I think pain surpasses Twinkies and even hot dogs when it comes to shelf life.
27 years after I left my family for a semester abroad, the guilt still burns.
In my therapist chair, I discover that it’s taken the form of a red-hot poker, lodged in my side.
She suggests I remove it; But I’m afraid of what it will take with it.
“What is it saying?” she asks.
“I’m WRONG,” I reply.
Tears spring to my eyes, and I remember the anguish of abandoning my younger siblings to a family that was falling apart; while I went off to England for months of travel and fun.
But what does this have to do with going to South America all these years later?
I’m 47. My siblings are all grown. My mother is dead. My father has moved on. There’s no family falling apart here, just my lifelong partner of 25 years and the gift of two sons, both old enough to thoroughly enjoy two weeks without Mom.
I make an incision in my side, like the one I saw in the painting that hung in my grandfather’s office. At 4, that canvass is bigger than me and the scene it depicts of the first surgery, is older than all of us combined. In my minds eye, I can still see the gaping flesh, the exposed tissue, the blood; but now it is I who is on that table; having “I’m WRONG” removed from inside.
I throw this red, hot poker into the lake and hear it sizzle and watch turn black with cold, and then I wrap my raw flesh in comfrey leaves and gold-specked calendula cream.
“What would like to feel instead of “I’m WRONG?” my therapist asks.
And I can’t imagine anything else; it’s been with me too long.
I massage my incision, and ponder the shelf life of pain, and finally the words come, the ones I needed to speak to all of them, and to myself:
Kelly Salasin, the Ideas of March, 2011
After the surgery, I gather in a sacred circle with my seven siblings, plus one; and each of us takes his turn speaking the words:
(try it on for size)