He thinks about it like this. I am a song he can’t quite remember. A melody he used to know, but now he only hears the same fragment, a last clear note hanging in the air, until it turns back on itself, repeats what came before.
He knows that he knows. But he can’t get to that place yet, not far enough inside his own head to where other people, other men, reside. I see him try every day, see the times he places his thick fingers at both temples and pushes down hard, elbows against desk, eyes squeezed shut.
Someone took a photograph of him like that once. Printed it out, labelled it The Thinker. It’s still pinned on a wall, some busy wall, amongst dozens of other snapshots that document people and places and moments passed. No matter that the real Thinker man has his hand at his mouth. The photographer recognised the intent, the turning in on oneself, the folding of thoughts over and over. Until they’ve been reduced to something small and true.
The truth always wants to be told.
Come on Detective Matlin. You’re almost there. Press down a little harder. Here, I’ll help you. I won’t leave a mark. See, that’s a clue right there. I can’t help it. I never did like a mystery. Long before the question was me.
I imagine it’s something like lights turning on all over the world. One by one the illumination, as continents glimmer then glow. I see it as gravity pulling the stars back down. Collective sadness, collecting love. The bright flame of grief making our shared surface deeper.
Know this. You have been loved.
It’s not dimming, ever. To remember, to honour, to lovein this way. We should do so well with the living. We should send out our sparks and turn up our songs while we’re both on the ground. Don’t you think?
Look deeper, Sherry would say. Examine where the feeling starts.
Am I focusing on your mistakes so that I can avoid the mistakes I have made? Is that what we do – embroil ourselves in other lives, in other failings so that we don’t have to examine our own lives so closely?
Sherry wants me to concentrate on me, on where I lost control. She wants us to get deeper into my relationship with Adam, to reach into my memories and start pulling out the ones she says I need to remember. If we’re going to get anywhere with this.
One good thing, two bad she suggested the other day, when I handed in another journal with nothing but graffiti on the page.
One good thing, two bad.
This is her equation for not falling into the abyss, for not getting lost back there in the dark.
It’s a funny thing. When I try to remember, nothing comes. The abuse, when I have been asked to describe it, is the hardest to draw out. I don’t really remember what it feels like to be hit in the face. The pain of it, I mean. I remember what it is like to fear its return – yes. But the impact, the sensation? I can’t remember any of it, unless I am dreaming. Would that have happened to you, Ben? If you had survived the incident? Would your body eventually push down those minutes and seconds after the blade went in? And only remind you in dreams?
Our real trauma, perhaps, is the fear of finding in daylight whatever we have hidden out there in the dark.
It’s all progress, says Sherry when I struggle. I’m making progress. She just wants us to be careful with what I am blocking, because, she assures me, nothing stays down forever.
What did you push down, Ben? I am fixated on this, I know. Is it because I need for you to be a villain, too? A liar and a cheat, rather than the noble hero who saved me? Or is it that I need Maggie to have chosen the wrong man, the same way I did? Do I need this from perfect, faithful Anna too?
Do I need the three of us to be not so different from each other in the end?
I need you to be that liar, that cheat, Ben.
I cannot keep remembering the hero who saved me. Or I will never be able to understand why I am the one who survived instead of you.
~ Lucy, The Memory of Stars
Put this story away for a long time. All the no after that small yes had to fade – and it has! Now I remember what I was trying to do here. Time to dust off the words and try again … #HerStory
The thing is, I don’t exactly know who I’m writing to here. That dash, it represents the cliff my thoughts sit at the edge of, the screeching halt of my words. The fear, perhaps, that if I let my words topple over today, friendships, peace, will be ruined in the fall. My reputation too, as someone nice. Reasonable. A delight.
I got called that the other day by a bigot. I loved him, and I wanted to cry.
When did you become so angry?
Someone asked me that too, another, other day this week. And I wanted to say, I’ve never not been angry, you fool. Have you never really known me at all?
Mostly, I wanted to cry.
So this letter. The fashion made of an open ‘Dear -’. But exactly who is my Dear today? What do I most want to say?
