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Selfish Little Girl
I feel like if I fly far enough, I would fly away from you.
Have you ever felt like that? Like if you just spread your arms far enough, lift your head high enough, you’ll soar into the sky? That when you break the clouds, all your troubles will be gone? Maybe that if you reach the moon, you’ll never see me again?
I wish I’d never see you again.
I wish I’d never see another hair drop from your skull, a piece of rain shattering on the tile floor.
I wish you would get away from those machines. I hate those machines. Have I told you that I hate those machines?
I wish they gave us better food to eat. I know. Silly thing to think. All that’s going on, but I really just want a good meal for once. Just for once.
I wish I could sink through the floor, through the building, through the Earth, and never be seen again.
G-d I wish you would stop looking at me.
I’m selfish. I know. Selfish little me. Selfish little girl, only thinking of herself. You always told me I was selfish. When I was four and you lost your job and I cried because there would be no Barbies that Christmas, you slapped my sad little head and said ‘Selfish girl!’ I only cried harder.
When I was six and I broke my tailbone, the family bike lying broken on the gravel beside me, I cried. You came in a huff and slapped my bloody little head and said ‘Selfish girl!’ And I cried a bit harder.
Then at eight years old, I lay in a bed just like you’re in now, dazed and bloodied from a fall. Those needles sat in me, leeching my blood like the vampires they were, and you sat in these cold hard chairs and glared. You slapped my broken little head and said ‘Selfish girl!’ But it hurt too much to cry.
I’m not a little girl anymore, Dad. You can glare at me all you want, you can play the guilt, you can hate my guts till the day you die, but you can’t smack my little head anymore. You can’t smack me in the ribs or the stomach or the eyes, where it really hurts, and say ‘Selfish girl!’ I may be selfish, but there’s nothing you can do about it anymore.
Sometimes I wonder why I care if you live or die. Should I care? Should I really? Because I can tell you, my broken rib doesn’t care. Those black eyes from years ago, they sure as H*ll don’t care either. My torn scalp and purple-blue head wish you were long dead and buried.
Do I care?
Of course I do, Dad. Isn’t that a revelation there? Your selfish little girl cares. About you.
A part of me hopes that this will change you. Maybe if you do live, you’ll sit up with fresh eyes. You’ll see all I did for you—all your selfish girl did for you—and you’ll pat my head, gently, and say ‘That’s my girl.’
Then again, I did a lot for you before. I made your food. I washed your clothes. I stayed in my room when you had ‘visitors’. I never told you you had booze breath and no woman ever liked booze breath.
Yet all I got back then was ‘Selfish girl!’
I’m sick of waiting. I’m sick of sitting here, waiting for you, when all I want to do is fly away and never come back. Fly into the heavens and sit on the sun, paint the clouds pink and doodle on the sky. I would pick a nice color, a pale green, perhaps, and write:
I am free of you.
I’m not selfish anymore.
But I’m not free and I don’t have wings and I’m still selfish and I really do want to get out of this room.
I hate the gaze of the doctors’ even more than the feel of your eyes on me. I know what they’re thinking: Look at her. Poor girl. She’s grieving. She’s sad. She just wants him to be okay. He must really love her. Poor, poor girl.
If wishes were laughter, I would wish that to be true as I sat there giggling silently. He must really love her.
Daddy, do you love your selfish little girl?
Don’t answer that.
The food tastes worse than your hand on my cheek, but that’s okay, because I know things you don’t know. I hear things you don’t hear. I heard the doctors. And I smiled as I ate, because I knew. I smiled selfishly and laughed my little head off and burst into the sky.
Because soon Daddy won’t be there for his selfish little girl.