violetcheetah: (Default)
You probably don't want to read these dreams; they involve nuclear holocaust, and living but rotting bodies (chiefly mine), and non-functional bathrooms. I post them in part because these are themes that come up in my dreams with an exhausting regularity, and in part because it was somewhat unique to have three archetypal-for-me dreams in the course of two nights. If you have been curious in the past about what I meant when I referred to "armageddon dreams" or "bathroom dreams," this post will give you examples. If you are also curious about the kinds of dreams that I gather are common among trauma survivors, then read on.

Read more... )



The story

Jun. 29th, 2016 01:26 pm
violetcheetah: (Default)
[trigger warning for child sexual abuse]Read more... )


violetcheetah: (Default)
This started off as stream-of-consciousness writing to my shrink, and I'd like to be able to turn it into something more precise and focused, but my mind, for months, has been unable to think in a precise, focused way. So rather than pretend to myself that someday soon I'll tighten it into "real" writing, I'm just going to post it now.

Read more... )



violetcheetah: (chess)
Some children,
in the night,
call to their parents
to protect them from
the monster in the closet.

Some children,
in the night,
open the closet door
and hope the monster inside
will protect them.




violetcheetah: (Default)
[I wrote this in June. I meant to edit it to be more coherent before posting it, but that's not going to happen, so I'm posting it as-is.]



I was six, or maybe seven; it was after the library opened, but before I was reading chapter books. I'd checked out a book by Richard Scarry; he drew a world where the town was populated by animals doing people-things: perhaps the postman was a dog dressed in a postman's pants and shirt, the nurse was a cat with a smock and white cap. They had a playset at the library, all the characters and roads and buildings of the town, and I loved them with the greed and longing and desire of a six-year-old, almost as much as I loved books. And this book was enormous; not thick, but maybe 12 by 15 inches, and when you are six, bigger is better, bigger is grown-up.

I sat on my mother's lap while she read it to me. I was old enough to read, had been for years, but I wanted her voice behind my ear, her hand turning the pages; I wanted her there to see things I pointed out in the pictures that I hadn't noticed the first dozen times, so I could share that magic of discovery and feel it again. We sat on "her" side of the couch, under the lamp. My father, as always, sat on the other side of the couch. Often he watched TV as we read, and I was used to tuning out the noise and hearing only my mother. Tonight the TV was probably on, but I couldn't hear it, because my father was drunk, and he was yelling.

He was mainly yelling at my mother. He usually directed everything at her, because when he was drunk, I was invisible. He might threaten to burn down the house "with all of you in it," but he wasn't talking to me; I was just eavesdropping. The words weren't meant for me, because I wasn't there, and if I'd said something, or made a noise — even whimpering — I instinctively knew he would be surprised to see me there and also angry that I was listening in on something not intended for me. So I sat on my mother's lap, not moving, not being seen by him, while she read to me as if his screaming was the everynight drone of the TV. He did not know I was there. She did not know I was there, either; she read the book to my body, as if my mind inside were the same as every other night. She read as if I could hear her, as if I didn't hear my father, or smell his fermented breath, or comprehend his words. She read as she would have if I were looking at the pictures, discovering new things, pointing out those discoveries. The lack of my presence was not important. I knew this. The important thing — the only important thing — was that the stageplay go on, that my body stay in her lap until the back cover closed, without acknowledging the audience of one (my father), even as he climbed on stage and stood screaming at us. Because…

I was too young to know sci-fi, or fantasy, to know of parallel universes or overlapping worlds or ghosts that inhabit the same room as the living without ever being seen — and more importantly, without being able to touch the living. But he was a ghost screaming at my mother, apparently unheard. And I knew that was the magic spell. I was sure that, as long as he didn't think she heard him, he couldn't act. I don't think I knew for sure if she couldn't actually hear him or was just pretending, but I didn't think about it because it didn't matter; what matter was that he -thought- she didn't hear him. As long as he thought she didn't hear him, he couldn't act, couldn't do the things he was threatening. And I needed — from my own, third, universe that was not the same as either of theirs — to both not distract her from her not-awareness, and to not let him see -me- be aware of him. So I was still. My body didn't move, and my mind didn't move, not until the book was closed and my body could exit the stage. I don't remember that part, the closing of the book and my leaving. But I must have done it, and done it well, because he did not burn down the house that night or shoot us in our beds.
violetcheetah: (Default)
This is the first letter I have received from my mother in the last three years.  I'd written her three times.  I haven't phoned in that time, except to call and ask if there was a family history of heart arrhythmia, because my doctor wanted to know.  She has phoned me once, to tell me my aunt, her sister, had died; she called me about two weeks after the funeral.  

