Another girl has left my side. I’m tempted to say I’m never lucky in love, but I’m not here to mope. I’m here because we finally closed the book. How many chapters can one write with 5 years of material? A good story, in any case. A sweet story, a sad story. A story we once thought eternal. I smile at our own naïveté. It is nothing to be ashamed of, for love is not love if it has no faith in itself.
I want to write something down, I want to pour my feelings, my memories, my lessons, all of the beautiful gems we collected over the years, into my final dedication to you. I want to craft us something to last for the rest of our lives, a beacon of hope, a warning or simply a meeting place where we can rest and look upon the fading beauty of bygone times.
Where do I start? I remember the first day. You were heading somewhere, you had Purpose. You also had the cutest face I’d ever seen. Big eyes, button nose, just the tiniest bit chubby. I was smitten.
I remember the first time I talked to you. First floor of the library. You were studying for a physics class. What luck that you weren’t alone! Our mutual friend K sat opposite you, so I sat down next to him and started talking. I had never done a thing like that before, but I’m glad the ice was broken that day.
I remember going to that fast food place and getting you the first soft toy I ever got you. A lion with a soccer jersey. 2006 World Cup, if I’m not mistaken. I surprised you, huh?
I remember going absolutely crazy about you in the following months, and only that night, the last night I really spent with you, did you manage to put into words that “that” was precisely what you love and hate about me. I agreed to dance on stage because you agreed to dance on stage, but you didn’t dance with me. Do you know how sharp the prick of jealousy was the night we performed our respective acts? You never knew I was looking for you to give you some encouragement, only to find that you had found it elsewhere. THAT was why our paths diverged for a time.
I didn’t speak to you much for the three months we were otherwise engaged, then I heard that you were single again. Coincidentally, not long after, so was I. You stopped avoiding me, too. It wasn’t easy to start our relationship, though. I’m sorry I broke up with you so soon after we first began dating. Do you know, at that time, every relationship I had ever left was not of my own volition? Breaking up with you because you were just a bit demanding was my attempt to break that trend. I’m really sorry. I didn’t understand you then. But I understood the tears the next day, and I said to myself what I never stopped saying from that day onward – that you are worth it. And then we started dancing for real.
I know I dropped the ball more than once, but you were patient. You were wiser than you know. I can’t explain any clearer than that, but trust me, you were. “People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
So one way or another we loved our way to the US of A. I remember the first time I visited UWM. It was winter, and the lake had frozen over. All bundled up in our winter jackets, hand in hand, shuffling across the ice… It was winter, but I was never warmer. We fell into a sort of routine – one of us would make that 3 hour bus ride to visit the other every week or two. As a result, I felt like I lived on two campuses the whole time. Potbelly sandwiches for breakfast, the Walgreens on the corner of State and Lake, Bascom Hill, and Memorial Union, of course. At 2 in the morning, invariably. Alone, because though I wished you could have waited with me, I agreed that it wasn’t safe and you would be tired. I guess talking about UWM isn’t that exciting, you spent more time there than I did, you have your own memories of the place. One final memory though, one thing I hope you don’t forget, because I never will. That night, in the middle of that square right before State Street, the one with the tiny fountain, the little clocktower, remember? I don’t remember why we were out, but it was nice weather, and we were strolling quite leisurely. Then I looked up, and I noticed a pattern of stars that I had only ever seen before in books as illustrations. That was the first time we saw the Ursa Major constellation, the Big Dipper in the sky. That was quite magical for me, and I know you shared some of that feeling. I will always associate the Big Dipper with that first time, with you by my side.
Chicago deserves a paragraph, too, in this mini memoir. You’d always arrive at O’Hare, because that’s as far as the buses from Wisconsin went. I’d be there to meet you, and we’d spend the next hour or so on the L getting to my place. Sometimes you’d talk, mostly you’d be tired, and lie your head on my shoulder while you rested. You could never sleep on moving vehicles like other people do, so tired you would stay until we arrived at where I lived. You put up with a lot of walking back in the day. Thank you, dear. As soon as we could, though, we were in the city. Chicago! Where we dined in the Rainforest and skated in the park with the giant chrome bean and watched Wicked on stage and crept about the Undercity and explored the Botanic Gardens…
We had some fights, of course. I remember the time I threw the blue dog/pig soft toy out the 20-something floor window, and you, in response, threw the pack of Magic cards a friend had given me after it. I have no idea what that was about now. I remember the time you packed up in silence and walked out of the house without a word, and I had to chase you down and convince you to stay. I do remember what that was about. The last fight I remember, or care to remember, is marked right there in your apartment. You probably don’t even see it now. Not so much a fight as a venting of frustration on my part. Hmm, that reminds me of another thing I broke in frustration. Is that why you gave up? Because I would break things? But I fixed them… I fixed them
I skipped a bit there. The broken wall didn’t happen until much later, after you moved to Hartford and I couldn’t find a job. But then, there’s not much to tell. I thought we had some happy moments in that last year, but I was just blind. I won’t say anything further, and you can rest assured that regrets will tinge my memories of that time. I don’t know if you’ll ever remember my presence in Hartford with anything but worry and frustration. And yet I thought when you smiled, things were alright. I never realized you were putting on a brave face.
