JAMELIE BACHAALANI

A Purge

Room Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The first se­cret came in pieces—blood gush­ing from my mother’s nose, my fa­ther leav­ing in the morn­ing to buy cig­a­rettes and re­turn­ing six months later, the never-end­ing line of po­lice of­fi­cers, the evic­tion no­tices. “Don’t tell your teach­ers the power is out.” “Don’t tell your friends your fa­ther is gone.” “Don’t tell any­one that we’re on wel­fare.” My stom­ach shriek­ing for food dur­ing lunchtime, my limbs grow­ing out of last year’s clothes, the holes in my shoes, all of it felt like be­trayal—ev­ery­one around me could smell my fa­ther’s love for the slots and horse races on my skin. I started to curve the let­ters of my name as they slipped off my tongue, so they sounded more English than Ara­bic, a life­long at­tempt to cleanse my­self of my fa­ther’s DNA; as if all of Le­banon was to blame for my mis­for­tune and maybe, just maybe, if I de­stroyed the roots, I wouldn’t fol­low in his foot­steps. The sec­ond se­cret was not meant for me, but I heard it whis­pered in the dark. My mother’s voice break­ing as she re­lived the adop­tion of her first­born whose name I would one day hear my fa­ther spit in her face like venom. I won­der about the ex­act mo­ment she snapped in­side; when ev­ery­thing shifted, and she be­came noth­ing more than a trail of cig­a­rette ashes and un­filled lithium pre­scrip­tions. This is how the women in my fam­ily have lived for cen­turies—backs arched, palms raised to the sky, lips stitched to­gether, hearts full of un­re­quited love. I learned from a young age to al­low my body to be beaten and shaped by the ce­ment fists of men. The third se­cret I hid be­hind locks. A nine-year-old scrib­bling down her de­sire to die in a pink diary with a feather pen. My hands shak­ing as I pressed a kitchen knife to my ch­est, my body dar­ing it­self to end. The en­tire bot­tle of Tylenol I swal­lowed as a fi­nal at­tempt, only to un­con­sciously vomit my es­cape up in the mid­dle of the night. The cuts that broke my skin but were never deep enough to scar, un­like my sis­ter’s soft body—a vis­i­ble war zone, dis­sected at the arms and legs with pink, fleshy ridges.

The fourth se­cret was lost be­tween the fifth and the eighth and the twelfth. The tat­toos, the drugs, the en­velopes of money my broth­ers pried from my hands, the girl­friend who turned into just a friend when my fa­ther walked into the room, my sis­ter’s stash of ra­zor blades, the way my feet edged to­ward the tracks when the train snaked around the cor­ner, my mother’s hos­pi­tal trips, the blood in her urine, the day she found her own mother un­con­scious on the bath­room floor. These words.

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