13 is Too Young to Start Drinking

When it comes to how others perceive you
research says it generally takes five positive
things to outweigh one negative.
I’m hardly strong enough to defy science
but I want you to know I am trying my best
to remember the smell of ocean
over the empty bottles
taste of empanadillas
over the blood in my mouth
feeling of sand occupying
the space around me
as I watch you smile
through bloodshot eyes.

In my memory, we sit on the beach.
Some song by Romeo Santos
plays in the background
when you tell me how much you hate bachatas
and I learn to hate them too.
As the voice inside my head
leads me up the timeline of our encounters
I watch how fragments of you
merge into my personality
until I can’t tell the difference
between your parts and mine.

I close my eyes and try to remember
how safe it felt to have you near,
but it’s hard to recall
a situation that rarely happened.
If I’m being honest, the only moments
I can’t outrun your memory
are characterized by intoxication.
Because of you, I already knew
adolescence would feel a lot
like spilling my guts out on a carpet floor
that 18 years would be marked
with something like waking up
in my living room at four in the morning
too drunk to realize I’m home
until I call my brother
and his phone rings in the other room.
My predictions seem bizarre
but it doesn’t take a genius
to recognize the power of genetics.

How do I say
             in a pretty way
that I’m so angry you make up
such a big part of me?

Half of me longs for good days with you,
even if I’ve had my share.
I always play the butterfly hurtling
itself towards the hurricane,
consciously removing disappointment
from the ghost of you that resides
inside my prefrontal cortex.
Personality expression
social behaviors
all threatened by your 23 goddamn chromosomes.
The words
addictive personality
echo and bounce off walls within my consciousness.
I hope you know this isn’t just about alcohol or drugs.
I’m fixated on figuring out the moment I lost
myself and became you instead
but my memories keep getting stranger and—

How long did it take you
to get used to my absence?
Everything changed for me
but most things stayed the same for you
and aren’t things always the same with you?
Searching for an easy way to live
Somewhere in between loving and leaving
But all you get are fatal endings
Regardless of choice
All we get are fatal endings
Yet I want you to know
I’m trying to be better.
I am better
but that doesn’t mean I forgive you.
Phone calls every Monday night
hardly make up for weekends spent
wishing I was someplace else
but I guess it’s a good start.

Imagine the trouble
you’d have saved me
if you had the courage
to change before I was born.
I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of my life
trying to reverse the sequence that’s embedded
in the fibers of my being
the hurricane triggered
by the flap of your wings
always searching for those
five, or ten, or a hundred good things
that will make up for the faults in my code.

If Praying Works

I’ll go to church every Sunday. If I see things come onto you the way you have given to others, I’ll buy the biggest cross I can, nail my extremities until I turn into a bloody mess and be crucified for my unfaithfulness. Tomorrow you’ll be standing, and your sickness will have turned to health, red wine inside your liver turned back to water.

In early dawn, close to mourning, the sun feels too much like hospital lights and waking up is losing you over and over again. I can’t quite figure out how I miss you before you’ve left, why I’ve been wearing black for months now, wondering how many funerals I’ll be attending this year, and if one of them will be my last. I remind myself that six months can be a lifetime and not a death sentence in the same way that I could get hit by a bus tomorrow without a professional predicting it. We are no strangers the notion of living off of hope y no mucho más, even more when it’s the last thing we have to lose.

I keep coming up with new ways to make you happy, many of which include showing parts of me that are not really there—whether you call it culture or call it love, most of it is just pretending as a tactic for our survival. You still think I draw on my tattoos every morning, that my piercings are stickers and a white man will colonize me one day because if not, all I get is Camila, eres más inteligente que eso. I lose count of the parts of me that are real and fiction to the point where every poem I write to you sounds more like a confession than verse.

When I tell you that I pray, I don’t say just in case. I cannot ever let you know that every night I unclasp the cross you’ve given me with a sigh of relief—I have razones de más to believe that if the things you preach are true, I am like many others; I am like you, paying for sins I don’t remember committing, or for affairs that shouldn’t be sins in the first place. You see a version of me that doesn’t exist, one that has many blanks for you to fill, but as our presence fades, the only thing I can do is hope you love the parts of me that are still the same.

I think of the misfortunes you have been cast with, your unshaken faith, and feel a loathing equivalent to your love for Him. I can’t be angry at someone I don’t believe in and I usually hate when I’m not right, but here I sit speaking out at my empty bedroom, pretending we are deliberate and not coincidental, that people like us don’t happen by accident, stirring confusion in my stomach, contradictions causing short-circuiting my brain, trying to sound as gentle, as convincing as I can, praying for a miracle to prove me wrong.