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Chapter 4Once upon a time, right at the beginning of the end of that tragic success known as the phallocracy, that sad miracle, a girl child named Rapunzel Blavatsky -- whom I also call me myself and I -- was born to quirky parents in a place which many have come to call "Goddess' Country": Santa Cruz, California. The child's mother, Magda Zembrowski, was a dollmaker who had taken up her art as a form of permanent mourning about her four abortions. The abortions had all been invoked in the name of poverty, not fear of children. Magda had in fact long yearned to nurture a helpless little being fresh from the spirit world, and each time the abortionist's vacuum had sucked the budding clump of cells out of her womb, she'd suffered a Hiroshima.
"Not enough money" had always been the mantra. Magda, though her hands and wit sporadically conspired to create masterpieces in clay and feathers and wood and found objects, depended on dumpster-diving and house-cleaning jobs to stay alive. Her partner, Jerome Blavatsky, had always been too ... well ... insane to support a child, let alone Magda or himself. When Jerome wasn't reading books about occultism or writing fairy tales or playing "chaotic piano," he enjoyed slipping into marathon trances (sometimes lasting as long as three days) during which he would experience himself-he wouldn't say imagine himself, he would definitely say experience himself-living, in exquisite detail, in any one of seventeen "other incarnations" he believed himself to be connected to via "astral tunnels." In one life he was a follower of and helper to Joan of Arc. In another incarnation he was a follower of and helper to the early American religious dissident Anne Hutchinson. In yet another life he was James, the younger brother of Jesus Christ, enmeshed in a mix of awe and jealousy and the desire to serve Jesus' mission. All of his trips and sojourns in these other worlds were faithfully reported to Magda, or in his journals, with lush detail and an encyclopedic knowledge of local conditions that seemed impossible to accrue merely from reading history books.
His journeys might have had a greater measure of credibility, however, if among them there had never been lifetimes spent in lands that existed only in fairy tales. Living in Florence as a sixteenth-century painter was one thing. Living the life of Jack in a cottage next to a giant beanstalk that reached to the clouds was another.
A year before the first abortion, when both were twenty-five years old, Jerome and Magda were married by a Universal Life Church minister on the bumper cars at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. And though they'd stayed married and loyally monogamous, they lived apart more often than they lived together for the next six years. This was due not so much to bouts of mutual irritation, which their equally dreamy natures rarely indulged in, as to the fact that Jerome had a deep and abiding need to sleep in caves on beds of leaves (and not simply as a way to save money), whereas Magda found it hard to spend a night without a roof and a few thick layers of foam padding that she'd once pulled from a dumpster behind a warehouse on Coral Street.
Maybe it was this curious non-domestic arrangement that fueled the mystically romantic approach they took towards each other. There was not enough familiarity to breed contempt. For many years, even after their girl child was born, Jerome and Magda kept a notebook in an old leather bag stored high in the crook of a climbable oak tree in the backyard of a mutual friend. The notebook was a kind of diary for their relationship. In it they wrote each other poetry, scrawled dreams and fantasies, made up stories about each other and spoke the unspeakable thoughts that were too private to communicate in person.
It was this perverse insistence on staying in love, as opposed to accumulating furniture together, that provides a clue about how they could have been so careless as to have conceived a fetus they didn't intend to keep on four occasions. Romance had precedence over pragmatism.
Jerome had a notion based on an ancient Greek word *idoni.* He'd learned this term, he said, during his lifetime as a student of Pythagoras, which was not a past incarnation, mind you, but an incarnation that was simultaneous with all his other incarnations, including this one in twentieth-century Santa Cruz. (I once consulted a scholar of ancient Greek to find out if such a word as "idoni" exists, and she told me that "i" never ends ancient Greek words.)
