Look at me. Do I look strong to you? Perhaps someone who might have her shit together. If I were to walk out in public is that what people ought to think of me?
These narcissistic words were always something I picked up on since a young girl. I can deal with a lot, if only people kept on regarding me in a way that deemed I was within expectations to. What else would give you enough strength?
I have always had in the back of my mind that I take care of myself. It’s not a sound philosophy. Truly demented in a lot of areas because the sky is only the size of a well when we’re looking up at it. And if we ever find ourselves spending too much time looking out into space, well, it’d be hard to make it to another day.
It’s easy enough to put on a proud front when there’s an audience. It’s easier when your proud front is still attached nobly to the maternal blood. That way all that pride and nobility isn’t in fact your’s, but just an extension of your blood relations. Nobody who’s read my blog thus far would be news struck. I’m a mean old Duck if it means saving the soft skin of a naive bosom. Yes, I will peck and I will bite. And I will just as quickly bite my own tongue to reserve myself to my own place because that isn’t within the means of my public image. See how it all sorts of works its own radical way out?
I wonder what it is that brings all writers to their knees when they are at last placed in front of an instrument to vent. Everything is hard to say.
When I had dinner with my cousins and aunt the other night, the first question asked was, “So, what do you do now”-“How’s your place”-“Is it big, small?”-“How much is rent”-“How much do you make”-“When do you plan on going to school?”-“So your mother is still not working? How lucky”-“Yes, I just went to Mexico and New York, I work hard.”-“Did you hear about your other aunt? She’s in a situation.”
I suppose this is the entity of a family dinner. Audible tension and palpable discretion are the makings of a great evening. Was I reading too much into her words? Was there in fact no further implication between the finishing of the sentence about my mother’s prolonged unemployment and the fact that my aunt’s trip to Mexico and New York was free because she has no money?
It took me several years, but alas I finally started to feel that prickly sensation of doubt as my mother had always expressed towards our family. “But why mom, she’s my aunt. My cousin.” I had said.
I get it now.
Between my sister and I, we had built up our own riot during the ride there. I held my tongue to comment that her spending so much time with her boyfriend and his peers had led to the tendency to assert one’s opinions about the roads and a better plan to get there, loudly and passive aggressively. I used to think it was amusing to witness between the two of them, but now I see that it is plain irritating and greatly offensive to a degree. On our way back, we exchanged our thoughts on our other aunt’s situation. We gave our sympathy to our cousins. It felt overbearing and none of our business. Who were we to express condolence for a situation we have no partake in and were not asked to be apart of. I felt I should have just stayed home, where I belonged. Where the passing of days are blocked by the blinds, and I can mutually dread and look forward to my work place, a stage of refuge for sorts.
Tonight, I have just returned from another outing. My aunt from Calgary flew over to visit until the middle of March. Before dining she had gently placed her hand on my shoulder to tell her companion in Vietnamese that, “Sarah was always one of my favorite in school, she was so smart – but she just decided to take a break now.” At that point she waved her other spare hand in the air as if to brush off the absolute illusion that her companion had wanted to retort a disagreement. It all happens so fast in real life you can’t even react to it, but once it’s logged into your head, god, it keeps playing beautifully in stark detail. Goddamn, that is my decision, and mine only. Fuck them and the idea of rent and making a living for yourself.
I also found out she has osteoporosis, but saw to it that I was increasingly unable to even manage a front to care. She says, “My daughter (Victoria) says, ‘Mom you need to exercise.’ but hun, how do you get muscle on your back?” We visited the local Costco, and she continues, “And my husband says I should drink more milk, eat cheese, but gosh, I’m lactose intolerant and it always upsets my stomach….” and I was shocked into the realization that this had been the exact same lifestyle I lived when I was 13. It terrified me that for the moment it appeared nothing had changed in the last 5 years.
Had I not tried hard enough? Did I accomplish nothing?
That makes me want to cry. Or just throw a tantrum.
Before we left each other for the night, she repeatedly confessed her worry that my spare key to the old house would not work. I assured her it did.
“What do you think…the house in Surrey…it’s safe, right?”
For nth time, I told her yes. I was biting my own tongue trying not to ruin my image. But why do they ask? Why do two sisters, my mother and her, ask me the same rhetorical question. I would grab their shoulders and shake the reality into them.
They ask because it was broken into last winter, yes, for fuck’s sakes, but would getting my permission, my repeated assurance help?
It makes me mad not the fact that they ask, but that they are scared.
And it translates to so many more areas in life. Why are you scared? You shouldn’t be scared. You don’t have the right to be. On the same catatonic level, I worry – what if I can’t take care of my mom? What if I’m not strong enough, mentally tough enough; what if I were just more disciplined; what if everything people think of me is wrong? I’m a bad person, they should know that. God, what if I’m just dwelling in my own mess. Does that make me worse? Shit, shit shit. What if I…
I curl up into myself and I fear the people that might reach out. I fear that out of irrationality I will alas blurt out, Well fuck, I don’t trust you.
Or at least at the end of the day, I will be the one having the last words to say, “I take care of myself.”
I always hit this quiet amorphous wall when my sister tells me so unaffectedly that I worry too much. She waves her hand in the air in the same motion my aunt had to ward off that illusion of a retort. Of course I give none.
So instead for the last two days I spent in bed outside of the two outings I had. I don’t think too deeply, just like one shouldn’t stare too blankly into the vastness of the sky. I don’t ponder about the lack of relationships I have maintained outside of my family. I don’t ask myself whether or not that makes me lonely. I can’t bother to deal with the two sides within me. They can vex for my conclusion till next time. I can’t bother with anything at all. Truly, the only reason why I cleaned up and bought groceries was because I knew my mother was returning from Mexico this week and she would come by. My image. It is clean.
Even so, in my haste I dropped one of the dishes tonight and once the shards splattered, I thought, how perfect. Splendid. Sharp and in pieces. I rather felt I could have left it at that; I mean, imagine walking in to a mad woman’s house, would you be able to detect the insanity at first glance? Will you be scared now? Will you back off?
But you know I couldn’t. So I took a picture of the beautifully delicate and dangerous mess instead.
Didn’t someone once tell me as a teenager that we develop just the biggest ego. It had a fancier name, but one would be struck by the idea that they were always being observed. How fanciful. On the skytrain,I realize that the quiet stoic face can cry just as vehemently underneath the surface, and the single greatest notice one might take is the shocking cold wetness of a line of tear running down your face. That’s it. People only see you for what they think is within your image.