Dear, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the heartache I put you through, I’m sorry we didn’t turn out the way you hoped, that I was stubborn. I’m almost there, almost ready to move on, and I think in a few weeks I won’t think of you with pain any more. I liked the last time we were out, you know, at Paradigm. You fit me like an old leather jacket. Instantly comfortable, warm, familiar. I can say with complete honesty, being with you is as natural as breathing to me. But you are gone now. Who knows if we’ll ever truly meet again, with our minds linked like our hands one were, unconsciously moving to the same tune. I can only hope to build a love as true as ours was, but stronger yet.
He stole your heart with words alone… I just can’t get over that. Were you eager to give love then, or was he really, really, really good? It annoys me. Irritates like an unscratchable itch, because we cannot help but compare. Even when you don’t, I do, sometimes. What if I’m doing what he did, only not half as good?
To be perfectly honest, it scares me too, a little. It makes me uneasy, not knowing what places he occupies in your heart. What if I trigger some emotional land mines? Will I lose you? It won’t stop me, but it does make me uneasy.
He stole your heart with words alone… and then he broke it! That makes me furious. It seems callous, as if he didn’t appreciate what a precious gift he had. If he did, then it was as cruel as crushing a butterfly in his fist. You described, once, how lost you became when he left, and thinking of it breaks my heart. There is injustice here, and I should hope to always rage at it.
He stole your heart, the thief.
He broke it, the murderer.
And I? I am a generous fool, hoping you’ll give your heart in return for mine.
You know nothing of my fear.
Did you see it? The Moon, the Moon!
Dancing to a gypsy tune!
Do you see the shadow of me in the setting sun that’s always just about to leave but greets you as you wake?
If only we were bolder, or perhaps more desperate, older, maybe then, the risk, we’d take. You were right. The time was wrong.
You are the most generous of angels, don’t you know? You sold your priceless love for a loveless life.
I wish you didn’t have to, but I know you almost have no choice. Almost. But the strength it takes to break those chains is not possible with your hands alone. Find the right people to help. They might not stay, but they can give you tools, weapons to fight those who would push you down where you don’t belong.
You need to ask for the right things: education, property, hard cash. You are the most generous of angels, you were meant to fly higher than all the rest. But remember, always, always remember what that money is for. It is not for today, it is not for tomorrow. It is for the rest of your life. Start a business, a good job, something that you can use to support yourself.
Other girls take the money for bags and shoes and cars and phones, for drinks and dice or poker cards. Maybe they think this shows they are better than the others. Bullshit. When you walk out of the bar knowing you never have to come back and meet another lady drink quota, you will wear a dress more beautiful, more valuable than any of them will ever know. You will walk out wearing pride and dignity. So work toward that.
I believe in you.
It’s 5:17 AM and I just had a sort of nightmare. I say “sort of” because it isn’t what I would consider a typical nightmare, where things turn to slush and monsters and carnage. In my nightmare, I was being hunted. I don’t know why. Perhaps I had seen something, or angered someone. Nobody knows how a nightmare starts, anyway. So I had a group of assassins on my tail. Somehow, I managed to evade them and take a flight somewhere to attend some fancy family dinner. It was someone’s home in some rich part of the country, that’s all I know. I had some cousins there, though I didn’t see their faces. Right after we started to eat, I believe Grandma’s phone rang. (real grandma passed away, was never rich, by the way.) Immediately I suspected that it was an assassin. I got up to leave. They had known about my situation, and loudly encouraged me to take my trouble elsewhere. Family, huh? So I ran, but it was too late, the assassin had entered, and seen me. I ran into the Ladies’ thinking I could buy some time. I remember trying to call the one I love. J. I remember thinking I didn’t want to die without telling her one last time that I loved her. Before I could, though, I heard sounds of pain, and somehow knew that the assassin had come into the restroom and vented his anger on some innocent woman. I ran while he was enjoying his horrible deed. The last thing I remember was that I was running, running, running.
