Unfinished business gets in your DNA. Like that guy from high school I almost loved, but feared. He symbolizes much of what I didn’t do and now regret. He’s in my dreams from time to time. Because I don’t do what it is I want to do. His ghost lingers over all I’ve let drift.
If I could go back I’d change…but what would I change? When would I change it? How far back do you go? Because you could go all the way back to childhood but you’d just end up accumulating different regrets. I’m obsessed with high school. I wasn’t popular, but I wore that like a badge. I knew it meant I was better, more artistic, smarter than the cheerleading uniforms bouncing through the hallways on a Friday afternoon before the pep rally. Pep rallies. A time my outcast friends and I used to troll for older boys and pass private notes like they were Pentagon secrets.
Until Satan and God and a club called Medusa’s. Before midnight on Saturdays it was a juice bar. After midnight, bouncers kicked underagers like me out. They kind of did. It really depended on whether they thought you were cute. Anyway, I didn’t like to drink. I just wanted to dance, and do things my parents feared. But my overactive guilt complex required absolution. I told my mother about the upside down crucifixes, gargoyles, and twisted angels hanging from the walls while The Sound of Music played ironically on a 20 foot screen overlooking the main dance floor. My mother grounded me for life. No, I’m serious. She grounded me until the age of 18 or until college, whichever came first. No phone. No television. No activities of any kind. Her one stipulation. Go to church. And as long as I did stuff with church kids, she’d allow me day passes. She picked me up. She dropped me off. Until it became too inconvenient, then she let me drive myself. And by that time, I’d stepped fully into Stockholm Syndrome. Church became my life. Church kids. Church writing. Church membership. It lay the groundwork for my life. Every decision I made until the age of 29 shot out from the center of a rigid, literal interpretation of the Bible.
I killed myself. Not to be overdramatic, but I think there’s a certain truth to it. I killed my potential. The person I almost became. The one Mr. Banacheck identified in our Cinema Studies class when I was a Sophomore. He wanted to mentor me. He saw that I had promise as a writer. He was Jewish and secular. Two things my mother could not abide.
And now, more than 10 years after I shed the shackles of my faith I still feel too guilty to write freely. I went in the wrong direction, forged the wrong neural pathways. The ones I need do not exist. Writing in my voice feels much like learning a new language. In youth your brain moves freely to find its truth, like an amoeba shifting between poles. I sense my truth, but I can’t access it. What if it’s too weird? Too gross? Too overtly sexual? What if that makes me too broken? What if people see it and know my worst secrets? And judge me. What if it costs me work? When you’re young you don’t fear because you don’t know what to fear.
I dreamt about that boy last night. He lives in my basement and he loves me, desperately. I’m dating someone else. A safe boy. A church boy named Jim. He actually existed. Jim was Tracy’s boyfriend for four years. We thought they’d marry. They were the most popular couple in the group. Athletic. Good looking. Fun. In my dream I am Tracy. I mean I’m me, but I play Tracy. I long for this other boy living in my parent’s basement. My mother refuses to let me see him. Until I tell her she cannot stop me because I am a grown woman. She realizes I am 18 and her spell breaks. I descend the stairs and say to the boy, “I love you. I will always love you. I’m breaking up with Jim, just give me time.”
“You’re so confusing,” he says. “You East Coast girls are so confusing to us on the West Coast.” This is a dream statement. He and I both lived in the Midwest. We spend the rest of the dream in a push-me pull-you state. Much like the actual dynamic in our high school days. I did love him. As much as a kid can love another when she barely knows herself. But knowing myself now I know that I never loved any other until I met my husband. This particular boy haunts my dreams because he was the last significant contact I had with my authentic self before I got lost in the forest of faith.
Our identities are shaped by the people we love. Entire selves emerge from the fires of our deepest connections. The people I loved, the men I knew all had to do with a false self, a supposed self, a self created for safety’s sake.
Most of the time I don’t think about this boy. Actually, I don’t think of him at all in my waking hours. But in sleep he visits to find resolution and I wake aware that resolution never comes.
16 thoughts on “Satan, God, and a club called Medusa’s”
I’ve pondered similar situations… funny, when it comes full circle… well, you’ll realize the paradox. 😉 You can say it’s all for a reason, but the reality is? There’s no other way it ‘could’ be…
What a great metaphor for your ‘teenage’ dreams… (the boy in the basement). Sounds like you are beginning a conversation with him again. 🙂 Nice post.
As always your comments are perceptive and right on the money. Thank you. For a reason. Well, I believe we must find the reason. Otherwise, what’s the point of suffering?
