It’s ok. It helps us do better. It gives us something to work towards. Something to hope for.
He stared blankly, as though I were speaking gibberish to him. The new building that had been erected near our house was an architectural atrocity; badly designed – both in terms of aesthetic and practicality. I agreed with him there. Yet I saw the building as a symbol of something motivational, something that will help us rise above our poorly condition. He didn’t get that.
You see, he wasn’t always the smartest man, my father. He could handle business, and talk about the ‘economic climate’ all he wanted, but he didn’t really talk feelings. Well, not until I was well on my way out of the household. I was going to university, just like he and my mother had done, but I wasn’t going to come back. I couldn’t come back. I refused to come back to a life that was not my own, that was governed by their rules, and their expectations. Perhaps it was an immature decision; after all, it had been made long ago, because I knew I wanted to travel, before I knew what consequences my absence would have. How was I to know they just wouldn’t talk? Well, that’s a lie; they talk but say nothing.
He wasn’t always ‘my kind of smart’, my father. We didn’t always see eye to eye, although we did get along often. And sometimes, I didn’t have to say anything for him to know what I was thinking. Occasionally, there was no need for words to pass between us for communication.
Even so, he understood that I had a certain urge to escape, and he knew that, while I was a teenager, it manifested itself in writing. It still does, only then back then, it sculpted itself in a world of absolute fiction. Nowadays, I escape into my writing through writing down my thoughts; I try to work out the puzzle that is my existence.
Art is a form of escapism in itself, he would say. What he really wanted to ask was what are you escaping from? Is your life so terrible that you must write fiction to escape the fact? I suppose he never understood my fascination with words.
My mother would tell me to express myself, open up to her, but I never could. I guess it didn’t help that she always said this in a loud yell rather than an inviting, comforting tone. At times, I would cry, because she would make me so angry. And then she’d try to get me to stop crying by making fun of me, by saying what a crybaby I was.
What am I escaping from?
I guess that is part of why I bite my tongue when I am angry, and why I try to hide the tears when I am sad. Oh, don’t get me wrong, people still know I am annoyed, but I think most know by now that I have a different process to others. I don’t throw things across a room (however liberating it can be; trust me, I’ve tried it – broke my phone, and then had to make up shit to explain why and how it broke, because I was aware that giving that much space to my anger could result in worse things happening over time… Also, I just knew my mother’s reaction would be an amused laugh – how could I be so out of control?). I am usually annoyed until I’m not, or until I’m too tired to deal with it.
And to this day, I don’t want to say something in anger and regret it. She’s never understood this. I don’t think I’ve ever been mad enough with my father to know his thoughts on the matter. I think he’d at least acknowledge that anger is unpleasant, and can result in hurt, whether physical or emotional.
He’s a great dad in some ways. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but he’s often been greatly supportive; with him, it’s always been “so long as you can become independent,” not rely on anybody but myself for whatever I need, and “so long as you’re happy.”
Maybe that’s why it feels so weird having to pretend with him. I’ve been pretending for a long time; with my parents. I’ve been pretending that I don’t write about the bad times. I’ve been pretending that I don’t tell other people about my hopes and dreams, when I struggle to talk to them. I’ve been pretending I’m happy with journalism, when actually 80% of my time is spent reviewing art and theatre. I’ve been pretending that I don’t aspire to one day getting paid for writing fiction. I’ve been pretending that I don’t call myself Eric, or use male pronouns.
I don’t write ‘proper’ fiction any more; I have so much fiction in my life I don’t need to escape into it any more.