I can’t cry. Things happen around me that could suffocate an entire world. Sometimes I’m moving forward, moving my lips and blinking my eyes and reacting like a normal person would, and inside me there’s nothing but uncried tears. It fills me until I feel them spilling from my mouth and nose and ears, all vicious emotion, but there’s nothing there. I can’t cry, and sometimes I wonder if I’m hollow. My husband speaks to me and his words seem to blur before they hit my ears. His cocky smile should do something to me. It should make me wither or gasp or even just blush a little. But it all feels like requests for responses I’m not equipped to display. It all feels like heavy requests and I just stare, unable to deliver. Inside me is an ocean of violent screams, of an agony I can’t release. Sometimes I just want someone to finally see me, to finally understand me, and rip me to shreds. Tear me into literal pieces. Release me from being filled, being drowned, being weighted. I just want to be ripped to shreds. I can’t cry. But I can scream.

What a tragedy, to exist with no possible hope of an ending. Death is a promise. You can look back on all you’ve done and smile when you know there’s an end. It can light a fire under you, knowing that today may be your last day. I wake up day after day knowing that there will always be a next. I watch world events knowing that I will see dictators and presidents and messiahs come and go. I’ll be here. I look at my husband and know I am trapped in loyalty for an eternity, trapped to watch him age and wither. And then what? Another man? Another cursed child? I see my daughter and understand that we will continue on, me required to teach her and forced to love her and guide her, forever.   I don’t want this immortality. I don’t want this family. I don’t want this life.   I cry so much that sometimes I think maybe I CAN die. Maybe I’ll suffocate on all this sorrow. My child, my Astor, her hope disgusts me. My love for her degrades me. How do I explain to this worthless monster that we are not natural? That, if she could cry,

Astor’s momma told me to work for her if I wanted her. She said that shit when I was 6, honest to God. And I took it to heart. You’ll never see a little boy study as hard as I did, learn as much as I did, and fight as hard as I did. I can wrap a mathematical equation around your face and then follow it with a mean fist. Know that. My dad died early and my mom, well, foul shit happens sometimes. And I got my prize. Astor is the only constant in my life. I did the whole boy genius thing, even in foster care, and I made sure she couldn’t choose anybody else. I keep a clean cut. I keep my family fed, I keep Astor in all that luxurious shit she likes, on and on. But it stings. I know there are things my wife knows that I can’t handle. I get that. You don’t get a Momma like hers and live a happy, carefree life. There are people after my wife that I can’t even look directly at, let alone protect her from. Every now and then she asks my best friend for help

Everyone exists in black and white. You give the people you love color. That’s it. My uncle Juke taught me that back when he was someone to respect. You have to be selective to make it as a man in this world. My sister and my mom, they’re it. I see them in reds and browns much of the time. Colors swirl around them, in the air, in their presence. Nothing, not one thing, shows up clearer to me than those two women. You should see my mother laugh, when she laughs. You should hear Astrid sing, when she sings. They light up the world in a way none of these other blotches of black and white could ever hope to. They’re vibrant. They deserve that.   I’d give them pieces of me if it made them whole again. I’d take pieces of YOU if it made them whole again.   When my mother is sad, sitting around staring out of windows, sinking into the ground, the rage that builds in me could burn us all alive. When my sister gets quiet and starts sucking her lip, trying to disappear, trying not to be noticed, I want to swallow the Earth. Kill everything on it. When

Me? I’m not love. I’m not even loved, really. It’s all about keeping me from hurting other people. It’s never about keeping them from hurting me. Like, I get it. I’m nobody’s idiot. I’m always a volcano, just always, and sometimes I erupt. I get mad and other people end up covered in things like blood or bone shards or whatever. I really get that, seriously. But sometimes I wonder if Astrid, or Moose, or any of them really see me. When I’m calm. When I’m smiling. I walk by mirrors and sometimes all I see is what they probably see. Anger and boiling

he put her cigarettes out on my arms a lot. I’d see the cherries moving slowly in the dark, her bright, big eyes watching me, and she’d connect with my skin. It sizzled, as expected, and I never reacted, as expected. The skin underneath would warp and curl into itself until the cherry finally died out, leaving ash and char. I never stopped her. Just watched the thing mold my arm for her viewing pleasure. In a few hours, the skin would be fine. The char would be gone. I would be back to whatever it was that defined normal for me. For two accomplished, bougie black professionals, Noah’s parents almost never engaged with us. Here I was, their adopted child. Here Noah was, their almost textbook promiscuous, edgy daughter. And we sat and smoked and burned in the bedroom without a worry. I didn’t feel it then, just like I wouldn’t feel it now. But it always annoyed me. “You don’t even scar. Ugh. I bet you’ll look the same way you do now when you’re fifty. Or a thousand.” She was the only one who knew and she delighted in that. When I ate at the table those big things, those giant