By Danica Carrillo
The track record she has is as deep as the tracks on her arms and legs.
Her black, tar-filled veins tell of a bloodline that she often tries to hide.
Long sleeves and pants can only hide so much.
She numbs herself by hurting herself,
but the people that feel it most,
are those that love her.
I love her.
Sometimes I wish I didn't.
That way the tracks that mark her body
wouldn't scar my soul as they scar her skin.
People have called her many things.
A junkie, a thief, a felon, a whore.
I call her Mami.
She created everything I am in her womb,
and yet she does not know me.
She was too busy looking for herself
in veins that were as collapsed as our family,
so that her lowest actions could get her the longest high.
It's no wonder why I grew a fear of needles.
Many times I found them dirty alongside burnt spoons
and cotton balls stained with rubbing alcohol and blood.
Sometimes broken in half as though she wanted to be safe,
protect anyone that came across them.
I never felt protected.
She was always in and out of sleep and jail.
As absent in her own life as she was in mine.
She would often write me letters
filled with broken promises
and hopes as high as she would get
her first night out of prison.
I always read them and believed that one day
I may be lucky enough to have a “Real Mom.”
Geppetto and I must have wished on the same star,
except my “Real Mom” came 30 years too late.
Her veins aren't the only things she has damaged.
Words as loaded as she was have poured out of our mouths.
“One day you’re going to need a Mother!”
Her threats have penetrated my every day,
No, Mami, not one day;
I’ve needed one every day of my life since you left me.
Her dime a day has cost her so much more.
The slate is not clean
just because she decided to be.
She tries to demand respect as though she is so deserving
of what I now demand of my own daughters.
The bloodline has grown.
All the while I was sure to never make the same mistakes,
but life has tested me
and I now understand why picking up a needle
and slamming your worries away was so much easier than actually
feeling, dealing, and living.
I often find myself apologizing because I never chose an escape.
I chose to allow myself to feel the pain
and love that comes through birth
and having a being outside of myself.
I have apologized because I don't understand her addiction,
as though it is a flaw of my own
to not be able to comprehend
how a mother can abandon her children,
throw her life away —
in every needle that broke
she broke her maternal instinct.
But the “Real Mom” in me is glad I don't understand.
I'm glad I can't relate.
I take pride in knowing that my daughters have a “Real Mom.”
She and I don’t mix well,
maybe because blood and all that's foreign to it don't either.
You see, Mami,
those needles and everything they carried never belonged in you,
but I did.
I belonged cradled in your womb to be loved,
nurtured, and protected,
and yet I have been pushed away and alienated.
I'm sorry that you don't understand me.
That you reject me and my beliefs.
I love you, Mami,
but I can no longer apologize for the mistakes you made.
The tracks you wear are the scarlet letter of the life you chose
and I hope one day you’re brave enough to wear them proudly
because they have healed
and because maybe by then,
we have too.
Danica Carrillo is a writer and a spoken word artist. She is a single mom from Los Angeles who is a big supporter of the Center for Young Women's Development.