Constant Conversations

October 10, 2012
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He was living in a church conversion about 25 minutes outside of London. It was summer, yet it was cold both outside and inside the house. The long walls and high ceilings didn’t particularly agree with modern heating and the feeling of detachment, the lack of familial warmth was evident. I only knew it was his house because of the wine fridge and music system; his two favorite indulgences. They had just gotten divorced and my whole family was separated. He was in London, she was in the Dominican Republic, my sister was in boarding school, and I was stuck in between, unable to decide where I stood. Antique furniture, glass decorations and large paintings adorned the whole house. Yet it was empty. It consisted of empty, empty, empty rooms just waiting but unable to be filled. Having lived in so many different houses during a period of only three years ultimately made a home unattainable. This is what had happened to my family, though I had failed to realize it. I must have still been clinging to the thought that things would get better, despite the constant change.
I entered the house cautiously, almost not wanting to be seen. He hadn’t picked me up at the airport because he was busy with work. I understood. We approached one another. Initial greetings always give away the relationship between two people. Ours was cold but I felt it wanting to be warm, familiar, comforting. It didn’t quite get there. We had a lovely dinner in the house and, as was expected, the conversation was forced. It wasn’t the fact that we were uncomfortable with one another, but my desire to please him and subtly let him know that I was a good daughter, a great one even, someone he could be proud of. We chatted about the usual subjects: school (“How are the grades coming along?”), music (“I saw a wonderful violinist a couple of days ago, really terrific.”), tennis (“The Wimbledon final between Nadal and Federer was incomparable.”), and the weather (“I can’t believe how cold it’s getting to be.. in plain summer.”). Yet the most pressing of issues, the freshest of all the news was seldom mentioned.

I had gone to visit him in hopes of addressing the causes and maybe even the effects of his actions and the consequent divorce. My one-sided mentality must have already been palpable because I already knew them, but I convinced myself that I wanted to make sure her side wasn’t the only one I heard. Our first dinner seemed like a perfectly appropriate moment, yet when it came I felt frightened and threatened. Unable to speak. So we left the table and he went off to work in his study while I watched some T.V., no desire of conversing in sight. I must have watched three episodes of Britain’s Next Top Model when he came in to talk to me. His walk was purposeful and I immediately knew what was about to take place. I wasn’t ready, but now I realize that in life, important moments seldom happen when they’re expected.

“I think we should discuss what has happened between she and I”. ?It’s almost funny to think of my feeling nervous when talking to someone who should be so familiar, so comfortable it should be second nature. ?
“Okay.” I answered, almost unable to muster a coherent reply. ?
“Things will not change. You must know that your life will still remain the same except for

the fact that we’ll be living in two different countries. I will visit often and so will you. It will all be fine.”?
The word sorry had not crossed his mind. I could have been shocked, but I had gotten to know a side of him through her that was so different, so weathered and self-indulgent it was almost cruel.

I wanted to ask why he had acted the way he did towards her, why he’d disrespected her in such a humiliating manner. But I didn’t. I wish I had. I now know I would not have been able to handle it. Emotions get in the way of logic, and I always had to be logical with him in order to successfully communicate. No matter how long I had prepared my speech, I had to accept that he was a better rhetor. So I started crying. I knew he didn’t like it, but despite how hard I tried it couldn’t be stopped. I had always been emotional, so tears weren’t necessarily a rarity coming from me. Yet this time they came deep from within, to the point where my ability to talk was reduced, to the point where I grew quiet and remained that way for the rest of the conversation, one that had suddenly turned into a monologue.

“I know everything she says you will ultimately believe, so it’s almost of no use to try and defend myself,” He continued, “I’m not the only one who’s in the wrong.”?
I couldn’t see it that way. I was so consumed by her feelings and the traumatic turn her emotions took throughout the process, that I couldn’t bare to look at him. He may not have intended to do it, but he changed her. Hardened her emotions, stiffened her resolve. It angered me. Sometimes it even angers me now. I have learned that humans are inherently selfish, but some are more than others. Before I had the chance to speak the soliloquy ended. He went back to work, seemingly satisfied he had addressed the cause of my concerns. For some reason I let him walk away, choosing to keep my opinions to myself. I was overcome with a feeling of entrapment. Despite the fact that we had been sitting the entire time I felt tired and defeated. He was like a cobra lying lazily on hot cement, one who ever so suddenly chose to attack.

I sat back down and reflected on what had just happened. I thought back to all the times I had seen the relationship I wanted with him at school functions, playgrounds and even sporting events. I wished we talked about our feelings, our dreams, my friends, his worries. But we never did. Our relationship was platonic, artificial, shallow. Focused on social constraints and the idea of success. A natural flow must course through in order for an honest connection to exist. For us it never did. ?
That night I thought of all the things I could have said, should have said, needed to say but was unable to. After-thoughts are never of any use. The next day we continued the trip as planned, as though the conversation had never happened. I visited my friends and went to dinner with his friends I already knew from back home. They acted perfectly fine, seemingly unaware of the events that had taken place the night before, even the month before. Everything was the same except for my perception of him. This to me made everything so different, so alien, so changed. I now look at that conversation as a turning point in our relationship. Despite his desire to put up an impossibly pride-filled facade, to conceal what I knew to be the real him, I had finally learned who he was. I think he knew it too.

Time helped me understand that it’s important to overcome assumptions and accept that errors cannot be changed. Parents aren’t flawless or unable to make big mistakes once they choose to have children. This realization may have come too early for a girl of 13. This man was unbelievably intelligent and immensely talented, but he was also tragically flawed. Only after I got to reflect on the decisions he made at his lowest was I able to appreciate him at his finest, to recognize his softer side. The side that realized the consequences of his actions but wasn’t able to apologize for them. The side that also wanted to better our relationship but found it difficult to express it. All tragic heroes make tragic mistakes, including my father.

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