When my dad sat us down at our dining room table, my brother was four, I was seven and my mother was trying to vacuum over the sound of her sobs in the next room. Outside it was bright and cold which didn’t matter. Inside we had just finished filling the house with furniture, and mom had been sleeping in the guest bedroom, using the green comforter with the huge pink roses from the house where I was born. I had really liked that, because I didn’t have to come up with bad dream stories to cuddle with her, and there was more space. My dad said:
“Your mother has decided that she doesn’t love us anymore, so she is going to leave.”
My mother says that I wasn’t done cooking when I was born, I was in a hurry to have experiences but it made me colicky. This had become a recurring theme, hurry up and learn everything so you can suffer. I stood up, and was no longer tall for my age, I was older, it felt like standing up into a mask, and in my memory it happens in slow motion at first, then very fast.
“You promised you wouldn’t do this to us!”
I was furious at my father, immediately red-faced, I felt blind. I ran to my mother for help, but she was crying so hard at this point that she didn’t need to defend herself against what he had said. My brother looked around the dining room; I don’t know what he thought he was seeing.
They bought me a book and in the book the mother is vacuuming and crying, while the father tells the children in the dining room that it isn’t their fault, and that both mom and dad still loved them and it would be OK, and he was so sorry.
There were many times I would be given books that illuminated more than intended. From this book I learned that vacuuming was a necessary component in revealing divorce plans to children. I knew that my father’s word choice was wrong, that the fiction book was more realistic than what really happened. The girl in the book takes her crayons and “runs away” under a shrub in the backyard to live a nomadic existence in the wilds of her suburbia.
To be fair, my father’s house (as it was to be known from then on) was actually out in the real woods, and there were acres in which I could theoretically conceal myself until I became one of those T.V. skeletons. That didn’t prevent my deluxe set of crayons from melting completely in their plastic case, and as it turns out I didn’t last as long as the girl in the story, even though I had the presence of mind to pack ten chewy bars to sustain me.
So I went home, because I was out of options, and started seeing my dead cat in the halls at school, and had to get my brain scanned after my body went numb on the left side one too many times. I continued to scream in class, and be sent to the principal’s office, and steal from the book-fair on behalf of my not-friends. The staff wouldn’t even punish me because they felt so sorry for me. The adults knew that I didn’t have anyone, and treated me in the same fashion that they treated Robbie who was still peeing his pants by fifth grade. I could see how I was not the same, but I didn’t think they could tell the difference.
The divorce was brutal, and long, and covered in piles of horrible letters full of lies written by people who were supposed to care about each other. My grandmother wrote a letter about how my mother was so bad at brushing my hair that I would scream in pain and weep on the ground. These documents were never available for direct viewing as they were lost during my mother’s gleeful re-imagining of “A Fire at the Libraries of Alexandria: Cleopatra is Unmoved.” I believed that nobody could make this shit up, so it was likely true, and if they were lying, maybe that was even worse.
My father was banned from seeing us at one point, for almost a month. He arrived at our school during lunch with a bag of sandwiches, and I stood inside and watched them go outside and tell him to leave. I told them that it was OK and I wanted a sandwich, but they told me that I didn’t understand and to stop watching and to sit down.
Shortly thereafter I was given another book called “Squabbles” from serendipity books about a family of raccoons who could talk. The dad raccoon hit the rest of his family with belts and a door, and their friend buttercup the bunny had to be brave and speak up, and all the forest animals banned the dad from the town until he could control his temper. I hated that book, I hated it because I wasn’t stupid, and I disagreed, and it made me hate the serendipity series which I had started in kindergarten, which I had loved.
So I thought maybe I’d stop taking suggestions for a while, maybe I’d just read.