I have not tried very hard to capture the fear of the situation, because I wanted to get the bare bones down before they evaporated. I also mainly wanted to ask: what does this mean?
I think of Descartes lately. Of the believability of the world around us. How do I know that what I see or hear is real? Not the inanimate objects, no. Trees, plastic, rock, animals, I can believe they’re real. When I shake a tree, its leaves fall, when I microwave a plate, it heats up, when I kick a rock, it follows a more or less predictable path through the air to land some distance away. Predictability, consistency. That is why I can believe in their existence. But humans? No. Strictly speaking, nobody can be trusted. The human mind is truly powerful, because it can override, amplify or dampen any instinctive response. It can admit or deny anything without regard for the truth of the statement. And who decides what is truth? Unless everything is converted to an absolute numerical scale, all that we are expressing is opinion. As long as most people share your opinion, all is well and good. As long as your significant other shares your opinion, all is well and good. The best we can hope for is that those opinions don’t change. The important ones shouldn’t. But we convey our opinions through words and actions, both of which are under the control of the mind, which can lie, or tell half-truth, or truth which later becomes untruth. When you cannot trust that the opinions others are sharing are consistent, what are you left with? Yourself, alone, to bear the full force of the consequences of any action. And if I lived on love and goodwill, if the compliments I paid are paid for, I wouldn’t trust me. I may like me, but it is easy to like and be liked. Capisce?
I am feeling squeezed. Like iron bands are clamped around my chest and tightening. I am also feeling distinctly anxious. I have a feeling the two phenomena are linked. Where is all this anxiety coming from? Something is bothering me but I, of all people, can’t pinpoint the cause. It’s like having a mental itch. Obviously, I haven’t been scratching the right places. Could it be that I’m bothered by my increasing insignificance? Could it be that I’m bothered by the list of things I should do but haven’t gotten around to? Whatever. These musings are pointless. Act! Easier said than done. Meanwhile, I shall suffer this anxious itch.
I broke a heart today. I am ashamed to say it, but I did.
It starts, as it often does, with loneliness. I flew, once, and now I run. Now and then, someone runs with me. I enjoy, and seek, her company. I should have put on the brakes earlier. I saw what was happening, but spending time with her was just so sweet. She and I have so much in common, and I was a little lost. Life would probably have been unbearable without her weekly companionship. Life in the future will be more unbearable now. A little or a lot? Time will tell.
It hurts more than I thought it would. It hurts because she’s hurt. But compared to her pain, this is nothing. I was once in her shoes, not long ago. I never told her how hard I cried for the other girl, how I drove with blurred vision for weeks as the radio played love song after love song, sometimes screaming the lyrics, sometimes singing softly, sometimes just listening. Telling people these things usually serves no purpose. If you’re reading though, maybe you will understand my loneliness.
She is like the other girl in some ways. No girl likes to hear this but I believe each of us has an ideal friend/partner/mate and we are consistently drawn to those people who embody certain qualities of the ideal. From love to love, from friendship to friendship, we always look for people who share similar qualities. She is like the other girl, but not the other girl, and it is with that other girl that my heart still lies. I could lie to myself and put her behind me but I don’t want to let go because despite what she said to me, despite the lack of a label, I know she feels… something for me, and I love her, still. I find myself smiling simply listening to her breathing on the phone. I know, in my heart of hearts, that I could build a new home for myself with the girl whose heart I just broke. All that would take is time. I know she would work just as hard as I would once we committed to it. I know this, but more importantly, I know that being with her would be all too comfortable. That’s for when I’m in my fifties, not now.
I’d thought long and hard about my choice in the weeks before the question was brought up. I’d decided on my course before I met her to talk. In retrospect, that was unfair to her. It must have stung like the sharpest of slaps as she heard, for the first time, the words I’d thought about for a long time. Too slowly, I realized that when she said “take a chance”, she was trembling on the edge, further than she had ever gone before. And I refused her. ARGH. I know nothing of her heart, really. For all our ability to make each other smile, I still know nothing. I was an insensitive bastard, and no amount of explanation or remorse can undo the hurt I unleashed. I am horrified and disgusted by that. I hope neither of us ever have to go through that again.