But Jerome nonetheless believed that idoni was a term describing a magically potent electromagnetic substance that's exchanged between lingam and yoni during sexual intercourse. Most people waste it, he thought. They don't sublimate it and direct it to any worthwhile task, like, say, saving the world or healing their own pain (as Magda and Jerome did, in the grand tantric tradition). Most lovers didn't appreciate the occult power of the idoni, but let it stop cold in the neurons that register pleasure. For Jerome, that idoni was rocket fuel for the psyche. It was, he believed, what allowed him to squeeze through the wormholes that led to all his other lifetimes, and what allowed him to make extended stays there. A three-hour erotic dance with Magda might translate into a three-day vacation with Jesus in ancient Palestine.
Here's the kicker: Jerome believed there was just one form of birth control that didn't do terrible damage to the exchange of idoni: the heroic withholding of the semen. He had cultivated a talent for controlling his ejaculatory muscles, and wielded it like a master. While he knew that wasn't a foolproof hedge against pregnancy, he didn't acknowledge until the third conception that he and Magda were too fertile a combination to allow even a few spermatozoa from his pre-seminal fluid to leak out.
The very worst violation of the idoni, Jerome thought, was the condom. Rubber was a fascistic insulator, a crime against idoni. Birth control pills were catastrophic in a different way. They inhibited the flow of Magda's copulins, a key ingredient in the generation of the idoni (not to mention the source of her yoni's sex scent). The diaphragm and IUD: dissonance, disruption, interference. Abortion, in the prodigal mind of Jerome, was the only acceptable way to stave off children.
Only trouble was that it was a rather expensive form of birth control for poor folks like Magda and Jerome. Perhaps they would have rethought their position if the initial abortion hadn't been given to them at a steep discount by Dr. Ooster, a Dutch-American doctor who felt an odd sympathy for the two lovable weirdos. The first easy surgery invited the second and third and fourth, all courtesy of Dr. Discount. Without naming the womb-scraping as a ritual, Magda and Jerome turned it into a kind of sacrificial act to propitiate their love.
A complication: For a long time Magda was unaware that there was, for Jerome, another reason for the abortions. Though his obsessive fantasy life -- or certifiable schizophrenia, whatever you want to call it -- meant that he wasn't much good at hiding anything from Magda, he somehow managed to conceal this one secret. He believed that in his incarnation as Jesus' brother, James, Jesus had communicated to him a mystical truth about how to preserve his ability to live in seventeen lifetimes at once. "You must become your own child," Jesus told him. "You must not let your reproductive power be diverted into the creation of offspring. Reproduce yourself. With the first cry of your first child, the astral paths would close with a violent gulp and you would be trapped in just one body." Those were, Jerome believed, Jesus' exact words.
Nothing, not even death, scared Jerome more than the threat of losing his connection to his other lives, and so he had risen up with each of Magda's pregnancies and smote it down. Magda had her own fears -- of trying to nurse a baby on a diet bought exclusively with food stamps, of the child becoming sick and her not having the money to care for it, of devoting her attentions to a child Jerome didn't want, thereby chasing him away so far that he would disappear forever. And Jerome preyed on all those poverty-induced fantasies, manipulated Magda for the good of his magic.
For more than five years, as abortion followed abortion, Jerome nurtured in private his unique conflict. On the one hand, he could never use birth control for fear of extinguishing the idoni that powered his journeys. On the other hand, if he permitted any of the resulting pregnancies to come to term, his journeys would end.
But as I said in the beginning, there was a girl child born to Jerome and Magda. Me, Rapunzel Blavatsky. How did that come about? Why, upon Magda's and Jerome's fifth conception, did he withdraw his demands to terminate the pregnancy?
Liberation Day -- at least that's what I call it -- arrived during a cool, cloudy spell in the middle of August. Magda had been up since 4 a.m. cleaning a laundromat, which she did five days a week. Jerome was deep in the woods behind the university campus, coming down from three days of healing the sick with Jesus and company in Galilee. As was often the case when he returned from one of his time travels, he was in a voracious and horny mood. Fantasies of making love to Magda competed in his feathery, aerated organism with an intense longing for French onion soup and grilled salmon and artichokes dipped in mayonnaise. Before he rode his bike to the cafeteria in town where he would scam the food people left behind on their trays, he visited the oak tree where his and Magda's joint diary resided.
