“You're only young once, they say, but doesn't it go on
for a long time? More years than you can bear.”
–HILARY MANTEL, An Experiment in Love
INNER CITY STORIES
I was five years-old,
Waking up to sirens and the smell of stale alcohol sometime after midnight.
As nightmares and scary thoughts took over my dreams,
I couldn’t understand that this was actually my reality.
Getting up to get some water, but being told I was not allowed in the kitchen right now because “business” was being handled;
Seeing scratches and bruises litter my mother’s pale skin,
Accidently calling my nine year-old sister “mommy” because she was the only person taking care of me.
I was six years-old,
Being passed around to different family members
Not being able to sleep in my own bed
And then a man who didn’t know anything decides the best place for me to go was with the man who’d left dark marks and blood all over my mother,
But he didn’t want me.
Then I was residing with people who were willing to take on others’ responsibilities.
I was ten years-old,
The one who’d raised me and cared for me now gone,
The cancer taking his life,
and breaking the hearts of his loved ones as well.
My last shred of peace was being ripped away by antidepressants and panic attacks and heroin.
Then I was passed back to the one who couldn’t handle the responsibility of caring for what he’d brought into the world.
I was eleven years-old,
There were new people in my life;
Bad habits began consuming my time
I learned that trust does not exist
and that words couldn’t solve my problems
I was suspended from school so many times they stopped punishing me, because they realized being in this building was more of a punishment than being out of it.
I would come to find dinner made a few days before, or not made at all;
My blood sugar became quite low and so did my weight.
I was twelve years-old,
Eating was not an option because I didn’t want to get heavy.
I now had a “real” family, though nobody noticed you could see my ribs through my shirts.
Nobody noticed the tears staining my cheeks after coming out of my room.
Yelling and screaming and fighting began
I was told it was time to pack because we needed to leave;
Walking out of a familiar home hiding bruises under my sleeves:
A goodbye present from my “loving” brother.
I was thirteen years-old,
Buying narcotics from classmates or guys who were three times my age;
Dating around because I wanted someone to care about me,
I started wearing more makeup and carrying myself differently.
I was fourteen years-old
Having constant panic attacks
Being told I was crazy and should be in a hospital,
And listening to everything I heard from anybody
I am fifteen
I am looking forward to my future
I am making plans to have a better life
I am not letting my past decide where I go now.