i am twenty years old. the year is two thousand and nine. i am wearing a white dress that i designed and sewed myself. i am not happy with the dress. i don’t like how it fits and i don’t like the way i look in it. i am frustrated and angry that one person is not at my wedding. instead of being glad about all the people who are here to celebrate my special day, i fixate on just one person. i should have had my eyes fixed on my groom. i do not notice the way he looks at me. for him i am the only person that exists today. later i will see it in photographs- the way he looked at me on that day. by the time i see it we are both beginning to believe it is too late.
i am twenty four years old. the year is two thousand and fourteen. i can’t breathe. i didn’t see this coming. i did not believe this would happen. R is breaking up with me. he has fallen in love with someone else. this can’t be real. this isn’t happening. i can’t breathe. please don’t leave me.
i am twenty four years old. the year is two thousand and fourteen. i am single for the first time in my adult life. i am trying to put the pieces of my life back together and move forward. i want to be someone who my sons can be proud of. i have decided that i want to be a teacher. i have enrolled in college classes for the first time in over three years. i believe i can do this. i will not fail this time, this is what i tell myself.
i am twenty seven years old. the year is two thousand and sixteen. R is single and has an extra bedroom. he has asked me if i would like to move in, as his roommate. we’ve started having sex again; we are friends with benefits. it sounds like a good plan.
i am twenty eight years old. the year is two thousand and seventeen. i have just gotten my first paying job of my adult life. it is at a yarn store. i am excited about the possibilities of this. it is a step in the right direction. a stepping stone.
i am fourteen years old. the year is two thousand and four. my mom is away visiting my grandpa. he has cancer. he will not live much longer. i am feeling so alone. i miss my mom. i have already decided not to return to public school this year. it is August. i am sitting alone on the porch. there are no walls; it has not become my bedroom yet. i see a small piece of broken plastic in the dirt. it is sharp. i am sharp; if anyone gets close to me my anger and sadness will cut them. i pick the plastic up. i press it into my flesh, near my knee. i drag it against my skin again and again. i am bleeding. i lie when asked what happened. scraped myself on something. it was an accident.
i am seventeen years old. the year is two thousand and seven. my parents drove me to Burbank. we carried my things up to my third floor dormitory. at some point my dad cries. he does not want me to leave home. he has held on too tightly and i’ve been afraid to leave because i don’t want to break his heart. but at the same time i am angry at him because i want to be allowed to spread my wings and fly. i want to stop being his emotional crutch.
i am eighteen years old. the year is two thousand and eight. i meet a boy. he is really sweet. i tell myself i do not want a boyfriend. i want to be just friends with this boy. in a week’s time he will be my boyfriend.
“All I got was the washer and dryer and the bed, and he won’t sleep in the bed, says it’s too weird.” It always bothers me every time she tells this story, but tonight more so, for two reasons. Reason one, she got that cool pots and pans hanger that they’re about to install in their kitchen. Reason two, she has custody of her children. Why does she focus so much on that stupid washer/dryer/bed bundle? They gave the bed to his teenage daughter. And the dryer is on the fritz. He hung a clothesline for her in the backyard.
She was crazy. Lots of people tried to warn him. We still do not know what he saw in her. Took him over five years to leave. They didn’t have children together, only separately, but still he loved them all. I don’t think she ever loved anyone. She tried to lay claim to his farm and the truck he bought when his daughter was an infant, fifteen years ago. “I’m officially divorced,” he says with relief. But still she’s suing him: lost wages, a cow, the farm, and the truck still. Almost freedom, but still so far to go.
He had been gone for nearly fifteen years when the judge granted my mother’s divorce. Five children, three now grown, who could now officially be the step-children to the man who had been raising them since 1984 and their littlest brother and littlest sister could now have married parents. But what good did it do her? I’ll let you know if I figure it out.
Perhaps married in a drug-induced-haze, perhaps not, it didn’t last long and he went on to marry three more women. I don’t know the stories because my dad’s life is none of my business and I hate how he talks of all the fucked up stuff he’s done and laughs, as if it does not matter that he hurt so many people along the way. But when it comes to those who hurt him, we should all respect his right to hate them and treat us with bitterness and spite. If not for the demise of three marriages, the fourth would not have began. The legality of it was never necessary, but that they met was. In 1988 my dad died the day his daughter Melisa was murdered. His first biological daughter, birthed by his third wife. Born thirteen months later, I’ve only ever known this shell of a human we call Dad, sometimes I think it’s only to be nice.
Two days after, I was sitting down crying, it was Easter. A sister sits next to me, I don’t remember if I had shared the story yet and I don’t remember who was holding my ten day old son, a sister sits next to me. “Do you wanna hear something cool?” I gave some sort of acknowledgement that I did. “I’m gonna have a baby!” She hadn’t told the brothers or Mom and Dad yet. I had the privilege of hearing the news first. It was the first step she took toward becoming my real sister, not just someone who shares some DNA with me. In turn, each of my siblings (well most of them, but MK is a story of her own) would reach out in an effort to distract me from my pain. It was all they knew how to do because they had no idea who I was. Months later at a family gathering, the oldest of my mother’s daughters says to my mother, “B is actually really funny.” Mom smiles, she’s known this for a while and I think she had been hoping her children would notice. It’s not that I couldn’t have formed bonds while still married; it’s that I thought I would never lose what I had, so I didn’t bother to have anything else in my life, well that was only the reason at first, later it was because I was too tired to care and too anxious to interact. MR was the first of them who I told the most painful chapters too; we were never close, but he’s always loved his baby sister and now he knows I’m human, not the angel some tried to pretend I was.