Magda was used to Jerome's extended absences, and to keep things equal she pulled off her own disappearing acts from time to time. But on this particular day she was horny and voracious herself. Maybe it was the dream that had awoken her minutes before the alarm clock: swinging joyfully on the erect, bouncing phallus of an enormous satyr. Or maybe it was the little twinge she'd felt to the southwest of her navel last night, sure sign that she was ovulating. Riding her one-speed bike to work in the predawn mist, she felt like the Slut of the World; fantasized like a happy lunatic about copulating with rock stars and construction workers and tigers. By the time she was unlocking the double glass doors of the laundromat, the raw sexual craving had softened into a yearning for the kind of empathic listening that Jerome, of all the people she'd ever known, did best. Though there were many days when her husband was as narcissistic as a child, he would regularly slip into a state of grace during which he became the most tender reflector -- wildly curious about her life, and full of interesting questions that, when she answered them, made her real to herself.
After work she pedaled straight to the oak tree where the diary lay nestled in a fork of branches some twenty feet up. While perched up there, she read his most recent entry, dated just hours before. It said something like this:
"Ascetic Dionysian with idiot-savant tendencies seeks flexible doll-maker with crafty riffs for experiments in organized chaos. Guzzle my poetry, baby, and I'll be your disciplined wacko. Trick me with your cunning stunts and I will taste you all over with my forked tongue. Scavenging tonight? Meet me here at 9:03 p.m. and we'll go raid the witch's garden. Wear your costume from 39 in Grimms'."
What made Jerome's insanity even more insane was that he was so precise, so punctual, so perfectionist, and not at all in the compulsive way that schizophrenics sometimes have. His exactness was very relaxed. You could be sure that the peculiar time for their date, 9:03, had a baroque numerological import for him, and you also knew that he'd be there not a minute later. Yet he didn't mind if you were late, and he never harangued you with the cosmology of it all.
Magda was there early, having enjoyed an afternoon nap to compensate for the sleep she'd probably be missing later that night. Thanks to a visit to the Bargain Barn, a used clothing warehouse where clothes sold for twenty cents a pound, she'd assembled "a costume from 39 in Grimms'." That seemingly cryptic reference in Jerome's note was no mystery to Magda. She'd known to turn to page 39 in her edition of Grimms' Fairy Tales, where she found the story of Rapunzel. What it all meant, she knew, was that Jerome was enlisting her, as he had on numerous occasions, in another one of his "mythic reconnaissance missions" in preparation for an attempt at "mutating the old imprints."
Jerome was a writer of fairy tales. He was convinced, in fact, that his stories were to be his greatest gift to humanity. He wasn't so intent, though, on creating new myths from scratch as he was of messing with the old standards. Long before the word "deconstructionism" became a shibboleth for academic elites, Jerome used it to describe his modus operandi. If traditional stories and myths were records of the outdated patterns that characterized the collective unconscious long ago, Jerome wanted to be the one who disrupted those moldy patterns and rearranged them into fresh imprints more conducive to creating the utopia that he staunchly believed was humanity's destiny.
At 9:03 Magda was under the oak tree dressed as a German peasant woman might have dressed in the thirteenth century-if, that is, she'd had access only to the Bargain Barn: long muslin dress over grey leggings, brown suede vest and faux leather work boots. Jerome's outfit was more authentic: the materials of his shirt and tights were made of extremely rough tan fibers, and his primitively sewn leather boots were a throwback. Where'd he get them? Chances are he'd try to make you believe he'd somehow managed to smuggle them back over the dimensional threshold from fifteenth-century France.
