Is this love, is this love, is this love, is this love that I’m feelin’?
Her heart did that flutter thing and her brain responded, “You stop that right now.” It was not her time yet.
She’d felt this overwhelming type of love only once before and then it had taken all of twenty minutes for her to fall under his spell. This time it simply took one gaze through the wall of glass and she was hooked. She knew that, until her last breath, her heart would beat solely for him.
This was flowery metaphorical speak, obviously. No need for anyone to get his panties in a twist...
That hollow muscular blood pumping organ was something she too was an expert in. And she made this claim with no false modesty. She was the woman behind the man. Well two men if you were being technical – one of whom was relegated to the past. Gone but never forgotten.
As it were, contestant number two was that scion of a medical dynasty, pioneered by his scientific breakthroughs in everything heart. Except, as she’d learnt to her detriment, feeling and emotion. Although, if you were to objectively analyse it – like on the rare occasion when he took the time to expound on the subject, his this, one true passion – he’d loquaciously elaborate on the intricate functioning of all things cardiovascular. The gist of his sermon, the nucleus of his talk, or if one were being idiomatically ironic, the heart of his message, would be that the aforementioned body part was simply a physical organ; a biological blood pump. Everything else was intellect.
Fear, Love, Hate, Angst, Joy, Sorrow, Anger – none of these emanated from what was simply a functioning cog in a larger machine. So while someone might describe the expressing of emotion, as if to say leading with their heart, this wasn’t literal. It was figurative. Bordering on poetical, even.
Consequently, with that basic precept of thought, the critical thinker, unhindered by preconceptions, would dispassionately conclude that the commonly run-of-the-mill fist-sized binary chamber (sans pre-existing medical condition) definitely does not control a person’s behavior. That transpires in the cerebral cortex. The limbic brain, to be more precise. Heart Transplants are thus merely a change in the physiological body, with no mean feat of psychological transfer.
He would know this. Expert in corporeal anatomy but total failure in anything resembling sentiment.
He hadn’t always been this way.
Perhaps the “heartless” automaton he’d become was a repercussion of loving her. The fitting similitude of the towering mental pericardium that he’d built to protect his non-physical heart – that building of it – was all her doing. She’d caused it. This unbreachable wall.
He was the eminently endowed Dr. Harper Avery: Cardiothoracic Surgeon Extraordinaire.
No. Oh no. No no. Obvious no.
Very clearly not the appropriate adjective. Or accurately detail orientated.
...Not to say that he fell short. Slightly deficient possibly. Maybe even...average?
That was an Affirmative. Average it was. It seemed to meet the criteria of suitable defining word. Less emasculating and yet a more viable descriptor, right?
Ooh, now that would surely get his goat. If he were to ever find out that he was considered inferior, or perhaps even (shudder and softly whimper) mediocre, in anything, by her. That he did not measure up. Although, she presumed, on some level he already knew this.
Clearly she had had endowed. Enough for her to make the comparison.
The word to use here was renowned, she supposed. Possibly also, on an academic level – mind over matter, as it were – endowed with accolades?
Mind on his money and money on his mind. Fame, fortune and awards. They were all interlinked.
So, Yes. In those contexts, the word association was apt.
He was beautiful, this love of her life. Baby-soft copper skin, curly black hair and the one feature that she would swear was her legacy; the inquisitive greyish-blue eyes that mirrored her own. Obvious heir to the family business...Heartbreaker. Unorthodox association, but true nevertheless. He was not her baby…and yet…he was.
She was Joanna Eleanor Avery. Mrs Eleanor Avery.
Her husband’s PR had seen fit to revamp her title, removing in its entirety the fun and flighty first part. Frivolous, was Public Relations definition.
The matriarch of this dynasty they imperiously instructed, had to reflect a demureness, a stoicism, a no-nonsense approach, stemming from her name down. Their demand of contradictory traits of shyness coupled with stony-faced confidence gave them no pause, caused not even a moment of hesitation. No realization existed as to their unreasonableness in this, the heedless pursuit of perfection that their tiny minds considered exemplified First Lady of The Surgical Empire.
Her inner strength though hidden from prying public scrutiny, they claimed, screamed ‘Eleanor’. Evidently, in the manner of wealthy elite, so more of an understated whisper. No serenaded Streetcar Stella-type similarities seeking strife, they supplicated. Needless to say, any whiff of intrigue regarding her mysterious past was to be avoided at all costs.
