So, for various reasons I was very nervous about Thanksgiving this year. I’m not sure if the reasons matter for this story but we were traveling and the weather was supposed to be bad (it was; I drove in the freezing rain! Yaaaaaay), and we would be without my kids’ dad for the first time since the separation, and I hate all holidays indiscriminately so I was afraid I would ruin it for everyone. For Reasons.
GOLLY I’m a barrel of fun.
Anyway so I’m grabbing some wine for the dinner and just can NOT stop dissociating. Like, I am just drifting around haphazardly through the aisles, limping; vague. Can’t remember what kind of wine I like (which is super not complicated, you guys).
And my partner, who is kind of trailing along behind me, sees me grab a completely random bottle and continue lurching down toward a totally non-related aisle and says to me: “Where ARE you right now?”
And I answer back automatically, without thinking (very loudly, I might add, and then everyone who wasn’t already staring at the vacant-eyed staggering woman was now staring): “I’m in the liquor store with my mother,” and
I can see it all.
The world looks like someone has accidentally pointed two projectors simultaneously at the same screen: I am in this familiar Midwestern inner-city liquor store with the cop at the door and the harsh fluorescent lighting and the old cracked linoleum floor and the rows and rows of bright lime starbursts hollering SALE, and I’m also trailing resentfully behind my mother in a posh, hardwood-floor liquor store with wooden shelving and tasteful lighting in the wealthy East Coast town I lived for two years.
I watch as a guy in paint-spattered coveralls picks up a 12-pack of Coronas, walking directly through the shape of my mother with a huge grocery cart packed into the narrow aisle of the East-Coast liquor store while she loudly and theatrically pretends to peruse the nicer wines, describing their taste notes to her 19-year-old daughter (that’s me) who looks fixedly out of the window, pretending not to see as she darts suddenly toward the RotGut Section and, in a smooth and barely perceptible motion, swoops three gallon jugs of Gallo into the bottom of the cart while discussing the Merlots on the higher shelf, and then grabs a handful of Sutter Homes and whisks toward the checkout.
I can see my partner as she stands, openmouthed, in the current-time liquor store, with worry puckering her brow, and I even ask her about whether I should take this wine that I have no idea what it is (it was awful, I discovered later) and if she thinks it’s . . . blah blah blah. I guess I am not sure what I said because at that moment my mom was making bright, cheery conversation with the elaborately-coiffed and elaborately uninterested cashier about how this will go with dinner; on, honey why don’t you put back these two there won’t be that many people coming well maybe not we can always keep them in the basement until next party (needless to say there was no party).
This is not exactly a flashback, I guess — in a flashback, I am nowhere else but in the upsetting memory. And this memory isn’t even upsetting, I don’t think. I was vaguely embarrassed that she was pretending to be there for something else (these women knew her; who did she think she was fooling?), and I sort of had to pee a little and wanted to go home.
I am not sure if it was just because I saw the Sutter Home and the Gallo section and was anxious and dissociative already and therefore unmoored from time and place, but MAN it was so weird.
There was not really anything I could do about it, either; I drifted along, patiently answering my partner’s questions (or not; afterward she informed me that I maybe wasn’t answering them all completely or at all), handing over my credit card as the teenage me climbed into the old Honda and waited for my mother to finish loading the trunk, all of us driving down the road until I pulled over, took some deep breaths, and FORCED MYSELF to focus on the present and the business of driving.
I have no idea how often I’ve been doing this. I wasn’t even really aware I was doing it until my partner asked me where I was; when I answered was when the scene burst into full color to my consciousness. Maybe I spend a quarter of my life walking around in two worlds.
I guess this is what people mean when they say ‘living in the past.’
I am not entirely sure what it means or how I can or should address it, but it sure is fucking interesting.
Or “cooooool,” as my therapist said.