I started feeling like a freak a long time ago. Actually, when I was 6.
My grandma whispered to me, “You’re going to have to be extra careful dear because you have your father’s genes.” I knew it was serious because no one was around and it still needed to be kept quiet.
We were visiting her in San Diego. Although it wasn’t the house where we lived, she always told me, “This is really your home, dear.” This home was not a place my dad was welcome. Only my mom, little brother and I could treat this as our other home. I thought it was because my grandma didn’t have a husband so my dad wouldn’t have anyone to play with. Plus, my grandma didn’t really like when men spoke she said that they would be much more enjoyable if they listened more. She liked being listened to and looked at, something I could relate to. Another reason why I loved her was because everyone always laughed at her jokes. I laughed at them too even though I never understood what they meant. Laughing with adults made me feel like I was a member of a secret club.
However, I could tell that her warning was not meant to be funny so, I made my face look as serious as hers and nodded. I opted to ignore the thread pulling sensation I felt in the pit of my stomach and listened to her because she was beautiful and powerful. “Okay, Gammy. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome dear. Now, run along.” And just like that, she was cheerful again and gave me what she liked to call a “love tap” on my fanny before I ran into the backyard.
I had a tree swing that my mom had made for me a few years before. Back then, I would just swing on it but now that I was older, I could climb the tree, crawl out onto the branch where the rope was tied, slide onto the rope and swing until I wanted to jump. I also liked to pretend I was Tarzan. Alone, in a jungle with only animals for friends. It made me feel safe but scared at the same time. That afternoon, I imagined that I broke my leg and had to climb really high because an animal was going to kill me. I was half way up the tree, pretend crying because I was so happy to be safe when I heard my mom, “Amelia! What’s wronng??”
She looked confused.
“I broke my leg and had to escape before I got eaten.”
She went back inside but my buzz was killed.
I slid down the rope and swung. I could smell the ocean and felt sad my dad wasn’t there. I pictured my dad and smiled but then remembered what Gammy had said. So, I pictured him next to her. He was big and had a mustache, she was small, soft and…delicate. Was I like my dad? What was I going to have to be “extra” careful about? I did have really dark hair, dark eyes, big eyebrows and I wasn’t really small. I wasn’t a chunky kid but I was broad and taller than most of my friends.
It didn’t take too long to understand what she had meant with her whisper. How I looked was something I needed to be extra careful about. Oddly enough, I was a child model. People were always telling me, my mom or anyone around me how beautiful I was. Now that I thought about it, my last gig was for a karate store and before that Oscar Meyer Weiners. Not to mention, none of those ” you’re beautiful”s were ever whispered or told like a secret. Truths were in whispers.
That thread pulling sensation in the pit of my stomach was back so I jumped off the rope to make it go away. As soon as my feet landed on the ground, I felt it again. I took a deep breath and tightened my stomach with all my might, closing my eyes to concentrate. “Go away, go away, go away.”
I jumped. My mom was standing in front of me. How did I not hear her? I was losing it.
“Do you need to go to the bathroom?”
“No, Mom!” I hated when she treated me like I was a little baby.
“Well, it’s time for dinner. Go wash your hands.”
I went inside and stood in the bathroom mirror, pretending to wash my hands because I hated actually doing it. I stared at my sand colored skin, big eyebrows and round face. “What are we going to do about this?” I asked the mirror. Naturally, I responded, “We’ll figure it out.”
Since this was a secret truth, I knew this was something only I could deal with; only I would be able to help myself at being extra careful with having my father’s genes.