About twenty years ago, my father drove my toddler sister to daycare, as he did every day (or most days- I’m not sure what the routine was back then). The difference between that day and other days was that I was sitting in the car too, I had just come back home from England, and I was going with my father to downtown Tehran after dropping off my sister. It was the first time I was accompanying them on this trip, and my father felt it necessary to hastily and surreptitiously clarify a few things for me:
“Don’t say the word “daycare” in front of your sister. We have a deal” he whispered anxiously. “I take her to daycare, and we both know she’s going there, but we mustn’t say the word “daycare”. If she hears it, she starts screaming. So long as she doesn’t hear the word, she’s fine, and she’ll go in with no problem.”
This seemed totally bizarre, but I totally loved and trusted my father, more than anyone else in the whole world, and so I made sure not to mention the word “daycare” in the car, and sure enough she went happily inside, babbling about something which even I, with my known elephantine memory, can’t remember, and which breaks my heart that I can’t.
This memory surfaced today as we got ready to drop off the Golden boy at his lessons before going on to Walmart, as a sudden birthday invitation had rendered the unplanned shopping trip necessary. I knew instinctively that I shouldn’t utter the word “Walmart” in front of the Golden boy, for the evil store is his favourite place in the whole wide world. He knew I was going, for he knew I needed to buy a birthday present for the party he was invited to, and I knew that he knew, but we both avoided saying the W-word. As it was, he was happy enough to go his classes and let me go shopping for his friend.
What is this twisted psychology? Why? Do you know, Gentle Reader? Why are some things easier to bear if they are left unsaid? How does verbal articulation make things unbearable which we would otherwise tolerate uncomplainingly? Why is it that now, since I have acknowledged I am going mad with emotional destitution here in this city, I feel I cannot stay here one day longer?