I may repost this letter annotated with my thoughts later, but for now, I'm just posting her own words.  She seems to think I post everything about her on Facebook, so I might as well not disappoint her.  I'm not sure which of her friends who are also my friends on FB have shown her things I've written; I don't mind, am even glad of whatever posts my mother has seen, but if you're reading this and have shared my posts with her, I'd love you to Private Message me if you could give me any insight on her state of mind.

I will note that, in the letters to her, I told her I wouldn't share any details of her life she didn't want shared.  However, she never shared any details, and I did not agree not to share my own memories of events I lived through.

I would also ask that anyone reading this post not resort to publicly calling her names or belittling her or otherwise opining that "What she thinks isn't important, anyway."  You may mean it as a comforting-to-me gesture, but it's not going to comfort me.  I welcome thoughtful responses, but not dismissive ones.

-----

[received October 5, 2015]

I don't know how to answer you. I am not going to argue with you.

Talking to you is like talking to a drunk

"Tell me all the bad thing you ever did. Tell me all the bad things that ever happened to you. So I can put them on the Internet for the whole world to read. I just want to "comfort" you. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me."

You seem to think it is terrible for me to talk to a family member about someone we are both concerned about. But you seem to think it is okay for you to tell everybody your version of something and then when somebody doesn't agree with you — you get mad.

So I won't talk to you about anybody in the family again.

I won't tell you anything about my life — good or bad.

I won't tell you anything about my friends. I don't even want you knowing who they are. Because we don't want to be the subject of one of your rants on FaceBook.

No, I don't talk about you to anyone — not even family. I don't tell anyone about your "craziness."

You do. If you don't want people to think you are crazy — then don't act like it. When you get on FaceBook or your Blog and rant and rave over and over and over, what do you think people are going to think of you?

It may surprise you to learn that I know a few people with your type of mental illness. They always hate the person who loves them most — usually their mother. They blame them for everything they think is wrong with their life.

You are like a little kid. "It's all your fault. Make me happy."

I wish I could give you happiness and peace. But I can't. You have to do that yourself.

And you can't be happy or at peace when you are so full of hate that all you want to do is hurt other people.

It's your choice.

[unsigned]
violetcheetah: (Default)
"Do not speak the words aloud,"
the wise sorceress warned her child.
"No matter how forcefully they shriek in your mind,
you must never utter them,
for the earth will rip and
the sky will burn and
time itself will spin askew so that
the future will have happened and the future,
my child,
if you have said the words aloud,
will be unspeakable agony for all,
and you,
my child,
will be responsible."

And so of course the child
did not speak them,
even as every day they clanged
like fighting church bells
only she could hear.
And as she grew,
they grew louder,
until each time she opened her mouth
she feared they would escape,
and so she ceased to speak at all.

Her silence was noted
by the elders of the town
and presumed to be the price
of colluding with Dark Forces,
and she dared not tell them differently.
So she was tied to a stake
above a pyre that was then
set ablaze,
and she sighed in relief
that the words would die with her
and the world would be safe.

But the sigh pulled the smoke
into her lungs,
and each cough
only brought more,
each cough deeper
and louder
and more like a voice,
until she was speaking,
begging,
"Come soon,
death,
come now,
before — "
BUT death didn't obey,
and helplessly
she felt the words she dare not say
rip through her closing throat

where they fell like strong
but gentle rain
upon the pyre,
smothering first the smoke
and then the fire.
The crowd stared in wonder,
and then bowed to gaze
at the ground in shame,
until finally first the children
and then each woman and man
turned toward the back of the crowd
to see the sorceress,
her mouth agape
but stricken in silence,
unable to believe
the world was still here.




violetcheetah: (Default)
This post is kind of a sandwich: cat-whisperer giddiness to start and end, with some oversharing about psychological trauma in the middle.

------
Read more... )


violetcheetah: (Default)
Two short pieces from workshop tonight:

***


Suffer, little children,
And then you may come unto me.
How can I take your pain if you have none to offer?
Your father, like mine, is holy:
He is only doing what must be done
To mold you into what you need to be
If you are ever to join me in heaven.
I know you can't tell the difference now
Between the fires of hell
And this forge you are living in,
But some day you will understand.
You will sit at my right hand
And my own daddy will kneel before you
And beg your forgiveness.


