the place you write of, this one is no different, I was there, the emotions and pain like a knife to the heart...the line about the smiles and caseroles...spoke volumes to me, I remeber that feeling all to well....

    Each time I think you cant dig deeper, you friend, your amazing!

  5. This hurt me... I look down at my chest and blood has pooled there. I try to wonder what I did or how it came to be there but I cannot. I keep thinking I tried to play the hero which I always do and tried to save her... from the doom...

    Nevine you take me places I have never been...

  6. You certainly keep us fed with excellent writing and entertained in style.

    A wonderful emotional travelogue by someone who knows the landscape intimately.

  7. bread and circuses, indeed!

    the reverse is also true, a widower is not to be trusted around wives... cuz he KNOWS what it's all about....

  8. furgot: a deliciously delectable backside in the graphic :O lol

  9. Here comes my whispper from mind to mind:

    I see myself in that picture
    when my brother died
    i see myself in those meetings
    at the funeral
    when I looked at everyone
    if I had not managed to escape first
    and said to myself
    What the hell are these people doing here?
    Why do they say 'I am sorry?'What do they mean?
    Where were they when he was in hospital dying?
    And they say 'Why didn't anyone phone to say he had died... And they think we like to cry that out and go to the newspaper and announce my brother is dead. they false fake crap... yes... and then next day and next weeks and months they still tell you off because you were so rude at your brotherr's funeral.
    Oh no! I cannot do that I coud not do that and I'll never do that and I'll never regret...that.

    Queenie... you are superb... have I ever told you?
    See what your writing has done to me...

  10. Such a sensitive description of grief. The anger, blaming others, the loneliness, the isolation, the sense of guilt and even a sense of persecution. Really well done, Nevine.


  11. One always wonders, Nevine, where you are in your stories... which role is yours... just how deeply you are dreaming it, living it...

    While on vacation in la Reunion, we learned that the husband of the next door neighbors of the people we stayed with had died of an aneurism on Christmas day. His young wife and two very small children were there, alot of visitors came bearing food and helping out, from what I gathered... unfathomable grief... how whole worlds can collapse overnight.

    What deep wells of pain you plumb sometimes, pain and passion on fire... very troubling... very troubling indeed...

    A peaceful Sunday evening to you Nevine

  12. As a society, we really don't deal with death very well. For most of us, death is emotionally uncomfortable territory - on so many levels, as you've expressed here. I only hope that I never leave anyone I care about feeling like the character in your story.

  13. Nevine, love this:)T
    That is an absolutely powerful read.Yes grief is such an intense and powerful sentiment.
    Your excellent writing can easily transport us where the "scenes" of your thoughts take place. ..." All of a sudden you are a threat" soo very true.

  14. Hi Nevine~ Oh this is enticing writing. I am so used to *internal dialog* myself and this experience losing a loved one ~ familiar to all sadly. Amazing how we dissect each detail in our own minds, at least I do and I can see that you do as well. :)

    Wonderful writing. Wonderful visit.

    Missed you!

  15. Nevine, I wasn't prepared for a punch to the gut when I clicked on your blog for first time. You write with such stark truth; fitting for this topic. I lost my wife under similar circumstances when she was 31. The most disgusting episode very shortly after her passing was the near catfight between her sister and cousins over her clothes! The choking feeling returned just typing that sentence. Be strong.

  16. This was incredible. It reminds me of conversations I have had with my mother about my father's death. Beyond saying that, I'm speechless.

  17. Susan - "Panem et Circenses" translates as "Bread and Circuses" or "Bread and Games". It comes from the writer Juvenal. It is a Latin expression that means, in my own humble words, entertainment that is meant to distract from a more serious situation. If you want to know more, I’m guessing you can google the term and lots of info will pop up. And yes, it does become You versus Others. I’ve seen that too many times to know that that is just how it is. We are such a sad lot of people.

    Secretia – Isolation is the worst place for any human being to be. We all need that social connection in order to survive, don’t we? That’s how we’re built, I think.

