Family.Dys.Function

”I am going to outside to meet somebody.”

After a second’s worth of silence, Grannie cackles with malicious delight.

“As if.” She is behind me, always behind me, watching and listening. Criticizing and degrading. “You? Meet somebody?” Another cackle erupts from her. I try not to let her get to me. But it is hard.

“I am. I really am.” I get up from the chair and move towards the kitchen holding my coffee cup. Grannie’s cackling follows me.

“You are not. Remember, Gracie. We’ve had this conversation before.” She shouts it after me. In the kitchen, I deposit my cup in the sink, and then walk to the bedroom to find pants. I glance out of the window to check the weather. Blue skies and bright green leaves. Spring. I can almost smell freshly mowed grass on the air and hear ecstatic birds chirp and tweet above. A smile stretches my cheeks in unusual ways.

“Are you going somewhere?” Dad. Sounding worried.

“Yup. Have you seen the weather outside? It is beautiful. I thought I’d take a walk down to the pier, have an ice cream. Stracciatella and Strawberry. Remember?”

The grin on my lips widens. I haven’t been down to the pier in years, but back when I was a kid, dad and I would walk down there every weekend, fishing, talking and eating ice cream. The last time I was there was back when I was fourteen and hung up on Jesse Lipmann, who thought he was a cool surfer dude. I would watch him from the end of the pier. Pining and worried that he might drown.

“Are you sure?” Dad draws out his question as if he doesn’t know how to end it. I roll my eyes and ignore him. I open my closet and look at the clothes hanging there. The cool black jeans that are just a number too small or the gray corduroy slacks, baggy and comfortable.  The jeans of course. In honor of Jessie Lipmann and being cool. I wriggle them on, then check the mirror. The sweater clashes with the jeans so I pull out a shirt, the color of the sky outside, light blue. It is beautiful.

“Take me with you.” Josh says from the edge of the bed. He sounds happy and excited. I smile, but shake my head.

“Nope not today, you little monkey. Today me, myself and I, will go outside and meet someone, and you, you will cramp my style.” I wink at the mirror. “But tomorrow we can go to the park, feed the squirrels.”

“Aww but I want to go today.”

“I know. But tomorrow, monkey. I promise.”

”But why do you need to meet someone. I am right here. And Dad and Grandma and …”

I interrupt his wheedling litany.

“Because sometimes a girl wants more than just her family around.”

“But, why?” Oh, he is so young, so innocent. What does he understand of long lonely nights in a cold bed shared with no one? What does he know of the physical longing for a touch, slow and lingering? Tears suddenly burn my eyelids and I shake my head and don’t answer him.

Instead, I pull off my sweater and put on the blue shirt. It is soft and so, so gorgeous. I think it is the first time I have found a reason to put it on. A giddy feeling of happiness fills my stomach with butterflies, banishing the tears. I can almost see the one I am going to meet. Tall, broad-shouldered, a blond bear with an easy smile and warm, tender hugs. He will be sitting at the end of the pier, his feet casually dangling over the edge while he watches the gulls swoop across the horizon.

“Honey. It will be dark soon. Can’t you wait until tomorrow?” Dad the worrywart is back, almost as wheedling as Josh.

I snort at him. He hates that.

“Dad, it is three in the afternoon.  It won’t be dark for hours.” I look down on my feet. They are bare; I can’t go outside with bare feet. It is not warm enough for that, not yet. I remember hot summers, peeling off my shoes and walking down the pier in my bare feet, feeling every splinter and roughness and loving it. My mom always gave dad this look when we came home and she saw my feet. “What?” he would say back, shrugging his shoulders. “She’s got kevlar skin.” Mum would just shake her head and dad would wink at me when she wasn’t looking.

“Yes, but…”

“No but, dad. Not today. I am going.” I ponder the line of shoes at the bottom of my closet. There’s the trainers, white and boring, the ballerina flats, black and pretty, and the sneakers, bright red and sassy. I grin and grab the sneakers, feeling the colors of my choices boosting my energy. Gorgeous and Sassy. That is a great combination. Another flash of the blonde guy at the end of the pier. He will look at the shoes first, me standing over him, then his gaze will travel all the way up my legs and stop at the shirt. After a second he will finally look me in the eyes and smile this wide happy smile. The butterflies in my stomach quadruple.

“You’ll look like a scarecrow.” Grandma, tutting disapprovingly. I decide not to give her the pleasure of a reply and smirk at myself in the mirror instead. I sit on the edge of the bed, lacing up the sneakers. Josh makes a sobbing sound. He’s probably lying under the covers, hiding and sulking.

“They will not support your ankles right.”

“Dad, stop it. I am going outside, even if my shoes will hurt my feet. I will go outside if it starts to rain or if the sun decides to go down early, I will go outside if the world split at the seams. You can’t dissuade me.”

