It's sometimes funny, and not of the 'ha-ha' kind, when the most curious of memories of people from our past jump to the forefronts of our minds. With more than three and a half years of memories to choose from in the particular stage to which my memory chose to turn, tonight my subconscious did not turn to the freedom, the exploration, the boundaries, the friendships, the betrayals, the abuse, the manipulation, the suppression, the confusion, the heart-break, the games, the love, the laughter. Tonight, my thoughts and memories were with bottle tops.
Thinking of where I am in my life at the moment, in one of the many ebbs in the flow of addiction, I can truly empathise with an understanding that may even surpass many of the original experiences. Yes, empathy is a blessing and a curse, and perhaps not even a true reflection of the reality of either, but however it may be for the party I am empathising with, for me it is very intense. That's the best I can do to sum it up. Intense. Yes. I feel.
The bottle tops were in the pockets and the pockets were in the jeans, as was the man-child. Scarred with the loss of a mother, the hopeless alcoholism of the father, the trapped maturity of the older sister and the failed protection of the younger sister, but with no excuse for the wanton and knowing impact on so many others that the self-abuse resulted in. That I was in that line of fire makes me sad for him, but also still so disappointed in myself that I wasn't stronger. I was told that I was strong but at that time I just felt so helpless in a proud and tough sort of way.
The jeans of the man-child fit well. Straight leg fit is the middle ground for all jeans fashions through the ages; some things are timelessly cool, regardless of the current fashion and I think straight-legged jeans are one of those things. Ice blue, crinkled and taut in all of the right places. How could a girl not admire that, and to have that in her reach whenever the whim took her, regardless of her age, well, it seemed all so good at the time.
How much to tell of the man-child? Indeed, how to tell at all? Even after all this time, how was I to know that the only word befitting of a summary of his existence is 'mistake'. Harsh? Yes, mostly, but better than flat our 'dead' which is the second choice. I am not a survivor, because for me I didn't feel the definition of the words that were so befitting without me realising, but I certainly have that knowledge that is somehow separated from the feeling, whether I want it or not.
So, we have the man-child, and we have the jeans, and then we have the pockets. Nights out when I was on his mind while he drank beer with his mates and I sat at home with my family, as any girl of my age should, until he came to call. At that stage, any beer was a good beer for him, but twist tops were the preference. Why? Because as the night wore on and the number of beers consumed became as blurred as ones sensibilities, the bottle tops sat like a subtle trophy in the pocket of the jeans as the only way to count how many beers had been consumed and to then wear the tally like a badge of honour.
Of course, the more bottle tops in the pocket of the jeans of the man-child then, logically, the more beers consumed on the evening and thus the testosterone-charged, alcohol-fuelled competitions raged - as did the various means to exceed regardless of the truths of the situation. From holding bottle tops over from previous evenings to surreptitiously accumulating bottle tops from others (thus increasing ones own total while reducing that of the competition in one fell swoop), all snake-like tendencies were gloated over by him and instinctually cringed from by me, yet without stepping away or removing myself completely as I knew I should.
There were so many signs that my head understood and my heart acknowledged the existence of but decided that, seeing that I was an intensely emotional being, it had precedence in all actions. And so I stayed.
And that, dear friends, is the crux of the matter. I thought I was being true to myself because I thought that following my head was supporting the stereo-type that my peers had created while following my heart was pure honesty. To me, allowing the image of myself that had been created by others to dominate was to relinquish control of myself, my choices and my life. I was struggling to find out who I was in the face of so many changes that I knew on one level to be huge but that I played down to things that I, as a young girl just entering into her teens, could deal with.
Maybe I was strong; that's something that I still haven't entirely decided upon and am anticipating may be explored in a different post in the not-too-distant future, but I didn't feel strong back then and was, in truth, floundering with no clue as to how to claw my way to the surface. My life experience up until that point was not full of challenges, competition, hard work or any exercises that would have had any positive impact on developing my character. I was stubborn: hell yes; intelligent: apparently; resourceful: instinctually and possibly genetically as well; but mostly I was scared. Scared that I was fucking up the rest of my life and was being resolute in the need to ensure that if my life was going to be fucked up then it was going to me who had the final choice over that.
And, my memories tonight, summarised by bottle tops, in pockets, of jeans that also contained the man-child, are difficult in all they represent of my failings but also inspiring in all they represent of my resilience. That I did experience, work through and grow from these times, with memories but no pain - well, that's an accomplishment, and one that I intend to use in my present as a means to secure a better future.