Brothers

Jon and Zach have the same teeth and smile-cracked eyes

Zachary and Nick have the same neck and smile,

eyes always glint the same across families

if we’re attracted to anything in a mate, it’s the eyes

that first hatched into our view,

a spaceship pervading the strung mobile, spinning spinning

then novelty – tufts – foreheads — Faces!

the new spectacle tucked side by side

by flesh, enclosed in people, the eyes were the real entities, never

“daddy” or “mama!”

parents think themselves mighty proud for their visage to produce a label,

for this so-called understanding to emerge in their smart, smart babies.

But for the baby, it was only ever the eyes they spoke to.

when I’m despondent and depressed, I will not look into eyes,

when I’m confident and self assured, I speak only to eyes

when I tell you that I love you, I tell your eyes, because they are the ones that see me

I may find a blind lover, that they might love my voice, and my touch

but nary a love is started outside of the eyes.

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Everything I Don’t Want People to Know About Me (Part 2)

  1. When I was in high school, I started to pick up weight. I was aware of this, but did nothing. However my mother noticed as well and mentioned her fear that I was becoming fat to one (that’s one of two, mind you) of my super-model sisters. I’m the youngest – and stockiest – of three, and my two older sisters have literally been models. One of them still is, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyhow, super-skinny-Megan came into my room one day and passed my mother’s observation on to me. My immediate reaction was to walk into the bathroom, pull off my big chunky sweater, and stare at my middle. Scrutinize my thighs. Lift and pluck at my buttocks, quite aware of how deflated it was. I observed the skin attaching my chin to my neck and thought that it used to tuck in more. A couple years ago. I recalled in middle school how everyone would gawk at how skinny my underdeveloped body was – and that trauma had already been remedied by my massive breast growth sophomore year of high school. One year ago. It seemed I hadn’t stopped. I poked at my pink, rotund cheeks and hated myself. I thought of all the sweets and carbs I’d stuffed into those cheeks, making me so ugly that it had to be reported to me by my family, so that I wouldn’t have to hear it from a stranger. I thought about how thin and long my sisters were, and how they never seemed to have any trouble keeping the weight off. That was the first time I started to starve myself. I banished my muffin-top upon exiting high school – I never reached over weight, mind you. I simply got chubby, and ergo became the fattest person in my household – without ever being what anyone considered “fat”. Simply approaching the label in a way that reflected the societal fear of gaining weight. After the freshmen 15 hit me in college, I went through another phase of severely restricting my diet. It was hard at first, but eventually I could go weeks with minimal eating. In the summertime, it was worst, because I always felt my body was on display. It was also easiest, in a fucked way, because the heat naturally relaxed my appetite, making the transitions into week-long fasting easier. Oh – and I never acknowledged that what I was doing was anorexia. It was always “control” or making up for a month of eating normally. That fact changed when I started dating a girl who did the same thing. She’d express to me that she hadn’t eaten all day almost gloatfully, and I’m sure she was just barely holding herself back from outright boasting. She was a year younger, and as our relationship continued into her time in college, it became the excuse for why she wasn’t eating. “The food here is gross” “I’m starving on this food plan”. I knew she was doing it to herself, but I kept my mouth shut, because I was doing the same thing. Except I wasn’t talking about it. She and I would smoke weed together, as I entered that phase of my life, and I experienced the munchies for the first time. I would be filled with ravenous abandon… and hate myself the next day. It wasn’t until I started tripping that I came to recognize my starvation habits for what they were – anorexia nervosa. bulimia nervosa. Since those realizations, I started making efforts to eat with health in mind, and to make going to the gym a regular habit. I still sometimes starve myself despite these lifestyle changes.
  2. My digestive tract is extremely sensitive, probably from the abuse it endures. So it isn’t uncommon for me to become flatulant for hours in end. And not the cute skinny girl kinda flatulant. The kind that makes you look around for the fat guy with a chill cheese dog piled high with melted carcinogen cheddar and refried beans, stinking onions that were scooped out of a plastic quart container incubating methane producing bacteria in the heat of summer, guacamole with garlic presiding as the overriding stench,  bacon bits that have cohered into clumps from the accumulated grease and fat that hangs off them – coating each ‘bit’ with a slimy membrane of “flavor,” all topped with some sliced jalapeños (also deep fried) to provide the spark the lights the fire in your anus. And this happens at the drop of a hat for me – I’ll be fine one minute (when I’ve gone a stretch of not eating), then one soy chai latte later, and I’m exuding a never ending stream of those farts that totally feel wet, but you go to bathroom to make sure and wipe your ass and it’s just the usual amount of unclean. I have a little dressing on my salad? Flash-forward an hour, then you’ll come to, neck deep in the algae encrusted muck of a fetid swamp in the heat of August, nestled in a mushroom field, encircled by fertilizer rich cattle, both grazing and heaping into the stagnant air. What little moisture remaining in the bog is summoned by the temperature to emerge on the surface, instantly evaporating into a corporeal breath that continually chokes and gags you. And just when you’re certain you’ll lose consciousness from suffocation, a garbage truck rolls in, wayward from the highway, and brimming high with chaotic, torn garbage bags (probably not glad bags). Upon impact with the boggy earth, the truck is stayed and topples over, burying your head, olfactory senses and all, into the week old crab platter a family of seven dined on, mingling with overcooked – now sour – bean curd and undigested beschemel. These, the demons clawing about in my bowels.

