My parents live on either side of Manhattan, uptown and downtown. By cab my dad is twenty minutes away, but that’s time, and time doesn’t work for me. I like being downtown always; I like when it’s just the four of us: my mom, Kara, Eddie, and me. But Kara and Eddie don’t mind leaving downtown. They remember when we lived together with my dad as a family, but I don’t. I don’t even know how old I was when they divorced because my parents tell me different ages—and when I ask why they divorced, my mom says it’s none of my business, which means I’m the reason.
Even though I know he’s my dad, he feels new to me. I try to get my mom to let me stay home, and I can tell she doesn’t want me to leave, but no matter what organ hurts, or how hard I cry and beg and plead, I still have to go. When I was in preschool, my teachers told my parents I was too young to be leaving my mom. They said I was saying and doing things that meant leaving was not good for me, but my dad got really mad and insulted and said too bad, and that was that. My mom says, “What was I supposed to do?” When I was five, my dad married Sallie and I thought we wouldn’t have to visit him anymore, but my mom said that’s not how marriage works. I guess I’m glad, in case Mom ever marries Jimmy.
I want someone to either make my feelings go away, to make me feel okay about going uptown like Kara and Eddie do, or let me stay with my mom. Instead, everyone just repeats the same things over and over, like “You’ll be back before you know it,” and “It’ll be over in the blink of an eye.” But what about before it’s over? What about the part that means “during,” the part that means “being away”? That’s what scares me most, but everyone skips over during. Everyone ignores the things I can’t, and I don’t know why.
When people try to explain that uptown is not far, or that a weekend isn’t long, it makes me feel worse, more afraid that my worries are right, and that the world I live in is different from the world everyone else lives in. That means I’m different, something I don’t want other people to figure out about me. Something is wrong inside me; I’ve always known that, but I don’t want anyone to ever see that I’m not the same as they are. If they find out, I’ll feel humiliated and want to leave the world. Still, I don’t know if I can pretend for my entire life. What if someone unsafe sees through me? I think my dad already knows—he is always telling me I was hatched, not born. I don’t miss my dad when I’m not with him.
When I go to my dad’s house I can’t see my mom and I can’t see the house. I worry that without my eyes on them, my mom will leave and take the house with her, and when we return, all that will be left is the black empty space where our house, and all our memories, once sat. Kara and my mom always tell me nothing bad is going to happen when I leave home, that every time I leave and come back the world is exactly the same, but it’s the next time I’m worried about. Everywhere I go and everything I do, I always feel the leaving. I feel it in hi-ing and good-bying, in sunset and sunrise.