Saturday, December 16, 2006


I wonder if I will tell my mother. I think about it. For a moment I imagined that my telling her might make her sick, might make her die.

A few weeks ago I wrote to her and said that for a few weeks I wouldn't call her. I'd be in touch by mail. I haven't written for a couple of weeks now because suddenly there is too much to say. A cheerful little card with a robin on it would be so false I can't bear to send anything. So I know she's thinking, wondering, probably worrying, waiting to hear from me no matter how independent she is.

I keep finding more shreds of evidence, all circumstantial, nothing that proves anything, but the shreds are everywhere.

I thought of the time in England. I was ten or eleven or twelve. I remember the nightgown I was wearing then, a pink one with no sleeves, not one I liked very much. It was plain and straight, something standard my mother had picked up. I had learned that on cold nights I could lie on my stomach, my arms stretched out beneath me, my hands pressing just a little in the place you don't talk about, and it felt good in a strange, wild way. I remember bringing it up with my father. It felt like playing with fire. I wanted to see if he knew about things like this. I told him that when it's cold at night I lie on my stomach with my arms underneath. That's all I said. I left out the unmentionable part. I wanted to see if he'd get it, or give some sign that he knew what I was really talking about. He didn't. The moment passed.

I think of the time in the taxi. I was eleven and my father and I were returning from a few days spent in Switzerland. I had never been with him on a trip like that before. I'd flown by myself to meet him in Geneva. The first night we stayed in a fancy hotel. I had my own room, my father had his and they both connected into the bathroom. I saw a bidet in there as my father was giving me a tour of our suite. "What's that?" I asked. "It's where ladies wash their wee-wee's," he said. "Oh," I said, embarrassed.

The next day we took a train into the mountains. My father was very excited to show me the place he'd been going to and telling me about for the last year. It was a tall modern skyscraper right on the mountainside, surrounded by snow. My father said he wanted to buy an apartment there. In the evening we had dinner downstairs in the fancy restaurant and a woman joined us. My father said to call her Aunt Helga. I could tell that he liked her alot. He kept running his finger down her nose and saying her nose was like a ski-jump. She smiled and laughed. She had short blonde hair. She wore make-up and jewelry and pretty clothes. She was the opposite of my mother. I had alwyas known that my father liked women like this. Even when he was getting along with my mother, at best it was like she was his sister. He never looked in love with my mother and she never looked that way with him.

My father dropped me off at a hairdresser the next day and spoke to them in French. The lady there washed my hair, cut it a little and then divided my hair into two ponytails which she wrapped in special black velvet bands. When my father came to pick me up he bought several sets of the black velvet bands for me to take back to boarding school.

On the taxi home from the airport I am with my dad. We are talking back and forth in a way we never have before. Something about this trip has given me a kind of confidence, a new language, and I am making grown-up jokes with my dad and he is laughing and joking back just like I was a grown-up like him. I call him "Mickey" just like Helga did. I am surprising myself how slick I am.

And then I stop. Maybe it's calling him by that name. Something makes me pull back and not let this go any further. Something in me smells danger, like I'm in a go-cart hurtling downhill without brakes.

These are a couple of the many many scenes that have been passing through the last few days. Other ones were coming through last week.

The words "molest" and "abuse" say so little. They are words easy to dismiss as overused. But it all makes so much sense. I have no proof except that it feels like I have found a missing piece.

I thought of the time, again, still in the English house, on a Saturday morning when my father decided I had blackheads in my ears and they had to be removed. My mother seemed in agreement. The operation happened in his room, me lying on my back on his single bed with its dark green silk cover. He is leaning over me, squeezing these fucking blackheads. It hurts and I am yelling and he will not stop. Blackheads are hideous. He must remove them. His daughter must not have such blemishes. He keeps going until he is satisfied.

It all fits. My mother letting things like this happen. It must have helped to have a daughter to pick up the slack. to absorb the husband's attention, a husband she didn't really want to have much to do with, a husband she was incapable of being close to. It must have soothed something to give him the little girl to play with. The little girl clearly liked him better anyway and he clearly liked her better too. So, good. Let them go off together, leave her alone. It made the home tolerable.

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