When Mom told me Jose was moving out, I was very happy. I was ten. I was hanging laundry up on the clothesline and she came outside to tell me that. I was glad he was going, because the two of them fought all the time.
He would call her fat, call her a pig, tell her she looked gross. And while Mom was so good at yelling herself, when Jose got yelling, she just sort of shut down. The last big fight they had, he threw all the laundry that was on the couch waiting to be folded all around the living room. He shouted a lot.
Jose shouted that they had too many kids. He looked at me and then he looked at Mary. He didn’t look at Carly right after he said that. He looked at me and Mary.
Mary would get upset and cry when they would fight and if she cried, they’d both turn their attention to her. So if I could help it, I’d scoop her up and sneak through the bathroom. The bathroom had a door that led into the laundry room and the second back door was in the laundry room. We’d climb over all the laundry that was blocking the door and squish through the back door. I’d take her and hide behind the big shed, so that if anyone looked outside they wouldn’t see us in the backyard. This was around the time that Mary was about two or three, so she was pretty easy to keep distracted. We’d dig in the dirt, make little tunnels and stuff, rip up grass. When the yelling stopped, we’d go back inside.
Maybe it was mean that I didn’t always take Carly with us. It’s just that Carly knew how to lay low and stay out of sight until they were done and Mary didn’t and it was easier to sneak one kid out than two. Especially since Carly and Mary fought so much. It was amazing how much Carly disliked Mary. When we were older, she tried to explain it to me once. She said that everything she was ever angry about was inside of Mary and instead of ever being mad at Mom or Jose or anyone else, she was always mad at Mary. Even though Mary was a baby and hadn’t done anything.
I’ve said that neither Carly or Mary have a relationship with me. They don’t have much of a relationship with each other either. They’ve never liked each other or gotten along. Mary was always afraid of Carly and Carly always had an irrational dislike of Mary. It was like that even when they were teenagers. That same dynamic of scowling 7 year old Carly and pouting and shrinking behind me three-year-old Mary; it never really went away. They were always like that together.
Mary said to me once, she was maybe 16, she said, “You protected me when I was really little. I remember, Jen. You always knew what to do. We were in it together. Then you went crazy and I was alone.”
She will never read this.
Fuck, Mary, I’m sorry. I told you then, but I don’t think I said it right. Maybe there’s no right way to say it.
I’m so so so sorry. I wish I’d been better.
I wish I had been. I’m sorry I wasn’t what you needed.
And that’s why I won’t chase after you for anything, because as sad as I am I know I don’t deserve a relationship with you or with Carly.
I love you though. I love you so much.
You were so small and cute and everyone kept forgetting about you, leaving you in the crib that they stuck in that closet and who sticks a baby in a closet anyway? I decided you were mine, since Mom didn’t want you. And don’t feel bad about that, because she didn’t want any of us.
I’m sorry I couldn’t keep it together. I was so happy every moment I could keep you distracted and silly and not noticing everything bad. It made me feel less bad. And you loved to sing with me and you loved to look at books. It was so easy to keep you entertained and silly.
And then you’re right, I went crazy, and then you broke too.
I really am sorry. I really am so so sorry that I couldn’t be better. I wish I could have been, because I love and miss you.
And she’ll never read that. Well, who knows, maybe if she did, she’d go “there’s jen being dramatic as always.”
I don’t care if it’s dramatic. I love you so much, Mary.