Sometimes, hormones mess with my brain. There’s no other way to put it. I can qualify it if you want. I can say: it’s not my fault, it only happens to some women, it shouldn’t impede my cognitive capabilities, you shouldn’t judge me on this one thing, it’s not just me. But. It. Happens.
So I’m listening to the radio, and the woman gives a heads up message that the next song, “Creep” by Radiohead, was banned by the BBC for being too depressing. I, of course, relate to the song. I’m already a bit teary, not, oh look a baby sniffling, but sniffly. I start singing along, “I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.”
The words hit. Boom. Then I’m thinking about the last time I heard the song. I remember I was sitting by myself in my dorm room back at school listening to Radiohead for the first time, looking for something that would mean something to me, feeling all alone, unheard, and understood by no one. So I’m thinking of that, driving down a pretty busy street in rush hour. And I start crying and singing. I’m wiping my eyes, singing along with wobbly gasps, and navigating traffic. We stop at a light and I look to my right. Oh look, it’s a police officer. I’m worrying he’s going to pull me over, and I’ll hit a car while I’m trying to pull over, then I’ll have to get another job to pay for my broken car, and I’ll still be crying. So I’m frantically trying to wipe my eyes and at the same time roll up the windows so he can’t hear my shrieking. But, I went right on past. No problems.
And that made me cry, because I thought maybe he needed to fill his policeman quota, but he didn’t want to pull over a crying girl after a day’s worth of work, so now he’s having a bad day because I’m having a sad day. Then Thom finished his sadness hole, and I drove back home, flicking radio stations every minute so that I didn’t get too attached to a song with too much memory.
Another story for you, written in 20 minutes:
We lived in a manse. The house is square, red brick, and old. One side faces the road. It’s called County Road on our address. One side faces the graveyard then the Church. The fence pens in cows behind our property. And then it’s corn in all directions.
It was my Dad’s house to me. Mom’s was far away. Dad’s house was quiet. Dad took a walk down the road for miles every morning. Alone. He came back to the quiet house when we were at our Mom’s.
Dad didn’t like pets. He didn’t understand them. I think he sees why people like pets, as companions, things to be proud of. But, they’re a waste of money, time and energy. What good do they do? They take up space. They eat things. They have to be provided for, and looked after. Oh, the vet bills alone! Why would you pay for a leech?
Dad warned us one night coming home. “Girls, be careful, there’s a dog outside the house. I don’t want you to be scared.” He told us he’d call animal control, and the second they showed up, the dog would vanish. “He won’t bother you, just leave him be.”
I watched with big open eyes out the window of the car as I spotted this great big dog. He looked like a German Shepherd, but bigger. Great big pointy ears stood on top of his head with little hairs coming out the sides. He had black-brown fur, thin fur, with lots of speckles of gray. His belly was almost all silver.
He didn’t look mean to me. But this was Dad’s house; Dad didn’t want him here. He didn’t belong here. Dad couldn’t get rid of him. The dog seemed happy to be there. I liked that he didn’t listen when he got yelled at. And Dad would yell at him. The dog sat and watched and smiled.
He followed Dad on walks. He guarded the house. Dad tried his best to chase him off. “He has no collar. He won’t leave.” I wanted to invite him in the house. I knew what Dad would say, I didn’t ask.
Every weekend I saw him. I didn’t pet him. He didn’t hurt us. He’d follow the car to the end of the driveway. He seemed happy to be alive. He sat next to the tree that bloomed pink little petal leaves. He sat there for months. I thought Dad might secretly like him.
I asked what happened to the dog. Dad said he finally left. He said it with a smile. We took a walk along the road that weekend. There was a skeleton on the riverbed. Maybe it was a deer.
The dog loved my Dad. Whether he lost his mind or not. Even if he had another master and got confused. He protected. Dad left him to stay outside. We never touched him. That great big dog, who had no name, outsmarted my father, and got to stay for a little while.
We drove from my Mom’s house to my Dad’s house. This was my Friday night. Headlights going down the highway in the rust polka-dotted, old geo-prism. My sister wasn’t with us. It was just me and Dad and NPR. I passed the time by road ogling for an hour fifteen.
I think he was trying to bring up a woman’s issue. I was in 8th grade. About to be a real teenager. About to be in High School. He brought up the importance of self-confidence for young women. He didn’t mean me specifically. He meant, young women as he knew them, as the idea ideal. I said, “I have like zero self-confidence.” I’m not sure if I was joking or not. Self-confidence isn’t something someone tells you how to acquire, they just seem to measure. My Dad turned his head from the highway to look at me. He usually spoke to you like he was a recording, and when you were talking he was only on pause. But this time, he seemed to look at me. I knew I’d done something wrong.
