In her hands were thirty-two pages entitled, ‘Lucina Remembers Louis Altman,’ divided into dated chronological time frames. The separate sections highlighted major events in a sixteen-year time span, from spring l967 to Spring l983 and then elaborated on them. During these years she experienced herself becoming a more aware and independent woman. She studied the familiar handwriting, both crimped and slanted, obvious signs of feeling pressured to pen these thoughts down quickly.
Yes, she had forced herself to write this long journal entry in the fall of 1983 just before full-time teaching and night classes took her over, determined to write about pivotal moments in this rocky, challenging period, which she had sometimes referred to as “transformation into a self-sufficient dyke.” Though working with differently-abled youth was challenging and rewarding she’d needed to note those years when she’d not been tied to one job, but been able to sow her oats in a variety of directions. While she was writing she’d told herself that someday she would go back and fill in the gaps and hopefully end up with a vital chronicle for her old age.
– From Chapter 13, Ruth & Lucina: Book 3
She stopped reading. A sudden thought, an epiphany lit her us: If whatever she had to “work through,” now synonymous with “learn” was in these thirty-two pages and re visiting them could help take her back to Ruth, to the hope of a new, deep relationshhiip, then maybe she should make a recording of this record. Get her tape recorder and a tape and record herself reading her entries out loud. at the very least she could listen to the tape herself. She took a deep breath, engaged play and record and began to read aloud:
“In 1967 I was mourning Rune’s loss. But at the present, 1983, what drives this writing is Louis and the wish to chronicle our unraveling. Now we only see each other a few times a year, usually at a café to catch up. If I can understand the changes in our relationship, I might get a handle on changes of all sorts and not be undone by them. Though I court change, I am not skilled in accepting it.
At this time, when many lesbian feminist writers are reflecting in poetry, story and essay, on their journeys to become women-identified-women, I am compelled to look back and examine through journal writing how the forces that drove Louis and me apart brought me to where I am today, September 1, 1983.
Journaling is like moving backward on a train through your mind-field where memories are planted. I have some skill with words to express change in my life in a way sculpting cannot. Pages can be copied and shared. Or, if I include the tawdry details, then kept safely locked up. If my family came upon this black book, they would definitely view my time with Louis as flooded with flotsam….”
– From Chapter 13, Ruth & Lucina: Book 3
“Violeta came to us like a gift from God. Like a newborn child can bring solace to troubled parents, Violeta took us by the hand and led us into the future. She gave each of us what we needed so we would not separate but continue to grow together. She fended off the riving that came later when Louis and I were finally separated by forces we could not ignore: I by lesbian-feminist currents and cravings, he by leftist male-identified, writer-intellectuals and the need to find his roots as a Jew. Loving women as he did, and being a sensitive male, didn’t mean he wouldn’t benefit from his white male privilege. I often questioned: if we had born children, would we have stayed together, no matter what? All I know is that Violeta helped us stay together longer than we would have without her loving us both.
Louis despaired that I was less and less able to joy in his male mentors. Though it had thrilled me that his heroes were often bisexual or gay, and always emotional and terribly aware (though not always sensitive to their women), as men they embraced the viewpoints and privileges nurtured by their gender. My new awareness of machismo and objectification of women made me analyze more carefully the depiction of male appetites colorfully flaunted in their novels filled with adventure, romance and self-discovery. I saw how their so-called sensitivity could be terribly blind to a female partner’s needs. Men’s desires in the bedroom, the workplace, and the studio were too often given priority over women’s. To put it bluntly, women were too often relegated to inferior positions and used as men’s sounding boards.
I began reading feminist writers (many of them out lesbians): Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Monique Wittig, Jeannette Winterson, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou. So many women poets, novelists, essayists were releasing their mute buttons and letting their soft, sometimes stuttering voices as well as strident, passionate voices be heard. I saw that women had to reinvent themselves and the language referencing them. We had to consciously work to be heard, seen and reckoned with. If ‘human’ were to truly represent both women and men, then women had to put themselves into the construct. The ubiquitous ‘he’ changed to ‘he/shes’ or ‘s/hes’ could make our invisibility become a thing of the past. Our actions and our stories had to express our needs, no matter how groping our efforts and radical our changing of the culture. Women had to be the interpreters of our own experience….”
– From Chapter 17, Ruth & Lucina: Book 3
“Spring ’73 through Spring ’83. Louis negotiates an inexpensive and quick divorce in Mexico through a lawyer friend on the grounds of mutual incompatibility. I thought, at least it’s not based on the claim of an abusive spouse. It’s obvious; Louis wants to be free to get married again. Suddenly I feel like a second-class citizen. He can marry a woman he loves. I can’t. What is my reaction to this — I who never quite felt I was married in the court’s sense of the word, now to be named a divorcée?
Basically I feel like I’m supposed to fit into some system that doesn’t speak for me. Not only is it a man’s world, it’s a hetero’s world. If you don’t look like a duck and you don’t act like a duck, then you’re not a duck. And if you pretend to be one, you’ll quack up. The question becomes, am I going to feel differently once we are officially divorced? Change is hard for people, no matter how necessary.
I’ve tried to escape handcuffs on love. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people have to forge our own set of ethical behaviors. If it’s really true that marriage and divorce laws protect heterosexual citizens both emotionally and economically, then why aren’t LGBTQ people also protected by these laws? Aren’t we citizens too?!
When Louis gets married again, I’m going to be the ex-wife, the second ex-wife. Will our friends see me in a different light? Am I going to flaunt him as my ‘ex husband’?
So why did he call me ‘inept’ for saying we had to finally change our interdependency? It’s because I said it, because he couldn’t say it. It’s about the pain of our living separate lives when we had been so close for so long. And yet he was the one who filed for our divorce, not I.
To have once been so close, so interdependent, and then become so separate is a terrible awakening: lovers torn from their once consuming embrace; the dying person parting from the still living beloved. How do we humans survive these separations?
I had hoped that we could finally accept that our co-joined life was over; that it would not be a painful separation. We were allowing ourselves even more space to spread our wings and fly joyfully. Like matter, our love was merely changing form once again. Still, I feel our determination to stay connected somehow through all our various other relationships, our changes in so many ways, deserves a special citation, something like Spiritual Siblings Stick It Out Forever.
I didn’t want our occasional meetings in the years that followed to be taken over by painful memories. We struggled too hard for that. Two committed artists and anti- war workers, stepping away from our parents’ expectations (no steady jobs, no down payments on a house, no real furniture or good silverware, no pensions or medical coverage, no church or temple honoring of marriage vows), is not a blueprint for familial acceptance. We knew that. Rejection begets rejection. We had to honor what we found in each other: lovers, friends, comrades, co-workers, co-artists, companions, collaborators, challengers, supporters, movement spouses, and self-created siblings. The different ways we loved and supported each other were amazing….”
– From Chapter 19, Ruth & Lucina: Book 3.