- Memory’s Disavowed Daughter
I grew up a philosopher, a psychologist, a pathological liar, in lieu of a suicide. I have almost no memory of the early battles with my parents that drove me to these divergent survival strategies. Like a fresh sprung river met with inhospitable terrain, my strong currents filled whatever courses were accessible to them, and the overplus plunged underground again.
Can we call acts of love and ignorance “battles?” My parents were sheltering me from a hostile world by telling me there was no place for me in it. My father, I learned a few years ago, used to take me for long walks down the country road I grew up on and talk with me about “playing with mommy’s clothing.” I was maybe three at the time. This news conjured nothing of my primary transgression or the killing ice storm that must have followed: all traces of them remained locked under the permafrost of trauma. There was only the gray November-to-February dusk of my childhood, and the question, Who, what, was I?
And so many years later, an ongoing search for answers:
A need to name that erasure, to voice my trauma: spring, rough ground, ice storm, darkness. Permafrost. And?
A need to fill my blank decades:
Underground river: how many things hover dream-like in its frigid, sluggish drift, awaiting my lips’ touch?
A thirst for wholeness: [End Page 103]
Alternative history #1: Would the obstetrician have announced my arrival by referring to me as a “split tail,” as he did when he pulled my younger sister from my mother? Probably not, since––as we’ve heard many times––my father was not allowed into the delivery room for either my brother or me. Indeed, he couldn’t even be on the same floor of the hospital when I was born, which in retrospect seems somehow appropriate.
(Journal entry, Thursday morning, November 28, 2013)
A search for traces.
Where were we? What did we look like before the words for us were coined? What greeted us when we glimpsed our reflections in mirrors, windowpanes, or pools after heavy rains? What desires molded the topographies of our dreams?
What do people see when they can’t say what they’re looking for?
What did others think when they glimpsed our furtive, inchoate melancholy? What disciplines did they prescribe for us or inflict on us, out of love and ignorance, or fear, or revulsion, to make us right with the world as they knew it?
What do people see when they know what they don’t want to find?
In the dark on the sofa in my parents’ bedroom, desperate to stash an article of my mother’s clothing that I’ve been wearing, a bra or pair of panties or hose, under one of the cushions after hearing her approaching footsteps.
In the tub, stone- eyed while my mother rages in and out of the bathroom demanding to know who got into her Chanel No. 5.
On the toilet, pinching that little nob of flesh between my thighs and gazing guiltily, yearningly, at the smooth triangle of flesh that remained.
Where were we in my classrooms, or on the streets of my little hometown? Where were we in the papers, in movies, or on TV? In poems, in stories? In history? Was I a freakish singularity? [End Page 104]
My brother and sister marveling at how good I look in our mother’s faux-fur coat.
My father scolding me for crying when a baseball hits my arm, for peeing sitting down.
Alternative history #2: I am a dreamy child growing up—until puberty hits—not esp. rebellious, but @ the same time not terribly fond of being placed under restrictions if I perceive them to be arbitrary. I am not shy, but I’m not as gregarious as my sister. I am not a tomboy, but I’m not excessively girly either. I am a good student. I love music old movies. I love animals. I am ambivalent about the idea of being a mother, but love children, & love to provide...