The Sandbox

Amnesia, Art, Healing






In Los Angeles for a wedding. 

Last night I see all these people from my childhood; I recognize some but have no real memory of anything. I get very anxious when one says he remembered me from high school and I feel a catch in my throat as I remember nothing but his sister bullying me.

I see Z and the gap between what happened to me and present day is beyond description. It also helps that I appear to be oh so just fine. And maybe I am. If I were to appearto be in trouble—a drunk, on drugs, make scenes, be socially unacceptable, or not appear at all, dead or in jail—if I were to not have made it out of the prison he put me in, the crime would be visible. But it’s not. It has become invisible. 

It has been erased. 

My dream last night takes place with me in bed with Peter, sleeping as an avalanche of pellets pours onto us. Within seconds I cannot breathe. I think these pellets are dog food but I do not know. I scream out but I cannot breathe. I scream a muffled scream for help and Peter digs me out but I am only up for air for a few seconds and the pellets bury me again. And…I am going….going…gone.

I wake up, panicked, frightened. 

Another dream about losing my air and I note the first one I can remember in this Sandbox is in Hawaii, I am hiking in a riverbed and there is a flash flood and I begin drowning. And within seconds I am gone.

I see Z yesterday morning in the little gym at this motel in L.A. He has just finished working out and I am beginning. We talk briefly; he is traveling to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. He bought a home years ago that he is renting out but will be moving there in the fall. My parents are silently devastated that he is leaving them. The first thing my oldest brother says to me on this trip is that my parents are to be left in Buffalo with only one offspring; ironically, it is he, the one they hate. I do not correct him. My other brother remarks that this hatred is killing my parents; I remark that it’s keeping them alive. 

Z says goodbye to me on the treadmill but I do not get off to hug him. I see him an hour later, getting ready by his car; I wave goodbye from a distance. 

He is very sweet to me, his voice nearly leaning in with concern as he speaks. He is always this way when I see him and it finally occurs to me why he leans, or why I feel deep down that he does and the answer seems easily found, a crumb left on a trail long ago that I finally can pick up: the voice, the leaning, the concern. It is guilt that he must feel. 

This morning I allow my mind to slip into his shoes. And as I sit, roles reversed, I find relief inside for him that I survived—that this person not only lived but has found her way back to be with a man. But still: how do I walk away from what I did? How do I justify it? How can there be no consequences? And how is it that my sister doesn’t blame me or hate me? Do I lay in wait that someday she will remember, wake up and want to kill me or expose me for what I did? 

Or maybe as the years pass I grow mostly comfortable that she’ll remain mute, that she has made her peace. Or forgotten. Or some combination of these two that words, peace and forgetting, that serves to bury my crimes for good. 

Or maybe I’m not conscious as to why I lean in just a little bit closer. Maybe I never consider the butterfly effect of violence from so long ago. 

I do not spend a lot of time on this exercise, putting myself in his shoes, because the reality is: I do not know, honestly, what it would feel like to be Z; I only know I would rather my shoes than his. But I cannot help but feel that the only road to hissalvation would lead back to… me.  

But as we say goodbye in Los Angeles in that tiny gym, as I make my stand on that treadmill, I cannot see nor can I envision any such road ahead.