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

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
even the description of it smells like rainy afternoon air freshener
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
You could look at the journals I did write, I guess, but
even I can’t bear to 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

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
to become light