29 August 2008

The usual suspect

I am blogging today without the usual aha! that sends me springing for my laptop. My mind is filled with old film reels revealing motives and means of the usual suspects from my past. Life sometimes feels like a director's extended cut of that scene where Detective Kujan looks at the wall and sees all the ingredients of the elaborate story that Kevin Spacey's character Verbal has fabricated before his very eyes.

I see everything in a new way today, as Kujan did in the movie. When I was a kid, I wonder now why did we go up to the mountains, or camping, or anywhere? It often seems in retrospect that the prime suspect in question always had some secret agenda, some reason for doing things that he wasn't sharing with us. He always seemed to have a secret, something to hide from us. I'm just starting to see that I still have a little of that but don't like it in myself. Setting up a reason to lie about anything is dangerous -- it foments mistrust. He didn't trust us to agree with the importance of whatever was really driving him, I am guessing. In other words, keeping secrets meant he knew he was in the wrong, but it was more important to him than anything else that he had the reins and the means to hold onto them.

Our daughter is just getting familiar with the notion of slavery. We have been to Mt. Rushmore recently and she's been introduced to a handful of presidents (she barely knows what a president is), including Abraham Lincoln, who made it not okay to have slaves, but more importantly said that it wasn't necessary for any people to be slaves to any other people.

And when I look back at that time, I think we were slaves, kept in the dark as long as possible by a despotic, delusional warden jealous of our every song, our every in-joke. When my mother talks about the times he resisted her impulses to go get a job or learn to drive a car, it fits neatly into the frame.

Today I heard the story of how they had a plan for a while to grow their own food, living on a farm in rural Colorado in the mid 1960s. And he said he was going to Las Vegas to buy farm equipment, around the time he was thieving electronics equipment from the company he was working, and conceiving elaborate plans for getting time off work (like dropping the anvil on his toe). "And then he didn't come back with any farm equipment," recalled my mother, one of those little things which had planted a seed of doubt with her but because he said he was a man of integrity she believed him. She didn't have a huge frame of reference back then, and he could be terribly convincing in the face of any doubts.

But there was always a layer, something hidden, something furtive, something stopped-in-the-middle-of-and-stuffed-under-the-covers. And his descriptions of all of us complained of our duplicity, our deceitfulness, our ulterior motives. Because he always had one.

I've noticed lately something in myself I don't like that sort of pops out from time to time. I'll say, "You have to call me and tell me about that!" and it's like I've presumed something that should be offered and it takes the other person aback. It's very subtle, but I've noticed it a couple of times. I hope I can invite people to do things with me but can stop looking for leverage, no matter how much I feel we care for each other, or how much we've been through. The feelings around this remind me of the guy I grew up with, the one who always seemed to have an ulterior motive, or to find a way to cash in a chit he perceived he had, which he had extracted from an acquaintance. He still does this with the people on his visiting circuit, I'm sure. I wonder if I was like that with some people, always asking them for something, and leaving them to wonder why I had singled them out.

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