When I was six years old my family moved from North Plainfield, NJ — a suburb of NYC with all of the attendant suburban attributes — to Meyersville, NJ, a small town half-located in and surrounded by a The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. We moved into the house formerly owned by my Aunt Sharon, a small 1800 square foot ranch where my parents still live. Although the area is a little more built up now than when I was a child, our street, White Bridge Road, has remained, for all intents, unchanged since I was a child. My two cousins, Richie and Andrew were both asthmatics, and the high pollen and humidity levels in “The Swamp” were the exact wrong conditions for both of them, thus my Aunt was selling the house and moving to Colorado. While I can never be sure, the fracture of our family was very hard on my cousin Andrew, who never recovered from the loss of home and ended up killing himself somewhere outside of a Reno a few years ago. I thought it was odd when he posted a quick note on my Facebook page to tell me that he loved me, but when I went to respond the account was deleted. I still remember the phone call I got from my father, calling me from both mine and my cousins’ childhood home. He may have even been sitting in Andrew’s room, now “the computer room.” I was sitting at my computer drinking a cup of coffee. I remember hearing the words but not really processing them. I had just gotten divorced a few months earlier and was in my own fragile state. I just remember that the coffee tasted extremely bitter that morning. And it was hot and the new place I had just moved into had no air-conditioning. And that it was Saturday because I didn’t have my son, but I had Saturday night service to look forward to at Pearl Oyster Bar. I was 35 years old and didn’t think I had many good years left myself. I put on my whites that night and cooked and can’t remember how I did, but I did.
There was always an intense loneliness growing up in that house on White Bridge Road. There were only a few other children on our street, and they were all older girls. My brother, six years younger, was still a baby. My father hadn’t quit drinking at this point, so I lived in terror as his favorite target. It wasn’t until years later, when I punched him out on Christmas Eve, also in Andrew’s room, that we came to an understanding. I still love my father, but it is a strange love, like Stockholm Syndrome.
I used to hide in my room a lot and read. I was reading on a high school level by third grade. Maybe earlier than that. My son started reading at three. We are a family of early readers. I especially like reading fantasy and adventure books, as well as anything by Beverly Cleary. Anything that provided escape or depicted normalcy. My life was far from normal at this point. And although the physical abuse scared me, it’s the verbal abuse that still gets me to this day. I’ve achieved many things, but I’ve never felt good enough.
Friendships are hard for me. I don’t have many. I never really know how to act. Am I being too effusive, or too reserved? Do I come on too strong? Do I look desperate or needy? Probably all of these things, and I’m very protective of the few real friendships I have, and always scared of losing them.
I feel broken at this point in my life with no easy fixes. It’s all I can do most days to get through most days, yet I still feel I have a higher purpose, but I have yet to find it. What I tend to find is disappointment. I think maybe I need to lower my standards, and then maybe I wouldn’t find most people ingrates and assholes. I need to do something.
Until then, I guess I’ll just remain bookish and broken.