real life

Old Wounds

The phone is nestled into the pillow at the head of the bed and I’m shoulder to shoulder with John. I feel stupid for being excited, trying to talk myself out of the hopeful nerves that are tightening my stomach and causing me to curl a toe over the length of John’s calf. It’s strange- the morbid fascination I have with the relationship with my father. It’s like picking at an old scar just to watch it bleed. It stopped hurting a long time ago, but sometimes I just need to remind myself that there was something that hurt there once.

The Face time fails. The phone call that ensues is a raucous of voices with me solemnly identifying the background “Merry Christmas” as my Father’s voice. I strain to hear it again.

I don’t.

The phone call ends after seven minutes, the length of the call a dull set of numbers fading as my screen fades and I sigh. “That’s my relationship with my Dad in a nutshell.”

It’s dissembling and evasive as I suck my teeth and reach for another cigarette. I smoke more when I’m hurt. I can feel my lungs ache. It’s not nearly as hurtful as my embarrassment. The smoke not as damaging as the quiet that rings in the space between me and the rest of the world. I can only explain to people who understand the loneliness of missing a father that’s not actually gone. It’s something darker than blue but not as vibrant. It’s an old ache that kicks up with the weather and I brace for the coming storm, but that just leaves my back stiff and my muscles sore for something that never actually comes. A storm means that there would be a fight.

Sometime in my past I realized that I wasn’t the one worth fighting for and simply float watching the vastness of sky.

I have all these memories I keep in a cedar chest in my mind. I have all these pretty little baubles of my Father. I don’t talk about my parents. I don’t refer to them as a single family- it’s always one or the other separate and unequal. I have dancing with my Father in the small kitchen of my youth perfectly preserved because dancing with him at my wedding was as distant and unfeeling as a hand I slept on wrong. It tingles with the idea of feeling and the threat of movement, but it’s disconnected.

John frowns slightly and gives me a look that doesn’t really understand but wants to. “You okay?”

I shrug. It’s a defense. It’s a mannerism. “Yeah.” I exhale smoke and don’t quite look him in the eye. “I just miss my Dad.”

Simple Truths

“I’ve always had this weird…” I pause, unsure of the phrasing and rolling the taste of something bitter and uncomfortable around in my mouth. It tastes like pebbles under my tongue before I sigh, tilting my head and pushing the smoke from my lungs like a blanket to hide the next words. “It’s like this story that flows under everything I do and it’s so simple. You’re not worthy.”

The air was a damp warm that meant the fog would roll in over the bay and obscure the drive home. The thick kind of night that felt wonderful on the skin by played havoc on the hair. It haloed around my head, the silver strands catching the light even as a few moths battered themselves against the over head lamps. Barb is a slim woman with thin blond hair that hangs neatly around her face. She’s Eastern European by way of American accent learned from years. It lingers around the tightness in her eyes when she smiles and moves around to sling strange dip-thongs onto her phrasing. She’s lovely as a siberian iris, trusting that the green shoots that knife through the snows will be allowed to bloom purple and lush. She nods once, taking the difficult statement and tucking it between her palms that are cradled in her lap just under the table between us.

My mouth smears to the side and I duck my head. Even this is weir. My truths don’t really deserve to see the light. Six years sober and six years of walking a path that leads me to an addiction to the truth and I can’t even look her in the eye around my odd self consciousness. People need to know that I’m okay, that I’m good, that everything is fine. They don’t need to know that there are days when I have to step over the pile of dirty clothes that sit like a wall on the left hand side of my bed. They don’t need to know that I’m so exhausted at the end of the day I can barely see straight as I answer the texts for help and slide one leg at a fumbling time under my sheets. They don’t know about how I fall asleep between breaths and wake up running.

I feel like I’ve been running my whole life because when I stop just long enough to look around I realize I’m so lost that I don’t know where to even start. It’s not true. I have moments of pause where I can gather up my clothes, my bills, my dignity, my heart, and fumble through the simple tasks of setting my life in order.

you don’t deserve nice things, you’ll just lose them. you don’t deserve a boyfriend who cares about you because you always think you’re in love but the moment it’s over that light switch flicks and you’re done with it all like it never existed. do you even know what love is? you can’t even love yourself most of the time. you’re disgusting and unworthy and –

And I’m running again. Reaching out a hand to help the next person behind me. Answering the phone at four in the morning to a girl in tears because she can’t imagine a life with or a life without. I can hear myself saying words of comfort. I can hear myself making the noise of hope, because it’s in those moments that I feel worthy. It’s in those moments that I have hope.

It blurs from one day to the next in little moments of exhaustion. I remember the way my best friend looked after nearly 27 hours of labor. She was limp with exhaustion, but her eyes glowed fierce under the glossy cut of her bangs. She was flushed, damp, and reaching with a single mindedness to find the next thing that made sense. The next thing that had captured her heart in a way that made little to no sense outside of that moment. That one moment when she caught her son so close and touched shaking fingers to his dark curls. He screamed and she knew she was forever going to love one thing more than anything else.

That’s the only way I can think to describe the moment someone asks me for help. That breathless enthusiasm for a chance to give something the best possible life I can manage. But it’s not me. It’s not me who’s managing anything but finding the energy to be present.

The light flickers and Barb blows out a breath and catches my eye. She has these pale blue gazes that catch the mind like fine china or the massive breadth of a glacier. “You know why you fight that?”

I shake my head.

“Because it’s not true. But-” She pauses and holds up a finger and I can feel myself quaking somewhere just behind my heart. “FIghting it makes it true. You need to be right about this one thing. You need to be right about the most basic truth about yourself you have.” She tips her head and the smile is beautific. “Because if you’re wrong, then everything you have ever though about yourself, everything you have ever believed about yourself is wrong. You *need* to be right about this one horrible thing so that everything else is right. Let it go. Be wrong.”

I laugh, nervous and welling. “You make it sound so easy.”

“You’re not worthy.” She cocks her head and I can almost taste my thrumming need for this next truth. “You have never been more wrong about anything in your whole life. Let it go.”