(You can read the part 2 of this post here)
Have you listened to a happy, cheerful song that makes you terribly sad and longing? Months ago (must’ve been January or February), it happened to me while driving to work. Just as I was turning the last corner before school, the radio station started playing “Picture Book” by The Kinks. I’d never listened to it before, or maybe never really paid attention to it. As soon as it started playing I liked the tune, it seemed like a good song to start off the last Friday of the month…and then the lyrics started hitting me hard, I was just getting flashes of phrases as I was starting to get the familiar chest pains, and by the end of it the tiniest tears were strolling down my face:
The thing is, pictures have never really been something cheerful for me, they’ve meant pain, un-answered questions, secrets, shame, prove of x and y, they’ve almost never been just memories, let alone good memories. I’ve always had issues with pictures. As a child, I did have access to some old picture books and a big box of pics that were never sorted out. But they were never explained to me. Whenever I asked a question, I was given short answers with confusing information as if I was supposed to know something else. I was told who this and that were, but not a hint about their relation to me or my mother, or the situation they were in.
I got a habit of looking at old pics as a small child. I was almost always by myself in the afternoons. My mother picked me up from school and dropped me at our apartment before going back to work. It wasn’t unusual for me to take out the picture books and the big picture box and lay them out on the floor. As I knew almost nothing about them, I created stories in my mind with the little facts I knew, trying to explain my place in the world.
I mean when I asked, my mother could say things such as: this is your uncle Derp, we were at a party, and your cousin Derpette is right there behind us with her father, this was before Derpina was born. Why had I no idea who uncle Derp was if he seemed so close to my mother? And, Derpette’s father? I’d always been told she didn’t have a father. And for fuck’s sake, who the hell was this Derpina she mentioned? Why didn’t Derpette live with her if they were sisters?
I know it’s not strange for families to keep things from children when they’re complicated (I absolutely disagree with this, I believe everything can be simplified and explained to them, and it’s always way better than secrets and/or lies, but I can understand why it happens) but my mom’s family has a shitload of well-kept secrets, and some of us can only guess there are multiple layers of secrecy. Some people have died out with them leaving us with practically no way of ever finding the truth about us. I wish it were as easy as keeping things out if sight for problems and consequences to go away, but that’s hardly the place here. Me and my cousins may have been kept in the dark about the horrible things that happened, but we know they happened, we can see it, we’ve being seeing it all of our lives. The pestilence leaks out of their secret coffins, so we might not be able to see them, but we grew surrounded by it. Even when we have found those coffins, we might not be able to open them to see what stinks so hard in them, but we know where the stench is coming from. Not all of us kept in the dark see this though. I’ve got relatives who grew accustomed to the smell, and who fail to recognize it (or choose to ignore it) even when it’s cynically crawling up their nose.
Whenever I’ve tried to find out more, I’ve always hit a dead-end and reproachful comments that push me away: Why do you care? It didn’t happen to you anyways // It happened such a long time ago it doesn’t matter now. // I don’t remember, I forgot…
Can’t they see how their secrets have hurt us? No matter how hard my mom and her siblings tried, their past didn’t go away, neither did the problems it caused them. They thought eliminating contact with their family would help, well it didn’t. True, they were abandoned first, I’m not saying they should’ve continued being in touch with people who hurt them, but they can’t fucking erase them from OUR past and pretend they didn’t exist. The scars and open wounds are there, and it only confused us, their children. They created a new generation of hurt, abused children, with the only difference that we had even lesser of a clue, we were left to figure out on ourselves the cause of our misery.
I wish I could say that we at least had each other, but we didn’t. In my case, I’m much younger than my cousins, so I was always apart. And as for them, it seems to me like everyone was careful enough to keep their personal hell away from surface, so no one ever talked about it. A new family secret I guess. And now their children are exposed to a new life of confusion and suffering if we don’t stop it.
I’m talking about something that has hurt me greatly, and yet I can’t seem to be able to pinpoint the exact nature of my pain. And that’s frustrating as hell. I could talk about the time when I was locked for hours, or when I was beaten, or the uncountable times I suffered verbal abuse. The screams, the crying, the pain. But that’s not what I’m going at. Those are just that stench I was talking about, what I really wish is to get to the source. Open those damned coffins and let it all out into the daylight so that at least I could see were the rottenness comes from, maybe even find a better way to deal with it.
But I can’t, I’ve only got bits and pieces to stitch together and a whole lot of imagination to figure out the rest. What scares me the most is that my imagination may fall short, I’d be incredibly happy to find out they’ve been making a storm in a glass of water, but I know that’s unlikely. An entire generation doesn’t fuck up their lives just because they were sent to their rooms without dessert.
And that’s only half the story of why pictures are so damn hard for me. I’ve only told the part my mother’s family contributed with and haven’t even started explaining exactly why this song made me cried. But I believe I’ve drifted for so far I’ll have to do a whole new post to continue with this.