When I was 2, 

my parents threw me a massive birthday party, 

with the tablecloths and matching plates

because my mother had the daughter she always wanted, 

or she thought she wanted, because her friends had one. She loved trends. 

But then my grandmother arrived, the lady who always loved me, unconditionally,

but my mother didn’t love her, 

and her arrival began the end of my mother loving me. 

 

When I was 10

my mother went shopping for herself, because

“today was her day, she gave birth,”

she always said. 

I guess when you push a child through you, it suddenly becomes 

monumental, as if women don’t accomplish this every day under worse circumstances 

and so I sat in fitting rooms, hoping that maybe I would be found 

as lost

so I wouldn’t have to return home. 

 

When I was 13

I found myself at the bottom of the staircase, 

crying because they had threatened to pump my stomach, 

as if the substances inside weren’t there in the first place

because of the marks that were whipped onto my body that day. 

I just wanted everything to dissolve so I wouldn’t have to have

anymore birthdays. 

 

When I was 16

my parents reminded me that I had failed them,

drinking on the weekends at such a young age

with people who were nowhere near my age

blaming me for their decision not to get the ID every 16-year-old dreams of, 

the one that lets you drive, 

when it was just another way for them to lock me inside. 

So I stayed inside that birthday. 

 

When I was 18, 

my parents screamed at me from the front door, 

telling me that I would never do anything, ever, in life

as the police sat in their squad car, a block away, protecting me

and my cousins removed the items from the house and into their car. 

When I was 18, I assumed I was lucky to make it to 18

because I didn’t think I would see past the day I was 13

and that was the only thing I could have ever asked for on that birthday 

 

When I was 21,

I flew to see my boyfriend, who I broke up with two months prior,

because for a month straight, all he could do was apologize, 

and I broke down and said I would visit. 

Two days later, he packed his bags and left silently at two am, 

and I found myself on the flight back, relieved, 

with the reminder to always trust my gut. 

That birthday I realized that being independent was the best gift I never received. 

 

When I was 23, 

I realized that for the past 5 years, I just wanted one day, 

to stop pretending that there wasn’t a history of 

destruction on the thirtieth of the month

and I wanted a day to collect my thoughts, 

a day people would respect, a day I would have an excuse to be alone

so that for 364 days a year, I could be alive.

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