Outside looking on
Have I always been on the outside looking on?
I remember sitting in the living room with my father and his wife. They were speaking Ladino and I did not understand one word. Well, perhaps a word or two here and there: "cierra la puerta?" She sat in a blue chair in the corner of the living room and puffed on her cigarette, holding it between her fingers in a slim, black holder. I remember she wore gloves when we drove into town to have tea and "a thousand leaves" cakes at Haddon & Sly. I was mostly very quiet. I sat as still as I could so as not to be noticed. I was terrified of doing anything at all in case it was wrong. For I had heard that she had a very large temper. When my father brought me home for the weekend, she would meet me at the door and lead me directly to the bathroom to wash off all the dirt from my mother's house. "Remember to scrub your knees and neck," she would say.
I wrote about some of this back in 2009:
I only visited their home for about five years until I was ten years old or so. After that my father told me something had happened and he was no longer allowed to take me there. He never told me the reason why. Perhaps he thought I was too young to understand, or maybe he did not want to hurt me. Nevertheless, naturally, as a child I assumed and imagined it was because of something I said or did. He and I would have to visit in the park, drive out on outings or go to the movies – it felt like meeting a clandestine lover or something.
It would be years until I could visit him in his own home again.
I came from the outside – another life – and she allowed me to intrude for awhile.