“I don’t like it. I think it is dangerous out there. The world is filled with dodgy men and criminals and…”

“Oh god! Shut up Dad!” Even though I’ve decided not to let him get to me, he grates on my nerves. I try to shake it off and walk out into the hallway. I’ve got three jackets. A heavy woolen pea coat for winter, a windbreaker for spring and a fleece jacket for whenever neither is good enough. I don’t want to wear either of them; I want to show off my beautiful blue shirt. But it might get chilly down by the pier so I grab the fleece and fold it over my arm.

I am ready.  The keys hang on their hook just inside the door. I stuff them into my pocket, then realize I need money for the ice cream as well. I rush back to the kitchen and grab a handful of quarters from the cookie jar. I am almost out of breath in my excitement, in my hurry to get out. I run back to the front door and pull the door open. And crash into a man standing on my doormat, holding a brown paper bag in the crook of one arm. I scream, a sound that makes ice water trickle down my spine, and he grunts then takes a step back so I have to grab the door to stay upright. I step back across my threshold and stare at the man.

“Gosh, I am sorry.” He says, looking a little shaken. He’s tall and stringy, with dark curls and dark eyes. I take another step back and hold on to the door handle extra hard, ready to slam the door in his face. “I think this is yours.” He looks down into the brown paper bag and holds out a slip of paper. “You’re Grace Chapowski right? Number 321B?” He glance at the door. The number 1 has been missing for years. It suits me just fine.

“The delivery guy left it at my door. I live right next door.” He smiles and looks past my shoulder into my apartment.

My brain has gone eerily silent and my body is rigid with apprehension. He is a stranger and I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to act. Do I smile and say thank you? Do I grab my groceries and slam the door in his face? Do I scream and make a scene? I don’t know how to handle this.

Air lodges at the top of my breastbone and dark panic starts to unfold itself, threatening to smother me. I must look like a ridiculously dressed deer caught in the headlights, I think to myself while the silence stretches and he shuffles his feet.

“Well. I will let you go. Here.” He holds out the bag towards me and, like I am a robot, my arms reaches out and takes hold.

I want to open my mouth, say thank you and smile at him nicely. I want to invite him inside and offer him a cup of coffee. I want to hug him and kiss him and…

I step back and close the door while he stands there, still looking a little shocked and surprised.

The paper bag splits when the door clicks shut and out tumbles milk and apples, a chocolate bar, a loaf of bread. A can of tomatoes. Half a pound of mince. I slide down the door, as tears starts to stream down my face, sitting among my groceries, sobbing and horrified. Embarrassed and so alone.

“Shhhhhhh. It will be all right, darling. Everything is going to be alright.” Mother’s voice is strong and soothing in my ear. “I am right here.”

“Scarecrow clown.” Grannie doesn’t do pity. She does glee and spite. “Couldn’t even say hi to your nice neighbor. He could have made you handsome babies, that one.”

“I told you honey. It is a dangerous world out there.” The worry is gone from dad’s voice. He sounds relieved and happy instead. “Come inside; let’s go sit in the window. What do you say?”

“Can we build a fort?” Josh shouts from the bedroom. “Oh please Gracie…. Come and build a fort with me.”

“Your groceries will spoil out here. You have to get them in the fridge. You can make pasta bolognese for dinner. You always loved bolognese, didn’t you darling?”

The image of the man I was going to meet starts to fade. I have lost. I know I won’t go outside now. The moment, the momentum is ruined. I have let myself down. They have let me down. They should help me, support me, but all they do is weigh me down, so I drown in the ever-present overwhelming fear.

A flash flood of rage catapults me from the floor.

“SHUT UP. JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP, ALL OF YOU. I DON’T LIKE YOU. I DON’T WANT YOU.”

I stomp into the living room, stopping in the middle of the room. My legs are trembling with pent-up energy, my fists are shaking, my teeth are gnashing against each other. I am about to explode. I want to run out of the door. I want to jump out of the window. I want to barge out into the hallway and throw myself at the dark-haired man. I want to escape. I want to live.

But I can’t. I am in prison. Living room, bathroom, kitchen and bedroom. Mom, dad, Josh and Grannie. They hold me here against my will. And I have nothing to fight them with.

I catch my reflection in the glossy surface of my TV and the rage dissipates. My beautiful blue shirt is wrinkled and splotched with tears. I can’t hear the birds chirping any longer. I can’t smell the spring in the air. I can’t remember the face of the blonde man at the end of the pier.

I move to the window and slouch into my chair. The sun winks in the distant blue of the ocean, almost blinding me, erasing the last few dregs of hope. Alone. I am all alone.

Report from the Looney Lands part 4.

I am off for a relatively early night. I’ve done good today even though I am pretty sure that once I am editing this “book” I’ll scrap just about every damn word I wrote today. Oh well. It’s all in a good cause I suppose.

Stats for the day

Words written: 2471/8985 (41015 to go)

Cups of coffee consumed: Not enough

Hours spent staring at the screen and/or procrastinating and/or “researching”: 1

Naps taken: Sadly none.

2013-11-03 11.43.01
Went for a walk yesterday, and just like the weather, the trees are a little ambivalent about the seasons. Most of them were losing their leafs and color, but a few of them were still a light green that made me think of spring and upcoming summer.

