I had been waiting for this day for so long. I only knew about it for a couple months, but in my heart, I needed it, wanted, it prayed for it, even though I had no idea that it could ever happen. Ever since my friend Dovi told me that I could come join him in LA, I had been preparing. I didn't tell a soul. something told me that all the forces around me would do anything they could to stop me from leaving. Looking back, I knew this because they had stopped me from doing my true desires for so long, that I had for gotten who I was. Now I was trying to find out, and couldn't afford to lose this chance. If I didn't find out now, I wasn't sure that I'd ever get another chance.
For months, as summer approached, I had been looking at the map, I had never left new york, and now I was staring at the long red line, the I80 that stretched across the whole country. How could I possibly think that I could do that ? what did I know about roads? The only thing I knew was that I could not mess this up. I had started thinking about all the possible places that I could or would stop along the way. I thought about money I thought about gas. I thought about how much money I needed to make it across. If I made it across I was safe. I had given some thought to some other places along this route that I might move to, but the same thought kept arising. If I stopped anywhere short of California, I would be too tempted to go back. It was too hard to go forward and way to easy to go back. I needed to know that there was nothing short of 3000 miles between me and the way back. That way, perhaps, I'd have the strength and the courage to stay at the tough work that lay ahead, to discover why I was so furious and how I could possibly gain some sanity.
As I turned onto the highway, I remember thinking how beautiful and open the spaces were, the sun was shining and life was good, at least it seemed like it should be. shouldn't this be a moment that would make person happy? I had bought a car (from a nun) a couple months back. I had tried out the car. As soon as I put my foot on the accelerator, I was elated, yes a quiet elation that I shall never forget. It was an old Toyota Tercel. It still worked like magic. It launched forward with such smoothness and speed. I had the best feeling inside. " This can take me very far" was the thought. I had always been a little slow, but I did realize this much, that if this car, can zoom down this one,street, it can zoom down any street, even a very very very long street, that could take me far far away from where I was right now.
Now that car was packed with all the things that I thought I would need for a time period who's end I did not see or care to think about it. I just knew that I would be gone for a long time, at least until the pain had gone, and until my questions got the time they needed to receive the answers that satisfied them. I packed the car, with food, my favorite books, some covers to sleep with.
I'll never forget the last words I had with my mother. I knew that I would have to wait until the very last moment to say goodbye to her. I knew that she would have a very hard time seeing me go. I also knew that I would have a hard time saying goodbye to her. The only thing that gave me the strength to do so was because I knew I had to. If I didn't go, my life was simply not worth living anymore.
I drove my car up on the lawn so that I could pile everything in. I may have told my parents of my plans that morning or an hour before. It tells so much about our family to know that there was nothing for us to discuss anymore. There was no need to explain anything. I didn't have to say where I was going or why. There had been so many silent walls, and tall cement walls built between my heart and theirs, so many secrets and fights untold, so many tears withheld, so many questions that could not be asked, so many childhood wishes that had been either, ignored or shot down, that the bitterness had dried into an impregnable wall of anxiety, fear and disappointment. There was no doubt, at least in my mind, that these two people, my father and mother, were two of the worlds largest inconveniences. The worst part of it all was that, I hated them so much and for so long that I didn't know why anymore. I had never thought that one could ever hate a parent. It's sad to think that that is even possible, so I tried not do. It would take years to actually own the fact that, at that time, I truly hated them and that the hate was so real and old, that there was no way for me to even know why.
For months before this move, I hadn't been speaking to my mother. I would just say "don't" if she would start talking to me. I was so shocked at my behavior. "Heavens, she's my mother!" I thought to myself. How could I possibly not want to speak to her. What could she have done? I had always known myself as this "aidele yeshiva bachur" "oh, he's such a baal midois" they would say. Now there was a fire burning in me. I didn't even realize that I had this kind of anger, and assertion in me. Where did this come from? I couldn't stand speaking to her. I was done. I didn't want to hear anything of it. All that I had learned about "kibud av ve aim" would have to find another person to be mi kayem that mitzva because I was not going to be doing that now. I wondered how that was possible? Is it possible that hashem would want me to respect them when I hate them so much? It seemed impossible, at least I surely couldn't do it. This was another moment of serious doubt as to whether the mitzvos were things that I was actually meant to keep, I had no idea how it was feasible in any kind of mind that I should respect, either my father or my mother with the kind of hate, and disgust that I had towards them. It just seemed highly impractical and impossible. Not knowing very much, I seemed to know that my hate and anger was justified. It seemed like the natural thing to feel under the circumstances.
