It is Monday and the voice from Saturday night’s dream is still with me. I insisted that he leave by dawn, but he lingered. He is persistent. He always was. He can smell my fear and self-hatred and they are so very compelling. Like a yellow jacket at a picnic, he hovers and threatens undeterred. I am mesmerized. And in the cold darkness, I find it impossible to turn away.
But now it is Monday morning. Gentle snowflakes are falling outside. And I will write until he sees that he has worn out his welcome. His invitation to have a place in my life is irretrievably revoked. No gift or sentimental gesture will alter that status. Besides, there is nothing exciting here. No fear. Well, not much fear. Or, at the very least, not nearly as much fear as there used to be. And, as fear abates, peace begins. Small particles of peace accumulating like the snow I can see through my window. Peace is a powerful antidote to fear and self-hatred.
I can’t recall the specifics of what he said on Saturday. Maybe this was the version where he reminded me that I am a stupid whore. Or a terrible mother. Or utterly and completely unworthy of love or respect. Perhaps this was the one that begins with the list of my physical flaws and ends with the reminder that I will always be white trash. Candidly, I can’t remember what he said. Sometimes my memory is kind.
What is still vivid in my mind is the sound of his voice. It is soft with a sing-song quality that reminds me of how one speaks to a child. It is the duplicity of the voice that I find unbearable. So soft but, listening closely, you can hear hints of the violence that is waiting. Maybe, if you are accommodating and sweet, you can stave off the onslaught. Probably not, but maybe. After repeating your efforts a number of times, you begin to understand that it is a sucker’s bet. You have no control over the violence. You never did.
And so we come to the message I want to communicate on this snowy Monday morning: you won’t win. To be clear, I don’t think I will win either. In fact, most of me wishes I could give up. My long list of obligations makes that option unavailable. Enough about me, the important thing here is that you won’t win. So long as I breathe. You. Won’t. Win.
The only chance at victory belongs to my daughter. We saw Big Eyes a few weeks ago. There is a dramatic scene in which Walter Keane publicly claims credit for Margaret Keane’s paintings. She stands quietly and does not dispute his assertion. And, on her face, we see that the price of her silence is the death of some part of her light.
After that scene, I turned to my daughter and said, “Never let anyone do that to you.”
The typical 12-year-old girl might have rolled her eyes or mouthed “Whatever, Mom.” This old soul maintained eye contact with me and said, “Don’t worry about me. Never let anyone do that to YOU.”
Again, I thought. Never let anyone do that again.