Note from the amanuensis: This story was originally published eleven years ago via email to The Crone Thread listserv, back in January of 2000, when the amanuensis was still in library school, before the move to Florida. A lot of water has flowed over the bridge—or under the dam, or something—since then.
At the time, the story began with the following Disclaimer:
Walhydra is a crone of unspeakable age, who, in her own cantakerous way, does her best to deal with her present incarnation as me: a 49-year-old, gay male would-be writer. She insists that I explain this, because she doesn't like sharing the blame—though she doesn't have much choice, being, as she is, my muse.
Walhydra's Lament, or
Can't I trade this incarnation in without having to die first?
In which Walhydra realizes she's not having fun anymore
Walhydra has been struggling for some time now. The almost-fifty-year-old gay white male she is riding around in has been feeling physically uncomfortable, unhappy and scared for several years, and he doesn't seem to know how to enjoy the rush of this free-fall he's in.
Of course, she knows it's really just several millenia of lopsided patriarchal conditioning that's made them so...um... vulnerable and...um...mortal.
But she sometimes wants to stand up and shout: "Grow up! It's just your hormones ticking over for the second half!"
Well, anyway, it's not been fun lately.
Then again, to be fair, she has to admit that once in a while he at least owns to it's being "scary fun." He's not that unenlightened. In fact, right now it's getting to the point where so many of the pieces are falling at once that he realizes he can't catch any one of them without dropping all of the others.
"That's progress," Walhydra offers. "Now, if you can just spread your arms a bit for balance, breathe deep, enjoy the plunge and land on your feet—or at least your butt—you might survive all the falling masonry." [Hint, hint]
[Walhydra is determined to make a Tarot reader out of him yet—once he gives up being scared of it and has totally sworn off trying to use it to serve his ego.]
What she remembers is that in seminary in the early 70's, during one of those "touchy feely" group exercises, he drew an imaginary lifeline which had him dying at age fifty. Surprised himself, he did, with that one, but he laughed it off—sort of—explaining, "Well, anything after fifty will be gravy."
"Um," says Walhydra, "that's just about seven months from now."
"Yes, I know," he shudders. "And everything I've counted on till now is either aching or too old-fashioned or suffering memory lapses.
"All that's left is my Mom, Senior Witch, whom I'm getting ready to move several states away from. And Hubby Jim, Light of my Life, who, I remember way more often than I want to, is as old and vulnerable and mortal as I am."
"But isn't it exciting?" Walhydra coaxes.
"Like falling out of a tower." [Hint, hint]
Walhydra tries to quiet her own curmudgeonly sense of fear and loss and resentment by remembering that she's lived through this before.
"I have, haven't I?" she asks the cat.
He just stares at the imaginary axe murderer in the kitchen and ignores her.
Sometimes it doesn't pay to take any of this too seriously. Like, for example: while you're alive.
You arrive here knowing everything and then, after learning the new language you've been assigned for this go-around, you spend the rest of your life trying to remember what you knew when you came in.
If you're smart enough—and blessedly reckless enough—at twenty-two or so, you do like the soon-to-be seminary dropout and give yourself just a few decades to reach your shelf-life. That way, all the stuff you thought you knew is soon out of date, and you have to start over with just the clothes you were wearing when you came in.
So to speak.
Walhydra stands outside on a January midnight. "But can't I at least get rid of all these dumb habits and false fears and useless notions I picked up during the first half?" she whines.
"That would be cheating," says the Crone. "What would be the use of doing the first fifty years if you didn't accumulate that lot of rubbish to figure out how to recycle?"
"Aw, that's not...."
"...Fa-air!" the Crone finishes, mimicking Walhydra's pout. "'You're right: it's not fair,' to quote your father for this incarnation."
As a little boy, Walhydra had always thought her Dad was a "bad dad" for not fixing the unfair stuff. She was in her thirties before she realized he was just telling her how mortal life is.
"Fair" is an honorable human aspiration, but it's not a book of rules one can impose upon the sublimely terrifying randomness of Creation.
"The trouble with you lot is that, when you got that 'Knowledge of Good and Evil' thing from the apple, you assumed you knew which was which."
[Of course, the Crone knows they actually got that story ass-backwards, but never mind that for now.]
"You want this incarnation to land on its feet," She continues, "but you don't want to have to work hard at it. Well, sorry. You asked for the job."
Walhydra sticks out her tongue.
"If you want to have an interesting second half," Crone goes on, "you've got to help him watch every single piece as it falls, notice why he valued it, why he might either mourn it or wish it good riddance—but not try to save anything.
"Not an easy task for anyone, though you gave yourself something of a head start by deciding to be a queer male witch in an age when they're not using such people for kindling.
"Is that the beginning of a giggle I detect at the corner of your mouth?"
"NO!" Walhydra insists, hiding her lips with her hand.
"I thought so! 'I'm not having fun anymore'," the Crone pouts. "Eeee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee!"
"Oh, go piss up a rope," says Walhydra.
"Glad to," the Crone answers.
She stretches Herself high over Walhydra's head, spreads Her menacing cobra hood wide and hisses venom, twists Herself into a cord of hemp and disappears toward the blood-orange ball of the Wolf Moon's full eclipse.
"Oh, pooh!" Walhydra huffs, smiling despite herself.
She shivers and hugs her Leo hubby, who's been watching the Moon too.
As they go inside and climb the stairs back to their apartment, he slips his hand down the back of her pants to caress her butt.
Nice and warm, as his hand always is.
And so it is.
Afterword by the amanuensis: Rereading this story at the age of 61 is rather interesting.
Fifty turned out to be great. Then it was the approach of sixty that became the even scarier year. That was largely because mortality had become too real.
It sometimes seems that one can go through a number of reincarnations within one mortal lifetime. Each time—at least if one is attentive and brave—one comes around a little higher on the spiral than one was the last time one visited a particular challenge.
Or something like that.