Memory Lane

Writer´s block. Again. I´m starting an entry and, having written two paragraphs,  I think it´s bullshit. Insignificant. Me being a drama queen, embellishing the things that happen(ed) in order to portray myself as a victim. Even the expression “things that happened” makes me cringe. It sounds so dramatic, like I cannot even name them because they were oh so terrible. I feel like I´m deceiving people by writing three simple words. I start to have a very old, very depressing feeling about myself. I used to connect it to the thought that I had no reason to complain about my family and my upbringing, that nothing bad had happened to me. In return, I felt diminished. Now I think: “What the hell? Do I only deserve to be noticed at all if I´m suffering?” And suffering for the right reasons, mind you. Somebody must have done something bad to me, otherwise I´m just an annoying crazy.

I have so far never managed to battle this feeling directly. It has helped writing about “things that happened”, like the time with Dr. Stoneface or the entry about Athena. Writing made me aware that these things had happened and that they were just as bad as they sound written down. But this kind of writer´s block also renders me unable to write about these things. Suddenly there seems to be no more story to tell; there is just me trying to find something to complain about. It always takes a leap of faith to write something nonetheless.

Today I drove past Athena´s old home.

I could easily have avoided it if I had taken the underground instead. But no. I thought that going home by bus might be quicker. And let´s be honest, that was just an excuse. I wanted to see what happened if I took the bus down the memory lane. I say “lane” because that bus really drives down one street, and Athena has lived in two different houses on that street. She moved during the months before our break-up. The direction I was going, I passed by her second home first.

I never was in that second home. Her parents never liked me, so they prevented her from seeing me all they could. Also, in the final months Athena hardly ever wanted to see me, she said she couldn´t take it. I connect that area with that spring when everything fell apart, everything including my mind. When I drove by that station I looked outside feeling like I was staring at a place where a plane had crashed, a plane in which I had been. I was alive, I had cheated death, but had I really escaped? It was like teasing an angry dog who is locked away behind a high fence. Right now I seemed safe, like I had won, but what if the beast suddenly broke out and jumped at me? That is just how I feel about my feelings about and the memories of Athena. I can´t let go of them, sometimes toy with them, but they can still hit me, overwhelm me and drag me down. The ice on which I´m walking is very thin.

What also came up were some pretty disturbing memories. I remember picking her up there for a concert, waiting outside with my “boyfriend” (another long story). She finally showed up, happy and cheerful, chatting with him and me all the way, but I knew if it was just the two of us we´d be silent. Or we might be arguing. It would be incredibly awkward and scary. I hadn´t seen her in at least a month, and now we were acting as if we were best friends. Again, I was not feeling about her like one independent adult (well, almost adult) might feel about another. I felt dependent, helpless, childlike. I knew she would come over to my place after the concert to spend the night. The thought was frightening more than anything else. Were we even able to talk to each other? I felt a bit like a child who has to host a UN convention. I felt completely estranged from her, but she seemed so normal and her good mood seemed so genuine that it was hard to believe there was this sword dangling over my head, this rift between us. Remembering this, I´m starting to understand the absurdity a battered wife must experience when, at some social occasion, her husband suddenly treats her like a gentleman again. It would have been easier if I had had the impression that she was just pretending.

Another memory that came up was about a night shortly after she had gone no-contact with me. I felt like I had to do something, fix myself, run away from the home that had deformed me so much that I was unable to be a good friend to a person who demanded nothing from me than that I liked her and that I was honest with her. I had no idea where to go or what to do, but I stuffed all my diaries into my backpack, and, with that fairly heavy load, secretly left the house at night. At first I took the train downtown, walking through the crowds of celebrating people like a zombie. I must have looked absurd, like a disoriented homeless person. I walked through some darker side streets, half expecting someone to attack me. I was almost 18 and I had never been alone in the city at night. Or maybe I even had, I don´t remember. In a way, I had regressed to the mental state of a kid, so in a way I was lacking certain experiences I might – chronologically speaking – have already made at that time. So all I knew about the night was that it was dangerous. I moved around pretending I wasn´t there, or at least invisible. I reached an underground station, though, and rode back home. From there I took the last bus into the direction of Athena´s home.

I got off the bus at the station near her old home. I walked past her home and went through a little park where we had spent some of the best time we´d had together. It was so dark I could hardly see anything and I expected to be attacked any other second. I was so scared I was starting to feel dizzy and not really there. I thought that getting killed was the best thing that could happen to me, and even though I really felt that on some level, my fear remained just as intense. I somehow made it through the park, even though I just wanted to cower down and close my eyes.

The park was between her old and her new home. In a maze of cul-de-sacs I finally found the house. It was the first time I really saw it. When I had been waiting for her, I had been waiting at the station. It was an odd kind of relief to see the house, and how peaceful it looked. It was something real, something concrete. I imagined her sleeping upstairs in her room, and that, too, was a relief. She was there, and she was asleep. She was real and concrete. Not some monster sneaking around in my mind ready to destroy me. Not some phantom that might evaporate into thin air. I could find her, she couldn´t just disappear.

Later I learned that she hadn´t spent that night at home. She had been at a relative´s, only a few blocks away from me. I had been sitting there on the pavement staring at an empty house.

At the break of dawn I knew I had to leave. I was cold and tired and as soon as I left for the bus station, everything seemed very unreal again. When I looked at the timetable I realized the bus wasn´t coming for another hour. So I dragged myself home, with that heavy backpack on my shoulders, wondering what people would think if they saw me, wondering if I´d make it home before my mother woke up.

I did. I sneaked into my room and feel asleep, but only for a few hours. I woke up from some nightmare I can´t remember, feeling such an acute, piercing sense of abandonment and disorientation that I thought it might kill me. I think this feeling is the closest I have ever gotten to losing my mind. I stumbled out of my room and ran into my mother. I was trying to put into words what had just happened to me, whimpering: “Do you think I´ll ever see Athena again?” I don´t know what she replied, but next she asked me if I had been outside, because the door to the foreroom was open. “No.” I said automatically. The need to lie thankfully ripped me out of that inner chaos. I had to function, I had to lie credibly, that was something I could hold on to. The thought to tell my mother what had happened at night never even crossed my mind.

The bus next reached the station where I had gotten off so many times to visit Athena. I felt the uncomfortable, stiff atmosphere her parents created. They had a way of making me feel as if I had no manners at all. Athena was always very anxious about me behaving “normal” (it was bad enough that I was a goth at the time). Knowing how mean and abusive her parents could be towards her didn´t make acting normal any easier. I was actually scared of them, especially after her stepfather had kicked me out.

When we passed the place where I thought her old house was, I saw a giant construction site and for a moment I believed they had torn down the house. I felt incredible relief –  just to see that I had been mistaken. Her old house was actually right next to the construction site. It was still there, along with the toxic atmosphere.

The bus arrived at my station, I got off and it was weird how I was suddenly back in the present. Well, more or less. That road always leaves an impression.

I also remembered another occasion when I drove down that road. It was ten years ago, on the way to a family holiday together with Lola. I had not even met Athena then. I had no clue she was living in that house next to the road. I had no clue how many times I would walk down that street in complete despair just two, three years later. I had no idea what a significance this road would once gain. Now this is creeping me out. I can´t imagine myself not knowing it. Or at least feeling it.

 

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