I don't remember why I hated him. I did though, last week. A lot. Even then I didn't know why/I hated him/so bad/I thought/I'd never be able to remember a time/when I didn't/hate him/when my mind/knew time filled holes big as/love. I forgot to remember/the child/remembers to forget. That which turns dark, memory screens; or, stops.
This is a quitting day. Some quitting days follow the previous week's loving days. But this one follows last week's hating days; and, as with the hating week, I forget to remember why it is I'm quitting. I know I am though, and he knows I know I am. He waits.
And I wait/to hear/my body/think/back to a bed/room in East Baltimore/across from Johns Hopkins Hospital/a store/men/a boy/women/a child/1943. My mother/my sister is born/my brother is six. My father/cousins/an aunt/ uncle/dog/the bathroom fills with/sound/force/toilet/a tub/I'm two; or, less. What was is gone/shiva. Zayde is dead. I'm three.
In the room. We wait. Again/more. I remember I trust him/now/I don't. Before/ his silence/soothed. The couch is/knobby brown/scratches/my skin. Summer in Baltimore is 100 degrees humid hot/my shorts stick/Marilyn and I neck with boys from the block.
We laugh on her porch; the glider squeaks, and I'm four. Momma lets me wash the marble steps and go to Mr. Goldberg's store. I trip on a crack in the cement, and the bottle I'm carrying/glass is all over/blood/they take me/to Hopkins/my brother cracks my head open with a metal airplane on a long string.
I sit on the top step. If the ball hits the edge just right, you get more points. I want those points.
We're playing kick ball in the street. It's my turn out. I sit on the curb. Feel something wet between my legs, signal my girlfriends. They're excited and follow me in/to Elaine's house/the boy's probably know. When Sandy got her period, her mother wasn't home. Her father showed her what to do. She didn't mind. We giggle.
What is it I'm not quitting/that's wrapped up/with him?
"I don't remember why I hated you last week," I tell him. "Or, why I wanted to quit today/when I walked in."
He and I are the hope/of my memory. We talk about last week's sessions. One went like this: the moment I walked in I felt as if I hated him.
"I don't know why I hate you today. What did you do? I can't remember." He asks me. I tell him I don't know, it's just a feeling.
"That's helpful," he says. "Thanks a lot," I say. "What's so helpful about it?" "Well, let's see if we can figure it out/together."
And he waits for my nod/of approval/which I give:
"What you're feeling is in your past. Even though you may be upset with some things that have occurred here in the present between us and that are very real, since you don't have words to describe why you hate me, the feeling must have to do with a very early time in your life, perhaps, before you could speak.
"Yea, pre-two," I say.
"Yep," he says. And I know we're getting back to us. I tell him/I tell us:
"It was a feeling all over like a feeling from somewhere I don't remember where/it was so long ago I forget its name/like a child has this feeling she can't explain even when they ask/especially then/I know it's from before/but it's now part of us.
I don't have to look. I can tell from the way he holds his breath that time's up. He folds his hands and, leaning forward, says, "we'll have to stop for today."
I get up to leave, and he gets up. And we look at each other/in that way we do....
When I came in today, I thought, when I go out I'll slam the door so hard the standard edition will fall off the shelf. But, instead, I say, I'll see you tomorrow. And he nods.
Shiva: a mourning ritual meaning seven. After the funeral of a primary relative, traditional Jews "sit" seven days. These precede the full mourning period of a year.
originally published in The Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1992
copyright1992, 2003, 2004Esther Altshul Helfgott. All Rights Reserved
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