(Will be updated over time, as my self esteem cyclically plummets, naturally exposing me to more fettered insecurities that my consciousness has been harboring… Stay Tuned for #3!)

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Everything I Don’t Want People to Know About Me (Part 1)

Dear Brian,

I got your thoughtful note, in response to my startling revelation on Thursday night. We were going around the circle, sharing things we didn’t want anyone to know about us. Will, who’d suggested the activity to our Spiritual Seeker group, started off with, frankly, a lame ice breaking revelation that he hadn’t brought his dog to the past two sessions, because after it had growled and pounced at me [two sessions ago], he was embarrassed and felt it a poor reflection of his training. Basically, it was an illogical insecurity he harbored that we all instantly stifled with affirmations to how much we loved the mangy beast, and how a dog acting on instinct could never be a bad reflection of his training (Oh, perish the thought!), because dogs are individuals prone to fits of territorial paroxysms, just as humans can be (it’s a spiritual group, remember?). As everyone flooded Will with good vibes and chakra strengthening thought beams, I was incubating within myself a ploy to up the ante; to reveal something meaningful that many could relate to, in order to spur confessions that could get us somewhere – in order to reveal our deepest fears and anxieties that our insecure psyches clutch in crooked fingers, knurling into the fetal position with barbed knuckles divaricating about all that we want to remain secret, as we pull it behind the shadow of our physiognomy, brows and eyelids cleft and cusped, respectively, darting towards any threat to our private let-downs.

I wanted to blow this wide open, and I considered it a challenge to myself, to be the one to breakdown the barrier of the ego. As my mind flooded with ideas of what I could divulge to others and still save face with the contrived personality I had projected over the months, everything from the mild crush I had on *everyone* in the group to suicidal tendencies entered and were quickly chased out of my mind with a flailing dish towel that offered melee whips to my ego at the thought of revelation. The moment my mind flitted to the anorexia I’d combatted most of the summer, I knew it was the one. Easily relatable to anyone that has struggled with self esteem, and yet an equally difficult chink of my armor to be flashing at a bunch of strangers that I read and discuss books with on a monthly basis. I waited for the silence that followed Will’s submission, and staring straight at the table, spoke: “I’ve struggled with anorexia since high school, and still sometimes starve myself.” I waited for the stuttering admissions of self hatred, the staggered promulgations of other self-esteem motivated self-inflicted suffering. I heard silence. My vision burned holes of embarrassment into the table, while boiling the stress induced water that was never too far from my eyes. The craters of embarrassment quickly transformed into fiery portals to hell, as – still without a word spoken – Alyssa extended a box of Kleenex (with lotion) towards me. I waved it off, still waiting for anyone to speak – anything.

“Is there anything we can do to help?”  – except that.

Uh, YEAH. You can fucking admit to me all the fucked up parts of your life, so that I’m not sitting here feeling like the only person that’s ever done shameful things because I didn’t like myself as I was. ALYSSA.

“No, I’ve been really good with it for the past six months”

“Thank you for sharing your struggle, that took a lot of strength for you to say” Kera remembered her mouth, snapping her gaze from the floor to my tinged red eyes.

“No, it felt kinda…good.” Saving face, saving face – see guys it wasn’t that hard. I’m not screaming internally and perching my hopes like a Disney animated turkey vulture on your parallel self hatred. Half smile, to demonstrate how   *good* it feels to unsuture your festering personality in front of strangers so that they can gawk at the odors of decay.

“SO, were you ever bulimic?” —Stefan, not a week out of a mental institution, in his mental downward spiral often resembles a child in both behavior and physicality. Freakily enough, as the boyfriend and housemate of Alyssa, he has basically taken on the identity of Alyssa’s child, as she quickly turns to chastise him for such an insensitive question.

