Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Noise that isolates

This entry really should be in my private diary, but I’m posting it, hoping that it may help others as they struggle with memories, dreams, “old tapes”, long past situations that trigger responses in the now.

Several nights ago, we watched “Little Miss Sunshine”. When the mother and father began sniping at one another and their voices got louder and more chaotic, I had to leave the room and close the door so that I couldn’t hear. The grating noise of the arguing – senseless accusations that did nothing to solve the problems – was too much like my own home in Mississippi. My mother jabbed and my father pushed verbally – all their anger buttons exploded almost every night. The noise was bitter cacophony in my heart. When I could stand to listen no longer, I would flee to the outhouse and stay there or in the back yard as long as I thought I could without attracting too much attention to myself. Then I would ease back into the house, wash my hands, and slip back into my seat at the table to resume my homework. My Dad would get another drink from the bottle behind the water bucket, and Mom would continue whatever she was doing.

Our house was too small and the walls too thin to escape the arguing. In winter, the only room that was really heated was the kitchen. Sometimes, when Mom was working in the kitchen, she would make me sit and listen to him so that she could get things done. No answer I gave was ever right, even when I agreed with him. The alcohol made him insane. His voice rose in commanding and strident tones to overwhelm me. My insides were such a jumble that I seldom went to sleep until he had passed out. And, then, almost any noise would awaken me, and I would lie in my bed, still and silent. When Dad passed through the room where my brother and I slept, I could hear the change in my brother’s breathing and know that he, too, was frozen lest Dad realize either of us was awake.

This chaotic and insane noise is embedded in my soul; it plays in my heart and my head when we go to loud restaurants where many people try to talk over the music. I become a silent dinner companion, unable to speak over the noise in the restaurant and the noise in my head.

Today, I listened to a CD that Lisa’s son gave me for Christmas, “Radiohead”, and the some of the songs produced the same sort of paralysis. My mind was stuck in the kitchen of that farmhouse.

More and more memories of those years emerge as I dream and as the movie gnaws at my being. As I got older, Dad began attacking me and telling me all the juke joints he’d seen me in (and he’d been passed out at home at the time) and all the things he knew I was doing in graphic detail. So, at age 13, Mom gave me the keys to the car and gas money, and I drove the back roads of Quitman County until I was certain that Dad had passed out. Some nights I met up with other kids whose families weren’t too different or whose families didn’t care, and we rode together. Many nights I was alone on a gravel road going nowhere with no one knowing where I was. I can see the trees lining the road and the sky lightened by the moon and the gravel road stretching out in front of me, flat and empty. I was not lonely, but I felt and still feel a yawning emptiness of being alone.

I know that God must have been with me. I was never harmed, never had car trouble, never encountered a problem (like not having a driver’s license), and Dad was always asleep when I came home. And, I am alive until that drunken, senseless, arguing noise takes over my mind and my body until I can remember that was more than 40 years ago.

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