December 26, 2002

I hear you hear me

Jonathon answers my call bravely, in an answer song that resonates with me. The wandering around inside of yourself wondering why you didn't feel worse than you did.

The me at six pretending to be grieving on the school bus, looking out the window, distant, hearing other kids say, "Her dad died. Wow." Me, not really sad that day. Me, glad for the attention I had to share while he was sick. His was focused on me, and then later on breathing, while pancreatic cancer ate him from the inside out, the pain, I understand, unbearable. So, once he was gone and I knew he was gone, well, then, what does a kid do? You get on the bus and you go to school just like you did while he was well, while he was dying, just like always. But you get more attention.

At first I liked it. The hugs from the teachers. Then it embarrassed me. Then it tortured me. Then I began hiding. From the cancer. From the spotlight.

I know Jonathon, the aftermath. When family members swoop in and take your dead parent's stuff, when people can't look you in the eye because it mirrors their worst fears, when they say, "I'm sorry," and you're thinking, sorry for what? Stop saying your sorry. You can't fix anything, and don't be sorry for me. Be sorry for you, you gutless spineless weasel here to steal my father's 1953 Fender Bass, and you, you lowlife here to steal my father's VW Bus, and you, you scumbag, come to get the upright bass. You sorry motherfuckers. Don't be sorry for me. Be sorry for your sorry lives.

I hate the words I'm Sorry. They batter me. They batter me because they are the first expressions I received from adults in my world who let me down. They let me down by letting him die. They let me down by pretending to care. They let me down by pretending it would all be alright. It wouldn't be alright. It would never be alright again.

I hate watching parents in the playground, their sons whacking one another in the stomach, "Tell Billy you're sorry." "Sorry, Billy." Turn around, he wacks Billy again. Sorry means you won't let it happen again. And you can't ever not let it happen again. So stop saying it. Do it.

I'm sorry doesn't cut it with me.

Say nothing.

Shut up and prove it.

And if you can't act, let me have my pain. Or let me go play.

Jonathon knows how it is when things bother you: "I hated that. All worrying what people thought. All wanting not to hurt someone's feelings. All caring about it," he says.

I know.

Oh, fuck, I'm the one without a dad. Everyone wonders. Their parents feel bad, ask me to father-daughter dinner dances. Please, the attention I wanted at six, I don't want anymore. Guilt? It sucks being uncomfortable over something you didn't do. It sucks being embarrassed about something you didn't cause. It sucks feeling bad for people who feel bad for you.

So you start to change.

You get an edge.

Jonathon knows.

And you kick yourself when you realize you've left yourself vulnerable, so you don't anymore. And then you kiss yourself when you realize you've left yourself vulnerable, so you do it again. And then you learn that you don't care. It is freeing.

To not care, to not have nerve endings on your outsides anymore; it's freeing.

Even if it is all different tomorrow.

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