 

And here, just before I make a belly flop into my bed. Happy B-day Bro. I hope you’ve had a great day. HUGS!

 

Hmmm

My theme on wordpress is bugging me. I need to do some work on it, with skills I don’t exactly have. Maybe it is just easier to go look for a new theme.

Oh the problems a procastinating writer has.

 

Edit: Expect changing themes. I am fiddling.

Being a good girl

And how I hate it!

I don’t think my parents set out to produce a shy introverted doormat daughter, with self-esteem issues, but that is how I turned out. I emerged from my childhood, a good girl. I was always nice to people, I never said no. I was a living doormat for bullies and friends alike.

My father had quite a temper, and I was actually pretty scared of him. It probably didn’t make things better that my mother used him as a scare tactic if we misbehaved. “Just you wait until dad comes home.”

One thing that got my dad in the red zone was if my sister and I fought, and being sisters, close in age, room mates and very different people, we fought a lot. Loud shouting matches that escalated in pitch and fervor. If you have siblings you probably know what I am talking about. Dad would come storming into our room, his large body taking up the doorway, his eyes half-wild with frustrated rage, movements harsh and rough and he would shout us down, threatening all sorts of punishments if we didn’t stop immidiately, I learned to be afraid of a raised voice. To this day I shut down when people yell at me.

Another one of my dad’s legacies is that I don’t know how to express my anger very well. I get mad at people. I suck it up and turn it inward. For years and years I let people convince me I was wrong. All they had to do was say, you are wrong, because bla bla bla, I would nod my head, think: OK, that is probably true. And that was it. I offered no resistance. I never stood up for myself, I was convinced that they were right, I was wrong.

Over the last few years I have worked to teach myself, that being me does not equal TOTAL SUCKINESS. I have gotten better. My first “victory”, was telling a dude to mind his own business when he made a rather rude comment at a McDonalds. Not exactly me going ape-shit, but it still sticks in my mind. Speaking out, to defend myself, to show my anger in even the smallest way, in public, is worse than dying. It draws attention I very much need to be diverted elsewhere. So giving in to my anger was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

It still takes a lot to push me so far, that I will actually tell you that you have angered me in some way. But I do manage now and again. Preferably in an email.

Then a few weeks ago, I realized that yes, while I am slowly getting better at letting people know they’ve angered or hurt me, there are other things to learn besides getting angry and stand up for myself.

There was a thing with the evening shift leaving their crap lying around for the day shift to clean up. I got mad enough about it and took to the computer to a little letter for the guy in charge of the evening shift. I attached three or four pictures showing what I thought they’d done wrong according to our safety regulations and told him to take it up with his people. I hit send and dealt with my stomach that is the all time receptacle for all my insecurities and anxieties.

Next day there was a reply waiting for me. A few half-assed explanations and probably 10-12 pictures attached to it. The guy I had “told off” had taken time off from his duties to walk to our department to snap pictures here and there of things we hadn’t done very well. I could feel his smug self righteousness all over those images. They were the pixelated equivalent of a huge royal FUCK YOU BITCH.

I read the email and felt chastised. I internalized and regretted. Why had I sent off an email like that when we as a shift were no better? I discussed it with myself a lot that day, I still pick up the thought and try and get my head around it. This is the way I always react, I get mad, I react, I start to doubt myself.

While I saw the reply as a lifted finger of reproach, my boss and co-workers saw it differently.

“Pfft,” one said, “how childish can you get?”

Another one just shook her head in an Yeah-what’d-you-expect kind of way. And my boss just laughed at the reply, not looking too surprised. None of them took the reply serious, in fact they did the opposite, they rolled their eyes and hmmphed, they laughed him off, they got a little angry.

And it astounds me. That you can actually take a finger pointed at you and then laugh it off. That you can actually hold on to your anger/disapproval and not turn it inward. How can you be so sure that you are right that a pointed finger does not sway you in the least?

I really need to learn how to do that, I need to learn to take off the good girl cloak I am hiding under and start to accept that I have an side to me that get angry, and that I might actually be right in being angry.

 

Spring

 

According to my calender today is the first day of spring, and for once the weather is in perfect harmony. The sky is an uninterrupted, slightly winter pale, deep blue, the sun is beating down with a force that is a little surprising for this early in the year. Small yellow flowers are blooming in the green and yellow grass in my garden.

I wish I could convey how ecstatic it makes me, sitting with my back against the wall of my tiny house, with the sun warming me for the first time since last summer. There is a certain smell to the air, not of spring yet, but a prelude to it, the smell of freshly mowed grass is not far away.

if I close my eyes and listen to the exuberant birds singing in trees and bushes, the dog barking somewhere in the neighborhood and happy children laughing I can easily forget the clothes I am bundled into and pretend this is possibly the end of a long winter and soon the trees will release tiny green leafs in abundance. There is a simple word for this.

Joy.

View from my chair against the wall
View from my chair against the wall

 

Yellow Flowers
Beauty.. with not so beautiful clumsy finger.
Hannibal enjoyed the sun as well.
Hannibal enjoyed the sun as well.

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