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Dear Runaway Girl Dear Runaway Girl
by Abigail George
2023-07-16 08:33:01
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It’s the year of having beliefs. I feel lost. A little hopeless at this fact finding mission. All I know is this.

My father has had a stroke. Perhaps he is on his deathbed. This frightens me. So I am going home.

Do you like me a little bitter or a little sweet? Do you really like me?’ I want you to like me. If you like me then stop translating my language into yours. Instead translate my regret, what I’ve lost, my bitterness, the conversations that we’ve had beforehand. Translate my imagination to feed and nurture your own.

abi01_400_04Oh, after all this time I’ve realised my limits. My sister thinks I live in cities made of particles and atoms. I’ve let her down. I’ll admit that. I haven’t been there for her. I haven’t been there for her as a sister. I’ve never been a friend to her. She thinks that I’ve been lucky but she’s the lucky one.

She’s the one who made the sacrifices. Who gave up her dream of becoming a filmmaker to stay at home and look after our father. Daddy this. Daddy that. My heart could just open up and sing about neglect and abandonment issues. Oh, I felt abandoned as a child. We never grew up with a mother.

We never had that female presence in the house to guide us. To teach us about having a moral compass or a belief in ourselves. We only had each other. Love was a difficult journey. We didn’t have options.
Choices. Goals. Dreams. We never had fun. We were always cleaning up after him. His sick.

So I come here and I thrash it all out because I think I have to.
Because I need to to stay sane and kind and to believe that I have financial and emotional security and all that jazz. But it is really the blues that I am feeling and high some of the time. I keep telling myself that the only place where I will every feel magic again, the magic and inner bliss of childhood is if I go the circus.

What is sadness, if not to be explored as I am doing now, if not to experiment with as I have done in the past. I can’t sleep at night.
You call it insomnia. I wait for midnight to roll on by. Being so close to that ghostly realm, the clock striking. I wait for it. Like I waited for my father to come home on Friday nights.

So, this is my story. The story of two sisters. The story of an alcoholic father and estranged daughter making peace with each other.
I have come home. Given up my life. My old life. I thought I gave up on life once. Just once that thought crossed my mind.

I think a woman is the lucky one when she falls in love, marries, has a daughter, or daughters, a son, or sons. Love is a difficult journey or is it an illusion, something beautiful and I’ve discovered that late in life. Alice liked parties. I didn’t. She liked crowds. I didn’t. Boys were always drawn to her. I know this space is education and torture and that I need to be supervised.

Her open sexuality. Her flirtatious nature. They were attracted to her smile, the way she turned her head and leaned in towards them as she listened to them. Then there was her laughter and the way her mouth crinkled up at the corners. There was her smooth hair oh so carefully brushed that smelled of perfume.

You see there was nothing tragic about her smile or secretive. It was her heart that was full of secrets and she never shared that with anyone. She liked to have wine with her meal in a fancy restaurant when she went out with her friends. I didn’t like its the bitter taste. She wanted boys to like her.

She wanted men to fall in love with her. She didn’t need them to pay for anything. And then of course there was the life, mask and transformations of wanting, needing, desiring for a lifetime. If only my sister Alice had reached out to me. If only she could see that Joyce, her older, wayward sister also had flaws.

Now, in this equation, you’re the therapist. You’re the violin. You’re the cello and I’m the symphony. That golden voyage by candlelight.
That golden expression, vibrations of waves of music breaking through the audience. A tired, golden feeling. We were daughters without a mother. Not a close-knit family. Yes, perhaps we were dysfunctional but in the end does it matter. It’s years since I’ve been home and I have a lot of making up to do. I have come home to forgive and be forgiven.

Oh, I love solitude. Give me silence. An empty room. Books. And then I feel most alive. I think when I feel the awareness of daylight washing over me. That’s the same kind of love I have for rain, for fish, for meat, for chicken, for my lost mother, my sister, my father, the morning sun. Of course I love my father, that goes without saying.

Books are alive. Literature is alive just as much as the people you observe pushing past you on the street, making their way home.

‘Make peace with him Joyce.’ Alice was standing at the kitchen sink washing the dishes carefully. Hair bunched into a greasy ponytail.
Gritting her teeth.
‘Well, that’s not your decision to make, is it. You’ve made your peace with him.’ I leaned against the counter watching her, peeling and eating an apple.
‘Then what are you doing here. Why did you come home?’
‘Because Alice you asked me to and I am your sister. Now that I’m here I’m supposed to be the poster child for the drama of childhood trauma.’
‘Alcoholism is just as bad as cancer.’
‘Are you saying he had his reasons for abandoning us? We were children. Children!’
‘Yes, Joyce. That is exactly what I am saying. Of course he had his reasons. You know he had a difficult relationship with his father.’
from where I was standing I could just feel the tension in her back.
Her face. Alice stopped washing the dishes and sighed.
‘So, he had his reasons for abandoning us. Leaving us all alone in the house while he slept it off. I don’t understand you. Why should I of all people forgive him? I wasn’t even his favorite daughter, Alice.’
‘Joyce, it’s not about favorites. I know you’re seeing someone. An expensive therapist. What do they have to say about this? I’ll give you three reasons to make peace with him. He’s our father. He loves you. Us and he’s dying.’ Alice opened the cold water tap and began to rinse the liquid soap off the dishes.
‘We don’t have a mother because of him. Maybe she would have stayed if he was a different kind of man. Not the drinking kind of man.’ I start but I think I know what is in her eyes. Tears. That’s why she hasn’t turned around yet to reach for the cloth to dry the wet dishes. Put the crockery and shiny cutlery away. She’s crying softly to herself.
Always the brave one. Never shows any emotion. I turn and walk out of the kitchen. Close to breaking down myself. So, I say nothing.