    Steve – I would imagine that many do experience this feeling. It’s sad, to say the very least, that we can descend to such lowness when we witness someone else’s misfortune. And, as usual, Steveroni, you flatter me so!

    Steven – I think we can all relate to that, yeah? The smiles and casseroles are the decoration on top of that cake that is really made of mud. Too sad!

    Sir Thomas – I think that only Nadia can save herself from her doom. She’s in the depths of grief, and she will have to swim through it for a while. But eventually, I think she will emerge.

  18. Martin – Why, thank you! I observe people closely, and I feel for them. And sometimes I see and feel too much. But sometimes my only offering of good will is to feel. And I think that the other person always identifies that, and appreciates it.

    LW – Ah, you get it! And you’re right about the reverse being true. And her backside? I can’t really see it, myself! ;-)

    Dulce – I’m so sorry, but I didn’t know your brother had passed away, and that you had gone through that traumatic experience. It’s too bad that this is a reality, and in fact the reality can be worse. I can relate to your feelings at the funeral, and afterwards. I can entirely relate, Dulce. This story is not only about widows. It’s about any woman or man who has ever lost someone dear. Somehow, this truth becomes a reality in their lives, whether on a small or large scale. I love you back, Sweetest!

    Jai – Grief has many colors besides black. The colors are all of the emotions you described, and I wrote about, and then some…

    Owen – Sometimes, none of the roles are mine. Actually, with this one, I am but an observer. I have seen women experience this loss and this terrible blow from society that follows. I have seen women submerged by anguish over what has become of them, to the extent that they were sidetracked from the necessary grieving process. It’s unfortunate, but these things do happen. And yes, it’s troubling, to say the least.

  19. Felicitas – You’re absolutely right. I think that most people are afraid of death, and don’t know how to handle it. Death is something we don’t want to think about, so when it shows itself somehow in our lives, we’re so awkward with it, not knowing quite what to do. We all hope to be more gentle with someone who has lost a loved one. But sometimes it’s a challenge for us, as well.

    Betty – Thank you, and grief is so very powerful. But sometimes, at the end of a proper grieving period, I think a person can feel reborn. That doesn’t mean that grief is good. On the contrary, it’s a terrible thing, but we all have to experience it at some point in our lives, with various relationships.

    Calli – Welcome back! You’ve been gone so long, it’s so good to see you here. And sometimes we don’t stop to think about how we process things we experience and witness, but if we do stop and think, we can dissect, like you said.

    ConTemplate – I’m so very sorry to hear about the loss of your wife. And I’m more sorry to hear about what followed with family. But it’s not unusual. The passing of a person becomes the backstory, and all of the drama that follows is the live action. It’s devastating for the person who has truly lost someone, in this case, you. And others are too occupied with their own desires to bother. My story is fiction, based on observation. So it is for me to wish you strength.

    Eva – Grief and death are the most revealing emotions in human nature, I think. There is a lot to learn from those two emotions. I suppose you found that out while speaking with your mother about your father.

  20. Hello Nevine!

    This is a nice piece of writing! You really know how to express the feelings!
    I hope me and my sweet heart will die on the same day or night so we won't have to go through that kind of pretences!

    Big hugs and a very starry week*******

  21. hey, i see things from MY perspective ;)

  22. Well, then Nevine, your powers of observation and your ability to capture in words what you have observed are even more impressive than I first realized.

    Thank you for your kind words; time truly does heal - although the scar never goes away.

    I will return to read more.

  23. well... yup. sadly, death does bring these emotions and behaviours. thinking about it, it's a similar (yet different) to giving birth. I'm just turning it in my head - here we have a widow, and in birth, we have a young mother. In death - the woman loses someone. In birth - she loses part of her existence as she is pushed aside and ignored while the vultures circle the baby and compete among themselves. humans - go figure.

  24. Nev- damn
    no wonder women scare me, you as much admit that you're all crazy. Cool story, ~rick

  25. How wonderful this post...Isn't it the "circus" of society? People living in their brains, feeding their egos and knowing NOTHING about true feelings. This come out in situation like the one described in your post.
    You write beautifully, Nevine

  26. Wow. That brings back a few memories for me. Well done.

  27. This is what I call observation power.
    Love is great..:)
    Grief is an emotion which brings many emotions out.
    U are really amazing Nevine..



    p.s. I want ur book a.s.a.p.

