Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Somewhere, space

But let’s rewind to that photo of me on my grandmother’s wall, enlarged and framed almost like a painting. This was the grandmother who wasn’t an artist, she’d just had the room redone with leopard print carpet and lacquered emerald green walls, before her husband gambled away all their money, we never knew what that meant except that nothing in their house would change for 20 years. Anyway, when my father told me most fat babies grow up to be fat adults, he was smiling. Or, if he wasn’t smiling, you could hear laughter in his voice and that’s how you knew he knew what he was doing: aiming to kill. So no one else would notice. They all could stand there and say what a funny joke, or what an interesting observation, but you would know. You took it all inside: more pain.

When you stopped eating, you were fighting back, or at least you thought you were fighting back and they thought so too, with or without one of Barbara Kruger’s most famous posters, when did she make that poster? 1989 -- no way, that was so much later: your body. So there’s no way you could have seen it yet, but you knew: every dinner another battle, the most famous ones you remember because you’ve already written them down. That time when your mother put a whole chicken on your plate: oh, eat what you want. If they fought with heat, you needed to use cold, but if they feigned that casual tone then the only thing you could do was break it: you threw the whole chicken into the trash, rushing into your room while your father rushed after you, pounding on your door he was always pounding on your door. Maybe this was Tracy Chapman -- I’ve got a fast car -- crying crying crying looking out those vertical blinds and hoping one of these days you’ll drive drive drive away.

One of these days you do drive away, but then you drive back. We all drive back. But that’s much later too, maybe we haven’t even gotten to Tracy Chapman yet. No way -- that’s 1988? But then you would drive so soon. Sometimes so soon is not soon enough: let’s back up again. That time when the whole family was over the house, it couldn’t be the same time when my father said Karla, let’s fuck, but somehow you picture the black sofa in their bedroom, teak armrests. But this was at the dinner table, teak, this was when everyone in the family was obsessed with your eating. Maybe this was even after you got back from Europe and your grandmother said: you look like a concentration camp victim. You’d just seen glass cases filled with human hair, but your grandmother’s scorn made you realize one thing: maybe I’m succeeding.

You wanted to beat your father at his own game -- when he became enraged, you would stare through him like there was something fascinating on the wall right behind his head: Bill, is there something wrong? There was always something wrong, except at the dinner table when your father smiled and started laughing even before he spoke: is that all you’re going to eat? Then everyone else joined in: is that all, is that all you’re going to eat? You threw your plate onto the floor -- really the floor? This must have been Tracy Chapman time -- I knew that once I got upset than I could never win: drive drive drive drive away. Here I’m describing the way he pulled his rage into a joke that was really worse, even worse than his rage and he was always screaming, always screaming about everything and nothing that mattered it’s not possible even to remember what he was screaming about because he was always screaming and you learned to stand there like a wall, you were a wall and there was that wall behind him and somewhere, space.

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