She is keeping busy, and I am temporarily banned from contact with her. I am distressed, and true to my essence as an introvert, I have turned inward. I may have friends, but few, very very few, that I don’t tire of meeting frequently, that I can be absolutely natural with, that I wish were family. She is one such friend, but tonight, as for many days and nights to come, she has put her back to me, and I am temporarily the loneliest man in the world.
Am I one? I used to think that I was not, because I was a bookworm, as a kid. Never liked rough and tumble. Then I discovered video games, and I always picked the agile, solitary character to play, typically a hunter, rogue or assassin, that sort of thing. Maybe that’s who I’ve always been. The one who doesn’t have the strength to be a warrior, nor the dedication and intellect to be a mage, but cunning and quick, able to dodge the worst and take down great adversaries with a few well-placed attacks. Unlike the mage, content to stay alone in an ivory tower, studying his art, I, the rogue, spend time at the local taverns, like the warrior, but while the warrior boasts of his strength and issues challenges to assert his superiority, I listen to the gossip, absorbing whatever information best serves my interests. I read people like a mage reads arcane scrolls. Both take time and careful study, but while a mage learns to will magic to do his bidding, I learn to subtly push people’s buttons. But for the most part, I don’t enjoy their company. I am most comfortable in the company of my fellow rogues, with them I am all goodwill and candor. I have lost track of my thoughts, but no matter. I know, have always known, where I belong.
I’m always wrong. They say so. They tell me it’s my habit to come up with excuses, to blame it on anything else but me. They tell me to stop it. They tell me to stop hiding in my room and do something useful around the house for a change. They stopped telling me things because I stopped calling. Just like last time. And now, for the second time, I’m… somewhere. Home is where the heart is, so I’m not sure if this is home. I don’t think I was ever sure of that.
I stepped on a nail, a rusty nail. I was in a good mood, right before I stepped on the nail. She and I had just come back from a shopping mall. We walked around, just like old times, when I was much younger. When I wore what she picked out. Actually, how did I end up in a good mood? She actually didn’t put me in a good mood when we met each other at the mall. I’d arrived earlier, and was doing some exploring of my own. I saw a shop selling musical instruments, and I went in to look at their violins.
I love the violin. They probably don’t think so, because they judge based on how much I was motivated to practise. Back when I was… 12, I believe. That’s when I stopped taking lessons, after only achieving Grade 4. I regret that, and I want to pick it up again. So I ask the people in the shop about lessons, and leave feeling good about myself, like I had done something worthwhile. They would disagree. I didn’t think about that, or I wouldn’t have decided, when we finally met up, to share what I’d learnt with her. I asked if she thought RM399 for a violin was expensive. “YOU HAVE ONE, DON’T YOU, WHY ARE YOU BUYING A NEW ONE?” was my mother’s response.
Who wouldn’t cringe? I did, anyway. Still, she did have a point, and I recovered quickly enough, hastily mumbling that I guess I’d forgotten, of course I’d use the old one if it still worked. Then I made the mistake of telling her I probably would have to start at a lower grade. “WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO HUMBLE? YOU SEE, THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND US, WE ARE NOT LIKE YOU, YOU ARE ALWAYS TOO HUMBLE! WHY DO YOU WANT TO SELL YOURSELF SHORT? DON’T YOU KNOW THAT WHEN YOU’RE IN THE OUTSIDE WORLD, THEY WILL ONLY WANT TO KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED GRADE 4, NEVER MIND THAT YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PLAYING REGULARLY, WHY ARE YOU WASTING ALL THAT MONEY?”
Was I now a vampire, to be staked through the heart so? I seized upon the first thing I could to retort. “Is this about money? Is that the first, most important thing that you’re worried about?”
Fine. I allow that she’s concerned with money. After all, that which she spent on me seems only to go down the proverbial drain. So I say, “I understand you don’t want me to waste my money, which I will be spending to pay for this, once I have my own income. If that’s the case, I’ll just practise on my own until the instructor, who will be assessing my proficiency after 10 years of not playing the violin, is satisfied that I am a grade 4 student, as I should rightfully be. How’s that?”
“Ohh, going to spend your ‘own money’, huh? Well go ahead! Don’t let me stop you from spending your ‘own money’ once you ‘have a job’, since you’re so independent. Go ahead! Let the instructor assess you then, start from a lower grade, why not?”
