Monday, January 09, 2006
all of this
"Just like old times, right? Been a long time. Rachel and I, we used to be close."
We were in a bar on the coast. His voice was slurred and he yelled over the music to my friends.
Used to be, being the key words.
He put his arm around my shoulder for emphasis. He was too heavy and I shrunk out from underneath him. Immediately I felt sorry for him.
Later he found me waiting for my coat at the door.
"You really hate me, don't you Rachel?"
"I don't feel a whole lot of anything about you."
"What is it? Why do you hate me?"
I just looked at him. I could feel the bubbles in my chest, rising, threatening.
The coat check girl handed me my coat.
"Nice seeing you Patrick."
I turned to leave.
He stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. Too much touching.
"I know - it's because of that day, isn't it...with me and Jeremy."
I freeze. He said it. It had faded so far into the background. What else could I do with that? Over time it had taken on an unreal quality. I told myself that it was nothing to them, like a joke I didn't get. He wouldn't even remember. But he did. Years later.
I was sweet sixteen. Now, 15 years later, my adult mind sees that he knew it all along - knew it was a terrible thing.
My hands were pinned down. I had nothing free for my defense. They laughed. How I remember their laughing faces. Pulling at my shirt. I got a hand lose, connected with a face. Patrick hit me back. My face stung. My hand pinned again. I spit in their faces. It was all that was left. I was an animal. My shirt was pulled up over my head. Hands pushed down the front of my pants. I was a trapped animal, backed into a corner, and I had to fight to flight. I spit, I kicked, I hit, and then I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. The daylight sun surprised me. My lungs burned. My tears stung. I could still feel handprints on my face. My run slowed down to a fast walk and feeling started to come back. My heart pounded. People on the street shopped and talked and drank coffee on patios. I noticed my finger was scraped and bleeding - It was the only visible mark I had that told me it had really happened.
* * *
When I was five, my next door neighbor told me his sixteen year old brother wanted to show me something in their garage. He was waiting in the back room among his father's tools. One light hung from the ceiling. I feel like the lightbulb was swinging on a string, casting shifting light around the dark room, but maybe I saw that in a movie. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust having come inside from a sunny summer day. He was holding something below his belt. After a moment I knew what it was. I wanted to leave. He asked me to touch it. I ran away - straight to my father who was mowing the lawn. He was still living with us then. I don't remember what I told him, but it was one of the only memories I have of my father truly being a father. He dropped the handle of the lawn mower and left it running where it was, storming toward the neighbor's garage. I had never seen his face so red. I was worried he would explode like in cartoons.
* * *
"Wow. I don't know what to say. I guess I never thought you'd bring that up."
"Well, I feel really bad about it...me and Jeremy, you know... we were fucked up. Smoked too much...drank too much - I know it's no excuse, but we weren't ourselves."
"Look, I'm sorry for it - I really am." Quieter he added, "I always have been."
He looked old and sad. A new wave a sympathy rushed in, but with it came air. More than I realized I needed.
"Thanks Patrick. I appreciate that."
I took my coat and walked out into a crisp and clear night. Sky so black and stars so bright, as far as the eye can see.
* * *
The invisible marks were plenty. What was I doing there? What was I thinking going there alone? Who smokes up and drinks in the middle of the afternoon? Didn't I know better? It was those questions that would be the most devastating as they still ring in my ears. That is how a walk home becomes a walk of shame. A passenger standing close on a packed subway? Lascivious. Being open? Slutty. We really only see what we know. I see it everywhere. The menacing in the most mundane: a hand gripping a pole on a streetcar, salad dressing drizzling from plastic orifices, glib nazi analogies, pregnant pauses. All of this between the skin and bone.
Posted by Rachel at 9:32 AM