***

"You will be the Good Shepherd," he told me. "You will be perfect and pure and whiter than snow, and they are sheep, after all, so they will follow you."

He left me with them on the mountainside, never doubting I would succeed, because I was his son. He expected me to know what to do, to tell where the wolf howl was coming from and to lead them away, but I'd never even heard a wolf, and it's a beautiful song, enticing and intoxicating and hauntingly sad, and nothing that sad can be a danger, anything that sad should be comforted, so I sought out the maker of the melancholy melody and the flock followed me without hesitation. With no one left to shepherd, I had no choice but to be his lamb, and lead myself gently to slaughter.



transplants

Aug. 8th, 2013 11:20 pm
violetcheetah: (Default)
There was no writing workshop this week, but Toni supplied a prompt via Facebook. It led me to try again to write a piece I first attempted over a month ago.

-----

She said she should really plant some trees. Not that she wanted to, but people kept telling her she should. The two ageless maples that had grown near the house she'd lived in for nearly 50 years had broken in the ice storm, and now all that was left were the stumps, two feet in diameter. People told her the acre looked so bare, and to my mind they were right: the small ranch house, green siding fading into the surrounding grass, at the top of the now-treeless hill. No flowers, of course; my father thought flower beds were too much trouble, and my mother never objected, whatever her feelings. From the road, the house looked both small and ominous, shrunken and looming.

Well, I could plant trees, I said, if she could get them delivered from whatever nursery she bought them from. She said actually, she'd been thinking of just digging up some from the overcrowded eastern fence row. I said I would love to do that; it appealed to my frugality and my love of the underdog, of the overlooked. Just pick out the ones you want, I said, and tell me where you want them planted. But she didn't get around to it that year.

That was April 2010, the first time I'd been "home" since December 1996. I asked again about the trees on my next visit, a year and a half later so I could be there for the family reunion so she could show me off to the relatives. She got as far as saying she'd like a couple of redbuds, maybe, maybe over thataway — she motioned toward where the clothesline used to be — she definitely didn't want them too near the house, for the next ice storm to topple. She was 69 years old, and they would be saplings when I planted them, but that was her wish. Or maybe, she reconsidered, along the western boundary, one or two to break up the expanse between her yard and the empty acre next to it. But things were busy, my brother was home and wanted to go places, and she never made her selections.

Last September was just as busy: my brother home, the family reunion, the couple of days I wanted to spend with my stepsister across the state. But I had a drive this time, overcoming my own inertia and hers, as well. I chose a tree, one I could get to, one that was at the upper end of what I thought I could manage, and I showed her: I'm thinking that one. She didn't say no, and I got out the shovel.

It was warm and humid even in mid-September, so I didn't work during the heat of the day. I spent a couple of hours in the morning, stopping about the same time the dew dried, and then went back out near sunset, digging until I could no longer see and then maybe 15 minutes longer. It was hard, harder than I'd thought, and I usually expect the worst. The ground was solid clay and clotted with sawbriar roots, tangled like barbed wire and nearly as strong. I was concerned that I wasn't hitting many roots from the sapling, but I Googled "redbud roots" and found that they have a taproot. I pictured something as big around at the three-inch trunk, maybe several feet deep, and wondered how it would deal if I had to cut through partway down. If I got that far; I thought I might have to fly home before I ever finished, leaving a dry moat and a mound of dirt until the next visit.

But once I got past the first six inches, the sawbriar roots petered out, and without them I could get a bit of purchase on the clay. With two days left, I reached the pivotal moment, when the tree leaned a bit to one side, a bit more with the shovel as a lever, then with my boot against the trunk, rocking it farther and farther askew, more work with the shovel, more shoving, and finally I put my boot against the shovel handle and rocked that, eyes squinted, ready for it to splinter at any moment. But there was no sudden crack, just the tree tilting with a creak until the branches brushed the ground, a deeper creak from within the soil as the taproot broke free, or just broke, and then there was air below the suspended root ball.

I measured the tree while it was supine; it was 14 feet tall. The taproot was pitiful, barely an inch thick, twisted and forked as it had tried to find a path down through clay too hard even for its wooden will. I was glad I'd carved out a wide root ball, because it would need all the strength it had. I was less glad once I started trying to drag the tree and roots and earth across the acre and up the hill; it took me close to half an hour of full-out sweat-dripping cursing to get it to its destination. Planting was the easy part, even counting the ropes and stakes and pulling it upright from side after side until it only leaned a little, and that into what would be the winter wind.

