Archive of ‘memories’ category

A Thing About Me

Allow me to preface the following bit of writing with the confession that this is difficult for me to think about, let alone write – and so it is far from perfect  There are many thoughts, though I desperately want to articulate them, for which I cannot seem to find the proper words. Below you will find the best approximation of my experiences that I am capable of, at this point in time.

There are some experiences so special, so meaningful to you, so good that you want to keep them with you, play them over in your head on loop, carry with you always from place to place for all your life until you take them to your grave.

This is not one of those.

These are the sort of memories you lock away, deep in your heart because you are embarrassed, and ashamed. They frighten you. They enrage you.  They are now a part of your past, and you have moved on, so you bury them deep and tamp them down when the emotional sands shift, or time and vulnerability wear down the burial mound and the gleaming bones of these old hurts begin to resurface.

I recently began watching the brilliant BBC series Black Mirror, a sort of modern take on The Twilight Zone focusing on the dark side of life and technology. One episode in particular unearthed many things which I had tried to desperately burn and bury.

In “The Entire History of You”, there exists technology that, if you are fitted for it, you are constantly recording and storing memories in an implant that you can play back at any time – whether in your own head or projected onto a monitor or a screen or some other device. This makes for, example, fun times at a party; it’s practical for gauging reactions at a recent interview or job assessment; and for the more obsessive, for replaying and dissecting every interaction to which you’ve bore witness between your significant other and the man with whom you’ve begun to suspect she is having an affair.

A glimpse of a glance between his wife and a seemingly random man at a party sparked an almost instant preoccupation for the main character.  Their combined past memories were portrayed as happy, familial and content, and at the start of the episode he was presented as a reasonable, well-adjusted, normal, guy but watching how quickly he devolved into obsessive paranoia regarding his wife and this stranger just floored me.  Had he been this intensely awful the entire time?  It stopped me in my tracks.  It absolutely terrified me.  I stopped what I was doing and realized my heart was racing and I felt physically ill. I ran to the bathroom and vomited repeatedly and then sat on the floor and wept.

For almost 10 years of my life, I was involved with this sort of person. This obsessive, possessive, paranoid, controlling, manipulative person who estranges you from friends and family and is not satisfied until he browbeats you into believing it is your idea. Who negates your opinions because they are not the same as his.  Who mentally beats you down over time until you have just given up and it is easier to do things his way rather than bother to argue for your own.  From the age of not quite 25 to barely 35 I ate, slept and breathed this man. And that is precisely, I believe, how he wanted it.

I cannot even say it “began innocently enough”. It did not. Out of a sense of ennui and being a bit of a serial relationship-hopper I was newly dating a law student, an affable enough young man, but he was sort of an oaf and all of my friends hated him and he had terribly stinky feet. I was often bored at work and in 1999 I was just discovering the pleasant distraction of chatting with interesting people online. At that time, very out of the blue, a person started IMing me who seemed very interested in me, and getting to know me. We appeared to have much in common. I was about to hit my mid-twenties, I was at a dead-end job, I had a boyfriend I was not particularly excited about one way or the other, and life just seemed so incredibly dull. I latched onto this new friend with a ferocity that should have been a warning sign to anyone observing, had I let them or myself, if I had that level of self-awareness at that age. We chatted for several months in depth, about everything under the sun and I realized I was desperately infatuated with this person.  Despite the fact that I already had a boyfriend, I agreed to meet this person, who lived 1100 miles away.  I was ready to fly to NJ without telling anyone at all -even my family and my best friend – to meet a total stranger. It was at that point my online suitor revealed to me that he was already married. Of course, I too, was involved, but I had been up front about that from the beginning.  I had not suspected this on his end and was devastated.

If this was not troubling enough, it also became clear to me, through our interactions, that he hated me spending time with my friends and grew positively enraged if any of these friends happened to be male.  The interrogations were relentless on this point; he would not stop until he was convinced I saw eye-to-eye with him on this subject.  He would keep me up late at night emailing at length about his thoughts on the matter and if he thought I was sleeping, he would phone me at 2AM and growl into the phone for me to check my email.

