The Unraveling of a So-Called “Slut”

Slut. Just what does that really mean?

I’m faced with that question in an overly franchised coffeehouse one evening, sitting across the table from a girl who – by reputation – is supposed to be a slut. With me, though, that reputation goes by the wayside when we talk, as it tends to do whenever she and I come together.  In the girl across the table from me, all I see is a friend with whom I can relate the gamut of human experiences with – abundant with laughs during times of happiness, unrestrained with tears during times of sadness, and able to share every other sentiment that fall in between.

But that evening during the briefest of a break in our conversation, rumors give way to the most tenuous of doubts. And for that sliver of a moment, I’m reminded of something a good friend once said about her.

“She’s such a slut.  She flirts with every guy she meets.  I wouldn’t get too close to her if I were you.  What a slut.”

She is, if anything, perceptive.

Immediately as I think it, she is aware of the fleeting doubt that occupies my mind. She looks me in the eyes, and speaks the words that so many have echoed with me before.

“You know… I know how some people see me.  Like they don’t think I hear what they say.  I’ve even had people who I thought were friends call me a slut to my face, some even smiling as they told me. It’s shocking to realize that’s what people really think of me, but it’s happened enough times that I think I just got used to it.  I didn’t know how else to handle it. But I thought you were different.  I thought you were one of the few that didn’t see me that way. So… am I a slut?”

She is, if anything, perceptive.

As soon as she asks the question, she senses that I’m thinking about whether it was a rhetorical question or not.  She takes the pressure off of me by starting to talk.  At first, I think she’s talking about random things in order to switch topics.  It doesn’t take long, however, to realize she doesn’t stray from the topic at all.

“Hey, did you ever watch that movie where that guy and that girl run into each other accidentally, but then they immediately feel a connection with each other, except they’re not really sure so they devise a series of tests to see if they’re really fated for each other?  For some reason, I don’t remember the name of the movie right now…”

I don’t remember the movie either.  But I realize it doesn’t matter whether or not I remember it, for she continues on.

“Anyway, at first they think their tests fail and they are not each other’s destiny. Except there are all these signs that they really are meant for each other.  It takes them a while to see those signs but eventually they do and they end up together.”

Quite a thorough plot retelling for a movie for which neither of remember the title to.  It becomes clear by her next words, though, that the whole thing about the movie is just her way to start talking about what she really wants to talk about.

“Do you think endings like that are possible in real life?  I mean, it’s like Disney fairy tales – the prince and the princess meet, then it’s happily every after.  I want to believe it’s possible, but sometimes I think it’s hard to…”

Honey, – I think to myself – you’re talking to a man to whom the very concept of a happy ending faded a long time ago.  It’s just a faint memory of a long ago dream. But to this girl across the table from me right now, I can tell by the wistful look in her eyes that it’s a dream she still holds on to. Maybe she believes if she continues to hold on to it, she thinks she’ll wake up to find that the dream has become a reality.  What she reveals next makes me believe it’s a marvel that she manages to hold on to the promise of a happy ending at all.

“Have I ever told you about the first man I ever loved?  I was very young, and he was much older than me.  Maybe it’s because he was older, but he looked regal.  Kind of like what I thought a prince would really look like. He knew much more than me, so every time he asked me to do something, I did it. I figured that was what a girlfriend was supposed to do. I thought we were happy.  I really thought we would be together forever.  About a year of seeing each other, he asked me to start a new life with him away from where I had lived.  I was still so young, so much I felt I needed to do first, and to be away from my family?  I mean, I didn’t say no, but I didn’t say yes either.  I think that was the first time I ever didn’t say yes to something he asked me to do.  But I guess once was enough, because he left me soon after for a woman who said yes to him.  I heard she was pretty and that they’re married now.”

She stops talking for a while, consumed by the hurt that’s refreshed by her telling me the story.  I can’t stand anyone hurting like that, so I’m tempted to stop her from saying anything more.  But I can’t.  I don’t think she wants me to stop her.  It’s as if she has so much more she wants to tell me and she’s trying to find the words to do so.

