Sigmund Freud.

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In the old days, he was mostly a voice over the phone. I was used to
that, and I liked it that way. I could streak naked through the house without too
much commotion. I could have my friends over without formal greetings or
the awkwardness I knew my friends felt when he was there (and no one else
felt it more than I). When he was there, I didn't know what to do with myself,
especially as I grew older. I played sports and got dirty as much as possible,
trying to hold onto my tomboy nature. I think I felt that if I could keep from
being girly, I wouldn't sense his strange manliness so closely. That's a weird
feeling, and it took many years of psychologist-free self analysis to come
upon this conclusion. With women I was at home — I was completely safe;
yet, I didn't want to ht feminine in any way because that biological difference
increased the gap between my dad and me. Even now as I write this, I can recall
how — mere hours ago — I felt that queer pang, that icy spinal shiver that has
warned my consciousness for as long as I can remember, telling me to pull back
from whatever I am doing. I have to give my body a shake and immediately
do something that qualifies as un-girly, such as hardening my expression,
swearing crudely under my breath, straddling a chair, or deepening my voice
if I'm talking. Seriously. I don't even have to be in my father's presence for
this phenomenon to occur. The only main ingredient is a plentiful dose of
testosterone. It could be a deep voice, a towering height, a large build, or a
possessive stare or posture directed toward me that will make my back stiffen
and my forehead wrinkle, forcing me and my body to wait patiently until the
moment passes.

I feel it poignant to mention at this point that I can count on less than
half a hand how many relationships I have been in. But that, perhaps, for another
memoir.

Dinner was eaten only at the table with everyone like the civilized
human beings we were, so there were no trays taken up to my third floor
sanctuary. When he saw me, he would greet me with his customary, "Hey,
Lani!" and I would grunt out just enough of something to keep anyone from
asking too many questions. I would shrug away from his fatherly clap on the
shoulder or the chummy "Father Knows Best"-type grip on the back of my
neck. I would cradle my hands in my lap or sit between my mom and sisters
during dinner so I wouldn't have to hold his hand for the fifteen-second prayer.
If I couldn't avoid it, I'd place my fingers ever-so-slightly within his. I couldn't
explain my attitude any more than anyone else could have. A shrink, maybe, but
we "didn't go there." We kept our business out of the streets.

It got to the point where I couldn't even bear to hear his footfalls on
the stairs, see him in his after-work gray sweats, or hear the stories he would tell
of the crazy people he met in the city day after day. Part of my aggravation was
forced, even as I begrudgingly got used to him more and more. How could he

. 15



expect to be the man in my life when he hadn't been there Uke my friends' dads
had been? They hugged their dads when they walked in the door — I rolled my
eyes and hid.

I didn't know how to act when he was there. It was like the title of
some Lifetime movie that I am embarrassed to remember, called Stranger in My
House. My dad wasn't a murderer or a criminal — he was my dad, but what was
that supposed to mean to me? My sisters were the daddy's girls, and every day
I hoped that their affection would be enough, and he wouldn't try getting too
much from me.

I didn't even like it when he disciplined either of my sisters. Again,
who the hell was he, traipsing into our lives and telling us what to do? As if the
whole shared last name thing gave him that right. Yeah, whatever.

My mom cornered me once during that time to ask if I was mad at
my dad for some reason. "Of course not. Mom, why would I be?" Just let me
be moody without explanation, please? Don 't make me get into this crap. I
convinced her I was fine and that I just wasn't used to having him around so
much, but I didn't get away without her requesting that I "try a little harder,"
because he was coming to her and didn't know what he did wrong, blah blah
blah. Hmm, does he want a list?



When you're a child, you remember distant relatives or other people
that come and go in your life as body parts, scents, or sounds they make. My
earliest memories of my grandmothers are of being squeezed tight into their
considerable bosoms, holding my breath before the embrace, struggling for
air. The scent of Old Spice will always remind me of my maternal grandfather,
conjuring with it the sound of his Honduran accent. But when I think of how
I used to remember my dad, I think of his hands. They haven't changed since
I was small, but back then they were huge, hard, and dark brown compared to
my pale olive skin. He knew the size and feel of them was intimidating enough,
and he never used them on us (that was mom's job). But he had a voice that
roared when he was angry, and because he was very slow to anger and it rarely
happened, time seemed to stop when it did. My antics were usually the cause.
His rumbling bass would start soft as the frustration grew, then take larger form,
the sound of it like smoke. Filling the air around me — floor to ceiling — it would
creep into my bones from my toes, deceptively gentle as it climbed up my body
and into my skull, crowding my brain until I thought it would pop. Like a match
being lit in one of E.M. Forster's Marabar caves — each word was enunciated
and sharp, but all that my child's mind heard was "boum."