Just somebody go next, I’m tired of all discernments being fixed on my averted gaze, or *suddenly* agazed with the pillow cover at their elbow. Everyone is embarrassed for me. I shouldn’t have said shit. I should have dug up some meaningless obscurity about my life that no one will ACTUALLY care about, so that we can all go on pretending to heal our emotional wounds and drive home feeling *real good about ourselves for conquering our emotional traumas through sharing it with strangers*.

Stefan: “Well, you all know how my life has been for the past week.”

Alyssa strokes her baby on the head with a crook’d neck and soft doe eyes, “Yes, you’ve been dealing with a whole lot of paranoia, babe. But that’s all okay now” She speaks to him as though he were either hard of hearing or an actual infant, long slowly paced wording punctuated with understanding nods.

Stefan gulps down the last of a home-brewed beer out of a Ball mason jar. “Yeep, I’m on Seroquel now, BELCH”

Yeah, fair game Stefan. Fair game. Stefan is probably the winner of the activity, as we’ve all been pretty privy to the shit storm his mental state has been for the past few weeks. Hell, the past few years. He used to be engaged to a cute lil girl, until one day she came home to him rambling about the aliens that were contacting him through his dreams. Fast-forward three years, and it’s only gotten worse. He no longer talks about the aliens, but I suspect it has a lot to do with how many times people have told him it was all in his head. I think if I have faith for anyone, it’s Stef.

Zach spoke. “Some of you who know me,” the man I spent Valentines Day with, frantically copulating in the field that introduces my house, underneath a pine tree that played more of a role in the love making than I’d care to admit, followed by a two hour drive to Cape Henlopen during which I unsuccessfully sucked him off, eventually skinny dipping in the frigid Atlantic, then nakedly cuddling about a fire on the dunes, was hopefully now going to cover my pride with an equally humiliating confession “Know I’m not even on a speaking basis with my parents, and I spend most of my time alone in the woods. So, what I don’t want anyone to know about me is that I am extremely incapable of being vulnerable.”

“Same,” Alyssa tacked onto his “confession” quick as a fly swatter.

*Cue sarcastic applause in my head.

Well, well. That sounds like something you should have said when Will was ensuring everybody would be comfortable participating in this activity. It really isn’t that difficult to say, ‘Hey, you know what Will? All the tearful admissions of internal guilt and shame and fear sounds real nice and all, but I’m just not feeling it right now. Let’s play Buddhist Monopoly instead,’ now is it??

Now that everyone’s gaze was agreeing with Zach’s pussification, I allowed mine to rise from the table and reel about the traitorous faces. They settled on yours Brian, still fixed disquietly on the floor, flooding it with anxiety. If I’d been observing you in any other context, Brian, I would have been certain from your stare that the floor were actual lava which you were frantically, within the statue of your body, deducing the best way to maneuver. I sent accusational darts into your soul for a comfortable 30 seconds, knowing you wouldn’t dare let those brown orbits settle on mine. I would have sent them into your soul for longer, dear Brian, had my lover man not risen from his seat on the floor and squeezed next to me in the armchair, offering a comforting cuddle – most likely out of shame for not having the strength to admit part of his struggle in my presence as I had. As I took in the resumed shameful quiet, the cynic in my head marched about with freedom, careening in threatening circles around my internal victim. The town crier of my soul became the drunkard at the bar who slurs in the faces of Flyers fans when they inevitably lose a game, proclaiming his own team’s victory in boastful insinuations. Oh, so that’s it. I’m the strong one, eh? Of course everyone here’s struggled with self esteem – but the self abasement by admitting it? ‘Nah, we’ll leave that for whoever goes first. Let them be the “strong” one,’ except I’m not strong and your silence proves it. My so-called avowal was probably one of the most gilded confessions I’ve ever had. To be perfectly frank, I wanted to hear some dirt on all of you – EXPECTED to hear some dirt on you. And that’s exactly why my revelation was anything but strong. You can bet to hell that I would have kept my Irish-Catholic-Shame mouth fucking SHUT if I thought you were all gonna pussy out on me.