"What if in the new, updated version of Rapunzel," Jerome said conspiratorially as he hugged Magda in welcome, "the witch never catches the husband in the act of stealing the lettuce?"
"Then you wouldn't have much of a story left," Magda retorted sensibly. "In fact, you might as well say, 'They all lived happily ever after, the end' after that."
"Ah, but wait. Let's theorize that the witch's garden represents the mystical knowledge of herbs, the old wise woman lore passed down from mother to daughter since before the beginning of history. And what if in the new version of 'Rapunzel,' the husband scales the walls of the witch's sanctum and brings its delicious secrets back to his wife-again and again. Let's say the witch, the guardian of the old womanly ways, never stops him. Maybe she never even notices. Or maybe she notices and still decides to let him do it. Maybe she says to herself, if this man is so devoutly in service to his wife's needs, then I will allow him access to the old wisdom. I will permit him to become mediator between crone and maiden."
Jerome was a man out of time. The cultural trends of his historical era brushed up against him, but his dearest passions were fed by the madnesses and fetishes of other eras and places. He was also, in a curious sense, a man of action. It was true that when he was in his learning mode he could close his eyes in broad daylight and remain virtually motionless for hours while he traveled hundreds of years and thousands of miles away. But when he was in his creative mode, working on one of his mutated fairy tales, he needed to create rituals in this time and this place. Maybe it was the Aeschylus in him -- he believed that in another incarnation he was the ancient Greek playwright -- that compelled him to dramatize his ideas in order to explore them. There was something about physically recreating the conditions of the story he was deconstructing that aroused buried reserves of inspiration.
A half hour later, after pedaling their beat-up bikes a couple miles to the spot Jerome had selected for his "mythic reconnaissance mission," the two crouched at the foot of a stone wall that surrounded a garden and a cottage with one light on. Jerome motioned for Magda to hop on his back and peer over the wall. After she did, he eased her down.
"You know what to say, wife," Jerome whispered.
"Oh husband," Magda said without hesitation, "In that garden is a bed of ripe rapunzel greens. They look so fresh and delicious that my mouth is watering. I simply must have some to eat. I think I shall die if I don't."
"I cannot let my wife die of longing," Jerome said. "I will bring you some of that rapunzel, no matter what the cost."
He clambered up over the wall. In a few minutes he returned with a wad of freshly picked spinach. Magda wolfed it down and lay her head in Jerome's lap. After a few minutes of silence, she spoke.
"Oh husband, I cannot stop thinking of that rapunzel. It was so good, so very good, that my craving for it has grown. Please, I beg you, fetch me some more."
Jerome paid a second visit to the garden and brought back another handful of spinach. Again, Magda gorged herself. But minutes later, her yearning returned yet again. "I am famished for rapunzel, my love. It seems the more I eat, the more I want. Don't make me wait."
Jerome leaped over the wall again, and this time, instead of slinking and skulking, he stood up, faced the cottage, and waved his arms. Did a jig. Sang an excerpt of the Hallelujah Chorus. And then snitched some spinach and returned to Magda. This time she only pretended to eat. The fairy tale wife might still be fascinated with the taste of rapunzel, but the actress needed a break from the spinach. The green leaves got stuffed in the waistband of her leggings.
"Husband," she said as she massaged his shoulders and neck, "My hunger for rapunzel has become so wild that I can no longer contain it. I beg you now to become hungry for rapunzel yourself. For only if you eat the rapunzel until it is gone can my own hunger ever be satisfied."
Jerome pulled his wife's long dress up above her waist and kissed her just below her navel. Then he heaved himself over the garden wall. Taking a small notepad and pen out of his pocket, he wrote the following: "Dear Witch: Thank you for helping us to change history. With your gracious permission, I have fetched my wife so much of your rapunzel that I, too, have become hungry for it. Now there is no longer any need to protect my daughter from me, for I have renounced the ignorance of my gender and the sins of the fathers. With deep reverence, Rapunzel's Daddy."