There were also four other trees, smaller ones whose roots had been so close to my prize that they were all but dug up anyway. I planted two on each side of the 14-footer, each a third of the way down the hill. One was a smaller redbud, two were maples — one barely a yard high — and one was a mystery, with online research leading me to guess hickory.

I called my mother in May, the first call I'd made since I'd gotten the letter in November, the letter telling me I'd made up most of my memoir out of whole cloth. It hadn't even occurred to me to call her after the Marathon bombing, and she'd never called me to ask if I'd been affected. We didn't talk about the bombing, or the letter; it was as if she'd never sent it, as if she'd never read my story. She told me that four of the five trees had survived the winter; only the mystery tree hadn't leafed out. The big redbud had even bloomed — not a whole lot, she said, but promising for the first year. A couple of weeks later, I got my birthday card, and a note that said the mystery tree had leafed out after all.

I don't know how they've fared over the summer; I haven't had the strength to call. I don't know when I'll see them — not this year, I know — or if they'll be alive when I'm next at the house where I grew up. I don't know what my mother feels when she sees them. Loved? Cared for? Looked after? I don't know what I feel. I know that what I can give her is not what she wants. But I gave her what I could, dirt and sweat and stubbornness, and a line of fragile, stubborn sentinels who will dig as deep as they are able, doing everything they can to live. Maybe it will be enough.



violetcheetah: (Default)
After getting involved in other stuff for, oh, nine months, I was in the mood to play with ancestry.com again tonight (spurred by the knowledge that my 80-year-old aunt whose the genealogy buff on that side of the family is in a nursing home with bone cancer, so I should really collect what I have found so far sometime real soon now).  And I found a tidbit that only makes sense now that I understand the nuances of colonial Massachusetts:

My 7th-great grandfather was born in 1683 in Bristol, Massachusetts.  Died in 1757 in Bristol, Rhode Island.  Same place, brand new breakaway colony.  So I wasn't surprised to find that yup, his father was born in 1651, his mother in 1655, both in Salem, Massachusetts.  My response to this: Yeah! I don't just have pilgrims in my family, and have the pilgrims who said "F*&^ you" to the soon-to-be witch-burners and got the hell outta dodge before things got toasty!  Counterculture hippy pilgrims!  Yeah!


violetcheetah: (Default)
Written on June 12 at Write Here Write Now; took until now to decide whether I wanted to post publicly.

-----

She changed my mind.
Baptized my brain in cortisol
without laying a hand.
By not laying a hand.
I am Harlow's monkeys,
she is the hollow cloth form
I cling to still,
knowing it's hollow, and yet.

I prattled away as a child to her,
a figment of my own imagination,
never knowing I was alone,
never knowing she was
carefully making me
in her hollow image.
violetcheetah: (chess)
Tani's sister, upon reading the piece I wrote about him, unsurprisingly requested I write a story about her. This was what poppped into my head.

-----

We went to Roger Williams Zoo fairly often, Heather and Tani and Alissa and me, but this was our first time at Southwick's Zoo, three days before Lis's fifth birthday. It was a pretty average zoo trip: the kids going back and forth between excitement over something new, disappointment over much-anticipated animals not being as much fun as they'd hoped, a couple of mini-meltdowns from overstimulation, and of course begging. There are a lot of novel things to buy at zoos, presented in ways that are irresistible to children: food, stuffed animals, other toys, t-shirts.

Heather has pretty remarkable willpower, though, so generally with her kids the begging and bargaining goes on long enough to be kinda sit-com funny and strangely comforting, but not so drawn-out that it's like one of those SNL skits that never ends. And she did allow certain indulgences; it's a zoo, after all, and a day to spoil the kids a little. Lis had her first sno-cone, I remember, and was highly pleased when I had her look at her now-blue tongue in a mirror. And Heather told them early on that they each got one and only one "big" thing. So each time we passed, say, a kid-sized roller coaster, or a pony ride, and the kids begged, Heather said, "Well, you can decide at the end of the day whether that's your big thing, or that other thing is."

Lis's final decision was the pony ride. It was just a circle with about four ponies, sort of a live carousel, but without the flashy lights or jangly music or bright paint that would attract most children. The ponies just sedately walked around a circle, each one led by a worker holding a lead rope, although I don't think the workers were necessary; the ponies knew the deal, and seemed pretty content with their jobs. I was surprised she chose something that seemed so mundane, and I was dreading the meltdown of disappointment once it was over and she realized she'd blown her "big" thing while Tani had chosen the roller coaster.

