The biggest fear has always been that fallen once, I could not rise again
That should I slip upon the stone, helpless held, down pressed – Alone
There would be nothing - except nothingness and taste of pain.
I strove to rise with mighty leap, above the highest in the heap
Struggling fiercely through the tide
In which those weaker slipped and died
Dropping to nothing - except nothingness
Death's frightful reign.
It came of course, the thing despised, against a thing by men devised
Pulled down and smashed against the curb
All my taste knowing bitter herb
I expected nothing - except nothingness
All hope in vain.
But when I fell. to my surprise, I saw a look in one man's eyes
His hands outstretched to pull me up
A tender mercy, outstretched cup
In the midst of nothing - except nothingness
Gift of Cain.
Why? I asked, in awful awe, knowing the death in Nature's law
Should you risk the spot you've won?
To pull me up toward bright day's sun
Out of the nothing - awful nothingness
In which I've lain.
Before I could heard his soft reply, he was pulled from his place and brought to lie
Tattered and marked, covered with mud
Against the curb that had known my blood
Seeming to be nothing - except nothingness
of men's disdain.
I leaped once more toward the sun, higher than I’d ever done
Remembering the eyes of the man who fell
Toward rotten stone and dark alone hell
I found nothing - except the nothingness
of lonely pain.
Now something beckoned me even more, than the highest leap ever known before
I needed to lift the man below, to see his eyes and have him know
It wasn't the highest leap above and alone
that was the greatest good I'd ever known…
But his hand outstretched to lift me up, to give me place and share the cup
If in lifting him, I should fall toward stone
Tattered my flesh and broken my bone
It could not be toward nothing - awful nothingness
Nothing's when you're Alone.
My daughter had a highly protective mother in the 1970's. It was a different time. Condoms were not handed out in living colors, one for each day of the week, at the local grammar school. In fact, anyone saying the word (condom) would have their mouths washed out of laundry soap, and anyone considering the use of one before marriage would risk the danger of public censure. Public censure meant that a girl became an untouchable in a different way. She was ruined. Her reputation was gone. No one would ever marry her. All that was left to her was to become a librarian.
Those were the rules about sex back then. Rules existed for many other areas of life. Exercise was not encouraged because it make you sweat, and ladies were not supposed to sweat. Sex and soapsuds were defined the end of the world for most women.
But sex has always been a hot item and it's always been written about. I still remember discovering the story my daughter was reading about Jack and Laura. The plot was roughly this:
Jack and Laura were two lovers (way up in their twenties because the books were read by teen agers who were encouraged not to relate to Jack and Laura). I'm not certain just where they met, but they were covered by scads of clothing, so it must have been someplace back in long skirt days.
When they first sighted one another, true love was born. The problem was that there were a lot of people who tried helping them apart. Through most of the two hundred pages, Jack and Laura got occasional sightings of one another around corners, while heaving gigantic sighs of passion. They trembled, and shook and blanched and one time, Laura passed out from the sheer ecstasy of having Jack see her elbow.
Then, a day came when they were thrown together with not another soul around for miles. Clothing started coming off, and soon there was an enormous pile in the corner. They started waltzing around with nothing on but two full length slips (for Laura) and a starched shirt with stays and starched boxer shorts (on Jack). That section caused my daughter to go into the basement and lock the door to get away from her mother. Settled down in the semi-darkness, she read that that, in time, Laura had gotten off another petticoat. It took three pages and she flushed about a million times. Jack finally tore off the remaining one and she stood there in nothing but her pantaloons and a chemise.
At that point Jack grew wild and threw his starched shirt on the highboy (what was a highboy?) Within two seconds flat, they were sitting on the bed together, and Jack was declaring that he would love her until roses turned blue and water ran uphill. He got so carried away in his oratory that it was six pages before his lips crushed hers.
Laura was still encased in her pantaloons, her chemise and some sort of garment with stays that stabbed Jack’s hands as he tried to mightily to undo it.
But the couple had forgotten one very critical thing. In those days, there were no electric lights and candles were used. Before all the ripping and waltzing started, Laura had set a lighted a candle on the bureau, and it had stood there for three pages while Laura thought of how Jack’s eyes turned her on. When Jack threw his shirt on the bureau, the starched garment began to grow hot (so did the reader's cheeks) and eventually a small flame appeared. By the time Jack finally tipped Laura over and was prepared to spoil her purity, the mangled shirt had become a raging bonfire. Flames leaped from the shirt to the drape at the window. Jack and Laura saw it just as their lips touched in demanding, pounding surrender, but alas, it was too late. They were unable to stop their passion that knew no limits, and flame gripped them very soon in more ways than one.
They did not survive their affair, but were able to spend eternity together, as described in the next five pages.
The disappointing part of the book, was that the reader could not follow the action as a guide, other than knowing that love had become too hot to handle.
I found the book. "What did you learn from this?" "That you can get burnt?" My daughter answered. "Excellent:" I said. "Remember it!"
Opaline Marks is the pen name of Opal Markiewicz, a writer of novels, short stories and nonfiction essays.