In Response to Being Assigned to (Briefly) Write My Life Story on the First Day of the Semester

by Rachel

If the story of my life is what you want,
I suggest you look for it in a stack of journals
every page painted black taped together in a plastic bag into the dumpster
gone

I didn’t write them

No, my sister wrote them but she asked that I dispose of them for her
make sure no one ever read them
don’t look at them, she said
and I tried

but the word “sister” caught my eye as I did my painstaking, overkill work to keep her adolescent agony safe from strangers’ eyes—
“married with a teenage daughter by the time she was fourteen”
It wasn’t a compliment

and I remember helpless tears stinging my eyes, that old cliché,
remember thinking and how the fuck else could it have been
Tell me that with your safety-pin earrings and your bruised collarbone
jumping around in that stupid lock necklace you wear god knows why
you wore that thing tell me
what I could have done differently

Or you could piece together what you can from the photographs I took
or better yet, from the years I didn’t take any
You could look at the journals I did write, I guess,
but even I can’t read those

You could look at my arms
Enough said

I’m sorry if this is too grim for your liking I know I’m definitely over-thinking it
but you can find my story in that, too,
and the way I say sorry or clench my fists when people pass too close

The thing is this is stupid
but I don’t want to tell you who I was because who I am
is someone who’s trying to be something different than that statistic waiting to happen, what I am
is this unfinished chapter and I am afraid
to see myself as faded ink and scars when I am trying
finally
to become light

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