abi02_400_01I am in my car on the way to her. My therapist appointment. I hear her voice inside my head. Alice. Sweet Alice. I thought of buying some flowers. For her. For Alice. To cheer me up.

‘You’re giving all that hate and indescribable pain so much power over you. You’re letting it control you. Your mind. You’re just living for all that negativity.’
‘I’m not going to disguise my feelings. I’m not going to say what I don’t feel and feel. I’m not going to be another version of you.’
‘So this is turning into a fight. You always fought dirty even as a little girl.’
‘Well, I learned from the best.’
‘You’re blaming me for being the good daughter. For being the good one. The one who made all the sacrifices. I’m the good daughter because I made the huge sacrifice to look after him. You’re not thinking Joyce. Just make your peace is all that I am asking. Make your peace before it is too late.’
‘Alice, you know what, you don’t know the sacrifices I made.’
‘Joyce,’ and my sweet sister Alice says this with a strain in her voice. ‘You left home. What kind of a sacrifice was that when all you did was save yourself. All you had was selfish motives. You didn’t just leave him, your father. Who looked after you, put a roof over your head when our mother left us high and dry. You left me.’ Alice turns away from me. ‘I have to give him his pills now and I think you have a lot to think about.’
‘Another lecture.’ I muted the television.
‘No, Joyce. It’s not another lecture. What about my potential? What do you think happened to my potential?’ Alice began to arrange his medication on a plate.
‘I learned to leave people. Like I said before, Alice. I learned from the best. Like father. Like daughter.’ Now it was my turn to sigh. To dry the corners of my eyes.
‘Listen to me Joyce. He still loves you. He was so proud of you. These flowers are really beautiful. Thank you for buying them.’ Alice began to arrange the blooms in a vase.
‘Just go in there. Just squeeze his hand. Talk to him. He’ll know it’s you, Joyce.’ Alice smells the flowers.
‘I should have come home long ago Alice. I feel so terrible, so cut up about this. I should have come home long ago.’ I feel I should say this but I don’t. He’s different. Sickness and infirmity can do that to the elderly.

A year ago my life was different. I had someone in my life. A lover.
We had to be careful. Discreet. People found out anyway. I don’t know if it was written on my face or his. Yes, we worked together.
Curiosity! My sister is a house filled with curiosity. I never longed for her constantly. Perhaps I did as a child. We had to learn from an early age not to depend on anyone. Boyfriends would lecture me. I would leave as they started to do that. Nobody talks about acceptance being the first step to having a relationship in a world filled with misery, spiritual longing, spiritual poverty. This is my perspective on loneliness and acute depression. Oh, I’ve had lovers. They’ve come and gone. I’ve let men take me to bed. Buy me gifts, expensive gifts and flowers and boxes of liqueur chocolates. I’ve woken up alone in hotel rooms. There’s a word for it. Promiscuity. You don’t understand I’ve loved my father from a distance for all of my life. Made excuses to him to everybody important in my life. I don’t think I can say goodbye to him yet. It was wonderful loving this new, this perfect boyfriend. He noticed me in a world filled with girls and women and that was enough for me. My father taught me one thing when I left home.

He was wrong in the end. It was wonderful loving him. I’m not going to pretend we had nothing going on.

You are the only one of your kind out there. Anything strange means war. Means a part of yourself has got to be liberated somehow. Words are not just beautiful. They mark territory. They assume shape and color, the anxiety of a mood disorder. They know their place in this world. In the end we all find that we matter or assume that our own place in the world matters in the end to someone.

When I met the man who was to be my lover, the love of my life all I wanted to say was, ‘Careful, this is my territory.’ I gave my heart away anyway.

‘Perhaps I’m acting as if I he is already dead. Well, he is in a way isn’t he. He has done it. He’s done the possible. He’s a drunkard. A coward. A fool’
‘No, you’re the fool Joyce. You have another chance to be his daughter so be his daughter.’ Alice closed her eyes, sipping at her mug of herbal tea.

The outsider. Outsiders.  There’s something special about being an outsider. The sadness, well it makes me feel sluggish in the mornings.
It doesn’t seem to matter if you reveal all your flaws to another outsider. It doesn’t seem to matter if this outsider is also your elegant lover. Alice is making soup.

She’s been so right about a lot of things. I’ve missed her. I’ve missed talking to my sister. All those years. I’ve lost more than a friend or a confidante. I’ve lost tiny measures of a lifetime of conversations. What is pain? Family always trumps pain. Blood is thicker than water, thicker than pain.


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