I am quiet. I knew it would come to something like that. I could have shut up earlier, but where would that leave me? Misunderstood in her eyes yet again, forever the child? I cannot agree that she’s right, and I cannot tell her she’s wrong. Even if I try to make it my own burden, I’m still wrong. I want to tell her how her “outside world argument” doesn’t even make sense in this context, I want to tell her how it hurts that she drew a line between me and some ambiguous “us”. I want… but it’s useless. It’s just useless. She’s my mother.
She cheers up after some shopping. I just follow quietly behind. She’s excited about the delicious laksa we had. I speak up when I remember I have some things to send back to my girlfriend, and she’s impressed when I can write down her address and my –mom’s–home address from memory. More shopping. She’s excited at finding some cheap orchids, and I have a good time helping her by picking out those I think have the prettiest flowers. Now you know why I was in a good mood.
Fast forward to home, about 8-ish in the evening. I want to help her water all her beloved plants. The poor drooping gerberas, the other orchids near the wall, the lime shrubs, too. I want to do something nice for my mother. I want to show her I can do something useful around the house for a change. I don’t watch my step, and suddenly I am pierced. I look down and see, in the dim light, several planks laid in a scattered, criss-cross fashion. Most of them have nails, rusty ones.
“What happened?” she asks, upon hearing my yelp of pain. I said I stepped on a nail.
“WHY DID YOU STEP ON A NAIL, THERE’S SO MUCH SPACE THERE, WHY DID YOU STEP ON THE PLANKS, CAN’T YOU STEP AROUND THEM? WHY DID YOU STEP ON THE PLANKS?”
I lost it. I really lost it. “WHY MUST IT ALWAYS BE MY FAULT? IT’S MY FAULT THAT I STEPPED ON A RUSTY NAIL ON THE PLANK, IS IT? WHY DO YOU HAVE TO ASSUME I STEPPED ON THE PLANK WHILE LOOKING STRAIGHT AT IT? WHY CAN’T YOU ASSUME THAT I JUST WANTED TO WATER YOUR PLANTS AND ACCIDENTALLY STEPPED ON THE PLANK? I’M INJURED AND THE FIRST THING YOU DO IS YELL AT ME?”
“Fine! Come inside!” she says, still loudly, but relatively calmer. I move to obey– “STOP! Go wash your foot!” I grumble under my breath, “tell me to come inside then tell me to go wash my foot, make up your mind!” as I get some water and proceed to wash the wound. From behind me, she goes, “Just splash some water on it! What are you doing, cleaning out the wound?”
“I thought that was the POINT of washing,” I say through gritted teeth as I finish up and walk towards her.
Inside, we head into the dining room. She hasn’t said a word since, and maintains her fierce silence as she takes out the first aid kit. She pulls out a chair and I misunderstand, placing my foot awkwardly on it, sole up. “Sit down!” is all she says, before handing me a piece of cotton wool. I sit, and she leaves the room. I wonder if this is her way of telling me that she’s done with me, that I know full well what to do now, so I rummage in the first aid kit for some antiseptic. I find a bottle labeled “antiseptic” just as she returns. I ask her if I should use it, but am greeted with silence. Instead, she brings out a different bottle, and proceeds to pour that onto the piece of cotton wool. I wonder if I should refuse her help, but I imagine it would set her off one some mad tirade again, so I let her do her motherly duty. Her duty done, i.e. my wound disinfected and protected with a clean cotton swab, she packs up the first aid kit. I take this opportunity to go and see what I can do about the rusty-nailed planks. I think I should flatten them, but I want to ask her if I should, in case she needs the nails in for some unknown purpose. I find her sitting at the dinner table, flipping through the newspapers.
“Mom, should I flatten the nails in the planks?”
“No, don’t do anything! I’ll deal with the planks!” I can’t understand why she’s still shouting.
“But mom, I’m free now, just tell me if it’s okay for me to flatten the nails in the planks. If you need them for something else I won’t but if you don’t, tell me so I can do something about the nails.”
“I SAID I’LL DEAL WITH THE PLANKS! WHAT IS IT THAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND? YOU MADE ME ANGRY AND NOW YOU WANT ME TO JUST SWALLOW ALL THAT IRRITATION? I CAN’T DO IT! I JUST CAN’T, SO JUST DROP IT!”
I am pierced again, through my heart this time, not my foot. “I MADE YOU ANGRY? HOW DID I MAKE YOU ANGRY? I TOLD YOU I DIDN’T STEP ON THE PLANKS INTENTIONALLY!”