Then the worker set her on the back of the pony. -Her- pony, at least for that five minutes. Her eyes were wide, her shoulders raised with the tension of a held breath. I remembered the first time I'd been on a horse's back, twice her age but still young enough to be both giddy and afraid of the power of the animal beneath me, power that was almost mine but not quite. I'd been astride, but it was the horse's choice to allow it, and I'd been humbled and proud at the same time that he'd allow me to borrow his power. I don't know that Lis felt any of that, but she was obviously not going to be disappointed.

What I remember most was her laugh. The entire time she was on that pony, she laughed in a way I'd never heard her laugh, never heard any kid laugh. It wasn't a high-pitched giggle, or brief loud shrieks. It was low, almost guttural, barely audible from where I stood 15 feet away, a series of five or six quick, soft tuts, dove-like, then an inhale and five or six more. It made me think of the bass line of a piece of music, a monotone you don't pay much attention to, but that is a necessary foundation to the whole piece. I couldn't hear the rest of the music, but I could see it on her face. There was a symphony of emotions within her, and clearly it was exactly the song she wanted to hear.

Once it was over, she of course asked if she could have another ride. Of course Heather said no, because those were the rules. I was surprised that Lis didn't protest, but she just sighed, still smiling with the melancholy contentment of someone much older than not-quite-five.



A child

Jun. 16th, 2013 10:49 am
violetcheetah: (chess)
Another piece from a Write Here Write Now workshop. There is no deeper meaning to my posting it on Fathers Day.


-----

I don't like children. I was a child, and when I was a child, children made my life hell. Well, adults did, too, but that was expected. When I'm with children, I expect them to say something aloud that I always think everyone around me is too polite to say, and it isn't that I can't bear that they are -thinking- it, I just dread the awkwardness after it's released from their mouth, the mother shushing them and saying, "We don't say things like that out loud."

My friend Heather called one day, and after a few minutes of small talk, she said, "Well, I'm finally pregnant." I blurted out the first thing that came into my head, which would have been bad with pretty much anyone else I knew because it would have been "Oh God," but with heather it was "thank god."

When Tani was about 18 months old, she asked if I'd be interested in baby-sitting him one evening a week while she and her husband took a literature class together. It was about two years after I started the drug cocktail that calmed my PTSD and lifted my depression, and these days I felt like I did a pretty good job of passing as normal, but I was still passing. "You seriously trust me with your progeny?" She glared at me over her glasses, an "Oh please" look, but there was a split second before she rolled her eyes when I saw something. She did. She trusted me. She knew everything about me, about who I had been, and she's not a fool, and she trusted me with her child.

My "shifts" with him started after dinner was over, so it was pretty much just: play with him for a couple of hours, change him into pajamas, and gently bear-hug him on the couch for fifteen minutes until he went from wailing, "No no no" to rubbing his eyes to sleep. Playing with him turned out to be easy. Mostly, I built towers out of blocks, and he knocked them down. We could do that for an entire evening sometimes. Sometimes he'd reach out after the third level and shove, sometimes he'd wait patiently, his head cocked, perhaps curious about some pattern of blocks I was using.

One night, he wandered away while I was still constructing. He'd never done that before, and I felt a little pang, wondering if the last time had truly been the last time we'd play this game. But I kept adding levels, whether he cared or not, eventually using pretty much every block in a cantilevered marvel nearly four feet high. I turned around and watched him in the sun room, making truck noises with his Tonka bulldozer. "Ta-ni," I sing-songed. I had to repeat it before he looked up. And then he saw. His eyes and mouth formed perfect circles before the grin started, the cat-like glee at impending destruction. He ran in his drunken stagger past me, lurching to a stop a stubby arm's length from the tower. He drew in a breath, flung his arms forward —

But not all the way. His hands stopped a couple of inches from the tower, his eyes and mouth round again. Then the gleeful giggle, his hands back in mid-air, and he stopped again. He looked at me, flapped his hands while abject joy radiated from him. He stood there, laughing and dancing and anticipating, for probably two minutes. He was not yet two years old, so two minutes of delayed gratification was an eternity. Finally, he reached out, slowly, deliberately, placed both hands gently on the blocks, and slowly, deliberately, shoved. He stood stoically as the blocks collapsed with their wooden cacophony. In the silence, he turned to look at me again, gave a deep, satisfied sigh, and plopped down on the floor by the rubble.

