There is a commanding voice inside of me that tells me not to write anything in which I am weak, or a victim, or helpless.
I hear Jeffrey’s scornful voice. See his sneer.
I hear my mother saying Don’t be a baby.
I see imaginary people turn away in disgust and I want to turn away with them. I want to run long and hard in the opposite direction of these stories that seem my truest stories just because they are at the bottom of the barrel.
This is sort of a disclaimer, I guess. But also a story of its own.
I think this is what makes writing hard for me.
It is very hard to get as soft and willing and pliable as the truth demands.
I see the note I wrote to myself a few days ago. I’d forgotten about it. It’s just two or three short sentences, scribbled in the heat of the moment to remember the feeling I wanted some day to write about. It’s an ugly little note, the kind of thing you’d find in someone’s diary, not the kind of thing that is supposed to be seen by anyone else. It’s something you’re supposed to hide. I knew that when I wrote it, but it seemed crucial not to forget.
Still, I’d much rather not tell this story again. But maybe I can tell it more fully than I have before, maybe I can be on my own side more fully than I have before. That's what I'm aiming for.
I’m in my father’s room in the daytime. I know it’s a Saturday morning because (a) my father is home and (b) he has Saturday morning energy to get things done. On this Saturday it’s the blackheads that he says are in my ears. He noticed them this morning in the kitchen. I’ve never heard of blackheads. I don’t know what they are. He says they are ugly and have to come out. He will take care of it. I should come to his room. My mother is a shadowy figure in the kitchen, complicit, not looking closely but agreeing.
My father tells me to sit on his bed. It has a dark green silky cover. There are windows that look out over a small field, but I can’t see the field from where I sit, only the sky.
My father leans over me, tells me to tilt my head to the side. His fingers go inside my left ear and his fingernails begin to squeeze a tiny piece of my skin. It’s like he’s using pincers. I yell. “Dad, it hurts!” I try to jerk my head away. “Now, now, now,” he says in a distant voice as if he were talking to someone who isn’t there, “Don’t pull away. I can’t do it if you pull away.”
Out of the corner of my eye I can see his eyes focused on the inside of my ear. It feels like he has a tiny knife in there. I yell again, but he insists. He does not let up. He's holding a towel in one hand, bending over me, and my mother is somewhere behind him like a nurse in the operating room.
This is my father, the man who leaves the house on Monday mornings to go to the office, fresh from his bath, in a good suit, radiating energy, leaving us behind. Always confident in his opinions, confident that he is better than almost everyone he meets.