Jerome strode up to the cottage and slid the note under the back door. Returning to the garden, he plucked the remaining spinach and carried it back to where Magda lay. Slowly and methodically, he chewed and swallowed it all.
"Shall we consecrate the mutation, wife?" he said. Licking her forehead once, he removed her vest, pulled her dress over her head, undid her boots, and shimmied off her leggings. Then he lay back passively while she performed the same ritual on him. As she finished and lay down next to him, he said, "Nope. Got to give our love to the promised land. Come on."
He urged her over the garden wall. Once there, she took his hand and led him to the pumpkin patch. Under the scarecrow, he sat on the soft, damp night earth and she settled down on his lap. There for the next how many minutes -- the time it took for the two-days-past-full moon to slither from behind the hill yonder to the top branch of the apple tree in the garden -- they did the eye-fucking game. Tip of lingam lightly poised against tip of clitoris, no penetration except their amused and hallucinating eyes, slinging dusky amber light back and forth, fantasizing daimons and elemental spirits flowing from each other's nerves, wishing nothing else but that this moment be what it was.
By the time the moon reached the lowest leafy cloud, lingam and yoni had begun to blend, no official moment of entry but only a slow misty merger of yoni electrons and lingam electrons. In this happy-birthday-for-all-sentient-beings, the mask of Jerome's face glowed transparent for Magda, overflowing with a fountain of momentary portraits -- of Aeschylus, perhaps, and Jesus' brother James, and Jack of Beanstalk fame; but also every man that had ever motivated Magda -- that brush-cut warlock with the broken nose who taught her yoga, the fourth-grade teacher who told her she was a good artist, the smart boy she loved in second grade, the face of Jesus in the painting on her Child's Book of the Bible, the doctor who caught her as she pulsed free of her mother's yoni, her brother, her father.
Never any pressure to "fuck" or "screw" with Magda and Jerome. The mingling, not the friction, was the Grail. If alchemy meant anything, it meant this cooking, this slow, simmering mesh of why and how. As Magda steamed and marinated his prima materia, Jerome found leopards in her face, quetzalcoatls, the Queen of the Faeries, his mother and grandmothers, his old girlfriend, Billie Holiday, the woman who had served him ice cream every day of the summer of his ninth year.
And then ... who was that last face? He lifted his trance eyes away to find the moon, then looked back. It was still there, shimmering like all the others, but more solid.
Mary Magdalen. The wife of his brother Jesus. A face -- unlike the others that were coruscating through his wife-goddess' eyes -- that he felt himself retreat from. Not from lack of love, but from absence of gnosis -- as if he weren't old enough, or smart enough. He wanted to love her, but didn't know how. As James, he had always felt shy and strongly drawn to her. Taboo.
He felt an infinitesimal gush in his lingam: a small, partial ejaculation -- a safety-valve release which he, as a conscientious tantric lover, had trained himself to have so as to avoid a shoot-the-whole-wad explosion.
Feeling the need to anchor himself, to come down a little, he lifted his hands from where they'd been resting on Magda's hips and brought them to her face.
"Magda," he croaked, his voice rusty.
"Magdalen," she replied.
"Magdalen?" he whispered.
"Jesus has changed his mind," she spoke softly but firmly. It wasn't exactly Magda's voice. Huskier even than her usual sex voice.
"Jesus wants me to tell you. That what he said before. No longer applies."
"No longer applies," Jerome repeated. He knew what she was talking about but wasn't sure he was ready to know.
"Jesus says that he wants you to have a child -- a real, physical child."
"But I haven't become my own child yet. I haven't reproduced myself."
"There's not enough time for that luxury any more. Jesus needs you-and I need you-to help us."
