Sunday, November 11, 2007

How could I when everything was supposed to be perfect?

Back to my conversation with Florence -- she's wondering if she should read any of my books, if they're not too graphic. We've had this conversation before. I say maybe you should read Nobody Passes -- actually, you're in the introduction -- it starts where I'm talking about when kids used to call me sissy and faggot on the playground, before I really knew what those words meant. Florence says oh, I didn't know that -- I don't like hearing these things, things I can't change. I say well, for me actually talking about everything that was awful helps me to feel empowered and hopeful. Florence says well I want whatever's best for you, but it hurts me to read about it -- unless it helps you.

I don't get to tell Florence about the second sentence, where I talk about how she used to ask me why all my friends were "colored." Later I think that actually maybe it would help me, but then I'm thinking about something Lauren asked me, sometimes she asks me questions about our childhood and why she can't remember anything. She doesn't have memories of being sexually abused, but of course she's asking me why she can't remember, she knows what I remember. I say maybe it was too traumatic.

But sometimes she has more specific questions, recently she asked if I remembered when we would go over Florence’s house and Florence would lose her keys and we would look all over the place for them -- did I hide them? I did hide them -- as a kid, I used to hide things because I wanted to find them, then people would see me as good, even though I was a horrible, evil monster underneath who didn't deserve to live -- but I didn't want them to know. That's why I always had to appear perfect.

That's what I knew then, but now I realize I was trying to tell Florence that something was wrong, I didn't have the words for it I didn't even know how to speak yet except about what was in books, what I was supposed to learn, how smart I was -- I could analyze art, but I didn't know how to say help, how could I when everything was supposed to be perfect?

Lauren said and maybe you didn't want to leave? She's right -- I didn't want to leave, I always loved my grandmother's apartment -- just the feeling of being in this big building with so many people and you could go outside and walk around among other buildings, it didn't feel terrifying and claustrophobic like a house in the suburbs. You could even go out on the balcony and watch people walking around, or wander the hallways and take the elevator up and down, up and down. Except there was always perfume on the elevator, that made it hard to breathe but not as hard as staring out the window at home, wondering if I could live in the trees outside. No, my parents would find me.


grantatee said...

i love you & i love you as a little one. if you hid my keys i would let you stay forever and celebrate your brilliance.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Girl, you better watch out for your keys...

Love --