Father dead, when I was nine. Mother weak, a bit emotional, perhaps touched. She found a new Bob, a self-made man, so she said. He didn't like me much. Said I was ugly, dirty, nothing but a failure, unworthy of his home, his goodwill, of no use at all. He beat me, rag doll slapped against a wall.
At sixteen, I left with a boy. Hitched a ride to the city in a pickup truck that smelled of dead chickens. We married, had children. Your mama and uncle they both came out looking the same. Too dark to amount to much, but I took care of the children, fed them, made sure they were properly dressed.
What about that scrawny boy I married – that weakling whose body never developed into anything more than a face full of whiskers, who was too skinny for manual labor, and too stupid for an office job? We didn't see him for days and when he did show up, he'd win the children over with a bag full of rotten bananas.
Never mind about him, I did alright with your mama. She learned to cook and clean before she could add and subtract. But your uncle, he was my biggest disappointment. I had hoped to groom him into the proper man. But how do you create someone you know nothing about? When he was ten he began sneaking away at night. He tried to swallow life up in one gulp. By twenty, his rum bloated fingers were so swollen he couldn't make a fist.
They say, without destruction nothing is born. They forget to tell you that sometimes what's born is already dead.
Your mama, she watched and listened. She learned from her brother's mistakes. Swore her allegiance to school, sports, church, and me. I chose the right man for your mama, tall, white, from a foreign country. I pushed her. It was the least I could do.
When you were born, I told her, "Don't let her out of your sight." And she listened, locked you away in that one-bedroom apartment with only your books and a TV.
To know nothing of the world is a luxury, a gift. But you don't want to hear about my greatest success. Instead you ask me to tell you about the past that I can't forget.
First published by Hothouse Magazine in October 2013.
Gessy Alvarez is founder and managing editor of the literary website, Digging through the Fat. Her prose has appeared in Entropy, Drunk Monkeys, Extract(s), Literary Orphans, Bartleby Snopes, Thrice Fiction, Pank, and other publications. An excerpt of her first novel, The Last Kingdom in Astoria, was recently featured in Vol. 1 Brooklyn.
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