||[Jun. 22nd, 2005|06:53 pm]
Cabin fever has set in. I am pacing, talking to myself, counting again. I have reinstated my comfort systems, my timing, placing. Compulsive internal monologues, chants, petitions: “keep me safe, keep me safe, keep me safe” to no one in particular. My head needs to face north in the bed, no wound can heal past a certain point, no scrape, scab, abrasion, or else I pick it open manically. My creatures and stuffed critters have all come out of their boxes and greet me with angrier faces then I ever remember them having and so they must sit on the mantle a certain way, angriest to fairest of them all or else, something very ugly will happen.|
These are the intricate systems we build as a child: ways of positioning stuffed animals on the bed so no ears or eyes are blocked, names for washcloths and “happy baths”, counting and avoiding cracks on the sidewalk so no backs break and no mothers die, bubble gum bubble gum in a dish-how many pieces do you wish, properly heading a paper in grade school-NAMEDATEPERIODINRIGHTHANDCORNER, crusts off the sandwiches, compulsive finger tracings of water drop rivulets on car windows, counting always counting the number of ceiling tiles, the number of teeth marks on the pencil, the number of seconds after a bolt of lightning until the thunder comes crashing in. We cannot rely on common logic to comfort us away from thoughts of feral storm clouds clawing us from bed and electrocuting us in swarms of black and blue. We do not know how close is too close, so we must count seconds after the lightning until the thunder. Hold our breath. Clench our fists. Point our toes.
I suppose there comes a specific point, like a dot on a line, in red, where we are to transition from magical thinking into factual thinking but I never did it. My world is ordered by peculiar things, tiny things, diminutive habits and techniques for living that kept me safe when I was forty pounds and four feet tall and ought to do just as good now that I am a bull in a china cabinet like Alice who took too many bites of the mushrooms too fast. Her tears flooded her environment and nearly drowned her in saline and mine will too unless I count them slowly and only let the ones whose names begin with the letter M escape. Molly, Marlene, Mia, Michelle.
My father took me and my systems too seriously from the start, indulged too much. On nights when I would claw his door frantically insisting that monsters were infesting my room he would move a few inches to the right and let me slide into bed beside him. The next morning he came home from the store with poster board and markers and fashioned a sign that read “Attention: NO MONSTERS ALLOWED IN LINDSEY MARIE’S ROOM.” He taped it to my door and handed me a Windex bottle with label ripped off and a make shift sticker attached: “Monster Repellent”. “Make sure you only use a few sprays of it” he advised somberly. I decided that three sprays was a perfect number since I always was fond of primes.
He told our story at parties, delighted in my effusive use of his system, presenting me braided and buttoned in my fur coat with patent leather demy heels. I narrowed my eyes at all the other greasy, hot dog eating brats of the party couples who had to be immediately corralled into an upstairs playroom with the home owner’s nanny. With hand upon my father’s last button on his double breasted suit I insisted on staying beside him.
Beside him I needed no magic, no numbers of consequence, no magical powers assigned to inanimate objects here and there. If only I acted rightly to please him then he would keep me near him always. And things wouldn’t be so big. I wouldn’t spend time wondering about why exactly I existed, a little crumb of a person, in such a big tall world. I learned very early how to please, and it brought me most things I desired.
At a restaurant in Chicago the maître d’ told my parent’s firmly that I was not allowed in the main dining room and they would have to eat somewhere else and come back another night without children. My father paid the man a handsome sum of money and I sat with ankles crossed, napkin on lap, oblivious to the stares my father says I incurred. After dinner the owner of the restaurant presented my father with a bottle of wine and informed him that he was welcome to bring his “little queen” back anytime she would like, and bent to my face to tell me “You certainly are a little lady.” This too became one of my dad’s favorite recitations at dinners and even guest speaking or lecturing appointments where he used it as an opening example for one of his parenting seminars. “We rarely give our children enough credit.” I was nine or so then and sat indifferent in the back of the room. It wasn’t until I was sixteen or seventeen that this tired routine of his began to bother me.
My mother was entirely different. Sit still. Calm down. Hush up. STOP it. Watch yourself. Don’t spill. Don’t touch your hair. No running. Where are your shoes? What have you done with your hair bows? Don’t touch that. Not so loud. I was an overflowing body of water that she needed to push borders upon. If too much of me spilled out from my edges she wouldn’t tolerate it. Her affection was a reward for when I was very good, very still. She chided my father: “You’ll make her an actress!” And while my father was more than fond of my habit of checking myself in mirrors, microwave doors, storefront windows, sunglasses, blacked out television screens, my mother despised it.
As an only child my task was simple, when alone with my mother I was to turn myself inside out, speaking in a soft voice, smiling without showing teeth, elbows off the table, no running. We napped, played with dolls, watched soaps and she spent most of our hours grooming me or teaching me things. She wished me to be a placid sea of a child. When alone with my father I was to amuse him, smiles, giggles, doting, mania, indulgences, we listened to Cherry Bomb by John Mellencamp while he drove 85 on the freeway in his brand new Cougar with the crushed velvet seats. He willed me to be a brilliant spinning little nymph.
Because they wanted two different little girls, because they had such rigid expectations, because I was their only child for 9 years, because they reacted so immediately and dramatically when I pleased them, my parents were stellar teachers in the art of attentiveness, in the art of pleasing. Pleasing them was my only goal for years; I would do anything, whatever it took to be exactly what they wanted. And I learned quickly how to know exactly what they wanted and when. Predicting, mapping, guessing, like a poised tigress ready to attack, I was always flexed, perked, alert. I soaked all things up like a sponge. And I performed, speaking my lines with precise emotion and accuracy. My parents knew me best of all and even they fell for all my lies.
In my playground years I often heard the children taunting “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” and I thought (and often said) “DUMB!” How dumb really, I thought. Of course liar liar pants on fire. Of course, it is the only way, how do they think survival is possible without lies? Stupid little babies. In my later years while I was reading in the living room my father happened upon an episode of Rug-Rats where Angelica was screeching “DUMB BABIES!” He chortled before changing the channel and said casually, “You and her are two kindred spirits, kid.”
I was very liberal about lies. I didn’t think anything of them from a very young age. I rationalized that lying was the same as acting, and acting was an excepted and glorified profession. I was only four or five when I made this conclusion and from that point on lying never bothered me. I can remember presenting this theory to a therapist when I was fourteen or so and she reminded me that “but when you act, everyone knows you are lying.” I paused for a moment and retorted, “Not if you’re a good actress.”
“The point is, you aren’t tricking them, being an actress is not a dishonest profession, but being a liar is.”
I decided then that I would be an actress, not a liar. It isn’t my fault if people are too dumb to know I’m acting.
For anyone still thinking that way, still suckling the marrow and leaping poised from stage to stage, I have many a tale to tell you but I have to tell them later because this much confession is never good for a girl all at once and it ought come in waves. I also have scores of packing to do, as we leave in four days for a month in Florida and I couldn't be more ready to escape these walls and see my family and touch my dear brother's cheeks and smell the salty beach air that says "home." I'm not really even sure if anyone peeks here anymore, or if my sporatic lyricism has become too taxing for even the bravest souls. Shhh. I'm not fishing. I swear it.