I wouldn't have known this at 22, sitting in the back of my Dad's car, shivering in the cold, his next wife telling me how much better she knows him than I do, how much closer they are than I could ever be. I would not know how many times this moment would come back to me, so I sit there and allow her to tell me what I have known for some time; my father will only love me when it is convenient.
I had no idea at 17, lying on the cot in the basement of my mother's five bedroom house, staring at the particle board ceiing, that my lack of a place in her becomings and goings would reverberate along all the hallways of my life. That I would have to deal with knowing for the rest of my moments that my mother sacrificed my comfort and security to get the love she had pleaded with her own parents for but never received. I lay in the raucous hollows, all stone and concrete, rigid with my silent commitment to end this cycle.
As I sit across the table from you, yet another woman touching you, telling you how that shirt matches your eyes, I wonder. I wonder if this will be another event that will ring within all those hollow places for the rest of my life. My heart races and my blood pumps fast, fast, fast. The sweat trickling down my sides and into my skirt confirms my panic. The hollow places are echoing to me. I try to feel it, to enjoy that sensation somewhat. I try to revel in my anticipation of a confirmation of what my history and my deepest horrors tell me. That I can only be loved when it is convenient. But you look at me and smile, our own secret language even, and I know the hollow places will not claim another of my memories.
I would like to starve the hollow places. To cleanse the vast empty with fire so that only silence smolders there. I want to sit within the vast bottomless where the pain was kept, lonely. I want to miss that echo. But it is my fear that I will never be lonely here, that this pain will stay with me until I am finished.
I question if this could have been different. If I could have screamed, yelled at these people for their lack of attention. If I could have told them of the damage I would be repairing, the relationships lost, the nights spent crying because in all my efforts, I still could not keep these klunky sharp boulders from echoing throughout my hollow places. I know that I have to some extent, inherited this. My ancestors all knew the hollow places, and taught my blood and bones this method of containment. It is only logical, after all, to fill a space with meaning, even if it means ruin.
Each time this happens, each time I watch as another woman rubs her hand up and down your arm, squeezes your bicep, or does any of the other things some women do, I will feel the reverberations and start to sweat. I will wait for you to smile at me as I am being torn apart.
Will you remember that I live within the echo of the hollow places? I know that even with all my effort, I am not convenient to love. I have tried to be less of a handful and more of a wisp, a hush, a hum. But I was not born into that. I was born to the ragers, the fighters, the struggling miscreants so full of ancestral venom that no hush could calm.
Someday, I will not be bothered. I will not feel my body leap to fight or flight in the presence of disrespect or neglect. I will know, beyond my own skin, that convenient or not, I am loved. I will not need reassurance. I will know that whatever happens, I will be okay. If I can push past this, work through it, feel it thoroughly one last time, I can say good-bye. I will not bother to worry about my inconvenient nature, my need to find something to rage against.
But until then, I will be in all the hollow places, hoping that those memories decay to a fine powder, and then finally, to nothing at all.
To nothing at all in all the hollow places.