We never talk...that's what you said to the shrink, maybe it's true, maybe it's not. I do think you were right when you said we can talk about other people easier then we can talk about ourselves. Lying here, watching you sleep, I find myself thinking about what I should say, but what I can't. I think about the times when I've almost started to say something about my past only to stop myself before I could begin. I think of how much we pretend that things are normal between us, for Alex, for others and how much we wish it were true when we know it's not. It's easy to accept our failures in the dark.
Only yesterday I caught myself in a moment of weakness and almost gave in to it. You were sorting through some baby pictures of Alex and I found myself wishing I had just one of Marko to share with you. I wanted to show you my one of Jasna, her picture is one she shares with Danijela, a black and white that's creased and worn from so many years of handling, and I knew that would only upset you so I didn't. For Marko I could not even do that and instead I said nothing. There was a time when I had begun to open up about my past, with Carol, I'd shared small stories of my childhood, of times on my grandparent's farm, of the day when everything was changed forever. I tried again with the Bishop when he heard my confession, but it grew too hard and so I stopped, making him the last to know the full story.
I think I don't talk about my past because so much has happened that I don't want to relive. I can't tell you how badly I want to be a father again, to know that joy of holding something that is a part of you and the woman you love in your arms. Something...I know they aren't things, they're miracles, gifts from God, I believe that now more then I ever did before, I don't know, maybe because I lost mine and you still have yours with you. I want to tell you about my babies, about Jasna, her birth, what she loved, what she hated. With Marko it's different, I told Carol once I could raise an image of him, his hands and face covered in chocolate ice cream, simply by closing my eyes but not anymore. Now, more often then not what I see is his small hand reaching for help from under the debris that stole his life. I see what he looked like once I had lifted the sides of the crib and cleared all of the plaster away, how he looked as I held him in my arms and my tears left tracks in the dirt that coated his face. It's harder for me to draw memories of his life and far too easy to call forth those of his death. It's worse to know that had they survived Jasna would now be the age her mother was when she gave birth and Marko would be nearly a man himself and that neither were given the chance to live those lives. There won't be any more sleep for me tonight and rather then risk waking you I'd better get up, if only I could put it all aside as easy as you seem to do.
Walking the darkened apartment I find my thoughts scattered, I should have expected this, but how could I have known we would have to revisit my past? Why should those losses affect where we are now? I want to believe I'm happy. I try to give you all you want, all you and Alex need, is there something I'm missing? I enjoy being with you, with Alex, I thought it was the same for both of you, where did we go wrong? There are so many questions now that we never thought to ask? I don't know, maybe they were there all along and we just didn't want, or maybe we were just too afraid to ask them.
I'm back where I started and I find myself standing in the open doorway watching you sleep wondering if you want us to stay together. A part of me will always love Danijela and my children, I'll always mourn their loss, that will never change no matter how much time passes. I can tell you that I can love you despite that, I can love Alex and we can be a family and you have to believe that if we're going to succeed. In time I hope I'll be able to share that part of my life with you, you'll have to be patient, but,as long as you're willing to work at this so am I...
"Luka? You coming back to bed?" Sam's soft voice broke the silence of the darkened room.
And I know I am though it's still it's still true, we never talk...
I'm including a companion story to this that was written by Jo in response and is Sam's version of the same incidents.
Tell Me By Jo
A story from Sam's point of view
Their names. That's all I know about them, really. That's all. Three names, grudgingly given up one night to get me to shut up. And if I mention them by name now, he cringes and changes the subject. Luka says there's no reason to talk about them, and that drives me crazy. I've guessed that Jasna was older than Marko. And Danijela was young when they got married. But he's never told me exactly how young. Hell, he's never even told me how old he was when they married. He couldn't have been very old, because he's not that old now. But he won't tell me. It's like its some big secret or something.
He talks to his dad on the phone sometimes; at least he tells me it's his dad; it could be some old girlfriend, or the Pope, or Kerry Weaver, for God's sake--he never lets me say "Hello," never even talks to him when I'm in the room. So his dad doesn't speak English (or so Luka claims)--I'm sure he wouldn't mind hearing the voice of the woman who's in love with his son. Luka's Croatian, for God's sake, you think he's want to share a little of that with me.
Because I am in love with him. Or I think I am. Or--oh God, maybe I'm just in love with the man I think he is, or hope he is, or wish he is. Because, honestly, I simply don't know him.
Oh, I know every inch of his body-- the little mole on his back, and the birthmark on his leg, and the funky scar on his abdomen from his ulcer surgery. And I love the glint in his eye when he tells his bad jokes, and the touch of his hands when we make love. And I know he tries, really tries, to be understanding of me, and of Alex, and I know he's the best thing that's happened to me, to us, but...damn it, I don't know him. I don't know his roots, what made him what he is, what's in his soul. And I want--I need to know.
