by Madestella Holcomb
After a divorce and the tragic death of her only child, eighteen-year old Chloe, forty-three year-old Rebekkah Collins’ life takes a number of unexpected and soul shattering turns. A chance remark by her neighbor that her husband left her because she was “not good in bed” leads Rebekkah to the realization that despite her Professorship of Music at an upscale university, her nineteen years of marriage, she is ignorant about almost everything pertaining to her life with her ex-husband Theodore: finances, survival, and most tellingly, her own body and her sexuality. After a trying visit from her ex-husband Theodore, she considers her life.
I dismissed him from my mind and I knew I would think no more about him. I sat long in thought. Then I noticed that I was crying. The only way I seem able to experience emotion is through tears. I cry for joy. For love. For sorrow. For loneliness.
But I can’t really trust my tears for they aren’t a reliable determinant for my feelings. Am I missing Theodore and crying because I love him? Or am I sure I don’t love him and my crying is for the lost years? Are these tears of loneliness? Am I crying for Chloe?
I began to conclude that thirst and hunger and breathing and sleep and crying – are all automatic. They have no other reason for existence except sustenance. Your body thirsts. Your body hungers. Your body breathes. Your body sleeps. Your body cries.
The first item on my list of things to do after I was settled in my little rented bungalow, was to find a Women’s Center. I attended several meetings and obtained their reading list for “Women Alone Seeking Independence.” I read all the books they recommended. Some I read twice. I meditated. I prayed. Let me be me.
And later, I took account of all the things I had learned. I learned that I no longer have to drink to be calm. I learned that I can have a glass of wine before dinner if I want to, not because I have to. I attended all three sessions of the course on auto mechanics for women. I learned how to raise the hood. Never thought before how the damned thing got up there. I love screwing that little ratchet on top of the carburetor and lifting the filter out and checking it. I smiled at the mechanic so he’d know that I knew what I was doing. I learned where the dip stick is and I don’t have to rely on the attendant to check my oil. Or even to put it in. The difficulty was in getting the damn can opened. I couldn’t open it like I do the can of biscuits, never knowing when it is going to pop open and being startled when it does. So, I’d peel the diagonal outside paper a little way down, and then I’d throw the can away from me up on the wall somewhere. Then the can would pop open and sometimes a biscuit or two would fall on the floor. I’d pick them up, blow on them as if to remove any residue, and cook them with the rest.
I tried using self-service at the gas station. The first time I went, I couldn’t get the gas cap off and wouldn’t have known what to do once it was off. I’d always had an attendant fill my gas tank. I wanted so to cry and to run away or to use the full-service side. The man in the car behind me smiled when I asked him how to do this, and he showed me how it worked.
Remember, Rebekkah. The book says to take control of your life. Don’t be afraid to ask. Sometimes you stand in line thirty minutes before you know to take a number. . .
I now had my own checking account and my own charge account and my own insurance. . . . I learned that there is a little filter on the furnace and a temperature gauge on the hot water heater.
I became aware of my mind and I learned to know and to accept and to deal with my own feelings. I didn’t have to always question myself if I was doing this according to someone else. Nor even according to God because God isn’t sitting up there waiting to trounce on me for those commandment things, and there is a little of God within us all. . .
. . . The book said that some women find the use of a battery-operated stimulator to be helpful in their efforts at orgasm. A vibrator. I had never seen one nor heard of them before. The place that sells these kinds of things is “The Adult Book Store”. Can I go there? . . . How badly we want something usually directs how far we will go to attain it.
(Rebekkah summons the courage to go to the adult book store. . .)
The store was easily accessible and after I found it, I parked on the street. For a moment, I faltered. How important is it to have an orgasm? The book said that every time you have an orgasm, it puts another vessel in your heart. Is this true? I steeled myself and called up all my nerve. I didn’t ask anyone to accompany me. After I entered the store, I decided to take my time and look around, ask questions if need be, and look the man behind the counter straight in the eye and ask him how to operate it once I’d bought the damn thing.
With all my preparation, marvel of marvels, I was not ready for what I found inside that shop. Pictures. Posters showing naked men and women. Little feathers. Great big foot-long vibrators with handles. Uh uh!. For a moment I was embarrassed, but then I wanted to laugh at myself and my ignorance. They didn’t teach this in Sunday School.
I looked around and saw that there were other customers in the store. All men. . . I returned my attention to the counter of plastic stimulators, and I saw that it contained brown ones, white ones, big ones, little ones. And they came in different lengths: six inches, seven inches, eight inches.
By now, my courage was up and I even lingered a while looking around at the other merchandise that was displayed there. I walked bravely to the cashier and laid my selection on the counter. It was packaged in a nice little box and I was glad it didn't show. But horror of horrors, the man behind the counter opened it up and took it out of the box.
"They don't come with batteries," he said. "But they require two D-sized batteries. Would you like to purchase those now?”
"Yes." Might as well.
“I'll put them in for you," he said. He wasn't embarrassed but I imagine he knew that I was, so he made other kinds of conversation while he put the batteries in.
"How's the weather out there?" Weather was a safe topic. "They say it's supposed to be warm today."
"Yes." Yes was all I could say the entire time I was in that store. And I was now getting nervous and shaky and I wanted to be out of there, for horror of horrors again, he turned the thing on, to see if it worked, he said.
But then, my guardian angel suddenly descended and stood beside me in that shop, telling me that this was something that would help me in my life -- I looked squarely at the man behind the counter and smiled.
With my guardian angel beside me holding my hand, I walked out of the store and got into my car. Then I laughed. Out loud. Hey, Rebekkah Cassandra, you did it.
The above excerpt from "Where Peaceful Waters Flow" delves into the life of Rebekkah Collins as she re-examines her life and heads down the path of sexual self-discovery.
Novelist, playwright, poet, and editor, Madestella C. Holcomb is a former editorial writer for the Denver Post, and
editor of The Denver Weekly News. Her book, A Chip Off The Old Black Block (of Wisdom) is a compilation of articles
she has written over the years for the Denver Weekly News. Ms. Holcomb has written two books, "Therefore Choose Life" and "Where Peaceful Waters Flow", and has had three plays professionally produced.
Madestella welcomes your comments and inquiries. She is also eager to hear from publishers interested in work. You may contact her at:
7401 E. 26th Avenue, #107
Denver, CO 80238