Will Spoke. “Well, I have something to share,” you already went? “A couple years back – some of you’ll remember this – when I cashed that bad check?” I’m not one of those people, bud. Will nods, eyes meeting recognition in Zach, Alyssa and Stefan’s faces. “Yeah, I actually considered suicide at one point. I was in a really bad place with all the court proceedings and explaining it to my parents and da-da-da.  I was paranoid man, every time I heard the gravel crunch on the driveway, I knew it was the cops. I remember standing in front of the judge and he was just talkin’ at me and talkin’ at me, and I couldn’t understand what I did wrong, you know? And that was just the first court date – I didn’t think I could do it – livin’ with the feeling that at any moment a cop car could just pull up and..   take me away.” Will let his eyes sink to the floor, normally such an emphatic talker. “Yeah, one night I got really close and I ended up callin’ a suicide help line,” his expression, still on the floor changed slightly. “Yeah, they put me on hold – – it was a really fucked up experience” alright Will, I see you. I see you lifting the mood by loosening everyone up with your story-telling ways while simultaneously calling my anorexia ante. You’re not so bad, Will. 

After everyone had a laugh at the prospect of a suicide help line prioritizing their suicides, the atmosphere was less forced, and the group quickly transitioned to what the next meeting should discuss. It was then that I realized that two of the seven members – Kera and you, Brian – would not even trouble themselves with any admission at all. I greedily returned to the rage in my starvation-maintained stomach.

So that’s it? BULLSHIT. I know all of you have struggled with SOMETHING – if not low self esteem. I meant to say what I said as a conduit for you all to express things you’ve been repressing. I’ve never told anyone, including family, about my *struggle* and what would really make me feel better about it is to know that I’m not alone, or for someone to relate THEIR struggles with self esteem and destructive habits. It would have felt far less humiliating to know that you guys have also grappled with that type of shame-induced behavior. I only realize how un-strong I am from seeing that expectation go unfulfilled. It would have been an ACTUAL strong action of myself if I had been able to admit to being so insecure about getting fat to the point that I starved myself without needing others to admit things on par with it, and I didn’t realize that fact until just the opposite happened. I can understand people being uncomfortable with making themselves vulnerable, but I also feel as though that type of insecurity should have been disclosed before anyone else admitted to something, uh idunno, seriously embarrassing like that – In fact, I feel kind of bamboozled that my admission was met with a handful of tentative confessions of inability to actually participate in the activity. A bunch of cop-outs, really. Will described the activity (that he’d done the week before in Men’s group) as a tear jerking time where everyone divulges their deepest secrets – everyone. From that, I thought my divulsion would be the first of seven, and it ended up being the first of two. Ha-ha that’s not to say that I don’t feel different from it – no, sir. Now that I know the world is full of a bunch of pussies, I certainly will not allow other people’s cowardice to make a fucking fool out of myself. And that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m going to keep my secrets inside in the future – should you be so lucky. Nope, I will continue to reveal uncomfortable parts of myself to others – for the same reason of helping them to feel less shame in their own lives – but I’ll do it without the expectation of hearing any of their trauma. And without further ado, here’s everything that I don’t want anyone to know about me:

(continued in Part 2)

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Don’t Leave Me for Dead

We are the divine beings sliding rusty nails into our virgin soles.

The walking awake, table full of bread

Oh God, so empty and broken and already dead

In energy’s absence, an inactive volcano

being eroded by wind and water

Oh God! I just want to feel something!

Give me pain, anger, anything but stillness

One day, I’ll stretch my neck to stay awake

and it will flock off without my body

One day, I’ll find the determination to pluck my marbles from their sockets

my sick eyes searching for connection in my comatose corpse

The answer can’t be not thinking about it – Truth!

Truth leaves my guts for the gulls

I’m torn and motionless, raped by emotion’s kiss

gobbled by the guilty gutter

staring at stones

Do I not have the gumption to drag myself home?

Have I resigned to take residence in the filth and delay?

I’ve forgotten to walk and now I must stay.