I remember riding in the car with my dad once near the end of high
school when he put on a CD featuring Ibrahim Ferrer, a recently deceased

16



member of the Buena Vista Social Club — a group of singers and performers
from the old glory days of Cuba, famous for the jazzy rhythms that seemed to
have fallen away from the world's senses until they were rediscovered in 1 996.
It was nighttime, and I do not remember where we had been, where we were
going, or why, but as we drove, he asked me if I understood any of the lyrics, as
they were all in Spanish. I didn't, but that didn't keep me from falling in love
with the instruments and the sensual sound of the old Cuban man's voice. After
a bit, he played my two favorite songs — "Marieta" and "Guateque Campesino."
Lowering the volume just a bit, he began to translate the lyrics for me, line by
line. It was something that, if done by a guy for a girl on a first date, would have
sealed his chances for a second. As he casually took down the curtain separating
me from the complete experience of this music, I felt a little something being
removed from between us as well:



A noche estaba siestando

Last night I was celebrating

E un santo celebrado

A special saint 's night

Senti olor a bacalao

/ can smell the cod

Dije: alii estan cocinando.

And I said: They're cooking over there.

Y asi me explote cantando
And I burst into song
Para acordarme mejor.

To remember it better

Y resulta que el olor
But it turns out that

Que estada alii sucediendo

What I could smell

Es que habia una lata hirziendo

Was a pot of

Llena de ropa interior

boiling underclothes

While sharing with me the crazy jokes in "Marieta" and filling
my imagination with the warm, Cuban night air described in "Guateque
Campesino," I felt a connection with my dad that I have never felt before or
since with anyone else. The booming voice that could shake my foundation
was suave here, drifting from the driver's seat, transforming the foreign into
something I could understand.



17



Yo tengo cuatro palomas

/ have four doves

En una fliente redonda.

In a round dish

Todas se dan sus buchitos, mama

Everybody gets drunk

Y ninguna se pone brava.

But nobody gets rough.



He didn't tease or berate me for my lack of understanding the language
of our ancestors. He didn't get into a drawn out discussion of why we hadn't
been the best of friends over the years. He didn't apologize for not being there
when I was younger or sing the praises of the clothes on my back and the food
in my belly. For my part, I didn't ask a thousand "why?" questions, probing
for insight into my own psyche. There was no need for any of that. But with
more love than all the hugs, kisses, or presents could express, he brought me
in, including me in this world of music draped in the mystery of language. It
wasn't a magic elixir or spell that instantly stripped away more than a decade
of distance, but it was a tiny window through which we both recognized that
there was more to the other than we thought. I wasn't just a moody kid with an
attitude, and he wasn't just the quiet guy who brought home the paycheck. In
that moment, we realized that what we saw daily was merely a minute piece
of the whole. We would probably never share the connection I share with my
mother, but from train sets to horse heads there were things, moments, and
events accumulated throughout our history that could be carefully pieced
together to create a recognizable foundation for our future.



A fHend in college once asked me to describe my parents. We were
chatting through instant messaging, so I didn't have the luxury of the "um" or
the ramble. The verbal depiction of my mom couldn't come out fast enough — I
know her the best and we're the closest. When I readied my fingertips to pound
out my dad in a paragraph, I hesitated, not knowing where to begin. But then
I found myself smiling, trying to keep the laughter from bubbling over and
waking my roommate as I typed:

my dad is hysterical — he always has really
funny stories about the crazy people he



18



meets in New York; he's an architect, so he's
very precise, neat, and almost mihtary-like
in his drive; he's very gentle and very quiet
compared to my mom (I got a lot of him in
that respect); he's a thinker, and keeps his
mouth shut when my mom is hollering, so
he doesn't get in her way if he can help it;
he's been mistaken for Montel Williams on
far too many occasions; he can be pretty
scary when he's angry, but that's a rare
occurrence; he's always eager to teach me
something; he knows all the words to the
Shaft theme song and sings it randomly;
he taught Cristina how to do the dance to
"My Girl" by the Temptations; he's such
a nut (quite embarrassing sometimes, but
we get over it); he's totally outnumbered
in my house, but he takes it in stride; he's
a workaholic who will never retire so long
as he can hold a pencil; and he watches The
Godfather every time he makes spaghetti
sauce.



