My children will beg me to carry them all over San Francisco, their bodies sticking to me, their voices question marks and exclamations.

My heart will roar like a train when I see my father, yet I will stay pleasant, quiet, impenetrable. My brother, who never asks anything of me, will ask me and my mother to pose in nuclear family photos. As the camera clicks, I will grind my teeth down into short, flat plains.

My mother will pace in high heels, perpetually sipping Diet Coke. Her friends will encircle her, a tragic queen, create a shield around her so that she won’t need to see my father or remember that he is there.

Halfway through dinner, I will give a speech about the buoyant nature of love. I will dance all night. I will bring back disco. I will spin my children in the air, and the flame of their joy will launch the dance floor into a plane of happiness.

When my husband carries our children away to sleep, his twin will corner me. He will find a reason to call me a frigid bitch to my face. And I will tell him that I am not frigid, and he really should look up that word. I will keep speaking to him because he is kind to my children, nicknaming them and looking at them the way he wished someone would have looked at him when he was a boy.

I will run miles until I turn into a bird and fly away but I won’t fly away; instead I’ll just stop hitting the pavement with my body. I will fall in love with the fresh salty air and rolling hills and $7 coffee, and then I will board a plane and go back home.

 

by Jamie Wagman

Jamie Wagman is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies and History at Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. Her creative work has also appeared in The Adirondack Review, Newfound, Hip Mama, and Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues.

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