He certainly knows me. I'm not one to keep things hidden. He knows all about Steve, and how we met, and why I hooked up with him, and how stupid I was. I don't know if Luka understands just how attractive Steve was back then, how much fun we had, the endless joy of sitting by the river getting high and making love and just being with each other. Because Steve was great, at first. Really great. Before he decided he loved drugs more than he loved me or Alex. Before he became the drug-addled idiot who only cared about his next high. Luka knows, but he doesn't want to believe, that I could actually love Steve--love Steve like the immature, stupid, careless fifteen-year-old Iwas. He assumes--even though I've told him otherwise--he assumes Steve raped me, or forced me or drugged me and then took advantage of me. Luka doesn't want to hear the truth, but it's important he does. He needs to know who I am, how strong I am, and even though I made a bad choice then, I've owned up to it, and moved on.
Moved on. Maybe that's why Luka doesn't want to talk about his family. Maybe he hasn't moved on, and he feels guilty being with me? Or maybe he's just afraid he'll upset me when he tells me how they died? Doesn't he realize how strong I am?
And besides, I really don't need to hear how they were killed. It was war, it was awful. I don't need the details to know that it hurts, to know he misses them. I know that without being told. What I don't know is who he misses. I don't know his wife, his children. Only their names. I would love to hear how he met Danijela, what she was like, what was dating like in Croatia. What movies did they see? Did someone watch them--her mother, perhaps? Or did they go spend time by the river? What were their plans, their dreams? What happened when Jasna was born? Were they happy? Was she a surprise, an "oops" like Alex? Was she a good baby, or a screamer like mine? What about Marko? Was he planned? Was Jasna jealous of her little brother? Was Danijela happy? Was Luka? I don't know, and he won't tell me.
So naturally I assume the worst. I can't help that I'm such a pessimist; things have never gone smoothly for me. Yes, a lot of it has been my own fault, and I wish I could be more optimistic, but I can't. So I picture Danijela screaming at Luka because he stayed out late yet again when she needed him home. She yells that he never helps with the house work, and there's no money, and the baby's sick again, and Jasna is throwing another temper tantrum, and the hot water's out, and Luka gets pissed and curses her out and then leaves, and Danijela starts crying. And I realize I've installed my life in place of theirs, only with two Alexes instead of one, and Luka in place of Steve, and, well, that just makes it worse. Because, really, my life pretty much sucked when I was with Steve. I know, it's my life, and everyone has a different story, but it's all I know, and I can't help thinking maybe that's what their life was like, too.
Or maybe Danijela was a shrew who sat around on her ass and expected Luka to do everything? Maybe he came home and found dirty dishes in the sink, and she'd ask him "What'd you bring me for dinner?" Or "Did you get the laundry done?" And after he cooked he was supposed to bathe the kids and put them to bed while she sat back and ate bon-bons and watched Croatia's version of the Lifetime channel. Maybe that's why he's always so eager to do things for me--he's been conditioned to respond to needs before they can be vocalized. Yeah, maybe she was a real bitch, and that's why he won't talk about her. Never say anything bad about the dead, and all that.
Or maybe they were the freakin' Huxtables, with Luka the doctor-in-training, and Danijela getting her law degree in-between popping out babies, and everything was sweetness and light, and the babies didn't cry, and were toilet trained at a year, and making breakfast in bed for their parents soon after that.
Okay, so that's a little much, and I know--know--the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Luka was working hard, and Danijela was busy with the kids, and they had little fights but things were okay most of the time. But I don't know. Because he won't tell me. And it certainly was never my reality. "Okay most of the time" is just as big a fantasy for me as the Huxtables. But if I heard it from him, I think I could start to believe it...
So-was he happy? Was she? What did they like to do together? Was Jasna a girly-girl who liked to dress up like a fairy princess? Or was she a tomboy, always rough housing with the boys? What about Marko? Was he as active as Alex, or did he prefer to sit back and just soak in what was going on around him? Luka won't tell me, and it just eats at me. It shouldn't matter, it was long ago, but, dammit, Steve kept secrets. Big secrets, scary secrets, and now Luka's keeping secrets. And how do I know--how do I know-that he's not like Steve? Maybe Luka controlled Danijela, the way Steve controlled me for so long. Maybe he kept her on a tiny allowance, and threatened to take their kids away, and came home drunk and would stop just short of hitting her. Maybe it was like that, and that's why he can't tell me about them. Oh God, maybe he's another Steve who seemed so perfect at the beginning but who was really something so horrible....
Oh God, now I'm getting stupid.
Or am I?
I want to hear that Luka adored Danijela. I really do. I want to hear about his kids, and how wonderful they were, and what a loving family they were. I want to hear about normal. But he won't tell me, and so I'm left with...nothing. Only my fears. Only the nagging doubts about what he won't tell me. How bad must it have been? I wish he would tell me, because Lord knows, my imagination can take me to some pretty dark places.
So tell me, Luka. Who were they? What were they like? Were you happy? Tell me. I can take it. What I can't take is not knowing. Because if I can't know them, I can never know you. So please, just tell me, Luka. Let me know you the way you know me. You have to stop shutting me out, Luka, or we can never have a future. And I so want to have a future with you. So please, for our sake, just tell me about them, about your love. So I can share your love, too.