9. Dead and Gone

In the old City Cemetery, if you turn right down the first lane once you get in, you’ll see a large monument with no writing on it.  The sides of the stone, where the words should go, has been worn clean.  Or so it appears.

The first person who told me the story of this monument told me that it went like this.  A young couple, very well-to-do, very much in love had gotten married, as folks did.  And quickly discovered that the woman was pregnant.  They couldn’t have been happier.

Sadly, their happiness was short-lived.  The woman died in childbirth.  But, before she did, she made the husband promise he would never remarry.

That tomb is hers and on its side the husband had carved the most heartbreaking ode to his love for his wife.

But it’s not easy for a man to raise a little girl by himself and, eventually, he did remarry, not out of love, but out of wanting to provide a mother for his daughter.

It is said that, on the day of his wedding, the stone crumbled and his words of love fell off.

Or it goes like this.  He was a terrible husband, who beat his wife regularly and she could find no refuge from him.  Folks knew, as they do, but they didn’t think it was their business.

And then he killed her.

He didn’t mean to, of course, or so he told himself.  She could have kept her mouth shut.  She could have had his dinner ready on time.  She could have had it ready later.  He couldn’t remember why he was mad, just that he had hit her and hit her and hit her until she stopped moving.  And he had thought, when she finally stopped, struggling, “yes, that’s right.  You just take it.”

She wasn’t, however, just taking it.  She was dead.

He wasn’t sure what would happen next.  He was wealthy, but so was her father.  He might be hung.  In desperation, he carried her body up to the top of the grand staircase, and threw it down.  Then he stripped off his clothes and threw them in the fire.  He could hear the slave girl calling from the back yard.  She would find his wife, find him.  She would know.

He began to yell, “Go for help!  Go for help!  She’s jumped.”

The slave girl didn’t know, of course.  She had been in the garden and seen nothing.  But she knew enough about him to be shocked, but unsurprised, to hear that the wife had committed suicide.

The husband played the grieving widower to the hilt, put up a lavish monument in the city cemetery, with grand words of love written all over it.

And then, almost as soon as the last word was carved, the first word began to fade.  The worker who noticed it said it was like a wet rag on a chalkboard, in slow motion.
The husband paid, for a while, to have the stone recarved.  But eventually everyone in town came to believe the wife wouldn’t stand to have him lie on her grave.  So, it remains bare today.

And lately, I have heard it told like this.  That two young women were in love, though the times being what they were, they did not know to call it that.  They would spend their afternoons wrapped in each other’s limbs and everyone in town jokingly called them the two wives.  You have to understand how it was back then.  No one, least of all the two wives, took their love very seriously.  They would go on to marry men.  Love often didn’t enter into it.  And it never occurred to them to even consider spending their lives together.  It just wouldn’t have.

Both were married off to suitable men, men they both found to be fine, though they still saw each other when they could and wrote each other when they couldn’t.  Then, one of them became pregnant and, sadly, it killed her.

The other was distraught.

The husband buried the dead wife in an elaborate tomb in the city cemetery and had carved great words of love on it.

And when she could, the other wife would visit the grave.  Often she was so overcome with grief that she would trace over the words the husband had had carved.  And often she was furious that the husband’s words would stand as the truth and her love would go unacknowledged.

So, she slowly began to chip them away, those words that should have been hers.  And just as slowly, it’s said, a ghostly figure helped her.  Now, they say, when you drive by the cemetery, you will often see two young women in long, full skirts, walking arm in arm among the stones, admiring the flowers, stealing a kiss.

The truth is that there never was any writing on the tomb.  The uneven surface is not from words falling away, but from a century or so of rain and pollution wearing at the limestone.  Once you know this, it’s impossible to look at the marker and see anything but that truth.

And yet people would rather believe anything but that, rather hear any story of heartbreak and haunts.

Make of that what you will.

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I Now Have an ‘Honest, Heartfelt’ Revulsion to McWherter

Woods reports:

“The fact of the matter is, what he said is where he is on this issue. No one in the campaign is going to sit here and try to nuance it. That’s just where he is personally on the issue. At this point, there’s really nothing else to say about it. He was asked point blank the question, and he gave an honest, heartfelt answer about where he is on the issue. The question was how does he feel about a gay couple adopting a child. His personal belief is that parents of the opposite sex are better for adoption to raise a child. If push came to shove specifically when it came to a ban, yes, he would be supportive of a ban.”

There are two things to note here. 1. McWherter is admitting that, as governor, he will not protect people from the tyranny of bigotry.  In fact, he will join in.  It’s just where he is. 2. We can stop pretending that this “unmarried couple, living together” is anything other than a ruse to fuck over gay people. That straight, unmarried people get caught up in it is just tough.  All you straight, but unmarried people?  This hatred of gays is so deep that you’re acceptable collateral damage.

You’re not even gay and bigots like McWherter have all but ensured that you’re caught up in the civil rights for gay people issue. The gay civil rights movement is now your civil rights movement, single straight people.

You want to adopt, but you have your reasons for not getting married? Now’s the time to lock arms with your gay brothers and sisters and remember that voting in their best interest is voting in your best interest.

I Woke Up Still Fuming at McWherter

Okay, let’s look at this again:

McWherter does support the ban, and feels that having parents of the opposite sex is better for a child. He says that the Department of Children’s Services reports to the governor, so as governor, he would be responsible for children in need of this service. I followed up by asking if he felt that foster care by an opposite-sex couple was better than adoption by a same-sex couple, and he said that he did.

Here’s the thing. I don’t expect everyone in this state, not even all the Democrats in this state, to be okay or comfortable with gay people.  Years of oppressing and slandering gay people to the point where any of them that can get the hell out of Dodge do get the hell out of Dodge means that the bigots get to be bigoted mostly unchallenged and ideas are entrenched.

I do expect Democrats to stand on the side of not letting their own grave shortcomings as people stand in the way of other people’s well-being.

Would it have been so hard for the following to have happened?

McWherter does not support the ban, even though he feels that having parents of the opposite sex is better for a child. He says that the Department of Children’s Services reports to the governor, so as governor, he would be responsible for children in need and he believes that getting children in loving and stable homes should be the State’s top priority; he doesn’t want children languishing in the system when there are homes for them. I followed up by asking if he felt that foster care by an opposite-sex couple was better than adoption by a same-sex couple, and he said that he did, but that he would not stand in the way of children being placed in loving homes no matter what their make-up.

He could still be wrong. He could still be homophobic. But he would be espousing a Democratic position.

The fact that he can’t do that tells you something.