Monday, 28 February 2011

Hiding in my father's wardrobe

I'm pretty good at leaving people behind with my years of practice changing schools, moving countries and travelling for work. But I'm not so good when it comes to being  the one who gets left behind. Even temporarily. I'll admit it: at the mere thought of being left on my own for even just a few days, the confident woman, the independent introvert reverts to wailing infant. Boo hoo! I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

He is going away. To a conference. In another country. On another continent. On the far side of that continent. For a short week. And to make things worse, it means that he is going to miss my birthday. (Before you judge him, he did ask, it being my birthday and all, if I wanted to come along on this trip. And I said no, I'll be fine, let's not be profligate. And then just in case temptation proved - well, too tempting I guess - I scheduled to take an exam whilst he was away.)

The blubbering started last week in anticipation of his absence. It's coloured my waking thoughts with a dull wash of grey and made me slightly clingy (-er than usual). Like a bad case of emotional static. I entertain this fantasy that I could buy a plane ticket and join him (in my fantasy, there's no financial regulation exam). He is going away to one of my favourite cities in the world, a place I called home. Why can't I go? I want to see my old friends and eat proper Mexican food and go to Fisherman's Wharf to see the seals, and you know, just hang out and get my California girl accent back!


The truth is, being on my own in not so bad, mostly. I'm fine in the day time. What I dread is locking up the flat at night and going to bed on my own. The darkness and the silence spook me so I stay up late, way past my bedtime, and usually end up sleeping on the couch, with the BBC 24 hour news station turned on low.

And there are certain advantages to being left on my own: the thrill of eating dishes that I love but he doesn't (welks anyone? roquefort?), the satisfaction of watching what I want on telly (hard hitting documentaries with lots of blood or human misery, dark thrillers, Gok Wan, the antics of Jordan the ex-glamour model and entrepreneur, and the top 40 of music videos!) without having to compromise.

But these are overshadowed by a disproportionate sense of abandonment. I'm not using that word lightly. I feel abandonned. Like a child or a pet or an old toy, discarded by the side of the road. Pretty strong stuff.
Now, courtesy of some rebirthing exercises at drama school, I know that I was placed in an isolation ward immediately after I was born (a little premature) and that my mother would come down to bottle feed me wearing a special robe, mask and gloves for the first few days of my life and that's left some anxiety in the - don't-leave-me! department.  There's also the fact that whent I was a little girl, my father would often leave on one of his frequent business trips - on Sundays right after lunchtime. I found it very unsettling and it made me incredibly sad. So after he'd gone, I would hide in his wardrobe and press my nose against his suits and pretend he was still there.

To me, that wardrobe was the most comforting thing in the whole wide world. I wish I could bottle it so that I wouldn't have to bottle up my occasional feelings of sadness and fear. Prozac in pin stripes.

But I also have to remind myself that as painful and real as these temporary separations may feel to me they are only that: temporary. I spare a thought for all those friends who have lost someone, permanently, at least in this existence, whose grief and pain I cannot begin to fathom, and who are all in my thoughts. My father's wardrobe has plenty of room left in it.

1 comment:

Cathy Kozak said...

Great piece. I can't say I feel the same when my fellow leaves for a week, though we've been together for 34 years which may have something to do with my inadequacy in the 'miss you' department. But for you, Isabelle, I suggest you buy a San Francisco guidebook with lots of glossy photos, and turn the 24 hour news channel off so you aren't reminded of all the things that can go awry ;)