A Memoir, Take One.

If I were to write a memoir of my life, it would take a rather long time to complete.  There are too many moments, too many thoughts and images that permeate my existence, poke and prod and shape me into who and what I am.   But if I were to write a memoir slowly, piece by piece, I could relish it the way one savours the slow work of a large intricate puzzle of tiny pieces.  And so, it is here that we begin, and may continue.  If I were to construct my story upon a page, it would begin like this.
One of my earliest memories is of me as a small girl, cowering beneath the kitchen table in one of the many homes I was shuffled to as my parents drifted around this city.  I am small, perhaps 5, and crying, clutching myself in terror.  I am somehow convinced that a table affords security.

I am hiding from my mother, you see.  I spilled my glass of milk, a rushing rivulet of creamy white slipping along the table top.  I am scared because, depending on her mood, this could be very bad.

My mother enters, wanting to know why I am crying and sobbing, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!".  She laughs at me, as I remain perched beneath the wood.  "Get out silly, it's okay.  Accidents happen.  I'll clean it up."

Accidents happen.  I sometimes wonder if my mother regards me as an accident, one she must now clean up as best she can.  It's funny how those who are supposed to love us most become the people who teach us how relationships should NOT be. 

Years later, I am not much different from this girl.  I still remain cowered beneath tables, metaphorical as opposed to literal.  I still fear the consequence of every step I take, still fear the wrath of an unpredictable world.  I still cry.  I am still small.  And in many ways, I still fool myself into believing tables are fortresses into which no monster may enter.  I still need saving, yet there is no one to save me.

I grew up alone.  I was an only child for much of my life, and when I finally had siblings, they were too young to confide the darkness of my soul to.  I remain forever as I was in youth:  the girl beneath the table; the girl who spent recess walking alone, shunned, wondering why she was chosen to live.  I am stained by the past, shunned by the present, and blind to my future.

I remain secretive, locked away within a treasure chest of things not to be treasured, a chest filled with cruel laughter, bitter words, whispered innuendos, filthy hands and filthier skin.  Just as a house is not necessarily a home, my body is not necessarily MINE.  It has never felt quite right.  I often catch myself staring inward at myself, wondering who it is who speaks, breathes and wears my Tori Amos T-Shirts and discount jeans. 

"I just want to be safe in my own skin" ~ Dido 

I was born a month late, December 1980.  Mere weeks before Christmas.  Apparently I disliked my mother from the start, putting her through 22 hours of painful labour before an infection she'd contracted during labour passed through us both, threatening our lives.  The story goes like this:  the doctors did an emergency C-Section and consulted my father, asking "which of us" they should save.  Apparently, doctors could not multitask then.  My beloved British Nanny gave them a look and simply insisted "both".  I was born and didn't seem to be holding on well until, as my Nanny tells it, an "angel kiss" appeared on the back of my neck a few days after I entered this world.  This red mark has faded but remains upon my skin.  My health turned around, and I, the child doctors told my mother she would never be able to conceive, survived. 

My mother was 18 when I was born, married, a high school drop-out, but not for lack of intelligence.  Raised in England until she was 14, she came to Canada and was plunked in grade 9, an insult given that back home, she'd been on the verge of graduating.  At 15 she had my grandmother sign her out of school.  She was bored.  She wasn't allowed to skip grades, and could not stand the monotony.  I don't blame her, although she should have done her GED.  My father, I THINK, graduated from high school.  I know that in his last year he was somewhat of a bad-ass, and teachers offered him passing marks if he'd promise not to attend anymore for the semester.  He, too, is a smart man, who could have gone far.  His mathematics skills are amazing, and I luckily inherited his knack for large calculations done within the head.  They must have known it would never last.  It was never a stable relationship. The fighting was nasty, low, and was not solely verbal.  My mother is a Leo, and gives credence to their claimed ferocious temper. 

My toddler years and early grade school were spent shy, unsure.  My uncle spoiled me rotten and I adored his visits.  I made one or two friends here and there.  Being painfully shy does not mix well with parents who uproot you every year or two.  I spent kindergarten at one school, grade one at another.  By the time I was dumped halfway through grade 2 in yet another school, the prospect of trying to befriend classmates was wholly impossible.  Speak?  Talk?  It wasn't as if they had any interest, mind you.  I wasn't feminine enough for the girls:  I couldn't skip, for lack of co-ordination, couldn't keep those hand clapping games straight.  I hated dresses.  The boys wouldn't let me join them for soccer, which actually appealed to me.  Girls had cooties at this point.  So instead, I drifted through grade 2 recess and lunch, a running narrator taunting me as I walked the field slowly.  It told me of every bit of scenery, told me of how little people thought of me. 

Nobody likes you.  You're the fat kid.  You're the clumsy kid.  The new kid.  And here you are, without a friend.  Alone.  Why doesn't anybody like you?  What's wrong with you?  Look around you, look at the children playing and laughing.  You are not part of that.  You never will.  Why are you here?

It is a rather sad state of affairs when you begin to wonder why you are alive at the tender age of 8.  My mother had become increasingly changeable, my father increasingly unavailable as he stayed out late avoiding my mother's rage.  One moment, she could be kind, loving, caring.  The next, a drill sargeant with a criticism of your every fibre.  Her favourite insults were comparisons between me and my father.  "You're fat and stupid like your father";  "You're lazy like your father."  The way she snapped "You are your father's daughter" didn't make it sound complementary, but rather, a curse. 

By age 10, I had reached an important conclusion.  I was miserable, friendless on the whole.  My parents didn't seem thrilled with me. 

The answer was clear:  there was no point to staying alive.  I might as well be dead, I thought.  If I'd had any notion of how to execute suicide well, I may have become one of the tragic statistics you see in a commercial:  "Girl, 10, kills herself by hanging.  Parents are at a loss."

I was newly deemed a genius through IQ tests.  I was in special classes.  I was the "good girl", the good writer.  I was in hell. 

Fast forward.... to age 16..... and a horrible night spent crying in front of my computer as I chatted to my fiance (I know.  Believe me, I know.  I was stupid).... telling him of flashes of thoughts racing through my skull.  Race, race, screaming colours and thoughts and words and voices and laughter and hands....  Flash flash..... Flicker.... And I was slave to this sudden barrage, this cruel torture through cortical intrusion.  I feared I was losing my mind.  I have had a fear as long as I can remember of being forced to reveal my inner thoughts and shameful memories, and I remember this night I feared that I would be locked up and forced to speak.  Silence was my safety net and also the gun to my head.  I perched on the brink for an hour:  sane, insane, sane, insane, feeling my grasp on the world slipping away.  With a small cry I acted without thinking.

I looked down to see shredded, delicate skin, fibres astray, yet no blood.  Bewildered, it took me a moment to notice the scissors in my hand.  But in that moment I had found a sanctuary.  I had made the voices stop.  What I didn't realize then was that this was merely a tip toe along a path I'd been treading for years.  The path where angels fear to tread, and sometimes, demons too.....  But I walked it.  I still do.

It is funny sometimes, how snippets and shapes, colours and lines, come together, blended yet separate, as we attempt to piece together who we are.  I am the child of parents who never should have married.  I am the dutiful child, the berated child, the angry child, the sad child.  I am the cutter, the emotional masochist, the girl you looked at in school and then laughed.  I am a spark, driven to the flames;  I am an icicle, melting away.  And this is my story.  I may not tell it well.  You may not understand it.  Or maybe you will.

But it's mine, all the same.

"I still don't know who I am"