It will take you a long time to learn some things. But eventually…
You will learn your mother loves you more than herself but less than the dependency she has on others’ dependency. She loves herself more than she loves you. And not even your cleverness can quite swallow the smoking gun of that conundrum.
You will learn her choosing a parade of clomping work boots and eager fists over a precocious child begging for four safe walls was really just that: a choice.
You will learn, although she denies it, she must thrive on the chaos. Lifting the cold sheet, inviting it into her bed each night. Crying wolf and rape the next morning, tugging at your ear because she knows you will not only listen, but will gladly cut it off for her. And she swears she will also do anything for you, but when you confess the way the men in her life look at you is unsettling, she excuses the staring for a lazy eye.
You will learn she knows the buttons inside of you. She knows the perfect pressure to depress them, to move the gears of your fealty.
You will learn the word no, but you will also learn saying no to her is like pulling strips of skin from the softness of your anxious belly to patch the hemorrhaging of your tongue.
You will learn anxiety comes in many forms. Fidgety feet. Hot, gray sweat bleeding from the bowels of drooling armpits all the way down to belt loops. Touching the textured tips of your fingers, making sure to hit each one in a specific order, like your hand, itself, is a piano, and the music is a way out of this social situation. An obsessive quirk which has become so commonplace that your father-in-law has started to notice. But anxiety also shows up to the party as compulsive cleaning, physically hiding from people, and collapsing into a pool of sobbing insecurities in your kitchen two days before your wedding.
You will learn shell shock isn’t just for soldiers. Or maybe you are the soldier, and your war was childhood. Every unearthed landmine appears with a decade-held breath. They say trauma is stored in the body, and these lungs are full of shrapnel memories.
You will learn you’re dead inside, and your bones are elongated tombstones, an effigy etched out of calcium. The words flaking and failing your senses. Soon, you won’t have a skeleton to hold your whimpering, withering body.
You will learn your soul caught fire ages ago, and the burn you’ve been feeling is only embers from the wreckage. But it is smoldering and beautiful. And if you twist your spirit to just the right angle, it’s almost like a light at the end of a tunnel.
You will learn.
You can also read this prose here.
Awarded the Best of Net Nominee – 2019