I need someone to look at me and know I’m not okay

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The Lover’s Lament

The Father

I see myself made in your image

the blind standing before a house of mirrors
my reflection talking back
and aching before me in whispers
but all you can do is poke sensitive needles through
my eyes, between the blue
that we share, Oh Father who art in heaven,
tell me more of our hallowed ghouls
stop speaking to me of talking and sing! You, mightiest of kings
with honor and stoic gladness,
you pivot on white heels
and all I follow are footsteps
The Lover’s purpose in life is to live lone
to remember the home from which we’re thrown,
divorce the king and keep his throne
The Son
 You, the object from which my self reflects off
 Brilliant drunkard, you slur to me
you sip and you keep raw insides
where they came from.
Your perceptive perspective isn’t something you make
for all the facades you frequently fake;
I’d like to see you in a state of complete wreck
I want to see your tears
balancing on the sallow edge of your cheek
If I could be there when you lose everything
I think I could understand your distance
The Lover’s purpose in life is to live lone
to uncurl the knots from which I’m prone
to strip the body from its bone
The Holy Spirit
 Drawn in by your self destructive tendencies
adrenaline jet stream heart beat echoes
ripples out waves of wishes for the suicide of my self
explaining to gawked earlobes that your genius is madness
stroking my sadness
palms aching to be placed on your knee
and that only.
my heart bleeds and comes undone
and simultaneously seeps into no one
mourning your absence though you’re always here
the living dead in its most reverent pains
I dip into your trauma when you cut the reins
unrestrained
Don’t hold my hand, but Please!
Don’t settle for a good time.
I need the familiar threads of your patterns to weave into mine
you have me all wrapped up around fingers as twine
your brine stained eyes will never not sting mine
So I mind the voice that makes the moan,
removing the melody from the tone
because the Lover’s purpose in life is to live lone.

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When I Have Nothing to Say, My Lips are Sealed

Right on, David Byrne! I don’t know why people feel the need to rattle off the boring nuances of their lives either. The problem seems to be people thinking they have something to say. What in God’s name makes you think that your co-workers give half a shit that your cat’s been puking lately? Like yeah. That sucks. Take him to a goddamn vet and deal with it.

Do you want sympathy? Is that it? You want someone’s jaw to drop a little, as though they’ve just been informed that eleven rodents tumbled out of their ass, and for them to become emotional on your behalf, holding your hand and muttering, “I’m so…sorry,” because what can you say to a travesty like that? I mean clearly there’s nothing they can do to fix any of the trauma that’s been done, all they can do is hold your hand through it, and give you hope for the future.

When I’m shivering in the broken down ghost town of a dining room before the sun’s even risen, the slimy maraschino cherry on top that shatters THIS camel’s vertebrae is when you (starring for us today in the role of Sharon, the waitress) ask me about my day in the cramped nook that contains the only three crusty coffee carafes and more importantly, the only heater; all the while with that cheery sneer wedged between your cheeks while pouring overstewed coffee into a mug with the awkward fifth grader attempts at smiling faces of your children stamped into its pixelated curve.

For future reference, a list of things that I couldn’t give two shits about, but smile and nod through because I see you, annoying coworker, more than the people that I’d like to see:

that you’ve been gaining weight; that you’re trying out this new diet that’s s’posed to be really good; that you just can’t resist the girl scout cookies on your way into the grocery store; that you find it a humorous anecdote that after the girl scout cookie excursion, you bought a bag of chips and ate the whole thing in one sitting; that you’ve been feeling self conscious when you look in the mirror lately and do I think you’ve picked up a noticeable amount of weight around the tummy?; that the children you teach at your day job are stupid fuckers – they’re in fifth grade and only you sound stupid for making fun of them, Sharon; that a friend of yours made a rap channel on youtube but the catch is he doesn’t rap very well; that you bought a new hair dryer and it has a funny smell.

Things I would love to hear you nonchalantly utter over bad coffee at 6am when nobody wants breakfast, much less breakfast in the frigid dining room:

that you stabbed your new husband with a steak knife last night because he thought the filet was a bit more medium well than he wanted, and can you stay at my place for a few nights because the police have already checked your parents’ house; that your nipples and taint are turning chartreuse; that you snorted blow out of a hooker’s ass crack last night, tapped her one the ass and made sweet love to her in the bed of a truck as it flew eighty seven mph down three oh one; that ever since joining that cult you’ve been having memory lapses and woke up at 3am last night/this morning covered in purple paint, cackling over the corpse of that guy that’s running for office; that one of the dumbfuck children you teach math to is an alien from Saturn and he revealed this to you frantically after the other children had left, because it’s your mission to bring his people to glory; that your cat is doing well. I have a heart; that you crowd surfed at a freddie mercury cover band concert buck ass naked and were so drunk that you pissed on the crowd, but they were so drunk that they just kept lawding you about until your bladder ran out; that you got a lift here this morning from a trucker that you met while hitching in Michigan and boy was it a long drive, especially since you rocked a humdinger on ‘im every third town; that you lost your savings, car and stamp collection in an underground russian roulette gambling ring; that you got the car back by agreeing to be the sole sled dog of a middle eastern man the first tuesday of every month – but it’s not that bad, because mostly he’ll just drive you to church and the grocery store for gogurt; that you’re worried about your growing adrenaline-addiction to eating massive amounts of prunes and laxatives before your state trooper husband gives it to you on Saturday nights at 7pm, because last night he tried to get creative and boy would there have been a mess if you didn’t distract him with oral sex; that you’ve finally reached your personal goal of fitting seventeen golf balls up your twat; that since somebody is above taking it in the ass from a man in a Winnie the Pooh costume, you have an opening in your posse of hookers, and would like to offer me the prestigious position of side bitch.

