What She Told Me (Tokoni 05/16/2009)

As I mentioned in Tales Momma Tells, my mother and I went to a museum, and during the ride she told me something I am still attempting to . . . digest? Wrap my mind around? Accept? I don’t know the words for the thing I must do to integrate it into my existence. More on that in a bit.

As we were driving as discussing her past, we came to the Vietnam war, which I wanted to discuss with her because I wanted to ensure that my memories of an upcoming story, “The Vietnam Village” were correct. Turned out my memory of the village was better than hers. Her mind, like that of her mother’s, is beginning to fail, and she is very aware of what fate must lay in store for her. Already the last MRI of her brain is showing some ‘dead spots’, so to speak. Why do I not feel sorry for her? Because I, like her, have come to accept this eventual fate and future. We go on with our lives. (sigh…)

“I HATED the Vietnamese,” she said in her usual vehement way. “I’d see those Vietnamese women in the commissary – dressed in their traditional clothing – and I just wanted to tell them: GET OUT! Go BACK to the G-D country you BELONG. GET OUT OF HERE!” But of course she held her tongue, keeping that public face. (If only she’d had that type of control with us children. But that’s another story, already partially – very partially – written.) This was during the Vietnam war of course, and his husband was gone “over there”, and I think she blamed them as much as our own government for sending him over there – away from her, and us. (Which may have been a good thing, given what I know of my own father. But then again, maybe not, since it left us living with her. Either way: not a good thing, no matter how I twist my head to look at it.)

Now my mom isn’t a racist woman. The rest of her family is, to varying degrees. She told me about how, when she was a child, her own mother would often tell her, “I don’t know WHERE you came from!” – until the day she answered back, “Well, if YOU don’t know – who DOES?” – at which point there was a family fight, with the stepfather jumping in and beating them all – her for casting doubts as to her own origins (and no doubt talking back to her mom) – and her mom for casting those doubts in his own head, for he was an extremely jealous and hateful man.

My mom raised us to never judge anyone based upon their race, creed, color, national origin (though that has changed – another story for another time), sexual preference, or any other ‘thing’. It’s what you DO, not what you ARE (even if you are, say, a Martian.) She was a bra burner long before bra-burning was popular (an endless source of friction between her and my dad, who remains a staunch male chauvinist pig to this day). But during the Vietnam war she harbored a deep hatred for those who were from Vietnam; the Vietnamese women she’d see shopping in the Army commissary.

Then she shocked me. Really knocked my socks off. Screwed me up a good bit. Sorta ‘fractured’ me a bit. (Didn’t I say in “Dark Suspicions” that something is wrong this season; that a “Perfect Storm” is brewing again?) Something WEIRD is going on, just starting. Drum beats, me feeling the need to ‘self-audit’, “stuff” kicking up, family troubles – I keep looking for a full moon, only this time I think it’s staying full all the time, only swelling – growing closer – just like that “perfect storm” I sense coming – oh so quickly, much too quickly – why won’t it stay away? – over the horizon.

Anyway – I see I must subconsciously be delaying the inevitable, for what she said next shook me to the very core – and I mean the core of my being – THIS being, this “M3” that you know, and the “personality” that I am.

She said: “I’ll never forget the day I caught those two Vietnamese officers molesting you and ‘so-and-so’.” (I’ll use “so-and-so” for his name, but he was a distant friend of mine.)

“I HATED them,” she practically screamed, staring out the windshield as she drove the car down the road. “I wanted to SHOOT them! If I’d had a GUN I would OF!” (Okay, you can alternate the emphasis to your own pleasure; it’s hard to know which words she was emphasizing, she’d started yelling so loud. No wonder I think my mom is still crazy! – which she is.)

And what shocked me more was I had no memory of this thing.

“When did THIS happen?” I ask, keeping my smile frozen and voice very – VERY – level. For I know I must remain level headed about this sort of thing, otherwise I’d go crazy. (Okay, “crazier”, if you’d prefer. That’s quite all right by me. I don’t mind being called what I am. Crazy. After all – it’s the truth of things.)

“Oh,” she said, her voice coming back down to a more reasonable level, “When you were in first or second grade. They were . . . grabbing you and stuff.” What sort of ‘stuff’ she would not say. But . . . I’ll take a moment here to explain.

You know when you hear someone talking about something, and by their tone you know – you just KNOW – it was really much worse than they let on? That they are hiding some facts from you? That they really don’t want to upset you – with the FULL truth of disclosure? When you can sense something else is going on – whether through posture or body language, or tone of voice and set of the eyes – that they are holding something back from you? That perhaps . . . it was really a lot worse than they were letting on.

She filled me in on a few details. It happened at the Ft. ____ swimming pool. That these Vietnamese officiers were caught ‘fondling’ us boys. Perhaps going a bit further than that. After all, she said, when she reported them – and they were apparently CAUGHT in the act – by the military authorities – right THEN – they were swiftly removed and booted out of country. So it must have been bad, I guess. I don’t know: like I said, I have – or HAD – no real or active memory of this thing – but then again I DID/DO – but NOT. It was (and is) another part of me that holds the keys to this thing. That inner child, that “boy” of mine, that I keep so carefully tucked away, inside his own “world”. I do know this much, because there is just the barest hint of memory: that it HURT. No, not emotionally – I didn’t care at the time, it was just so much sexual play, which had been going on for some years anyway – but they were crushing my balls.

Yup, that’s it. That’s what the ‘boy’ inside told me; not so much with words, but with what the shrinks call ‘body memory’. These soldiers – guys who had been invited over here into our country for more intensive training on how to fight in THEIR country – (okay, the child is opening a bit of HIS mind for me, to tell me, remembering not with words, but pictures and memory) – how they would grab my crotch and SQUEEZE so very tightly. Crushing what I had ‘down there”. And yeah, that hurt.

Nothing much else there, so to speak. Child shuts up, hurt, turns away in my mind. We don’t “talk” very much; I feel his pain, and when he does ‘talk’ to me, it’s not so much with words as it is with emotion and memory and pain. Which may be part of the reason I have such difficulty in addressing “that part” of me. I prefer children who can run up to me and say “THIS is what is hurting; THIS is why I’m in pain.” But he never really talks. Never. (Asking him “why” right now – and all I get is the knowledge that it’s because there’s too much pain. Loneliness? Yes, that’s there, and while I’m sitting here – okay, enough. Time to go ‘comfort’ that child of mine, as best I can.

I’m glad he seems to be opening up to me a bit more now here lately. Maybe that’s what the drum is all about (See: “The Drum Beats Softly” if you haven’t already). Maybe the time is coming when I can actually hold him, comfort him – and hear his words.

We’ll see. As for me: his sadness is really filling me, and it’s time for me to move on. Not from him or it or the pain, but from this story for now.

To find out what I can do for him, make “him” feel better – so I can feel better – because we are having guests over tonight – and I must be “right” and able to ‘smoke and joke and be happy’ around him.

It’s part of hiding this thing – and the hidden child within. And his/our/their pain. Of all of us.

(Tokoni – 05/16/2009)