We loved each other. We fought for each other. When worlds collapsed we were buried in the rubble together and when we were dug out of the rubble and rescued we all celebrated together.
Conversing with children is a fine art.... An art form that demands large amounts of both honesty and misdirection. Or maybe discretion is a better word.
Even a Menno sheltered from the world knows not to stick her tongue into the mouth of a boy who owns an Air Supply record. You might stick your tongue into the mouth of a boy who owned some Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but you would not date him on a regular basis, or openly.
Imagine a psychiatrist sitting down with a broken human being saying, I am here for you, I am committed to your care, I want to make you feel better, I want to return your joy to you, I don't know how I will do it but I will find out and then I will apply one hundred percent of my abilities, my training, my compassion and my curiosity to your health -- to your well-being, to your joy. I am here for you and I will work very hard to help you. I promise. If I fail it will me my failure, not yours. I am the professional. I am the expert. You are experiencing great pain right now and it is my job and my mission to cure you from your pain. I am absolutely committed to your care... I know you are suffering. I know you are afraid, I love you. I want to cure you and I won't stop trying to help you. You are my patient. I am your doctor. You are my patient. Imagine a doctor phoning you at all hours of the day and night to tell you that he or she had been reading some new stuff on the subject of whatever and was really excited about how it might help you. Imagine a doctor calling you in an important meeting and saying listen, I'm so sorry to bother you but Ive been thinking really hard about your problems and I'd like to try something completely new. I need to see you immediately! Im absolutely committed to your care! I think this might help you. I won't give up on you.
I was beginning to understand something I couldn't articulate. It was a jazzy feeling in my chest, a fluttering, a kind of buzzing in my brain. Warmth. Life. The circulation of blood. Sanguinity. I don't know. I understood the enormous risk of telling the truth, how the telling could result in every level of hell reigning down on you, your skin scorched to the bone and then bone to ash and then nothing but a lingering odour of shame and decomposition, but now I was also beginning to understand the new and alien feeling of taking the risk and having the person on the other end of the telling, the listener, say: Bad shit at home? You guys are running away? Yeah, I said. I understand, said, Noehmi.
Irma, she said. But I had started to walk away. I heard her say some more things but by then I had yanked my skirt up and was running down the road away from her and begging the wind to obliterate her voice. She wanted to live with me. She missed me. She wanted me to come back home. She wanted to run away. She was yelling all this stuff and I wanted so badly for her to shut up. She was quiet for a second and I stopped running and turned around once to look at her. She was a thimble-sized girl on the road, a speck of a living thing. Her white-blond hair flew around her head like a small fire and it was all I could see because everything else about her blended in with the countryside. He offered you a what? she yelled. An espresso! I yelled back. It was like yelling at a shorting wire or a burning bush. What is it? she said. Coffee! I yelled. Irma, can I come and live--I turned around again and began to run.
He is the same chap who informed me that there are unusually high numbers of Mennonites who suffer from depression but nobody knows why. I said, Well, thank you for that! As cheerfully as if I was accepting a plate of homemade Christmas cookies from one of my students.
During that time, The Mouth came by to pray with us, and my dad began to spend his evenings sitting in the yellow lawn chair and staring at the highway, or down in the basement with his isotope material, finding comfort in the stability that's created from decay.
She told me that the brain is built to forget things as we continue to live, that memories are meant to fade and disintegrate, that skin, so protective in the beginning because it has to be to protect our organs, saga eventually - because the organs aren't so hot anymore either - and sharp edges become blunt, that the pain of letting go of grief is just as panful or even more painful than the grief itself.
Tina nods sagely and says yes and then something in Plautdietsch, probably something like heck yeah do we ever know what sad is. Sadness is what holds our bones in place.
I heard Tash say: Nomi, you’re sad man. Get a grip. Walk away. What have I taught you? And I thought: You taught me that some people can leave and some can’t and those who can will always be infinitely cooler than those you can’t and I’m one of the ones who can’t because you’re one of the ones who did and there’s this old guy in a wool suit sitting in an empty house who has no one but me now thank you very, very, very much.
One night I heard my dad say to my mom: I can't help but think of the good times we're having now as being painful memories later on. And my mom saying, c'mon now honey.
Our dreams are little stories or puzzles that we must solve to be free, Sebastian said. He was reading out loud from Wilson's notebook. My dream is me offering me a solution to the conundrum of my life. My dream is me offering me something that I need and my responsibility to myself is to try to understand what it means. Our dreams are a thin curtain between survival and extinction.
We drove down Corydon avenue towards my mother's apartment. How are you doing, she asked me? Fine, fine, I said. I wanted to tell her that I felt I was dying from rage and that I felt guilty about everything and that when I was a kid I woke up every morning singing, that I couldn't wait to leap out of bed and rush out of the house into the magical kingdom that was my world, that dust made visible in sunbeams gave me real authentic joy, that my sparkly golden banana-seated bike with the very high sissy bar took my breath away, the majesty of it, that it was mine, that there was no freer soul in the world than me at age nine, and that now I wake up every morning reminding myself that control is an illusion, taking deep breaths and counting to ten trying to ward off panic attacks and hoping that my own hands hadn't managed to strangle me while I slept.
Everything in life, except her kids, made her impatient. She had tried to do a million things. She'd wanted to be a documentary filmmaker and then a painter and then a tiny-ceramic-figure maker. None of it panned out. She'd be full of enthusiasm at first, full of big ideas and energy and drive, but it would all gradually evaporate and disappear. She could never maintain the momentum or the concentration or the confidence she needed to get anything done.
Let's not have forced gaiety this Christmas, said Nora, like it was a dish. We'll have a tiny bit of it, I said.
I stare out the window and reflect on the similarity between writing and saving a life and the inevitable failure of one's imagination and one's goals and ambitions to create a character or a life worth saving.