My mother once mentioned—casually—that at some point during her pregnancy, she had thought about aborting me. Not sure whether it was a serious consideration, or whether it was one of those fleeting things that pass through the mind like a whiff of bad B.O. Regardless, I didn’t say anything about it. My mother laughed it off like it was some sort of really clever joke, and I didn’t want her to think that I cared about something to which she obviously gave short shrift. Still, I’ve often thought about how I was so unwanted, for even a fraction of a second, that my mother actually considered stifling my heartbeat before I took my first breath. It’s not like I obsess over it or anything, but knowing that has served as a sort of undercurrent in my life.
I wonder if my mother’s own near-brush with infanticide bothers her. When I asked her the other day to tell me about the time Hahl-muh-nee almost drowned her in the river during their escape from North Korea, the gleam of pride in her eyes was absolutely unmistakeable. ”Oh, you mean the time Grandma tried to kill me?” as if she’s saying “Oh, you mean the time I finished the Chicago marathon?” Objectively speaking, that moment when you realize that your own mother is seriously thinking about ending your life should qualify as one of the most horrible; however, as with lots of things, my mother seemed to think (or act) as if it were funny.
"We were so hungry. Grandma didn’t know what else to do. We were all starving! She thought she had no other choice!" at which point my brother chimed in, "Thank god for those American GIs who saved your life when they gave you chocolate."
I can, without reservation, say that my blood is too shallow to grasp how throwing one’s little girl into a river can ever constitute a “choice.” Hours before she died, my grandmother’s hand latched onto my own like a baby’s; whenever I tried to pry loose, she would press her fingers into the center of my palm, and I would stay. Maybe she was afraid of dying alone, though she was in a well lit room crowded with all the persimmons she’d sown, because of a Hershey bar.
Her eyes were wide open and glazed, staring right up into the white ceiling of our room. She didn’t speak again before passing under the eaves. Perhaps the river was waiting for her, there, and she could finally wash her feet of the dirt that had been caked between her toes…Though, I think if she could, my mother would have done it for her.
It is easier to write fiction. It is easier than having to explain yourself to yourself, to flay the skin and slice the muscle and stretch it out with pins on a board for self-assessment. Because to anyone else, you are an object of little consequence, but you know the dark places, the fracture lines, the filled and then empty spaces, the spots where your eyes won’t even dare to look. My brain is Big Brother, marking out the undesirables with a big black marker, smudging out the mistakes from my memories. I am none of the things I pretend to be, except I am, and that is scarier. There is no part of me that is less me than the other parts.
If you have ever worked
in a kitchen, you might
be familiar with the term,
Food gets burnt into a pan
and starts smelling like a cigarette, managers won’t let you say
‘something is burning’ as it might
alarm restaurant patrons
It’s a Winston.
We are standing in our kitchen,
my hand makes the shape of a
smoking gun, as I point it to the air.
We both know what’s wrong.
We’re just not allowed to call it
what it is.
I definitely do not have a master list of baby names somewhere. Definitely do not. That would make me a crazy person. I’m certainly not crazy.
The clocks turned back today, and I got an extra hour, but I squandered away the time. I squander away everything. Time and money and love and friendship and happiness and opportunity, it all slips through my fingers. And I let it. It wouldn’t take too much effort to close my hands, to catch it all in my cupped palms, but I guess any effort at all is asking too much. Or maybe, secretly, I like to see it go. Maybe there is a small thrill in seeing the extent of my failure, because it does take more effort to keep my fingers open than to shut them. My whole body aches to capture it, but I say no. Let it go. Let it go like all the other things that have gone before. Why should this new thing be any different from all the rest? Let it all come to me but let me touch none of it. They will ask me why I have nothing. They will assume that I was never in the right place at the right time, but they will be wrong. I’ve always been there, on the cusp, and I’ve been tilted over so many times, almost falling in. But I stay, standing, always on the edge of things, resolute in my own defeat.
"Why will people feel being alienated?"
People will feel being alienated in addition to, as well as, the being of alienation is are because aliens have been originated from the causation of the henceforth therefore of which such as diversification.
Lungfuls of you
Take me down to the bottom
And there is peace in the
That shiver and
Burst at the surface.
I am glad to be
Rid of them
And full of
When I was 12, my mother went through a period of Seeds. She nearly cleared out the local supermarket buying them. I found packets in the kitchen drawers, the cabinets, in the candy dish on the coffee table, and once in my shoe. She said she put them there for safe-keeping. I found her once, when I came home from school, sitting at the dining room table staring at the loose seeds of a pack she’d opened. I watched her as she counted them, mouthing the numbers silently to herself. She arranged them in neat rows of seven, admiring them for a moment when she was finished, but then she shook her head and scattered them. She re-counted. I watched from the living room couch. It took her nine tries.
