this morning i have the house to myself, my housemate gone to work early, and i feel very differently. when she's here, nothing different other than the presence of another person. when that is so, i feel rushed. i have to do things quicker, better, as though giving a performance.
of course, this comes from childhood, a mother who demanded a kind of perfection. i can't quite imagine what that perfection might have been, she herself very self-conscious of her looks and critical of mine. she thought i was homely, i know that for a fact, hearing her say so to guests, even as i gave myself my first shaves in the mirror.
and having brothers and sisters didn't help. conflicts always brought problems, often tears (which i've rarely shed since), me, the oldest, most often held responsible. even if i was, and i don't doubt it, the feeling of failure strong. and she expressed great hopes for me. i would be a great man and straighten out the world. alas, in my mind i often try and make a mess of it, imagining using power instead of finesse.
boundaries, they say, make the man (or woman), and i have trouble holding my own, since i always want to avoid conflict. living with a drunk uncle at age sixteen didn't help. i slept in the living room with no door to shut against his rambling monologues and bad advice. a few months of that and i was told my character changed. i became, i suspect, more defensive than active.
even with the door shut, i keep expecting to be invaded, chided, to have the sky fall on me. yes, the sense of a sudden disaster rarely leaves me. perhaps it was being a child during world war two. maybe it was moving thirty-two times before i left high school and many times since. i'm atremble within: all the uncertain actions of the world, the ambiguities.
it does seem very foolish to be affected by childish things on the verge of old age. well, maybe that's when they affect all of us the most, the body needing a surgery here, a surgery there to keep going. even minor ones bring out my mortality. and the odd thing is, i enjoy sitting in cafes the most, drinking coffee, reading, watching the crowd! ah, out in the open, not trapped by four walls and my own insecurities. after all, i do respond well to emergencies. it's the needs of everyday life too big.