by Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius
A fine element of surprise, I’ll give her that, when
in sixth grade a girl dug her knee into my balls
because she thought I didn’t have any. At least
that’s what she said. I was too effeminate,
too lispy, too into the Spice Girls to be a real boy.
Too ashamed, too petrified to retaliate. How many
times have I seen that inspirational poster of the
stupid glacier with its mile of underbelly stretching
to the ocean floor? You can only see the top 1%
of someone’s success! or whatever it says. Oh,
if she could see me now. If she could see the big
bear of a man I married, could hear me belting
Say You’ll Be There, flying down the highway.
And that’s only the top 1% of me, of my success,
my joy. To get deeper, she’d have to trace her finger
down every ripped stitch of my arm, go into my
medical files and read up on the years of psychiatric
care, of the stints in detox and rehab. She’d have to
know how I learned to live one day at a time, take
one slow breath at a time. The real victory comes
from rising out of the ash, from spewing glitter after
all the years of swallowing dirt. I don’t sit around
stewing in resentment anymore—for her or any one
of the others like her—but I do wish she could see
me now. But she can’t because I’m pretty sure she
unfriended me for believing that Black Lives Matter.
Oh well. I’ve still got my old friend, my tried and true
beacon of light: watching the Spice World movie
over and over until my stomach hurts from laughing.
Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius is a writer and poet in the Midwestern US. His work has been anthologized and appears in or is forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Chiron Review, Northern New England Review, Apricity Press, and elsewhere. He tweets @jeffreyvalerius and is online at jeffreyhaskey-valerius.com