One of Those People

Early this fall, I ran across a clip from a DV8 production, and about two minutes into the scene I was slammed with a memory. The cutting edge of a memory – not of having seen the clip or the production, but of something from my childhood. One of those emotions without a name. No story, no features, but as vivid as the taste of something turned sour and effervescent. Something wrong. Dangerous.

I can’t place it. I don’t want to place it. And I know enough about memory to know there is really no point in trying. The imagination is powerful and will find reasons.

I used the clip then, and again since then, for teaching because it’s a good demonstration of dynamics and movement. And because, in some way, my allowing this in and holding it in my gut for those few minutes and in the echoing hours, I feel like I am paying some kind of tribute to that child I was. Respect for whatever she had that got her through.

Memory is weird, and it stitches things together in ways that make the world both more bearable and more complicated than it needs to be. I may be projecting the ambiance of a known event onto something else, following a trail of music. Footsteps on gravel. Or a gesture. A shadow. Because some hurts aren’t easily contained.

Early this morning I saw a brief film clip on Twitter and that same taste returned. That same fear. And again, it made no sense, since the film was made in the late 90s. But set in the 70s. Something in the music. Something in the angle of a jawbone. I have no idea. But I sit with it after the fact. I sit with a raw ache.

On this morning’s beach run, E. asks me if the memory writing is affecting me more than I know. And I deny it, and I talk a lot about who-remembers-what.

Then I realize that this is all about grief.

My trauma is not what you think it is. What I was told it was. What breaks “those people” is not always what we want to believe it is. We don’t want to look at the subtle and dangerous ways people move through the world. What they casually do to one another in the daylight. The real monsters are never what we expect.

Jimmy is dead. So is the father who was not my father, and the mother who chose not to mother. And I was and have been so many things along the way to now.

I am sharp as a bone knife. I am resonant as rosewood.

A loss will leave a hole. But a hole is not without purpose: a sound hole in a rosewood guitar will amplify a melody.

And forgive me if that metaphor is ridiculously strained. I need a nap.