Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I didn't grow up like you grew up. I grew up surrounded by books, the static of a television, and the walls of an old towering house with too much history and not enough warm. I lived through years of eternal solitary silences after being torn from the company of three elder siblings and the hum of my mother's hyperactive sewing machine. I settled into cold quiet corners of over-large rooms and waited for someone to come home. And when they wouldn't, I scraped around in the fridge and ate raw bacon with my dog, thank god for my dog, and thank god for my cat, and peanut butter and too many Oreo cookies. And thank god I never got trichinosis. And later, when they still weren't there, I put myself to bed and wondered at the immense space and endless quiet of that old dark house.
Sometimes I challenged myself to open closet doors or brave the attic, with its old servants' quarters, and that creepy storage room, which bared its rafters like teeth. And the inverted star scratched in the cement wall, the one with sinister adornments in red paint - who put that there? That house whispered a lot of secrets through its drafty rooms. But no one bothered to kept a secret about the woman who killed herself there - certainly not my mother, who told me when I was nine. Just like she couldn't keep quiet about the ghosts she and my step-brother claimed they saw there too. Right there in that house that creaked and groaned because, you know, houses can move. And houses can close in. How funny those stories, those stories they told me. How funny that I was the only one ever left behind to think about them by myself, for myself, those stories I mostly tried not to think about at all.
And that was the worst part, not the stories or being afraid, but the alone. Alone is a bottomless crevasse that makes you forget about the rhythm of time and the patterns of being. Alone is a life made completely abstract, abstract at an age too small for abstractions. Alone is a purgatory, but a punishment for you don't know what. Alone like that - stretched out over the infinite hours - feels like falling and falling with no one to catch you. That's when you taste the first lesson of despair.
So now, although I've conquered the dicomfiture of loneliness enough that I actually crave moments of solitude, I pray not to be left alone for the rest of my life. Being alone seems pointless. One wants union, one seeks reflection, donation, and the warmth of someone's hand. One wishes for the last sweep out of the ghosts, caught in the sticky skeins that cob attic spaces of memory.