And maybe the next morning, when she woke up sad, she thought about her sadness like a tight-lipped balloon inside her chest, located right above her stomach and below her diaphragm. And she thought about her happiness like a large, open bucket stretched between her shoulders at the top and narrowing down to the bottom just below her lungs. And then she realized that joy is a liquid and sadness is a gas. Or a pressure. And she realized that, usually, her sadness balloon is deflated and her happiness bucket is full and overflowing so that people standing too near her get wet.
But now. Now something was different. Her dad was different and she didn’t know why and her sadness balloon was starting to inflate and it was choking her. It was choking her with all the things that should have been making her happy — choking her with her beautiful childhood and her beautiful parents and her beautiful family.
And then she realized that everyone is always full of sadness, whether they feel it or not, just like a balloon is always full of air, whether or not it’s inflated.
And then maybe ten years went by. And things had changed and she kept her sadness down and sealed and twisted and rarely let any out of her tight-lipped balloon and when it escaped it escaped with a hiss.
Because even though she had grown comfortable with her sadness, she never expected anyone else to get comfortable around it…around her. Because this is America, where we don’t like sadness. Where sadness is seen as a sign of failure rather than a natural and healthy response. This is America where we don’t like sadness and we don’t like losers. We like underdogs — that is, losers who manage to win. But we don’t like true losers. Not unless we can laugh at them.
Ten years passed and everything had changed and everything was in flux and then everything changed again. Her uncle called to tell her that her dad hadn’t woken up that morning. That he died in the night with his outlines and plans for the next day spread out all around him but he didn’t need those plans any more.
And she thought about that first moment she had realized something was wrong like a point on a line, or on a bit of string, and this last moment like a point at the other end. And she thought about how she had followed that thread for the last ten years to see where it would lead and how she had hoped that it was leading somewhere else. She had tried to make it lead somewhere else.
And then she collapsed the ten years in her mind just like she was folding the bit of string in half, putting that first moment right next to this last moment. But it was too much and she let her head fall forward on the butcher-block island and that felt sort of like how she should be feeling so she lifted her head up and let it fall again. And then again.
And while she banged her head against the butcher-block she said God damn it, God damn it, God damn it.
(Yes. She knows it was the wrong thing to say. It was the wrong to say and it was the wrong thing to think but it is what she thought and what she said and what she kept saying. And it’s OK because God forgave her and they’re still on speaking terms.)
And while she was butchering the block with her forehead and saying God damn it and while her mom was coming to her and rubbing her shoulders and begging her to stop and saying that everything was going to be alright and while they both got quiet for a moment because they knew that everything was not alright — she suddenly understood what she was really saying. What she was really thinking.
She wasn’t thinking God damn it. She was thinking God (comma) damn you.
Damn you, God. God! How could you? You had no right. How could you?
All of my time and all of my work and all of my faith. How could you? You had no right, you had no right. You had no reason and you had no right. God damn it.
In short, no pearl was produced for the pain.