I feel a sense of belonging when I read my father’s obituary. It’s as if the act of reading and re-reading itself promises to restore the lost feeling and the lost moment; the fragile conditions that initiate mourning. When my eyes pass over the words, it lets me live for a minute in the fantasy that what took place around his death had not occurred. It restores a kind of silence, or experience that the bond could have peacefully slipped away without being drowned out by noise, cruelty, violence. When I cry while I’m living for a minute in this official rendition, it actually feels relatively ‘wholesome,’ or less sick than what I have had to endure in that time and in these 2 years (and still counting) afterwards.
There is, of course, formidable pressure to pretend that the violence that took place did not happen. For instance, a whole army (the violator’s army) stands ready to vaporize the reality of the event using a myriad of tricks with time, language, normativity, disbelief, myths about women, but most of all the desire for him to not be the thing that such actions describe. Their silence towards me and their attitude of business-as-usual mobilizes these strategies without taking any responsibility for them.
And I too need to seal the wound, which makes me wish that much more that I could forget. But I cannot vaporize what happened. I am extremely nauseated when a memory hits me. A million triggers make me choke. Several times a day, some kind of voice asks “How could he have done those things?” “Why didn’t he just leave?” “because I was ambivalent about continuing a relationship with him?” (I now wonder if it is dangerous to be ambivalent with or about men or to question them.) “Does he comprehend the effects of what he did yet?” “Does he get it?” “Will he do it again?” “Do his supporters understand that by believing whatever it is he says to get off the hook, that they do a great disservice to everyone,” “How can they all live in a reality built on lies?” And then again “How could he have done that?” This is a cycle that never fully shuts up in my head, not until at the end of the day when I collapse exhausted.
My relationship to sex and to the body has changed. My physical chemistry has had to accommodate 11 months of physical pain, and years now of mental torture.
But when I read my father’s obituary and think of his passing as some kind of event that I am stably and indelibly *within* in that list of daughters, whether or not I was torn out of the experience, the nausea subsides for a few seconds.
It may seem somehow pathetic that a flat text has to be milked because full experience is too painful. But in my condition, this tiny alleviation feels like a kind of gift.