“When I was hurting from that break up, another guy came into my life. Immediately, he offered me a handkerchief for my tears.  He told me  to lean on him, that he’ll be there for me to listen. He said he wanted to hear everything.  Little by little, I opened up to him.  I told him everything.  I thought that’s what he wanted. But one day, he just leaves me and tells me that I’m too clingy. I felt so betrayed when he said that.  I felt more betrayed when I found out it only took him days to move on with another girl…”

PicsArt_1365264335427

Heartbreaks. I know those stories too well. I fall into a trance of recalling my own experiences, starting with my first love. About how it ended with her at the foot of another man’s bed – and not just any other man, but someone I’d considered one of my best friends. “Drunken mistake”, the girl that had been my first love had said.  Sure –  I might believe that had it only happened once. I think about how that scar left a gaping hole in my soul.  I think about every girl afterwards, each stretching the hole a little bigger,a little wider until soon all I was left with was an emptiness.  I think about how I tried to fill that emptiness.  First, by moving from girl to nameless girl with complete emotional detachment, hoping that maybe by accident I’d run into someone who could plug that hole. When it didn’t work, I recall trying to fill that emptiness with food, liquor, and substances – eventually giving up and just keeping myself busy with things to try to keep my mind preoccupied.  I still bear the emptiness of my scars, not unlike the ones bore by this girl sitting across the table from me now in an overly franchised coffeehouse.

Something this girl said earlier strikes me in a new light.  She had said that I was different, that I was one of the few that didn’t see her the way most people do.  I suddenly understand why.  Without even realizing it, I think I always understood her to be a kindred soul. Two wounded souls, she and I.  In her… is a reflection of me.

She had been talking the whole time, but I am too lost in my own trance of personal recollections to pay complete attention.  My attention is grabbed, however, by something I hear her say.

“…You know, every time a guy starts to be nice to me, I’m aware some of them only want one thing. But you know what?  I don’t want to think that way. What if one those acts of kindness is genuine.  I don’t want to be so clouded by past impostors that I accidentally end up dismissing the one guy that could end up being my prince.  I’d rather respond to kindness with kindness.  What else can I do?  All I really want is a loving guy, a family, kids… you know the happily ever after…”

Bless her pure soul.  Her purity is almost foolish even.  Here she is describing the very aspect of her behavior (the so-called flirtatiousness) that makes people think she’s a slut.  But what she believes is not  necessarily wrong.  It’s almost funny how people complain about how there isn’t enough kindness in the world and the one person who insists on responding with kindness is labeled by those same people as a slut.  Such ironic buffoons.

We are a product of our experiences and the people we meet. Sometimes those experiences and people leave scars, but they’re not the type of scars we’re taught how to fix. My scars had left me an emotionally detached man, not easily ready for things like love or what not anymore.  For her, her first love had taught her that she had to do everything a man asks of her to continue to be loved.  The second guy had shown her emotional bonds can be quickly discarded.  Who she is now is her reaction to lessons like those, much in the same way who I am is a reaction to the scars I’d received in my life.  If this girl in front of me is a slut, then so am I.  The only difference is I’ve all but given up whereas it’s obvious she still believes a fairy tale ending is possible.

“Slut”.  Just what does that really mean?

Too often the term is thrown around as a term to degrade an individual.  But from this chair, in this coffeehouse, I realize differently.  The loose morals typically associated with the term would not be possible if they weren’t expected by someone.  The term “slut”, then, isn’t a reflection of the individual it’s directed at.  It’s a reflection of those who would use the term to describe someone and the loose morals of them who dare imagine such.

I look at this 20 something girl across the table from me who still has the innocence of a little girl who believes in fairy tales and I want to apologize.  I’m sorry for all those guys who took advantage of you.  I’m sorry for that first man who said he loved you only until he decided you weren’t always going to do exactly as he wanted.  I’m sorry for that second guy who took advantage of your vulnerability to play on your emotions only to stomp on them when he got tired.  I’m sorry for my friend who called you a slut, I know if given the chance he’ll act nice to you until he got what he wanted and then go right back to calling you slut.  Mostly, I’m just sorry.  All those things that other people would do that I say I’m sorry for, I probably did them to someone at some point too.  So I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

The last remaining barista in the coffeehouse indicates he’s about to close shop soon.  We don’t realize we’d been here this long.  We get up to leave when she pulls me aside as we’re walking out and whispers to me,

“Thank you.” 

She is, if anything, perceptive.  I’m not even sure she’s aware just how much so.

