I was fifteen years old and hating my life with as much effort as I could muster. Legally blind, divorced parents, dead father, sister on lithium - another who probably should have been. I'm just scratching the surface here. I was the most middle child in the history of middle children. My life was best when I could disappear. But that wasn't always so easy to do.
"Got a minute?" the school counselor said, undoing my attempt to avoid her while walking to my next class.
My reply was really a question, as if to ask 'do we really have to do this?'
"Is everything ok at home?"
"Huh? At home?" I pretended to have no idea what she was referring to.
"Is everything ok?" she asked again.
I looked at her, but really, I was looking through her. 'As if you could do anything' I thought. 'Be more clueless lady - I dare you.' I told her everything was fine though we both knew it to be a lie.
"Are you sure?"
Her questions were getting dumber by the minute. Why waste both of our time by asking if she already knew the answer. Why bother with the charade? I was not fine and she knew it - but she'd accept my lie and watch me walk away, feeling as if she'd tried. Her lack of effort only served as a reminder of the depth of the hole I was in.
It was the fall of 1987.
My father had killed himself four years prior, and my sister tried to kill herself twice within the last twelve months. My mother was afraid and running out of ways to vent her frustration. I was there. I was an easy target. It happened so fast.
At the time, I didn't know what was most humiliating; my mother dragging me down to the table by my hair, or her having done this in front of company. A day later, as I stood in front of the school counselor, I realized being dragged down to the table by my hair in front of my sister's friends was indeed more embarrassing, because one of those bitches talked to the school counselor about it.
The counselor's name was Mrs. Wolfe. She always wore a smart but outdated business skirt and librarian sweater. She probably drove a station wagon to her little country house complete with a two car garage and a white picket fence. A loving husband awaited. Maybe they'd have a tiff regarding what to watch on television that night... Moonlighting, or Hill Street Blues? These were what she had for problems. I pictured her husband looking similar to Captain Steubing of The Love Boat, but with more hair - maybe.
'Mrs. Wolfe,' I wanted to say, 'Come on. You know what happened at my house yesterday. You know my family history. You know about my vision. You either know I'm lying, or you are stupid. Really now, which is it?' Instead, I said I was fine. All was fine in my little Polka Joyland. La Dee Da, everything was mother fucking great.
Mrs. Wolfe looked at me with fear in her eyes, but it was a different kind of fear than what I saw in my mother's just before she grabbed me. Mrs. Wolfe feared that I was a time bomb, just like my sister. A time bomb waiting to explode.
My sister was a popular girl who made attempting suicide a cool thing for popular girls to do. Would I teach the boys a similar trick? 'Oh please don't do it on my watch.' That's what Mrs. Wolfe was thinking. I could see it in her eyes.
The fear I saw in my mother's eyes was rooted in chaos. She had too many problems with too few solutions and too many messed up kids and exploding debt and her own depression and please dear god just fucking get through another day let it be over aaaaaaaaauuughhhhh!!!!
Not once did anyone ask about my fears. My worries. My problems.
Having given Mrs. Wolfe a satisfactory lie ("Really, I'm fine"), a difficult conversation was averted, and once again, I'd done what was expected of me. My job was to not be a problem. To go with the flow. To not get in the way.
To blend in.
Disappearing wasn't always easy to do, but running sure was.
And I did run.
And I did fly.
And I did soar to great heights in my life throughout these past thirty four years; heights the likes of which I could have never imagined in those dark days of my youth.
But it only takes a moment to bring me back to earth. Just a memory will do.
Birthdays are for memories, so happy birthday to me.
P.S. I'm not sad... really, I'm not... I just write this stuff down because it's still in here somewhere and it feels like a weight lifted when I let it out. But there's a lot more in here than the pain. There's joy. And beauty. And bliss. And so much more. The goods certainly outweigh the bads.
Why is it harder to put the good things into words?
That is a thought to ponder on another day, because it is very late.