19



Why He Rolled Away

J. Ezra Gordon

As a child, I envisioned God as a giant circle with a huge, grey,
Hassidic beard set against a black backdrop. His black eyes would dart back
and forth, and his tiny mouth would open and close, but, that aside, there wasn't
much to him. He had no arms, no body, no legs, and no existence beyond the
perimeter of his head. He was the creator of all life, all matter, all emotions,
all that is and isn't and would and wouldn't be, but for some reason, I couldn't
imagine him in three dimensions. He was a flat, unmoving character, lacking
any ability to reach his creations, and as a child, that suited me fine.

But God's image faded and blurred before I even reached puberty. This
distant, life-giving stranger that my parents used in their cusswords, that my
synagogue spoke to in ridiculously large groups, that supposedly was a part of
everything and everyone at all times without ever being any more tangible than
an emotional sensation - he became an indistinguishable spot in my mind's eye.

My circular God rolled away, and he's kept his distance ever since.

* * *

"I swear, it's so screwed up. We had the same dream." Jeffery touched
his palm to his head. He and Auggy were the kids closest to my age in our
suburban neighborhood, but they were still very much my elders, each being
twelve years old. I was an insignificant nine, and therefore the most credulous
child on the block.

"Yeah, same dream," Auggy chimed, "Same nightmare.'" Auggy picked
up a stick from the clearing and swung it against a tree. Thwack. I jumped as
the sound echoed through the woods behind Jeff's house and into the darkening
maze of tree trunks.

"Definitely a nightmare." Jeff squinted. Both were quiet for a minute,
as if they were silently passing thoughts to each other.

"What happened?" I asked, wide-eyed. The craziest things always
seemed to happen to Jeff, and I never questioned a single one.

"Freddy. . .ow." Jeff pressed his palm hard against his head. "Freddy
Kruger took over my body. . ."

". . .and he tried to kill me." Auggy baited.

"To kill you?" I bit.

"Yeah, 'cept I wasn't me. 1 was Indiana Jones." He smirked and
looked over at Jeff, whose hand had stopped covering his forehead and moved
to his mouth. "And the theme music and everything, dun duh dun dun, dun dun
dun. . .that was playing too."

"Dun duh dun dun, dun dun dun?" I sang, just to double check. My
interest was beyond peaked.

20



"That's the one."

"Well, what happened?" I leaned in. If these two really shared the
same dream, then this could be important, some sort of scientific or supernatural
phenomenon.

"I. . ." Jeff's hand returned to his forehead while he cringed with what
appeared to be a migraine. "I got him. I got Auggy."

''Got him?" I asked, genuinely stupid. "You mean killed him?"

"No, idiot. . ." Jeffbelted, ". . .he's not dead, is he? I didn't kill him,
I got him." Now Auggy pressed his palm to his head, slightly distracting my
curiosity.

"I. . .but. . .what does that. . .1. . .um, are you ok, guys?"

Jeff's entire body began to convulse where he stood, and Auggy
followed suit. The two shook more and more violently, as if they were being
electrocuted by some supernatural force. Auggy barely managed to squeeze his
words out between shakes:

"//e...got me. . .not Jeff. . .Freddy! " And with a jerk, they suddenly
stopped. They were silent, stiff, and quiet for about ten seconds. I simply stood
there, watching them, scared and hoping that my neighbors had the mental
capacity to resist Freddy Kruger's attempted possession. Neither of them did.

I remember them moving in absolute unison as they each picked up
long, four foot sticks from the ground and started waving them in my direction.
Thinking quickly in my scared state, I recalled the Indiana Jones movies I had
seen, and asked: what would Indie do?

