I dreamed of you last night. In the first place, we were at my home in my northern town, in the back yard. I was barefoot, and the grass was itchy and warm beneath my soles. I took you across the yard to the sandbox, and told you about the night my father built it. After I’d gone to bed, he dug out the sandbox, built the frame with four little seats, and filled it with cool sand. I told you about how he’d sneaked into my room and lifted me from my bed. He carried me, still half asleep, out to the yard and he’d set me in the sand. “Happy Birthday,” he had said, and I’d yawned and stretched my toes into the sand. My mind was still half in a dream, but I realised eventually where I was. It wasn’t so amazing to me that Da built me a sandbox, because my father could do anything. He could build anything. He knew everything. But it was then, and to date still is, the best birthday gift ever.

You asked me how deep the sand went, and I told you the pit Da had dug was twelve feet deep. That’s certainly how it seemed when I was wee. My house in the northern town last night was cloaked in shadows, unless I wanted it to be sunny. Which I did sometimes. When I was showing you the raspberry bushes and the tree I used to climb to read books in.

We got in the car afterward, and headed to the lake. I showed you my friends’ cabin, where I had spent many spring and summer weekends. On the way back to the city, the highway became a video game. I was driving in Tron. You were there in the passenger seat, teasing me. I ran my fingers through your hair and told you again how much I love your voice. You closed your eyes and laughed, low in your throat.

You drove for a little while, after I avoided (narrowly) a collision with a bladed weapon made of light. Your driving was solid, but uninspired.

You weren’t interested in opening the throttle, and you weren’t interested in passing on the inside. But I was tired. I’d been driving for so long. We knew we’d be a long time on the road, even though the drive to the lake had taken no time at all. We’d been driving my old green station wagon on the way to the lake. On the way back, we had a light vehicle. It went fast, but the radio reception was crap.

While I sat in the seat beside you, I learned that one of my dreads was coming out. You hadn’t brought a comb with you, so I couldn’t take it out and start over with it. I felt like a failure. You didn’t understand my distress. You didn’t understand my sadness. You said “you see; I was right about your dreads after all.”

I told you to stop the car, to pull over because your driving wouldn’t get us anywhere. You were confused; we had been getting on so well.

I was angry. This probably accounted for my insistence on pushing the vehicle as hard as I could. You were nervous. I sat in the driver’s seat and listened to you ask me over and over what was wrong. Finally, you threw your hands in the air, and they dropped heavily to your knees. “Fine.” You said. “You’re angry. I get that. I don’t know why you’re angry, exactly, but I’m sorry for whatever it was that I did that upset you. Okay?”

But it wasn’t okay. Because making contrition for something you cannot name is not proper contrition. If you do not know what the wrong was that you committed, how can it possibly cause you to feel soul-crushed? Had you said “I’m sorry you are upset”, it might have gone better for you. But you didn’t, and I tore apart your act of contrition. Predictably, this made you angry.

You sat beside me, your arms crossed over your chest. “Fine,” you said. “There’s nothing I can say here that’s going to make this better, is there?” You asked. Your eyes were fixed on the track ahead of us.

“Of course there is. But you won’t say it because you don’t know why what you’ve said is hurtful. That’s the greater problem. You think you know me, but you don’t. You put me in this image of who you think I am…of who you want me to be. But I am not that person.”

“Then tell me what it is that I said that was hurtful, and I will apologise for it,” you said. You were frustrated.

“You said perhaps it was a good sign that you were right about my hair, that one of my dreads coming out just meant that you were right.”

“I was just trying to be funny.”

“You don’t remember what you said when I first put my dreads in, do you? What you would then be ‘right about’ now?” I asked.

“No, I admit, I don’t remember exactly what I said,” you said.

“You told me that you didn’t like dreadlocks on anyone, and that I would be less attractive, but that you would love me anyway.”

“I was only telling you the truth,” you said.

“Well, your honesty is what’s hurtful. Knowing you don’t find me attractive makes me wonder why you’re here at all.”

You sighed heavily and closed your eyes. “I do find you attractive. I think you’re fucking beautiful.”

“I’m saying that your telling me you find me less attractive hurts my feelings.”

“I was actually referring to when I said that your hair probably just does what it wants to do anyway.”

I thought about that for a while. “This is a proper apology,” I told you then. “In the actual definition of what an ‘apology’ is, that being a defense of a statement. In this case, I accept your apology, and contrition is not required. I am, however, still distressed that one of my dreads has come out.”

You said nothing for the duration of our drive, but I did win the race, as our vehicle was not only first across the finishing line, but was also the only one that survived.






2 responses to “Contrition”

  1. Michael Evanoff Avatar
    Michael Evanoff

    I always remember your uncle. I hope to your Christ we gave him some dignity your family should have. In another world…

    1. cenobyte Avatar

      Not *my* Christ.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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