Without my having to say anything, she understands the answer I’ve arrived at to the question that started this entire journey. That she isn’t a slut really, but just a wounded girl trying her best to get to her happy ending in the manner she’d been led to believe she needed to.

We say our goodbyes and she leaves .  It is 11:59 PM.  Any minute now, the clock will strike midnight and this Cinderella story may end.  But at that moment, standing outside the coffeehouse, I see the girl walking away from me as a Disney princess living in a  world that would vilify anything as pure.  And she’s still not daunted yet. She is, as Tupac would say, a “rose that grew from a crack in the concrete.”  And just as delicate.

I make a silent promise to myself that, in whatever way I can, regardless of how awkward it may be, and in whatever capacity that I can, I will try my best to protect her from being stomped on again – whether it be by guys like her first love, or the second guy, or guys like my friend who would call her a “slut”, or maybe even myself.  I want to cheer her on in her quest to find her fairy tale ending.  If she succeeds in actualizing that dream into a reality despite all of her scars, there’s hope that I may overcome mine. “Long live the rose from concrete when no one else ever cared.”

I think she senses and appreciates my promise because at that moment, she turns around and smiles.

She is, if anything, perceptive.

PicsArt_1365264199847

 

– written by el one shogun

© 2013

Woman, Stay Strong

Woman,

Stay strong,

For you are a gem.

Pay no heed to those that would put a price to you because you…

…You are worth infinitely more than even the highest figure that they can imagine.

And I will be one to cherish you for the treasure that you already are.

And know that your mind is a masterpiece.

There’s no need for you to worry about being wrong because you…

…You bring a perspective that can elevate the truth with the passion I know you to have.

And I…

…I will be here to listen.

~

Woman,

Be confident,

 For you are a beauty.

Feel free to shed those layers of make up because you…

…You have a radiance that is already complete just in your natural essence.

And I will never hesitate to tell you just how beautiful you are.

And know that your body is a temple.

Do not allow the heathens in that come only to pillage because you…

…You will soon need the space for someone with all the devotion I know you deserve .

And I…

…I will stand witness.

~

Woman,

Remain true.

And know that your soul is a joy,

That resonates every time you bring forth a smile and you…

…You become the light and the laughter that makes the world a place worth living.

And I…

…I will smile right along with you.

For in mind, body, and soul,

 You are a goddess.

So shrug away the tragedy of an imperfect world because in you…

… In you is the triumph of the Creator’s perfected vision after the flaw that was man.

And I, that flawed creation, remain humbled by the gift of your divine existence.

So woman,

Stay strong.

Woman,

Be you.

SilhouetteWomanOnGoldBack

<Dedicated to the women in my life.>

 

 

– written by el one shogun

© 2013

A Mid-February Acronym and A Promise

Look no further than these words for truth, for although they may be few,

On them are painted all the hues kept on a palette of sentiments –

Virtuous as the devoted birds of a Chaucerian poem and

Eternal as the heavens that guard such sacred sincerity.

Love birds

 

And on the day after Valentine’s Day 2013, Asteroid 2012 DA14 comes closest to the Earth – bringing with it a promise of yet new beginnings…

 

 

-written by el one shogun

© 2013

w a i t i n g

Waiting,

A long time ago, gave me my first lessons

In time relativity, and in my youth, waiting

Came with such a unique blend

Of a myriad of wonderful emotions,

That I think has escaped me since.

And all that remains, is but a faint recollection

Of the innocence

Of waiting.

PicsArt_1355783317984

I remember a time,

Before MP3’s, when CD’s were still expensive,

When I would wait  by the radio all night,

Listening in anticipation,

Longing to discover a perfect song,

And upon hearing such a song, waiting again,

For some time after,

Until a DJ somewhere decided to play it again,

Waiting vigilantly for that perfect moment,

Should the DJ introduce the song,

Before the first note,

So that I could record it in its perfect form,

Unto the cassette tape  that I had ready

Especially for that occasion.

Capturing it just so,

Does it get any better than this?

I remember waiting some more,

Part excitement,

Part mystery,

To come across enough of those perfect songs,

To fill both sides of my cassette tape,

And proudly declare my masterpiece.

Each song on it taking on layered meanings

Part mystical,

Part mythical,

By waiting.

radio ultimo

I remember back when,

Before photography was digital and held in memory cards,

I would wait to capture enough moments

To fill up a roll of film.

