“The vast landscape was never ours to begin with, we are all tenants of the same good earth. Surrounded by the enchanting tourist attractions, one forgets. One becomes enamored by the sounds, smells and tastes. Time? Time mattered less.” – Jacqueline Cioffa
I never cared much about looking back when I was young.
I could not wait to leave this house, this town get out and experience stuff. You know the obstinate dreamer looking for bold adventure. It worked. I ran. I ran fast and far, and kept running. That’s the funny thing about developing a serious illness, you are forced to re-prioritize. Becoming insane in the middle of Manhattan did not bode well for me or the strangers that crossed my path. The fancy friends eventually grew tired and gave up on listening to the paranoia, illusions of grandeur or understanding the enticement of pretty pink and shiny purple horses or the flickering lights of the carousel. Ones you can’t dismount or runaway from or dismiss, like the mania and depression you can’t out run. Round and round you go, in perpetuity. There are worse things than glaring evil stares when dancing alone in a Radio Shack in Harlem. There are even worse things than sitting on the floor in the middle of Rite Aid, Gatorade in hand, sobbing because you don’t know where you are, why the room is spinning or if you’re going to hurl from the strobe light storm happening inside your brain. There are even worse, more horrific things than why you’re all alone sitting on the cold, dirty floor. You are sure there are. You watch the news, bad shit happens. This bad to you, you’re not so sure.
Mortifying, that’s what mental illness is. Ruthless, ugly, hide your face in shame from the judgmental, fearful stares. The noise level in NYC is just too high. You can’t stand when passerbys brush against you, the subway screeches to a halt, or the taxis whizzing past. The bright yellow hurts your eyes. You can’t see. You can’t hear. You cannot process the incessant, relentless buzz, hums and whirring noise.
I am somebody’s child, you know.
I am somebody’s child, same as you.
I used to love the Carousel screaming and running towards it, arms flailing like the happy carefree girl I once was.
What I can’t figure out is what the hell I’m supposed to do? Now. With this.
Some people are addicted to the mania jonesing for the next high, the visions, euphoria.
No, no, no.
Not me. I’ll take the black hole depression and blasé every single time. It’s quieter and peaceful alone in the dark. Except for being skinny, that part of the mania I’ll keep.
There’s only one thought to trust, one way to save yourself.
Maybe, maybe if you go back you might find your way.
Safe passage awaits.
Maybe I’ll breathe easier there.
Maybe the familiar, childhood home might save me.
Probably not. It’s my best shot.
You see, I don’t care if I live or if I die. I know that sounds harsh, exaggerated, self-indulgent but it’s not.
I only care how I live and where I’ll die.
I’ve been asking my mom about her mother as far back as I can remember, cataloging the information in a deep, pooling reservoir of serenity where I could reach in calling on the stories to be soothed.
I have tidal waves of memories, and ripple effects of love stored in my brain.
My grandmother, May, died in her sleep before we could meet. Fifty-three is too young to leave, she was barely getting started I bet.
I know some things about her. She liked to fish and the solitude of being on the water. We have that in common.
She drank a Manhattan every night after work. She was a baker’s daughter, my mom still makes her molasses cookie recipe at Christmastime. She loved her husband who’d get sick, (like me) and then better but never quite the same.
“Don’t bother your father,” the phrase handed down to her own daughter.
May worked in a plumbing shop with him, raising her children to be responsible, gentile and hardworking.
It was a simple, honest life.
She liked to dance, but didn’t go out often.
She loved gardening, planting roses and peony bushes.
Did you know it takes peonies a full year to bloom?
Maybe May knew while planting the seed, her heart full of family.
An invisible string from the heavens touching mine, her orb a sweet- scented blushing pink.
Maybe she knew, probably not.
She’d adored diamonds like me, wore an outrageous sparkling solitaire with facets that shimmer and catch the light on my finger. I only wear the precious heirloom on special occasions or when I’m morosely blue. It makes me feel pretty inside, close to her.
“You never told me I looked like her,” drilling my mother with yet another ten-thousandth question.
She nodded, “it makes me sad and happy at the same time.”
Home, a place one doesn’t fully outgrow and never truly leaves behind.
But home, this home however much I am the failure for needing to return is where I would like to live and how I would hope to die.
Not necessarily the physical dwelling, but the contentment feeling and serenity of a happy place inside.
Surrounded by love. Less alone.
Unencumbered by the weight of heavy living.