I’ve had two births
The first being the origin of my formation, a ball of cells sprouting limbs, lips and eyes in the darkness.
My mother spent the first thirteen years of my life hugging me, coating me in her love because “that’s how girls like you grow strong and powerful.”
My father did not care to watch me grow.
No night passed without my mother reading me a bedtime story.
She used to leave Tupac albums under my pillow and markers on the table when I would come home from school.
She would pull me out of class on Fridays to take me to the beach. We would build castles and giggle as we molded sand between our toes.
“Mommy is always here Karmen. Just like mother earth, mommy is always here.”
I cannot help but feel closer to her when I hear the oceans wave’s crashing on the sand.
When I was eleven years old, my mother and I went to a family friend’s concert and his bandmate tried to get me to sit in his lap.
He made me feel dirty as he rubbed his thigh and asked me to be a good girl and come closer.
I told my mother and her eyes turned to glass.
Playing in my room, I can hear her on the phone, screaming and yelling. The only sentence I could understand was “He does it again and I will destroy him.”
Our family friend kicked his bandmate out.
My mother ran her fingers through my hair, sternly gripping my face as she told me: “Your body is yours mi hija. They’ll try to claim it because you are woman and they’ll try to bruise it because you are Afro-Latina, but they will never possess you.”
I stopped growing when I turned thirteen, my mother’s brain tumor stairing back at me from the x-ray.
The size of a golfball, it snuggled up close to her frontal lobe, gleaming white like a miniature moon.
Sometimes I still feel uncomfortable when I look at the night sky.
After they removed the moon from her brain, she started changing.
Suddenly I was not good enough.
I stopped being mommy’s little girl and became mommy’s source of regret.
“Your father was so smart for leaving you first. Now I am stuck with you.”
I could not tell where she began and her brain injury ended.
Her words always hurt more than the fists that followed.
I could not tell where she ended and I began.
In eleventh grade, I told my mother that I needed money for SAT tutoring. The next day I came home and our couch was gone. Staring at the empty space in the living room, my mother walked towards me and placed eighty dollars in my hand.
The umbilical cord between us gained strength, its wrinkly flesh beaming as it wrapped around my neck.
The last morning we spent together, she sunk her teeth into my face.
Gnashing my cheek, her saliva bubbled in the flaps of my exposed skin.
I felt the cord around my neck snap as my feet slapped the pavement, running until the home we shared together was only visible in memory.
Running, I was reborn.
Reborn because for years I had stopped growing, stopped forming, stopped being.
I had no chance of growing an identity between my mother’s fingers.
I was molded so her desires became mine.
I cannot recognize my growth without remembering all that she sacrificed.
I cannot recognize my skin without remembering the teeth marks and scratches she had imprinted.
My freshman year at Wesleyan, I struggled with my rebirth.
I did not know how to exist without belonging to someone else.
The first time I heard my voice was in Professor Clifford Chase’s Creative Writing class.
I started growing when the words in my notebook compensated for all the words I used to swallow.
Depression ruled me when I stopped growing. Anger dominates my body after rebirth.
The anger only seems to fester, lurking in the tar-like guilt in my abdomen.
Anger only growing because I cannot unleash it.
My mother can never serve as a target for my anger because she is just as much of a victim as I am.
I wish I could target her illness with my rage.
Spit on it, gnash it with my teeth and pummel it with my fists while screaming “I was just a kid.”
I cannot target or express anything without hurting the woman who loves me to her core.
I am reborn.
My body is supposedly mine.
My thoughts are supposedly mine.
I am born again but I cannot help but feel some familiar comfort settle in my stomach as my lover degrades me.
I am born again but I cannot help but feel at home when he raises his fists.
I am born again but I still see her face in my tears.
I am born again but I still miss her hugs.
I am born again and fear continues to grip me in the night when I look at the moon, wondering if one day it will take me too.