I remember that time you called me in the middle of the night, sounding very upset but unable to tell me why.
That nameless guy you were seeing, the one you never introduced to your friends, he never called to confirm he got home safe, never texted you back and there was a heavy storm outside that night.
Too sleepy to assemble the pieces, I just asked if you at least called him. That’s when I heard you trying to strangle a sob. No you couldn’t call, what if you woke him up!
Your stories never made sense; they always had so many holes. I wanted to hug you through the phone but for the longest time I never said anything, and just watched you alone with your burden.
Never being able to tell us what’s on your mind.
Looking at us, knowing we know, pretending nobody knows.
People staring, whispering, being mean to you.
Having to leave work early and getting home late, never able to explain where you are from 5 to 8.
Cancelling plans with your friends when he had time to meet up, joining us at the last minute anyway because he couldn’t make it. Never explaining why you couldn’t plan ahead.
Checking your phone all day long for texts, but rarely phone calls.
Then again I was so very innocent back then, so stupidly radical and so ridiculously judgmental, way beyond anything I ever had the right to claim. Maybe it’s for the best that we never mentioned it all this time. Back then, I wouldn’t have known how to tell you that it’s ok, that we all need to fall down our rabbit hole and sometimes, sometimes or very often, it’s not going to be what our parents dreamed up for us. Sometimes or very often, we’re cast in roles that are harder to perform.
Today, with wiser eyes and softer edges, I can see the color gradient in a world I once thought was sharply black and white. Grey areas are everywhere now, and real sin nowhere in sight. We all end up rolling in mud one way or another; we have to be ok with it or go mad.
It’s like alcohol. The first sip of beer at the family table tastes sour and unpleasant. You’re a teenager and although you want to want the beer, sodas still taste so much better. Wine is bitter and whiskey is simply foul so you might start off with fizzy sugary cocktails until you get the hang of it. One day you’re drinking vodka straight from the bottle and that’s when your taste buds are tamed…
…or that’s when your moral absolutism is adjusted, made flexible, rubbery even. That’s when you become an adult who doesn’t drown in the ways of the world.
Of course, you can wrap it in a veneer of sophistication and make it fine wine, pretend you’re enjoying the malt in your scotch or whatever makes you feel better. Either way, the trick is finding what works for you, and you must be very careful not to go too far. Alcoholics are punished by never being allowed another drink. Isn’t that a chilling fate? Sinners who cross the fuzzy line and make a bigger mess than they can handle are kicked out of the playground.
I’m still learning but I’ll get the hang of it eventually.