Dear Lily June,
My father had a way of talking through his teeth that always terrified me. My mother had a way of disappearing behind doors whenever she’d get depressed. My sister had a way of being seen when all she wanted to be was invisible. I had a way of being invisible when all I wanted to be was my sister.
Our house had a way of feeling smaller than it looked from the outside looking in. Our rooms had a way of becoming cages, but good cell bars make good neighbors. Our beds had a way of being made with us inside them, our bodies broken furniture. Our windows had a way of letting light out without letting the air back in.
I have a way of remembering when I’ve only ever wanted to forget. I have a way of forgetting when I’ve only ever needed to remember. They have a way of being angry with me for the things I won’t let go of. I have a way of being angry with myself for letting go of my anger.
My sister had a way of mimicking what she saw between the two of us. My sister had a face that was a mask put on to simulate my father’s. I had a face I put up like a mirror I would hold up to my mother. The faces that we played with had a way of actually becoming our opposites.
My sister found a man who wore my father’s face, a mix of smirk and temper. I found a man who’d been hurt as a child, but was able to cry more than my mother. I was afraid my childhood wouldn’t end and looked for a heart large enough to crawl to inside of. My sister was sure she’d left the past in the past and ended up locking herself into it.
I have a way of lying awake worrying that my sister will become my mother. I have a way of trying to control the situation just like my father, but without his fists. I have a way of worrying that you, Lily, will become just like your mother. I have a way of worrying that fear and anger are the things to be afraid of most.
I have a way of dreaming that you’ll never wear an eye that fades to yellow. I have a nightmare that you do, and you have a way of speaking that keeps it from me. I have a need to check on you a thousand times a night without knowing what I’m checking for. I have a way of lying: I know exactly what I’m looking for, but it isn’t there and won’t be. Ever.
You have a way of balling your tiny fingers into fists whenever you are dreaming. You have a way of sticking those fists in your mouth, and it’s called self-soothing, and it’s a wonder. You’ll have a way of being a woman that will be just like me no matter what I do. I have a hope you’ll live through nothing like this, and it will turn you into you.
“Black Eye 01” by User:Kuebi = Armin Kübelbeck – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_Eye_01.jpg#/media/File:Black_Eye_01.jpg