Cracks in the Cement

June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment


Moments. Dropping a pebble in an undisturbed pond and watching it ripple. Throwing a stone at an old window and hearing the shatter. Firing a gun into too still air and feeling the vibrations.

Today I have a migraine that pulses beneath my skull and tightens my chest and sends shooting pains throughout my muscles, beneath my skin. I’ve had this migraine for a few days. And every day that it announces its continued presence, that it tells me, Still here, Still alive, I become upset. I worry, I overanalyze. I cry. I Google neurological disorders and stare at my ceiling, imagining dying young.

Today is the second day my mother invited me to lay down in her bed. Well, she didn’t so much invite me as find me lying in the dark on her bed when I had just told her I was looking for Tums. Lying there clutching her raggedy old childhood teddy bear and my raggedy old childhood blanket. She climbs in beside me in the dark, and I feel that familiar tug in my chest, a tug that has nothing to do with the full-body migraine I’m experiencing. A tug of words unsaid, of restrained love, of confused hurt.

We lay in silence for a while. Then a boldness grips me. Maybe it’s that nagging fear of dying young.

“What do you wish you knew? Like, before? In the past?”

All of those words unsaid and that confused hurt are translating into jumbled questions. She tells me, I don’t understand the question.

And then before I can clarify, she’s streamrolled ahead. She’s saying things about her childhood, about living in fear of beatings from her mentally unstable sister, about the cold distance of her mother. She’s saying, I wish I knew I mattered. I wish I knew I could have made it on my own, without a husband. I wish I could have picked the wedding dress I wanted, the DJ. I wish someone had supported me in getting my education. I wish I knew.

I’m absorbing all this, the openness. It’s uncommon for my mother, who normally looks pain, the past in the face and shakes her head, says with certainty, with firmness that nothing’s really there. A mirage. Or that it’s nothing more than a speck of dust. It exists, but does anybody want to waste any time talking about it? It’s really nothing, after all. Sweep it under the rug, as they say.

And I know I only have a few precious moments of this. Because soon the broom will come out, and instead of a beating soul I’ll see a cold, ugly wall. But my airways are constricting and words are screaming in my chest, and then halfway up my throat. I’m choking and I hate it. I should ask more, but I can’t, because her wall is down, at least partway. There’s at least a crack in the cement. But mine is staying resolutely up. It’s standing strong.

Buzzing silence. My head aches.

“Do you feel like you have walls? Like, emotionally?” It’s not the most eloquently phrased, but it’s the most my diaphragm and heart can manage at the moment.

Oh, huge, she says. Huge. She says two years ago she put up the biggest wall she’s ever constructed, and she never sees it coming down. She talks about how it feels to have a shattered heart. And I’m biting my lip so hard it starts to bleed. Because I know what she’s referring to, and guilt weighs down on me like a tombstone weighs down on the body beneath it. In my head, a therapist tells me, that’s not your fault. But my soul will always whisper, yes it is.

Air pushes out of my lungs, and soon I’m saying, squeaking, really, that I understand. That I have my own walls, too. But she doesn’t ask about them. She doesn’t prompt me to divulge my hurts, and suddenly they seem silly next to this wounded woman’s, this person so hurt for so long. And part of me scolds me for my self-centeredness, for ever dreaming that my own trials could match those of my mother’s. But another part says, why don’t you want to hear my story?

But I know the answer, at least in a way. The same reason I often don’t want to hear her own. Because it’s not enough that one wall come down. Both must crumble. And I, we, are too busy adding reinforcements. Strengthening the hold.

My mother’s quiet now, and by the quiet in, out of her breath I know she’s sleeping. I know that glimpse of connection is gone. And I wonder how long until I see it again. Till another crack opens in the cement.

But most of all I wonder when my own cement will crack. When my own wall lets in a little sunlight.


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