We used to call what ruined us the storm,
Though that suggests we could have seen it break
And barred the door. But it was multiform:
It got inside, it made a teacup shake,
It sought us out where we lay half awake.
Now it was here, what would it make us do?
When we were thrown together, then we knew.
And suddenly I remember why I was such an insomniac and suddenly I remember everything.
A fog has been lifted and a shadow cast?
Maybe it’s time for an unambiguous note. Some recent events and some not-so-recent background.
My life is straight out of a movie.
So two weeks ago, after a mediocre-to-intolerable day, I decided to go out and buy some cheese to cheer myself up. Because Wells’ parents had baked me a bread to congratulate me on getting into Yale and I needed cheese to complete the consumption experience. So I needed to get gas on the way.
Pump clicks. Remove pump. Gas everywhere. Won’t stop. Spewing on the ground, in the air, on my clothes and hands and feet. I’m standing in a puddle of gas unable to move. I drop the pump and go inside and ask India to shut it off. So he does. Asks me to move my car so he can hose down the station. Need I mention that an entire side of my car is also dripping? And I drive home, steeped in gas. Wishing I smoked.
Strip in the driveway. Shower.
One week later—one week ago— Hartford competition.
Actually decided to practice. Boyfriend came back from a visit to Oberlin shockingly sane for the first time in a week (a week is apparently an eternity filled with innumerable ups-and-downs)—spent a nice finals-eve reassured with him. Dress rehearsal—fine. Distractions—tucked away.
Get on stage. Freeze. First real memory slip I’ve ever had. Over. And over again. Happiness in repetition? Fuck you, Kundera. There’s a sick happiness in repeating a bad habit. Or so he should have pointed out. Recurring nightmare in every reappearance of the theme. The symbolism feels almost too perfect. Twelve minutes of agony. Mortified. Trauma. Call Jeremiah. Why? Who knows.
That night I promised I would go to Matt’s Brahms performance at Yale. Jeremiah promised to come. Jeremiah was suddenly incapacitated so I go it alone. Not the best timing. Can he help it? Does it matter? It matters but he can’t. Forgiveness is such a panacea, at this point. Unconditional love all around.
Brahms was fantastic. Maybe music isn’t so horrible if if if.
So my mother thought I was a mess at Hartford finals because I wasn’t miserable when I performed. Because I hadn’t screamed at her beforehand or done something self-destructive immediately before playing backstage. Have I mentioned that my mother is insane?
And if that’s the real reason I was so horrible, then I probably shouldn’t play, should I?
I don’t think I’m one of the artists who has to be destined to cut off his ear to make a statement. Let’s hope not.
I’m five years old. I’m practicing under Dad’s rigid supervision. I make a mistake. He hits himself. “You can quit when you’re 18.” I’m twelve playing Kabalevsky, slamming my hand into drawers and telling my violin teacher my cat tore up my arms. I’m thirteen learning the third movement of Barber. I cut myself every time I make a mistake. Bitterness, anyone? Fantastic concert. Zwillich in Boston. Massacre backstage. Concert goes well. Even Boston Globe liked me. We always forgot about it after I had given the performance. Such an act. Music is about emotion—not about pretending. It should involve escape but not recurring denial.
Am I 18 yet? Is the wait over? How old am I? Six? Ninety?
So last year I broke down (I wonder why?) and my parents back off. I break up with my incommunicative boyfriend. Freedom. Room to breathe. I break away from this past. Freedom.
I find Jeremiah and forget about myself. He doesn’t know any of this about me. I hardly remember any of this. Thank God my parents have given up and I’ve frightened them into backing away.
So I stop playing music for a few months and tiptoe around my house. To my surprise, no one says anything. I can handle this pregnant silence until college. I can handle this.
I am free to see Jeremiah. I am happy? I thought I was happy then? Maybe that is just the feeling of relief?
It’s June and I’m in Amherst playing beautiful music for hours upon hours a day and loving it. I’m dissecting movements and putting pieces together and writing Jeremiah love letters and sending him e-strings and I don’t care that he doesn’t respond because I am happy and I am filling myself with music and I don’t have anyone looming over me. Jeremiah is light and foreign and far away but I feel wrapped up and warm because I am a complete person. I can let myself be happy.
I’m in California, playing Brahms. I am breathing Beethoven and feeling unhindered closeness for the first time since I pushed Matt away out of necessity and Jeff kisses me and I play a beautiful concert. I am naked I am living and far away and it is wonderful because I am finally feeling reconnected with an entirely revived self. A new, comfortable self devoid of loathing and fear and unnecessary inhibition. I don’t hate Jeremiah for not responding. I could never hate him. He helped me out of my home. He gave me somewhere to go. He had been my escape.
Well? Is this possible? Is this music? Is this love? Is this happiness? Is this unbearably light and when will this implode? When will I be home?
So I’m home. And I don’t love music. And I don’t love much. And I resign myself to waiting. Because this time there’s only one year to go. And despite the fact that I may have to take myself everywhere I go, I cannot be myself in this house. I cannot be myself around these people who are not my parents.
