My friend and I walk through a spice shop. We pull corks from jars and hold them up to our noses, gasping with delight, recoiling in alarm. Paprika, ginger, barbeque rub. The woody sawdust of galangal. Tarragon’s foresty tang.
She tells me about last weekend’s terrible date. The fellow kept fishing for a flirt and grabbing at her hand. She didn’t push the hand away. Didn’t tell him no. She is young. She is still worried about being alone forever.
I wonder when she’ll figure out that fear of the unknown far outstrips the actual miseries we meet? That the ways we guard ourselves becomes our true devastation?
“But it’s no use now,” thought poor Alice, “to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!”
I was 14. He was 19. I didn’t know him before that weekend. The boys who took me to the party at his house went somewhere and left me with him. He had a reputation, I later learned, for getting girls drunk and raping them. He added pure grain alcohol, I later learned, to whatever he was serving me.
He told me he was someone else. He locked me in his room. He took off everything but my shirt. He raped me. It was my first sexual encounter. I didn’t report because I was scared my dad would be mad at me for drinking at a party. That’s the kind of worry a 14-year-old brain can understand. I couldn’t yet grasp the enduring shame of staying quiet when I could have helped stop him from hurting other girls.
This happened in Bethesda, Maryland in July, 1988. Everyone at the party knew what he did, including the boys who brought me and the one I had to beg to take me home. I wonder how they might they tell their #WhyIDidntReport stories about that night?
This is what the ugly thoughts do. This is how the lies start to seem true. My son’s diagnosis weaves into my own, our wounds pull each other into a dark and intimate tango.
On my son’s first birthday, a stomach virus knocked him flat. For the next few days, he couldn’t keep anything down. Even though he begged for the comfort of nursing, I had to ration his time on the breast. We fed him Pedialyte from a dropper. He screamed in protest until thirst overcame his resistance.
After a few days, he rallied. Small portions of pureed food stayed down. Great quantities of breast milk too. He resumed scooting all over the house and tormenting the dog. The doctor had said he’d get over it, and this seemed to hold true.
One day the ground begins its thaw.
The blind things just below the surface shift
in their sleep.
4.5 billion years and nothing has jarred the rock
from its grinding rotation.
We know this much: even if we hold it to us,
even if we drive the stakes to pin it in place,
what’s old will slough off. Continue reading “Truth Or”
We are allowed to show up. We are allowed to take the compliment even when we fall short of our own standards.
We are allowed to determine the standards.
We are allowed to talk about how hard it is to love ourselves. We are allowed to enjoy our own simple company. We are allowed to release our grip. To revel in the small days. To have just one or two good friends.
We are allowed to think of our family, whatever its shape, as worthy of a crest.
He drops his backpack by the door and heads out. Whether the temperature hovers at freezing or rises to a swelter, he and his friends find each other. Sometimes I block the way and steer him back to his violin for a round of scales. The neighborhood kids bang on the door every three minutes, “Is he done yet?” They loop around the breezeway on bikes and scooters. A few come up barely past my knee. A few are already shaving. When he’s free, they all charge off down the hill, hollering ever-changing rules to an ever-evolving game that winds through this labyrinth of stairwells and parking lots.
I shut the door and head to the kitchen to rinse out the lunch containers.
Divorced at 37 and still single at 43, parenting a surly tween, stuck in the suburbs, jammed into a 5-story development abutting a freeway, and working a desk job for a paycheck that barely covers groceries while a white supremacist and a Russian oligarch run the White House.