“You’re just not good enough.”
The voices said to me.
“You are so small,
I wish I had a stronger son,
A taller boy,
Healthier and happier.
I wish I didn’t have to rush over to the hospital with you every other week…”
“Her boy is taller than you,
A handsome boy, a good boy!
You’re always asking so many questions…
I wish you were more like your friend,
He listens to his parents…
So please, be quiet.”
I have to wake up and go to school.
“You are so chubby,
why can’t you be skinny
Like the other kids?”
“The teachers told me you don’t talk,
Not to the other kids,
Not to them,
Unless you have to,
Unless they grade you for it.
Your grades are so average,
That little girl is better than you…
I wish you were more like her.
She’s a good kid.
She talks a lot,
Has many friends
And grades of just one shape.
She’s best in class
And you’re just…
You’re just not good enough, my son.”
“You’re taller now,
Guess all the baby fat turn into height…
You’ve got some friends,
But they’re just the wrong kind…”
They like me more than she does.
“Your grades are better,
But you’re still sick and
Your friend’s strong and fast.
You look unremarkable
Compared to me…
must get that from your father…
I wish you’d be a handsome boy, and strong, and smart, and happy.
Why can’t you be happy?”
But how can I be happy?
“I like this boy,
Is he your friend?
He is so nice and handsome.
He is polite
Of a good family.
He is so charming!
He even has a girlfriend…
But you, my son, do not.
Because you’re never going to be good enough for anyone.”
He’s not my friend…
and he’s not nice.
“What do you mean he is a bully?
What do you mean he’s not your friend?
What do you mean he’s never nice, or polite to those of your age?
What do you mean?
He is an angel!
You’re just jealous because you’re ugly.
No one likes you, my son!
Of course he’s not your friend.
You are not good enough.”
I’m just not good enough.
“You’re older now.
You’re best in class.
You have good friends…
And that boy was not an angel.
He spat in the face of a teacher…
You should have never been his friend.
What do you mean you never was?
Of course he bullied you…
You’re not good enough to stand up to a bully.”
I’m such a pathetic boy!
“YOU stood up for a girl that what being bullied?
Out of all the kids in your class, YOU were the only one to speak up?
I don’t believe you.
You probably wanted to impress that girl…
To make her your girlfriend…
But you are not good enough for her.
You are just not good enough.”
Someone had to stand up for her…
No one else would, so I did it.
I wish someone would do the same for me…
“You’re almost a man now.
It’s time to think about the future,
About what you want to become…”
I know what I want to be.
”What do you mean you want to be a writer?
You’re going to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or an architect!
You need to be something useful.
A writer is just not good enough.”
“You have to start thinking about YOUR future.
You’re good with a pencil,
You studied art for so long…
I wanted you to be a musician,
A concert pianist…
But you’re just not good enough…”
“You need to start thinking about becoming an architect.
A writer just wouldn’t do!
I don’t care what you want.
Your plan is just not good enough.”
So I grew tall and somewhat fit.
I had good grades, among the best in class…
And I knew what I wanted to be
When I grew up.
I wanted to be far, far away from her…
And a writer.
But I’m still a child.
So I’m stuck…
“You’re just not good enough, son.”
She kept on saying.
“You’ll never be good enough, not to anyone.
No woman would want YOU!”
And for a time,
She was right.
No one wanted to be my girlfriend…
But I had many friends,
And that was nice.
I had one thing she didn’t,
“They will leave you when you need them…
They will figure it out for themselves…
They will see that you’re not worth their time,
Not good enough.”
I have good grades,
I have good friends,
I have good manners
And I treat people well…
I’m afraid my mother’s right…
I’m just not good enough to be alive.
So I decided to do what had to be done.
To end it all.
“What do you mean you walked through a blizzard all the way to the lake?”
The school psychologist asked me.
“What do you mean you wanted to end your life?
Why didn’t you?”
Could I tell her that the wind was so strong that I believed it to be sent by God?
Could I tell her that I was stopped myself from jumping into the frozen lake because of divine intervention?
Could I tell her my mother is abusive?
I can. I did.
“I’m sorry… but this isn’t good enough to have you removed from your mother’s care.
You’re still a child… and this isn’t bad enough… you stopped before you could hurt yourself… and she there are no clear signs of abuse… that’s good enough for me.”
If she wouldn’t believe me, maybe my father would…
“What do you mean your mother is abusing you?
Stop making things up!
She is a good woman,
A respected teacher at one of the best high schools in this city…
And she is your MOTHER!
Show some respect!
You’re not a good person if you talk this way about your mother.”
But I was telling him the truth.
“If you were good enough, she wouldn’t say these things to you.
But, what about the other thing?
“Don’t make things up about your mother. She would never do the other thing. You’re just upset because she doesn’t let you hang out with your vagabond friends anymore. She would never do that. No mother would do that. Stop lying.”
I’m not lying, dad.
“You’re terrible person for LYING like this. So stop it. I don’t EVER want to hear you say such filthy things about your mother ever again. She is a good woman. She was good enough for me the day I married her, she is good enough for me now. You… are just a bad boy and a liar.”
What would you know about what she is, dad? You’re never home… even when you are…
“Your dad is sailing on the African Coast again.
You are the man of the house now.
Get. Things. Done.”
As always, I got them done.
It was good to keep myself busy.
It made me feel like I was good enough for this, at least.
Good enough to be ‘a modern day Cinderella’.
I wish my princess would come and save me…
But I’m not good enough for a princess.
“Your teachers tell me you are first in your class again this year…
Did you cheat?
I KNOW you’re not good enough!”
I did not cheat, mother.
I never cheat…
I’m not ‘good’ enough to cheat.
I’m good enough not to cheat.
“Then they must’ve given you good marks because of me,
Because they are my colleagues.
