DEAR BABA

regardless of everything
i love you for the real you
and i fear, at the core
you only love the idea
of the daughter
you wish/hope/imagine
i could possibly 
one day
be.
you do not see me -
you have never wanted to -
until now, when i am
so tired of
your disappointment.

*** 

Anorexia. Listen Baba, listen to the word.
It’s an ugly word, you say, your eyes shut, head turned away. I don’t like that word. 

Divorce. Listen Baba, listen to the word.
You couldn’t have wanted that, you say, your eyes shut, head turned away. I don’t believe you.

Depression. Listen Baba, listen to the word.
You were just sad, you say, your eyes shut, head turned away. It happens to everyone.

Have I ever told you about the night I woke up and crept downstairs for a banana? How I stopped short when I heard your voices, screaming at each other? How I curled up on the stairs, weeping in the dark? How I equated my hunger with my sorrow? How I turned back to bed and savagely embraced my hunger as a tolerable pain - a distraction to the terror of watching my parents’ marriage crumble and the scars of war take root? Youth and pain are a toxic combination. Mama says I am chubby, and I cannot think of how else to make things better than to be prettier, smaller, perfect.

If you cannot be perfect, I can. I take savage pleasure in my new mission. I long for the hunger, I long for the sharp satisfaction of the secrets. I ride the highs from the lies. I watch the yogurt swirl down the sink, I count the pieces of cereal - 1, 2, 3, stop - I count the grains of rice - 8, 9, 10, stop - I count and count and numbers become my best friend. Calories, grains, spoons, minutes, grams. You have disappeared - gone back to Bangladesh again, even though I needed you to help me study this month - but the less reliable you grow, the more reliable my body becomes. I watch the pounds melt off. The circumference of my wrist grows more pleasing every day. I watch my cheekbones become more prominent. Boys like me these days. They like my body and my wit - razed brittle and caustic from the hunger carving caverns in my mind and the fury caught tight in my chest, turning my bones to steel. I am powerful in a way I have never known. I have conquered my body. I use it and grow drunk on the desire, the lithe strength, the crushing hunger. A monster grows strong within me - dark, shadowy, beautiful, terrible, glorious. I will be perfect.

I am powerful, but the depression still gets to me. The constant exercise gets to me. I begin to crumble beneath the weight of the lies, beneath the mountain of numbers. I cannot get away from all the numbers. They begin to haunt me - but still they pale in comparison to my hatred of your eyes, cold and unseeing… oblivious. I am in bed, too exhausted to move. I just want you to see me. 

Mama suddenly notices the food thrown in the trash. She takes a sudden interest in my plates after dinner. She begins to notice the irreparable hollows of my cheeks, the dark shadows beneath my eyes, my brittle hair and jutting collarbones. She takes a keen interest in what I take to lunch. She starts to ask questions - invasive questions… and I panic. She is using me as a distraction from the disappointment of you, and I am using my hunger as a distraction from the pain of you both and no one is addressing the problem of you. My lies begin to unravel. 

They say a parent’s love moves mountains and now the mountains are dragging me under. I begin to crumble. For years I am trapped by my mind. My body heals, but my metabolism and relationship with food are fucked forever. I am trapped in the in-between, torn apart by my heart and my mind, my body and my soul, my love and my fear. I am a trainwreck, breaking hearts, shattering friendships, tearing myself down, falling apart and rebuilding on quicksand.

***

There is a loneliness without name 
And a boredom without shape 
A coldness without face 
And a darkness without place 
I glitter on the surface 
Like sunlight stung diamond 
While inside I slowly 
Fossilize

***

I am too much. I know that. I am so much everything - love, fury, pain, hunger, terror, self hatred, arrogance, longing, crippling self-defeat - that I steamroll everyone who loves me. I am too much. Too much for you, too much for me. 

I am a failure. 

What’s wrong with you? You ask. I see the distaste in your eyes. You cannot tolerate this - weakness in your child. I know my heart can never be safe with you. The reality of me will never be acceptable to you.

This was years ago. Now you ask why I never call. Why I call Mama but not you. Why I don’t talk to you about my heart. I learned a few years ago that you had your own problems to deal with when you turned your back on us. I know now why you learned to armor your love in abject fear, and buried your softness under a brittle shield of strength. I understand that the wars you’ve survived have shaped you into the good man that you are today, but they never taught you how to be a father. I respect and admire the marriage you’ve rebuilt with Mama. But still, I cannot forget the hunger that carved caverns through my mind, or the fury caught sharp in my heart, turning my bones to steel. I love you but now, as you realize that you do not know me, I can only trust the knowledge that were you to truly see me, you could never like what you see. After all, there is too much of me that is you.


***

i will name my daughter Rani

so that she may be born bearing the 
crown of her Matriarchy 

so that she may be born cloaked in
the confidence it took me years to learn

so that she may be born adorned and
dripping in the stolen jewels of her homeland

so that she may be graced with the beauty
of all that is good and true in this world.

© 2019 by MannMukti