And with each enchanting click of the shutter,

Each deliberate snap of the camera,

 Was a frame of time frozen in place,

Waiting to be relived

Only upon development.

Just before memories faded,

I would wait to hear a familiar sound,

That unmistakable sound,

Of film winding,

Congratulating me on having waited.

I remember impatiently waiting to drop the film off for development.

Waiting eagerly as the film developed,

Not remembering exactly what magic awaited

Inside that yellow Kodak envelope,

I felt awash with an anxiousness

Almost beyond my ability to contain.

I remember the ritual once I got those pictures,

Waiting to examine each picture carefully,

Noticing the nuanced spontaneity in even the posed pictures.

Like,somebody blinked…

Like, you put rabbit ears behind my head?…

That time waiting, created for me

A new set of experiences to enjoy

Beyond those captured on film.

And the enthusiasm with which I’d waited

To share those pictures with those

Who had shared in the  pictured moments

An enrichment multiplied

By a factor of the time spent

Waiting.

film camera 2

I remember the time,

When conversation was mostly waiting.

Like waiting expectantly for handwritten letters

From separated friends – we’d promised to remain pen pals.

Knowing those words had to wait a distance before it got to my hands,

Somehow those flawed, childish nothings felt more right,

Than today’s disposable megabytes

Donned in instant auto-correct.

And before the ubiquity of cellphones,

When calls were done by landed lines,

I remember waiting by the phone

For a phone call with a girl I kinda liked.

Having to calculate when she might be alone, or

When would be a good time to call without disturbing the whole family, and

What if she wasn’t home?

I remember waiting,

Listening for the dial tone to turn into a voice,

In my mind, mapping out the message I would leave if she wasn’t home.

Then,  if she wasn’t,

I remember waiting hopefully by the phone

That she would call me back soon.

I remember how, when pagers came,

The promises of waiting magnified.

Expectantly, as I searched for a phone to check if she had left the page

With breathless curiosity of  the desires I’d find

Indicated in numeric codes.

143, 3838, 123

Waiting , then, was simply an opportunity to think about someone a little longer.

And for a person to become  personal.

Now, with immediacy of text messages,

Instant messages,

Emails to fall back on,

I feel strangely robbed of the dreams and fantasies

That awaited

In waiting.

letterphone

And now,

Somehow,

Waiting has become the face of a nuisance,

Indications of a purity lost.

With doubts as to whether waiting will ever again

Hold as much meaning as it used to,

 I wonder,

If anything is worth waiting for

Anymore.

waiting for me somewhere (1)

-written by el one shogun

© 2012

The Other Side of a Closed Door

Sometimes I find myself leaving the world behind on the other side of a closed door

And withdrawing in abandon to an emptiness absent of time –

Where the weight of loneliness can suffocate

But is still not as unbearable as the remoteness

That lies on the other side of the closed door

Where words travel the distance

Only to get lost to suddenly deaf ears,

And sincerity is shrouded in the depth of  a void

Capable of distorting it into farce,

In an expanse intent on breaking a man

In the face of this broken man, smugly you’ll build a wall of justification –

Cemented by lies and willful omissions –

And decry him for not having spoken

Despite how, for fleeting desires, it was you who had chosen

To disregard, to ignore

All that he had forever implored.

  Sometimes, desertion feels lesser inside the refuge provided by a closed door.

~

Sometimes I find myself  drowning out the cosmos from between a set of headphones

And swimming wistfully in the tuned tears of elegy –

Where the weeps of misfortunes are resonant

But isn’t quite as deafening as the whispered words of lament

That echo beyond the set of headphones

Like the words worn on a veil of trust

That will quickly get disrobed if for indulgence,

And the exhaled cries of a passion that get muted

By the ill intentions born of coveting,

Words that relegate a man into an afterthought

Through the heart of this damaged man, readily you’ll drive a stake of  subterfuge –

Forged in deception and cunning excuse –

And blame him for not having done anything

Despite how, in just a casual impulse, it was you deciding

To defile, to disgrace

That which he had cherished always.

Sometimes, melancholy sounds duller filtered through a set of headphones

~

But sometimes, escape is more elusive still –

Betrayed by the draft of an intruding chill

That pierces through lingering wounds.