You’re definitely not good enough to achieve this on your own!”
I am good enough, mother.
I really am! (So **** it! You didn’t break me!)
“Wait until you get to the University.
They will not give you top marks there!
You’re not good enough!”
And she was right about that.
I wasn’t good enough for the University that I studied at.
I wasn’t good enough for my own mother… why would I be good enough for them…
“Told you! Told you you’re not good enough!”
I did get top grades when the teacher frowned upon bribes and cheating.
I did get top grades when the teacher didn’t sell grades for euros…
I did get top grades at three of my fifteen classes.
I was mediocre at the rest.
“If everyone is paying for good grades, then so should you!”
No, dad. I will not!
“But everyone else is doing it. This is Romania, for God’s sake!”
“I have the money. Just pay the teachers like everyone else.”
That’s not good enough for me, dad.
Why should I bribe the teacher to get a 10 when I get an 8 on my own?
“Because people that pay don’t need to write more than their name on that paper.”
My colleagues said.
“We all do it. It’s the way it is. Are you too good for this?”
I’m not too good for this… it’s just not right.
“If you’re too good for this, study abroad!”
I’m not good enough to study abroad.
“Then stop complaining!”
“What’s this garbage you’re writing?
Who would read this?
Why bother anyway? People don’t read!”
“You should be a banker, like my daughter…
Or a system’s analyst, like my son.
But you’re probably not smart enough…
You are your mother’s son…
She was a dreamer, just like you…
And she’s just a teacher…
Not like me. I’m a hard worker!”
“When are you going to get married?
Or did she leave you already? Seen what a loser you are?”
I don’t know, uncle. When we feel like it, I guess.
“So she’s still with you?
That’s not going to last… you want to be a writer…
And that’s just not good enough!”
She actually likes the fact that I write…
She reads the things I write.
She doesn’t automatically assume that what I write isn’t good enough.
“Well, I don’t care much for reading…”
But you can decide that what I’m writing isn’t good enough… and that I’m a loser.
“You too need to get married now.”
We’ll get married when I can pay for my own wedding, dad.
“You’re not good enough to be able to pay for your own wedding!”
We’ll get married when I can pay for it myself… when we can pay for it ourselves.
“When’s that? When I’m dead? Your grandmother hasn’t got long, you know…”
Fine. We’ll get married in the summer.
“It’s not about the two of you, it’s about the family.”
The family I’m not good enough for?
“What a beautiful wedding! Who was the planner?”
We planned it ourselves.
“Well, we all loved it. It was wonderful!”
Did you hear that, mom? Everyone had a great time.
It wasn’t good enough for her.
“Your cousin’s wedding was so much better than your.
Her husband paid for all of it! Unlike you… your father had to pay for yours”
And that’s why I didn’t want to do it before I had an income, money to call my own…
That’s why WE wanted to get married when we could afford the wedding ourselves.
“No one forced you into it!”
Said my mother.
“I did. I forced them into it by saying my mother would die before she could see them wed.”
My dad NEVER said.
“This is just like that time when you made your father buy you an apartment so that you could live apart from me!”
I never asked him to do that, mom.
He said he bought the apartment because it was a ‘smart’ way to save money.
I asked him to turn you over to the police for trying to **** me, mom…
An apartment was the ‘next best thing’…
And telling me that I’m imagining it… and that I should forget about it…
“You must’ve dreamt it! Your mother wouldn’t do that. She’s a decent person.”
He called me a liar, a horrible person, and a little monster.
He said I should never speak of this to anyone…
So I had to bury it in my mind…
Deep down in the subconscious, where I would never, ever look.
I forced myself to forget.
I compartmentalized my own life story…
Too bad it came spewing out the moment I felt safe again.
Too bad it reached the surface of my mind when I was beginning to believe that I was good enough.
“You are good enough. You are great!”
My wife would say to me.
“Don’t let your mother, or your aunts and uncles bring you down with the lies they told you.
You are amazing,
And a good person.
You are a great writer and a better husband.
And I’m not just saying that because I’m your wife.
You are awesome, mister!”
And I started to believe her…
Until the memory came back…
Until I remembered what it was like growing up…
Not being good enough,
Not being strong enough,
Not being brave enough…
To stop her from calling me worthless, stupid, fat…
To stop her from hitting me…
At least I was quick enough to prevent her from ****** me.
At least I was smart enough to open up Mumble and have an elderly brit ask me about my day as she put her hands on me and started to say things that made my stomach turn inside out…
“Your father left you the man of the house.
It’s your duty to take care of me…
And I don’t mean ‘do the laundry’ because I’m too busy…
I don’t mean ‘cook, clean and help your brother and sister with their homework’…
I mean for you to take care of me like your father would…
I have needs, you know… every woman has needs…”
We were home alone that evening.
My brother was sleeping over at a friend’s house,
My sister was still outside, playing in the park.
There was no one there to hear what you were saying to me.
No one to see you touch me like no mother should touch her son…
There was no one else there to stop you,
Until there was.
That Englishman’s booming voice made you realize we were not alone.
He asked me, in his deep bear-like baritone:
“Hey, Alex! How are you? Ready to raid with us tonight?”
“What’s that? Are they talking to you?”
She asked, after I replied.
“Can they hear you?”
“Can they understand you?”
“Can they see you?”
They could, if I wanted to. I could just turn on the camera.
I’m going to play World of Warcraft now, mom.
Please, go away.
“I’m going to leave. I can’t talk to you if they are listening.”
To them, I was good enough.
To them, I mattered.
To them, I was important.
I was a DPS.
I was a guildie.
To them I am good enough…
To my wife I am good enough.
To my friends I am good enough.
To my family I’m not good enough…
But, what is family?
Is it not the people you are good enough to?