When a Mother Leaves Her Prenatal Appointment Bloated and Lonely, She’ll Write a Letter to Her Unborn Daughter on Yesterday’s Burger King Napkin
I’ll meet you on a Tuesday, baby. You’ll be the perfect shade of peach. I’ll kiss your toes and your chin and I’ll hold you close enough to smell the copper and milk of afterbirth and I’ll tell you that your daddy would love you and that he probably regrets leaving.
I was a girl from yeshiva when I let Parker Aaronson bite my peach fuzz thighs for the first time in the balcony of the Hillel Shalom Synagogue; he licked my ear and whispered my cat died yesterday, thanks for being a friend; I wrapped my arms around his neck and counted seven pews and thirteen gum wrappers as he whispered you could be my girlfriend; when he finished, I wiped my peach fuzz thighs with the palm of my hand and snapped the hair tie on my wrist to remember what it feels like to have your mother forget to pick you up from Torah Study.
I wasn’t his girlfriend, baby. I was his woman.
Sweet pea, your mama was a slut. I knew how to twist my hair into the type of braid that fell ¬into the perfect shadows of my chest and how to keep from sweating too much and how to smile right
and how to walk away and how to spend all my parent’s money and how to give a boy blue balls and how to look a grown man in the eye and say honey, it’s 1995; no need to be gentle with us women anymore.
I was a girl from yeshiva when I let Caleb Berkson kiss my breasts for the first time in the family room of his daddy’s townhouse; he punctured me again and again and whispered my girlfriend can’t know; I wrapped my arms around his neck and licked his bellybutton, his chest, his collarbone, his neck, his ear; I counted to six as he whispered my parents will be home soon; when he finished, I wiped my bare thighs with a peach-colored towel and snapped the hair tie on my wrist to remember what it feels like to sneak out through the garage door half-naked and sticky.
Baby, when they call you slut, nod; walk away.
I was a girl from yeshiva when I let Rabbi Bergman crush me between his thighs in the basement of Kol Ami Synagogue; he tapped his sweat away with a black sleeve and whispered it’s been awhile; I wrapped my arms around his neck and buried my nose into his beard and the scent of peach shampoo; then he whispered you shouldn’t let boys take advantage of you; I wiped my thighs with a Kleenex and snapped the hair tie on my wrist to remember what it feels like to stare your regret in the eye and ask if he needs help buckling his belt.
Don’t ever let a boy touch you in the balcony of a synagogue. You’re better than that.
I think about your daddy every day. I hope you have his eyes; his bent-in knees; his long fingers.
You’re going to grow up in a house that sorrow built. I hope you love it anyways.
If you grow up and want to kiss girls or if you want to kiss boys or if you don’t want to kiss anything at all, tell me. Don’t worry, sweet pea; you don’t have to kiss things. You can find what you’re looking for somewhere else.
When they call you easy, blow a kiss; walk away, hips-swinging.
One day, baby girl. One day I’ll leave Borough Park and I’ll move to the tropics where I’ll buy papaya and kiwi and feijoa from a man in whitewash canvas jeans and he’ll wipe the sweat from his eyes and he’ll say damn girl, you’re the perfect shade of peach; welcome home to the tropics; let me show you ‘round and I’ll walk away from him so I can dice up all the fruit he sold me because they say babies choke on seeds and I’m not letting you go that easy.
You won’t find your daddy drinking under tables or snorting baggies of powder or dying slow or anything like that. He’s probably just out buying Blue Diamond Nut-Thins or some of those Kashi bars at the Whole Foods on the corner of East Houston and Bowery. I think he’s probably just doing that.
One day the boys in private school will stand over you and say hey, girl, I can love you the way your mama loved us last night. Know that they’ll say it, baby, and learn to walk away.
When they call you whore, turn the other cheek; put on some of that vanilla-flavored lip gloss you love so much.
You’re going to grow up with a mama that rabbis and daddy issues and old money and boredom built. I hope you love her anyways.
I was a girl when I taught myself the things of life: this is how you love a man; and this is how you hate a man; and this is how you let a man hate you; this is how you avoid getting caught with your school-skirt around your ankles; this is how you wipe up sticky thighs without a towel; this is how you die; this is how you forget who you are; this is how you take medicine without getting drowsy; this is how you remember every detail of your Bat Mitzvah; this is how you wash stains out of a cotton dress; this is how you cook for one; this is how you read backwards; this is how you run fast; this is how you slow down; and this is how you leave yourself behind; this is how you snap the hair tie on your wrist to remember what it feels like; this is how you swallow cough drops; this is how you swallow your pride; this is how you swallow your guilt so it can hollow you out and nest in your womb; this is how you drink wine without getting sick; this is how you stop regretting; this how you grow up; this is how you become a woman; this is how it looks from where you’re going; this is how it looks from where you’ve been; this is how you got here; this is how you go home.
I can teach you all the things of life, sweet pea; everything you need to know.