  28. Cremilde - And I hope the same for my husband and me, though I know that reality always dictates otherwise. Still, I dare to hope. I wouldn't want for either one of us to have to endure a similar nightmare, because these nightmares do happen! Big hugs back to you, my dear Cremilde! :-)

    LW - Hey, you are so entitled!!! ;-)

    ConTemplate - The scars always stay... this much I do know. And please do come back and read, though I must warn you that some of my writing can be disturbing. Still, it’s disturbing because it's realistic. And I see things darkly, most of the time.

    Khulud – I agree that it’s similar to giving birth. And you described that analogy so well. A woman does lose a part of her individuality when she has a child, and at least for a while, it becomes all about the child and not about the woman at all. That may be a selfish way for a mother to think, but it’s very true. Humans are such a messed up bunch, aren’t we? I always think that to myself, when I sit there and watch the world go by, or even when I sit there and analyze some of my own behaviors.

  29. Rick – We are all a bit crazy. You said it! But you love us, Rickeeeeee!!! You know you do!

    Lorenza – You’re so absolutely right. The truth of who we are comes out in those difficult situations where we are always expected to know just how to behave, because we are the civilized animals, right? But it seems we never do know how to carry ourselves, and we make a farce of ourselves and the situation. Merci, my dearest, for your sweet compliment!

    Gavin – Memories are a good thing… sometimes.

    Nipun – You are so very wise. Grief brings out the worst in us, most of the time. But sometimes I like to think of it as a cleansing process. Oh, my book… I’ll let you know… :-)

  30. I shouldn't be surprised by now. After all I've followed your blog for months (it feels like years!!! :-D) but your use of language is astounding. The way you built that scene from the first sentence in italics was amazing. It brought back memories, all of them rushing back. Hospital corridors, late nights, my auntie and a voice saying the unsayable. Many thanks. You're truly gifted. I hope there's a publisher somewhere is reading your blog and thinking of taking action, pronto. You deserve it.

    Greetings from London (and very, very soon, Malaysia)

  31. Nevine, je viens de prendre le temps de lire ton long écrit, si poignant, si proche de la vraie vie, et bien entendu je trouve ton texte très bien écrit comme d'habitude.
    Si je partais maintenant, personne n'aurait à vivre un tel moment. Et c'est triste aussi de penser qu'il n'y aura pas un compagnon pour nous regretter.
    Big hugs Nevine.
    Amicalement, Marie

  32. I started thinking early on how interesting this widow was, and wondering what she looked like. Bereaved women have a mysterious attraction for us...

    Well presented, Nevine. She is so real as to be touchable.

  33. Cuban - Oh, I don't worry about publishers and such. I write to satisfy my soul. If I ever become published, it might be a good thing. But you know, there is a special magic to writing without the constraints of the publishing/editing world. I like being the mistress of my own universe. ;-)

    Marie - Oui, c'est une pensée triste... savoir qu'il n'y a qu'un absence. Mais c'est pas seulement les compagnons qui nous regrettent. Parfois il y a des amis, des freres et des soeurs, ou bien des collègues. Mais,c'était un collègue à me dire, une fois, que s'il mourirait aujourd'hui, personne ne se souviendrait de lui. C'était triste, quand meme. Big bisous, Marie!

    Rick - Yes, it's this attraction that got me thinking, and it's also what got Dr. Becker in the story curious. He's fascinated by her grief. Isn't that such an amazing thing? I don't understand it...

  34. That is really well put. I mean, as if it isn't enough to lose your husband and be grieving, the shallow truth of your relationships reveals itself, so you are a superwidow in every way. This woman needs to go out and get herself some new friends. Seriously.

  35. Cat - You are so right... she does need new friends. It's sad how people show their true nature in times of another's darkness... I've seen that happen so many times.


Your thoughts are deeply appreciated.