There are moments when I have the sense he’s messing with all of the neat little packages lining my shelves. Things I’ve wrapped up carefully, put away, to be looked at much, much later. One at a time with large spaces of time in between. If at all.
“Where were you living and what were you doing when you were ten years old?” he wants to know, out of nowhere.
Questions of this nature are, for me, uncomfortable tremors, disrupting all of my beautifully ordered boxes.
“Where is your father? Your mother?”
He hates that I don’t answer, but that puts us on equal ground. Because I hate that he’s asking.
I’ve tied each of the packages off with yellow-ribboned bows, but in a certain mood, the right question will knock one off its shelf.
I don’t know how to describe my experience when that happens. The only word I know for it is poignant. It feels far too poignant, the spilling of the contents.
And when I feel that way, the visual is one of a stunned woman, a brain again wondering how long it’s going to escape catatonia, which it heard about at age 18 and has been waiting for ever since.
Sometimes, in these moments, he lights a cigarette and puts it between my fingers and even just my raising it to my lips feels like some huge beautiful i’m still fucking alive accomplishment.
“Do you want me to read to you?” he asks, if he happens to be paying enough attention. And I nod.
“What would you like me to read?”
“Anything, I don’t care. Just start now,” I say.
But what I’m really saying is that we need to speed away from me as quickly as possible.
Luckily, he’s got life content that is big enough and loud enough to lead me away from the mess on the floor.
“Why are you so private?” he wants to know later, once I’m recovered.
He smirks. He really believes this, apparently, despite my being my own everything with him.
I’m not intentionally hiding what I keep in those packages. Not really.
It’s just a nuisance when they come undone, and I see no reason for it.
They’re a part of me, I suppose, yes. But in the same way that an archeological dig is a part of human history, perhaps. Extraneous.
And anymore, there’s so much more to me than what’s lining those shelves in the cellar.
Why does he want the aged chronicles of a life that one night led to him?
Why do we have to unwrap those boxes?
The answer is, of course, we don’t.
We really just don’t.
This is the point of power I am going to have to hold in this situation between us, to a fault.
He reviews his life one way, and I another.
Because of his confidence in his methods, I understand his assertion that I do it like he does. Shining bright lights on everything, tossing traumatic events around the room haphazardly when I’m not necessarily expecting it.
But just because that’s his way, works for him, that doesn’t mean for a second it’s right for me.
I’ve done too much of that in my life, followed someone else’s lead. Nodded congenially and said, “Yes, by all means, here’s my life. Not sure what to make of it myself. Perhaps you can tell me who I am.”
But I’m not that person anymore.
And I don’t miss her.
So instead, I want him to stop pushing me about what’s in all of those thousands of white boxes. It’s irrelevant. All that he needs to know is that I’ve taken such care in packaging them, that I was in no way rushed when I did it. Look at how well-ordered and even they are. It’s beautiful, what I’ve done. And even if he can’t appreciate it, I know for myself that it is an incredible tribute to my patience, understanding, love.
Of course, this means that I in turn need to be equally accepting of him. Unfazed by what a wide-open mess he has on his hands, sensitive to his preferring it that way.
So he’s disheveled, living every day amongst dusty piles of partially shattered memories, many of them sticking to the back of his skin when he gets up to walk around the house.
It’s not my business how he chooses to be.
My business is simply deciding if I want to love him. (I do.)
And how much. (A lot.)
And one day, when we’re done, attending to another little yellow-ribboned box.