Okay so. Tell me. You’re only quiet when you’ve something to say. It’s like those nights in the woods, in the tent, when you were frightened, when you heard a voice outside but wouldn’t say and I didn’t know until I felt you and felt you shake. It’s like the time your mum died and I didn’t know until you dropped the casserole on the floor and sat beside it, among it, crying and crying, your leg burning. It’s like every moment you live, Ruth.

And I’m supposed to understand the silence. I’m supposed to hear the words in your head, when they’re so loud in your head I doubt even you can hear them, not properly, not better than a wail, an endless shout of pain or anger or whatever it is that’s wrong with you tonight.

What’s wrong with you tonight?

Ruth has her days. I remember your dad saying that, at the wedding, at the reception, at the wine bottle in front of him, the second wine bottle in front of him, that smile on his face, always that smirk, almost a leer. Ruth has her days. And I squirmed and you squirmed and you said nothing, not then, not later, and I didn’t ask when I should have and the moment passed and I can’t help but wonder, because you do when you’re like me, when you think everything’s your fault somehow, I can’t help but wonder if I invented your silences that night by not giving you the chance to tell me what he meant and you thought.

I gave you the chance to be silent, Ruth. Once and always.

Ruth has her ways, your gran said, and she wasn’t mimicking your dad at the wedding because she wasn’t at the wedding, not with her heart, so I remember her saying that because it was
so curious, so coincidental. Ruth has her ways, she said. I love her ways, I said, and your gran smiled. Me too, your gran said, and she wasn’t always like that, but they’re ways all the same, John.

I said I didn’t know what she meant, but I did already, I did by then, I’d had your days and your ways already by then. And do you know what, Ruth? When you’ve stopped ignoring me, do you know what, Ruth? When you sit down and calm down and come down, do you know what, Ruth?

Well, I’ll tell you what, though I don’t know if you’re listening, I don’t know if your silences wipe out my voice as well as yours.

I’ll tell you I don’t mind your days, your ways, I just wish you’d tell me what they meant. I know it’s selfish, but I wish you’d just tell me if it was me. And if it is me, what it is about me. Although I know it isn’t me, really, because I know what it is, really, but if
I say nothing like you say nothing we can pretend it’s nothing together.

I’ll tell you the thing that hurts though, love, is that anybody reading my thoughts would form the wrong impression of you. I mean, you’re fun, you’re funny, you’re clever, you’re kind. Why won’t you let that be people’s memory of you? It’s like you lock your goodness away and only let it out for a treat.

Do you know what I think? I doubt you care, but since you won’t speak I may as well fill the void. There’s all that goodness you keep hidden in there, and I’m a yin and yang kind of person, Ruth, you know that I am, it’s how we came together in the first place, you and only me, so since we’re talking yin and yang I wonder what the bad is that’s in there, too, keeping good Ruth company, good and bad, nice and nasty, hidden together from everybody.

Because I’m quiet Ruth, I’m not one to stick up for myself, make a fuss, but I don’t miss much, us quiet ones don’t, and I see Ruth, I see you and your Dad, the way you keep from him, the way he keeps at you, the way he always stares at you but you stare some place,  any place else.

Why is that, Ruth, you look so sad tonight, Ruth, I wish you would cuddle me and cry. I wish your Dad would die. But I can’t say that, because that would be too close to the truth.

You know how you’re picking potatoes and you keep out the best ones, the ones with the best eyes, for seed for next year? And it makes you weep that such beauty must be hidden, not eaten, kept in the dry and in the dark through the winter, till it’s ready to put back in the ground where it came from, to start all over again, and you don’t want to do that but you know that you have to and, if you do, that next year’s crop will be even more beautiful.

That’s what I’m thinking now, Ruth, that’s what I’m thinking.



Published in: on September 26, 2006 at 10:21 pm  Comments Off on