If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.
~ Sylvia Plath, from "Black Rook in Rainy Weather"
I really do get sick of my childhood. It’s a parasite I can’t seem to get rid of. It always comes back to bite me. It’s like malaria. Now and then it acts up and I run a fever. And then I begin speaking all my disordered thoughts. I need a cool cloth and quinine.
By now, I can list all the things that went wrong. I can grasp it intellectually. I suppose that is where poetry came in. I could grasp it with my heart. I could hold it and shape it; I could burn and not be destroyed.
It is difficult to accept how ugly love can get, if it can be called love, but god knows I would rather it were some kind of love than no love at all. As long as they loved me and wouldn’t leave me, I could endure. Not that I had much choice.
I was a pawn in a war my parents fought, and I had to exchange my allegiance for protection or be left to fend for myself. And it all took place on an invisible battlefield. In the visible world I was taken care of. I wasn’t neglected. I wasn’t beaten. I received affection. I was praised and fussed over.
But in this other world I was an object, a prize, a substitute companion, and for my mother, an extension of herself. There was no privacy. If I kept a diary, my mother would read it. She was always trying to get inside my mind. My body wasn’t particularly private, either. If there was a way to invade, she would find it. She usually slept with me. Not as in incest, but she slept with me because she didn’t want to sleep with my father, and because I was terrified of the dark. I had frightening images of hands appearing from under my bed. You know that scene of Freddie Kruger impaling that sleeping fellow through the mattress. That seemed to have leapt straight out of my own mind. It’s a telling image, I suppose. Hands. disembodied, waiting to grab me
Since I was on “her side” my father pretty much abandoned interest, except when he wanted affection, which I was not very enthusiastic about. I tried to avoid any physical contact with him. That seemed essential. I sometimes actually hid in the closet or under the bed. Not when I was very small – I still liked him then -- but when I was older.
So I didn’t trust them an inch, and yet I was completely dependent on them. I wanted to be loved, yet I wanted them at arm’s length. I hated them enough to sometimes worry that I might go into some sort of trance and murder them, then come round and realize that I had no one to take care of me. I was both hypervigilant and forgetful. I can’t be hypnotized, ever. I wont’ go under. But I could also induce forgetfulness. In the middle of whatever horrible crap was going on, I would tell myself that I would forget it, just forget it, it wasn’t really happening, and someday I would look back and it would be a blank. I think I lost my entire junior year of high school that way.
And, oh, the self-loathing. I was sure there was something crucial wrong with me, a fatal flaw that wasn’t fatal enough. I was guilty of something, and if I could figure out what and be punished for it, things might be better. There had to be something I could confess, some humiliation I could endure, some sort of self-immolation I could attempt to undue the crime. I was guilty of simply existing. I wasn’t supposed to exist. Of course I developed my own means of self-punishment, and God knows I sometimes still wish relief were as simple as a slash across my arm. Sometimes the thought of it is as alluring as a kiss.
It’s a miracle I’ve been able to have any normal relationships at all. It is amazing that I ever let a man touch me, when I thought of it as an invasion, violent in and of itself. Actually, it seems to have taken two marriages to come to terms with that. And I had children, which I once thought would be akin to incubating an alien life form so that it could rip you apart.
But, I suppose it isn’t odd that my view of God is lacking in the areas of mercy, love, protection, and, well, fill in the blank. It’s hard to believe in God’s love if you think you are a mistake, and how could I not be a mistake?. And how could God let me be born into this household and leave me at the mercy of two crazy people, to be violated in a variety of ways? Yes, yes, I know – God loves us and has a purpose for us. I give an intellectual assent to all the positive traits of God, but I don’t trust him an inch.