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.

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(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).

“That’s not a piece — that’s a billboard!”

The office was sweltering. Normally, I would wear a cardigan over a sleeveless dress for the entire day, but I was on the verge of melting. Since everyone was out to lunch, no one could be scandalized by my bare arms. I walked to the supplies room and reached for the paperclips on the top shelf.

“Did ya forget to wash or somethin’?” Old Jim asked from the doorway.

I jumped, dropping a box of paperclips that scattered on the floor.  “Geez, Jim — you scared me!”

“Am I gonna hafta talk with HR about your bathing habits?”

“I bathe daily! Do I smell or something?”

“Nah, you’ve got some stuff on your shoulders.”

“Oh!” I laughed as he helped me gather the paperclips. “I have tattoos on my back.”

Really?!

“Yes.”

“How many?”

“Three pieces — one on each shoulder blade and got a new one in between.”

“Of what?”

I pulled up a photo on my phone. I had the middle piece done the day before, so it was still sore. Amanda took a photo of my back after I got it done.

“Holy shit, Sam! That’s not a piece — that’s a billboard!” Old Jim’s eyes widened. “What’s your mama got to say?”

“She knows about the other two, not about this new one.”

“You kids ‘n’ your tattoos ‘n’ rebelliousness.”

“If I was being rebellious, I would’ve gotten some that would be in plain view all the time.”

“Then why’d ya get ’em done?”

“Each of them is for someone awesome in my life. The puzzle pieces heart is for my sister who is autistic (puzzle pieces are the symbol for autism). My best friend from college and I have matching ones of the bear and the tiger, which we got senior year. The one I got yesterday is for my boyfriend and me.”

“What’s the quote say? Is that French?”

“It’s a quote from The Little Prince that says, It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“At least you got meaningful ones, not some dumb shit.”

“Maybe that should be my next one — Not some dumb shit in plain typewriter font.”

“Your mama would be thrilled about that one.”

“She’s always pissed at me. I might as well do what I want.”

“Are you seriously gonna get more?”

“I’m going to fill up my whole back.”

“You’ll be a mural on the side of a building!”

“Exactly.”

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It’s always a relief to reaffirm what you already know.

I had lunch with Raf today. Though we hung out last weekend, we wanted to have either lunch or dinner before my trip. He and Brie were the only ones in attendance at our mother’s birthday dinner last night (which I didn’t attend because of this bullshit).

“Y’know, Mom would never tell you this, but Brie set aside pad Thai for you last night.”

“She did?” My voice cracked.

“Yeah. Brie thought you were coming to dinner, so she wanted to make sure you had a plate.”

I couldn’t help it. My eyes welled up.

“Whoa, sis — didn’t meant to make you get all emotional before going back to work.”

“I just love you two a lot. I wish I could’ve seen Brie this past weekend, but — ”

“I know. Dad was there. I get why you wouldn’t wanna see him after everything he said.”

“I’ll be there while Mom is in Philly, once I get back.”

“Sounds good.”

Our parents are wrong. Brie knows I haven’t left her. She hates being around our parents as much as I do because of their erratic, explosive behavior. When I get back from Asia, Brie and I will have sister bonding time (since Raf usually works on weekends). Our parents won’t prevent me from seeing two of my favorite people.

A family isn’t just flesh & blood.

You can’t claim to be looking out for my best interests when best is defined by what you want for yourself. You can’t say I’m the worst embarrassment and expect me to heed your “advice.” You can’t claim I don’t care about the family when my siblings are the only reason I still show up. You can’t say I only use you for money when I’m self-sufficient.

A family isn’t just flesh & blood.

A family is made of the people who nurture you. Support you emotionally. Recognize that having your own life doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning them.

Parents aren’t supposed to gut you with manipulative lies. Parents aren’t supposed to call you an asshole or a cunt. Parents aren’t supposed to justify calling you those things because it’s out of disappointment and from loving you too much. Parents shouldn’t pray for you to fail, just to get the opportunity to say I told you so. Parents are supposed to apologize when they’ve done you wrong.

I know that I am loved.

I have the greatest family a person could hope to have: my boyfriend, my siblings, my friends, and extended family.

The people who brought me into this world loathe everything that makes me who I am as an adult. I don’t need their approval. I don’t need their money. They’re grasping at straws.

A family isn’t just flesh and blood.

It’s who has your back (and vice versa).

When your little brother knocks

When your little brother knocks on your bedroom door,
(sobs wracking his gangly frame)
open it & sit beside each other on the floor.

“What’s wrong, bro?”
Everything.
“That’s not very specific.”
“I think you…”
“I would what?
“…would be better off without me.”

When your little brother’s eyes are bloodshot,
(a never-ending stream of tears flowing)
hand him the tissue box & wring your hands.

“That’s not true. Why would you think that?”
“I’m a burden. I’m always messing up.”
“You’re doing great in band! Your grades are decent, too.”
“If I was dead, no one would have to worry –”
“I’d have to go to a cemetery to see you.”
“But — “

When your little brother teeters on a ledge,
(more often than not these days)
carefully pull him back to safety.

“Dad thinks I’m worthless. Mom will never be proud of me, either.”
“You can’t leave Brie & me.”
“It’s all so pointless.”
Promise me.
“I know, Sam. I promise. I won’t.”
“Good.”

When your little brother’s confidence flourishes,
(years later, but it couldn’t have happened soon enough)
let go of the breath you didn’t know you were holding.