A stroll through nightly suburb streets made me recall a line by Ingeborg Bachmann (or was it Jelinek? I think it was Bachmann.) about how the cruelest crimes happen behind those middle class suburbian walls. What looks like happy families through the illuminated windows of EdScissorhandian pastel homes turns into gruesome horrors in the corner of the eye. I like how quiet and peaceful it seems. I like the ‘seems’.
Back home I sit down and it suddenly hits me that the table I’m working at is the same table at which I sat for family dinners when I was a child. What comes to my mind is not the food, is not what we talked about, are not the familiar faces of my mother, my sister, my father. What comes to my mind is how the table used to tremble. How I felt the wood trembling under my fingertips, my hands, my arms. The table trembled every couple of weeks when my father tried sobering up and his body fought back. No Upworthy headline could suggest to you the tension that was in the air whenever he did so. No genre could capture what artists my mother and my sister had become in avoiding his eyes and making small-talk, skillfully zig-zagging around him, as if he was a blank, as if he didn’t sit there with us. They circled the most delicate patterns of topics he couldn’t use to start a fight into the icy air surrounding those family dinners. I just sat there scared and angry to my bone, scared of all of them, angry at all of them, wanting to scream: Don’t leave me alone with this tension! I don’t know how to play your games!
It was almost liberating when he exploded nevertheless – of course he did, they were artists, no magicians -, shouting at the top of his lungs what a horrible cook my mother was – which of course she wasn’t -, smashing pot and plate with delicious food on the floor in such big big anger and disgust and the deep longing for a powerful reaction. He stomped off, my mother and sister just shut up for a moment, then chatted on quietly as if nothing had happened. I was stone.
The tension. I haven’t in&exhaled fully until I was 19 and he was dead. It’s a small thing and I tend to forget it but it’s true: I used to never breathe fully. It was my way of making me smaller and if not invisible at least a little bit see-through. If no one sees you breathing, if your chest doesn’t move when you breath you’re not there. Melt into the background. If you do it right he won’t explode unto you. The tension. He was so powerful to me in those years. It was as if he could shoot me to the moon with a snap of his finger if he wasn’t careful. Not that I would have minded. Tiptoeing around the trembling table. Sometimes I think I love living in these suburbs because I need the constant reminder of what could happen if you don’t pay attention. You could end up in some sort of family with people you love and do the same shit to them. But not as long as you manage to keep this table from trembling.