How do you summarize a life?
My mother said one day I’d write the great american novel. She’s made all kinds of grandiose and impossible claims, like poverty is the path to heaven and my birthday card from 2007 was stolen by jealous neighbors who probably never had a caring mother of their own. No one writes a whole book in a day, let alone a great one, especially not an american. That would make my book the literary equivalent of a hot dog stuffed with fake cheese. I used believe everything she said, right up until I started codependent recovery when I was divorcing a man who may or may not have intentionally set fire to our apartment. I guess he reminded me of my dad; as in the man who accidentally got my mother pregnant, not the Father; Providential architect of the universe.
When your existence is a nightmare, you want someone to blame, call, beg for mercy or believe in. Thankfully, my stepfather, sponsor and a pastor named George were there to take the late night calls, last minute visits and emails when the past threatened to stop me from living and God was too busy composing the next lesson disguised as a riddle to hear me screaming in my car. Cheese stuffed hot dogs and complex trauma are enough to stop your heart. Anorexia will also stop your heart. Despite whatever the experts say about a prognosis for someone who grew up in a housing project, was sexually abused for a decade, passively neglected, witnessed a homicide, won a stupid beauty pageant, was haunted by a poltergeist and saw their mother’s head used to break a hole in a sheet rock wall, things can turn out alright. Maybe even great, just like my mother predicted. Anyway, I became one of those experts. Yes, I have impostor syndrome. How many invisible kids do you know that got a dual masters from a swanky school in Cambridge? Mass, not the UK. Dunkins as opposed to Dunkin. But I did live on the Vineyard. We rented flea infested property in Katama, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven that only required the income of about six people. I also sublet a few porches and some shrubs behind one of my jobs. Thankfully, there was a purpose and a plan to all of it; my mother said, one day, if none of it killed me, it’d make a great story. I guess she was right. Still, it’s impossible to summarize what it means to be be born in Providence. Maybe you can relate.