I opened my eyes to a spider finishing her web on one of the iron rods that supported my bed. The organic thread changed colors, a rainbow dancing across a tightrope, as the sun birthed newborn rays through an opening between the curtains. My body lay limp and unmoving. Bones, muscles, joints, flesh, and brain unite, form a choir, a symphony, and start to shriek out the sounds of suffering.
Amidst the confusion, chaos, crisis, and the cries, you were conceived on the night before, yet not realized for years afterward.
His words echo in my ear.
“You hair looks like spun gold. You are my treasure.”
I want to hide. To be a buried treasure, long encased in a splintered wooden box with a pad lock, sunk deep into the Earth, under an invisible ‘X.’
I collected the brokenness that surrounded me. I grabbed pieces until my fists were full, clutching to whatever used to be me. I didn’t know that not all the damage was mine.
For years I tried to put the puzzle of myself back together, never understanding there were more parts than there should’ve been. I just kept rearranging, reconfiguring them, assuming I was putting it all together wrong.
I was determined to make you fit. I shaved down other pieces of me to make room for you until I was exhausted and decided that maybe I wasn’t a square puzzle. I was different. Not in an attractive, unique or empowering way; it was ok and even better, it made sense.
That is how we met, dear Shame.
You were abandoned. Carelessly or with contempt, you were left on my bedroom floor or the doorstep of my subconscious. I couldn’t just walk away. I tried, but I couldn’t pretend you didn’t exist. Someone had to take responsibility. If it wasn’t his fault, it must’ve been mine, right?
To deny you was not in my nature, not who I was.
You started out a small, subtle voice, familiar and at the same time, strange. At first, you made me want to try harder, pointing out my flaws and shortcomings. You pushed and made me want to be a better person.
I took you in before I was ready. I tried to do the best I could. I treated you as my own. How could I not? We played games, games you started for your amusement. I fed you and nurtured you. I gave you shoulder-back rides almost everywhere we went. Now I see that I have no idea what the world looks like or even my own face, except through your eyes.
I took on an adult role. I took responsibility for you. You’re much more than a big kid now, larger than life even.
I find myself looking back on our relationship and wondering why it is I’m even writing this letter to you.
Why do I cling to you? Why do I refuse to let you go? You got mean, and I don’t know why you took it out on me. You, along with your dad, my dad, OUR dad, convinced me I was bad. I was bad at school, with failing grades as testimony. I was bad at relationships, with zero friends to defend me. I was even bad at drinking and drug use, said the emergency room doctor who pumped my stomach in the 9th grade.
Why did YOU even keep me around? You needed me for something, you and he. You both used me when the want arose and as of late, you both have convinced me that I’m not even good for fifteen minutes of fun anymore.
And yet, I think in your own way, you tried to please me too. You worked hard at growing strong, and it became such a struggle to ignore you when you spoke out of turn or when you hit that rebellious streak. Should I be proud that I raised such a healthy, determined child? I don’t know. Then again, I don’t want to deprive HIM of you. After all, you are more his son than I am his daughter.
Brace yourself. Someday soon, I will take you back to where you were so recklessly created and cast off. Hopefully you’ll be able to find where you belong and take revenge on your deadbeat dad.
For now, I close my eyes and remember the spider web, formed under the bed belonging to my previous self. I think of Charlotte’s Web, when Charlotte’s babies are born and almost immediately fly off to start their new life, paying Wilbur no mind. He was their mother’s friend, from another lifetime. It’s time for you too, to leave the nest, the web, the part of me that was never meant to be.
Celeste is a Minneapolis/St. Paul-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in two anthologies and most recently, the MN Women’s Press.