I was terrified the day I moved to Seattle. I walked toward the apartment I had already signed for but still hadn’t seen, stepping over a pile of vomit someone had left behind from the night before and wondering if the discarded couch on the curb could fit through the back door. I didn’t have a car and I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have a plan for either, but I was excited when the landlord handed me my keys and told me I could paint the walls whatever color I wanted. A fresh coat for a beaten down apartment and its beaten down tenant.
I moved to Seattle, but you didn’t know.
I kept the first check I ever received from a publisher. Instead of depositing the meager funds into a dwindling checking account I folded the allowance in half and put it in my back pocket. I rushed out of my studio and down the two and a half blocks to my favorite coffee shop and indulged in a calorie-heavy iced latte. I sat down in a red leather couch next to a fake fireplace and smiled, hardly acting any different than the homeless man in the corner who couldn’t stop talking to himself. A few days later I laughed when I found the remnants of the check in a washing machine, the proof I had been published washed away thanks to an unbridled excitement and the spin cycle.
I was published, but you didn’t know.
They kept me in the hospital for more than five hours after he tried to rape me. I sat alone with uncomfortable paper draped over skin he had polluted, the forensic photographer categorizing piece after piece of tainted flesh; proof someone had been where they didn’t belong. I complacently answered unending questions while staring at the bright lights of an examination room’s ceiling, wondering if I would ever feel as clean as those whitewashed walls. Sometimes, it feels like I’m still waiting.
I was sexually assaulted, but you didn’t know.
I knew the moment I met him that he was different. I was casually dating with absolutely no intention of settling down and he was planning a cross-country move to his midwestern home state. I sat down at the bar next to his 6’4” frame and took a drink from the whiskey coke he had waiting for me. He would subtly stare and I’d casually touch his shoulder and the hours of a warm summer evening melted quicker than my resolve. Hidden behind the seemingly minuscule moments of a successful first date was the promise that it would be my last.
I knew he was different, but you didn’t know.
I broke down once. It was a month after we lost one of the babies and I was taking a shower. Music was playing and steam was rising and the water was painting my olive skin red. It must have been the combination of heavy lyrics and the smell of coconut orchid shampoo because half way through rinsing my hair I slid to the bottom of the tub and began to sob. I placed one soapy hand on my stomach and contemplated the severity of my now inescapable situation. I was carrying life and death simultaneously. One body was growing and moving and developing while another was withering and still and depleting.
I lost one of the babies, but you didn’t know.
I felt overwhelmed when my son was finally born. For twenty hours of labor and three hours of pushing my world revolved around a delivery room on the sixth floor of a teaching hospital. Then suddenly, a life was laid on my chest and my world grew into 6 lbs 14 oz of perceived perfection. I didn’t know what to do when they took him to check his breathing and I didn’t know what to do when they told me he was healthy and I don’t know what to do now, a month later.
My son was finally born, but you didn’t know.
And now that he’s here and I’m a parent, just like you Dad, I find myself struggling to understand. For the past four years every wonderful thing and debilitating thing and life-changing thing that has happened to me, has happened without you knowing. Not because you are gone or because you were taken but because you don’t want to know. You have a new family now living a new life now made from a new narrative that you have contrived to better suit your conscience.
I find myself struggling to understand.
But I’ll never know.