It never occurred to me to not answer the phone.  To not respond to the email. To never talk to him again. There is a huge part of me that does not believe in regret; I believe that every choice we make leads us to something else and in my case I am very happy today and  to have regrets would be lessen the choices I made that got me here.  But there is a part of me that wishes at that critical point I had seen what was there all along, and what was only going to get worse. That I had never spoken with him and certainly never met him.

I was so blinded by what I thought was love that I went through with it.  I met him.  And we carried on long distance, in secret, for several miserable years. By the time his wife found out, I was convinced that instead of him leaving her for me, he would do everything he could to keep his family together.  At that moment I thought, OK, well maybe this is for the best.  I sent him an email not to contact me anymore and I promptly signed up for a dating site. I met up with someone, which, in hindsight, was not really a great way to deal with things, but maybe I thought it would be helpful to do would be to skip the mourning period of the relationship by distracting myself with getting to know someone new.

A week later, after work and just before getting ready for a date, I walked into my apartment to find the back window open, a pile of dirt on the floor, and my jilted long distance secret lover standing in the corner.  When he did not hear from me, after several attempts to contact me when I had asked him not to, he flew to Florida and broke into my home. I did not, unfortunately, run screaming from the scene to file a police report.  Instead I convinced myself that someone who would do such a thing must really love me quite a bit and we reunited with promises that I would move up to NJ to be with him.

And I did. Leaving my friends, family, and everything I’ve ever known behind, with no prospects for employment, I moved to New Jersey in February of 2003. I truly believed that there was some sort of happily ever after waiting for me in this place called Manville, NJ.

Six months later I tried to kill myself.

I don’t know why I thought that us living together would change things; if anything he was even more possessive and controlling. He wanted a play-by-play commentary on the week I had dated someone else. He wanted to me spend all of my time typing it up in an explicitly, graphically detailed, time-stamped manuscript for him  and would grow furious if I spent any time on anything else.  He would keep me up late at night interrogating me on the matter until we were both screaming and shouting and truthfully, after I while I just wanted it all to end.  I had nothing, no one, not even and especially the one person that I had given up everything for. I couldn’t do it anymore.

I spent a week in a psychiatric ward at a local hospital and when I came home nothing had changed much, except where he had once been vocal and hateful and manipulative, now he was quieter about it.  There were cameras in the house, keyloggers and spyware on the computer.  Any emails I wanted to send to friends, any internet related things I wanted to be a part of (online forums, livejournal, etc), I did from work or the library from email accounts that I set up in secret.  These were the only friends that I felt I had, but neither they nor anyone else knew how I was living.  Secretive, scared, walking on eggshells all of the time, worried that anything I said might set him off. The wrong ingredients in a stirfry, the scent of my perfume – there was always something there to agitate him, to stir him up and set him on a path dredging up the past, rubbing it in my face in it and beating that horse to death which he would then begin to meticulously resurrect and commence beating all over again.

It must be noted that during this time, during the entire time I was in New Jersey – he was still living with his wife and children. He never left them. Never got a proper divorce.  He lived with me 3 days a week, and with them the other 4.  Out of the entire 6-7 years I lived there, I maybe spent one weekend with the man. This is how I lived during that time.

One day, in 2010 a few weeks before my birthday, he told me that he couldn’t do it anymore.  He was hurting his children too much, he said. He was moving back home.  After all of that – he was leaving, just like that.  He packed up his stuff and was gone a week later.
I should have taken a moment, reassessed and been overjoyed, but instead I was heartbroken. Through everything I had come to believe that he was the best partner I could hope for, that no one would ever know me like he did, would love me like he did.  I was distraught.  Destroyed.

Not long after this abandonment, he came to me and admitted he made a mistake, that things were not working out the way he envisioned or hoped. By that time I had decided I would move back to Florida to be with my friends and family and everyone I had left behind. I had not made many friends in New Jersey, I hated the snow and cold and ice, I never went anywhere at all other than to work and back; there was absolutely no reason for me to stay. And yet this was a still a terribly hard decision for me to make.  I suppose it meant that things were truly over.

