For this event, the theme was Wavelength, which got me thinking about the distance between two points, and how we travel from one point to another. My parents are such points in my life. They shaped and continue to shape who I am to this day. Sure, we may not talk as much as either of us wishes, but they are constantly with me.
And not only are they with me in this time and space, the memories of them are carried forward from childhood. It is perplexing to me how memory changes over time. I cannot fathom how memory works. I know that I look back at memories of my parents now at the age of 36, and I see them differently than I did in the moment or even in my memory or remembering that same childhood memory when I was in my 20s.
Take for example, the two pieces I read at Local Vocals on Friday night, "Mirrored Perfection" (about my mom) and "My Dad's Tears". I know SOME of the events in these short pieces occurred. I don't know if they occurred in the order outlined in the pieces, but occur they did.
Also, take the pieces themselves. I wrote these three years ago. I was in a different space then. I was unemployed and searching, searching for memories to help me understand the present.
Reading them aloud now in front of an audience, I am even more unsure of the facts and fictions they contain. Sure, there is truth. But is truth fact?
I have no idea. I do know these pieces moved the audience. I saw it in the tears brought forth. In fact, I had to wipe a few off the wooden table as I cleaned up at the end of the night.
Without further ado, here is "Mirrored Perfection" and "My Dad's Tears"
She stood in front of the mirror fussing with hairspray hoping it would go just a little higher conscious not to look like a hooker. Suburbanites hate hookers.
Perfect hair signaled personal perfection reflected in daily dusting, hourly vacuuming, and unending cycles of laundry. Everything was a reflection of everything else, so nothing was supposed to be out of place. It was suffocating her. It suffocated me.
It became more than either of us could handle. She'd cry downstairs in the unfinished basement behind the tiny bathroom hoping no one would find her. I rebelled with messy drawers that were easily closed and by hoarding discarded wrappers in school lockers and backpacks. It led to four or five years of silence.
Her hair is unkept as she looks in the mirror, so she throws on a hat. The dusting is sporadic; the vacuuming is only weekly; the washing machine is silent. She works downtown among the hookers and drag queens and dykes and druggies providing respite and care for those with HIV/AIDS. She breathes freely.
So do I.
MY DAD'S TEARS
His temper exploded and threw me against the wall. I was pinned there staring into his red, ready-to-burst-with-tears eyes. He wasn't himself any longer, but he looked like my dad. I hated him not for the explosion but because I still felt small and childish. I was small and childish.
He let go and turned away embarrassed by the outburst and anger. He promised himself no more, but biology and upbringing got in the way sometimes. I cried partly because I was scared and partly because guilt was stronger than anger. A couple seconds of violently kinetic silence, and we returned to our supper. The meal passed and so did the silence.
He came to me crying one night, or I found him upstairs crying. He had spoken to his mother, and she revealed the true nature of his conception: to keep his alcoholic father around. He looked just like I had, and I hated him then too because it was easier than empathy. He was a small child.
He visited California because his sister was sick and dying. My husband and I took the train to San Jose to meet him for the afternoon. We exchanged hugs, and I saw those same tears behind those same brown eyes. We both stayed silent, but this time it was the silence of empathy and understanding -- the kind of silence that is needed in times of death and decay by is rarely given. Then, we ate lunch, visited my aunt, and watched a crappy movie. He dropped us at the train station amidst more silence and contemplation.
"I love you, Jason," he said as I exited. I've heard those words many times before, but this time I understood them.
I love you too, dad.