"I want to help you," Jerome said bravely. Magda's yoni muscles had begun a series of rippling squeezes, and though the temptation to ejaculate had been partially relieved by his mini-orgasm, he could feel his pleasurably diffused sexual charge starting to contract again towards his lingam. He resisted, concentrating on spiraling the energy back out to the top of his head and the ends of his fingers and toes. He exerted his will, trying to draw his attention away from the tingling confusion he'd felt since Mary Magdalen had begun to speak through Magda.
"I want to be alive in your time," she said. "I NEED to be alive in your time."
Suddenly he felt a burst of sweetness, the promise of an exotic species of orgasm he'd never negotiated before, at the center of his brain.
"I want you to reincarnate me as your child."
A loop of honeyed lightning swooped from that whirlagig spot in his brain, traveling down his spine to his lingam and back. Maybe ten times the loop circulated, building a charge as it sluiced. It was like the feeling of soaring higher and higher on a swing, and he couldn't see who was pushing him higher and higher but he liked it but he was dangerously high and couldn't control himself and then he was flying off the swing and swirling down the longest slickest slide on the biggest playground he'd ever seen. Magda was clutching webs of skin on either side of his abdomen and she was somehow with him slithering down this long silver slick tunnel. Firecrackers were singing inside violet waterfalls. Strawberry cream was splashing down his throat forever but thank you he wasn't drowning, only breathing a pink river. He could see his grandfathers and his great-grandfathers barreling towards him with arms outstretched as if to welcome him or grab him, but then they were shooting by him, shouting some joyful greeting he couldn't understand.
As Jerome and Magda fell -- now, somehow, they were falling up -- Jerome could feel himself soften at the edges, unravel, dismantle. It was a sweet sensation, like falling asleep as a child. The night peeled away, exposing a strange sky teeming with winking, teasing stars. There was almost no space between the stars. They were nestling up against each other as far as he could see, like the jam-packed nest of throbbing frog eggs he'd once seen at the edge of the creek. He imagined that each of these billions of pulsing lights was an intelligent creature, and that they all loved him and were happy to see him and wanted to show him something very funny and very interesting.
Gradually he became aware of the wet dirt of the garden chilling his butt and of his swollen but soft lingam drooping out of Magda's yoni. The moon had reached zenith. Magda's eyes were fluttering gently as if in REM sleep, though she was still upright on his lap and drumming her fingers playfully against his sides.
"You came inside me?" she laughed quizzically. "I'm shocked." "Not half as shocked as I."
"Should I go hurry run home and douche this load out of me?" she offered.
"No, let's go to Golden West and eat some buckwheat pancakes. Did you get paid today? I'm suddenly starving."
Nine months from the night in the rapunzel patch, in the dead of a full moon night in mid-May-a time celebrated by some as the Buddha's birthday-my wet, feathery Rapunzel head bobbed twice at the threshold where Magda was cracking open, and then I splashed out in a flood of blood and amniotic juice, falling into the weathered hands of an old bird-woman. My father, his shoulder snug against the bird-woman's, laughed for a long time.
I am not describing a scene recounted to me by the three who attended my birth. I am not speculating that this is how it happened. Through my training in the occult art of anamnesia, I have lifted the veil of forgetfulness which, for most people, remains closed until death. I remember-not in words, of course, but in fuzzy images, in vivid smells, in telepathic textures-I remember that my father kissed me on the forehead as I took my first breath. I remember I was an inside-out star drinking in the smells of sweat and alcohol and camphor and shit and jasmine candles.
And I remember my father holding me, my umbilicus just cut, as I nodded expectantly towards the moist, shivering gate out of which I had just emerged. More to come, I knew. Still inside was the creature I had swum with for my first nine moons, my twin brother. Our separation hurt, blotted out the other separation from my mother. Why was I here and he was still there?
When finally the gate opened again, it was not with his head, but with the sac of nourishment I'd fed from, my placenta. The bird-woman stiffened at this, squawked an alarm, and grabbed two long silver scalpels. Cutting through my mother's skin and muscles and membranes, she plumbed for my companion.
