Yes, I can.
The Understory

We Have Always Been Right Here


This is a horrible untruth:

'The greatest form of taking, is refusing to receive.' I consider myself fortunate in my belief that I cannot begin to imagine what the greatest form of taking looks or feels like, but it sure as shit is not that. 

I understand the precept: If you cannot open yourself to genuinely accept what's given in honesty, both you and the giver will suffer, to some extent or another. Everybody's pain is real.

To take or to ask is a sin. Right? In the time of COVID, to speak of personal hardship was considered, experienced, judged horrifically. The stock answer: Everybody's suffering. Well no shit.

If I needed you

That is the biggest can of worms I've got stashed in my bag of stuff. I've spent great effort going to the trouble of collecting the evidence. I'm very good at it. Looking backwards at my primary relationships is almost too much to bear. I chose wisely and got myself dropped off a cliff more times than are worth counting.

Do NOT, if you don't want to fall off that cliff, reach out to a hand that cannot possibly catch you. I'd suggest we not get to the cliff in the first place, but that's hardly comforting. Of course we do. From birth to death we walk the ridgeline. In the time of LIFE, we are all suffering. Well no shit.

Would you come to me

In the 8mm filmstrip of our childhood, if you look closely you can see the God Light cutting clean through the storms. It's testament to something that I see more light than darkness. 

There are moments that shine, cut a path, carve in stone, blast through the fear and rage and the shit that rolls downhill. You can kick as much dirt as you want, they're still there and they're the promise that trauma doesn't always get to win.

But it wasn't until I'd already gone and our father left home that he reached out, blind-sided (really, should we have been?) by the unthinkable. He came to my workplace and sat at a booth until I could step out for a moment and hear him. I listened and I said the things of the sort we really want to hear and the last I thing I said was

Don't worry. I'll find him. I'll make it right. I'll bring him home.

And, of course I didn't. That was one big rotten broken promise. It's not like I didn't try, but that's not relevant. I promised with all my heart. The first all my heart promise I'd ever made to anyone, and I broke it. I don't know who it hurt more. Chances are good he wouldn't be able to recall the event and it's not a thing I'm ever going to ask.

Things changed after that. The boy who ran from me (with good reason) turned around, and picked trust up out of the dust because his need outweighed his fear. I don't think I let him down for a good long time and even when I did, it wasn't a conscious choice. I just failed to live up to who and what he wanted/needed me to be. But there was a decade, more or less, that closed an unspeakable gap.

He went away and he wrote letters. He went away and reinvented himself and in the process he reached back over and over again and I met him there. I told him once that he was the only person I'd ever trusted with my life. He looked startled and said, 'well that was a mistake'. 

I don't think so. 

When he grew up and made a life for himself that made sense if you're looking for some sort of normalcy, he turned back once again and held out his hand. 'Here, I'm right here. If you ever need me, I'm right here.'

Unspoken: please need me.

Unspoken: I cannot. I'm sorry. It's nothing to do with you, but if I let you see my weakness it will pull me under. 

You will miss sunrise if you close your eyes

I fell down hard a couple of times, BIG falls, before I made the call. I don't think I was even capable of telling him how big was the hole I'd tunneled. I don't think I could tell myself.

Tell me more, he said, and I can't, I said, because I'm driving over the Tappanzee bridge and if I speak again I will hit a barrier.

Later we had a plan and he said, over and over again, 'when you find yourself in hell, just keep walking.'

I walked and I walked and I walked and in August 2020 I walked right off a cliff. My sleeve snagged on an outcrop and I climbed back to the top. I stayed there until I didn't, but I've got to tell you, if, one time, you look into that abyss and own it, the option of opting out will always be in your back pocket. My experience of that day is very much like my experience of the night of my rape. I laid in the bathtub trying to make sense of what had happened and the only thing I could come up with was

I can never make this unhappen.

So now what? Get up and keep moving.

And that would break my heart in two

He is not happy about what probably looks and feels like hero worship. It's not, but I am breathless when I look at his life and what he's done and who he is and sometimes I make a mistake and tell him that. If I see his weakness, it might pull him down. Me, of all people. I didn't know that until this morning. 

When I drove up the mountain at sunrise with my bucket of chalk I was no longer sure of anything. If I put this here will it make it worse? 

My heart didn't unclench until just now.

I don't want to miss sunrise. His hand's been out for four years now and mostly I can reach for it but my eyes are shut against the shame. His hand's been out for four years now and he's terrified that if he doesn't get it right I will fall again and that doesn't bear thinking about.

When we're that scared, I swear, people, we miss fucking EVERYTHING. 

Mostly, I think, I don't want him to miss sunrise. 

I want him to reach back and look me in the eye again, on equal footing, crossing the gap between the dark and the light of day. 

Why is this said, this thing about the greatest form of taking? Does it really mean, if you cannot or will not receive from me, I am of no value, no value at all. Toss those words into the air and no matter which order they land, it's a simple, human truth.

The Truth

If you needed me
I would come to you
And I would swim the seas
For to ease your pain

Open your eyes. I can see him running toward me through the tall grass, with that look in his eyes. We have always been right here.