Friday, July 17, 2009


When I was younger I wanted everything to be perfect. I knew that nothing was perfect, and so I wanted to be perfect. I wanted people to think I was perfect. Inside I knew I was a monster, maybe the most evil person who had ever existed on the earth -- no one could ever know that, or I wouldn’t be able. I wouldn’t be able to go on living.

I didn’t know that yet, the part about able. But I knew I wanted to live, that’s the hard part. The hard part to understand, from this distance -- what makes that child?

I mean what made me, that child of three or four or six or seven because here I’m going way back -- I was the one smiling the widest in the family photos, the ones that my grandmother paid for, a photographer at her house. When I was at her house recently, I studied that photo, that smile. It takes over my whole face, even my eyes look tiny in comparison. I don’t remember much about that photo shoot except that we argued, or probably I didn’t argue it was my parents that argued; I was trying to hold it all together, soothe the edges there were only edges. We never did another photo shoot.

That’s what I prayed to God for: I prayed to God that no one would ever know I was evil. Some kids wanted to fly, but I knew that we didn’t have wings; I wanted to float. Maybe I would still have used the word fly, that place in the forcefield with all my best friends, the other girls, the other girls in the forcefield, we would always be 13 until I turned 13 and then we would be 16 but by 16 I’d found other ways to float. But first I wanted to keep everything together, back at five or six and this family of four: we all had roles. My father would scream, scream at my mother. My mother would threaten divorce. My sister would threaten to chop them up in a frying pan. I would try to get everyone to get along. Somehow I believed I could do this.

Other roles: my father would teach me. I would teach my sister. My mother would go somewhere, somewhere in the house where was my mother? There was so much in my head, so much that I thought I was an adult, an adult with so much in my head. But I knew they didn’t know, except sometimes they did know and then I didn’t know.

More roles: my father would tease my mother. My mother would tease my father. My father would tease me. My father would tease my sister. What would my mother do? My sister would tease me. I was floating.

When I was really young I wanted to save my sister, I wanted to hold her and teach her to dream I wanted us to hold each other because of them. To hold each other because. To hold each other. This was what my father was afraid of, he was afraid of secrets between children. He was afraid we would keep these secrets. Anything to get us not to keep these secrets, these secrets to keep each other.

More roles: my father was angry. My mother was angry. My sister was angry. I, I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to keep those secrets, anything. I wanted to keep anything that they hadn’t kept. I gave her a secret, she gave it to them. I gave her a secret, she gave it to them. I gave her a secret, she gave it to them. I didn’t want to hate her; I didn’t even want to hate them; I wanted secrets.

More roles: my father was angry and he made money and he taught us. My mother was angry at my father but she held us and she cooked. My sister wanted to fight. I wanted to read. I knew we were alone, I didn’t want us to be alone. They argued because they loved one another, that’s what they told us; maybe that’s what my sister believed. I kept these secrets for my sister -- I can’t even remember what they were; I didn’t want to learn not to tell her.

But here is a picture of me at the beach, poolside at age 12 -- how can my body be so stiff, my face in so much pain oh wait this isn’t the beach I can see houses in the background; this is the swimming pool, the swimming pool we joined. In this picture, you can tell that I’m scared, you can tell that my body is a rock, you can tell that I’m trapped, but you cannot tell that I wanted to be perfect. Sometimes everyone knows what they cannot see, and what they can see they don’t know. That’s what I’m learning from these pictures.


kayti said...

It is so sad. all the different forms of abusive you endured.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Thank you so much, my dear :)

Love --