I Believed in a God, Once
We’re in Mexico.
My skin is streaked red with burn and I’m feasting on club sandwiches. We’re seniors in college and drunk in Acapulco. We sport our Señor Frogs t-shirts without irony. I yell solamente cheese to no one in particular and everyone laughs. At night, we climb into VW bugs strewn with purple blinking lights and house music and there are men outside pacing the streets carrying machine guns. I’m standing next to a man who could’ve been my age carrying a gun and I don’t know what to do with this knowledge so I laugh and laugh until we’re back in the hallway of our hotel and I’m lying on the carpet unsure of how I arrived on the floor.
There are five of us. During the day we get the idea of going out into the ocean in an inflatable raft. It’s small and we’re accompanied by a man in a small boat. Alisa, Liz, and I are the only ones who speak Spanish so we negotiate the ride out to sea. The men are concerned because the raft fits four. We point to Deirdre and say she’s so skinny she’s half a person so we’re 4.5 and what’s the big deal anyway?
The men motor us out to sea because we’re white women with money.
We ride fast and feel the spray of water on our faces and we never imagined a spring so perfect, so clean and beautiful and we’re young and on the verge and we’re laughing still until the raft flips over and the engine dies and we’re so far from the shore it’s microscopic and this is the first time I think we might possibly die.
We’re floating in the water, coughing out the sea. Our eyes are red and wet with tears and I panic and for the first time in my life I say the words out loud: I want my mommy.
Weeks earlier, I said to her over a phone line: You make it impossible for me to love you. I set the phone down and Liz tells me I made the right decision. To cut things off because what kind of mother fakes her own death to get her daughter to forgive her? What kind of mother gaslights before we even knew the term existed? So, here I am, in the middle of the ocean shouting for the one person I excised from my life.
Here I am calling out to her because although she was my first and only hurt, even though she was cruel, she would’ve carried…