writer, editor, girl of the creative persuasion.
I see a counselor for a while, get drugs from a psychiatrist, have my blood monitored to detect drug levels. I will have to be on drugs for the rest of my life. My father could not eat solid food for the last few years of his life. His skin was chemical yellow, drug-capsule-textured. My father’s drug-saturated body haunts me, the chemical smell that took over his humanity and, in my fantasies, ate away at him. I will not become that. I start looking at ads for electro-shock therapy, which seems to have good results. I remain productive. I am rewarded. I stop taking my drugs. I tell my mother I am on drugs. She learns to ask if I am still taking them. I tell her that I have stopped. Despite her training as a psychiatric nurse, she longs to believe that Jesus has performed a miracle. I let her believe this. We stop talking about drugs. A change in geography seems to affect my symptoms: I live in Nairobi for six months, and while I experience some withdrawal, it is nothing like what I have experienced in the States.
You can’t lose a father, particularly a father who was lost, or lost himself. It was perhaps while he was alive that we lost him, that we no longer knew who or where he was. Now that he’s dead we gather up what he left, the crumbs and pebbles strewn through the forests of his anxiety, the treasure and the wreckage; we construct a void, we sculpt an absence, we seek out a form for what remains of him in us and has always been a temptation toward formlessness, a threat of chaos; we seek out words for what was always the secret, silent part in us, a body of words for a man who has no grave, a castle of presence to protect his absence.
I passed the cross that hangs from one of the multi-families on Walnut Street with its improbable, neon message: “Jesus Saves.” Downhill, on the other side of those buildings, the late stream of commuters trailed taillights to the western suburbs. Here was that view of the horizon that once seemed to me the open frontier, as if Framingham and Worcester were the Wild West.
Sure, this was my own fantasia of memory; this was the self-involving routine of one interior monologist, chattering along with his inane repetition of “I, I, I.” Except that these memories were of times when such individual stories wove together.
Reading Zambreno’s meditations on this kind of pathologizing, I thought a lot about the state of Being Too Much versus the desire—and what also, often, feels like the feminist responsibility—to Take Up Space. We talk a lot about Taking Up Space. Why don’t the women in the audience at the event ask any questions? Why do I introduce myself as a waitress instead of saying I’m a writer? But there’s a strange disconnect somewhere between Being Too Much and yet not Taking Up Enough Space, which sound like they should at least resemble each other, or that one should be en route to the other. I think that I am Too Much, and it feels like I am oozing all over the floor. I tell myself that I need to learn to Take Up Space, and Taking Up Space seems like it should look like something more solid, something that knows how to express its well-formed opinions calmly and yet with force.