I drove with my father – him driving and talking, me quiet beside him in the Ford Granada – his car -- into the city and when we sat down in the plush seats of the opera house, before the curtain went up, he said, “What you did yesterday, with Alex, this was not elegant.”
Alex was a boy with curly dark hair and a drooping moustache to match and he was the closest thing to an appealing boy that had found his way into my suburban world where otherwise the only boys were the ones at school, some of whom got my attention but none of them even close to boys I imagined when I listened to Me & Bobby McGhee or Dylan’s all-knowing voice, rasping of people he had known.
Walking over to Alex’s house on a Saturday afternoon without mentioning where I was going, through woods where I hoped one day to run into a boy with a pony tail and a guitar who would notice me so strongly that he would bring me not only into his embrace but into the wide circle of friends I imagined he would have, walking through the woods with these pictures in my mind but not coming across anyone at all, and Alex is not home.
And sitting next to my father I am so angry I cannot speak because I am not allowed to speak. Anything I could say – if I could even say it – would be so beyond inelegant that I know it is not allowed. I don’t have to be told this. It’s in the air I breathe. You are not allowed to say anything ugly, anything disruptive.
Your mother does sometimes and look how vile that is, how far that does not get her.
My mother yelling at my father at night when they are the only two still up because they are the grown-ups, or my mother at the breakfast table saying all the wrong things – every single thing wrong – while my father’s fingers tighten around his coffee mug and he plods a chunk of cold butter on a torn much smaller morsel of toast – and me sitting there too, knowing if I do anything except not be affected I lose the game. Do not be affected. Let nothing show. This becomes easier than speaking.
You see, your mother is letting it all show, and see how ugly it is?
Until even if you wanted to, say, one day, for a change, you want to yell when you’re angry, you actually can’t even try it. You can’t. The words stick, condemned before the syllables form so there is this seething blank space that is only confusing. Confusing and mute. And you can’t blame anyone for it. You’re just inarticulate.