Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hit Me.

I was 8 years old when my best friend showed me how to set things on fire.

We'd typically go to the elementary school playground that was just up the street. On weekends, it was deserted so we had the run of the place. There was no grass, only dirt, jungle gyms and sandboxes on a piece of land that stretched 1/2 a mile.

We started by playing war and setting plastic soldiers on fire. We always had a bowl of water ready to douse out the blaze. One day, there was a puddle of water in a tree well and she said, "Check this out." My friend pulled a can of shellac out of her jacket, sprayed the top of the water and then set it on fire. Our eyes bugged out as we watched the top of the water burn, something we'd never seen before. "Whoa, that's neat!"

Then, things began to accelerate until one day we were shellacking our fingers and setting those on fire. I remember my utter fascination at watching my hand burn until the shellac wore down and I couldn't tolerate the burning pain. Then I'd dunk my fingers deep down into a bucket of water. The thrill of the risk was overwhelming and luckily, I didn't do serious damage.

Fast forward now to Jill, who stays home most of the day with stomach pain and nothing else to do but Think. Mentally flipping the pages of her childhood memories. Reliving the the mistakes made during her young adulthood. Questioning everything that she ever knew to be true.

Jill: Hey Dad, was it ever your impression that Mom didn't like me?

Dad: Your mother? No, she liked you.

Jill: Well, she treated me so differently than Denise and Ann. She wasn't ever mean to them the way she was to me, and she never said nasty, hurtful things to them. She didn't chase them around the house screaming. And even later, when we were older...she was afraid to say certain things to them but never to me. She didn't seem to care if she cut me to the core.

Dad: I've thought about this quite a bit, and I think that your mother was mad at me and she took it all out on you. It wasn't your fault, you just happened to be there. And you weren't able to fight back, you were too young and you didn't understand what was happening.

Jill: My whole life, Dad.

Dad: I know. She and I didn't click.

I call this type of dialogue "Stirring Up the Soup." I brought the issue up, asked a question and the answer became a burr under my saddle. I started to Think some more.

Why the hell didn't Dad help me out, especially if he knew what was going on?
Why did my sisters turn on me as well?
Why didn't somebody, anybody, defend me?

It can be a dangerous thing to initiate discussion on an issue that can never be resolved, never be fixed, and never be righted.

It's very similar to setting your fingers on fire. There's a fascination and an innate curiosity that forces one to do it. But it's stupid and pointless and needlessly risky. Self-flagellation, in a sense.