I mean, you don’t need to rattle off one of these verbatim, these are simply some examples from which you can construct more interesting waitress station dialogue. And I won’t walk away mid sentence, should you slip in a parable about the fulfillment you get from teaching the next generation of minimum wage slaves, from time to time. I’m one of those people who believes in second chances.

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Imaginary Car Ride with Dad

Were you ever worried about becoming your dad when you were growing up, because I’m worried about becoming you and mom.

“thanks”

I’m serious, I don’t mean it as a dig, it’s just a weird topic to discuss, which means it should probably be discussed the most. And I’m pretty terrified to discuss it. Which is just another reason why it should be brought to light.

You don’t feel like my dad. You kind of feel like a housemate that begrudgingly has to help with things sometimes and also takes me to obscure concerts every once in a while – which is nice. I guess I like it. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that I only liked the Ingrid Michelson songs that we sang in chorus and danced and screamed my ass off so I wouldn’t seem ungrateful, because I know concert tickets aren’t cheap. And the only Arlo Guthrie song I knew before that concert was “Comin Into Los Angeles,” and I snuck out during intermission and smoked a couple roaches I’d been saving on a street corner, because it was the only thing that made the trip exciting.

The majority of conversations we have, I cry afterward. Mainly, we talk when Mom makes me talk to you – to check something she doesn’t want to say yes to, so she hopes and prays you’ll say no even though I’m fairly certain (from the genetic source that my apathetic depressive swings stem from) that you don’t give a fuck, or if I need help with something on the car. The way you talk to me makes me feel stupid, and it’s juvenile and mean and I literally bat away tears halfway through having to talk to you, because I know you’re the reason I believe I’m stupid at heart. I was the goddamned valedictorian of the whole campus, but I know I’m interminably dumb because I don’t know how to put air in my tires. Even more confusing and anguishing are the times when you’re nice to me. You offered to make me a grilled cheese sandwich a couple weeks ago, you were making one for yourself and thoughtfully offered one to everyone else that was home. You were in a pretty good mood that day. I said no thank you and went back to my room and cried with complete confusion as to why.

I’ve sort of convinced myself that you aren’t my father. My chef takes a greater interest in my life and knows more about my life than you do. You didn’t know I was a chef until a month ago. So I’d concluded that you aren’t my father. All of my memories growing up are of mom, and you’re kind of just a blurry part of the background.

I remember you yelling at me and freaking out when I spilled a soda in grandma’s apartment, she was fine with it and told you to calm down, while I cried on the couch. I knew I fucked up bad, and have been afraid of failure ever since. I’m afraid to drive to Philly, because I think I’ll fuck up, drive on the wrong side of the highway, get terribly lost, cause accidents, get a flat, never get your love.

I remember a similar situation in which Megan and I spilled milk. I remember walking in on Megan after we all rode home from the carnival, crying into her pillow because you called her stupid. I remember you teaching us how to play croquet in the backyard in the summertime, and you swung too far back and hit yourself in the eye and the day was over. I remember the ridiculous way you used to hide your cursing, and I could never understand why you couldn’t just get over it. I remember when it started feeling weird to kiss you on the lips; I was in the kitchen in June, standing behind the dishwasher and you walked inside and I huffed out my gut so that I would look ugly to you. I felt pretty uncomfortable in our embraces after that, and didn’t really know why. I didn’t trust you, didn’t trust me. I remember staying outside raking leaves and  hauling firewood two consecutive New Years Eve’s, respectively, because I wanted to stand out from my sisters and show that I was a good helper and that I didn’t do half ass jobs and that I would stay outside as long as you were outside.

I remember when I stopped giving a fuck what you thought. When you asked how school was and I told you I was dropping out, not breaking eye contact with my coffee mug as I pulled it out of the microwave. “What,” you said with confusion that was trying to be upset, but who the fuck are you to start giving a shit twenty years into my life. “I dropped out of school two weeks ago,” I walked past you through the kitchen and was already in the hallway when I heard you say “okay,” with abandon. I remember feeling pissed the fuck off whenever you tried to be my father before that moment, but I didn’t yet have the power to not give a fuck. Whenever you said no to something I wanted to do – the times mom’s prayers came true – it felt like betrayal. “Who are you to have anything to say with what I do with my life,” I screamed into a pile of laundry on my bed when you vetoed the proposition that I spend the night at Amanda’s beach house, without parental supervision.

