Friday, March 2, 2007

Betrayals

This is something I wrote several years ago and meant to post but apparantly didn't because I couldn't find it when I did a search.

To write is to betray. There is not a single word written that is not somehow a betrayal—a betrayal of something said, a betrayal of a feeling, a betrayal of the reality one foolishly attempted to capture.

Writing is an act of violence against time and space. (And meaning.)

But reading is no less a betrayal. My mother taught me that lesson when I was sixteen and she wrote to me a note in which she confessed to reading every word of my journal that I had been keeping for more than three years. She read every word. And then my mother wrote to me a note she included with the stack of papers and spiral-bound notebooks she dropped off for me when I was sixteen and living in a foster home.

She did not write that she was sorry for having read my private journal during a tumultuous and painfully difficult time in my life. She did not apologize in her note for any such violation. Instead she wrote that every word I had written was wrong and a lie. She could and would never understand how I was able to describe my father as a “fucking-ass bastard” practically on every page until I decided to abbreviate his presence in my notes to merely “FAB.”

Well, I thought, if my written words were wrong, then so were hers. And I proceeded to destroy every single word that I had written in the previous three years. I shredded all the lies, all the wrong impressions, and all the mistakes in interpretation on my part. And I tore her note to shreds as well, vowing not to ever start another journal.

Her violation of my mind and personal property were just as violently invasive as my father’s physical abuse. Not only was my own skin being used against me, my own words—words never meant to be read by anyone other than myself—were arrows that instead of being left alone in the quiver were shot point-blank into the core of my being.

It took years of fighting this urge to write, to put down on paper, to document the experience of life before I was able to begin another journal. And I eventually came to conclude that the only way to prevent my words from being used against me was to make the entire story public. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And then I began an online journal. Not bad for someone who at times becomes horribly shy and withdrawn, seeking solace in anonymity and private solitude.

I taunt my friends and lovers when I tell them I write about them. After I am threatened with perjury, I exclaim, “You wouldn’t recognize yourself anyway.” Of course, each person will recognize his or her own name as well as several of the personal details. But that alone is not sufficient cause for alarm to me. I remain convinced that people are ultimately unknowable, including one’s own self.

Just as I am at times incredulous when a photograph appears to include someone that looks like me but just cannot be me even though that stranger is surrounded by the people who surrounded me when we posed for the camera, I know that mere words alone can never reconstitute the reality of a life, not even my own. I am not quite sure that this first-person pronoun “I” could even ever stand for the reality that is this person writing, or the reality I seek in my life and in the documentation of that life. So you would certainly never recognize yourself. My own mother could not even recognize herself or the man she was married to in the words written by her only son.

Only questions remain at this point: whom do I betray by writing now? and whom do you betray by reading?

4 comments:

  1. Such a good postmodern you are. See my comment over at: http://shmonk.blogspot.com/

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  2. Brilliant and beautifully written, even if it is a betrayal. Is that really true? Hmm. Every moment we are discovering ourselves. But in that moment, we change. Ever elusive. I applaude and admire you for writing "out loud". How else can we see parts of ourselves mirrored except through each other's lives?
    -blanche

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  3. Yes, it's true, all of it--as true as anything can be. But if you ask her you'll probably get a different answer. Funny how it's people like her who would argue that people like me see truth as relative. (As far as I can see, I'm related to no such beast....)

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  4. Yes, perspective is an odd thing isn't it? Especially when it's coupled with denial. You may have been born to that beast, but in the end, you created yourself. And very well, too. After all, you're easy on the eyes, you know. Sorry, I had to do it.
    -blanche

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