we are a family of secrets.
we do not let people in.
we do not let change in:
i tell my father the name i have chosen for myself. through gritted teeth, he asks why i would change what was so lovingly bestowed.
i tell him, sometimes things with good intention have bad repercussions.
alyssa, he says, it’s just a name. it’s just something to be called. it doesn’t define you.
but i spent enough years being called useless bitch to know when you are called something, you begin to believe it defines you.
because i know you are talking about me when things go wrong. in your head, i am alyssa, your daughter. you say: useless pieces of shit, you are referring to my sisters and i-- alyssa, useless piece of shit, alyssa, useless piece of shit--
in this way my name becomes an expletive.
and to the mother says “but alyssa, he’s never hit you”
it doesn’t take a fist to say “you’re worthless”
and it doesn’t take a mouth, either
and sometimes the person you’ve learned to say is your father is really just a sperm donor and it took 18 years to figure that out.
i have never asked my father if he dated anyone before my mother.
i have never asked him about his first kiss.
i don’t know what he hoped his life would look like one day
or whether it came true.
and when i call him “father”
i only acknowledge him
as a story that begins with my birth.
as if on that day that i am born
everything he is before this moment is now history;
his story, i have never asked him what it was like to become a past;
what it felt like to coil thirty years of memory
and hide it inside his gut.
i can’t relate to the compression
of a life
but i know the standstill
of looking at yourself in the mirror
and continuing to look at yourself in the mirror
thinking that is the beginning.
but speaking your illness out loud
doesn’t make it go away.
i write everything in red ink now
because i am trying to correct the errors of my past
i say i love hard but hate harder. it is what i have learned. spend enough time around a toxin and you begin to feel it in your skin,
spend enough time being called woman and forget that you are more than that.
i say i am more like my father than i would like to believe.
i am exactly what i am afraid of.
i am jack and danny torrance and i am fucking shining.
but there is more to affliction than malady,
and there is more to this body than what he has written
we have stories that begin with our births,
but have origins farther back than anyone of us are able to know.
i guess what i am trying to say is that my name reminds me too much of this house: cluttered, something i have outgrown
maybe when i cut myself i am trying to trim the parts away that you can never love
when i say i am not a woman, i also mean i am not your daughter, so speaking my gender out loud is just another way of running away from home.
we were a family of secrets
until i decided to tell the truth about who i am.