Her supposition though, was that it was their way of controlling the narrative of what had been. It was ridiculous. It’s not like she – or her family, or her ancestors – contributed in any way towards furthering either despicable system; that of human chattel enslavement or even indentured servile drudgery.
Either...both...were abhorrent. Repugnant. Plantations built and ran on the backs of slaves. Oppression and bondage being their lot. She considered the practice of slavery contemptible and for the descendants of slaveholders, this was the absolute worst skeleton they could ever have in their closets.
Those granite depictions of America’s slave owner forefathers – 60-foot-high representations of narcissism; their faces sculpted for eternity into the sides of Mount Rushmore – should have, in her opinion, been rendered ass-face backwards, loudly proclaiming America’s shame.
Lording it over the masses they were, the portrayal itself offensive to the thinking man.
They deserved to be reduced to rubble.
For their crimes against humanity. For stealing, owning and abusing human beings, individually and collectively, against their wills. For the genocide, occupation and exploitation of melinated people. For the blood and sweat they spilled and reveled in and for the free menial labor they profited therefrom.
Hate and its ensuing actions, based solely on skin pigmentation.
Black People they’d kidnapped from their homelands and sold into servitude and original inhabitant Red Indian People they’d evicted from their native country, land stolen out from under them. Some, the remaining, they’d rounded up and corralled into reservations like animals and yes, millions they’d simply slaughtered.
The unmitigated gall of unashamed, self-titled supremacy of white Amerikkka astounded her.
Unfortunately, for the “Land of the free and home of the brave” it – the good ol US of A – would never be those accolades. A quote by some Comedian she didn’t know but which had summed up the situation, came to mind. Frankie Boyle had said, “The reason America is such a horror story is that the entire thing is built on an Old Indian Graveyard.”
How apropos was the old chap’s words? Entirely appropriate, was the correct response. Even though it simply was a rhetorical question.
Everything white America had accomplished had been the result of appropriation and via genocidal occupation. Language, mathematics, science, music, dance and even comedy. All stemmed from the roots of People of Color.
And then to top it all off, the non-accountability. Bathing in their entitlement and heritage of stolen riches with a screeching “Look what you made me do.” Squawking, like fowl headed to slaughter, they preyed on the sympathies of the soft-hearted and the ignorant, crying copious tears of white victimhood.
Ascending from middle class morality into hubris, they turned the other cheek, excluding their white asses from a narrative they created. Marinating in the juices of imagined slights, they cashed in the coin. Immoral, disrespectful, privileged, caught red-handed...yet they antagonized. How ’bout that 180 degree burn…an identical value turnaround on that blame game?
White people, or rather racists, were and are the antithesis of superior. Inflating their egos and very existence with the superlative adjective of ‘Supreme’. It disgusted her. White mediocrity claiming supremacy; equating their brand of lacklustre, transparent blandness to that royal word.
White Supremacy. It was Oxymoronic.
The only Supreme she acknowledged was Diana Ross. Supreme Diva of The Supremes.
Upside down, inside out and round and round…DR (quite the appropriate acronym for someone she admired, true? Turns out it was possible to be both an intellectual, snobby artist as well as a doctor groupie) twisted it all about. Twistin’ time was here…wait a sec…wrong Black artist. Twistin’ and limboin’ was Chubby Checker swag. Notwithstanding CC or DR, the point was proven. Supreme was Black. Black was Original.
Was it considered offensive and/or insensitive to refer to a People by their skin color, she wondered. Figuring that as long as NO analogous correlation was made to food – thus endowing the observed person with characteristics that were a mere satisfaction of vain glorious superficiality of the beholder’s vision – then she was good to go. Political correctness, then and now, was still a learning curve.
So she deferred to Avery PR and their ploys. Not out of a sense of shame, but because of the everlasting pain. Why allow strangers to dredge up and speculate on her former life when the memories were so bittersweet?
Of her own volition and in her own mind-space, she fondly recalled the time when she was simply Joey Drayton. And on the rare occasion, with a pang of nostalgia and the ever-present wrenching ache of grief, when she’d joyfully been Joanna Prentice…Mrs Dr. John Wayde Prentice.
The sixties, for her, had been an era of conciliation and reform with many older retired career couples having brought up their children to value substance and character. To eschew blind racist practices and to inculcate honorable work ethics derived with effort and a well-substantiated, preferably Ivy League, education. At least, that was her family. But hindsight was twenty-twenty and her experiences altered her perceptions. So the after, she viewed through a different lens.