“MUST YOU ARGUE UNTIL YOU’RE PROVEN RIGHT? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? YES, I ADMIT I WAS WRONG TO PUT THE PLANKS THERE, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? DO YOU WANT ME TO APOLOGIZE TO YOU? DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY THE PLANKS WERE THERE? I TOOK THEM FROM THE OPPOSITE HOUSE, ALRIGHT? THEY DIDN’T NEED THEM SO I THOUGHT I’D USE THEM TO COVER UP THE HOLE OUTSIDE SO YOUR SISTER’S CAR WON’T FALL INTO IT WHEN SHE PARKS THERE! I WAS GOING TO DO IT TOMORROW, HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW YOU’D GO AND STEP ON IT TONIGHT? I ALREADY SAID I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT, WHY DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP STRESSING THIS ISSUE? WHY?”
All the noise brings my father down. “What’s going on here?”
I speak up first. “I stepped on a nail, dad.”
“YOU COULD HAVE STEPPED AROUND IT, THERE WAS LOTS OF SPACE THERE, COULDN’T YOU SEE THAT THERE WERE BOARDS SCATTERED ALL OVER, COULDN’T YOU USE YOUR BRAIN AND WORK OUT THAT THERE MIGHT BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THOSE PLANKS AND AVOID THEM?” is what my mother said.
“I wanted to ask mom if I should flatten the nails, and she started yelling at me.”
I should have known better than to expect my supposedly logical father to side with me, but I did, and he didn’t.
He began with an exasperated sigh and a disapproving shake of his head. “I don’t know what to say to you. Why are you like this? Why can’t you make a decision?” He was going to say more, but I didn’t interrupt him. Mother did. She told him to forget about it, that I was just trying to prove myself right, this was a pointless argument, she didn’t want to hear any more about it, and more along those lines. They turned their backs on me, again.
How many times? How many rusty nails have they been leaving in my heart, poisoning me? I let her lead my father out of the room, then spoke to her. “Why is it that no matter what I do, I’m in the wrong?”
She whirled, furious again. “HERE YOU GO AGAIN, ALWAYS FORCING THE ISSUE UNTIL YOU CAN BE PROVEN RIGHT. WHY CAN’T YOU JUST ACCEPT THIS? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET ME BE? I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU, THAT’S IT! JUST ACCEPT THAT!”
“Fine,” I say, “if you want to be left alone, I will leave you alone. Now I just want to find out why Dad thinks I’m wrong too.
“WHY, SO THAT YOU CAN BE PROVEN RIGHT? HOW LONG DO YOU WANT TO KEEP ARGUING? I AM YOUR MOTHER, YOU KNOW? I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SCOLD YOU!!”
I mutter, “as a person, I have the right to fight back,” and I walk out of the dining room as she repeats cries of “COME ON THEN, FIGHT! FIGHT BACK!”
I find my father outside, hammering out the rusty nails. So this is what he meant by making a decision. I see his point, but before I can say anything, he does what he always does. What they both, I suppose, have always done. “How, son, how are you going to work for anyone? Nobody wants someone who has to ask so many questions before getting any work done. Nobody. People in the outside world want their employees to know how to do the right thing without having to ask all the time! Nobody wants to be bothered with stupid questions. Look at these nails. Couldn’t you have just taken them out on your own? Is it not enough that you got hurt? Do you want to leave them in for someone else to step on them? Why didn’t you exercise your judgement instead of asking your mother?”
I want to tell him how I have worked with people who hated me for doing too much on my own, I want to tell them that some people value an employee who takes the effort to get things straight before doing things. I stand there, thinking, and he attacks again with “Why are you just standing there? Get something and help me!”
I can’t ask too many questions, so I ask where the hammer is. He answers with the most useless answer imaginable: “In the toolbox”. Of course, silly me, I might have thought it was in the refrigerator otherwise! Afraid to ask more, I spend too much time hunting for the hammer, and by the time I find it he’s almost done. I still manage to hammer out a few nails, and no more discouraging words are said. No encouraging words, either, but even you, reader, know what to expect.
I walk up to my room, not even feeling the little twinge in my left foot because of all the rusty nails I’m starting to sense inside of me, scattered through time. A deep, pervading sense of injustice, of good intentions but poor expressions, and a kind of loneliness. Is this what it means to come home after 3 years being abroad?