Tuesday, July 17, 2007

it's all in the past now you've forgotten

My hands were heavy with groceries. My father’s car was parked already in the garage. As I fumbled for the keys to the door, I could hear them, and I didn’t have to even make out the words. The television would be turned up too loudly, and my father would be recounting the day’s minutiae- how much time he had spent waiting for the train in the morning, what he had for lunch, what tasks his 30-years-his-junior supervisor had assigned him, something self-congratulating about it all. My mother asked questions. “Did you tell her you wouldn’t do it?” or “How did you respond?” If the groceries weren’t of the perishable kind, I would have been tempted to get back in the car and drive away. These were the rituals of a long-married couple, a couple who were always a couple first, parents second. Not a good couple, not a happy couple, but it was always the main event, took center stage.

If there was a reason that I constantly feared I might be invisible, if there was a reason that so many of my thoughts were left in my head instead of articulated to anyone else, it was this seemingly idyllic scene I was about to enter. I was invisible. I was a ghost in the house now, perhaps of my own doing, but I’d always been but an apparition. To be seen required dramatic gestures, required a self-destructive streak that I had (thankfully, thankfully, thankfully) discarded upon separating my life from that of my parents.

There was never a question of whether I was happy. There was only the question of how I was affecting their happiness.

I used to say that I walked through the fog in San Francisco in my early days there and felt myself dissolving away into those wet particles. But it was actually quite the opposite. I was materializing. I was finally coming out of the ether, in San Francisco of all places.

I stopped sleepwalking, came out of the fog there. Not here. Here, I was not here. I only lived in my bedroom. Outside of my room, I did not exist. And to me, it’s the great irony of my life, this strange haunting, because I cannot stand a lie, a fraud, a false note. If I say, “let’s be friends,” it is not lip service, and it will not be good enough that we just managed to let it fade away without a scene. There will be a scene, things will not be left unsaid.

Things will not be left unsaid. Things have not been left unsaid, I’ve thought with great satisfaction, about some of what makes my heart whole. Yet everything has been left unsaid in this case, because it’s too late. Maybe that’s why things have not been left unsaid in all other regards. Because I know what happens when things are left unsaid- when things are left unsaid, you dread the turn of the key and the strangers on the other side of the door.

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