Saturday, June 18, 2011

from inside the journal

It has been a really difficult week. I've been writing for days now about what would happen in my house when my dad worked too much, when he left home to travel on business or put in many long hours, and how it affected my mom and me. It's been so hard. It feels like rich material, but I'm only just realizing how still, there's so much raw pain in these kinds of memories for me; and there was no place to process any of them, no place to talk about what I found difficult to understand, what I wanted more clarity about, nothing. It hurts to look back through these windows of memory, and writing them now makes me wonder if I'm doing it okay. By which I mean that I think the feeling itself, the memory, is so raw and painful to confront, narratively much less emotionally, that the writing suffers.
I went to see a play this weekend that I want to write about here, but first I want to post some of what's been coming out of me this week.

In all the times my father was away, the late nights and the business trips, there was never another man who came over to my house. My mom buried herself in her job, in food, in sleep, but I never saw her cling to another man to keep from sinking.  Instead, infidelity hung in the air like threatening fog, making everything look and feel funky, but not actually doing anything. she hinted to me that she was a woman with needs, urges, and she pouted when my father worked so hard that he neglected her. It would be easy to make her sound like some kind of black widow, a maneater who hoped to seduce and abandon as many men as possible in order to punish my father for his absence. But I think the truth is she was just lonely and weak. Something in her couldn't handle the idea of being left alone, and so when she wasn't busy failing to handle her responsibility at home (me), she was flirting with the idea of acting out. A woman as charming, charismatic, and attractive as she was could have anyone she wanted, and if her husband wasn't going to stay home and see to her, well then, maybe she should get out and see who else was out there that could see to her.
It was a threat that she seemed to hold over all our heads, like a force that threatened to ruin her marriage and our family that only she could contain. And I always thought she would.
Autumn comes like a cold crisp glass of cider after the brutal heat of summer in the Midwest. There comes a point at which things that have for months been ripening begin to burnish, orange red and gold. The air goes clean and cool, like the lid has been lifted off a simmering pot and things seem bearable, even beautiful again.
But none of this matters when you're tired or unhappy, when your knees hurt and you smell like airplane and your face is dirty and you have stale pretzel stuck in your teeth. He stood outside the international terminal baggage claim, his backpack between his legs, his passport in the breast pocket of his shirt. There might not have been any time, when his bag came off the conveyor belt, to get home and shower and change before getting back to work. A familiar black suitcase with his business card in the luggage tag was spit out of a dark hole, and he hoisted it off the carousel. He might have to go straight to the office in clothes he'd been in for the last 20 hours, but at least at the end of the day he'd be able to go home to his wife.
His wife. His wife was walking toward him now. She wore a denim jumper, black stockings and flats and she'd had a stony, composed look on her face. "Hello, Steven."
"Ashely." His own voice was creaky and low from disuse. She was a sight for sore eyes, but her demeanor didn't make him feel any better. "What are you doing here, is something wrong?"
She sighed and pulled her sunglasses off her face. Her fingernails were a bright, hopeful, bubble gum shade of pink. "Yes, Steven, I'm afraid there is a problem?"

It is astonishing to me what the human body, the physiology and mind, what we are able to withstand and what we carry around with us every day, often without knowing. How much sweeter, easier, would our lives be if we could only be free.

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