Immediately, I fell to the ground and began rolling in the dirt from
side to side, imitating Indiana's patented "drop and roll" technique. I wasn't
paying any attention to where I was going, where the sticks were swinging, or
even where the possessed Jeffery and Auggy were standing. What I did notice
was that these two were trying to kill me, and they couldn't manage to land a
single hit. I convinced myself that their dream was coming to life, only they
were Freddy Kruger this time, and I was the hero. "Dun dun dun dun. . ." I sang
between rolls, ". . .dun dun dun, dun dun dun dun dun...'' I moved faster and
faster, exhilarated by the fact that I could dodge the older kids, and that I was
becoming a real life hero.

Eventually, I rolled out of reach of the two zombies and jumped to
my feet, hunched and prepared in a cat-like state of readiness. But instead of
attacking again, Jeff and Auggy fell to the ground and started shaking again,
occasionally sneaking a quick peak behind me. Confused, I turned around.
Auggy's older brother, Eddie, was approaching at some ridiculous speed on his
mountain bike

The sixteen year old stopped dead in his tracks beside me, watched Jeff
and his brother convulsing on the ground, then turned to the dirt covered hero
beside him.

''What. . .are they doingT' he asked.

"Oh. . .well. . ." I was out of breath, ". . .they. . .shared a dream about

. 21



Freddy. . . Kruger. . .and now their bodies' are. . .being taken over by him. . .and
they were just trying. . .to kill me."

Eddie very slowly turned his head towards me, his scrunched face
reflecting my absurdity. Even I, just hearing myself say it, realized how stupid
I sounded. Seconds ago, I was rolling around on the ground, humming the
Indiana Jones theme and acting like I was battling some sort of zombie-like
creatures, and I believed every second of it. I feh ridiculous, not for looking
stupid, but for being stupid, for buying into it so whole heartedly. My face went
red with the heat of embarrassment.

"I. . .uh. . .1 think they're faking it. . ." I quickly squeaked.

"Uh, yeah. So do I." Eddie crossed his arms and turned back to
my two neighbors. "You can't believe this stuff." He raised his pitch a little,
indicating just the slightest concern for my naivete. "That's what you've got to
do when you grow up. That's how you grow up, man. You've got to doubt."

I listened, pondering his advice carefully. This teenager took the effort
to teach me a life-lesson; it was essential that I take his words to heart. So, as
Jeff and Auggy convulsed among the dirt and leaves, Eddie and I just stood there
watching from afar: our crossed arms indicating that we were skeptical, cynical,
doubting, and - apparently - growing up.



22



The Crack in the Wall

Guadalupe Hackett

On a September morning of 1985, 1 started feeling dizzy. The floor
under my classroom chair seemed to be moving. It was moving, shaking
violently! Next, I heard the smashing sound of breaking glass. It was as if
a giant pair of hands had taken the four comers of the ceiling, and with an
immense fury, destroyed the perfectly shaped rectangle. Then, I saw how these
same "hands" were shaking the floor up and down, side to side, as if it were
a bed-sheet being aired. Seconds passed, and I realized that my parents and
brother could be dead, buried under the debris of the five-story, forty-year-old,
downtown building where I lived.

After running through the streets of broken glass and chunks of cement
which were filled with clouds of dust hanging over the city center, I saw my
strong, forty-year-old building standing. My eyes filled with tears, I proclaimed,
"Ah, they're alive! Alive!"

On Friday afternoon, my fiiends and I, knowing that after the magnitude
of an 8.1 earthquake a severe aftershock would come, decided that we and our
families should sleep in the park located two blocks away from our building.

Suddenly, it hit me like a flash. I thought of Mrs. Tulrer, my next-door
neighbor. I rang Margie's doorbell. As she opened the door I asked her, "Margie,
how are you?"

With that lovely French accent of hers, she replied, "I'm okay. Thanks,
Lupita. Come in. I'm so happy to see you, dear."

She immediately took my right hand in her fi^agile, elderly hands and
led me to a bedroom in her apartment. It was beautifully decorated. Its walls
had soft pink wall paper with tiny daisies and sparrows on it. As I was telling
her that I was also very happy to see her, I flashed back and remembered she
once told me that she always had dreamed of having a daughter, but she never
had the blessing of becoming a mother. Reflecting on her words, I thought that
maybe she had decorated that room for her non-existing daughter.

"Look," she said pointing to the wall behind the bed board. It was a
crack across the wall. The crack was about an inch wide and six feet long.

