Putting The Unsaid To Bed
The past few days I feel winter coming. Of course winter doesn’t so much come as slip a shiver down your spine.
“Say ‘brrr’, bitch! You’re in my house now!”
And what else is winter good for but to use its unwelcome darkness to help you adjust your eyes while you rummage through the unlit and unsorted messes of your life?
I peer down into my basement to find that what’s been haunting my house are The Unsaid.
Every so often (and so often!) I wake from a slumber of thought, while making my breakfast, or on the F train, or in (oh oh) the middle of a session, and notice I’ve just been in the middle of an argument in my head with someone from 40 years ago. What I wished I had said had I only been more present, or had had the balls, or the heart, or had only known then what I know now. All those unsaid things that instead were left to fester and take on a life of their own in my cluttered noggin.
They take up a lot of space, and I’m the one who pays the rent.
These are some of the unfinished conversations seeking to live again, and find resolution…
To dad: When you told me the truth, and to keep it a secret, I was 15. (And yeah, it was just this time of year.) I trusted you, and I really had little choice but to go along with not telling mom just how sick she was, and just how little time she had left. I know you did the best you could, but you robbed me, and her as well, of so much. And for years I would have recurring dreams of her returning — such a relief! — so I could finally fill her in on my life since the day I’d lost her, when I had to cease being real and disconnect from her suddenly and forever. Dad, I wish you had found a better way to handle it.
To Sister Sandy: You were the original flower child. A refugee from your family and the San Francisco cast of Hair, we found you in the Paradox Restaurant on 7th Street and brought you back to Pad Six. You helped make it a real home and we all fell in love with you. When you with all your heart sought one day to get me to try acid with you, and I said I wasn’t interested, you cried for me. Then you left, to find yourself somewhere else, and when we didn’t hear from you, I grew frantic. Actually, I was feeling abandoned. So when you called, finally, 6 months later, I ripped you a new asshole. I was dumping my rage on you at losing my mom a few years before. You hung up, sounding broken, and none of us ever heard from you again. You will never know how sorry I am I hurt you.
To Debby Jackson (my girlfriend at Pad Six, who I wrote about last week, and who taught me so much): I’m so sad I never had the chance to say what I have felt so deeply: Thank you for all you gave me! Including your final gift of breaking up with me, which broke my heart, and opened my life, and woke me up so I could grow up. You did me permanent good. And now it’s too late to let you know. I just hope that somehow you knew.
To the Indiana mother who put me up one night in ’73: I’d been hitching, and your teenage son gave me a ride, and then a place to stay for the night at your house. You were all so gracious, but in the morning over breakfast, you were talking about some local businessman, and how very stingy and penny-pinching he was. I stared into my cornflakes and knew what was coming. When you said, “That guy is such a Jew!” I just kept staring. I always regretted that moment, when I didn’t say, “You’re talking to one right now.”
To David W. – you were my next-door neighbor growing up. The kid closest in age to me, but still three years older. I looked up to you as the older brother I never had and so desperately needed. One day you betrayed our friendship in a shitty way, by putting my mother down in front of the guys. Fuck you for that.
To Louisa: We were friends back in the day, and could have been more, no? Then you had your big motorcycle accident. When I visited you in the hospital, you shocked me by your tails of how the staff was repeatedly entering your room at night and having their way with you. I cajoled you into giving me your shrink’s number. “Oh yes, we call it post-accident psychosis (nowadays it’s a kind of PTSD). Don’t worry, she’ll be fine in a while”. He was right, but when you fully recovered, you were so mortified, you never spoke to me again. Oh my dear, we both lost out! But I learned from you how embarrassment or shame can build walls between people, and how I had to try to never let that happen to me.
To my first wife, who started in the middle of the marriage to inexplicably consume massive quantities, and now I see why: You were getting back at me for ignoring you at night, often attending this meeting or that workshop. It could never have worked out between us, but I’m sorry I made you so lonely!
So putting all these Unsaids to bed is supposed to be a way of wrapping up the old and moldy messes and discarding them.
But I’m getting tired of all this. This recollecting, completing, kneading the past. How long have I been under? Sometimes I think I’ve been hiding down below all my life. Playing life low to the ground where there’s oxygen for sure and never too far to fall.
Life can be short or long. Also short or tall. I’ve lived hunkered down in my skin far too long.
It’s a habit. Watched my father come home one night from signing the biggest deal of his life, Champaign and all, but containing himself. This is as good as it gets, he seemed to be saying — happily, ruefully. It’s all just alright. Nothing more.
Maybe it’s a family thing, this refusal to rejoice at simply being here.
In an old song called “Maya”, there’s this line about the Ship Of The World, with Jesus and Hitler and all of us who’ve ever been alive, and how we…
“All sat down in one boat together.
Troubled voyage in calm weather.”
This occurs to me now:
If my troubled, worry-soaked, 20 year old head, so hairy and heavy and by that time so tied up in knots, could possibly have peered into the future here at 63, at the life he had wound up creating, and at the world he had wound up living in, he would have been so utterly relieved!
So right now, even with winter afoot, I feel a bit lighter.
I’m putting the Unsaid to bed, so that maybe I can wake up.