chapter one: my mother on the outside
the first time i saw my mother cry
out of sadness, instead of frustration,
was when she came to visit me in the hospital
the day after i tried to kill myself.
her tears worried me.
was she angry at me?
i couldn’t blame her if she was,
i mean, i was angry at myself too, but
probably not the same reasons as to why
she would be.
her tears worried me that maybe
she was angry that it didn’t work, too.
this was a side of my mother i had not seen before.
she grabbed both sides of my face and cradled them,
it was as if she was trying to remind herself of when
i was a baby and she cradled me until i stopped crying,
i wondered if this time she thought maybe she could cradle me
until she stopped.
she asked me to tell me about the hospital, what it was like,
who the patients were, if i knew what they were in for,
what i was learning, the quality of the care;
the nurse inside of her showed even when she wasn’t in scrubs
and she needed to know everything.
but how was i supposed to tell her of the wars inside of those walls,
patients vs doctors,
how was i to tell her about the girl with white scars
freckling every inch of her body like a caramel colored zebra,
how was i supposed to tell her about the narcissist that told me
i was almost as pretty as him,
about the manic bipolar that reminded me of my brother,
how was i supposed to tell my mother
about the recovering drug addict that said she’d be my big sister
because she felt like i needed guidance and love.
my mother would pretend like she shows me enough love
and then cry herself to sleep knowing that she doesn’t.
there was no way i could, or was going to, tell my mother
information about the safety this place provides for
those of us not strong
or smart enough
to survive on the outside.
i did not want her to cling to the knowledge that i,
the nursing soldier’s daughter,
was not strong enough to fight the wars presented to her
by her invisible illnesses,
i did not need my mother cradling her broken baby girl
in hopes of putting her back together again.
i knew i was the only person that could ever put me back together again, so
i shrugged my mother’s cold fingers off of my cheeks and i turned my head to the doctor
trying to talk to my father next to us.
he lived on a confidentiality code, and now,
i did too.
this place was too sacred to spoil with the tainted shadows of the world i had tried so hard to leave.