From where he drove, I was his little girl. He didn’t get to spend enough time with me. I was just growing up so fast. I seemed happy enough. I talked about my friends. I was good. He had nothing to worry about. I made my grades. Not the grades he wanted, but the grades I worked for. He wasn’t sure about my school. The history teacher seemed to have his facts and opinions too close together. But I’d be fine. Grades don’t matter till high school. I seemed to care.
He must have read a book about this somewhere. Mom told me once he was so nervous about being a Dad he read those books. A good student till the end. A student of black and white in print. And this self-confidence thing, now that was something bad. He had to fix that. That couldn’t go on. Self-confidence was very important for young women. I was a young women. He had read this is important. He must have decided he knew he could improve my confidence.
On the way home, we stopped at the library. I picked out a couple movies. At the checkout counter he said, “these are for you.” He handed me a stack of books. I walked out to the car with them piled in my arms. I read the titles once we were half-way home. They were themed. Improve you self-confidence, how to be a better you, how to love yourself the teenager, find the good inside everyone.
Right then, I think, no I know, I saw my Dad for his faults. First time. How did he not know this wasn’t how to fix me? How did he not know his own daughter well enough to know when he did something to upset her. Worse, when he upset me, why didn’t he care? He never should have told me there was something wrong with me or my confidence. He never should have given me a book. He never should have tried to fix me. I learn through talking. Why didn’t he talk to me instead of past, over, and to my sister? I put those books down. In one of my first acts of teenage rebellion, I never touched those books again. He condemned me with a library card. If he would have said anything to me, I would have been better off.
He scared me. In retrospect, he might have asked those questions, and I probably wouldn’t have answered. I was just nerves. I worried whatever answer I gave might not be the right one, and I’d get a lecture, or he’d raise his voice. So I started not telling him. He couldn’t hurt me that way, if I didn’t tell him something might be wrong. I can’t be fixed if I won’t tell you anything important. So I stuck to safe topics. I learned to have non-issue opinions that would keep him talking. No one could tell me something was wrong with me. I’d be perfect in the middle of the road, normal. You can’t suggest to the perfect.
I went for blunt. The subversive, walk around it, can’t hurt her feelings, not sure I should say this, didn’t work last time. So I sent her a text. It read, “Mom says your depressed?” This time around, I wasn’t going to spare her feelings of inadequacy. We were going to talk about it. Because it has to be better this way. She has to know I can listen, because I know what’s going on. I’m gong to make normalcy out of the situation. It’ll be more comfortable for her, and she’ll talk more. That time a couple years ago, she wouldn’t talk to us about it. Now she has to. Because I asked her. I asked her directly.
but i’m not sure how
She sent a text back. “Lol, that’s correct.” She sent the text back within the minute.
I had to make sure she wasn’t as bad as last time. I tried to remember what it felt like in that dark. Because I thought it would connect us. “Oh that sucks. How bad on a scale of bell jar to rocks in pockets?”
I got a text back two minutes later. “Um it’s in waves from mild inertia to contemplating ovens with new found interest.”
“No deep black holes of doom?” I tried to keep it lighthearted. I worried that if it became too serous she’d shut down on me.
it’ll eat you, careful
“A bit.” I thought she’d run with my joke. I thought she’d talk about being a spaceship drifting or make an Apollo 13 or David Bowie joke. But she’d said, “a bit.” I wanted to scream and call her right then. I told myself to be calm and stay light.
“Goodness how dreadful. I’m so sorry. Anything helping?” I didn’t know how to help. It was too late to ask her if there was someway I could do anything when you’re spiraling down.
“I’m eating chocolate pecan pie from our local neighborhood bakery.”
a piece makes all the difference
So she was ok. She knew what was wrong. She took steps to prevent and cope. When she got here for Christmas, I could see for myself. She can hide behind texts, but not my eyes. We’ll make sure she’s better then.
I wrote a little story just now. I thought, maybe, I’d share it.
Duke came from a very fancy family. But he felt bad. He didn’t mean to get born into a such a world as this. He would rather sit in his corner and dig a hole where no one can find him. He tried to be quiet and small. No one could ever see him. He could melt into the furniture without a sound. He felt bad he wasn’t as tall as his brother. It made him feel upset someone only got one thing on their birthday. His mom told him, “be thankful.” He tried. He didn’t think he could be more full of thanks. Mom says, “you’re so lucky, when I was little we had to share boxes of chocolates.” Duke didn’t understand; his brother took his box of chocolates. Duke felt bad his shoes fit well, and he got new ones when they got holes in the bottom. He didn’t deserve it. Duke felt bad no one talked to him because his dad was important. Duke huddled in his coat so no one saw him feel bad. He didn’t want anyone else to feel bad for his feel-badding.