No one embraces me when I cry. It is not allowed. And what I mostly try not to talk about is anything to do with home.
I am 34 and cannot remember a single time I collapsed in someone’s arms the way I watched my one year old goddaughter allow herself, snot-nosed and shrieking and red, reaching for the door after her mother left for work, to be sheltered in mine. To be buried in my knit black sweater her uncle later picked gluten-free apple cookie crumbs out of. How I don’t want to wash that smell off: baby wipes or something light like vanilla but not manufactured, calming that way, or like lilac. That inexplicably pleasant aroma that babies have. Her allowance of me; being carried and twirled around the apartment in rapture. Me, dizzy but stronger than I thought. Her thirty pounds a feather. Her leopard footed pajamas. Mouth doused in watermelon juice. Me, turning on the player piano so she can bob to the euphonic, lyricless Hotel California. The way she looked at me with a sudden streak of joy as I began to sing, reached those sticky fruit fingers to my lips, beckoning them to continue. A stranger that appeared in the bed next to her in the middle of the night, all black, tall and humming.
Is it the bosom I miss or the way the sky looked the day I chase; the day the sun hit my shoulders the first day of summer vacation ? I have not been carried to bed. I have not been shielded. I have not been kissed all over the face. I will not allow it.
As my goddaughter mimicked my notes back to me, doing her best to capture the correct inflection, I began to tell her my name. She first tapped my teeth and I showed them for once. They are brand new porcelain. She will never see the molars stained, or the way I closed my lips on instinct when someone got too close to my face. She will not see me laugh with a hand in front. She will see the brIghtness of each one, test its durability as she places her plastic teething ring inside my mouth so i can show her how to bite. “I’m the alligator,” is one of the first things I say, Then the way I showed her how to say this alligator’s name.
The way I whispered it to her the first time, so every time she said it again, it came out a muted “sah.” A whisper back. “Sah.” My name is Sarah, I whispered looking her in her long eyelashed eyes. Never full volume, a whisper. But correctly and immediately repeated. “Sah.” The way I kissed her ears and told her that I met her in a dream before she was born. Before laughing hysterically, I felt her pause, gaze back at me, drool on my cheek. I felt the grass on my feet as I ran outside with my summer reading list after first grade. Me. being the first in the class to learn how to read in Kindergarten, my teacher applauding me, overhearing me silently reading an entire book aloud to myself during free play. I always chose the reading section during free play. Then being marched across the hall and forced to read a book in front of all the first graders, now me, diligent in my studies. My mom cleaning the blinds. She was always around in a way. The smell of bleach and the sound of the screen door as she walked into the back yard, the sun hit my shoulders and my goddaughter whispered “sah” back to me, forgetting the shut front door and I felt her fingers press my neck, the memory form and the grief of it passing as she slid back to the floor to pick up her plastic guitar. As I let myself fall on the plane ride home. Hood off.
I’ve mailed her letters every few months since she was born. Sending her a stuffed fox, stuffed shark, lucky stone, a postcard with an explanation of sand dollars just in case they go extinct before she touches one.
The sudden wish to be hers and also blushed and squalling in someone’s arms on someone’s floor, probably telling them about the way my father taught me how to dance to The Rolling Stones or how I was wrong. About most of it. Returning to my earlier journals, always sparkling with a forgotten dream repeated for three years straight and then buried deep. My father’s dentured smile. “You don’t want to be like me, Sar.” That’s how he said it. “Sar.” He called me “Sar.” These things hurt later, never now. “Take care of your teeth.” My father’s note to me after graduation about how proud he was of me that I threw away in ire. We subsist on removal of anything that invokes the way he used to move in front of the stereo, hands out to me, tall glass of Wild Irish Rose on the dining room table, the smell of smoke “Come on Sar, dance with me.” The note he gave me before I moved to Colorado, gone and he’s only ever written me two and my old journals: “I really want a daughter” repeated in the margins. The way he hugged me in tears telling me he would miss me. Did you forget you didn’t believe him?
I am eight days late and openly crying on an airplane. Not the whisper of it but the full volume roll. Not an eruption but more than four rolling tears, kind of a loose sob. if anyone touched me, I would turn and they would see me unperformed: not made up or plucked, tear streaked, unvaulted and the kick of it, hoping to be carrying the world’s next bastard.
everything about me
ancient but my teeth,
they are proud;
showing, shiny and
sharpened and strong
like screaming daughters.