Friday, July 24, 2009

The light on his face

Puberty, a body, this worked out better for my sister. Whenever I looked in the mirror, my mother said I was vain, boys weren’t supposed to be vain. But when my sister looked in the mirror, she got another facial cleanser or a perm or a new hairbrush or an acne treatment or something more mysterious like this creamy white product from the Body Shop that smelled like lemons and I was so angry about it that late at night I pissed in it, my sister said do you think this smells strange, I think it’s rotten. Her stereo sounded better than mine, I tried to break it but only ended up cracking the tape deck on the outside. Once, I lit her jewelry box on fire, the one with a dancing ballerina I would never be able to have a jewelry box. She walked into her room, and there was that flame, probably a tiny flame but still scary. I mean we walked in together, after I noticed the flame, I was just walking by and I noticed the flame. No, now it was just smoke. Maybe it was the way the sun reflected off the mirror at the top, that’s what I thought. Do you see how I couldn’t speak, not with my sister who read my journal and then told all my secrets. In my journal I wrote I HATE MY SISTER, and we never talked about it until last year.

Not those secrets, my mother already knew those. There were no secrets in my journal. I mean the other secrets, the ones I told my sister, I keep trying to remember them, maybe just one, what were they about? Other secrets I remember, the ones I would never tell anyone, like that first time in that bathroom at Woody’s, it’s tempting to call it by its full name of Woodward and Lothrop because Woody’s sounds like a gay bar and not the department store on the way to my father’s office, but then I didn’t know about gay bars. I knew there were restaurants in Rehoboth Beach, restaurants where my parents went because the food was delicious but we weren’t allowed, my father said there were too many fairies.

Oh, that bottle of Gilbey’s gin, that feeling in my head, the stomachache. New Year’s became so much more fun, except for all the vomit in the corner of my room and I would try to hide it. I can’t remember how we would pretend that we weren’t drinking but it’s easier when everyone’s drunk, we would lock the doors to our rooms and hide there, run back and forth to tell each other something. We all started drinking around the same time, Allison and Cindy were younger but succeeding at becoming popular in that way that would never work for me or Steve, but for different reasons. I didn’t understand his reasons exactly, but maybe that’s why we got along. We didn’t ask. Anyway, there was that bottle of Gilbey’s gin or let’s not be silly there were other bottles now, luckily there were two liquor cabinets in the house, one downstairs behind the built-in bar where my parents had an elaborate party when we first moved in, over 100 guests, but after the party they never looked behind the bar again, except. Except that smell of mold in the bathroom sink, wait hand me that Gilbey’s gin again.

I remember when my sister and I watched Less Than Zero with the Daniels, this might have been the same time as when we went to the Chinese restaurant -- maybe I hadn’t even smoked pot yet, but I watched Robert Downey Jr. shake from line after line of all that pure white pure white until he’s in a car smoking from a glass pipe and oh the light on his face I wanted to be that light on Robert Downey Jr’s face. This is when I didn’t want to be perfect anymore, I didn’t want to keep anything together that shouldn’t be together. Or anyone, like my parents. At therapy, I would talk about how trapped I felt, doomed, maybe just like Robert Downey Jr. at the end of the movie when someone scrawls faggot on the wall of his house or some bungalow where he’s slept with some guy for more coke, way after graduation with all the champagne and palm trees and mirrored bathrooms and runny noses and tearful hello-goodbyes. At the time I thought it was in Florida, but it must’ve been Southern California -- growing up on the East Coast, somehow they seemed the same: it was hot, there were palm trees, people wore bathing suits. But I didn’t say that. I just said I felt trapped.


mandragora said...

Whenever you have a journal someone always tries to find it and read it for fun, my sisters used to do that. Sometimes you just can't tell people how bad everything feels, because they won't get it anyway- they're in one place, and they know where it is and its all solid. How would they know what its like when three places are the same bad place, and no matter where you run to, everything is still burning? I hope that you can have all the wonderful things you want now, not just things, but also places, hiding places for secrets.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Mandragora, "when three places are the same bad place, and no matter where you run to," so true! Yes, childhood meant I could never tell, never tell anything. I don't know if I want secrets now, although I do want hiding places, that's for sure -- I'll have to think about it...

Love --

Anonymous said...

omg i SO relate to the first paragraph.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yay for relating!