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diaries & journals
It’s always a younger sibling who says something which reveals the transgression, who has heard your parents talking about you when you’re not around. They’re too little to know it’s something they’re not supposed to know. They couldn’t possibly know because only you know. It’s about that dream you had, the name of your crush, what you really think about that cousin. All the writing you do before bed isn’t homework.
You’ve been a fool. It’s always there, in your room, in the desk drawer or beneath the mattress or in the shoebox in the closet. You thought it was hidden, but nothing is hidden to them. The mother who you were one with for nine months, the father who was there to see you enter the world. How easy it must have been for them to give in to their fear, to attempt to know the parts of you that get vaster as you age and become your own person.
They heard it too, and they can hardly breathe as they wonder if you’ll notice the slip of your brother or sister’s tongue, praying that somehow this slice of you that’s been revealed also has a home in the real world, that you’ve told a friend, or that it’s been overheard at school. They pretend they didn’t hear.
But the name of that crush, that dream, that time you did this or that – they are only yours.
You breathe, but only shallowly, because there are no words coming. How could there be. You can't retrieve the knowledge they now have. Your chest tightens as anger arrives, but yelling at them would only reveal more about yourself and your insides, what you think and what you feel. You can’t do that, else there would be nothing left.
Besides, you’re ashamed. There’s no reason to be – there are no crimes you’ve committed, nothing but the ordinary cares and hopes and dreams of an ordinary kid. But you are, because you want some stuff to be a secret, and you don’t know why, but it’s important. Now there are no secrets. You’ve failed.
You go to your room and cry. It may be the first of many times you’ll cry over this. For some it may be the last time you ever cry, or at least the last time you can remember. Maybe your parents will come in and try to apologize. Or maybe – more likely – they feign ignorance and ask what has so upset you.
When they leave, you retrieve it from that sacred hiding place and notice it’s been set back facing the wrong way, or there’s the same lingering smell of perfume your mom leaves on the dog after she’s pet it, or a page is dog-eared for them to come back to later like your dad does to paperbacks.
We’ve all discovered it, those of us with any modicum of an inner kingdom – the need to press ourselves through ink and charcoal into paper, to figure out who we are, to talk to ourselves as the protagonists of our own story, to make our goals untouchable scriptures for eternal reference. It’s only when we do so that the world around us begins to make sense. For some it’s as simple as writing the name of that crush a million times. Others make lists. The more ambitious form a narrative. No matter what it is, it is ours alone – until suddenly, it isn’t.
Later in life we’ll be someplace with some leather bound paper in our hand, some Moleskin, some marbled notebook. On it is the name of our own child; in it, your child’s unmistakable handwriting. We’ll be afraid of how they are getting older and drawing away from us. They who we taught to use the toilet, to brush their teeth. They who we gave their first mouthful of food and heard their first laugh. And we must then consider what it means to know someone so completely, and whether loving someone means there are parts to them that must be forever unknowable as well.
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