Last night I saw a show about Einstein’s wife on PBS. I’m ashamed that I never gave much thought to the mind behind the great mind. Her curiosity was as wide as his, perhaps even wider because of the living physics of birthing babies and making milk—and yet she went crazy in the end.
Strange what can happen when a woman’s mind is hungry, and Einstein, foolish man, saw only his face in the mirror of fame and acclaim. It notched him down a level in my eyes. It put me on the side of his wife, scientist, mother, woman, peacemaker—a woman caught between a mother’s heart and her love of physics.
I tell the women in my writer’s group about Einstein’s wife. They are all older than me. When I mention that I will turn fifty soon, they call me “baby” and put age back in perspective for me.
I read aloud an edgy piece about a woman who lives in Tucson. One day she steps nude and dripping out of a sunken tub only to catch sight of a woman’s body in the mirror. She sees breasts heavy with life and grief, pubic hairs curling, a vagina--proof to her woman’s place. In my story, the woman can’t imagine how she missed the fact that she is a woman.
My group reacts, relating, recognizing kinship with my character. One woman says there must be something about the southwest that makes women crazy.
I lost my mind in Tucson once, she says I didn’t want the good doctors to lock me up for being crazy, so I told them I was an alcoholic off the wagon--just a stumble--and could they admit me?
Ann, another woman, thirty years a teacher, says she lost her mind in Tucson once, too. She doesn’t go into detail, but I wonder how often women lose their minds in the southwest or elsewhere. Carol jokes that we should amend the song to “I lost my heart in San Francisco—and my mind in Tucson.”
Our group goes deeper. Gretta reads a story about a hit man who is after her son-in-law, a memoir. Ann reads a fuck-you story about a sorority of teachers who bar the doors when she walks by. Casey reads about Rachel whose boyfriend wants to get in her pants--and about a father who did. Joline reads of two children asked to dig the bones of Rob Roy under an apple tree in a misty grove in Ireland. He has been dead and lingering these one hundred years. Joline’s ghosts scare her, and so she must write about Robbie.
I think women often write from the edge. We write to sort the envelopes of our lives like laundry, to keep from going crazy, to keep from cutting and burning, to keep from killing. We’re an optimistic lot, we women, rubbing salve on old scars, brave, enduring, ready to take it on, ready even to travel to Tucson if that is where the story begins—or ends.