Everyone in my life has either gone insane beyond a comprehensive degree or has been put on medication to ease whatever impending pain he might feel. Because growing up is hard. I’m sorry. I know. I feel as if I was forced into a few aspects of adulthood a little bit prematurely. But I’ve survived. And I am sane. And I really don’t know why everyone is depressed and why everyone craves rose-colored glasses—because the calm after the storm is so much more beautiful when you actually fight the battle—and I know that I’ve been foolish, thinking I could help anyone or support anything. Because if someone is really depressed, no one can fix it. And I know that. And I know that I deserve someone who will respond to my emails and call me if he thinks I’ve had a bad day and do the things he’s promised to do, but I know that it’s easy to break promises when you’re depressed, and I know that perception is completely skewed, and I know that it’s painful to have someone abandon you for no other reason other than that you haven’t been yourself even you don’t know where you’ve gone, and I know that I’m an impatient person and that maybe it’s foolish to be patient for the first time now, but I know that I don’t want to be bitter and that I don’t have any more room to be bitter and I spent a year being bitter at Abe for things he couldn’t help and it’s futile to be upset at people for things they really can’t change, and I know that I just want to comfort someone in the way I wish he would comfort me. In the way I wish I had been comforted last year.
In the way that I found comfort in Jeremiah last Spring. After the worst of my own storm had ended. And I don’t think he’ll ever know what a comfort that was.
And as much as I wish it weren’t true, I know he’s going to disappear because that’s the type of person he is, but I think it’s probably a healthy thing that I haven’t given up faith in him yet. Everyone deserves that much and everyone is allowed to struggle.
And at the same time I resent everyone for his plastic pills and slightly subdued and partially preset motions, apparently I’ve had some sort of dark glasses on all year. I’ve forgotten about my parents. I’ve been pretending I don’t live here anymore and I’ve been imagining myself somewhere else.
I’ve let everyone weigh on me because I’ve been spending this entire year pushing my own weight into a closet. I’ve been huddled in a hole all year, hibernating in my room or quietly escaping to Jeremiah. And when he’s been there, he’s been fantastic. Abe realized he had to give up with me because he couldn’t fix my problems and he couldn’t spend time with me without feeling as if he were obligated to put me together. And to some extent, I think everyone has to learn that lesson at some point. So I’ve learned that I can’t fix people. But I don’t think that means I have to walk away.
So after a year of soft, steady buildup, my parents have exploded. All the independence my parents gave me out of fear has been irrationally revoked. My parents are convincing me that I am depressed and failing. But that is not the truth. I am afraid and in temporary hiding. And I wish it could have been more temporary than it has. I wish.
And tonight my father is screaming at me telling me I am a fuck-up like his other children (who fucked them up at the start?) and that I am the reason he is not close with any of his family, my mother included, and the next thing I know I am hitting an old, sad, senile man because I have already hurt myself today and I cannot do anything to dull his tantrum and I am trying to jump off of a banister and my mother is grabbing my leg and I swear my life is straight out of the movies. At least it’s almost reached a comical point already. I really am grateful for that much. And suddenly I remember two years ago, and the year before that, and the year before that. And sobbing and hyperventilating and calling Matt, who was always available but couldn’t help—because other people can’t fix your problems—and and and. I remember 3 AM and I remember the terror I felt every time I came home from California. And for the first time in almost an entire year of living demurely among strangers, I’m home. So this is home.
I don’t know exactly how much music I’d like to pursue at this point—hopefully I can somehow remove the tainted aspects in a more opportune situation and start fresh and learn to love it. I think I’m getting better about removing the bitter? Because while I cannot escape myself—I’d really rather not, since I think I have the potential to be a fine individual—I can escape this home.
I wanted to go to Rice because I need the positive musical push.
I may not need the distance, but I need the parents I’ve never had. I need something positive, not passive-aggressive and not manipulative and not miserable and lonely and unfulfilled. And I know I need to work and I know that I need to be pushed to work. My parents don’t know how to push in the right ways.
And I am not afraid to work. But I know that this year was a wait. And I know that I could have done more on my own, but this year I was afraid. At least I know why now.
I loved Jeff Taylor’s parents. I loved Jeremiah’s parents.
Of course, because they are not my own. And it’s almost a shame that they won’t stay with me half as long as I had hoped they would. But I am not their child and their sons are not ready for anything permanent—not even for a friend—not even for themselves.
But I know these parents, as crazy and irrational as they are, are not this volatile and malicious towards their own children. And I am a good daughter. And I am not lazy. But I am afraid in this house, and after 18 years of a cycle, with only so much time to go, I am not going to try to battle it anymore, but rather, wait it out. I have resigned and I have put on my blindfold and tonight it was ripped off but I am going to try my best to put it back on for the time being. At least while I’m in this house.
Much to my parents’ disbelief and seeming dismay, I am not averse to happiness. I don’t consider it the stuff of poison and I am not more comfortable behind this wall. I know I am crouching behind it and I wish I didn’t need the defense.
And now it’s half past three in the morning and I’m sitting here in Abe’s boxers and I just ate a ham and cheese sandwich—ham for the first time in forever, for what that’s worth—and I don’t know what to do, but at least I’m not saying “only two more years.”
Only one more month.