Stuck in love

He watched my favorite movie.

He hated it.

How could I blame him, a film student, for hating a rom-com called Stuck In Love for God’s sake?

But what I feel right now is not blame.

I feel small.

I feel like the little girl who sat in her bedroom at night

on her pink and white comforter with the flowers

With a notebook in her lap and a pen in her hand

Who wrote fairytales.

I am that little girl

Who got called out of class

To talk to Child Protective Services in the main office

And answered questions like “what does your dad feed you?”

Who was looked at like she was stupid

By plastered-on concerned adult faces

Who just wanted to do their jobs

And bring in the bad guy.

But the bad guy was never just my dad.

He lived in my brain and slept in my skin since before I was born

He pressed his thick heel on my lungs and never let me forget

The heavy hand of conflict that never ever ceased.

Divorce, for me, wasn’t a word it was a life and my earliest memory

It was my backbone and my breastbone and every single fucking bone in me.

So when I sat on my comforter

And wrote about romance

Or that bright shining willow wisp I imagined it would be

I latched onto the boys like Lou from Stuck In Love. 

I escaped into stories of people finding each other

And I don’t care if it’s not real life

Because it never had to be.

Stuck In Love is a movie about writers,

About family

About a love that I thought was sacred in my room with my pen at 15.

They have the same favorite book.

They kiss in a car in the rain to the sound of an indie song about kissing in cars in the rain.

When Lou’s mother dies of cancer, they cry

And I always cry

Because this cheesy amalgam is real to me.

It is a version of life that I could only hope for myself

It is penned by a little girl on a pink and white comforter

And she is damned proud of it.

And she should be.

Heads and tails

Our kitchen sink was filled with bloody handcuffs.

I mean tomato juice.

From the vines that my mom grew in our backyard and the tomatoes my brother and I would pluck

And hurl at the roof of the gazebo.

They’d splat and jolt their way down the slope, mushy and perfectly funny.

My stairway was the one my brother fell down, after he was kicked.

I mean to say the sweeping spiral was padded in soft carpet

perfect for running toes on Christmas morning

And the feeling of flight as your mind lifted with possibility of a million glittering packages

Just before you rounded the bend.

My living room was for rocking on my haunches.

Because I had turned invisible.

Because he could not hear me see me feel me as inhabiting that word “daughter”

Who is a fragile thing, who shall be protected, who is a crying thing, to whom he should be gentle.

But daughter evanesced into object to hurl barbs at

An empty gunslinging

A desperate automated quickdraw drawing on anger so unquenchable it’s like it didn’t exist.

No roots.

Nothing to draw on.

No spaghetti dinners in the living room

No Christmas tree herding and frosted paned windows looking out on the world of lights like they were promising

My house was not promising.

Inside and out hands on both sides of the pane

It was a bear trap.

And the stranger stalking the downstairs was the steel sharp teeth.

I didn’t trust him when I hugged him

I hadn’t for a while.

And I wonder exactly when love left and emptied me.

The two houses made it more disparate,

two faces to a coin

But my brain tried in vain to flip over

And exist without the other side.

As it happens

When you try to rip yourself in half and purge every other week of your memory

Suck every other word of its truth like a pomegranate seed between your teeth

You get a tongue that is tired of probing.

You are left with a girl who is tired of remembering

And tired of thinking

And bleeding from the strings of the ripped flesh of each piece.

We work in deceit

My mother is an actress, she makes suburbia her stage

She smiles when she wants to shout, she covers up her rage

Her tears always evaporate, before you get too close

She’s one of broadway’s brightest

She’s the star of every show.

My father is a ringmaster. He likes to have control

He orchestrates the dancers and the people that he owns

He hides his face with stage makeup, tophats, coats, and bows

You can never be too sure about

What he says and what he knows

I grew up as an actress, I feigned innocence and peace

I spent my childhood lion-taming, pushing back their screams

I’ve outgrown the bigtop, I detest the backstage wings

I was never meant to have these homes

I was meant for better things.

I’ve heard it said that writers are just glorified liars

But I’ll keep selling fiction as long as they remain my buyers

I’ve heard it said, it’s not surprising, what I want to be

After all, the apple, doesn’t fall far from the tree