Posted by: shelliejelly | August 30, 2009

The road well-travelled

I try, I do.

Or, perhaps more accurately, I try to try. But like Pavlov’s dogs who hear that ring and start salivating, my responses to some of O.’s choices are instinctual, rooted in deep-seated fear that sprung from broken promises from the past. There are things O. will never be able to do in front of me—or afar for that matter—without a panic rising in my throat as all the disastrous ways it could end start playing out. You’ll forget to set your alarm and I’ll be forced to try to find someone to watch our daughter at a moments notice. You’ll say the wrong thing to the wrong person and end up on the receiving end of a well-placed fist, or, worse yet, a well-placed knife or gun or, or, or … on and on and on.

Not all of these possibilities are figments of my imagination. Most of the scenarios are some configuration of a true story you told me while we were dating or, even more close to home, a variation of my own experience.

There is a pressure that my own experiences with O. have created. A little valve deep inside of me that holds my memories, gasping in short spurts when triggered by a present-day occurrence. I can hear alcohol on his breath. My chest invariably tightens, nerves tingling, buzzing little messengers of all the ways you’ve mistreated and been mistreated by alcohol, stark images of how your own mistreatment almost always led directly to my own shaken foundation. Careless words pricking my self-confidence. Hey Maggie, what do you say, wanna give it a go tonight. Slicing through my defenses with razor accuracy. I don’t give a fuck about you.

You sometimes ask me why I can’t ever let anything go. A fair question, maybe. But these memories are like the intricate layers of a delicate dough. One layer laid down almost without thought, quickly forgiven, chalked up to a simple error in judgment. Another roughly placed while riding home in a taxi cab, words bouncing off the windows, a driver turning to me and saying Take care of yourself as I exit, unable to hide the pity in his voice. Yet another layer coming when you don’t come home without calling, though you’re supposed to be at your father’s. No, he called and said there was something wrong with the train. Even with a callous starting to numb some of the shock of each layer settling, I immediately logged on to the news, holding my breath while reading about an unidentified body that was found, exhaling only slightly when the description didn’t seem to fit you.

And so my memory is compounded, reinforced by multiple occasions, cemented by countless words and actions that were nearly, if not obviously, heartless. The waters are murky, the depths immeasurable. I’m swimming in words, some which soothe others that sting, and I can’t just let the undertow take everything that doesn’t suit your vision of who you are now out to sea, beyond my grasp. As hard as I try, or try to try, the past is intricately tied to my present, and these memories actively shaped the person I am now, chipping away at me here, lodging themselves underneath my skin there. Fuck you. I don’t care what you think. I’d rather stay out all night drinking than come home to you. I’m involved with another woman.

When you go down the same road more than once, even though the landscape changes ever so slightly, every smooth ride—at least for a time—feels like the anomaly, unfamiliar terrain that can’t possibly be what’s to be expected going forward. I’m still looking for the old, same roads because I know them so well and, unfortunately, I’m betting you do, too.


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