Inexplicably (as in, I look at it now and can’t figure out why), we still spoke on the phone and met up secretly right until the day I left.  I could not let go.  I don’t know why  – he hadn’t changed at all, he was still sneaky and manipulative and spying on my emails to friends – and yet I could not fucking let go of that monster. That fucking monster.  I am shaking with rage as I am typing this right now.  I am thinking of something he did in the few months before I left that perfectly illustrates the type of shitty, obsessive activity he engaged in. He knew I had been corresponding online with a male friend who provided me with facts and information for piece that was posted in a blog that I wrote for.  The morning the piece went live, he created an email address with that friend’s name and emailed me from it, pretending to be that friend, and essentially asking me out on a date to celebrate.  He thought this person had designs upon me or vice versa, and he wanted to see what sort of response I would send. (Friend, if you are reading this, I am deeply mortified about this. I never told you this and I hope it doesn’t bother you too much)
He often created accounts pretending to be some person or another and would try to cozy up to people that I was friends with online, to either learn things about me, or learn things about that person as it related to me.  This is the sort of thing he would do.

When my sister, who helped me leave New Jersey, pulled the car away from the curb and drove past my former 6th Street home, I never looked back.  When we arrived 2 days later in my other sister’s driveway, I realized I could never feel those things for that man again.  They simply were not there anymore.  There was a gaping hole, yes, where what I thought was love used to be, but I knew that whatever connection we had (though deeply damaged and dysfuntional) was severed. Permanently.  I have not looked back since. All I needed to do was leave.  For me, it really was just that simple.

I was never beaten, although one time he did shove me up against a wall, because he thought I was corresponding with people on a perfume forum and lying to him about it.
But I was absolutely mentally and emotionally abused by this man for years, there is no doubt about that.
He wasn’t always horrible.  He took me to a bed and breakfast and a tea room and a winery for my birthday once, because he knew those were the kind of things I like.  He encouraged me to finish college.  He always found me bits of poetry or prose that he thought might strike a chord with me. I guess these are the fleeting moments that keep you in such a relationship, aren’t they? But things like that…they are like a coat of glossy paint on a rotten wall in a structurally unsound house. It might look ok from a certain angle every once in a while but chances are it will fall apart while you are still inside and then you are trapped there forever.

I try not to look at myself as a fool, or a victim, but while watching that episode of Black Mirrors I found myself screaming at the television. “You don’t have to answer him!” I shouted at the wife as he was browbeating her about some detail of her past.  “Just walk away, leave the room, GET OUT OF THERE!” I screamed until I was hoarse, as she collapsed on the bed sobbing, as she played back her private memories for the monster of the man she thought was her husband.  Whether or not she was having the affair was not the point (though yes, it turned out that she was).  The point is you cannot treat another human person like that. No one deserves that.
And you, fellow human, cannot allow yourself to be treated like that.

Unfortunately, sometimes you can scream that at someone until you are blue in the face and it will mean nothing until they’ve hit the point when it means something. It never meant anything to me, until one day it did.

I am writing this because it breaks my heart to think that there is someone out there like me. I hope one day you realize that you mean something, you are something. That other person, the one making you feel small, making you feel ugly, making you feel like no one will ever love you. That has nothing to do with you.  They are nothing without you. And if you leave, they will be nothing at all.

I hope you will walk away and never look back.

 

beyond the pale motel; not a book review

8b5f1569c9220987b7d6c753c73ea11cTo be honest, I have not reached a point where I have forgotten that my mother has died.  I will hear some people say that they wanted to share something with their deceased parent – maybe a bit of good news, maybe something not so great – and they were dialing the phone before they realized “oh yeah, mom’s dead, I can’t call her”.

I’ve come to realize that I have been preparing (mentally, anyhow) to be motherless for years. Since high school, at least. My mother always seemed on a path to self destruction, in danger of oblivion at any given moment, and so long ago I’d stopped even being sad about it.  It was an inevitable thing, and probably sooner rather than later. So I’m really not continually surprised at her absence, and when I do find myself wishing to talk with her about something it’s more akin to an itch that I’d like to scratch rather than a wound I’d forgotten was there.

I just finished reading Beyond The Pale Motel, by Francesa Lia Block.  I recall discovering this author on a Barnes and Noble shelf when I was in my early twenties and floundering quite a bit.  I was struggling with dull classes and a dead end job and a dead beat boyfriend and I just didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with myself.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to want for myself.  My greatest love at that time, I think, was poetry – magic words stitched together to wrap me in a blanket of beauty that I desperately needed as a loser band girlfriend in a shitty go-nowhere beach town. She wrote stories the likes of which I’d never read before and barely dared to dream about; she felt like a fairy god mother with her tales of love and magic and beauty and wishes and soul-mates in the midst of harsh, contemporary landscapes and young adult struggles. Her fairy tales of a girls living in a “jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked” Shangri-La seemed to be both memoires of lost souls finding themselves and how-to manuals for the small town mouseykins yearning to make those discoveries as well.

I purchased, with my small paycheck at that time, every title on that shelf. And I as I am now somewhat taken aback to remember, I shared them all with my mother.  I drove to her house within the next day to dump them all on her bed and tell her that whatever she was reading, she should put it aside and inhale the books I was giving her as quickly as possible.  I knew, at that time, that the stories and characters and magical writing were elements that my mother would have loved; I know now that I was sharing these stories of beauty and tragedy and redemption with one of the most lost souls I was ever to love.

As I read Beyond The Pale Motel this weekend, I sadly realized I no longer have the passion or the patience for Ms. Block’s writing. The book was dark, certainly darker than those strange and sparkling coming of age tales I remembered from almost twenty years ago, and there was no happy ending to be found. Never the less, I finished it in one sitting. I was both angry and sad about the ending of the book and the lack of magic contained therein; sad and wistful, I think because I had changed over time.  Maybe, I don’t really need those sorts of stories any more.  I have made so many of my own magics and created so many stories for myself since I first discovered her writing; perhaps words I once found so bewitching and transcendent no longer resonated with me.

Upon closing the book once finished, my first instinct was to call my mother.  I have still not forgotten that I cannot do this.  What is unexpected though, is the hot rush of tears that filled my eyes  and the painful twist of my heart when think of how I can’t ever share these insights and discoveries with her anymore, ever again. As someone who thought they were prepared for this eventuality, who had numbed herself to this outcome… this sudden heartbreak, this piercing grief –that’s the part I never saw coming.

Svima; dizzy

From the terrifying, vertiginous heights of a 60 meter waterf

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

all, to the giddy delight of having scaled it afterward, to the dazed distraction of being in the midst of incomprehensible multinational conversations, and the woozy, weak-in-the-knees sensation of toppling into bed once the day is done…if asked to sum my time in Iceland up in one word, my reply would be: “dizzying”.

A week later after arriving home and having settled back in, the dizziness is just now subsiding and yet I am still feeling rather unsteady and out-of-place.  A new friend summed it up rather eloquently, I think: “Repatriation can be a lot more shocking than expatriation, because we expect to feel comfortable, we expect things to be familiar, but everything is different. Not because everything has changed, but because *we* changed. Our frame of reference for the familiar has changed. “

All of this sounds like a complaint, doesn’t it?  I don’t mean it to be.  I’ve never fancied myself much of a traveler and I am finding that it rather takes some getting used to.  I think when one travels one must learn to let go of schedules and learn to embrace the unexpected and these are usually both difficult lessons for me. This journey proved to be no different in that regard and yet I think, at some point I , just…let go.  Gave up.  Due to the fact I did not speak the language (I know maybe four words of Icelandic) I didn’t know what was going on around me 99% of the time anyway, so why not just let someone else make the plans and I’d just end up where ever I ended up.  And it would be fine. “þetta reddast”, I heard repeated several times during the trip.  “It will be ok. It will work itself out.”  Þetta reddast.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

Though I was in Reykjavík primarily for the wedding of my gentleman’s brother – which was a splendid affair at Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland – we did have time, in between visits with family (and there was a lot of family), to explore our own agenda.  Which were chiefly pastries, penis museums, haunted houses, and more waterfalls.

kleina (fried doughnut) and hjónabandssæla ("happy marriage cake")

kleina (fried doughnut) and hjónabandssæla (“happy marriage cake”)

Höfði house. Haunted by a lady ghost, according to local legend.

Höfði house. Haunted by a lady ghost, according to local legend.

2008 Icelandic handball team at the phallological museum

2008 Icelandic handball team at the phallological museum

random waterfall in Þingvellir

Because my guy and his family are originally from Iceland, there were many aunties and cousins still living there who had not seen them in a long time and who wanted to spend time catching up.  There were long coffee hours with trays of hangikjöt (smoked lamb) or salmon sandwiches and delicate pancakes either rolled thin and sprinkled with sugar or stuffed fat and full of cream and jam. There was an evening of at least 40 relatives packed into an apartment for bowls of traditional kjötsúpa – a humble but fragrant and nourishing meat soup, usually made with lamb and earthy winter vegetables.  I’ll scarcely mention the grilled minke whale, for those readers who may face ethical or philosophical dilemmas regarding this…very…delicious issue. And then, there was an afternoon in the town of Akranes where I was invited for a meal of the most delicious fish and chips that I have ever had in my life.

Boat graveyard at Akranes

Boat graveyard at Akranes

Akranes is a charming little fishing town, but there is a wee dodgy strip which could be mistaken for Innsmouth on a gloomy, grey afternoon. Though apparently the ninth most populous town in Iceland, Akranes seemed small and rather isolated to me.  We were taken on a little tour of the town, which included the boat and town history museum, as well as, the lighthouse – which was an unexpected and wonderful surprise for me, as Amiina, a lovely, unique group of musicians whose works I stumbled across recently and who sound like the dreamiest, tinkling music box, had recorded at this lighthouse in the past few years.   I was delighted to see that the lighthouse, though small,  also hosted exhibits of the poetic or artistic variety from time to time. Before leaving I was gifted with a knit version of a traditional hat, hand made by a very generous auntie.

Old Man Houlihan at the Akranes boat museum. He would have gotten away with it – if not for those meddling kids.

Little lighthouse at Akranes (viewed from top of big lighthouse)

Little lighthouse at Akranes (viewed from top of big lighthouse)

By Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir. Exhibit at the Akranes lighthouse.

By Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir. Exhibit at the Akranes lighthouse.

Lovely knit hat based on a traditional costume

Lovely knit hat based on a traditional costume

In addition to the town of Akranes, another one of my favorite places was Árbæjarsafn, which is the historical museum of the city of Reykjavík as well as an open air museum and a regional museum. Unfortunately, we put this visit off until the last minute, on the weekend – during which time it is not open.  Technically.  We were still able to walk around and look at the houses, but we were not able to go into them or explore them.  Nonetheless, we still spent about two hours walking around and marveling at the simple beauty of the structures.

Vestry

Vestry at Árbæjarsfni

Old House

Old houses at Árbæjarsfni

I was very lucky to experience Iceland from a unique perspective – though I did many of the tourist-y things (I ate hotdogs from every stand in the city for pete’s sake; I took a photo of this guy), I also spent a great deal of time with the people who actually live there and got to see things from a native’s perspective, as well.  Which included many home-made meals, I might add, and in a city as expensive as Reykjavík, that’s really a lovely blessing.

A few tips, if you are thinking of traveling to Iceland:

  • Bring layers!  I traveled during the end of August (which is like a relentless hellscape in Florida) but the weather I encountered in Iceland was in the 40s and 50s and drizzly.  Cold and rainy. Tee shirts and light sweaters and light jackets are best for hopping between coffee houses on a chilly day downtown, I think.
  • A sturdy pair of water proof boots is essential if you are going to be visiting the waterfalls or doing a bit of hiking. I purchased a pair from LL Bean and they are marvelous.  I highly recommend them.
  • Try to check out the happy hours for restaurants.  They are all so very expensive, so take advantage of deals where you can find them.
  • Go to Café Babalú, have a cappucino and check out their Star Wars themed bathroom, visit the The Einar Jónsson Sculpture Garden, stop by the Reykjavík Botanical Gardens, people watch at Kringlan, eat Skyr with blueberry jam every morning, marvel at how everywhere, even at the grocery store, you can find yarn.

And be reminded of why we go away.  (says Terry Pratchett) “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” 

I am glad I am no longer the same person who would have never left.  Though now I feel I am not actually the same person who did leave, either. It’s all so confusing! Perhaps I’d better start planning another trip and see what happens.

 

 

 

 

 

the places you go

I have been away and come back and somehow I don’t quite feel myself anymore. Whether I left a piece of myself on another continent or I returned with an added bit of something or other, I couldn’t tell you. It’s an unsettling feeling and I haven’t sorted it out yet.

Until such time as I jot down my thoughts, impressions and various ramblings on the experience, please have some music.

the places you go from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

Track list: The Bridge, Halla Norðfjörð | Krómantík, Sóley | The backbone, Rökkurró | Trøllabundin, Eivør Pálsdóttir | Near Light, Ólafur Arnalds | Hail thy Mary, myrra ros | Út, Ylja | Yaoi, Ballet School | Until Mourning, Útidúr | There Are More Things, Mikael Lind | Perth, amiina | Fall, Bloodgroup | Burnt, Kiasmos | Toothwheels, Múm | Stofnar Falla (Subminimal Remix), Samaris

Eleven Twenty Two

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For most of my adult life I have dreamed of this house.  No matter where I am or how long I have been living there, it is always this particular place where my dreams begin and end. For good or ill, this is the spot that my subconscious must believe is home.

From the ages of eight through eighteen I lived in this house. Ten years. I don’t remember very well the home I lived in before this one, and all the places after have become a blur on my timeline, but this house, this time in my life is the foundation upon which my dreams build.

I can’t say it was much better looking than in this photo from a few day ago, but I’d like to think it was, just a little.

My sister, on her way to visit me last weekend, convinced her husband to drive through our old neighborhood.  As they slowed to pass our childhood home, it became clear to them that the house had been neglected for quite some time now, and once they stopped the car and walked up for a closer look they could see that it was indeed in foreclosure. My sister skirted the side of the house, peeking in windows, running her fingers along splintered doorframes.
The sliding glass door in back was ajar and without a second thought, she slipped inside.

I don’t know if I could have done that. My childhood, though incarnations of it show up in dreams on a regular basis, is something I’d like to leave behind.  I don’t know that I could have faced whatever ghosts lingered in those halls.  Worse, then, to feel nothing looking at the handprint stained walls, the kitchen from which I stole snacks while I read Harriet the Spy?  I don’t know and I don’t think I could bear to find out.

My sister is very brave, but I would rather hear the tale secondhand, and continue to dream of a place that used to exist, rather than see it for a faded and broken and beaten thing that no one wants anymore, never to appear in another little girl’s dreams.

 

Between one and another, every day is mine

Here we are again.  This started out as a very different sort of blog, but as circumstances changed, so too must the content of this blog.  This will no longer be a home for Death Cafe Orlando; though I have archived the previous posts should you wish to peruse them, for all new updates and items of relevance please find your way over >> h e r e<<

Well, and so – what to do?  In changing direction for this blog it has become clear to me that I’ve come full circle.  It’s been quite a while since I have maintained a personal blog  – for projects, stories, etc. – and I am realizing that I miss it very much. For the past few years it’s been important to me that I branch out and embrace new and different people, places and things…but in the doing so I have yearned for the simple familiarity of some former pursuits – such as the keeping of a daily (or semi-daily, or let’s face it, weekly or monthly) accounting of the things going on in my life.

In blithely tripping along the trail of the novel and exciting, I have somehow, without quite realizing it, arrived back at the start of the same well-worn, much loved path.  And you know, that is a fine place to be.

“If after I die, people want to write my biography, there is nothing simpler. They only need two dates: the date of my birth and the date of my death. Between one and another, every day is mine.”
-Fernando Pesso

Secret Summer Flowers

There are certain things  I will truly miss about New Jersey when I am back in my alternately scorching and sweltering home state.  Cool, hidden pockets of summer greenery in this neck of the woods, for one.  Leaves so thick on the branches that the light does not pass through. Ivy coiled loosely around a neighbor’s  lamplight. Vines knotted and tangled and trailing down a rotted wooden fence. Grass cuttings strewn across the sidewalk on a Saturday morning after everyone has gotten up early to mow their lawns.  There is so much green it makes my heart hurt a little and my eyes burn a bit,  in the very best sort of way.

And the flowers, oh the flowers.  They are beautiful blooming breakers of hearts as well.

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