“My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines
where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through”--in the Pines
I have received a message from Bran. It has been over eight months. I don't know what it means. I hesitate to reply. If I should. I can't decipher his meaning.
It is all right to talk to Dean sometimes. I know he wants me to come back. It bothers me to know that it is me who stands in the way for him over what he wants. Like Peter Pan's shadow, I have wished that I could let him have that part of me because I have no use for it. The one that was resigned to being a toaster. I can't go back to that. I can't disappear any more. It feels like I am spent on acts of selflessness. I even see it with Jamie. The self-involved phenomena of her age along with the material excess her father gives her leaves very little room for her to see past the confused ideals. She has decided to not just give me advice these days, but to appoint herself as my personal boss on all the decisions in my life. And then she forgets that she says she was going to come with me for one of my physical exams. I didn't ask her to, didn't particularly want her to. But then, I feel sad when she has forgotten. She seems to forget a lot of promises these days, that is, as soon as her father dangles his advantages.
I find myself wondering over the wounded feeling I have when this kind of thing comes up again. Changing days on me without telling me, and then she claims she did, but she didn't. I remember the conversation we last had over this. I know that she covers up her guilt with a kind of act of innocence. She has done that since she was a toddler. So I guess it is no surprise, I have allowed this kind of coercion to rule my life.
I see part of this was blindness, but not all of it. Part of why I let it happen had to do with that need for penance. Something has changed now for me. I feel like I am walking away from that, going on, shutting that door behind me forever. I think I have exhausted my purpose of penance. There is no more to get out of it. It's done. But now I see that everyone I know is not so pleased to find I no longer feel so obligated to please everybody. And it's much more than that. I feel like I have run out of the capacity to bring myself to any more. I used to worry about what everyone would think if I didn't want to do what they needed me to do. But I've just stopped caring.
When I talk to John, he seems disappointed with this transition. But I am slipping, losing that grip and falling down. That spiral. And why fight it anymore. I am slipping past the edge. I don't feel like having to defend myself but I explain,
“it's life, John.”
It is that I don't really care.
I think I need to find a reason to care about something or this will not progress very well. What is the opposite of self-less? No, I am not about to indulge myself with excesses of this, but I wonder what it would really feel like to do whatever it is that I want. For the rest of my life.
I begin to write a short story that has nothing to do with me. I create characters to live out, in theory, possibilities. It is a story about a girl and boy who met in high school and they meet again years later.
I am not putting myself in any danger by remaining in contact with Dean. We are not divorced. And who cares. I just want my freedom. No, I need my freedom. I don't want anyone telling me what to do anymore. Some of Dean's bi-polar moods are not so bad. I go when his mood shifts to the bad ones. I only stay a little while. He needs to clean that place, it is so hard to breath in there and I have to stop the impulse to start cleaning when I drop by. I visit the cats. I miss my calico. It's heartbreaking for me to give her up. She looks sad to me. She's not eating, she's become so thin.
I finally go to my doctor, it has been months. He tells me what I have long suspected. It's real. My hands are becoming paralyzed. He tells me that the risks are too high and surgeons don't usually take the risk, which is why the last two neurosurgeons I have seen have sent me away with prescriptions and a few weeks of physical therapy. But that is not going to help me. He says eventually we will find a surgeon who will take the risk or....? and then I wonder about the kind of surgeon who would and is it better to die on the table or submit to....
And so, I am looking at things in my life and wondering. Wondering about my whole life. It's meaning and purpose, again and wondering. Why. What... for. This side of life looks much different.... much more real. The silver lining is Velcro-ed on, it's cheap plastic and peeling. And it is better to avoid thinking about Bran. Safe to look back to before all of that. I need to hide and avoid thoughts of... us. Because it hurts too much. What went on between us. How his words have hurt. And will always echo down my cerebral passages and jab me to the quick. It is safer to bury myself in... the devil you know.... and a kind of perpetual motion. I can do that. I can do whatever I want. And maybe some things I don't have to tell anyone. Some things I need to do. Like those tools you acquire that get you through in life, sometimes you just have to do things nobody will ever understand.
….a thought came to me the other day, in a little more than one year, Jamie will be eight-teen and I can go anywhere after that. I can go to Alaska. Start a new life. Alone.
When I leave the store, someone stops me as I am getting into my car. She's tall, wearing fitness shorts a bright tangerine t-shirt. She looks like someone about Jamie's age, I think, until I see the University bumper sticker on the car she gets into and the graduation date on the license frame. I notice this in rewind after she has walked away. She hands me a piece of paper, saying,
“you dropped this.” Is it my list? I feel embarrassed. I wait until I get in my car to read if I wrote anything overly personal. When I open the folded piece of paper, though, it turns out not to be my list at all. It is a note. It just has a name (Jo) with a phone number on it. I look at it for awhile, confused. I think maybe she thought it was me who dropped it, but it must be someone else who lost this piece of paper. So I think about going into the store and giving it to someone there, because maybe they will come looking for it. Until I realize that neither the store people nor the person this belongs to would be likely to expect someone to do this.
But it hurts to hold the piece of paper and it drops out of my hand and falls into the abyss of the car floor. And then I am lost in thought.