There is a song that goes, “I kept the faith just like I was supposed to. I prayed for you” and I did. Pray for you, that is.
Until I grew up. To a world that knew exactly where I belonged. At the bottom. And my parents agreed and my friends when they finally showed up, they averted their eyes from me like I was roadkill and I. I prayed for you, once. When I still thought I might grow up to be pretty.
I did not grow up to be pretty. I grew up twisted, thwarted by rage and disfigured by my own hatred. With nowhere else to go, the rage I felt became a weapon I dug into my very own skin, again and again.
There is another version of me. I know it. She went to Brown then Columbia. She majored in political science. She worked her way through college. She visited her family on the weekends. She found you while earning her doctorate at NYU.
That girl knows who she is. That self knowledge was never taken from her.
I would have liked to give her to you. That girl. I would have liked to give her to me, too.
In another life. With other parents. In a world without antisemitism or sexism or classism. A world so close I can touch it sometimes.
But I was born to this world. Into this body that had these experiences. Into this identity that I have been told my entire life is worth less than you. Or any girl you have ever dated.
Those girls who looked in the mirror and said, I hope I don’t get fat. Am I fat?
I am the thing those girls were afraid of becoming.
I looked for you, until I gave up on the idea that I would one day wake up beautiful.
That was the day I gave up on ever being good enough for you.
Assimilation demands a steep price. That is the moment I paid that price for us both.
If you prayed for me too, it is okay if you were disappointed when you met me. It is okay if you felt betrayed. It is okay that you wished to trade me in for better.
I expected you to. I tried to let you know I understood. That it was okay. That I would be okay.
I didn’t want you to see how much it hurt me. I didn’t want you to feel guilty. I thought perhaps you would let me love you enough to do that much for you. Just once.
Love means sacrifice, isn’t that what they say?
I loved you so much I sacrificed you. So you would have your very best chance. Your better life that our people won for those of us light skinned and savvy enough to assimilate.
Don’t ask what happens to women like me. Women who can’t. Don’t ask.
Don’t make me tell. Please.
To set the record perfectly straight. I never wanted you to be different. Oh, perhaps I assumed you would be a mountain man living in a one-room cabin on inherited land up in Alaska. I assumed if I were a boy, that’s where I’d be. Waiting out the apocalypse in the wilderness.
Perhaps I underestimated our courage.
Perhaps you underestimated how strong I am. When it comes to those I love.
I was disappointed, when I met you. I suppose I had a sliver of hope left. That me with my unplucked eyebrows and unwaxed pussy and slew of fleece jackets and fluid gender identity and fatness like scars from surviving my eating disorders, that you still might want me.
But assimilation was your goal and you achieved it. Success on their terms was your goal and I tried to be proud of you and not feel betrayed.
I think maybe if I had kept the faith better. If I had run away. If I had learned earlier on how to be this person in this time in this place.
But I still would not have been white or thin or rich. I still would not have had her parents or her life or her self esteem.
The minute I was born into this body, lost you. The minute I was born, it was already too late.
Every month the children I might have had die inside of me. As I try to convince myself to let you go.
I don’t know how to let my prayer go.
You were the only one I ever prayed for. And it is the worst thing that ever happened to me, in a life filled with worst things, that you never let me even have the dignity of saying that to you.