Perhaps – I’m writing to election morning. A mourning. You should have seen me that day! Jet-lagged, awake since 4am. I can’t stop crying! I messaged that phrase all over the world, watching women put stickers on Susan B A’s grave, reading story after daughter’s story on the miracle that is Pantsuit Nation. All the while thinking – here’s the thing, the secret thing – that perhaps I could do that, too. Bring a child into this world I’ve been waiting for.
And so. Maybe I’m writing to election night instead. The sun and the numbers sinking. One of the worst nights of my life so far. Being the one who had to say she can’t win. I’m so sorry. Over and over.
A friend sobbing down the phone. Messages from another, terrified, so raw, so painful, so possible in this new reality that I broke apart. I don’t remember much more from there, from that heart-punching, dizzying point of her pain. Though my phone and Facebook records tell me I raged in a way I’ve never raged before.
I heard you say at your campaign launch, quiet, private, in Eleanor’s ear – we’re going to get there. It’s going to be long and hard, but we’ll get there. And I believed you. I do believe you. I didn’t know what to say then, and now – … and now. I’m so sorry. I believe you. Know this. You changed my life. Over and over and over.
You changed my life. I should have said.
It isn’t over, by the way.
I could write the rest of this letter to 15 year old me, I suppose. Whole books are dedicated to that particular self, after-all. As if she (or he) is somehow separate to who you are now, to what you now know. But I’m not separate to that 15 year old me at all. I am her. I am now. Less and more and just the same as I was at the age that I ‘met’ her.
The way she kept her name. The things she knew and did and said and was. The way he looked at her. The – ahhhhhhhhhhh.
I kept this picture in a shoebox under my bed back then. It said something I couldn’t quite understand – but would.
You were desired for your brilliant mind, HRC. And you desired that brilliance in return.
I’ve always been with you. I’ve always been there.
And now I’m crying again.
So maybe this letter goes out to anyone who knows what this means. To every single one of you who reached out to me this week, with your love and your fear and your anger and sadness. With your LOVE most of all. We lit up the whole world, you know that? I could make constellations with the map of you and you and you and you coming together. I love you. I could not ever say how very much, and so –
I think I might be writing to the people who didn’t. To the ones who broke my heart by staying silent so long that I knew. I know. A thousand words typed out to ask – and I’ve deleted every single question. But still. I know. I knew.
Things are so very, very broken between us. And I’m not the (whiny, safe space) one who has to repair them.
This used to be my home.
It’s not. Right? Right. Turns out, I’m mostly writing to you, my dear America. To your beautiful, to your spacious skies and your closing borders. Our land of – what, now exactly is it? Free and brave? Not so. Not now. I’ve loved you deeply since I was five years old. I’ve studied your government, your history, and your people. I’ve believed in you my whole damn life.
And I don’t believe you anymore.
America. My dear, dear America.
Dear America. What have you done?
“And then I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” ~ Eli Wiesel, Nobel Prize Speech, 1986
And this to close it out. My words could never come close to this. I’m With Her:
She’s someone. Your sister, mother, daughter, yes. But more than that – she’s someone. She has a line deep in her bones that takes us back. And she doesn’t belong to you, or with … she’s someone.
You can carve her up, invade her – she’s someone. You can lift your virgins and trample your whores. She’s someone. She has a name not yours to revise … she’s someone.
You can call her a gift then give her away. She’s someone. You can mine for her diamonds then disgust that she shines. You can trade her and blame her but let me remind … she’s someone.
She. Is. Someone. On every continent you raise your flag – she’s someone. Underneath your gaze and your book she is someone. When you shout her down she is someone. When you order her body with gavels and clocks … she’s someone.
Revered. Desired. Punished. Reviled
You have too long chosen and called her mine. When she’s someone. She doesn’t belong to you, or with. This woman, this girl – let me remind …
Eidyia’s Note: I first posted this back in July, 2013. Something or other would have happened in the news to prompt it. Too many examples, too many possibilities to recognize which misogynistic to and fro it referred to back then. The meme that inspired my post has been doing the rounds once again, thanks to that leaked tape. The original, unaltered meme may have been well-intentioned, but we’re beyond that, right? We understand that a woman – a person! – has value no matter her relationship to others. And that what happens to her matters not when it impacts you and your, but because she’s impacted, now. Peace, love and critical thinking to you all today xxx