Here is a story I’ve told no one else.
My little brother drank himself to death.
He was eleven.
There is a field behind my house.
He and his friend P.J. stole two bottles of vodka from P.J.’s uncle.
By the time they found them, the bodies were cold.
I don’t tell anyone, ever.
Instead, I tell them about the trailer with the broken steps and peeling paint.
I tell them about working at Burger King every night until midnight so my mom could pay rent. She works too.
I tell them about my older sister who married my ex-stepfather the day she turned eighteen.
I am no longer ashamed of where I am from, because I am long gone.
One morning, I woke up and realized my roommate had vomited all over the floor.
I stepped around the puddles of rancid stomach acid and went to class.
This is my life now.
I eat salads for lunch.
I run on the treadmill. Five miles. Every day. I’m getting faster.
I have a boyfriend. He doesn’t hit me.
I get good grades. I have always gotten good grades, but no one makes fun of me for them anymore. Instead, my adviser told me I had talent. I can be proud of myself. I am proud of myself.
I don’t go home for Christmas anymore. I spent last Christmas at my boyfriend’s house. On Christmas morning, I called home, but the phone number was no longer in service.
I can be somebody.