My fingers tremble as I look at them. They do not tremble out of anger. They tremble out of fear, out of terror of something that I cannot run away from, no matter how far I go.
The dark thoughts have ensnared me again. I am sitting cross-legged on the floor of my study, doing nothing but trembling, unable to free myself from the whispers in my own head. I still find myself here often – too often for my own comfort. No matter how far I always believe I have come from what I could have been, any hint of resurfacing has the capacity to throw me back into this state.
Sometimes, I hate myself.
Golda, my wife of more than a year, knows exactly where to find me and what to expect, by now. She knocks softly on the door of my study. I do not react. She did not expect me to. She walks in, and is unsurprised to see me sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching my own fingers. Quietly, she moves towards me, and cautiously, she lowers herself into a similar position, directly across from me. She is careful because of the three-month-old seed growing inside her. That seed is something I both love and am absolutely terrified of.
“Joshua,” she says softly, sweetly, trying to cajole me out of my mental state. “Look at me, Joshua.” I do not heed. Gently, she places a manicured hand on my chin and lifts my face up so that my eyes are on a level with hers. “Joshua, please.”
It is her plea that truly gets to me. There is so much love, especially in the helplessness that one has when they cannot save another. What tears you apart tears them apart, because they cannot tear it out of you. I look back at her so she can read the remorse and fear in my eyes.
What got me into this state seems like such a trivial issue; it almost doesn’t make sense, even to me, that I can be affected this deeply. What got me into this state is basically a non-event.
Golda and I had been having a perfectly ordinary discussion about my work. I had been trying to explain the proceedings of a meeting and why my manager had been making me mad, and it wasn’t Golda’s fault that she didn’t get the technical stuff. But you see, I am not a person who easily understands that what is so obvious to me is not immediately comprehensible to her. Even now, I still struggle with that. And so, in my quest to get Golda to understand, I had become more and more flustered and impatient, my voice had begun to rise – and that was when I heard what frightened me.
It was the tone of my voice – it was not the tone of my voice; it was the tone of my father’s voice.
It is odd to think that, in being forced to grow up with the people we never want to be, we inherit their characteristics. And when you have spent so long trying not to, that is the worst thing of all. Because then, you become a slave, even in your liberation.
My father was the very thing I hated; his loud, authoritative manner, his overbearing characteristics, his belief that he was always in the right; his impatience, his unwillingness to understand other people, his desire to speak and never to listen; his refusal to understand that other people were not himself and his insistence on taking egoistic pride in it at the same time. The man was an army general in a domestic setting, and he made me cry more times than I could count – way more times than I should have, when I knew even then that I had grown too old to still allow myself to be pushed to tears. Even then, my own tears made me angry.
He is not dead; I just never speak to him. That, my sister can take care of. As for me, I want nothing more to do with a man who will not accept his flaws and thus refuses to change them. I want nothing to do with someone ridiculous enough to think he is perfect. Contact with him would make it so much more difficult to stick to my vow to liberate myself completely from his characteristics. I am told these things are not genetic – lack of tolerance, impatience and sheer wilful blindness – and yet I can see the seed has been passed on anyway, through other means. Proximity to the man throughout my childhood has instilled it in me. I am trying to remove it form its roots. It’s hard to free yourself from a man when a part of him still lives inside you.
That conversation with Golda, with me raising my voice, showed signs of the seed still planted by the man. And recognizing him in myself made me hate myself. It always did. Each time I got close to acting like him, I got scared. The anger I inherited would make my fingers tremble. My fingers trembling would make me sad. My sadness would make Golda worried, like she was now. Even from afar, this man had a finger inside the bubble of my life.
She takes my still-shaking hands and laces her fingers with mine. “Joshua, you are not your father,” she says. She has said this sentence to me many times.
“No, but I can be.” I have given this response many times.
“Honestly, my love, you are paranoid. You make me hate this man too – the man who has done this to you. He has kept your mind in chains long after you separated yourselves physically. Nobody should be potent enough to do that. But I know what he is, and I know what you are. Joshua, you are love, not anger. You are virtue, not vice. And you struggle with what you are not, just like we all do…The danger is that you tend to mix up what you are not and what you are. Feel,” she says, putting my hands upon her belly. “You are a lover. Inherently. Love is our union and love is the fruit of our seed. In six months, there will be one more person in this world to love you more than life itself. And your father didn’t bear this child; you did.”
“And my father bore me,” I retort sadly. “Why am I unable, after all these years, to relieve myself from the memories of him in my very own words and in my actions? You say this is not genetic, but I fear it is. If I didn’t and do not quench it all from me, who knows what could happen? Golda, do you understand? I hate the man. But I hate myself too, for taking after him. It is the last thing I have ever wanted, and I live in fear – constant fear – of instilling the same seed in my child. Golda, Golda, I can never forgive myself for that. I love our unborn child…and that is why I hate myself so much!”