I saw a pretty boychild play Hamlet yesterday. This boy played Hamlet, the original misfit, the man who read so much he couldn’t fit in. A poet philosopher in an age of action. I was in the audience, too loud, laughing at the wrong time, looking at my phone. No one knew what to make of me.
I don’t know what to make of me.
My child is graduating high school this year, though I’m not 40. He was in the play too, hulking, unruly, rumpled like his mother. He wasn’t playing Hamlet. We won’t be hosting the cast party, either, though we live just a few steps from the school. There’s a cat allergy, somewhere in the cast, but I think some of it is that he’s ashamed of me.
I’m ashamed of me.
It’s hard to be so full of stories that you can’t stop writing. Hamlet knew that too, knew the soft pernicious call of the blank page reaching into intimate moments and active thoughts, knew what it was to want to preserve time like a beetle in amber, waiting to look back on things and laugh, and weep, and feel the things you didn’t feel in the moment. Writing is like preserves, storing up everything for a future when you have time to make sense of it all.
I see how well that went for Hamlet.
But this boy, this beautiful young man who wins acting awards with his clear skin and curly hair — I wonder sometimes if my child hates him. I hated that kid when I was in high school, the one who always knew what to say and had the right clothes and didn’t spend every night after dinner running three miles and then throwing up and still being a monster the next day. But maybe my child is better than I was.
For one thing, my child never runs anywhere at all.
We are too large, our whole family is too large, we don’t fit anywhere. We live in a world built for small, pretty people, and we do what we can to get by, and we pretend we don’t hurt, because no one cares if you hurt when you look like we do.
I don’t even care that I hurt.
I’m angry that I hurt. I’m tired of hurting, tired of worry about what tomorrow brings and trying to think of myself as someone with a bright future that’s different than the present, and failing most of the time. I hurt but it’s pointless. I hurt but the world doesn’t care, just as it doesn’t care about your pain, or his, or hers — we can care about each other’s pain.
I care about a lot of people’s pain, but it’s no one’s job to care about mine.
So what’s the point of all this? The dog is asleep on the couch, and I was supposed to make a meatloaf and go to the store and return the boots that didn’t fit, and someone else was going to come over and play music with me, but I’ve done none of this. None of those things are done, and it’s hard to care. Because my son doesn’t get to play Hamlet, and he doesn’t get to host the cast party, and he’s big and awkward and depressed just like I was.
I’m still like that. I probably always will be.
And my mother asked for money again, but she can do that — she’s one of the small people, the pretty people, and her mother and sister were pretty and small too, and her brothers had jobs, and she was told she shouldn’t have to work hard, and she grew up in a time and a family where there was no lack. She feels it too. Every time there’s a wedding we have to stop her from crying into her wine about things we’d rather no one say.
I’ll probably give her the money, too.
What the hell. It’s gonna be Mother’s day.