Definition # 1: Being wanted, but not necessarily needed.
I was born on the coldest day of '93,
three months too early
three pounds too small.
That sounds like a death sentence,
but it's not – it was more of a:
“Here's what life is like,
now earn the right to live it.”
And I passed the test.
Oh, I passed with flying colors
and surprised everyone,
especially my parents.
They didn't allow themselves
to be too optimistic, see;
If they were pessimistic and wrong,
it was a pleasant surprise in the end.
Being pessimistic and right
always felt like a well earned stroke
to their over-inflated egos,
and they liked that more.
Still, they brought me home
and welcomed me – I was the first,
the only, the most important;
I was the VIP in the household.
My grandmother, a staunch Catholic,
came to see me, her first grandson,
and kissed me soundly on the forehead.
She proclaimed a prayer over me, then:
“Ah! Our Father who art in Heaven,
This baby is truly a blessing from You,
and may You bless him evermore!
Grandmother, my only words to you now
I wish you had prayed more fervently for me,
and stuck that blessing on me more firmly.
Definition # 2: Crippling kindness through actions.
Her name was Katy.
She was eighteen when I was six,
and she crossed the gap between us
as easily as Jesus passed over the waters.
She claimed she was my babysitter -
3 to 9 PM, Mondays through Fridays -
for three incredibly long years,
but don't they take *care of the kids they watch?
It's almost shocking to think of how
she peeled me apart back then
with fingers pale as my face
and a smile sweet as a tangerine.
(I thought it was love. I was wrong.)
I was misguided by her gentleness,
the way she held me in her arms
and gave me baths when I had played outside.
My mother never did that, after all.
But her fingers strayed too far
and she snatched something from me
that I have never recovered,
and now never will.
I would say it was my innocence,
but that's not true.
That went to rot long ago,
and I do not miss it.
No, it felt more tangible than that,
a feeling I had, one of trust,
one that only disappeared
after I realized what had happened.
Now I am left to side-eye people
and wonder about their true intentions;
all because someone named Katy
kissed me on the cheek, then went a little farther.
Definition # 3: Absolutely nothing at all.
It's amazing how one experience
affects the rest of your life,
but it does. Irrevocably,
each happening is a dropped pebble in water.
I wish it wasn't that way,
because there are things I want to erase
in order to move forward,
things that require moving backwards first.
That's never easy, going back to the things
that are in the past for a reason,
when facing them is a task you're not sure
you're really up to.
I know how that is,
how the moving forward feels like stumbling,
like stepping blindly in the darkness
and missing a step.
You fumble for something to hold onto,
and your heart panics,
gasping desperately while you flail;
I know. I know.
That's how I ended up kissing little Ann
in fourth grade – Katy was gone from my life by then
and I thought this other girl could give me back
that vital something I was lacking.
She gave it her all, truly, with that plucky mouth of hers;
from the warm depths of her trembling heart came a kiss,
but I defied the laws of physics then which state that heat
is energy transferred from one interacting object to another –
I felt nothing.
Definition # 4: Keeping painfully close.
Therapy should have been the option
when I told my parents that ‘Katy’ and ‘molester’
were the same thing, after I looked it up.
But it wasn’t.
My parents opted for isolation and
careful watching; if they could keep
an eye on me at all times,
they could keep me safe.
This was their pessimism talking,
leading them to think that a therapist would
**** them dry of their money and do absolutely
Maybe they were scared of something else, too -
of molesters and rapists sitting outside,
just waiting to get their grubby hands on me
and take me away, to a place they couldn't follow.
Either way, their decision wasn't a cure,
it didn't help. Home-schooled at eleven, I lost sight
of how the world moved around me,
and all I knew was the inside of my house.
What kept me grounded were the little things:
snow days, which spoke of beauty and temporary freedom,
books, which promised a world away from the one I knew,
and the goodnight kisses from my parents.
Definition # 5: The right to take what you want.
I escaped homeschooling
when I entered ninth grade,
and the freedom I found there
was intoxicating. Addicting, even.
I’d been so out of touch with the world
that I decided the whole world
was now my friend – I fell in love
with everyone I met, at least once.
Opening myself up was surprisingly easy;
then again the only things I really opened
were my pants zipper and the pubescent hearts
of girls, always readily available.
There was the first girl, Caroline –
she kissed me everywhere, and all I did
was take everything in return – and then
there were a hundred others like her.
I knew Amys and Rachels and Sarahs,
but I never knew another Katy.
There was only one of those in my mind,
and she pushed all the others away in the end.
By eleventh grade I was in pieces,
dragging myself through each day
for no reason other than
to find another girl to claim as mine.
Definition # 6: Wrong, wrong, all wrong.
In the end,
I had it coming –
and though I don’t remember it all,
I remember enough –
rough beard pulled across skin
in a horrible mockery of kisses;
all the messy memories of Katy torn out,
like tangles pulled out with a boar hair’s brush;
the sound of something breaking,
though that might have just been me;
a ragged whisper of “Your uncle loves you, you
know that, right? This is me showing you how much.”
and finally, a piece of me I never
offered, flung far, far
That’s all I remember,
and that’s more than I ever want to remember.
Definition # 7: Saving grace kisses.
Silence became my hiding place
in the year that followed,
along with a deep darkness
that I drowned in every night.
Where I was once confident
and a “ladies man,”
I was no longer; some experiences
ruin all the ones following.
This is how I suffered –
quietly, painstakingly, always.
I let no one in and no one out,
not even myself.
That is, until I was found out.
He was the same age as me,
but it felt like he was years
ahead of me, experience-wise.
That's how he knew -
from one sufferer to another,
we found something in common -
and that's how I redefined love, one last time.
It took three years of high school for me to step up
to the podium, clear my throat, shuffle some papers,
and mutter into the microphone, barely above a whisper:
“You know, maybe I was wrong about love.”
And maybe God did show up in the end,
in between his eyelashes and the gap in his teeth,
there to be the saving grace for a poor sinner
like me, who messed up love for far too long.
Definition # 8: Absolutely everything at once.
Recovery is a long, winding road,
one that I wanted to leave a long time ago –
if you must know, I’m still on it, though
I almost succeeded in leaving it once.
But there are almost always people
who will make you reconsider,
and decide that maybe jumping off the roof
is an act for another day, a better day.
And there are people who know how important
listening is, and that’s all they do: just listen.
I underestimated how powerful it is,
knowing someone cares enough to do that.
And there are other people who know where
a kiss goes, and where a hand should be placed,
and how to make the kiss a band-aid,
and the hand a life saver thrown out in churning waters.
There are others still that know what to say,
even when you don't. The words come easy,
and they reassure, they heal, they put you back together -
maybe not in the same way, but it's still good.
I know there will be scars, and there will be reminders
that all is not right in the world, of course,
but if you find a person who can listen,
or who can save lives with their mouth,
or who can find the right words,
you’ll probably do just fine in the end.
love is not just an action – it’s an experience.
I am simultaneously displeased with this and overjoyed at the place that it has ended up at, finally. I hope you find something to enjoy about it.