Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sometimes this happens in the sun

Agitated -- that's a word my father would use a lot, he would say Karin, why are you so agitated? No, he would say don't get so agitated. Of course then my mother would get angrier or sometimes it went the other way around: Bill, why are you so agitated? That's right -- my father provided the directive, my mother the question. I would freeze, later I made this into a skill like my father could scream and yell about who knows what, nothing really that's what he was yelling about nothing except that it was everything, me, and I’d practice looking at the wall directly behind his head like he wasn't even there, just air and I was studying something not-quite-white on the white walls and I'd say oh, Bill, is something wrong?

Oh, how this enraged my father I was winning it was all about winning everything was winning because I could never. I mean I was there, I couldn't get away except into my room with the door locked for a few hours turning the music up he would bang on the door but at that point I'd already lost I’d showed emotion I had to practice harder. Earlier, when I was 9 or 10, I wanted to be Medusa but a kinder one, maybe Selene the moon goddess with Medusa's powers, turning the wrong people to stone -- all the boys taunting me at school I knew they could only act with violence.

I wanted a forcefield like whatever cartoon that was -- Wonder Twins? I wanted to fly around with imaginary friends solving the world's problems, you can do a lot with a forcefield. I wanted to stay young so I didn't forget, people seemed to forget when they got older that's what I noticed. They'd lean down and say enjoy it while you can!

They meant childhood. I'm going to save that line and use it as much as I can, I mean I'm already using it again, here what I'm thinking is that I was little and I felt broken I mean I didn't feel little at all just like I was old, terribly old and dying but still I didn't want to grow too far out of childhood because then I'd forget all this pain and what would I turn into? One of those adults leaning down and lying to me, lying to the world, lying to themselves!

What I'm realizing for maybe the first time is that I wanted to stay present in the hopelessness and hunger of the only childhood I could imagine, the one where no one helps. I didn't want to forget, I mean even as I was forgetting every day, blocking it out so I could survive, pretending everything was okay I still wanted to remember the way I was broken I mean the way my parents and everyone like them made me broken. I wanted all of this to remain within my reach so that one day I could rescue other kids -- isn't that what it sounds like? Somehow this feels empowering now.

Willful ignorance is still something that has always betrayed me more than anything, like when I lived in New York and I’d tell some guy who I'd met in a backroom that I was a hooker and he’d practically fall over like he'd never heard such a thing. When I was a kid, adults loved it that I was accumulating so much knowledge -- by fourth grade I could draw world maps with my eyes, name the world's most populous cities, in fifth grade I read all the Agatha Christies, in sixth grade Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and that's when the teachers started getting worried, one teacher in particular who worried I was missing my childhood but not that I'd already missed it -- she wanted my mother to read to me at home. She never asked: what is home?

I wonder what I would have answered. Home was hiding in the bathroom at recess so I could breathe, the stench of urine and air fresheners so much better than what was out there, other kids or my parents, I didn't want everyone to see you see how lonely I felt. In the bathroom, I'd fantasize about getting gang-raped by all the boys I hated the most, sometimes this happened in the sun.

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