Dorothy Allison · 94 pages
Rating: (3.5K votes)
“Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is the way you can both hate and love something you are not sure you understand.”
“Behind the story I tell is the one I don't.
Behind the story you hear is the one I wish I could make you hear.
Behind my carefully buttoned collar is my nakedness, the struggle to find clean clothes, food, meaning, and money. Behind sex is rage, behind anger is love, behind this moment is silence, years of silence.”
“I told her, Don't touch me that way. Don't come at me with that sour-cream smile. Come at me as if I were worth your life - the life we make together. Take me like a turtle whose shell must be cracked, whose heart is ice, who needs your heat. Love me like a warrior, sweat up to your earlobes and all your hope between your teeth. Love me so I know I am at least as important as anything you have ever wanted.”
“Two or three things I know for sure, and one is that I'd rather go naked than wear the coat the world has made for me.”
“For years and years, I convinced myself that I was unbreakable, an animal with an animal strength or something not human at all. Me, I told people, I take damage like a wall, a brick wall that never falls down, never feels anything, never flinches or remembers. I am one woman but I carry in my body all the stories I have ever been told, women I have known, women who have taken damage until they tell themselves they can feel no pain at all.”
“Love was something I would not have to worry about - the whole mystery of love, heartbreak songs, and family legends. Women who pined, men who went mad, people who forgot who they were and shamed themselves with need, wanting only to be loved by the one they loved. Love was a mystery. Love was a calamity. Love was a curse that had somehow skipped me, which was no doubt why I was so good at multiple-choice tests and memorizing poetry. Sex was a country I been dragged into as an unwilling girl - sex, and the madness of the body. For all that it could terrify and confuse me, sex was something I had assimilated. Sex was a game or a weapon or an addiction. Sex was familiar. But love - love was another country.”
“Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is what it means to have no loved version of your life but the one you made.”
“Women lose their lives not knowing they can do something different. Men eat themselves up believing they have to be the thing they have been made. Children go crazy. Really, even children go crazy, believing the shape of the life they must live is as small and mean and broken as they are told.”
“I was born trash in a land where the people all believe themselves natural aristocrats.”
“I am the woman who lost herself but now is found, the lesbian, outside the law of the church and man, the one who has to love herself or die. If you are not as strong as I am, what will be make together? I am all muscle and wounded desire, and I need to know how strong we both can be.”
“It was a story to tell myself, a promise. Saying out loud, "You're never going to touch me again" - that was a piece of magic, magic in the belly, the domed kingdom of sex, the terror place inside where rage and power live. Whiskey rush without whiskey, bravado and determination, this place where for the first time I knew no confusion, only outrage and pride. In the worst moments of my life, I have told myself that story, the story about a girl who stood up to a monster. Doing that, I make a piece of magic inside myself, magic to use against the meanness of the world.”
“Beauty, my first girlfriend said to me, is that inner quality often associated with great amounts of leisure time.”
“I am not here to make anyone happy. What I am here for is to claim my life, my mama's death, our losses and our triumphs, to name them for myself.”
Lord God, I used to follow these girls.
THey would come at me, those girls who were not really girls anymore. Grown up, wounded, hurt and terrible. Pained and desperate. Mean and angry. Hungry and unable to say just what they needed. Scared, aching, they came into my bed like I could fix it. And every time I would try. I would do anything a woman wanted as long as she didn't want too much of me. As long as I could hide behind her need, I could make her believe anything. I would tell her stories. I would bury in them. I have buried more women than I am willing to admit. I have told more lies than I can stand.”
“I’m a storyteller. I’ll work to make you believe me. Throw in some real stuff, change a few details, add the certainty of outrage. I know the use of fiction in a world of hard truth, the way fiction can be a harder piece of truth. The story of what happened, or what did not happen but should have—that story can become a curtain drawn shut, a piece of insulation, a disguise, a razor, a tool that changes every time it is used and sometimes becomes something other than we intended. The story becomes the thing needed.”
“Every writing course I ever heard of said the same thing. Take one story, follow it through, beginning, middle, end. I don’t do that. I never do. Behind the story I tell is the one I don’t. Behind the story you hear is the one I wish I could make you hear.”
“It is so hard to be a girl and want what you have never had. To be a child and want what you cannot imagine. To look at women and think, Nobody else, nobody else has ever wanted to do what I want to do. Hard to be innocent, believing yourself evil. Hard to think no one else in the history of the world wants to do this. Hard to find out that they do, but not with you. Or not in quite the way you want them to do it.”
“Love me so I know I am at least as important as anything you have ever wanted.”
“Beauty is a hard thing. Beauty is a mean story. Beauty is slender girls who die young, fine-featured delicate creatures about whom men write poems. Beauty, my first girlfriend said to me, is that inner quality often associated with great amounts of leisure time. And I loved her for that.”
“The women I loved most in the world horrified me. I did not want to grow up to be them.”
“Let me tell you a story. I tell stories to prove I was meant to survive, knowing it is not true.”
“Take me like a turtle whose shell must be cracked, whose heart is ice, who needs your heat. Love me like a warrior, sweat up to your earlobes and all your hope between your teeth. Love me so I know I am at least as important as anything you have ever wanted.”
“In the worst moments of my life, I have told myself that story, the story about a girl who stood up to a monster.”
“I shook my head once and caught her glance, the wise and sullen look of a not quite adolescent girl who knew too much.”
“I reminded myself that there were just some things we never had talked about before, like sex, money, and broken bones. Certainly we had never discussed love. Sex was dangerous enough, and our family was proof that love was a disaster waiting to happen.”
“I say, “Talk to me. Tell me who you are, what you want, what you’ve never had, the story you’ve always been afraid to tell.”
“Yes, somewhere inside me there is a child always eleven years old, a girlchild who holds the world responsible for all the things that terrify and call to me. But inside me too is the teenager who armed herself and fought back, the dyke who did what she had to, the woman who learned to love without giving in to fear.”
“She blushed. I love it when women blush, especially those big butch girls who know you want them. And I wanted her. I did. I wanted her. But she was a difficult woman, wouldn’t let me give her a backrub, read her palm, or sew up the tear in her jeans—all those ritual techniques Southern femmes have employed in the seduction of innocent butch girls.”
“Those who crusade not for God in themselves but against the devil in others, never succeed in leaving the world better, but leave it as it was or sometimes even perceptibly worse than it was before the crusade began.”
“So," said Moundshroud. "If we fly fast, maybe we can catch Pipkin. Grab his sweet Halloween corn-candy soul. Bring him back, pop him in bed, toast him warm, save his breath. What say, lads? Search and seek for lost Pipkin, and solve Halloween, all in one fell dark blow?"
They thought of All Hallows' Night and the billion ghosts awandering the lonely lanes in cold winds and strange smokes.
They thought of Pipkin, no more than a thimbleful of boy and sheer summer delight, torn out like a tooth and carried off on a black tide of web and horn and black soot.
And, almost as one, they murmured: "Yes.”
“Pressure is just that—pressure. It’s all in your head. It has nothing to do with what you can or can’t do.”
“Father had borrowed Uncle Gabriel’s new carriage so he could take James from Alicante to the Academy, just the two of them. Father had not asked if he could borrow Uncle Gabriel’s carriage.”
“It made such perfect sense that I felt stupid for not thinking of it earlier. Duh. You couldn’t find the Island of Lost Things until you had gotten yourself lost beyond any hope of finding. If I’d given up an hour, or a day ago, it would have appeared that much quicker. So much for quitters never win.”
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