Day by day I feed my maggots with the sugar meat of nostalgia
I wish my dad didn’t look at me with eyes that are perpetually hoping for me to get better And i wish that people knew that I’m gonna be in danger of dying for a long long time But didnt treat me like a timebomb with minutes left And instead treated me like a timebomb with years remaining Maybe when I’m 30 it’ll happen and my mom will put pink roses on my grave Like the ones that grow in our backyard each summer, only two crown jewels to the thorny fella, each summer They actually smelled sweet, not like the supermarket roses. I remember being small and craning to smell them, and when I think of smallness and summer I think of the flood that bloated the baby shoes in the garage and ruined my mom’s car. There’s a photo of us three (mom sister me) smiling on the rubble in the sun. My dad’s not in it but you can tell he was smiling when he took the picture and half crouching like he does. It’s so funny how they lost so much, really the flood was terrible, but were still happy. And how after the driveway was fixed and our dining table polished, things became bad. Sometimes when I think of rubble smiles I already feel buried in that fragrant grave. I already feel sweet and dead, and I weep when I think of the era of the flood. Not sob (that’s for deeper, angrier pains) or cry (that’s for sad movies and small frustrations), but weep, quietly and terribly, from a far away old place. Weep and ill are two words that feel like undercover antiques in the mouth: they aren’t really old fashioned, but they could be. I weep because the era of the floor was of love, and try as I might I have never felt the same since. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the four of us (mom sister me photographer) still imagined ourselves as one, and the fractures hadn’t started yet. You know, I really don’t know why things changed for me so much. Things changed for them but it shouldn’t have affected me so much, right? Right? The era of the flood was the last time before things began to beckon to me, in whispers, but in shouts now, so loud that even other people can hear them on my face. A bridge, passing cars, trains, tall buildings, bedsheets and belts. It began abstractly the night before I went downstairs to find that my father had broken the chairs. I lay in my bed (my own bed!) in my room (my own room!). The apartment was only a few years behind us. And although the adult voices were muffled, they led to clarity.
When I was young I used to sleep on my back because that was the position we took when we prayed before bed. It also meant I could look at my mom for as long as possible in the blurry blue darkness before she slipped out of the room to spar. And as I heard them I thought: What if I wasn’t here for all this brokenness? What if I could leave it? And even then, I knew I was not thinking of running away, but of something else. Something that would be less like hitchhiking and staying at friends houses and more like a day shoveling rubble together in the sun, but forever, with that other father I whispered to. It just got worse. And worse. And worse. And I festered. Not my wounds, but me. There was no suture or amputation to be done. It seemed that my whole self was heading towards rot. And the entire time, I knew that I was alone. And when I could even in the most manipulative way feel a bit less alone, such as through making friendships involving constant companionship, I would do it. I didn’t act out or become outgoing or upbeat. I didn’t need attention. I just needed to feel less alone. Now I am 19 and feel like I’m gonna die when I’m 30. And everyone seems like a faraway ghost, and I think some people can tell, even when we both pretend it isn’t true. You see, when my dad asks me if I’m okay, he never asks if I wanna talk about the time he grabbed a fistful of my hair and yanked my head back and forth while demanding that I respect him. Because it never happened. And, cause, you know, when my mom sent me to steal my dad’s phone and check his texts, and locked herself in the bathroom with the water running- that, that never happened either. When my dad pounded on the door, no longer loving her but still loving us, there was no reaction. When my sister pounded on the door, loving her but only in the scientific way that she knew, there was no reaction. They left exasperated, a twin set of scowls, and to this day I think they have trouble understanding radical tenderness. I slipped notes under the bathroom door and fell asleep propped up against it. I woke up to a dripping, backlit, alive mother, who in my humid dream had slipped under green water or found some other way to consume herself. I had fallen asleep to her cries. Like they did to me after the era of the flood, things beckoned to her too. A bottle of pills. The bathtub. Slow crumbling. But none of that happened.
So when my dad looks at me with the face that wishes that one day I’ll stop wanting to die, I look back at him with the face where none of those things happened. And maybe, were he to look at me from a place beyond his eyes and know that a bomb takes years to undo, maybe then I’d unfurl my fingers to reveal a bloated baby shoe, a piece of gravel, and water stained honesty. Look at him with a face and a rigid mouth and angry eyes that showed that yes, those things did happen, and they happened to me. Detangle in the me the me’s of each passing year; the flood me, the broken chair me, the virgin me, the me with the juice of a mango dribbling down my chin, the memory, of me, and us (me sister mother photographer) floating on a poorly constructed raft of silence. There is no water left, no metaphor or multiplicity. I only wish to stop weeping and to deafen myself to the beckoning, so that I can exist with less internal wiring and make the bomb easier to slowly deactivate. If I do kill myself, it will have been against my will, because I’m terribly in love. And I’m young and beautiful, and honestly, happy a lot of the time as well. It will have been the bomb I carry. And if it doesn’t happen, sure it’ll have been me and my strength, but it will also have been the doing of others who worked to scrape every other me that has latched like a second, third, fourth skin onto my back and sagged my step. I will probably scream and beg for them, please don’t take them away, they make me feel less alone. Please don’t take them all, please just leave the flood me, please, please just the rubble smiles. If I can cling to my other selves (some of which existed and some of which were dreams, all of which have died) and stroke their corpses to remember that there were times and joys before this loneliness, then I never have to come to terms with actually working against that loneliness, you know? And if my best friend can be an afternoon of sun with some shovels, a friend I can visit whenever and who I take to bed, well, why wouldn’t I choose to prod my 9 year old self and whisper wake up, as if she were sleeping and not gone. I claw the eyes of those who would rid me of my skins of memory. But ultimately, they just makes all the bridges and heights beckon louder, because in my plunging belly I know those selves really are gone, and I want to be with them. So detangle in me, scrape away, tear from my hands, and force your way through. I’m not just a case by case minute by minute danger. It is slow and it is years.
for people who love me or at least think they might