Like everyone else, I was born quite unaware. Eager to get here, I was born premature to someone who admittedly engaged in…let’s just say some “less than motherly habits.” With a ventricular septal defect (a hole in my heart), my battle started pretty early on. Though it is literal, I can’t help but feel like that hole represented something lacking in me from day one…a piece of me left in another world…wherever my soul originated from.
Never comfortable in my skin, I was self conscious from my first memories. I knew we didn’t have much…a truth no child should know so early on. My sister and I got our heads buzzed as kids because of a lice outbreak. It happens. Some parents just don’t have the patience to comb through the locks. I can still remember walking down the stairs at the museum and a woman telling my mother, “your son is adorable.” Apparently, I made a cute boy but an unattractive little girl because I didn’t have long flowing hair. I didn’t wear frilly dresses but instead lived in sweaters and jeans that were never long enough. The standards were set quickly and by the time this picture was taken…I was already failing.
While being a pretty little girl didn’t work for me…so was my transition into weirdness. Being odd suited me and though it didn’t make the years any better or merciful, it gave me something to cling to. An identity. Even if it was a strange one. By this time, we were moving around a lot. I can’t even keep track of all the people we lived with for short periods of time but I know it was a time that gave us an intense feeling of detachment. Don’t get comfortable because you’re not going to stay long. Don’t get attached because you’ll never be as important. When you’re inconvenient, people will leave you. An internal void, evidently unattractive and unwanted…it wasn’t easy.
Fourth grade was the first time I became aware of death. This was a type of leaving I could accept though the thought of it sucked. But it seemed easier to understand since the person who left didn’t do it intentionally. By this time, I knew I was the “ugly kid.” Children can be cruel and they were. My clothes screamed how unimportant I was despite my house being filled with thirteen animals (that upkeep isn’t cheap), and shelves upon shelves of porcelain dolls and expensive figurines. My childhood home was a shrine to all that was materialistic. I was no doll and showed no signs of growing beauty. I wasn’t like the other kids. I could feel it. My mind ran with vivid stories and games propelling me into a fictitious world of happiness and appreciation. I admired what others had and pretended, in the confines of some random inch of space, that I had it all. I was forced to be a dreamer. Reality was an ugly world.
I searched for God. I went to Spanish service at a catholic church with desperation in my heart. That hole was growing and it haunted me. The practices that were happening behind closed doors were eating my soul and gave me nightmares that seeped into daydreams. My imagination was being tainted and violence soon took hold of my stories. “Please make me beautiful, God. So they will love me. Anyone to love me.” Love me enough to rescue me from the terrors that occurred in a closet, on railroad tracks at 2am, in a room with so many witnesses and no allies. But God did not hear me and it all continued. Alien. Ugly. Unwanted. Forsaken. The forecast was bleak.
The teen years set in. This is the inevitable time of self-loathing, poor self-esteem, and massive self-deprecation. To say I bashed myself would be an understatement. I wasn’t developed like the other girls. Thirteen and I wasn’t a “real girl” because I hadn’t started menstruating. This was the start of my ghost-writing. I admired many and yet, was left unseen. But I made for a good friend. One that could get the girl for you. Because, somehow, I knew what to say. Knocks on my door made me feel important. Knocks from boys I crushed on…asking me to write another poem for their latest conquest. And I did it. Because being useful was better than nothing at all. I was a dork. A nerd. A bookworm. Basic. Average. Below average. Ordinary. I was everything that can crush a young girl. Yes, I read a lot but damn it just think I’m pretty. Please. See something great in me. Please think I’m beautiful. Please care.
Maybe setting would do the trick. Maybe if I started over…someone would appreciate me in a way I hoped. Location changed but the story remained the same. I was the secret friend to some…helping them get the girl…useful but unseen. Even worse, I was seen and unwanted. What personality would I take on? Who would I become so people would accept me. I tried many and all of them failed. So, I did the next best thing. I settled. At 16, I dated a 24 year old because he showed me attention and he liked me and he said I was pretty and it was all I wanted. Hindsight says I just allowed earlier abuse to repeat itself…to allow the word “love” to mask the hurt and damage that was being done. But hell, to be beautiful was worth it to me. At 16, beautiful was the only label I could dream about. The only one I could never truly attain. But damn if I didn’t try.
And then something happened. I relocated again and was still seen as a nobody. This was expected. What wasn’t was the type of attention I got. I would never be the “girlfriend” but I could be the secret. The one you wanted to know on Friday at 1am. I was the girl who visited old friends back home, friends who expressed my ugliness dead on…only to have them ask for physical engagements. My body was just flesh to satisfy a primal hunger. Can’t lie…I basked in being wanted for a bit. But lust is not love. It’s not even as nice as like. It’s cheap. It’s disposable. It’s short-lived.
I didn’t want to be seen. I wished for invisibility. I was born broken, my flesh is tired, and my heart aches. My mind cannot handle any more lies. My soul wants to quit.
My high school years consisted of three high schools, seven homes, very few lasting friendships, a sickening eating disorder, a short lived relationship with a man far too old for me, a miscarriage, a stolen identity, and one hell of a culture shock. It all added to my personal disgust…I hated who I was.
Old habits die hard. The few relationships I’ve had in my life have been that of an abusive nature, whether physical/mental/emotional, all the while…I questioned my worth. Why couldn’t I do better? Where was my unconditional? The one that would look at me and love me and know me and see me and mean it. And not leave. He didn’t exist.
I stood in the mirror and despised the reflection I’d been running from since day one. I pulled a sharpie from the drawer and drew on that mirror. I added all of the details that I thought would make me lovable. I colored over the flaws and morphed what was wrong into what I thought others would accept as right. By the end of it…the mirror was a picture perfect image of something…someone. I was somewhere in there. I was certain. I just couldn’t see it. I lost myself and for the time being, I thought that was the right thing to do. I’m an alien and I need to fit in to this world. The only way to do that would be to put on the costume and play the part.
But I was never a good actress. Slowly but surely, my sadness seeped through and I hated the picture I painted. I hated that fake bitch. I hated the bullshit smiles. I hated the loss of voice. The loss of self. The death of the creative mind and heart. I lashed out and became a beast. Having an opinion meant I was argumentative. My creative mind was run by the devil. My heart was stone and my soul never existed. I was broken glass…unfixable. I hated the world that didn’t want me. And all of the occupants in it.
I spent my ENTIRE life wanting to be beautiful. Wanting to be physically desired, craved, needed, pursued. Ironically, that is all anyone seems to want from me as I near 30. Now, I would give anything to have someone knock down doors to talk to me…to engage in conversation that lasts all night. To be enthralled by laughter and dialogue that stimulates the mind and the soul. Yes, I want to be seen as a beauty. But more so…I want the words of my heart, the creativity of my mind, the passion of my soul…I want these things to be my beauty. I want to be defined by the iceberg that lay beneath the surface. Waiting…hoping…dreaming…wondering…
I walk away from the mirror. I’m tired of seeing my reflection in this pool of tears. I’m tired of seeing the caricature I have become in an attempt to be loved. I avoid the waters that scream a truth I cannot hear. Not anymore. Maybe, on another day, I will look and see something amazing. Until then, I close the door and live in shadows.
But the light touches my skin and I think…the hole in my heart was filled. Just not in the way I’d anticipated.
In a way that has been so much greater.