How to Come from a Long Line Of
Sit at your usual table. Order a cappuccino — soy, because milk is gross. Want to tell him about things. Want to say, hey, my family has a vault of crazy. Tell him about your grandmother with the blueberry eyes, and pearly hair down to her thighs, and how she used to cheat at cards and swipe saucepans at ghosts. Tell him about your uncle that published a collection of poetry on Princess Diana, and how he buried his wife in a glass casket and you watched his teenage daughters throw themselves onto it yelling, Mama, don’t leave me! Tell him about the uncle that’s a pussy-whipped drunk, that couldn’t get a fly out of his car one day so he closed all the windows and drove to his summer house before he let it go. Tell him he said, now try finding your way back home, cursed fly. Tell him that this is a true story. Tell him that you write about your family sometimes and people think it’s fiction.
Want a cigarette. Feel annoyed that you can’t have one because you live in a country with rules and you don’t want to go outside. Stay put. Stew. Chew a nail. Remember that the pussy-whipped uncle’s wife that you refuse to call your aunt threw out your dolls when you were twelve. Don’t admit that you were almost thirty when you forgave her.
Tell him about your journals, that you have hundreds of them, all bloated with thoughts and you’re scared that no one will ever read them after you die. Say, I tried to read them myself once but I couldn’t stop crying. Tell him that sometimesalotofthetime you cry until your chest hurts. That this is the year you mastered the art of rire en pleurer. Ask him if he has ever cried so hard he ended up laughing. Ask him if he has ever turned his laughter into tears like wine into water. Tell him about the first time you heard that song by Wendy Rene, just after your first heartbreak, and how you swore you’d never let anyone do it to you again. But here you are and now you don’t know how not to believe that, after the laughter come tears, always.
Tell him you’ve stopped saying, I used to be beautiful. That you’d been saying it for years. As if you were some tattered starlet wrapped in diamonds and fur — faux, because animal skin is gross — murmuring, oh darling, darling, I used to be beautiful! Ask him if he would believe that you were a precocious, theatrical child. That you read Shakespeare and the Bible before you hit double digits. That you forged your mother’s signature in the first grade. (Don’t tell him you were responsible for letting your sister’s rabbit get hit by a car when you were five and three quarters.) Ask him what you were saying because you forgot but then interrupt because you remember yourself. Tell him you don’t say you used to be beautiful anymore because you think you are again. Maybekindofyouthink. Say, I l like this. I’m myself again. At least, I’m who I was again.
Tell him about your mother’s side, about how your grandmother had immaculate skin because she wasn’t allowed to work in the fields. Tell him that when she married your ratty grandfather, a street musician, she was disowned. Tell him the morning after her wedding she went to buy vegetables at the laiki in her wedding gown. Tell him that the rat squandered her dowry on women and wine and left her for his mistress just after you were born. Say, she had fourteen abortions! Tell him you wonder if the foetal ghosts follow your mother and aunt around. Don’t admit that these juicy tragedies thrill you. Tell him that you have your very own foetal ghost. That her name was Cordelia and that she would have had her father’s ocean eyes and your sharp mouth. Tell him you lost her while you were travelling in Thailand, that she fell out of you like meat. Admit you’ve only ever told four people about her. Tell him that her father is gay now. That he sends you photos of forks with captions like go fork yourself. Admit that it’s easier to get over someone if they’re gay.
Give in and go outside to have a cigarette. Consider admitting that you smoke because you think it’s cool. Say, I’ve been a casual smoker since I was fifteen. Say, I think it’s the only casual thing about me. Out of corners, like an antelope, eye up all the cute candidates in the café. Wonder if this is going to be the day your own romantic comedy starts but then remember that you have learnt not to need people. Say, I have to learn to live without love, learn not to need it, because I think that’s the only way to get it.
Tell him about your father. That he is hysterical in a hahaha way and also in a Diane Keaton in a Woody Allen movie way and that you can’t stand Woody Allen. Tell him that you have a father that gives you puppies and then takes them away. That asks you for an orange juice while he’s watching YouTube videos even though you’re rushing for work. That he drinks whiskey and smokes cigars and plays golf and says things like, when I was a fashion designer in London or I was living in Melbourne with my wild boar and Afghan hound or I knew Rick Springfield when I was a band manager. Tell him you learnt to think this was hilarious but that the hahahas have turned into urghs. Don’t admit that you’re ashamed of having his name and his temperament and his nose. Don’t admit that when your family hints at parallel personalities, you throw tantrums. Don’t admit the irony. Say, I was tempted to take my mother’s maiden name but the thing is that she married someone just like her father. Want to tell him about the grief you felt when you realised that no matter how far back you go you end up crashing into a patriarchal wall. That every woman comes from an infinite line of women that lost their fathers’ names to their husbands.
Tell him you learnt to love from your mother and that she loves like a lion. Say, I don’t know how lions love but somehow it makes sense. Don’t say more about your mother because when you love someone you go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about them and you’d hate to bore him. Tell him about that time you and your best friend locked yourselves in the bathroom at Fabric in London for two hours doing coke and telling each other how much you loved each other on a loop.
Say, it’s difficult for men to compete when you’ve been loved by such fierce women. Don’t admit that this is what you tell yourself. Tell him you don’t know if you’ve ever really fallen out of love with anyone and you don’t understand how they all fit in your heart but it’s true, they do. You’ve decidedyouthink that you never stop loving anyone or fall out of love completely. The love can fade but can never disappear. Or maybe the you that loved them gets smaller as you evolve and change. But the you that loved them will still always exist, even as a small, forgotten room in the mansion of your morphing soul.
Sit back down at your table and feel the hollow of your stomach. Consider getting a croissant but $$ + calories= ☹. Tell him about that summer you thought you were fat because you went up to 49 kilos. Tell him you always hated the arrogant number five. Tell him that you use up a lot of energy convincing yourself that this, the fattest you’ve ever been, is okay because you are a woman now. Say, do you see me as a woman? Don’t admit that your most successful tactic in being a woman is to act like one. Say, sometimes we are better at playing the role of ourselves than actually being ourselves.
Change the subject. Tell him about the time you went for a drink with your friend and how you ended up driving to her holiday house at three in the morning. Tell him that you called up the housekeeper when you were almost there so the beds were made and a breakfast feast prepared, and that you spent all weekend playing cards and nibbling on cheese platters. Tell him you thought, not for the first time, that luxury suits you. It’s not that you want it — though you do — just that it suits you. Tell him about the time you went to a wedding at the Grande Bretagne and got lost in its golden corridors and how, in your drunkenness, you thought you could be lost forever. Tell him you liked that.
Say, when I was a teacher in Hanoi I made three little boys cry or and we ended up jumping up and down on the bed in fur coats, our nasal canals jammed with first-class blow or so the five of us fell asleep in the car and when we woke up, we were in a field surrounded by rabbits. Say, I am nothing like my father.