"Gaslighting" (2014)

My father is an open wound

A malignant tumor that would stop killing me if only I could remember him fondly

Like an omen
He has left in me the shadow of himself
I know because I see it on my skin

I don’t talk about my father much
When I think about him, I think about my mother

 and how in my parent’s abusive relationship, I was the collateral damage 

He used to beat me but I dismissed it as normal because in our country abuse masquerades as discipline
In our home, there was no broken glass or dragging nails, no drunken raging fights that I thought were the marks of legitimate domestic violence…
The abuse was so silent I almost missed it
But it was there
in the way that my mother would start whenever my father rumbled through the door
In the way he held my arm and never my hand
It was there in the way he held her hand, like the child she was when he promised her America

My mother came to the United States with dreams of going to college
Her independence threatened him so he silenced her with me

I have never been known for my silence. 

This is because when my mother forgot how to speak up for herself,
her strangled voice crawled out of her chest and down my throat

My mother taught me that love is gentle and kind. Love is patience and forgiveness. I did not love my father. My father did not love us. I cannot speak for my mother. 

My father taught me how to swallow my dissent lest he beat it out of me. He taught me how to write.
In fourth grade I started keeping a diary. It was pink with glittery purple stripes and in it I explored the marvels of dirty language, budding breasts and cute boys. I hid the keys in my jewelry box
(and it) Didn’t take long for my father to get jealous that my diary knew me better than he did
He began stealing my journal in the middle of the night. Eventually I started making shit up! To placate him, to piss him off, to let him know that I was watching him watch me

I learned how to lie. How to lie to my school. To my friends. To myself.
An “I’m fine” would turn to “Im just clumsy” would turn into “my (invisible) cat scratched me” would turn into me not going to school to calm the swelling

The truth was hidden
Like bruises under my shirt
Marks from belt splitting wet skin
Like scars that never surfaced to skin until I learned how to make them myself