There was something I wanted to keep dreaming. I keep the lights off, light the candle, dim the screen on the computer monitor, start to type. Can I find it again?
The therapist says to me, you are so afraid. She asks about my anger, and we end up talking about fear. I am afraid my mother will leave me again, I am afraid my stepfather could still come after me, I am afraid of failing and of succeeding, I am afraid of being too much and not enough. I think about the small one in me, still so afraid, probably 12 years old, that kid who was so angry. Something got stopped there, around her fury, her sorrow, her confusion — wait, this isn’t really happening, is it? He’s not really going to talk to my mom like that? He’s not going to be allowed to talk to us like that, is he? She’s going to call him out, she’s going to challenge him. This isn’t going to be our life.
Didn’t I think for a little while that maybe that wouldn’t really be our life?
What is belonging? To what or to whom do you want to belong?
I have this feeling often, of being totally unmoored: without anchor and belonging nowhere and to no one.
I haven’t been doing that well, lately. I’ve been triggered with loss and sorrow and rage. September does this to me a lot, and at the beginning of this September, I was in New Hampshire and Vermont, the very places where I began the break from my stepfather and his extreme control and abuse, back in 1993.
Somehow, this year, while I was driving back and forth on i-89 from Lebanon, past Hanover, to Plainfield, while the sun rose through the thick early-fall fog sweltering over the crevices in the Green Mountains to make it up for the day’s Power of Words offerings, and then back down south (through the nearly indelible dark) to my friend’s apartment for good if abbrevited conversation and sleep, I managed to drive myself right back into the past – right back into that 21 year old convinced both of the world she’d been trained into and convinced that there was nothing left to her future but utter soul-destruction if she didn’t manage to get away from the man who’d decided to turn her family into his harem; when the man she loved had given her an ultimatum (him or me, her boyfriend said, because that was what it looked like), she chose her boyfriend and was (don’t ask me how – it’s still a kind of miracle to me) able to pick up the telephone and speak into her utter terror: you can’t do this to me anymore.
It began a process of extraction. I realized, during those few days earlier this month back in that countryside, back on those roads (filled still with the echoes of all my sobbing, traced still with the fear that he would send someone to destroy me, thick still with the impossible desire that had begun to bubble in me for a new way of living, for women, for change), that I’m still extracting myself from those old horrors.
What do I want to tell you in ten minutes? That I was catapulted into shame-slavery and prosto-destitution is only one strand of this miner’s fabric. There’s the way I used to cuddle and curl under a yew bush (that still today I spell like “ewe,” like mama sheep, and so maybe she was a haven, too, in her funny fur curly like the dark green fronds of the bush) anyway how the yew bush grew like a cave up and around space, and I could sweep brush the dirt floor, bring books, shelter myself early from my mother’s storms.
Sheltering self in words, which were always a haven, as far back as I can remember, although I don’t think I can say they’re natural, at least they’re clean.
The details and rough sketch outline include three houses in and around middle-Eastern Nebraska by the age of 6, and about four more by the age of 10, and then there was only one even if that one didn’t include my father he had his own home and it was an hour southwest from The One down the black ribbon of interstate 80 that cut through dark green cottonwood and oak and tall rushes living the sides of the highway, filled with red-winged blackbirds cutting across the broad flat damp sandbar of the Platte River and all its attendant mosquitoes and the echoes of sandhill cranes that were never there on the river when we rushed by in Mom’s burgundy-red Mercury Monarch or dad’s too-dull-bright orange and white-capped Volkswagen Van that road led back and forth to Dad’s house, not grandmother’s (over the river and through those woods) but slowly the road began to disintegrate, disappear for lack of use they’re still rebuilding every time I go back more construction, more hope