I enjoyed reading this…..its very, umm, mellow. I don’t know if thats what I meant….your writing voice seems very mellow.. It flows. I like that starter “Unfinished business gets in your DNA” I was told recently that a person takes on some of the persona of the closest people in their life…..not the same as trying to emulate someone, but a little something/characteristic of the “close” person flows from them to you and you aren’t aware of it. Sounds a bit creepy to me, mind you, but nice post anyway. 🙂
Thank you. I think that’s right. Scientists have studied this. The studies show that molecules are not in stasis. They’re not just solidified mass. Our molecules are constantly shifting and flowing in one form or another. They can get intermingled with another through no fault or even choice of our own. That supports the idea that we take on traits of others we’re close to. Perhaps it’s a leap, but the two feel similar.
Beautiful, Amy. I’ve pondered the “what-if’s” myself and have come to the conclusion a different me would have made different mistakes, but I’d still be me. The story would be different, but…maybe I would be less of something I value today, also. I don’t know if we always give the negatives in our life the credit they deserve.
I also have dreamed about the boy I “loved” in high school and today he finds me interesting, but the reality is, I don’t know that that would be true. I’ve apparently reached some resolution with that part of my past, though.
Yes, that’s right. Integration. Part of the past. But I tell you what, I cannot stop obsessing over the past and what I might have done differently if only I’d been more courageous. Perhaps I’d be like so-in-so…perhaps I’d be better…I don’t want to accept the negative. I can’t accept it. Ah well. At least not today. I have good days and bad days. Today, not so good.
The good news is, you’re processing your pain. I hope you feel better about your past soon. Perhaps you were more courageous at the time than you realized. Survival takes on many forms. Keep writing!
Thank you, Belinda. Sorry not to have responded sooner. You’re probably like, whaaa? What did I even say to her? But I like this–more courageous than I thought…
Amy, I recognize you’re going through a challenging time, and I have no idea what the day to day demands in your life might be, so I don’t worry too much if you don’t respond immediately to my comments. I certainly hope I don’t say anything to offend you, but unless I re-read something I’ve written and say, “holy shit!! I MUST CLARIFY” I don’t worry about it. But I have thought about you and hope you’re doing well.
That’s beautiful. Your warmth means so much.
Hi dear Amy, I’ve carried the phrase “lost in the forest of faith” with me since you wrote this piece. I haven’t experienced anywhere near the degree of confinement and blinded discipline under which you suffered. But I do somehow understand the “forest of faith” idea. And, as you will guess, I have thoughts about how this happens. I’m sure they’d be nothing you haven’t already heard from “people who mean well,” and I’m sad to think I’d be relegated to that large, useless group. So for now, the most sincere and most important thought I can share is that I love you. You remain in my prayers – – not to Christians, or theologians, but to the Christ of Easter. I want to be respectful of the fact that you may not welcome those prayers prayed in your behalf, and truly don’t want to impose them on you. Maybe you can just gently humor me on this? 🙂 … and I’ll try to keep quiet about it. Looking forward to greeting you again with a warm hug when it’s right, I remain…me, your loving friend. stephanie >
Oh Stephanie, thank you. It is the heart that counts. What kind of sociopath would I be if I did not see that? I look forward to seeing you again as well. I deeply appreciate our friendship.
I don’t know how many writers wrestle with some version of the same doubts you do, but I know I did. The content was different, but the questions were the same: Is this too weird for anyone else to accept? Can I talk about this? How can I tell the truth and still avoid talking about A, B, C, and Z?
Sometime after I published my first novel,I wrote what I thought would be a completely unpublishable novel because if I didn’t go ahead and write it I’d never manage to write anything else–it would be in the way. I made a few efforts to publish it before I let it go. I’m not sure whether I should have pushed harder. Probably not, but not because of the content. I suspect it’s not as well written as I’d like.
My point is that whatever your background, learning to sound like yourself is a battle. You may find, eventually, that your background becomes your strength as a writer. It may have been stifling, but it may also be incredibly fertile.
Yes. I think we’re always trying to tell the same story, wrestling the same demons in different manifestations, but always the same themes. A favorite opera composer of mine comes to mind, Benjamin Britten. His was always the loss of innocence. BTW, standing with England after this attack. We’ve been watching and grieving with you.
It’s a horrible thing–and (to be both practical and crass) I hope it doesn’t tip the election toward the forces of anger and hate.
I hadn’t thought about that, that in some way so many creators are always telling the same story. It’s a good point.
…That’s what the terrorists want…to tip the election. I don’t know. I have hope for the world because everyone sees in D. Trump what happens when a racist, imbecile billionaire gets into office. I see the world recoiling in disgust.