5 True Things I Can't Quite Believe
The author of the tender novel Ruby explains a handful of things we don't always believe at first sight but should—including the very hardest one to accept (which is the last listed here).
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1. The Truth: My parking tickets will still be there when I open the glove compartment.
I get a lot of tickets, mostly outside the coffee shop near my house. When I find them slipped under the windshield wiper of my car, I wilt; and then—inevitably and inexplicably—I hide them in the glove compartment. A kind of magic occurs: I relax. The line between my brows softens, I turn on Pandora and listen to India.Arie on the ride home. As time passes and they pile up, amnesia takes hold. I forget them for weeks into months, only remembering when I register my car the next year, to the tune of $2,050.00 dollars—which I consider payment for the vacation from the stress of thinking about the tickets.
2. The Truth: I still love everyone I've ever loved.
My heart is an elephant. It remembers sharing strong Italian coffee in bed. It remembers the cake my beloved decorated for hours and his gift to me of the Dr. Maya Angelou children's book, Life Doesn't Frighten Me. It remembers silly, nonsensical jokes that no one else in the world but a lover would understand. Even though four years ago I found my lifelong partner, the secret, if I am honest, is that I still am linked to every person I have ever loved—despite all the anger, lies, duplicity and heartache that occurred when we broke up. So, I put those old affections away and don't look at them. Ambiguity is too hard sometimes. I have found that it is easier for me to put a period on each sentence, instead of seeing the entire page. But the truth is, in spite of scars, I remain tied with an invisible, unbreakable thread of love.
3. The Truth: Clutter makes me feel safe.
My daughter called it Mount Cynthus—an evolving pile of linty socks, lost checks, letters and, much to my dismay, the business cards of several home organizers. Mount Cynthus is now crammed into bankers boxes, stacked to the ceiling of my bedroom. It's labeled with words that no longer match its contents—a stained purse in a box marked "tools," old journals labeled "sewing." I tell myself it's a problem that needs fixing, but the truth is, sometimes I have trouble saying "no," or telling my family that I need a (very big) corner of the house just for me.
4. The Truth: I will never play Juliet.Long ago, I was playing the role of Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Because it was a very small part, I had a great deal of time to chat backstage. A group of us started discussing the shelf life of certain roles. Since Juliet was written as a teenager, everyone agreed that she should not be played by an actress past the age of 25. At the time, I was 31. I disagreed. I'd always looked younger than my age. At 16, this prompted a high-school heartthrob to come up to me and say, "Baby, in 15 years you gonna be fine." I needed to believe I could play Juliet at 30, or 40, because I didn't want to believe that age could limit me in any way. Nothing was impossible! I held onto that belief my entire life. I had a very healthy daughter at 43 without a hitch, but when I had a miscarriage at 46, I was crushed and oddly shocked. A part of me did not want to believe in the seasons of life. That part still does not want to believe that there are things I missed, things I can never have. But the truth is, the Earth turns, and I have to admit that I am human and time has precluded certain possibilities. I will not have another child. I will not fall in love for the first time and I will never play Juliet. I will never un-know the half-century I have lived. And what's more, I now realize, I do not want to.
5. The Truth: I am smart and sane.
This is the one I most need—and deserve—to remember. It is possible to live in the shadow of someone else's opinion of you for so long that it becomes your truth. If your boyfriend or girlfriend, for example, repeatedly says you are not bright, despite all contrary evidence, it's very possible to believe. If you have been the recipient of intense cruelty as a child or teenager, you feel stupid for not having been able to stop it; and not having been able to stop it makes you feel crazy, off-kilter. You keep your intelligence and insight close to the vest because shining too brightly means that you can be knocked down: You keep it a secret. Crouching in a tight ball is safer than realizing that you are greater than you might have imagined. I get glimpses of it sometimes—the fully realized me peeks out and I see myself as I am.
Cynthia Bond is the author of the debut novel Ruby.