People have spent my life
Telling me that I’m strong,
Calling my silence by another name,
Painting it as something to aspire to,
And so I took the title and pretended,
Pretended that I could be that person,
Someone that wasn’t affected,
Pretended that I could deal with it,
But I couldn’t, I could only carry it with me.
I could be silent, though,
Make myself mute,
Cry when it’s late at night
And no one’s around to see,
Scream into pillows
When it’s too much to hold inside,
Pull at my hair and scratch at my arms
Because my skin felt too tight,
My body was far too small,
To carry an ever-growing weight.
And yet I persisted.
And yet I failed.
I’ve never been as strong
As you wanted to think I was,
I don’t even know what that word means,
Didn’t know when I stopped eating
Just so I could control something,
Didn’t know when I drank vodka straight
Just so I could stop thinking,
I’m good at being silent but not strong,
I’m not sure the difference matters.
Not to you.
Because you wanted my silence,
You wanted to think everything was okay,
So you didn’t have to worry about me,
You used the word strong
To turn me into an afterthought,
Because you didn’t want to deal with it,
Never told me that what strength really means
Is screaming at the top of your lungs
When there’s a problem you can’t face
Until somebody runs to help you.
I never got anybody to help me
Because all you taught me was to be afraid,
Of my feelings, of my tears,
Of everything outside of my control,
No wonder I still have nightmares,
My mind is still processing 20 years of trauma,
And I’m still so goddamn afraid,
But I don’t know how to scream out loud,
I’m not sure my vocal chords even work,
The critical period has passed,
Now I’m fucked up forever,
But I’m still held on a pedestal of strength.
I know what you’ll say,
That you didn’t know,
But think back to my play,
You told me you were surprised
At how good an actress I was.
You never wondered how I learned?
Where I got the practice?
If I could be just as believable
Off the stage and away from the lights?
You never wondered what happened
When you were at home,
After leaving me alone to pray
That one day it’ll get better?
Maybe you didn’t,
You would have had to care,
So I’m not sure why I should,
Not if I’m the only that does,
I’m not strong enough
To be the bigger person,
I don’t even want to be.
© Richela Rosales Maroto 2018