Lessons on Becoming Full Grown
after Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Young, my father painted my room pink & I thought
this is what little girls do. I screamed
when my brother said he would cut my hair.
I didn’t mind dresses when jeans were too hot & green
was my grandmother’s favorite color.
She was mean. I told everyone I knew
football players practiced ballet. I read
a ballerina lived off a piece of cheese & six ounces of milk.
This hardly means a thing now,
my room white and decorated in shadows. A half dead
crabapple. I haven’t danced
in years. My instructor drank herself to death.
She came to class in casts and covered in bruises.
I thought it was from dancing. I thought she practiced so hard she fell. I can still smell
the leotards & tights, sweet with sweat. How they laid on the body then & didn’t pinch.
How the older girls
told me my boyfriend would be lucky. Tap shoes with a heel in silver.
It ended so quickly. My mother tying up my hair & filling in my lips with red.
She tried hard to tame it, wrapped it in plastic bags with hot oil.
I wrapped my Barbie in electrical tape. There are pictures. I cut my own hair
& I know, it looks better long. Who am I kidding.
When I married, I didn’t want to believe
this was the best I would ever look. My mother
took off my glasses & told me I was pretty.
Metal dug into my chest & I stepped on my own ridiculous hem.
My armpits red from the chafe of lace & I can’t believe you
wore white. Once,
I dressed as a white girl. Spent $20 on the costume:
plaid skirt, sweater vest, with my own patent leather Mary Janes.
I straightened my hair. My boyfriend
kept smoothing my head with his hand. Next to me,
a guy pulled his fingers apart & stuck his tongue between them.
My boyfriend said it was like kissing someone else.
It was supposed to be a joke
like when my father couldn’t get my brother to shave. He took out
the razor’s blade & let me froth the barbasol on my face.
Slowly, I went across the delicate stretch of skin beneath my chin
& up to a swath of cheek. Look, look how easy this is.
I saved my upper lip for last
& curled it taut over my teeth, angling my face. Oh
how I wanted to do this every Sunday before we washed the car, before
my father closed my hand & said, Like this, otherwise you’ll hurt
yourself when you punch somebody.
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