skin-deep

while you inherited her smile
(orthodontia straightened yours)
your eyes are wider & world-weary
(hers are narrow with bourgeois smugness)
you have his bullshit-detecting (rejecting) nose
(hers seeks out malleable sycophants)
the family resemblance is skin-deep
(like the way she cares about people)
you value people based on their character
(not how they can be of service)
it’s unspoken – you don’t care what people think
(she screams it constantly, proving the opposite).

(dishonorable) martyrdom

there were a limited amount
of times when i could be
foolish enough to mistake
your pawns for people
who have been hurt
by anyone except you.
martyrdom is honorable
& you (supposedly) sacrifice
your happiness for others —
but nothing brings more joy
than for people to marvel
at how selfless you are.

someday, you’ll see

someday, you’ll see there’s a (vast) difference between
teaching one’s child how to make good decisions
& insisting your way is the (only) correct path.
someday, you’ll realize that I’m not rebellious,
(adults don’t rebel; they act on their own accord).
someday, you’ll see that you removed yourself from my life
by (constantly) criticizing everything that garnered your disapproval.
someday, you’ll realize that love is (truly) unconditional
(not contingent on being who someone wants you to be).
despite your insistence that I’m nothing without you,
I’ve never been more certain that I’m becoming
the woman I needed as a role model, but got you instead.

the futility of deterrence

Once upon a time,
I aspired to be
a (perfect) good girl
whose existence was validated
(solely) by making you proud.
But your expectations
& mine were mutually exclusive.
Your (belligerent) efforts
will never deter me
from becoming the woman
I never knew I could be.

(permanently) a work in progress

in two hours, you turn twenty-six
(four years from thirty, not that you’re counting).
when your mother points out the “flaws” in your figure,
(breasts that can’t be contained by button-up shirts
& hips that never widened during puberty)
laugh & remember that
her spitefulness is only rivaled by her jealousy.
when you trip in front of the crowd
on the train platform & feel twelve again
(the era of an almost mullet & headgear)
look in the mirror & remember that
you’re not an awkward tween.
when a former party friend suggests
that falling in love rendered you weak,
(being the instigator of wild times
was the mark of a badass)
roll your eyes & remember that
you found strength in accepting yourself.
you are (permanently) a work in progress.

the place called home

you fled the place where
you mastered the art of placating
unpredictable manipulators
& shielded siblings from shockwaves
made by emotional warfare.
you cannot miss the place where
you learned that obedience
took priority over your happiness
(independent thought was forbidden)
& you were berated into submission.
you found the place called home
within the people who helped you
discover that despite (years of)
being conditioned to think the contrary,
you deserve love (& support).

For the sake of efficiency

“You stole the last jalapeño popper.”

Ed turned slowly to face his accuser. “Pardon?”

The petite woman frowned. “You snatched your sixth one before I could even try my first!”

“I couldn’t help it — they’re addictive!” He held his hand in front of his mouth to hide his enthusiastic chewing.

“Good.” She smiled. “‘I made them.”

“Ed.”

“Nisey.”

“Short for…?”

“Denise. My lil’ brother couldn’t pronounce his d’s, so he called me Nisey.”

“One of the many joys of being an only child — no siblings to give you nicknames.”

“In your case, I’m sure the bullies at boarding school did the honors.”

“How did you know I went to boarding school?”

“Just a hunch.” Nisey drained her solo cup and shook it, rattling the ice cubes.

“I owe you a drink.”

“Good thing drinks are free at potlucks. Kay’s goin’ on a liquor run soon –”

“Which is why we should walk to the pub down the street. She’ll buy the shitty stuff since the party’s winding down.”

“You’re real slick.”

Ed offered his arm. “Shall we?”

Nisey narrowed her eyes and looped her arm through his.

***

“I’m too old for this!”

“For what?”

“Neckin’ with my friend’s husband’s cute friend.”

“So you think I’m cute?”

“Wipe that smirk off your face! Would I be straddling you on your couch if I didn’t?”

“You could just be using me for sex.”

“Who said anybody’s gettin’ laid tonight?”

“I didn’t assume — just trying to lighten the mood!”

“Ed, I’m forty years old –“

“You’re smokin’ hot.”

“– thank you, but I’ve been divorced for a couple of decades. I’m good at being alone –“

“Nisey, I’m thirty years old. I’ve been divorced for a decade. I’ve dated a lot of women since –“

“A lot, eh?”

“– and I know right away whether I like someone or not. I like you.”

“I like you, too.”

“Since neither of us wants to waste our time –“

“Amen to that!”

“– what’s the harm in enjoying each other’s company, as the feeling is mutual?”

“Speakin’ of savin’ time…where’s your bedroom?”

****

“This was way better than either of our first weddings.”

“We should advise any youngins who wanna get hitched –“

“What’ll we tell them? If you meet someone at a friend’s party, marry the person a year later?”

“No, dumbass. We’ll tell them to save the money they’d use on a wedding and put it toward a downpayment on a house –“

“They don’t buy houses — they buy lofts or condos these days.”

“– get a friend to marry them, and go out for margaritas and nachos afterward.”

“The kids we know don’t have friends who are judges.”

“They’ve got friends who’ve bought marriage officiant licenses on the internet!”

“You can do that?”

“Yes, you old man.”

Your old man.”

“Your sappiness is embarrassing.”

“C’mon — gimme a kiss, missus.”

“Fine. But only ‘cuz I expect wedding night action when we get home.”