Tank Tops in the Top Drawer

January 13, 2011
By paperwalls SILVER, Sudbury, Massachusetts
paperwalls SILVER, Sudbury, Massachusetts
8 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The top drawer of my bureau is filled with tank tops from Gap that shrunk when Dad did my laundry. There’s a strange teal one with ruffles along the top that looks awkward on my swimmer’s shoulders. And there’s another blue one that I wore when I played the violin in your living room. My toes clenched onto the rough green carpet as I stumbled over the fourth-to-last measure and butchered the staccato sixteenth notes. I haven’t picked up a violin since the last time I didn’t say goodbye to you, almost six years ago.

It’s scary to think that I haven’t been able to count your fading freckles in six years. Not monsters-under-your-bed scary or your-rapist-following-you-down-Concord-Road-in-his-parents’-Escalade scary. It’s scary like that moment when you realize that your parents are real people. That they don’t have superpowers; that they make mistakes; that they have feelings. It’s scary like when you realize that there are corners of the Earth where not even your parents can keep you safe.

Today, that feeling came back. I was in group therapy at school, just like the last fifty minutes of every single Tuesday. And I usually I sit and watch the other girls drop curse words out of their mouths like bombs aimed to destroy others. Or sometimes I listen while Brenda talks about movies that are up at the Framingham AMC and about how bad the media is for teenage girls (which everyone says, but I don’t see anything being done about it). Or maybe they’ll all snicker at each others’ faults and I’ll focus on my breathing and the pain in my chest, similar to the pain you had on Easter Sunday when I was eight years old and didn’t know what the back of an ambulance looked like.

But today was different. We shuffled cards around that had affirmations on them. And I picked the one that’s corner was sticking out, way in the back. And I read it in my head. And I read it again. And Brenda was behind me and I laughed and said, “I can’t write truthfully about this.” And my laugh turned into sobbing as I choked out the words, “I can’t, I can’t.” And Brenda said, “This is perfect for you!” And Hannah asked if I was okay, because she is a good friend, and I said that I was fine. And someone asked me to read the card aloud, because it’s always great to know what others' weaknesses are.

And I cringed as Brenda touched my shoulder blade, because everyone who has ever touched my shoulder blades has just ended up ripping off my wings. But I wrote. I ended up writing a big “fuck you” to that guy that you never met who followed me down Concord Road in his parents’ Escalade, shouting words out his rolled-down window that I didn’t even know the meanings of. And I walked faster and faster the closer we got to the plaza, just like Easter Sunday when I walked faster and faster towards Grandma’s open arms on the other side of the nurse’s station.

After your lungs stopped working from all the tar that hardened on the insides, Mom seemed to start lighting more candles. And every night, the floorboards would creak under my clenched toes as I methodically blew out every candle. And Mom would see the trail of smoke travelling upwards and yell at me and then methodically relight all the candles just like the other nights. The smoke trails would have kept floating from the crumbling wick all the way up to you if the continuously-leaking ceiling tiles didn’t bar the way.

I wish candles didn’t exist. And that freckles never faded. And that I could have played those staccato sixteenth notes correctly for you, even though I wasn’t nearly as good at playing the violin as Seamus back in Ireland.

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