Friday, December 26, 2008
The last time I saw Garth (1972)
I remember my brother, he is still with me. I keep coming back to his memory. Ray Davies and The Kinks, his favorite group. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, lots of psychedelic 60's posters, artwork, clothes, long hair, mysterious and hallucinogenic attitudes. What is left are scars burned into my flesh that heal but will not fade with time. He is with me, but no one knows how much. I speak little of him because he brings an awkward silence, embarrassment, disbelief and amazement. But to me, he was just my brother and it was reality, it was the way it was and it was normal to me.
But look past the forced and faked smile, and something more sinister is just beneath the surface. It was my family, a nightmare I grew up in and finally left behind but not forgotten. What was it like to have a psychotic brother? I remember scary laughter as he paced the hall at night, lying awake and wondering if I would live to see the morning. Or if I would wake to find my mother dead at his hand in her sleep. Pacing, pacing the long hall of our NY apartment that was the length of 1/2 a city block. Long, dark and scary even when he wasn't home. My mother asleep, passed out drunk, oblivious to the madness waiting outside her door. Had she forgotten how he tried to murder her before? Scenes like this burned into my young brain, too young to even understand fully what was going on.
I remember he knocked her down and held the knife to her throat. She called to me to come help her. I did not respond. I waited in my room, behind my closed door, for him to kill her. Praying that he would just get it over with. Listening to her call to me to help her, but I wanted them both dead, dead, dead, so I could live in peace finally and not be caught between them ever again.
He didn't do it and I didn't go help. I was afraid and disappointed that he wouldn't follow through and put us all out of our misery. How many times had he tried to choke the life out me when I was little? I remember 3 times, but there may have been more. I told my mother, but she never helped or believed me. She told me to ignore him, while he was beating me in the head, choking me. "Ignore him", she said, "He just wants attention and if you ignore him he will stop" It only set him off more, and I learned to never fight back and be passive. So why should I help her now that he is big enough to attack her ?
"Ignore him", I say under my breath, "He only wants attention, sure he knocked you down on the floor, the kitchen knife to your throat, but if you ignore him, he will go away Mom, just like you said" ....
I remember when he wouldn't sleep in his bed. I found him asleep on the floor next to his bed. He asked me, "Did you ever read "Metamorphosis"?". Existential, intellectual delusions.... He wouldn't touch the teapot, because aliens were trying to control his brain that way. ...
I remember not opening the door to him. I heard him knock and I listened to him pleading, begging me to let him in but mom told me not to and I was all alone. I stood behind the big front door in the hallway with the lights on, looking through the peephole into the dark hallway, listening to him crying in tears, afraid to be out in the cold NYC winter one more moment. But mom told me to leave him outside the door, and not let him in, and then left me alone in this big house by myself to deal with it. I left him there, but felt torn apart inside. How do I do this to my brother? I was actually more scared of her than of him by this point. He hurt me, but he was crazy and they drove him to it. She hurt me because she did not care about me and she wanted me to die. I reminded her of the choices she had made that she regretted. And she never forgave me for that.
Garth the frog prince, pretend poet, the one who wanted me dead. Mom, the light of the party, the one everyone wanted to be close to, the monster, the tyrant, the raging drunk, who hid her darkness so well from everyone except those closest to her, she also wanted me to die.
But I lived. And I survived them all for the sake of my daughter whom I brought into this world and who didn't ask to be part of the darkness that surrounded me....