48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Essay #36: patagonia

In Love on November 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm

My father is going to Patagonia tomorrow, to build a bridge. Just like old times.

When I was a kid, he worked for the federal Bureau of Public Roads, building bridges and roads in the mountains. I remember riding shotgun in a yellow-orange government truck, somewhere in California or Oregon or Washington. I remember evergreens against a blue sky on winding roads, the fragrance of hot pine pitch, jumping in cold swimming holes, the Bookmobile stopping by the trailer, playing Crazy Eights. Summertime.

A friend just called. He’s 42, and having a hard time believing he deserves to be on the planet. He was molested by his best friend’s father when he was a kid. “Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal,” he said. “Worse things happened later.”

“It was a big deal,” I tell him. Maybe that’s why worse things happened later.

Our reactions to each other carry weight. One of the reasons I was able to express my distress to the too-intimate hugger last week was because my father believed me. He didn’t try to talk me out of my feelings. He told me to trust myself. Take care of myself.

My friend told his mother what happened, the next day. “What did she do?” I asked.

“Not much,” he said. “Not much.” Her (non)reaction made him doubt his own.

To make things even more like a Greek tragedy, the childhood best friend with the lecherous father killed himself a few weeks ago. My friend recalled a recent conversation with him about how they protected their mothers from their true feelings. “How do you do it?” my friend asked. “I lie,” said the childhood best friend. “I say everything is fine.”

After I was molested as a teenager, I didn’t tell a soul. I thought it was just me, an isolated case.

Total bullshit.

The longer I’m on this planet, the more often I hear my thoughts come out of somebody else’s mouth. “I’m a loser. I’m unlovable. I’m not good enough.”

What if we’re all picking up random broadcasts from Radio K-FKD? What if it ain’t true? None of it?

Change the channel. Build a bridge. Tell the truth.
We’re listening.

  1. “Our reactions to each other carry weight.” Pure wisdom in seven short words.

    After reflection, I think the concept applies not just in those big deal interactions we all have (like your brother and mother) but also in interactions that we (from our perspective) might tend to think of as inconsequential.

    To the other people involved in what I might view as a minor (and perhaps even inconsequential) interaction, how I react may carry great weight. I can never know for sure.

    In short, your phrase is one I will try to keep in mind whether interacting with co-workers, the clerk at the grocery or those closest to me!

  2. I’m glad the words resonated with you. Thanks for reading, and taking the time to comment.
    Peace,
    ~Elizabeth

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