George – Here’s the piece I mentioned as it appeared at http://public-republic.net
I Remember You
December 24, 2009 by RL Burns · 4 comments
There are many things I wish I didn’t remember at all. Being raped at sixteen. A stepfather who beat the hell out of my mother, my sister and me. The hatred I felt towards him. Taking a gun to kill him and nearly killing myself instead. Rejection. The disappointment of every romantic relationship I have ever had. I went from a drunken, mentally, sexually and physically abusive husband to one who was emotionally withdrawn and distant – as usual, from one extreme to another, yes? My stupidity in returning to that first husband twenty-odd years later, believing things could be different, only to find that nothing had changed after all. The pain of my grandmother’s death.
Abandonment. The sexual abuse by a relative. The miscarriages. The pain of being mocked and used and abused over and over again. The self-loathing induced by my cowardice, my inability – or was it really unwillingness? – to stand up for myself; for letting these things happen. The physical pain I inflicted on myself by holding so much pain and rage inside. The loss of myself…that’s not really true. I never really knew myself, except for one brief moment in time, and I was too young to appreciate what was happening then.
Instead I was a chameleon, changing my look, my sound, even my thoughts to match those around me. Afraid to be me – not even sure there WAS a me to be – because then everyone would know I was stupid and ugly. As long as I reflected them in a flattering light, they wouldn’t notice how distorted and warped I was. The pain of living a lie, of living without the one person who made me real, who made life (not mere existence) possible. A lifetime of dissatisfaction. The guilt I feel for whining about any of it. What did my grandmother always say? ”I was sad I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” I hate my weakness and self-pity.
And yet, there are some things I am glad to remember. The smell of my grandmother cooking bacon and eggs in the morning. The ice blue color of her eyes. Her smile. The look on my mother’s face when she was pleased with me. Riding my pony. The first time I read The Secret Garden or The Chronicles of Narnia or even The Picture of Dorian Gray. Riding on the ferry to Portsmouth with my mom, watching the sun rise. Playing with Paul’s “wah-wah” pedal while he played his guitar.
The matching Easter dresses my aunt and I had for church one year. Sitting on the roof of the barn, staring at the bay, the wind blowing through my hair. Getting to sit in the front seat of my dad’s car when he had one of his girlfriends with us. Playing with Steph, singing, holding hands, laughing on the tire swing, giggling together under the covers at night when we were supposed to be asleep. The first time my son really laughed. The first time I saw in a student’s eyes that s/he knew I cared and that I could be trusted. When Charley’s book was published and I knew I had done a good thing for him. The first time I saw Cheap Trick and the original Star Wars movie. And you, Michael.
The first time you smiled at me and touched my hand. Your voice. Dancing with you at a junior high school dance. Spending the day at the theme park…the night before we went. Walking in the moonlight with you, watching it play along the sharp planes of your face. The first time we kissed – by the lockers, wasn’t it? Hellstarr. Your bedroom. The Kiss records. The joy. The long, long, long talks we had — face-to-face or on the phone. The constant touching. The way you would (and still do!) cock your head to the side and purse your lips – ah, those beautiful lips! The tenth hole green of the golf course. Your mouth. Your jealousy. Your kindness. Your blazing blue – but grey – eyes that make me feel that you see me as a particularly tasty meal you want to devour. Your unconditional love and acceptance of me.
The incredibly gentle, yet demanding way you make love to me. The way you sigh my name. The way you cry. The passion, pain and happiness I see in your eyes when you look at me. The contentment we find in each other’s presence. Until you, I didn’t know anyone could really love ME. I always felt I was less than nothing, until you found me. For the majority of my life I have felt only useful, not beloved, not pretty, not smart, not good. You are the only one who can make me feel those things. Somehow, you give me feelings of freakish strength and peace and happiness, just by being in my life – even from a distance.
Belief in you, in what was, has held me together through my darkest, loneliest, most horrifying hours; has forced me not to abandon all hope. Belief in you and what is, and what can be, will get me through now.
Thank you, Michael, for the most precious gift of yourself. Thank you for teaching me that love doesn’t have to be degrading or painful or ugly; that it truly can be beautiful and breathtaking and glorious. But thank you especially, for giving me back to me. For showing me, for allowing me to be, finally, who I truly am. And for loving me anyway. Those things I will happily never forget.