She was the much loved only child of affluent, but down to earth, parents. They were quietly, understated elegance. A sophisticated refinement; a tasteful palette. They were the classy-without-shoving-it-down-your-throat types. Think a Hepburn-Tracy kind collaboration. Style, wealth and a knack for cutting, satirical verbosity.
Did she mention that her father had been a much-lauded critical journalist? He had detested prejudice, racism and oppression in all its many-faceted colors and had made no bones about fighting the scourge. His scathing editorials had been rife with his liberal viewpoints. Specifically anti-apartheid sentiment and applause for the civil rights movement, of which he was a huge proponent.
The great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his “I have a dream” speech, had in later years made quite an impact on her parent, but the former, as a whole, had initially not impressed him. For he had no time for religious pontificators. For the most part their “Turn the other cheek” mentality had grated. Matt Drayton was an action man, a revolutionary, a Malcolm X, young Fred Hampton or Mohammed Ali type – except for the Black Power, no whites (and definitely no white sheets) allowed part. However, Dr. King’s future letter, that the exceptional civil rights leader penned while in prison, had quite an impact on her dad’s latter and later mindset. An eye opener really to what white American alleyship lacked and what needed to change.
Rev. Dr. King, a doctor by virtue of his doctorate in systematic theology had written about his disappointment with white moderates.
“...the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…”
This excerpt of Dr. King’s letter, would have a surprising resonance to the lessons of his life – a rejection of the negative peace versus an acceptance of justice, the positive peace, and hence to John himself. This was achieved after, obviously, and only once the distance of impartiality and retrospection allowed.
Her mother, though not as famous, had been successful in her own right too. An art gallery owner, she’d revamped multiple industries. That of the poor artist, the classless one-dimensional hotel room scenery works and of course conventional beliefs in what constituted art. She had single-handedly and successfully turned all those concerns on their heads.
So it came as no surprise that the educated daughter of Matt and Christina Drayton judged not on the basis of color when she interacted with people. A part of it was the eternal joy and optimism that she as a person epitomized, but yes her upbringing played a major role too. And perhaps it was a testament to her faith in them and how they’d brought her up that lead to her introducing her parents to her proudly African American fiancé. He who was as dark as night.
Oh, did she forget to mention that she was white? Pure as the driven snow.
Shade only, of course. She was no newly hatched ingénue.
Though not intentioned as such, what it had ended up being was a test of their belief system. Not a religious ideology per se and not any of the big three Abrahamic emanations of Monotheism – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – or even off-shoot denominations of them.
Neither did they follow the tenets of any of the lesser hyped Sanskrit philosophies such as the origins of Hindu, Tamil or Telugu, with their Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita scriptures. Nor the practitioners of peacefulness that Buddha represented. Also not, embarrassingly – if you considered the myths of it and that it was her parents and kinky sex that were under scrutiny here – following the non-religious Kamasutra. That which Western orientalists had converted to represent as religious text to follow the British Colonial Masters subversion; the English-man’s mantra being “Divide and Conquer.”
Nor too any of the other mystical Eastern cultures such as the ones observed by The Chinese and Japanese. Mayan, Aztec, Greek, Roman and Norse Mythology; none of those either. And of course, the Hollywood creations like Scientology were not yet a blip on the world’s radar.
They were practicing Atheists. Which was an oxymoron if she ever heard one. So their beliefs basically banked on the moral and ethical imperative of doing good, without any incentive and with no reliance on a future reward. Which to her mind and later point of view of lived and learned experience, was contradictory. What was the inducement otherwise? And the classification of good versus evil…who defined either and what was the distinction?
She was exactly as her parents had brought her up to be. They answered her questions and she listened to their answers. They told her it was wrong to believe that White People were somehow essentially superior to Black People…or Brown, Red or Yellow People, for that matter. People who thought that way were wrong to think that way. Sometimes hateful, usually stupid, but always wrong. That’s what they’d said. And when they said it, they did not add, “But don’t ever fall in love with a Colored Man.”
So here her parents, and her father in particular, had to ante up. The tolerance they preached had become an in-your-face example. Although she’d learnt to hide the experience in subsequent years – mainly out of sorrow; she’d never been ashamed or embarrassed – she had shared it with her one special guy...