"Wow! Margie, I can see the light from the streets through the crack."

Smiling, she said, "Pretty bad, isn't?" It seemed to me that she was
not aware of the destructive force of the earthquake that had happened early that
morning. How was it possible that she had not even heard the wailing sound of
sirens or the drilling from the American rescuers? The earthquake had totally
destroyed one of the buildings of Telefonos de Mexico located just across the
street from our apartment building. Then I thought that perhaps she had been
drinking. A shot of whiskey has a wonderful effect of relaxing one's mind
which would account for her calm behavior.

Margie had been my neighbor for almost fifteen years, but she was

• 23



always a mystery. I was only six years old when I first met her. I think she had
been bom in Bern, Switzerland. I never knew why she had moved from there.
She had been married for a few a years when her husband died. She never had
any children and did not have any blood relatives living in Mexico. She was a
woman of extraordinary intelligence. In her living room, she had a large number
of books, mostly written in French. I loved their scent. She spoke French,
Spanish, and German. She frequently spoke German with Mrs. Martha who
had fled from Germany after her entire family had been killed during a bombing
attack.

We became friends when she knew that I was learning French at
Secondary School. She told me that if I needed some help with my homework,
she would be very happy to help me. I gladly accepted. She was such a sweet
woman. I was her petit oiseau (little bird). Often times I have thought that she
truly enjoyed having me around her, teaching me French, giving me a present
every year on my birthday, baking cookies, and preparing an exquisite sweet,
soothing tea before my tutorial. She not only helped with my French, but
became my private tutor. Perhaps I became the daughter she never had.

'''Voyez-vous demain, Lupita, mon petit oiseau,^' she said to me at the
end of my class.

As Margie was running her fingers along the crack, I sensed that
not only was she touching the crack, but she was also caressing it. What odd
behavior!

Esperanza, a woman who used to clean Margie's apartment and do her
grocery shopping, told my mother that Margie drank quite heavily. I rarely saw
anyone visit her. I am not sure, but I guess she never had a true friend. What
was it that made her live in solitude? Was it her drinking? Was it that she was a
snob? Perhaps she was still grieving the loss of her husband and the absence of
a child. I never knew the reason.

"Margie, don't you think that it is not safe stay in our apartments? At
least for tonight? Why don't you come with me and spend the night at the park
with our neighbors? The aftershocks can be as severe as the main earthquake."

I hated the idea of leaving my helpless, handicapped (her right leg had
been severely damaged in a car accident), and elderly friend.

Devastating images of high-rise apartments, hotels, and schools
buildings entirely collapsed, flashed back in my mind. I could not stand the
idea of losing another friend. My co-workers and friends had either died or
were buried alive under the debris of the telephone company. I had been lucky
that Thursday because I had my English class. I changed my early hours for
night hours to be able to attend school. I needed to learn English to assist the
infrequent English speaking person who would dial the National Long Distance
Service. I hated to call and ask the International Long Distance operator to
translate for me. I hated not being able to understand English.

"Please, Margie, come with us!" She looked at me as if I were talking

24



nonsense. But she agreed.

At the park, I was sitting next to her. She said, "Lupita, please, here
in my pocket are my cigarettes. Would you light one for me, please?" Then
she inhaled the smoke so deeply that I thought her lungs would explode.

Leaning her back against the blankets and pillows that we placed on
the ground, and with her upturned face towards the dark and dusty sky she
said, "This is the happiest night and moment of my entire life!"

What did she just say? I was trying to understand what she was
experiencing, but I was wondering, how is it possible that she can experience
happiness while others are buried alive? Hasn't she seen death lurking like
a ghost around us? Can't she hear the winds fluttering like a wounded bird
through the screams of the ambulance sirens? Feeling completely disoriented
and exhausted, I leaned against my blanket and closed my eyes.

Perhaps Margie, for the first time, after God only knows how many
years, had finally been receiving the love of another human being. Perhaps
her life would have been different if she had a child, maybe a daughter. She
would have been a loving grandma, and now she could have been receiving
the love of her grandchildren. But I guess that night she was not even thinking
of what could have been her life. It was I who was trying to understand the
meaning behind her words.

It happened. I felt the earth moving under our blankets, and I looked
at Margie, she was just smoking, and I was hugging my mother.


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