Saturday, February 2, 2008

memory is a killer

I wanted to write this down before it passed. I said in another post that the body remembers-- odd how that works, isn't it? The body remembers, sometimes leaving the brain clear as a bell and the body quaking.

My boyfriend's mother lent me a 1935 Singer to do some sewing on. I've been teaching myself how to sew, partially for the hell of it, partially because I want to make sure I have clothes that fit me (small waist, big butt) and that I like the look of. For some silly reason, the bobbin (bottom thread) snapped for the second time in ten seconds, which tends to happen with this machine and I. It probably has something to do with the way I'm threading it. In any case, as I tried to thread the machine again, I noticed my hands were shaking.

It's been years since the last one, so I'd forgotten that if my hands start violently shaking and I suddenly get extremely frustrated, I should probably step away from the sharp bits and anything mechanical. For the record, I am usually very mechanically inclined; give it to me and I'll take it apart (when I have time for exploration), figure out how it works and sometimes I can make things better, sometimes not. I love machines, I do.

My hands were shaking so bad I dropped the bobbin, unspooling it across the floor, which means that I'd have to mechanically respool it on the Singer to insure that it feeds smoothly when I finally get it spooled. After the second time I'd dropped everything, I had to get out of my living room full of people.

It rises like an invisible tide, a drowning pool full of something you cannot, at first, recognize. I thought I was hungry. Sometimes I get irritable from hunger.

The shaking became a quaking so severe I could not hold anything. The boyfriend, who also has things in his past that come at him this way, went to hug me and I flinched, tightening every muscle in my body, leaning away and then not quite into his hug.

My mother had a sewing machine, a Pfaff from about the same period. In one of her many attempts to teach me womanly skills, in case some man somewhere could be fooled into using me as a wife, she and I had a rather nasty fight over the bobbin I snarled and managed to break in the machine, causing it to need to be sent to a repair shop. I suppose it wasn't the nastiest fight we ever got into, but it was during that period that the (so hard to type; don't want to say it) abuse was the worst, right before I ran away from home (and stayed gone.) She and my father both used to enjoy saying the most hurtful things (we never loved you anyway; no one will ever love you; you're pathetic and useless; things of that ilk) and occasionally smacking me upside the head until I developed a tic for awhile, a spasmotic shudder that shook my neck to the side if anything got close to my head. It wasn't so much what they said as it was the fact that hurting me was so fun for them. It was joyful for them when nothing made them happy, making them act as if they renewed their love for each other that way (they touched more afterward; sometimes they went and had sex or cuddled afterward, satisfied with one another, again. As an English grad student, I know catharsis when I see it.) I don't have problems with it now, but what was happening also made me occasionally have convulsions. The brain overloads because you cannot quite blank it out, nor can you control what will happen. Made gym class a horror, and I love to play sports. Made sitting in anything but the back row impossible, because anyone sitting behind me made me cringe. The body moves, leaving the mind clear enough to feel ashamed that someone else would see a movement we cannot control, the body recoiling from yesterday's events today, tomorrow, and fifteen years later.

My head was clear. I stood in my kitchen, memory marching through me like hell's brass band; sound and picture, riot and fury through me and touching, but not enough to carry me with it anymore. No fear. Not any more. I suppose you get better at it, in time. The fury passed, leaving grief. I have my own place and I can grieve, now. I didn't cry for years, no matter what happened, and now I can cry. Straight-faced, even breathing, eyes spilling down my face as if they belonged to someone else. If I chose, I can tip it over, make it into a more obvious grief and howl it out, which I will not do in front of my kids, because I am their rock. They are not mine. And the amount of grief did not feel as if it merited it. Self-control, years and years of practice, is a wonderful thing. The body shakes, you get angry but you can chose what to do about it. I can chose to yell, which I didn't. I can chose to be vicious, and I didn't. I can chose to go stand in my kitchen, in the other room, and let it pass through me. Pass through me and away, because I'm not fifteen anymore, and this is my space.

When I'm done writing this, I'll go back to sewing. This is my space, my life, and I am nothing if not brave in my old(er) age.

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