Being used feels like being wanted. You know how to get the former, but don’t believe the latter is possible. You learned early.
To test people to find out if they love you, thinking that love means being kept safe. You learned love doesn’t matter. Someone’s love is not a force field that can keep danger at bay. Someone can love you but not enough to put you first. No one loves you more than people love their own feelings. No one likes you or wants you more than they like or want to feel secure, powerful, dominant. No one won’t sell you down the river to keep themselves afloat.
So you cozy up to No one. You settle down with No one, in a little house away from town. You are, for the most part, faithful to No one. Your thoughts sometimes do stray to Someone, but Everyone reminds you that No one will really be there for you, so you stay with No one. You trust No one. You are safe with No one. You learned early.
We’d sweat for hours
your black hair shining liquid
Native skin dark against the shocking paleness of me
I was 16; you 23, young enough
to believe you were in love
it felt normal for someone to love me by caring only about himself
I believed you when you said the words on the cement driveway beside the camellia bush which always looked like roses but disappointed when I smelled it
I’d keep smelling though
I fell for it every time
You peeled the molting skin off my pink sunburned back in long strips, so gently; it felt like preening, it felt like patience, it felt like love, and I melted under the attention, slithered into your uncalloused hands, fell like petals
on the too blue carpet
too quiet in the wood-paneled room
she would come in suspicious
then taken aback; touched
by the innocence
That was the night it ended
when they called you away to the hospital birthing room
to a world too grown up for me to follow you to, though I tried for months
to believe you
that was the night I became your free ride
the night I started hiding my heartbreak from myself
kept pretending I expected you to smell like roses
waiting to feel again like it had out on that concrete slab:
You said I tasted like candy at first, but not at the end
I still lived for your hands on my skin
and all that heat
then cool sweat
No, let me sleep
let me stay
What do you mean
all this heat
is not my home?
In a car in Texas with blue velour seats you said
My shoes were ugly and no one would love me
Would want to be my sister
Your sister did not defend me, for the first time in my little life
Was she defenseless against you?
Instead she scolded my response, teenaged and crude
Said you were just teasing
I felt betrayed
I liked my shoes
Your house was strange
preserved in amber made of orange plastic
And I was relieved to leave
I still cried when I found out you died
Because I know she would have
If she’d still been alive
You liked scotch which I will never
I keep your recipe for sour pickled peaches, taken on a stiff card in her loopy handwriting, although I don’t know why anyone would do that to a peach
All soft and warm
So easily bruised
You did not understand me
Nor I you
And I don’t know why I keep it
we just hang onto things sometimes
In the first dream I can’t remember if she is still alive, and get stressed about whether I should I have sent flowers or a card or myself. So I go home to find out.
Deeper in, second dream, she is there, we sit on the couch, and I tell her about almost becoming a foster mom to Bean, and she listens and nods but flits around the living room and leaves before offering any advice. The one time I actually want someone to give advice instead of just listening deeply, aha. I pull her back to me and kiss the dry skin of her dead hands before she disappears completely.
Last dream, she is gone, but I have this huge family I don’t know and I am overwhelmed by them. There is no room to cook in the kitchen because their meals are overflowing so I cook fish in chile oil in my grandfather’s bathroom. They and all their kids come back to California with me, crowding my bar tables, throwing things in my private yoga class. I am confused about which facebook account to friend them with; are these people I’m supposed to keep at an arm’s length or let in to my personal life?
I wake with the lingering presence of her life and existence metallic in my mouth, and the realization that it is mother’s day and therefore an awful day to try and get brunch.
For 24 hours I was guardian, advocate, and ally to a small, vulnerable, and tough young person who needed me. For 24 hours my every thought was centered on her needs and experience and not one single other concern even made my radar. It was sudden and unexpected and ended just as suddenly, and now seems like an out of body experience.
Is that what parenting is like? An out of body experience?