I remember when you and mom were separated. I used to cry on the weekends we had to stay with you. Your side of the house was disgusting and smelled and was cluttered with your moldy neurosis and I hated it. I remember waking up early to go to the flea market with you. I never walked as fast as you and Megan, and it was usually cold and everything was old and dirty. All my friends had new coloring books and plastic bracelets. I think that was when I started to feel like trash, watching you root through the trash all weekend and bargain and talk with the ugly fat people selling garbage out of the backs of their trucks. All our dress up clothes smelled stale. Whenever I went over to a friend’s house it was always clean and there was a place – a drawer, a cabinet – for everything, so whenever we took something out of its place we had to put it exactly back, and their homes had scented candles burning and it was nice and I usually liked it better than our house, but usually I missed Mom. And soon, I never wanted to ask people over to our house, because I slowly became aware that ours wasn’t as good as theirs, but when it came to spending the night, I needed my mom.

I remember sleeping in your bed when mom was in Florida for Greg’s funeral. I tried sleeping alone in her bed and couldn’t do it and had to walk like a scared sheep back to your room, nose dripping with snot and tears. I ended up getting sick the week she was away, and you gave me NyQuil and brought me cranberry juice in the middle of the night when I was coughing. I remember looking at the half finished cranberry juice, right where I left it on the side table a week after mom got back, we’d set up a banner for her on the garage. The cranberry juice was covered in mold.

I came to understand that your room was where we hid the embarrassing things. When I became too old for dolls, that was where I still played with them, immediately embarrassed if Sarah walked in unexpectedly to see me holding them about the waist and making them kiss, I think I was a preteen when I finally stopped playing with them. It wasn’t a connection to the dolls that made me keep them, it was an escape, just like weed is for me now. I like to escape into the fantasy world of their love affairs and their shaming and battles and drama. I was always trying to leave the house I hated so much to spend time with my friends, but they could never spend time with me – were too busy with their own lives, but I made the round of calls to them every weekend, desperately lonely.

I remember when you put up the rope swing for us, and Megan climbed all the way to the top. That mud hill and slide and rope swing were the best parts of my childhood, and now that I think about it, I don’t remember you putting it up. It was just sort of there one day. I remember you mowing the front field.

I remember that Halloween when the Fransisco’s came over and we were playing manhunt in the backyard, I was giddily hiding behind the swings. Then out of nowhere “ZHOOOOOM” a bright green streak illuminated across the field, in the garden. Darth Vader emerged, growling “Cindy Loo Who.” Danielle. We ran around for an eternity, you chasing us, I don’t remember when I realized it was just you, but it was the happiest night. I remember when you and mom had an anniversary, I had just come home from a sleepover birthday party at Felisha’s house or Becca’s, and you made lobster and shrimp for dinner, because it was a special night and we were all allowed to have some. The Fransisco’s came over again and we played hide and seek in the basement, I guess while you and mom had a nice night. I remember that was when I first wanted to be a writer – I didn’t want it plainly like that, but it was when I first had the urge to record my thoughts and memories, even though I didn’t know half of the words I was writing. I can’t even imagine what my attempt at spelling anniversary was, but I’m certain it didn’t go well. It was also, appropriately, the first time I abandoned my writing to keep having fun, so that there would always be more to write about. More memories to cherish and hold close when the ever-forming bad ones gurgled up.

There aren’t many good memories of you from my childhood. That’s not to say you didn’t do a multitude of kind things for me, and that you didn’t feed me, burp me and wipe my ass when I couldn’t walk, but I have so many bad feelings and uncomfortable situations associated with you. I think I must have rejected you from the beginning. Mom was so nice, that I just never wanted her to leave, and you were the villain that held the reigns when she went away. I think I remember being three when she went to yoga and I screamed and wailed and threw a fit, because she was the only one I wanted, I squeezed my little fists around her sweatshirt, the memory is so fresh that I’m sobbing a bit now, gone as soon as it came. You always put me to bed in her bed where I lay in wait for her, you never read stories right. She did all the voices and sounded like a mom, and your voice was male and tired and feigned and I felt like you were waiting for it to be over. My favorite memories from those nights, the sound of gravel and her headlights tracing the wall as the old van, the one that got crushed, floated up the driveway.