Some of the seeds, she planted. She didn’t seem to care which ones. Our backyard was a hodge podge of plants: sunflowers and tomatoes and carrots and zucchini and azaleas and beans. A semi-organized jungle from another planet. I wondered what it looked like underground, all their roots clamoring for space, tangling up with each other, withering to nothing when their competitors sapped the soil of any value. The little bean sprouts were her favorite. She actually read the instructions on the package for those. The rest, she cared for haphazardly, providing water and some pruning, shelter during storms, but for the most part, she left the seedlings to their own devices. Some days, she sat out on the patio, watching them anxiously, hoping to see little green shoots spring up from the ground before her eyes.
The azaleas bothered her. The plot of land she’d cleared for them looked as empty as when she started. She poked at the dirt with a hoe, fed them little droplets of plant food from the store. I saw her through the window whispering to them. “Are you sure they’re supposed to grow here?” I asked her one afternoon.
She looked at me but I felt like she did not see. She was watching for azaleas, like they would pop out of my head. “Nature grows everywhere,” she said. “And azaleas.” We went out to the garden/jungle together and stared at the barren dirt that was the azalea patch. She hadn’t weeded in a while, and dandelions were threatening to breach the borders. Its seeds had blown in on a breeze, I learned that in science. They were made to be carried far away.
“There’s only one place nature doesn’t grow,” she said. “It’s this desert in Bolivia. That’s in another hemisphere.”
“Well… maybe they’re just bad seeds.”
Her mouth twitched, and she plucked a dandelion that was too close to her cleared patch of dirt. “Bad seeds,” she murmured. “Maybe.” The wind picked up, and the dandelion’s seeds came loose, spreading all over the garden. She sighed with a little frown crinkling the corners of her eyes. “I’ll have to weed again, soon.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Sure, but it’s what you said.”
“But I didn’t mean to say it that way.”
“Then which way did you mean to say it? Right or left?”
“Stop. That’s not what I meant either.”
“Well how am I supposed to know?”
“You’re being difficult.”
“I’m just saying what you said.”
“But it’s not what I said! Or what I meant to say. Don’t you think intentions are more important than words?”
“Not really. More important? No, I don’t think so.”
“Well I think so.”
“Well I think you’re a bitch.”
“You can’t say that to me!”
“That I’m a bitch.”
“Oh, that’s not what I meant.”
I don’t know why the urge has come over me to write to you, but it seems so necessary. You don’t know me yet, and I don’t know you either, I suppose. But I know where you came from, and maybe that means I know you more than you will ever know yourself: I know how deep your roots go while you will only ever see the surface. I don’t have any expectations of you yet, Button. Don’t worry yourself about that. Hell, I shouldn’t even be talking to you now. I trust you to keep this a secret, Button.
I miss you today. I think I will always miss you, even when you are right beside me holding my hand, I will miss you. You will always be too far away, always just a bit too far out of my reach. I don’t want you to miss me, because the pain of missing someone can be crippling, but at the same time, I do. Because I am selfish. I hope that you think of me as much as I think of you. Even though thinking of you is hard. Even though it is torture, Button Button Button rolling and rattling around in my brain every second of the day. If you unwound my tangled thoughts of you, they would circle the Earth a million times over. One day it will be enough to circle the universe.
I am afraid of you. You torment me constantly. I know that you know. I know that you are purposefully marching into my head at night, making me see your face. Your eyes. Your accusing eyes of infinite depth. I hate them. I hate how your stare at me with them, judging me for all the things I have not done, all the boats I have not boarded, but instead let sail on the wide ocean without me. You know I am afraid of the water, its blackness. I hate that you see all the time I’ve spent sitting and growing wrinkles. Your eyes. I am lucky you do not yet know how to use your tongue, and I am spared the knowledge of the details of your judgments. I am afraid of you, the most terrifying creature in existence. Please, have mercy on me.
Today, I wish you never existed. Tomorrow I think I will feel the same way. A year from now, and even years after that. It would have been so much easier if you stayed a dream, if you never coalesced in me. I will always be sad about you. I’ve never been so sad. And you know, don’t you? You planned it. And now you’ve wound yourselves around my heart, keeping me trapped in your vice-like grip, threatening to squeeze me until I burst if I ever pull away. How can you be so cruel, Button? But then, how could I have expected anything else?
You are a pushy little thing. I know that you do the things you do because you must. It is only in your nature. You do not need to take, Button. I will give.