Long ago when I was 9, I made a class project on My Hero. I picked you. I was blown away by your smarts, by all the other interesting people you surrounded yourself with, and by all the things you knew. I wanted to be just like you. You kept that little construction paper and photograph project in your various offices for years, one of the only signs you might treasure me. I wanted to worship you. I settled for Gig.
I was 8 the first time you really did right by me. I told you I was being abused by a neighbor man and while your first words weren’t the best (“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”) your actions took me seriously. They also retraumatized me and taught me in very clear terms why I hadn’t been a perfect enough victim: where my 7 year old self had been at fault. You didn’t shield me from that, or make it better after.
The good that came out of you turning to the authorities, as you should have, was that for the only time in my child life I got real help. In group therapy I got a glimpse of real mental health care and like a junkie chasing their first high I’ve been looking for that ever since. I’ve been looking to feel less broken inside. But damn it hurts to admit, to confess, that you are one of the forces that ripped me apart. You’re the one who stole my birthrights of safety and of love.
I’ve cut you so much slack for that, for giving me the door to my first tool, and for believing me the first time I told you I was being abused. But they can’t be my whole childhood. I wasn’t just the 8 year old who told you she was being abused.
I was 10 when I caught the flu and wouldn’t eat for a week. I could have died, couldn’t I? And my sister too.
I was 12 when I lost my eyeglasses and you decided I was too irresponsible to get me a replacement pair.
I was also 12 the first time I came home smoking a cigarette and you didn’t object. In fact you never once said “Don’t smoke” to your minor child in all the years I lived under your roof, even though you could have.
I was 14 when my hip dislocated and you told me that I was a liar, that I was faking it, making it up for attention. Who does that? Nobody! And nobody commits to it for three years.
I was 16 when you found birth control pills in my room and freaked out. I was being responsible, far more responsible than you were when you gave me no sex education talk whatsoever. I’d already been sexually active for two years. Before I could drive to the health department, I’d walk five miles down Waters Avenue to get there. You grounded me instead of asking questions you didn’t want answers to.
I was a child who needed healthcare, wanted boundaries, and deserved love. You cheated me of all three. Your running times and education, your marathons and high IQ they don’t impress me any more. Now that I have a child, now that I know what it means to be a mother, I understand how truly first percentile you really are.