The microwave beeps. I am cautious; I pull out the heavy white bowl with a dishtowel in case it’s too hot. My wrist bumps the bowl and it’s not hot at all. I still use the dishtowel.
Sweet and tang on my tongue mix, separate, each to their corners, come out fighting. The leftover chicken tom kha is just as good as I remembered it; finally, I have a memory for something.
The dishtowel is still on my lap.
What am I afraid of? I leave the house and look out my mirror and there’s nothing, then suddenly an SUV ass is in my passenger-side door and I’m being so kind and gracious, just like Mom taught me, “it’s fine, fine,” and it’s not, it’s not, but what else do I have? I am running late to work, my eyes are seeping cream, and one-third of my house is half a world away.
The distortions come.
Slowly at first, anger slinks in. With anger, I am always reminded of one hurt, the Big hurt, three years ago. With anger, I am serrated edges, I am smoke-choked throat, I am fake smile.
They are here. With me. Every time I have ever felt angry is just as close as when I felt it first. Echoes of voices that yell. My heart pounds. I am not angry; I am anger itself.
“And this is why you can’t have nice things!” my mother screams at me. She is taller than me, so I know I’m young. I look down and there is the red stain of spaghetti sauce smeared across my dress, the dress she handmade for me. She cries and cries and it’s because she lost her father before she got to prove to him that it was okay she wasn’t born a boy. I cry because she’s yelling at me, and I’m feeling waves of her anger wash over me. Things I don’t recognize flash around me instead of behind my eyes. I hold onto what I know is really happening, but the vision nearly pries my tenuous grip away.
I won’t know until much later that I saw her as a little girl, being beaten by someone I could not recognize.
Now I have glasses, ones that are carefully constructed from mazes of internal filters, ones that let me keep in check what is not happening Now or even To Me. Otherwise, I feel it all. I feel time and other beings like everything’s at once, and most keenly I feel the difference between me and many other people. The length of time it takes for a disparaging look to travel down a nose is an eternity. Playing out other possible lives I could have led, I wait to be hit with the wave of disappointment.
My mother passed down this need for approval in her genes and in her words.
O, it’s not like angst, like “no one understands me.” No, I think many of us outgrow that sometime between that first pubic hair and that first grey hair. It’s the inimitable feeling of feeling *everything* … and still not being able to control it.
Or wanting to.
So I am opening it all up, slowly, as the old tendrils of my web presence wilt and die. I am opening up to you and others what I am and what I have been. We pass down things we don’t realize; we remember words from twenty-three years ago. Caution is a wisdom, but when it prevents you from living your life, it’s just another shield against the world. I can’t pretend I fit in perfectly anymore, because I never have.
That is such a rare beauty. I finally figured that out.