I’m sorry for being in the way, for taking up space, for interrupting your thoughts, for being alive.
I’m sorry for not reading your mind correctly, or not reading it at all. I’m sorry for not anticipating every need or not seeing the future with perfect clarity.
I can’t think of a single thing I haven’t apologized for in these past almost-40 years. Did you step on my foot? I bet I said I was sorry to you.
I say it like it’s a habit or a compulsion or a reflex. It’s not. It’s wired into me like my brown eyes or my flat-ish feet. I come from generations of “I’m sorry” sayers. Mostly women. We have said we are sorry so we could be the dustbins for other people’s messes. We say it as we invite the world to sweep its debris and crumbs into our very souls, smothering out everything except those two words: “I’m sorry.” The cockroach of phrases; it’s never on my endangered species list because it always comes back stronger.
It was my first full sentence.
Mommy was raging with heartache in the bedroom. Daddy was sitting, unshaven, quietly marinating in shame in the old brown chair– he looked too tired to put his feet on the ottoman. I climbed in his lap and whispered into his ear “I’m sorry.” His days-old whiskers scratched my cheek. I was three.
A rumor went around school that a cute boy liked me. My best friend was jealous so she told everyone to ignore me during lunch. As I sat by myself during lunch pretending to eat, I prayed for a chance to tell her “I’m sorry,” so I wouldn’t have to be alone anymore. I was twelve.
I had a Master’s degree, but took a job as a secretary for a noble organization with an admirable mission. But I got bored sending faxes and proofreading one-page letters, so I left for law school. “I’m sorry,” I intoned. I apologized for wanting more for myself, for finding the gumption to unfurl the wings of my ambition and beat them until I could fly to higher ground. I was twenty four.
I was distracted by his tender kisses, when he grabbed my heart and then abruptly discarded me like an old coffee filter. He said, “I’ll be happier without you.” I said, “I’m sorry,” even though it was almost impossible to choke out a syllable with my heart flung on the plaza like confetti. I was thirty years old.
A recession hit and a stable of lawyers languished at their desks like lame thoroughbreds forgotten in stalls. I felt responsible. I said “I’m sorry” that my hours were low. It wasn’t my job to bring in business, but I still said it. I was thirty five.
I always say I’m sorry.
But I don’t really mean it. And I wish I would stop saying it.
[This post is for Yeah Write Summer Series #64. I am grateful for the chance to write with the amazing bloggers over there.]