I was my mothers psychologist and lover since I was 7 or 8 (or perhaps earlier). There is no way for me to know how she was a s a girl, as a single woman, but I do know that once she married my father, she realized that I was a better shidduch for her. Obviously she knew nothing about the boundaries that should be had between a son and a mother. She knew nothing about having a relationship with my father, or perhaps any man. It's hard to see now, if there would or could be any man in the world with whom she could have a relationship with, but one thing was for sure, she decided that rather than look elsewhere, she decided, (probably not a very well thought out decision) to have a relationship with me. Something about me made her happy. Something about me made her smile. Looking back, it was probably the fact that I was a man, a boy, I was nice, I wouldn't argue back, I was a child, and perhaps most of all that she had someone to give to, and in that giving, she could, for a moment forget her own heart ache, and in her hope that I reciprocated her love, in that imagination, in that aspiration, she could hide for a moment all the pain she ever felt about not feeling attached to anything as a child and perhaps the pain that she felt now being in a marriage that degraded her, and continued to keep her in that never ending desire to look for sanity, find love and never let it go, so for now, she never let me go.
My mother would put me to sleep ever night. She would tell me stories and massage my back. It was nice, maybe when I was 5 and maybe even when I was seven, but as I started getting older I wasn't as happy with this ritual. Of course I wouldn't say anything "She's my mother" how could I? She would tell me all about the pain she was feeling (I'm the oldest of 9) She would tell me about each child and her concerns. She would tell me about my father and how bad he was, and how he was always yelling, (which wasn't very far from the truth) I was also scared of him, and I also appreciated someone who understood what I was going for, but somehow, at some point, I started getting the idea that these conversations were going nowhere. I started realizing that there was a hidden agenda underneath these conversations. On the surface, it looked like an innocent interaction between mother and son, but underneath, some kind of psychic war was being waged. It was a battle for my life. My mother actually wanted my life. This took many years to figure out, but looking back, in the process of her engaging me, and "giving me " gifts, and doing me favors, she was actually hoping to distract me from being me, from living my life and feeling my feelings and noticing my choices. Something in her told her that were I to feel my feelings and know my desires, and connect with my manhood, and love my independence, that would mean the loss of me to her. My freedom meant her bondage, to her mind and all the pain that lay in it. So for now, she was obliged to keep me as her slave, enslaved to the power, the guilt the obligation of doing what she needed me to do and being who she needed me. After all, what good son, could ever desert his mother, his own mother ? Never. Of course, I knew that I would never do that. I was a good boy. I was obedient. I as caring and no way in hell would I ever cause her harm or pain. She was my favorite person in the whole world ( my lover).
One night, when I was 17, and still sleeping at home, my mother, who was still putting me to bed each nigh, climbed into my bed and lay next to me. My body had weird feeling. I had never been this close to a woman. I was a yeshiva guy. This was my mother and we were pretty close, but this seemed a little too close. I wasn't sure what to do, all of my experience had told me that this sort of thing is at least close to normal. After all, isn't it normal for a mother and son to love each other ? What could possibly be wrong? How wrong could it be. Looking back, there seems to be almost no way for a child to know what is right or wrong, if the behavior he is seeing fits neatly into what, in his home is considered normal. Still, I had a feeling in my gut that was really strange. It was like my body, saw that there is a woman right next to me, and it wanted to hug it, it wanted to celebrate but it also wanted to cry and yell, and scream in disgust that that body , that woman was my mother. I didn't know what to do. i simply was unprepared for it. In the long process of healing that was to come, I occasionally would remind my mother of those days, and what she was like. At first I thought that I should expect an apology and then I realized that since she didn't see the illogical nature of it before, she may not be able to see it any differently now. In reality she does apologize but the reality is that the forgiveness that I have achieved towards her was more product of my tears, than her understanding, although she has had some degree of insight into the years past.
As we both stood on the lawn weeping and in an embrace, we both cried. She was crying because she was about to lose her most cherished friend in the whole wide world, and I was crying because my own mother had robbed me of the best, most vibrant and youthful years of my whole life. I also cried because of the fears that I knew I would need to conquer to get beyond what I had become. I cried because I had waited this long. I cried because the moment had come. I cried because I needed to reject my own mother in order to become me. I cried because I was angry that I had to leave the city I had known, the people I had loved, and the life style that I had always wished that I could keep to. I cried because of the huge amount of questions that wanted answers, experiences that wanted to be felt, drawings that wanted to be drawn, songs that wanted to be sung, ideas that wanted permission to be thought by me, feelings that wanted me as their owner, and the child in me that still wanted to climb to the top of the slide and slide down head first. The child never had gone away. I thought I could shut him up, tie him down, and make him promise to keep all his questions and wild ideas to himself. I cried for all the sacrifice I was making just to be free. Damn it, why do I have to do this? Why must I go? I loved my family. I missed who I had hoped for them to be and wanted them to be. I still wanted all those ideas to be true. I hated leaving all of the love that I wish could embrace me. Wasn't there hope? Isn't there a way? I cried because deep inside I knew that I was on my way to a great life. I knew that it had to be done and that all those good things would start with my first pressing of the gas peddle.
California here I come.