I smile in the company of strangers.
I smile even more in the company of loved ones.
I can only handle blood when it’s on my own body.
I chew with my mouth closed.
I develop an early taste for cursing and keep it a secret.
I go into the street rather than walk on people’s lawns.
I wear makeup to the gym.
I avert my gaze.
I obey instructions.
I am a model student.
I live in Boston for a year before I learn to jaywalk.
I do not ask for help.
I do not speak to you first.
I say, “Fine.”
I say, “Doing well.”
I realize when the babies learn to talk, they’ll repeat everything I say.
I have to start watching my mouth.
I can never tell of all the things that I crave.
I let him think what he wants.
I do not show her how deeply the knife cuts to my marrow.
I look him in the eye when he’s speaking to me.
I look away from her eyes when I’m speaking to her.
I keep my head down.
I get out of the way.
I itch but never scratch.
But I just couldn’t learn, despite my father’s teaching, to say “yes” instead of “yeah.”
I spoke when not spoken to.
I wouldn’t settle down.
I went to the store in my sweats.
I let pedestrians walk in front of me when the light wasn’t green.
I said, “No.”
I said, “I’m getting out of here.”
I didn’t think about anyone else.
I wouldn’t eat my broccoli. Or my carrots. Or my peas.
I lost my inside voice.
I ran too fast.
I grew up too soon.
I didn’t let my brother use our sidewalk chalk on the playhouse.
I wouldn’t bloom within the frame of my mother’s thinner body.
I cartwheeled through the yard until I could do it without falling.
I stretched and strained and tore and sprained.
I smoked and hated every cigarette.
I longed to do bad, bad things.
I bit too hard.
I ate too much.
I cried, and then cried, and then I cried again.
I didn’t listen when you told me it was disturbing and unattractive.
I stole from all of you.
I wanted it back.