Years after this event, when I'd learned enough words, I could describe what technically happened: abruptio placenta, the premature separation of my brother's placenta from the uterus. We were both supposed to be born before either placenta popped out. The appearance of mine while he was still inside meant that his placenta was peeling away from its source, depriving him of oxygen before he was ready to breathe.
That's what I know now. Then I knew only that my companion hurt. I felt him shrinking, fighting, stiffening-and then withdrawing. Even as my father put me down on a soft, white place to help the bird-woman, I sensed my Other leaving. I smelled or tasted or felt his growing absence. And with an unmistakable act of will-any expert will tell you a newborn infant has no will, but I'm telling you I made a clear decision -- I swallowed my brother. I ate him up so he couldn't disappear. On his way out of this world, some diamond mist that was him -- a sweet-tasting cloud with a pomegranate red heart pulsing at its center-slid down my throat and joined me in secret marriage. Since then I have always had two hearts.
The earth body of my brother, which I never saw again after that day, was, I have always imagined, perfect-as mine was not. The loss of him was of course not the cause of my three shining flaws, but I thought otherwise for many years.
My three shining flaws. My loves. My wounds. My treasures.
One flaw was visible to all, a beacon and magnet for anyone excited and repulsed by an otherwise beautiful girl with a grotesque disfigurement. In the middle of my forehead, exactly in that spot where Hindu women draw the dot to mark the mythical third eye, was a large, dramatic birthmark. It was -- no other way to name it-a bull skull, a more squat version of those shapes Georgia O'Keefe always painted. It was a big, ugly, radiant brown oval with horns, the left horn slightly longer than the right.
My second flaw was on the inside of me, visible to no one at first. It was only after I entered my second year of life that outer signs of the flaw began to alert Magda and Jerome to it. Increasingly, the top of my head was warm to the touch and my eyes bugged out of my head and my skin broke into curious sweats. That was when the bird-woman, who had hovered around the three of us since the birth, took me away to live with her. It was she who paid for the doctors who discovered that my tiny heart was working overtime to compensate for a missing part.
When I was eighteen months old, surgeons stretched my twenty-eight-inch body out on the table and sliced open two vertical and two horizontal inches of my chest in a good approximation of a cross. They reached inside to clip and sew my most important muscle, repairing the flawed circuit.
So my head cooled down. My eyes bugged back into my head. The strange sweats stopped. And that two-inch by two-inch scar on my chest began to grow. With each passing year, it expanded, just like the rest of me. By the time I was nine years old, the horizontal line of the cross had stretched to four and three-sixteenths inches, and the vertical to three and five-eighths. I know, because I measured it regularly with my red plastic ruler. Meanwhile, my bull skull tattoo had grown too. It was one and one-sixteenth inches in diameter, with a left horn three-eighths of an inch long and the right a quarter-inch.
As I know now, both of my flaws -- my signatures -- were responsible for me leaving Magda and Jerome and moving in permanently with the bird-woman. Just as they had been before I arrived, my birth parents were so poor they could barely take care of themselves properly, let alone a third member of their family. When my heart's growing malfunction expanded beyond the scope of their financial resources, they turned to the person who had offered to care for me all along, and took her up on her offer. >From a tiny, dingy apartment, I moved to a plush, luxurious mansion. >From stained, secondhand baby clothes, I changed into vividly colored silks and satins and velvets.
My heart's flaw was the trick of fate the bird-woman used to claim me. My head's flaw was the reason she wanted to claim me. It was the bull skull on my forehead -- along with similar but less grotesque birthmarks behind my right knee and inside my labia majora -- that convinced the bird-woman I was the long-prophesied reincarnation of Mary Magdalen, and future high priestess of her ancient mystery school.
The third shining flaw? I'll save that story for another time. Suffice to say that it was a secret to everyone, even me, until I reached the age of sexual maturity.
© 1995-2013 -- Rob Brezsny. All rights reserved