This is for my mom.
I know I don’t say it much, and some days I don’t say it at all, but I love you. I know I push away your hugs and I ignore your calls and texts. Sometimes I don’t wanna talk to you, and some days I enjoy your company. And when we fight, we fight for blood. You raise your voice, I raise mine, sometimes it gets violent. We allow our differences to define us. What people see from the outside is nowhere near who we are, and sometimes I think things have gotten so bad between us there’s no room for change.
If I could go back, there’s so many things I would change. I wouldn’t have left so much. I wouldn’t have let the way you treated me tear us apart. I would have done less to break your heart. I would have noticed that you were just as scared as I was, and I would have shown you there was nothing to be scared of. I would have appreciated your gifts more and opened up my sealed-shut doors.
We would have talked about everything. I would have let you know when I needed a friend, because sometimes you can’t tell your secrets to your parents. I woulda yelled less and listened more. And I would have hoped you’d do the same. I would have known that separation is a good thing, because we’re toxic for each other. I would have collected all the tears I cried in a jar and put ’em by your bedside so you could see all the pain you caused me. I would have written you notes asking you to change who you were, because it was killing me; it was killing us. I wouldn’t have prayed so hard for a new mom. Instead, I would have asked God to make the one I already had realize I wanted a new one.
For all the times you put your hands on me, wrapped your fingers around my neck, beat me like I was a stranger, engraved fear and pain in my heart, left me with mental scars. For all the times you threw me to the church expecting them to fix what was never broken. For all the times you made me feel broken, like you wanted a refund, like you didn’t want me. For all the times the church told me I was going to hell because of something I couldn’t help, that I was a monster, that I had evil in me. For all the times you let them tell me that. For all the times YOU told me that. For all the times you almost sent me away. For that one time I found out you almost sent me away. For that one memory that will never be erased, that you can’t take back, that you can’t change. For all the times you called me names. For all the times you told my business to the whole world. For all the times you made me feel like I shouldn’t be home. For all the times you made me feel like I shouldn’t be alive. For that one time I needed you to just hug me after I burned myself and you didn’t, you called me dumb, you made it worse, you made me worse. For all of my depression.
I forgive you.
And even though I’ll probably never hug you the same, or I’ll hesitate to say I love you. Even though I’ll move really far away from you. Even though we won’t talk as much or at all when I leave. Even though you’ll never accept me for me. Even though we’ll never be mother and daughter. Even though you won’t love my kids because of who I had them with.
I’ll still love you.
I still remember the good things we’ve been through. I’ll hold on to the pictures and the memories, and you’ll always be my mom. If you call me, I might not come running, but I’ll always answer. And if I ever get rich, I swear I’ll still buy you that mansion I promised because I love you. I’ll still take care of you the way I wanted you to take care of me, but it’ll be at a distance, because pain always costs us something.
You’re the best, worst thing that’s ever happened to me, Ma; you’re a beautiful tornado. And you’ve ruined me. I let you ruin me. I’m burning this letter for you.
Sincerely, the son you never asked for,
*Nathaniel Alexander Baez is a poet, artist, and aspiring LGBT advocate who lives in Queens.*