There is a gremlin in my life, I’m sure of it.
I think she snuck in just before my birthday, when things were going well and I was too busy to notice her. But I caught clear sight of her yesterday. I’d seen the destruction she’d been plying for weeks, but I’d never actually seen her. But I caught her in the act, and the sight of her surprised me. I was expecting a little green demon with fangs and claws.
I have met the enemy, and she is me. A ten year old girl with a baseball bat and ratty gray clothes, her blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, was walking around in my psyche.
“Who the heck are you?” I asked, but I don’t think she heard me. In fact, she seemed pretty good at ignoring I was even there. She walked up to a row of shelves, reared back, and let loose with the bat.
“Stop it! Those are my books! All my self-help stuff! My romance novels. Those are NOT YOURS TO MESS WITH! Now I’m going to have to get them all back and read them all over again…”
She walked up to a computer monitor, and lit into it with ferocity that belied her thin frame.
“What are you doing!!!! I needed that! And I help people with that! Are you nuts? You’re messing everything up. I just got everything in order…” I leapt at her, trying to wrestle her to the ground. But she was a slippery little devil. And she was on a mission.
Over to another wall she ran, bat flailing.
“No!!! Not my family pictures! I can’t replace those!” Louisville Slugger made shattering contact with glass, frame and photo stock again and again, till there was just one left untouched.
I held my breath. Not the picture of Mom. Please not that. I need that. Don’t.
She looked at me a split second with sad, sad eyes. Then the bat crashed again into the last picture. It fell to the ground, shattered, broken, ripped apart. Somewhere, at some time in the real world, my father took the last picture of Mom from the house I grew up in, hid it somewhere, and put a picture of himself and his new girlfriend in it’s place.
Over to the file cabinets she raced, pulling out files and flinging them all over the floor. My history, my past was being scattered to the wind instead of stored in the neat, ordered and collated collection it had been, with footnotes and cross-references. It was rapidly becoming so much jagged, meaningless confetti.
Over to the phone next, she picked up the address book. But now she was not being frantic and frenetic. On the contrary, she was methodical. Precise. She flipped slowly through the pages as I watched in helpless disbelief. She pulled out the page for a couple from church and shredded it. What would they think if we didn’t call? She kept flipped, tearing out some pages and leaving others.
She came to the dog-eared page of a good friend. So what if he was a guy. So what if I was achingly attracted to him. I was a grown up. So was he. We both knew better than anyone else how to avoid letting things go too far. We knew the rules backwards and forwards–if anybody could safely bend them in order to understand how the other half thinks and feels, it was us. We’d earned the right. And we were both madly in love with our spouses. There was no possible way he felt anything more than friendship for me. There was no possible danger. So what if we bared our souls to each other? Being emotionally naked in front of another person is hardly the same thing as being actually naked. So what if I moped for days whenever he would disappear back into his real life for months. I’d get over it–I always did. Sure it hurt–but it was worth it. I learned so much. And enjoyed hanging out with him so much. I deserved at least one good friend who “got” me completely. Who I didn’t have to explain or make excuses for myself with. Fine, brat. Tear out the page. He’s in the phone book.
No. No. No. No. No. No.
In her other hand was my diary. Neatly flipped open to a page where I’d confessed my feelings for my friend. She carefully tore the page out, flipped it onto the fax machine, and dialed my friend’s fax number. I watched as a close, treasured relationship went up in smoke and could only be replaced by him avoiding me completely or at most being coolly polite if our paths should cross. My face fired up crimson red in humiliation.
You have NO right to do this. NO right whatsover. Just look at the mess you’ve made.
I looked around. It was a disaster. I tried to figure out where to start to put things back the way they were. Neat and orderly. There was no starting place. There was too much destruction. Things couldn’t be put back the way they were. I began crawling around in the mess. Was there anything that could even be salvaged?
I piddled with the computer a moment. Yes, it was salvageable. At least, some of it was. Some of the connections were hopelessly fried.
I flipped through the address book. Really, only a few pages were gone. And so many more were blank–they’d never been filled in to start with.
The family photos. All of the ones with Mom were rumpled. They’d need to be pressed in heavy books to straighten them out, probably for quite a while. Most of the ones with my sisters and dad were pretty badly ripped. The frames were still intact, except for the glass. I could get new photos to replace the ones that were damaged, I supposed.
I went to the fax machine and looked sadly at the “Received Okay” message blinking back at me in place of a friendship. Next to it on the phone was a sticky note from my husband saying “Let’s talk.” I picked it up on the way to my bookshelves.
The books were all scattered, their bindings broken and the pages a scattered mess, mixed up and mingled with the pages of my files of my memories and experiences and personal history. But perhaps I could pull the pieces with the most highlighting on them together and fill a couple of three ring binders with something useful.
Looking down at that mess and pondering the possibilities there I noticed a tugging on my hand.
There was my gremlin, looking up at me. She’d dropped the bat.
“Do I have your attention now?” she asked, and her voice had the same smart-alecky twang that my own still has.
“Um. Yeah.” For the first time I actually look at her, and really notice her. God, she’s a bright little thing. The intelligence that sparkles in her eyes is really sort of cute and sort of scary all at the same time. And yet there is a shadow, an edge of wariness and sadness that makes the bright parts of her stand out that much more. “So now that you’ve got my attention, what is it that you want, exactly?”
“To get the heck outta here. It’s boring. It’s depressing. You keep us cooped up here all the time. Don’t you remember how much we like to dance? To run? Look out the door. There’s all kinds of exciting stuff out there. Remember exploring Washington D.C. on our class trip? Getting thrown out of the Air and Space Museum for going down the up escalator? Remember summer camp–how cool it was to get away from home? We don’t belong in here all the time.”
I take her hand in mine and remember what it was like to be open. To feel like life was ahead of me and around me, instead of a storybook I keep reading and re-reading over and over again.
I take one last look around my demolished library. Yes, there were some things here that could be salvaged. I will come back with boxes and trash bags and sort out the useful from the not. I will pack up this room with my hair tucked into a ballcap, frumpy sweats getting dusty from the grubby work of separating what to take into my new place and what to leave behind for the wrecking crew or the Salvation Army. But it’s time to move on. Move up. Move out.
I turn back to the little girl, who has waited (not so patiently) for such a long time to feel like she was worth someone’s attention, and realize that whose she really needed was mine all along. Together we open the door into the bright, blinding sunshine and take the first steps…
The Beginning. http://launch.yahoo.com/video/default.asp?vid=1110380