And on the eve of an encroaching gloom,

Phantoms, on feared schemes, begin to actualize

Like nightmares behind closed eyes

And, sometimes, when I’m caught in that grip of a wintry mischief –

A shady hand nudging me closer to a nothingness –

I’m left gasping in a struggle for dawn

.

~

– written by el one shogun

© 2012

Like Dawn, In Transience

A rare thing of beauty is in its transience –

So she reveals herself to me in a transition.

At once fully aware of her own radiance,

Yet knowing her grace needs no recognition,

Briefly exquisite in her temperance…

Quiet and unassuming, she comes like dawn.

Bringing relief from the chill that darkness consorts,

Together with a wondrous solitude of calm

Against an encroaching heat a day brings forth.

And as softly as she comes, she moves on…

In her parting words as she makes her way,

Whispered faintly, as if to show

Something becoming timeless as it fades,

“Something beautiful is only so

When you know that it can’t stay…”

 

 

 

– written by el one shogun

© 2012

A Stroll

I never thought “Memory Lane” could be a real place; I figured it existed only in song lyrics and cliched expressions.   And then I come to realize it exists physically for me in the form of a small street near the western edges of the city.

 

I take a stroll down that small street.  We used to walk this same street frequently, although in my head I can calculate that it’s already been some years since we’ve done so.  I think we stopped coming here as often when we stopped being “we”.  But the stroll through the street this May evening makes the years between then and now disappear, each familiar sight breathing life into visions from the past.  With so many memories, this street becomes a literal manifestation of Memory Lane.

 

This street used to belong to us – it was our place.

We came here when we were thirsty when we found that empty tea and coffee shop.   I remember sitting at a table outside.  Rather than just quenching our thirst, we also quenched our desire to get to know each other better during what turned out to be a nearly 3 hour long conversation about anything that came to our minds.  It was the most fun I had talking about nothing that I can recall.

We came to this this street when we were hungry and found that quaint hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant.  .   Remember how we chuckled because our waiter didn’t seem to speak any English and didn’t seem to understand us so we had to just repeat “shabu shabu” a few times?  And how when our meal came out, it ended up serving as a preview of the simmering night before us.  Remember that?

There also was a bar at the end of this street we went into just because we saw a “Grand Opening” banner outside the door.  There was a live DJ there.   There, we let the rhythms from the DJ’s turntables to sync our heartbeats and the cocktails to warm us up before we headed back home. 

 

Each building I pass by on the stroll continue to trigger yet a new scene in my mind when I start to slowly wake up from the hangover of nostalgia and my vision becomes clearer to what’s actually around me.  For while the structures may remain the same, I’m beginning to see that the things that fill them have changed somewhat.

The years between then and now seem to have reinserted themselves.  This street – the same street we walked so many times before –  seems different now.  When we came before, it was a small neighborhood street on the cusp of a re-invention.  When I’m here now, I realize it may have passed one.  There’s more people cruising this street now.  There’s even one of those Kogi food trucks parked near the middle of the street (imagine that!).  This is not the same street I remember – the street I remember lives in the vestiges of a bygone time.

 

The shabu shabu restaurant is no longer there.  In the space where it used to be, someone seems to be operating some sort of trendier, flashier fusion-type of establishment.

There still is a coffee and tea joint where it used to be, except that it seems more crowded than I remember it ever being and I’m pretty sure the name of the place has changed too.

Where there was a bar with a live DJ and a “Grand Opening” banner, there is now an empty store front with completely blacked out windows and a “For Lease” sign on the door. 

 

I started this stroll down this street not knowing if I’d find anything.

I found that the images of this street from when we walked it have been haunting my mind like a ghost – one I created by hoping that time would stand still on this street, that this street would somehow forever freeze frame the times we spent here.  I realized, perhaps, that the memories on this street were the last remaining threads with which I still held on to us.  Seeing the street now and how it’s changed over the years makes me aware of  the naivete of believing that things could ever be again what they once were.

We don’t exist anymore, so this street can no longer belong to us. I’m sure now it has become someone else’s place.

 

At the end of my stroll, I stand back and finally allow the last traces of us to wisp away into the ashes of yesterday.

 

 

– written by el one shogun

© 2012

%d bloggers like this: