"The way I imagine it, instead of eating a whole piece of toast for breakfast, I'll just eat half. And then, less and less, until all I'm eating is a crumb. After that? Nothing."
A friend of mine said that to me this morning. It didn't come as a surprise. His waifish frame is a testament to his disavowal of one of the most life-sustaining property known to man outside of air and water: food. It's his way of rebelling against life without leaving it. Not yet, when there's still unfinished business.
I look at it his comment metaphorically. As depressed people, we all withdraw in our own ways. That toast may be companionship to someone else, or even just caring at all. Or something else entirely. Yesterday, he had given me a copy of Last Days to watch, a pastiche of Kurt Cobain's suicide. In the movie, "Blake" (a pseudonym that they used for legal purposes) is a mumbling recluse trying to make peace with himself before he kills himself. As I watched him pad around his house pathetically, I saw in him myself. Or the self I've called I for the last week or two or however long. Not that I want to kill myself. I don't know what I want anymore.
Suddenly, I was overcome with an urge to chronicle my life, to figure out what went wrong. The movie made me think about Cobain and his parent's "legendary divorce" (his words, not mine). How had it affected me? That's when I realized. I can't remember, or I forgot how to. I think. But somehow, the memories linger on. It reminded me of something that always bothered me as a little kid whenever I would try to write a story.
Equipped with my #2 pencil and loose leaf paper, I would inevitably write a word or sentence or even an entire paragraph that I hated. I would erase like crazy with the pink rubber eraser on the end of my pencil, but the words always left smudges, mocking me with their continued presence. I would write over the smudges with thick bold letters, but it was never enough. I wanted my words to inhabit a world of pure white and crisp blue lines, a world that made sense, and the smudges ruined it. Frustrated, I would throw the entire piece of paper away, crumpling into a ball of disgust and pitching it into a wastebasket that was always overflowing with my imperfections.
That's how I feel about my parent's divorce. I was 6 at the time, but already far from naive and innocent. My older brother had already tried to kill himself. My dad had already been kicked out of the house once or twice, my mom throwing a box and pillow at him on the way out one time as some kind of symbolic punishment. She was an artist at the time, as I remember it. Artist types are funny like that. She used to paint Hawaiian men, delicately brushing in the details of their bare chests for hours.
As I write this, their divorce papers are sitting on my lap. They don't know that I ever saw them. I made copies. I'm now going to something from the court's report, with my additions in parenthesis:
"She alleged that the man (my father) was involved in Satanism, and that he was an occultist (he was a Hindu). She contended that she had been misled at the onset of the marriage and that should have had the marriage annulled, or had an abortion, if she had known of her spouse's religious leanings."
In the margins next to this paragraph, my dad wrote, "the Christian having an abortion?" It was a good question. It's clear from some of her other comments that my dad and I were, in her mind, burdens to her freedom, her imprisoners. Yet, she still wanted custody of me so she that could have a clear conscious, so that she could tell people how great of a person she was and how much she had suffered at the hands of my dad. And she did ultimately get custody of me.
Which brings me to another curious passage in the report. The court had ordered my parents to take me to a psychologist for questioning. I can still remember her, in her blue dress, with her Rorschach ink blots (they looked like butterflies, lions, and bridges) and assortment of other psychoanalytical tools. What I remember most is that she asked me which parent I liked best. How do you ask a 6 year old that? That's modern psychology for you. I knew, despite her assurances to the contrary, that my answer would come up in court. We think kids are stupid, but unfortunately they aren't.
"The minor child, (Mullakamakalaka), Jr. spoke calmly and articulately of his affection for both his parents adding that he 'wanted to see Mom and Dad the same.' He contended that he currently lived with 'Mod and Dad,' and added that if they lived in separate houses, he would still want to 'live with both of them.'"
I was lying. I hated my mom. I decided at a young age that I could never love her. I remember telling my best friend Johnny when we were walking home from school, when I was in first grade, that my parents were getting divorced, and that I hated my mom and hoped that I would be living with my dad in a year. But more than hating her, I feared her, the woman who could make the foundations of my house shake with her screaming. Or so my friends would tell me. They were even intimidated by her. As she described herself in the report, she was a "disciplinarian" and a "rule-maker". So I told the psychologist what I thought my mom wanted to hear, that I loved her and wanted to live with her.
That folks, is what divorce is for a 6 year old. Divorce is not just a statistic. It's your grandma feeling the need to tell you that your dad really is a "good man", and you agreeing, because what else are you going to do? Not that I have to tell you that. I'm sure a lot of you are children of divorce and understand.
So I still remember that much, I guess. The rest of first grade is a blur, a big fat smudge mark. I want to make the smudges words again but I can't.
Shortly before my parents got divorced, I remember my mom dressing me up as a clown, not once but twice for Halloween. She had me wear face paint and even a wig, a hideous wig that reminded of a pom-pon. She even took me to my dad's parents house dressed like that, which was about an hour drive from our house. Was it symbolism? I don't know, but I do know that found the divorce papers laying next to a Father's Day card I had made my dad. It had a drawing of a house on it, and under it I had written "the best thing of all is home." On the back of the card, in wavy big black letters (that a graphologist would say indicated that I was unsure of what I was writing), were the words "the end." I can almost remember making it, but maybe I just made that memory up.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to make my life into a sob story. Aside from a few periods of social alienation, I've had an extraordinarily lucky life, one that a lot of less fortunate people would envy. But for some reason, I'll always feel like there's something wrong with me. If I could only remember what it is that's wrong.