I remember the day that van got crushed. We were in the back paddock, you were cutting trees and I was feeling the beauty of the world in the tall grass and butterflies. Sarah came out scared and said mom was on the phone and needed you and she said the word crash but I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew that you never ran anywhere, but this time you dashed inside. I followed. Later, we set up pillows on the old couch, so that mom could get comfortable, like when we were sick. I though a car crash must be some kind of illness, and she said she had a guardian angel after that and we got a new van.

I remember how I hated when it was you that would stay home with me when I was sick. Half the time I wasn’t sick, but I recognize it now as I sometimes do as an early sign of my depression. I never wanted to be at home with you, just with mom, because she was so nice and pitied me and loved me and kissed my forehead. I think you sat in the other room while I watched TV on the couch. I felt like a chore that you’d walk in to check on. I remember telling you I was better halfway through the day, because I’d rather be at school than at home in the dark cold house. Mom always turned on the lights.

I spent most of my time with mom, because I could never give up sleeping in her bed. It was my first addiction. I remember the agony of trying to sleep in my bed, I thought I’d never be able to do it without tears, and now it’s hard to have it the other way. Sometimes at night when I couldn’t sleep, we’d stay up late telling stories and talking and she’d tell me all kinds of things. She was my best friend, and she told me one night that you cursed so much because you were angry. And when I asked her why, she said “daddy’s angry at the world,” and we changed the subject.

I remember one day, Megan and I woke up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons, but Sarah was past that stage, so we came out to her just making her way to the couch with a cup of coffee. I dove for the good spot on the couch, resilient to win the TV battle at all costs. I buried my face in the couch pillows while Sarah was still realizing that lunging would spill her coffee. “That’s my blanket. Give me back my blanket.” I claimed territory by wrapping myself in one of the available blankets that happened to be hers, but that she wasn’t quite using at the moment. I got upset at the injustice and buried my face further into the pillows, stubborn. You walked in as she went to rip the innocent blanket from my warrior grasp. “Hey,” you said, walking over to me and smoothing the blanket back over my shoulder, “let the baby sleep,” you made Sarah go back to her own blanket on the couch that didn’t have a good view of the TV, and I smiled into my success and my oblivious partner in justice.

I always liked it when you talked soft to me and tucked me in and called me the baby or the little lamb. When I got older and wary of you, you stopped doing that, which was fine with me – really – but you started doing that with the cats. I remember when Babe was sick, and eventually died, I was jealous of her. This was only two years ago, but I understand those feelings now. I remember feeling bitter, at how you loved that cat and showed it a whole range of affection that I never remembered. I’ve seen you cry three times. Once when your mother died, twice when Babe and Mittens died.

One of the happiest memories I pin to my name, that still glitters with the best in my mind is that four days we spent in Ithaca when Grandma died. You and I got back from a book fair at the school, I wasn’t allowed to buy the book that I wanted because it cost twenty dollars, and fifteen was my limit. I got a cheaper book and was okay, though I still remember the book. It had a shiny covering and was about greek mythology. There was a pretty, long-haired Goddess with a red apple on the cover, I was twelve and already a good year into thinking I was ugly. I don’t ever remember you telling me I was beautiful, and I don’t think it’s just because my memory isn’t perfect.

We got home and there was a phone call from Aunt Chris, and while you spoke to her on the phone, Mom came back and explained to me that grandma might not be alive for very long. When I came home from school the next day, I was ashamed, I used grandma’s sickness as an excuse for not having as much done on the research paper I was supposed to. It’s not that I thought she would survive, it just seemed like an easy way out and I dug my hole of shame a little deeper. We drove up to New York that night, Sarah and Megan fell asleep in the back seat, but I stayed awake the whole time and watched the street lights race across your profile. I always liked the closeness of family car trips. I was the only one up the next morning when you got up, in Grandma Conney’s house – the one that isn’t our grandma, but our cousins grandma. You asked if I wanted to go to Gimme, to get coffee for everyone and hot chocolate for me. It was that walk we took where your obscure, inappropriate humor came out, and I enjoyed it for the first time I can remember. We walked by the planet statues in the park, under the rainy green morning sky that’s still my preferred weather over sunshine. You made jokes about Uranus, you adolescent, and how it’s full of gas, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Every once in a while you’ll say something stupid that I can’t stop laughing at and you’ll catch me and mock me and I’ll feel loved in a weird way.

You cried when you knelt to lift grandma’s body on your shoulder. I remember laying in bed in high school, unable to fall asleep, wishing I would die, so that you’d cry for me.

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