“moonstones” — a chapter from my feminist memoir “whitegirrrl”


Your grandfather teaches you how to find moonstones all along Moonstone Beach in your childhood.  Years later you will buy yourself a pendant.  It’s a moonstone from Tibet that flashes blue to white.  You’d never seen a Rainbow Moonstone before.  Somehow it serves as a protective stone when you wear it.  It sits on top of your heart like a goddess.

The moon hangs over the beach at night like a lamp.  A bright stone lantern that flashes over the inkdark sea uncovering every tiny windborne ripple.  For years you look up at it.  Last night you drove along the wide boulevard by the sea just so you could see it reflected dancing on the waters in a long straight path.

The moon’s lantern makes you think of loves held and lost.

It has been thirty years since you have been able to re-enter the rooms on Red Rose Way.

The rooms where you were so in love that it hurt you to a place you can barely uncover.  The rooms where you were betrayed so badly you almost never recuperated.

He used that camera on you.

Your hands flew up like birds at first, trying to ward off the pictures he was making.  It was like he wanted everything about you, then.  Everything.

“They’re just little pieces of silver,” he says.

The postcards of the two of you arrive everyday from Los Angeles.

He writes things on the back that you can’t decipher.

You left Los Angeles in 1981, because of him, and still he arrives on your doorstep.

His trademark was the rose he brought you, every time.

For a time you save the petals, and you sit writing poems as the moonlight floods the sky overhead.  You collect his images in a large grey box.  You realize that he saw you as a Muse, then.  Nothing more.  Repeatedly he says, “I want to plant my seed inside you.”

“I can’t feel anything if I have to wear this,” he says, tossing the rubber aside.

“Now what?” he says over the phone.

“Now what?”

The problem was that you believed him when he said he loved you.  He didn’t.

He didn’t really love you, or the child he planted inside you.  It will take you years in therapy to even talk about what happened.  You draw a picture for your therapist of a heart stabbed with a sword.  She has you write it all down.   You read it to her in session.

“I’m not in love with her,” is what he told you repeatedly about his wife.  It’s not as if he wore a ring.  Once he takes you to their house to show you the darkroom.  You look at the little bungalow and your heart pounds as you go through the front door.  He has student bookshelves made of slabs of wood and cinderblocks.  He takes you into their kitchen and you see the African violets and lace antimacassars that suffuse their world.  You see the cartoons about married life that are plastered all over the refrigerator.

“This is where I develop you,” he says.  You look around the darkroom and see the trays.  He shows you the binders full of negatives.

“I walk with the light,” he says.  “Infinity at f11.”

“I always photograph the things I’m most afraid of,” he says.

Years later you wonder why he photographed you.

December ninth 1981.

That Christmas you take the train to Cambria in a sort of daze.  Shellshock.  You break down for a moment in front of your mother and she brings you a cold compress for your eyes.  It’s worse than that though.  You had wanted to go under once they submerged you on that table with your feet up in the stirrups.  You had not wanted to wake up at all.  Ever again.

“My friend Selima had fourteen of them,” your mother says.  “During the war.”

She is referring to the second world war and this is outside your frame of reference.

“I could never have one, myself,” she says.

It is in the car when she is driving you and your brother home that you begin to hyperventilate.  Your hands turn blue and become like little claws from some ragged beach creature.  You cannot find your breath anymore.  The therapist at school tells you one day you will be really angry about this.  You are almost failing winter quarter because of the panic attacks.

Every day his postcards come like clockwork.

The little pieces of silver that make the permanent record of what he has done.

They prescribe Xanax for you.

“You must get away from this man,” says your therapist Dennis.  “You must stop this relationship.”

You tell him this, but, he expects it will just go on as before.

And it does for a time, because it was art, or because it was love, or because you believed, and because he had your heart in a little box or because of rose petals you saved or because of little scraps of silver it will take you years to finally burn.

“She’s pregnant,” he says.

He’s going to be having a child.

“I owe it to her,” he says.  “After all these years of marriage.”

“I can’t solve my dilemma,” he says.  “I still love you.”

“I can never see you again,” you say.

The kind doctor at the Student Health clinic explains that you are having anxiety attacks and he shows you how to hold a brown paper bag to your lips and breathe into it.

“Carry these bags with you at all times,” he says.

“Breathe in and out of them, slowly.”

“You need to replenish the carbon dioxide in your system.”

It takes you a year to stabilize afterwards.  You find a tiny apartment where you are hidden in an antique Craftsman.  You change phone numbers.  He cannot send  you postcards anymore.

Years later you will meet a mother who has fled her existence.  She holds her baby Jesus in her lap.  His little eyes follow the flash of your moonstone pendant.

His name is “Jesus” she says.  “He saved my life.”

She tells you how she came here looking for amnesty.

“The would have taken him from me,” she says.

“Like they took my other children.”


“moonstones” — copyright 2010 by Valentine Bonnaire — all rights reserved.

author note — this song comes to mind, today.


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