The generic name, The Bakeshop, seemed as good a place as any for me to realize how apathetic you were. Focused on your goals, as it were. When I look up The Bakeshop now, a number of options materialize. But I’ll always know the true location of my unveiling. It’s not the East Village, it’s not Midwood, it’s not Bed-Stuy, it’s not Bushwick. It is, of all areas, the last place one would expect to have a profound epiphany of any sort: Williamsburg.
We happen into the coffee shop/confectioner’s palace out of necessity. After biking through grey weather, the rain finally hits, and we’re forced to find any port in the storm that isn’t overflooding with Madewell-clad denizens fresh out of the nearest med spa. For some reason, in spite of the fact that The Bakeshop is right next to Joe’s Busy Corner, there is nothing busy about it. It’s a forgotten treasure amid a trove of options. But soon, it becomes our very own nonpareil cache of sweets and caffeine. You’re craving espresso, you say. It helps you work. I’m feeling so non-functional that it won’t matter what I intake either way. I’ve been having nightmares lately, ones that flash back to a very specific moment in my childhood.
I decide that here, now is the time to tell you about it, because I’m convinced you’ll care because we are together and you’re a human who has connected with me on a cosmic level, or at least you did once upon a time. What I don’t seem to want to notice is the level of your self-involvement masquerading as engrossment–diligent passion. You’ve been working on the same project, a children’s book centered around the theme of desensitization by making a computer its main character, for the past two years. I have known you for two years and three weeks. The three weeks before you began this endeavor is the version of you I’m still waiting for to come back. And this hope I hold out is, in part, what makes me want to confess to you what’s been plaguing me every night for the past few weeks. This memory of abuse I have that was recently confirmed by the black magic of a VHS home movie my sister, Laurynn (I always mocked her for the L.A.-spelling of her name), pulled out from the recesses of our mother’s garage. She was cleaning it out to make room for her own private gym, a cliche we felt no need to point out to her; she didn’t care about the embarrassment of being prosaic–in fact, she prided herself on it. In any case, the words were “everything must go.” Everything we held dear, and even that which we didn’t. Laurynn was younger than me, a sophomore majoring in documentary film at NYU. She had recently been inspired by Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation, a compilation of home movies that search for meaning in the fucked up nature of his preteen and adolescent years. I guess that’s what we’re all searching for when we revisit that sort of imagery.
As she cradled the VHS tapes in her arms, my eyes fell on one label in particular, Xmas ’90. It had an ominous connotation to it, unlike George Michael’s Freedom ’90. I ask, “Can we watch that first?” She nods nonchalantly; it doesn’t matter to her either way, as she’ll be sifting through them all at some point throughout the weekend.
When we sit down in the living room to watch Xmas ’90 on our combination DVD/VHS player–arguably the best technological feature about my parents’ Westchester residence–those signature distorted multicolor VHS bars appear, leading into a scene of my parents talking to my three-year-old self in that cooing way you’re only offered when you need it the least in life. My mother is the first to exit the room, presumably to tend to some kitchen emergency in preparation for the Christmas Day lunch that’s looming. I’ve already unwrapped all my presents, which surround me in a flurry of middle class decadence. Laurynn isn’t born yet, so I’m all alone, save for my dad who watches me from off camera as I toy with a glass ornament in that curious and capricious way that any child might.
No sooner have I touched the ornament than my father bursts onto the scene from stage right and smacks my hand and cheek with a force visible enough to comprehend why I’m immediately sobbing in the wake of his furor. This is the memory that has been suppressed within me for so long, waiting to bubble to the surface, to be confirmed by this visual evidence. It is the genesis of my meekness, my inability to stand up for myself. Everything is crystallized in my mind by this three-minute clip. I can officially fire my therapist. Or so I think.
Telling you will be the release I need to confirm that a shrink is no longer necessary at this juncture in my life. You sit there blinking and typing, utterly unaware of how much I need you to listen to my tear-filled confession. Foolishly, I tell you anyway. And when the sobs do invariably come, almost in unison with the rainfall, you stare back at me emotionlessly–annoyed even.
“Why are you sitting there just thinking up sad reminiscences? It’s like you get off on being depressed.”
You briefly glance at my evermore puffy eyes and return to typing. I almost admire your gift for tuning out all that does not directly affect your “purpose.”
“I think I need to leave,” I say.
You shrug. It’s like you’ve become the automaton in your children’s story, which you’re probably going to call Screengem, pending Screen Gems doesn’t sue you.
I ride my bike back to our apartment in the rain, still crying the entire way. You’ve slapped me harder than my father, but this time I won’t just sit there and take it. I’ll fight back, I’ll leave. But then, what does a raging bull reaction matter when the toreador isn’t even present in the ring?