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When You Brushed My Hair

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You were always too rough, like when you would pull too hard at my head when it couldn't quite find the hole in my purple pajamas. And when you bathed me, you always scrubbed a little too hard at the backs of my ears, leaving red scratches carved into my porcelain scalp, and you'd pour water which ran into my eyes, blinding me for a moment. But when you brushed my hair, your smooth strokes gently flowing through my dark brown, wet curls moments after flooding my eyes with soapy water, and moments before my head and arms would be yanked as they lost their way in my purple pajamas, when you brushed my hair, that is how I knew you loved me.


Isn't it weird how I don’t remember much about you living at home with us? The only thing I remember is being bathed as an infant before bedtime, wishing for Mom’s gentle hands instead of your thick, muscular arms. When I think of you, I think about dinner on Thursday nights eating chocolate chip pancakes at the Ritz Diner, pepperoni pizza at Starlite, or a spicy tuna roll at Samarai Sushi. Isn’t it weird that you barely know who I am?  You don’t know that Kraft Macaroni and Cheese gives me stomach aches, and you don’t know I hate the feel of paper towels, that I can’t swallow pills and when I go to the doctor, I have to ask for liquid medicine.  You don't know that Mom has been making me peanut butter and jelly every day for lunch since elementary school.  You don't know that after all these years, I still sleep with the light dimmed because I am still scared of the dark.  

Isn’t it weird that I don’t know whether your favorite color is blue or red and I don’t know if you buy Crest or Colgate? Whether you watch Fox news or CNN, or if you even watch the news at all? Maybe instead you come home from work and read books like The Power of Positive Thinking or 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. Or maybe you just take a nap. How would I know? I don’t know if you wake up naturally in the mornings for work or if it takes five presses of the snooze button until you finally tear yourself out of bed to make yourself coffee, which I’m not sure whether you prefer with milk or cream and sugar, or maybe just black.


You once told me you wish you knew me, casually over lo-mein and egg rolls at our favorite Chinese restaurant, duck sauce precariously dangling from your stubbly chin. I checked my cell phone for messages I knew I hadn’t received, stalling for time and searching for a way to put into words all the things I've been too scared to say. I wanted to tell you I was worried I’ve grown up to become sometone that doesn’t measure up to who you wanted me to be when you left ten years ago. I wanted to tell you that I'm scared that this isn't what you expected. I wanted to tell you I think that is why you keep leaving. I wanted to point out that first you were only ten minutes away. Then 30 minutes. Then you moved an hour away and found another job opportunity and last week you asked me if I minded if you moved to Philadelphia two hours away. I wanted to ask you, if I wait long enough will you leave completely or will you decide you want to come back?  I didn't end up asking any of these things; instead I asked you to please pass the soy sauce and we talked about something different.


But I know you love me. I know you love me because I can still remember the feel of your brush strokes through my hair. I know you love me because although you may not know my favorite home cooked meal is Mom's chili, you know my favorite meals at all the restaurants in town from our dinners every week.  I know you love me because you haven't stopped trying to be a part of my life.  I know you love me because no matter how many times I scream at you over the phone to stop calling me, to give me space, to get out of my life, you don't.





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