That was the night I knew I loved that kid.



violetcheetah: (Default)
In December, I posted the letter my mother sent me after she read my memoir about my father. After two months of subconscious percolation, I sat down last night and composed a response. I don't know if I will send it pretty much as it is, or if I should further temper my words. I'm not expecting a warm reply; my goal isn't to mollify and smooth things over, and I think anything honest I say is going to make her defensive, because my version of reality is... just not one she's comfortable with. I don't want to be wantonly provocative, but there were things she said that I couldn't not call out because they were unacceptable (which sounds like I'm disciplining a 5-year-old: "Timmy, that's unacceptable, you need a time-out.") and there were places where her version of events not only didn't fit my memory, but seemed to contradict themselves or contradict facts. It worries me. Denial and defensiveness are understandable, but when I can't see the internal logic... well, she's 70, and she still seemed pretty mentally sharp when I was visiting in September, but I'm a worrier. Anyway, I welcome any thoughts on whether I'm too harsh, not harsh enough, not clear enough, whatever.

Also, if you want to read the memoir that is the source of the friction, it's gonna be free on Kindle tomorrow, presumably from about midnight to midnight Pacific Time.

My reply behind the cut )




violetcheetah: (Default)
So, on November 23, I wrote about the enlightening phone conversation I'd had about a month earlier with my mother, regarding the memoir I wrote about my father. I had locked the post at the time, but I don't really feel a need to keep it private, and while there's a good bit of revenge in my motives, I also want the input of more people who know the people in question, and I want the following letter to be accessible to other people I don't know who might have a similar family dynamic, so they can feel less alone.

[I'll try to keep the editorializing to a minimum; my own notes will be in square brackets.]Read more... )

violetcheetah: (butler)
This summer, I wrote a short memoir about my father. As you can probably guess from the title (Daddy Dearest: Tales of Terror and Glorious Schadenfreude), it's not exactly veneration. I've achieved a kind of acceptance, and something between pity and sympathy, but the fact remains that living with him was miserable and scary for me, and understanding him now doesn't change what I felt as a child.

My mother never understood my anger. I don't think she ever really understood the depths of my fear; I'm not sure anything scares her, and maybe she doesn't believe that anyone else truly feels afraid. I used to try to explain, but when you tell someone you are afraid and they respond, "No, you're not," it kinda ends the conversation. She also doesn't want to hear anything negative about my father in general, or anyone in the family.

When I was home in mid-September, I gave her a copy of the memoir. I wasn't hoping for some miraculous connection with her, for her to suddenly understand me and accept me and unicorns and rainbows. I used to think that if I explained myself well enough, I could get her to understand. Even after I knew it would never happened, I still hoped for it. I've stopped hoping. That sounds sad, but it isn't. She's never going to understand most of me, either because she's incapable, or because she can't bear to without breaking herself. I don't need her to understand anymore. But I still wanted her to hear me, and I wanted to hear her response, even though it was surely going to be unpleasant.

I called her at the end of October, and after we talked about the goings-on in her town and church and family, and I gave her the highlights of my own life that I wanted to share, I asked if she had read the memoir. There was a pause, as there often is on the phone with her. "Yes." After another pause, she continued, "Some fact, some fiction."

This was the point at which I would normally be crushed. Disapproval, disappointment; I could see her pursed lips. But I realized I was smiling. Smirking, actually, trying not to let laughter leak into my voice. "Well, I tried to write it as best I remembered, but nobody's memory is perfect. What are some of the things you remember differently?"

She was silent for several seconds, and then I heard her breathe in. I held my own breath. "Oh, I don't want to get into now. Sometime when we have more time."

I almost said, "Wow" out loud. I was in a Tennessee Williams play, or a political campaign movie. Had she just called me a liar, and then when I asked what I was lying about, had she simultaneously refused to specify and indicated that there were too many untruths to list? "Well," I said again, "I'd love for you to write down your thoughts, and the way you remember it."

And then she changed the subject. My mother never changes the subject. At least twice during any phone call, I ask, "Are you still there?" because she just falls silent when a topic is exhausted. But now she started talking about a neighbor's recent health scare, and the memoir was gone from the conversation. Then the call was over, and I got up and fed the cats and fed myself, pausing occasionally to laugh and say "Wow."

I've been waiting for three weeks now for the other shoe to drop, for the second-guessing and shame and frustration to hit. Still hasn't happened.

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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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