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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Reading Daughter of the Queen of Sheba by Jacki Lyden is like reading a Twilight Zone version of my own future memoir. Our lives have been different, of course, but there are so many shared experiences that sometimes I read a paragraph and feel completely cold and have to lay down the book for a while. Her mother wrote a note which read "God is love." Given that for a decade, my mother's breakdowns were marked by frenzied repetition of that mantra (along with "Love is God"), you can imagine the chill that sent down my spine. Lyden's experiences with her stepfather and her real father are mirrored in a twisted way in my life, or my mother's life, depending on how you look at it. Her father fell off a roof and damaged his brain so that he was deaf and slow. My stepfather was always slow (my mother would say brain-damaged), but he also fell off a roof before I left Sydney. Even small things catch at memories, such as her aversion to fish when she was young.

(My mother never believed she was the Queen of Sheba. But sometimes she was the Virgin Mary.)

Lyden writes: "Mania eats up slumber, grabs at repose and shakes the body awake for dances, for plots, for a carousel of tales that spin on the mind's gimbals. Sleep was ravaged, but sometimes my mother did fall into a kind of trance, a numbness showing a half-drawn eyelid, the white showing beneath the pleated pink like blank paper lying in a drawer." My mother has fallen into these trances too. More than that, having tried MDMA, so have I. It's a conscious dreamstate, almost more real than reality. I was a cause of some concern for my friends, sitting in the corner with my back to the wall, wall-eyed. It wasn't for months that I remembered my mother in the same state on the couch in our living room in Brisbane before we committed her.

(Also, just as an aside: "There was Tlaloc, the rain god with bulging eyes and fangs that made him look like a panther")
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