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WHEREAS I thought it was my responsibility to pretend everything was fine, to hide and ignore the evidence that it wasn’t. The shot glass in the sink after breakfast, the bottle next to the toaster in the cupboard, that the 5 o’clock cocktail hour came as early as 1:30 in our house. Kicking someone who is down will not make them get up. The beer can in the cupholder when I rode shotgun with my dad, and that we had to stop to replace it with a new one twice on a 30-mile drive. I believed it was up to me to uphold the notion that we were a normal family, that everyone did what we did. Biting my lip when it is already bloody will only give me that kick if I can surprise myself. That teenagers all over the world had to cook dinner because their mom would rather drink wine, that all children kept quiet when their dad walked in the door to gauge what kind of mood he was in, what kind of night it would be, a two-bottle, a four-bottle, a six? Forgiveness is a commitment I am not willing to make. That parents everywhere would have the same screaming match about unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities and being the victim of the other because there was no way they could leave each other unless they left right now, and what was the point anyway, there was nowhere else to go. Over and over again. But unforgiven is a half-life, and dead flesh is heavy. I was convinced it was my job to find my own role models, to find mentors to help build my moral compass, to make do with what I had. I pieced together a father from David Bowie, Mario Puzo, and Leon Uris, a mother from Judy Blume, Erica Jong, and Kate Bush. I learned about love and sex from Prince, Depeche Mode, and The Cure. My political upbringing came from the IRA, Rote Arme Fraktion, Glasnost, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the freeing of Nelson Mandela. Picking at the scab is an indulgence best kept for Thursdays when the week’s promises are eviscerated. If I did everything right, aced everything, I would be able to escape into this world of big ideas where I would matter in my own right and not just as one holding up the walls for someone else. I would be one of them and not just one of us. That was the promise I thought I was given.


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